Five most underrated family vacation destinations in the USA

By Andy Murdock, Lonely Planet Writer

If you browse through lists of the most popular family vacation destinations in the USA, you might notice a few patterns: many are purely kid-focused, and you’d be excused for not being able to tell some of them apart.

But popularity isn’t everything. Not every family is an amusement park family. Some kids – and many adults – have little interest in rollercoasters or quaffing flagons of butterbeer. Some would rather be exploring mysterious caves, trying new cuisines, staring at distant galaxies, pointing at aquatic mammals or soaking in a rustic hot spring. Some would love to sit on a beach and do nothing for a full week, while others would be bored stiff in an hour.

No two families are the same. The best vacation destinations for your family might never rise past number 11 on a top 10 list, they might never draw huge crowds, they might not sound kid-friendly at first blush, and they might take you or your kids a little out of your comfort zone — but that might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

National parks are a classic choice for a kid-friendly getaway, but the desert parks – in fact, deserts in general – are often overlooked as family destinations. If you have kids who always seem to be halfway up a tree, put Joshua Tree National Park high on your list. Rest assured, they won’t be climbing the prickly Joshua trees themselves, but the rock formations are irresistible. Some spots are clearly only for pro climbers, but others, such as the smooth curves of Jumbo Rocks, are perfect for even young explorers.

Don’t let the bouldering tire you out: as one park poster proclaims, half the park is after dark. For kids who are into outer space (or reciting facts about astronomy that you’re pretty sure you never knew at their age), Joshua Tree is a certified International Dark Sky Park and a certified thrill for stargazers. Celebrate at the annual Night Sky Festival, or join one of the regular ranger-led night sky programs.

Read more here.

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