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: 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.
- Disneyland Railroad: Anaheim, Calif. — featured in Original Disneyland Rides Still Open
- Expedition Everest: Disney World, Fla. — featured in Top Attractions at Animal Kingdom
- Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail: Disney World, Fla. — featured in Top Attractions at Animal Kingdom
- Kilimanjaro Safari: Disney World, Fla. — featured in Top Attractions at Animal Kingdom
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
- Valley of Mo'ara: Disney World, Fla. — featured in Top Attractions at Animal Kingdom
- King Arthur Carrousel: Anaheim, Calif. — featured in Original Disneyland Rides Still Open
- Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith: Disney World, Florida — featured in The Top Attractions in Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Discovery Cove: Orlando, Fla. — featured in The Best Wildlife Experiences in Orlando
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
- Trapeze School New York: New York, N.Y. — featured in Things to Do in NYC With Teens
- Louisiana Children's Museum: New Orleans, La.— featured in Things to Do in NOLA With Kids
- The Children's Museum: Houston, Texas — featured in Free Things to Do in Houston
- Brackenridge Park: San Antonio, Texas — featured in The Top Things to Do in San Antonio
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
- Shelby Farms Park: Memphis, Tenn. — featured in The Best Things to Do in Memphis With Kids
- Shelter Island: Point Loma, Calif. — featured in Things to Do in Point Loma
- The Magic House: St. Louis, Mo. — featured in The Top Things to Do in St. Louis
- Blue Springs State Park: Orlando, Fla. — featured in The Best Wildlife Experiences in Orlando
- Christmas Ships: Portland, Ore. — featured in The Best Portland Holiday Activities
- Gatorland: Orlando, Fla. — featured in The Best Wildlife Experiences in Orlando
- Hamilton Aquatic Center: Chandler, Ariz. — featured in The Top Things to Do in Chandler
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.
- Portland Aerial Tram: Portland, Ore. — featured in The Top Things to Do in Portland
- Lincoln Park Zoo: Chicago, Ill. — featured in The Top Free Things to Do in Chicago
- Milwaukee County Zoo: Milwaukee, Wis. — featured in The Top Things to Do in Milwaukee
- Fort Worth Stockyards: Fort Worth, Texas — featured in Things to Do in Dallas Fort Worth With Kids
- Cleveland Metroparks Zoo: Cleveland, Ohio — featured in The Top Things to Do in Cleveland
- Express Clydesdales: Yukon, Okla. — featured in Things to Do in Yukon
- The Children's Museum of Indianapolis: Indianapolis, Ind. — featured in Things to Do in Indianapolis
- Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: Chicago, Ill. — featured in Things to Do With Kids in Chicago
- Audubon Zoo: New Orleans, La. — featured in Things to Do With Kids in NOLA
- A Christmas Story House: Cleveland, Ohio — featured in The Top Things to Do in Cleveland
- Aquarium of the Pacific: Los Angeles, Calif. — featured in The Top Things to Do in LA
- Children's Museum of Phoenix: Phoenix. Ariz. — featured in Things to Do in Phoenix
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.
- Artown: Reno, Nev. — featured in Things to Do With Kids in Reno
- Horniman Museum: London, England — featured in The Top Things to Do With Kids in London
- Bellagio Hotel and Casino in the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens: Las Vegas, Nev. — featured in Things to Do With Kids in Las Vegas
- The National Aviary: Pittsburgh, Pa. — featured in The Top Things to Do in Pittsburgh
- Burnaby Central Railway: Vancouver, Canada — featured in The Miniature Burnaby Central Railway
- Brookfield Zoo: Chicago, Ill. — featured in Things to Do With Kids in Chicago
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.