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Sun- and adrenaline-filled family vacations are hotter than ever.

While
their Brooklyn neighbors shoveled snow and sat
in airports over Christmas, the Belfreys lathered on the SPF. Unfazed by the
news that 49 of 50 states had snow, the family contentedly spent their December
vacation on their paddleboards, cruising the 71-degree water in Duck Key, FL.

Winter
2010–2011 has not been kind to the United States. Record snowfalls have pummeled
several snow-hearty cities like Boston and New York. And U.S. airports cancelled more
than 10,000 flights in December. The worst part? It’s only six weeks into
winter. Who doesn’t want to escape the tundra for a sunny adventure?

The
Belfreys chose their vacation spot wisely. The one state not touched by Snowpocalypse
was Florida. The Sunshine State’s image as a
theme park mecca and God’s Waiting Room is slowly yielding way to a wallet-and-eco-friendly
adventure destination that’s easy to access. But the Keys aren’t the only warm
spot in Florida. With 228 days of annual sunshine and average winter temps in the
mid 70s, Central Florida ranks highly among family adventure travelers seeking
an out-of-the-ordinary experience. Surprisingly, Central Florida is home to the
world’s largest concentration of freshwater springs, not to mention opportunities
for diving with dolphins, kayaking over gators, snorkeling among manatees, and more.

“Adventure
travel has been growing in popularity because it appeals to all ages and is something
families can do together,” says Tom Armstrong from Tauck Operators, whose family-adventure-oriented
Bridges Trips are the fastest growing in its portfolio. “Everyone feels a real
sense of shared accomplishment and bonding.”

While
families have begun acting more like teams (some even taking advantage of
hotels’ corporate team-building activities), local tour operators have upped
the ante and increased the adrenaline factor for family travel, a genre that no
longer suggests a sanitized encounter.

California and Arizona desert jeep tours have become
full-fledged safaris that involve robust hikes with opportunities to identify native
animals and study ancient petroglyphs. And canopy ziplines are being installed at
family-friendly destinations from Yeehaw Junction, FL, to Mendocino County, CA.
Off-roading, rock climbing, snorkeling, and eco-touring have also become great ways
for families to discover a new dimension of destinations they might have
overlooked years ago.

Finally,
the family vacation is cool. And you don’t need to be the Swiss Family Robinson
to make an adventure out of it.

Best Warm-Weather Family Adventures

Sun- and adrenaline-filled family vacations are hotter than ever.

While
their Brooklyn neighbors shoveled snow and sat
in airports over Christmas, the Belfreys lathered on the SPF. Unfazed by the
news that 49 of 50 states had snow, the family contentedly spent their December
vacation on their paddleboards, cruising the 71-degree water in Duck Key, FL.

Winter
2010–2011 has not been kind to the United States. Record snowfalls have pummeled
several snow-hearty cities like Boston and New York. And U.S. airports cancelled more
than 10,000 flights in December. The worst part? It’s only six weeks into
winter. Who doesn’t want to escape the tundra for a sunny adventure?

The
Belfreys chose their vacation spot wisely. The one state not touched by Snowpocalypse
was Florida. The Sunshine State’s image as a
theme park mecca and God’s Waiting Room is slowly yielding way to a wallet-and-eco-friendly
adventure destination that’s easy to access. But the Keys aren’t the only warm
spot in Florida. With 228 days of annual sunshine and average winter temps in the
mid 70s, Central Florida ranks highly among family adventure travelers seeking
an out-of-the-ordinary experience. Surprisingly, Central Florida is home to the
world’s largest concentration of freshwater springs, not to mention opportunities
for diving with dolphins, kayaking over gators, snorkeling among manatees, and more.

“Adventure
travel has been growing in popularity because it appeals to all ages and is something
families can do together,” says Tom Armstrong from Tauck Operators, whose family-adventure-oriented
Bridges Trips are the fastest growing in its portfolio. “Everyone feels a real
sense of shared accomplishment and bonding.”

While
families have begun acting more like teams (some even taking advantage of
hotels’ corporate team-building activities), local tour operators have upped
the ante and increased the adrenaline factor for family travel, a genre that no
longer suggests a sanitized encounter.

California and Arizona desert jeep tours have become
full-fledged safaris that involve robust hikes with opportunities to identify native
animals and study ancient petroglyphs. And canopy ziplines are being installed at
family-friendly destinations from Yeehaw Junction, FL, to Mendocino County, CA.
Off-roading, rock climbing, snorkeling, and eco-touring have also become great ways
for families to discover a new dimension of destinations they might have
overlooked years ago.

Finally,
the family vacation is cool. And you don’t need to be the Swiss Family Robinson
to make an adventure out of it.

Wiskerke/Alamy

Best Warm-Weather Family Adventures

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