Our Summer 2019 Outdoor Adventures Guide

When it comes to family vacations, your kids seem to have two gears: The first would be a catatonic state, hunched over their devices. The second entails snapping out of it, at which point they announce, “Moooommmm, I’m boooored,” as if it were entirely your fault. This year, all you need to do is suggest, “Why don’t you go outside?”—and you’ll be armed with this list. Given that we’re defining “outdoors” loosely here, with teen attitudes in mind (exhibit A: monstrous roller coasters count), there’s no way they can object. Here are some of our favorite activities in 27 states.

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Alaska guide

In Seward

Nothing like a furry pack of Alaskan huskies with their tongues hanging out to make your kids suddenly down to sight-see. The dogsled rides come with end-of-tour dog-bonding time.

Cost: $75 (13 and up); $37 (2 to 12)

Info: ididaride.com/tours

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In Sedona

Remember when your kids used to make Matchbox cars drive up the sofa? That’s what these Pink Jeep Tours are like—rumble up seemingly impossible angles in a cool ride.

Cost: $65 (adult); $59 (child)

Info: pinkadventuretours.com 

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Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Tourism

Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Tourism

In Los Angeles

Your kids want one thing out of Cali: selfies with the Hollywood sign. What they don’t know (suckers!) is that they’ll have to hike to get them. Hoof it from Griffith Park (sign up for a guided tour or go rogue). And a hard no on your kids’ flip-flops; they’re gonna need sturdier shoes.

Cost: from $48/person

Info: bikesandhikesla.com

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In Snowmass Village

Explain to your kids that the Lost Forest is just like their video games, but IRL: They can test their skills on the climbing
wall or the Treeline Trial Challenge Course, with logs and ropes to teeter on. (Level up, beshes! Yes, a mom can throw down like that!)

Cost: from $84/day pass

Info: aspensnowmass.com

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Photo courtesy of @beansta1

Photo courtesy of @beansta1

In Miami

For your artsy teen/Banksy wannabe: Roll past the wall murals in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood with Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide (or opt for the hands-on spray-can crash course). For your marine-bio hopeful: Wetsuit up for a bonding sesh with the seals or a dolphin at Miami Seaquarium.

Cost and info:

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In Savannah

See who freaks out the fastest during a tour of Savannah’s creepiest landmarks. The guides at Genteel & Bard hand out wireless earbuds on their nighttime Ghost Encounter tour, meaning you’re free to wander away from the herd and still hear the spooky spiel.

Cost: $25/person

Info: genteelandbard.com

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In Kihei

Score at least a few cool points for learning to surf in the Maui town of Kihei, where shallow waters and a gentle break make it a good spot even for those of us mainly prone to wiping out.

Cost: from $65 (13 and up) per lesson; $60 (12 and under)

Info: bigkahunaadventures.com

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Photo courtesy of Ryan Castre Photography

Photo courtesy of Ryan Castre Photography

In Crystal Lake

For your kid who’s been known to flex her slalom moves at water-ski camp: Double dare her to try cable wakeboarding. Quarry Cable Park, a sporty hangout about an hour north of Chicago, offers lessons on the lake.

Cost: passes from $35; lessons from $50

Info: thequarrycablepark.com

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In Whiting 

If a bouncy slide and a water park had a baby, it might be something like the kid catnip that is WhoaZone: Jumbo inflatable bridges, half-pipes, springboards and other floating platforms form a one-acre obstacle swim course on Lake Michigan’s Whihala Beach.

Cost: from $22/person

Info: whoazonewhihala.com

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In Altoona

Repeat after us: Don’t hate, celebrate. Adventureland Resort is a ginormous theme park with 100-plus ways for your  kids to entertain themselves, and this year’s new Phoenix coaster has the added stomach-churn factor of spinning cars. 

Cost: day pass from $45 (10 and up) or $40 (4 to 9)

Info: adventurelandresort.com

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In Kennebunkport and Portland 

Have your kid (the one who likes to watch Blue Planet on Netflix) get up close and personal with the local celeb crustacean on these lobster boats.

Cost and Info:

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In Lanesborough

You’ll love telling your kids to walk the plank, which is just one of dozens of obstacles across eight aerial courses at Ramblewild’s tree-to-tree adventure
park in the Berkshires.

Cost: $69 (adults), $59 (kids)

Info: ramblewild.com 

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Photo by Mary Beth Stutzman

Photo by Mary Beth Stutzman

In Alpena

You can forgive your kids for cracking nonstop Jack and Rose Titanic jokes (“Where to, miss?” “To the stars!”) as you cruise in a glass-bottom boat over some of the hundreds of sunken ships in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron.

