Great Adventures: Thrill-Filled Family Vacations

We rounded up some unforgettable family vacations that offer families real-life thrills: swim with dolphins, ride the rapids, or go where the buffalo roam free.

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Anthony's Key Resort, Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras


Magical Moment: Explore the deep blue sea with schools of tropical fish — or sign up for a dolphin encounter — while staying at a Honduran hideaway.

Nonstop Action: A two- to three-hour flight from Miami, Houston, or Atlanta brings you to the breezy casitas of Anthony's Key Resort in Roatan. Diving excursions, snorkeling, horseback riding, and more are all included in one price. For an extra fee, kids and adults can sign up for the Dolphin Diving Camp (summer only; $84 per person per day).

Bonus Attraction: Snorkel right off the beach in the longest barrier reef in the hemisphere, teeming with octopus, eel, and parrot fish.

Admission: Seven-night all-inclusive packages start at $928 for adults and kids over 10; kids 5-9, $899 (800-227-3483).

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Royal Caribbean, Western Caribbean Cruise


Magical Moment: Choose from a long list of ship-or-shore activities.

Nonstop Action: Cruise ships are virtual floating theme parks, and Royal Caribbean delivers big-time with in-line skating, bungee trampoline, mini golf, casino, spas, pools, and fitness center, in addition to diving, hiking, and shopping excursions in Cozumel, Jamaica, and other western Caribbean destinations.

Bonus Attraction: Kid-friendly perks include sports tournaments, rock-wall scavenger hunts, and teen-only lounge.

Admission: Seven-night cruise starts at $950 per person, port charges and excursions additional (866-562-7625).

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Yellowstone Association Institute, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming


Magical Moment: Experience Yellowstone's wilderness and wildlife up close and personal.

Nonstop Action: The Yellowstone Association Institute's lodging and learning programs offer four-night adventures (10 to 14 participants) that include hikes and naturalist-led outings to the park's famed geysers (unless otherwise noted, most trips require that kids be at least 12 years old and accompanied by an adult). Or you can hike through back country populated by moose, elk, and wolves. Round out your trip with a three-day stay at Signal Mountain Lodge, the only lakefront accommodations in nearby Grand Teton National Park, situated on mountain-rimmed Jackson Lake. Explore the pristine lake by boat, sign up for a raft trip on the Snake River, or drive 30 miles south into the bustling resort town of Jackson.

Bonus Attraction: The Yellowstone Association Institute recently introduced a four-day, four-night, families-only adventure for the winter. You'll explore the park on a special snowcoach and spend your days on skis and snowshoes, tracking herds of pronghorn, antelope, and bison, and reveling in the beauty of Yellowstone's vast white expanses.

Admission: Four-night Yellowstone Association Institute summer family packages start at $609 per adult, $379 per child for kids 8-12, and include accommodations, breakfast and box lunches, most activities, and transportation within the park; other programs are offered for families with older children. Four-night winter packages start at $615 per adult and $425 for kids 8 and older (307-344-5566; At Signal Mountain Lodge, a one-room log cabin with 2 double beds and a pull-out couch starts at $147 per night. One-bedroom waterfront retreats start at $222 per night (307-543-2831).

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Montecito Lake Resort, Kings Canyon National Park, California


Magical Moment: Travel back in time at a year-round camp (great for all ages) in Sequoia National Forest.

Nonstop Action: Summer activities include favorites like jewelry making, fencing, waterskiing, campfires, open-mike coffee houses, and starlight hikes. November through April it becomes Snow Central, with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, tubing, and sledding right outside your simple-but-cozy cabin or the lodge.

Bonus Attraction: Kids (with counselors) go on overnights, where they sleep in authentic tepees.

Admission: Six-night all-inclusive packages start at $925 per adult; teens 13-17, $885; children 2-12, $835 (800-227-9900).

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ROW Adventures Family Magic, Salmon River, Idaho


Magical Moment: Take a wet and wild five-day whitewater-rafting trip down Idaho's Salmon River.

Nonstop Action: All you need is a sense of adventure, rain gear, and a willingness to get drenched. ROW provides just about everything else, including rafting equipment, tents, sleeping bags, and three hearty meals daily. As you bob your way through twisted volcanic canyons and mountain valleys, expert guides, while deftly steering you through class II and III rapids, fill you in on the wild critters peeking out from the shores.

Bonus Attraction: A River Jester keeps the kids entertained with nature-oriented activities and games. During paddling pit stops the jester takes kids splashing in crystal-clear river pools or arranges a beach volleyball game. There's even an all-kid campout under the stars.

Admission: Five-night packages (longer and shorter trips are available) start at $1,345 per adult; children 16 and under (kids must be at least 5 years old), $1,145 (800-451-6034).

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Quebec City, Canada


Magical Moment: Get a taste of la vie francaise, with a friendly Canadian flair, in this lovable — and affordable — cite on the noble St. Lawrence River.

Nonstop Action: Walk out of the gates of the famed Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, a true-to-life castle hotel, and you're in the heart of Vieux Quebec, the city's historic quarter. In winter, try out the giant toboggan run outside the Frontenac and the free skating rink at Place d'Youville, or take the shuttle to fabulous skiing at Mount St. Anne and tubing at Village Vacances Valcartier. In summer, street performers and art displays take over the winding streets. You can ride a tram to the top of spectacular Montmorency Falls and picnic or rent bikes on the lost-in-time island of Ile d'Orleans.

Bonus Attraction: Quebec is home to the world's largest winter carnival (as well as a summer festival), and next year, from February 1-17, there will be a celebration for the city's 400-year anniversary. With a $10 Effigy Pass, you can watch dogsled races, climb ice palaces, and see every kind of ice competition imaginable. From January through April take a side trip to the Station touristique Duchesnay resort northwest of the city, where a hotel sculpted entirely from ice is the ultimate way to top off a day in the Great White North ($15 for adults, $7.50 for kids 6-12; 877-505-0423;

Admission: Ask for the Family Circle special package and Chateau Frontenac will treat you like royalty with a Fairmont room, milk and cookies, buffet breakfast, and more for $229 per night (800-441-1414; For something slightly less princely, try the Hilton Quebec, which has a year-round outdoor heated pool and rates starting at $145 per night (800-HILTONS).

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Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Cortez, Colorado


Magical Moment: Make like Indiana Jones and set off on an exploration of Colorado's high desert.

Nonstop Action: At Crow Canyon, a nationally renowned research and educational site in Cortez, Colorado, your teens (kids must be at least 10 years old) won't be snoring their way through tours of hot, dry dig sites. After boning up on ancient Pueblo culture and basic archaeological skills — including identifying artifacts and practicing excavation techniques — parents and kids head out to the site. Together with archaeologists they unearth animal skeletons, stone tools and pottery from centuries-old settlements. Families stay in Navajo-style cabins and partake in a variety of activities like wilderness hikes and a guided tour of nearby Mesa Verde National Park.

Bonus Attraction: At the 170-acre Crow Canyon Campus kids learn about Pueblan life, spear throwing, and "cutting-edge" techniques like weaving a rope from yucca leaves.

Admission: The six-night all-inclusive Family Excavation Program is offered one week in summer each year; next year's dates will be posted on the Web site in fall 2007. This year's trip in August cost $1,150 per adult and $950 for kids 12-17 (800-422-8975).

Copyright © 2007. Used with permission from the October 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine.