Experiencing new places as a family always makes travel special, but some destinations are better than others for travel with the kids. Here's a rundown of 10 great family vacation destinations for 2013.
Family Vacations: 10 Great Destinations for 2013 (PHOTOS)
Sandy beaches are unavoidable on this elbow of land that protrudes into the Atlantic; bodysurfing, body-boarding and wave-jumping are popular activities on the ocean side, while crabbing, playing Frisbee and slothing on a blanket usually characterize afternoons spent on the bay. Another great reason to visit: Summer whale-watching trips (to see humpbacks) out of Provincetown almost always deliver. Thousands of vacation rental homes provide affordable and flexible lodging options that lend themselves to family travel.
With all of its monuments, historic structures and government buildings, not to mention a young and exciting baseball franchise, Washington, DC is one of the most family-friendly cities in the U.S. Big news for 2013 is the National Children's Museum at National Harbor in Prince George's County, Maryland, which opened in December. At most museums, touching the exhibits brings a security guard on the run. At the National Children's Museum, children can explore a fire truck, a marketplace from a featured country and a climbing area. The museum even has a zone for kids 3 and under.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" hit theaters last year, and New Zealand, where most of the "Lord of the Rings" movies were filmed, offers the youngest J.R.R. Tolkien fans a lot to see and do. The South Island's many adventure travel activities include hiking, ziplining, kayaking and cliff-jumping. Wildlife-watching here is epic, too. In the wild, you might spot sperm whales or the korora, the world's smallest penguin; at the West Coast Wildlife Centre in Franz Josef, you might see rare kiwi birds.
This list wouldn't be complete without a cruise ship, and 2013 marks the birth of two new family-friendly vessels. First up: the Carnival Sunshine -- the Carnival Cruise Lines ship formerly known as the Carnival Destiny. As part of a $155 million rebranding, the ship will relaunch this spring with a new deck-top area with five water slides, including a 334-foot-long twister slide that extends out over the edge of the ship.
In April, Norwegian Cruise Line will unveil the Norwegian Breakaway, the largest cruise ship ever to call New York City its home port. This vessel will boast a 3-story sports complex featuring a huge ropes course, a spider-web climbing cage and a bungee trampoline.
The summer of 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France, and there's no better place for kids to get caught up in the excitement than at the finish line on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. When the cheering has subsided, bring the kids to Belleville Park Playground, a play-structure-cum-climbing-course that runs up the side of a hill and ends in a tree house.
Families love this walkable city on Canada's Pacific Coast. One attraction in Victoria is the Beacon Hill Children's Farm, a petting zoo inside Victoria's Beacon Hill Park (Open March 8) that enables kids to get up close and personal with goats, peacocks and other critters.
In April, the provincial capital gets another family-friendly destination: the Victoria Public Market. In addition to hosting daily farmers' markets, the new venue will feature stalls for local purveyors (including the yummy Wildfire Bakery), live music and a slew of kid-friendly programming such as cooking classes and arts-and-crafts programs.
Wine Country isn't just for grownups anymore: A number of family-owned farms in western Sonoma County now offer half- and full-day tours, as well as overnights, for family travelers. On the 2-hour guided tour at McClelland Dairy in Petaluma, kids can milk cows, pet calves and sample homemade ice cream. Other family-friendly activities in the region include the Safari West animal park in Santa Rosa and the day-use pools at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville. Down U.S. Highway 101, in San Francisco, another big attraction is set to open at its new, bigger location in the spring of 2013: the science-themed Exploratorium.
Monkeys! Active volcanoes! Windsurfing! The northwest portion of Costa Rica -- near Lake Arenal -- offers a combination of natural beauty and family-friendly accommodations. Guided horseback rides through the rainforest are a good bet for younger kids, while half- and full-day fishing trips may appeal to the teen-age crowd. Of course, the main attraction here is Arenal Volcano. The volcano has not erupted since 2010, and guided hikes through the Arenal Volcano National Park have become a favorite pastime for families and solo travelers alike.