Cost: $30 (13 and up); $10 (6 to 12)

Info: alpenashipwrecktours.com

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In Orr

Let your kids live out their Below Deck binge-fest fantasies when you rent a houseboat and cruise Voyageurs National Park. No need to take turns for the diving board—they can just leap off the roof deck while you sip a drink and rate their jumps. #lakelife rules. (Several companies, including Ebel’s, offer houseboat rentals. But, word to the wise, book early.)

Cost: rentals from $335/day

Info: nps.gov/voya/index.htm, ebels.com 

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In Big Sky 

Release everyone from the minivan and into Mother Nature’s maw: The Classic Zip & Dip combo at Montana Whitewater offers a half-day-ish each of ziplining and rafting.

Cost: $104 (13 and up); $92 (6 to 12)

Info: montanawhitewater.com 

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In Las Vegas

The trippy, glitzy landscape of the Neon Museum’s Boneyard Park, with its junkyard-meets-exhibit display of old Vegas signs, is the stuff of your kids’ Instagram dreams.

Cost: $22 (adult); $17 (7 to 17)

Info: neonmuseum.org

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New Jersey

new jersey

In Jersey Shore  

Resistance is futile, so pick a boardwalk, any boardwalk, on the Jersey Shore. (Jenkinson’s Boardwalk, Casino Pier and Breakwater Beach and Morey’s Piers get special shout-outs.) Your teens just wanna see other teens in the wild, ingesting the rarefied foods found in this habitat—funnel cake, curly fries, fudge and saltwater (pronounce it “wooder” to sound like a local) taffy.

Cost: varies

Info: jenkinsons.com, casinopiernj.com, moreyspiers.com

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New Mexico

new mexico

In Alamogordo 

Think of speeding down the dunes of White Sands National Monument as the summer equivalent of sledding (you can buy a “snow” saucer at the nearby gift shop or BYO.)

Cost: $20 per car

Info: nps.gov

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New York

new york

In Niagara Falls

You are going to get wet. Very wet. Like, laugh-out-loud, holy crap, we’re-mere-feet-from-a-gajillion-gallons-of-water-in-Bridal-Veil-Falls wet on Cave of the Winds’ Hurricane Deck 175 feet down into the Niagara Gorge.

Cost: $19 (13 and up); $16 (5 to 12)

Info: niagarafallsstatepark.com

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In Sandusky

At “roller coaster capital” Cedar Point, there are 18 ways your kids can get their dizzy on. There are non-lurchy options too: On deck for this summer is an attraction called Forbidden Frontier on Adventure Island, which sounds like a crazy hybrid of escape room/live-action mystery theater/your kids’ school play.

Cost: $73/ticket (check website for discounts)

Info: cedarpoint.com 

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In Oklahoma City 

An adventure park on steroids, Riversport is a mega-complex with a rafting course, high-speed slides, bungee trampolines, free-fall drops and anything else your kids need to train for American Ninja Warrior.

Cost: water sports day pass from $50; land-only day pass from $40

Info: riversportokc.org 

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South Dakota

south dakota

In Hot Springs

The trippy caverns of Wind Cave National Park, a spooky subterranean labyrinth right out of The Descent (but minus the man-eating creatures), will convince your high schooler that geology class is actually pretty freakin’ cool. Book the ranger-led Candlelight Tour to see the calcite formations at peak sparkle.

Cost: $12 (17 and up); $6 (8 to 16)

Info: nps.gov

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In Cosby

Goat yoga gets on-trend points, but the OG for quirky animal adventures is llama trekking. The way it works: Furry creatures shoulder the load of your hike in the Great Smokies (bonus: no whining from your kids about having to haul a heavy backpack).

Cost: $50 (adult); $30 (child)

Info: smokymountainllamatreks.com

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When you need a break from a car full of cranky siblings, there’s Krause Springs, a cool swimming hole about 30 miles from Austin with loads of natural springs to dip into.

Cost: $8/person

Info: krausesprings.net

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In Moab

Be sure to snap pics of Gummy Bear Rock—you’ll believe it when you see it—as your family floats (and occasionally paddles) through the rapids of the Colorado River, on the south side of Arches National Park.

Cost: from $72 (13 and up); $62 (5 to 12)

Info: moabadventurecenter.com

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In Stowe 

You’ll earn Mom’s-cooler-than-we-thought points on this three-zip experience by ZipTour Adventure at Stowe Mountain, which features nearly 2 miles of high-flying fun/freak-out over Vermont forest.

Cost: $135/person

Info: stowe.com 

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Photo by Nic Lehoux

Photo by Nic Lehoux

In Seattle

Present sight-seeing as a series of selfie ops: Hit the Gum Wall at Pike Place Market (yup, it’s all ABC blobs) and the newly sparkly see-through floor of the Space Needle. Then get a final shot of your Alexa-addicted kids near Amazon’s Spheres.

Cost & Info: