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21 Best Family Vacation ideas with Teens in 2023

Family Vacations with Teenagers, family with teens in front of fountain

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I’m working on our travel plans for 2023 and I am trying to decide on the best family vacation ideas with teens. My teenage children, 14 & 16 are very busy, and we try to travel more to spend quality downtime with them.

I’ve updated our 2020 and 2021 lists for 2023. I know that many family vacations just didn’t happen last year. Many of these are great for socially distancing and safe travel.

For 2022, these are the best family vacation ideas with teens that I found. These vacation destinations and activities will get your teenage kids talking to you, get off their cell phones, and create those lasting memories that we all crave. Plus, many of these are in the US, or easy to get to North American cities.

Let’s dive into the best vacations that have an adventure, amazing food, culture, relaxation, and history.

Feel free to jump to the type of vacation or teen-friendly destinations you’re looking for here for inspiration.

Adventure Family Vacation Ideas with Teens

If you really want to impress your teenager and get them off their phones, adventure vacation is just what the doctor ordered. You can’t look down when you have to paddle or climb. Even a simple hiking vacation may be a fun escapade for your teens. However, I would recommend these exciting outdoor activities as well for family vacations with teenagers.

1. Whitewater Rafting

Photo by Rune Haugseng on Unsplash

Skip the lazy river at the water parks and go straight for the white water adventure! You can’t get more exciting and more adventure by taking a white water rafting trip down in Class II to the Class IV river.

There are plenty of exciting rivers that are probably not a far drive from where you live.

Among some of the top rivers where you can get guided white water rafting expeditions are Idaho’s Salmon River, West Virginia’s New River, Maine’s Penobscot River, Ocoee River in Tennesse, and of course the Colorado River.

While you may start with the Colorado River in Arizona and visit the Grand Canyon at the same time, many experts recommend doing white water rafting in northwestern Colorado and Utah.

2. Mountain Climbing

Photo by Oziel Gómez on Pexels

Even if you and your teenagers have never been mountain climbing before, there are plenty of places to get beginner lessons and combine a hiking and climbing vacation at the same time.

First, find a place that offers rock climbing lessons such as an indoor rock climbing gym near your house. Start off there, then once you are ready to hit the rocks, find a rock climbing tour group or guide. And if you like mountain climbing, you might also like mountain biking.

According to Tripsavvy, Mount Rainier and Mount Baker both in Washington State are perfect for beginners. It’s not intimidating yet still high enough for newcomers to get the science of how mountain climbing feels. Search for the American Alpine Institute for guided climbs. 

3. Surfing

Photo by Elle Hughes on Pexels

If your family doesn’t live in Florida, California, or Hawaii, consider heading to one of these destinations for surfing school. Your teen will love learning a new and exciting new sport. He or she will have plenty of stories to tell their friends about riding the waves.

Check Surfing in Florida here. Get Private lessons in Santa Barbara, California here. Do a surfing school in Maui. San Diego, California also has some great surfing lessons here.

4. Hiking the Nationals Parks

Newly added to the 2023 list is hiking in the National Parks. this was something my teens found fun and challenging this last year as we scaled the rocky cliffs in Badlands National Park.

Hiking, especially longer or overnight treks are a great way to get the whole family involved and one of the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors.

For a great overview of the Nationals Parks, I’d recommend the Moon USA National Parks Complete guide here.

Some of our personal favorites include the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Mammoth Cave National Park. There are a lot to choose from!

Don’t hesitate to look at the state parks too for family vacation ideas with teens. Often these can be just as spectacular as their nearby National Park neighbors.

5. Sking at Lake Tahoe

Find a great ski resort at Lake Tahoe. It’s often overlooked as one of the best places for a ski vacation. Your family trip could include skiing during the day and games around a cozy cabin fire in the evening. The great thing about a cabin rental or a home rental is the teens can have a separate room to themselves for much-needed downtime.

Lake Tahoe is great year round as a family vacation destination with teens. It was one or our must stops on our California Road Trip.

Take a look at VRBO for cabins and home rentals that encompass just about every side of Lake Tahoe.

Culinary Destinations

Do you have a food lover in your family? And truly, what family with teenagers doesn’t have a food lover? Take a look at these destinations for delicious food, exciting culture, and a full stomach. This is a family vacation your teenagers will thank you for.

6. New Orleans

Photo by raggio5 on Pixabay

New Orleans is an exciting mix of painting, creole, cajun, and a distinctly unique American destination. While I could place this on culture destinations with jazz clubs on every corner, I’m most excited about the food options in New Orleans

Here you can find oyster bars, Southern fried chicken, gumbo, crawfish, red beans and rice, and my favorite, jambalaya. New Orleans is also known for its beignets, fried dough dusted with lots of powdered sugar. Who wouldn’t like to get their fill of those?

