The Best Family Attractions & Experiences

TripSavvy Editors' Choice Awards 2018

Bathers and Tubers at Blue Springs State Park, Blue Springs, Florida.

 

Blue Springs State Park by Steven Greaves/Getty Images 

Family fun comes in many forms — thrilling drops, educational afternoons, and picnics in the park. From Disney's most sophisticated rides and attractions to swimming holes, aquariums and zoos, here are TripSavvy's favorite family attractions and experiences for 2018.

Theme Parks & Rides

Avatar Flight of Passage
 Walt Disney World

Avatar Flight of Passage: Orlando, Florida — featured in The Top Attractions at Disney World's Animal Kingdom

The highlight of Pandora — The World of Avatar at Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Avatar Flight of Passage takes the “flying theater” concept that Disney‘s Imagineers pioneered for Soarin’ to the next level. Using motion simulator ride vehicles, large-screen media, and other immersive elements, you’d swear that you “linked” with an avatar and that you were airborne on the back of a winged banshee above the breathtaking vistas of Pandora. It is so utterly convincing, thrilling (but not in an overwhelming way), and exhilarating, Avatar Flight of Passage is a giddy, transcendent experience that defines the modern-day E-Ticket attraction.

Toy Story Mania! at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World 

Toy Story Mania!: Disney's Hollywood Studios, Florida — featured in The Top Attractions in Disney's Hollywood Studios

With Toy Story Mania!, Disney’s storied Imagineers created a breakthrough interactive theme park ride. They took ultra-flashy video game technology, embellished it with 3-D graphics, and wrapped it all together using the beloved characters from the “Toy Story” movies. The game play experience, which includes virtual simulations of carnival staples such as ring toss and a shooting gallery, is at once highly sophisticated, yet immediately intuitive and accessible. One of the featured attractions at Disney World‘s Toy Story Land (it is also available at Disney California Adventure), Toy Story Mania!

Is a highly engaging and addictive ride. Arthur Levine

Jane's Carousel
 Mitchell Funk/Getty Images

Jane's Carousel: Brooklyn, N.Y. — featured in The Top Things to Do DUMBO, Brooklyn

This immaculately restored 1922 carousel, which was originally in Ohio, is now housed in Brooklyn Bridge Park. In addition to being a gorgeous ride, it also overlooks stunning views of Lower Manhattan. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a ride on a horse or a chariot, because it’s a delight at any age. The thoughtfully designed glass structure that covers the carousel enables folks to enjoy this classic amusement park ride year round. An added plus: a ride costs just two dollars, making it an economical outing.

After a ride, enjoy a picnic in the park or stroll through the cobblestone lined streets of Dumbo. Alison Lowenstein

Family Attractions

Barton Springs Pool
 

Barton Springs Pool: Austin, Texas — featured in The Top Outdoor Attractions in Austin

Often referred to as the “soul of the city,” Barton Springs is a 3-acre swimming pool where the water stays at a cool 68 degrees year-round. When the air temperature hovers near 100 degrees, the water seems ice cold. It’s common to hear a combination of screams and laughter as kids and their parents plunge into the water for the first time. While the sides of the pool are man-made, the bottom remains in an all-natural state. The cool water bubbles up from springs along the bottom. The swimming hole is all the more remarkable because it’s located just south of downtown, in an area that is a hotbed of real estate development.

Fortunately, groups such as Save Our Springs are constantly fighting to protect this natural wonder for future generations. Robert Macias

    Vancouver Aquarium
     Chris Cheadle/All Canada Photos/Getty Images

    The Vancouver Aquarium: Vancouver, Canada — featured in Things to Do at Stanley Park, Vancouver

    Well-loved by locals and tourists alike, Vancouver Aquarium is full of family-friendly activities, from watching the playful sea lions at the Steller’s Bay exhibit to visiting Penguin Point and the colourful Clownfish Cove. Watch 4-D films that bring the sealife to your seat or head outside to take in a dolphin show as the trainers show off tricks. Look out for the cute sea otters and the mesmerizing jellyfish — the Aquarium is ideal for rainy days as there are many exhibits inside to explore with all the family.

      Overhead Cable Cars Over Trees Against Sky
      Sarah Winfield / EyeEm/Getty Images

      San Diego Zoo and Safari Park: San Diego, Calif. — featured in Things to Do in San Diego

      The San Diego Zoo has been delighting animal-loving families since it opened inside Balboa Park in 1916. The zoo was one of the first in the world to build open-air enclosures instead of cages in order to better recreate the animal’s natural habitat. The pioneering zoo now has more than 3,700 animals and plays an important role in the breeding and conservation of endangered species. Visitors can explore the artic with Polar Bear Plunge, be transported to the savannah with the new Africa Rocks exhibit, or hop aboard the historic Skyfari tram for an aerial view of the world-famous zoo.

      Superstition Farm: Mesa, Ariz. — featured in The Top Things to Do in Mesa

      This dairy farm located in Mesa, Arizona is the perfect place for a day with the family, a school field trip, summer camp for the kids or even a private event or wedding. The farm offers educational tours appropriate for all ages for small groups ranging from 1-19 people five days a week. For those who would prefer to skip the official farm tour, the courtyard provides the perfect setting to hangout and enjoys the animals and scenery. The farm prides itself on having a large variety of constantly changing rescue animals such as goats, sheep, rabbits, turtles, chickens and cows, which love to be fed and played with.

      –David Duran