You can check out my full guide to New Orleans for your family vacation ideas with teens.

New Orleans Hotels:

7. Memphis

Photo by RitaE on Pixabay

For the meat lover in your family, head to Memphis, Tennessee where you can get every style of BBQ in the city.

Try the dry rub at Rendezvous or the all-you-can-eat ribs special at the Germantown Commissary. If the BBQ that drips down your chin is your style, you’ll find all sorts of BBQ joints on Beale Street. Memphis is home to some of the best blues music and your teenagers can get a taste of the origins of rock and roll as well.

Memphis Hotels:

Cultural Destinations Teenagers Love

8. Wild West

Photo by Jim Strasma on Unsplash

We might be familiar with Tombstone from the movie by the same name, though it’s likely your kids are not. But Tombstone, Arizona does offer a glimpse into what life in the Wild, Wild, West may have looked like.

Visit the reenactment of the Gunfight at the OK corral. While some of the Tombstone areas are touristy and kitschy, it’s still an inside view into the wild west culture of the late 1800s.

Just south of Tombstone is a more authentic Wild West Town, Bisbee, Arizona. While it’s not quite an official Ghost Town, you will still see Victorian buildings, narrow winding streets, miner shacks, and a historic railway museum. Take a trip turn on the Queen Mine Tours which has an underground rail tour through the old copper mines. Bisbee is an eclectic mix of the Wild West ghost towns and funky artists and boutiques. 

Tombstone Hotels and Rentals:

Explore a different part of the Wild West in South Dakota by visiting places such as Rapid City and Deadwood. This would be a great time to get in some horseback riding as well.

Rapid City Hotels and Rentals:

9. Hispanic Culture

Photo by grapesky on Pixabay

The Hispanic culture can be seen in every town or city. However, to really dive into this vibrant and varied culture, travel to Little Havana in Miami or the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. Bonus tip, don’t forget that Puerto Rico is part of the US and you don’t need a passport to visit.

Little Havana has a vibrant Cuban background. Explore Calle Ocho, the main strip which is full of brightly colored storefronts and authentic delicious Cuban Cuisine. Meet some of the locals at Domino Park, Maximo Gomez Park. And while I’m not encouraging your teenagers to smoke, Cuban cigars are an integral part of the culture. Be sure to visit how cigars are made at El Titan de Bronze.

Little Havana Rentals and Hotels:

Puerto Rico, on the other hand, is everything you’d expect a colorful Caribbean Island to be. The island has mostly recovered from recent hurricanes and absolutely needs tourism to help restore the island. Don’t hesitate to visit, in order to explore. Puerto Rico can also fall under the adventure vacations for teenagers. The rainforest located on the island is where you can spend the day hiking and climbing, as well as a dip in the natural pools. If you’re looking for a more serene vacation oh, hello, it’s still a Caribbean Island! You know there are plenty of white sand beaches to sit and soak up the local culture.

Puerto Rico Rentals and Hotels:

10. New York City

Want to visit the entire world at once? In New York City, you can get culture in the form of theater, with many known and unknown theater and comedy venues both on and off-Broadway. You can visit neighborhoods such as Little Italy, and Chinatown, to get immersed in those different cultures. You can dine on every culture imaginable. And you can visit any type of museum you can imagine, from stepping back in time at places such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the National Museum of Natural History, or a distinct culture such as the Tenement Museum. Try a Sightseeing Pass to maximize your savings.

Add in a Broadway show, a visit to Central Park, the Empire State Building and it’s a good bet you’ve got a winning family getaway.

New York City is by far one of my favorite places to recommend for family vacation ideas with teens. There’s simply so much to see and do and it doesn’t have to be all that expensive.

11. Native American

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels

Native American culture is obviously everywhere throughout the United States. And if you’re interested in a particular tribe, seek out experiences in that area. However, because Oklahoma marks the end of the Trail of Tears and remained a Native reservation for many years following, it’s a great place to experience the culture. I highly recommend the Cherokee Heritage Center near Tulsa for living history enactments.

Places in History Everyone Should See Once

I ranked these historic places as some of the best family vacation ideas for teens, having taken my teens to a quite a few of them. Not just for teenagers, really these historic cities have something everyone should visit just once in their lives. If you need more inspiration for places to visit, check out my favorite book for research, 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up.

12. Philadelphia

There’s no better place to see the start of American history than on the East Coast and Philadelphia. Home to Independence Hall, The Benjamin Franklin Museum, the first post office, the US Treasury, and the American Revolution Museum, Philadelphia is a cultural Mecca of History. Also, the city is really easy to get around. Whether you do a hop-on-hop-off bus, which I highly recommend, or stay right in the heart of the city, you can walk too many of those destinations and attractions above. Use a Sightseeing Pass to save on the attractions. Be sure to head on down to Philadelphia’s Chinatown for some delicious sweets.

Related: Top Things to do with Teens in Philly.

13. Boston

I absolutely fell in love with Boston. While Philadelphia might be home to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the start of the American Revolution can easily be traced here.

My favorite historical site was the Granary Burial ground, where you can find Paul Revere, John Hancock, those killed in the Boston Massacre, Samuel Adams, along with other signs of the American Declaration. Other places to note are the North Church, Paul Revere’s House, USS Constitution, the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, and Boston Freedom Trail.

I highly recommend taking a guided tour along the Freedom Trail where you get a first-hand authentic walk along with the historical sites with Colonial-attired guides.

14. St. Augustine

Did you know that Saint Augustine is the oldest settled city in the United States? In addition to its location in sunny Florida, St Augustine has a number of historical reenactments on a weekly basis. Check out my guide to St. Augustine’s Living History here.

You may have noticed I did not dive deep into Washington D.C. here and it is a fantastic city to visit with teens. However, most teens do visit DC during a school trip in middle school or high school.

Laid Back Family Vacation Ideas with Teenagers

Sometimes we need a vacation to disconnect from it all. Perhaps your teenager doesn’t need the adventure, the culture, or the learning. Instead, they need a place to relax, unwind, disconnect from the world, and connect with family. Take a look at the following family vacation ideas with teens.

15. Cabin in the Woods

No, not the scary movie kind. Although it might be fun to watch scary movies with your teens while staying at a cabin in the woods. However, I love the idea of getting away to a remote cabin in the woods somewhere.

This type of vacation offers quality time and little distraction with gorgeous scenery. You can still get out to walk and wander. Yet, come back to a cozy cabin and play games around the fire. 

I would search on Glamping Hub to find the perfect accommodation for your family adventures. Listings on Glamping Hub can only be there if they have direct access to nature. You can read my review and how-to book on Glamping Hub here.

16. Beach Resort Vacations

It’s no secret that I love to relax on the beach. Even if your kids no longer build sandcastles, this might be a great place to relax with a good book for much-needed downtime. Or, while you’re soaking up the sun, the older kids can partake in some water sports with rented jet skis or paddleboards. Beach vacations with teens are as laid back. oras adventures as you’d like them to be.

Popular spots that have a great mix of action, white sandy beaches, and relaxation include Myrtle Beach, Jacksonville Beach, 30A area (outside of Panama City.

One of our favorite places was Sanibel Island. Read about the best hotel on the island here.

17. Spa Vacation

Photo by No Revisions on Unsplash

While this is generally thought of as a place just for mom to get away and relax, I can think of nothing better than taking my teenage daughter with me for a mother-daughter bonding experience. consider including a spa day for your next family vacation.

Sports Vacations for Teens

Do you have an athlete in the house? Or a sports fan fanatic? A popular vacation idea is to take a road trip to see your favorite sports teams.

18. Stadium Tours

Do you or your teenager have a bucket list of visiting all the baseball stadiums or all the NFL stadiums? Maybe you have a college football fan. Take your teen to a bowl game. These are a lot of fun and often cheaper than an NFL game.

Check out tickets for sporting events here.

Theme Parks for Teenagers

19. Walt Disney World

Photo by alseeger on Pixabay

Even if you think your teenager has outgrown princesses and character visits, Walt Disney World can still appeal to teenagers with the opening of Star Wars land at Hollywood Studios. Disney can be one of those overwhelming places to plan family vacations with teenagers. Seek out the help of a Travel Agent here.

20. Universal Studios

Universal Studios is generally thought of as a better place to visit when your kids become teenagers. It is full of thrilling roller coasters and an entire Wizarding World to explore. I would recommend visiting this year and then come back in a few years for the opening of the Epic Universe.

Related: 32 Things Not to Miss at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

21. Advanced Thrill Seekers

photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort

Advanced thrillseekers, however, may want to consider amusement parks in North America such as Kings Island, any of the Six Flags over the US, and Cedar Point. For these, I would recommend staying in a waterpark hotel such as Kalahari Resorts or the Great Wolf Lodge. You are next to a fun location, and teens can go off and continue the fun when you collapse into your hotel room.

There you have it. 21 ideas of family vacations with teenagers this year and beyond. Do you have more? I’d love to hear them. Pop your teen-friendly activities and vacation suggestions in the comment boxes below.

Want more specifics? Take a look at these destinations for teenagers here.

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