4 Family-Friendly Active Travel Destinations

Take your kids on an adventure-filled getaway to one of these outdoorsy locales, where staying fit comes naturally.

Traveling with kids doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your exercise routine. Choosing a location where the whole family can participate in active adventures is not just great for staying fit, but it also adds a layer of bonding. Whether you prefer a beach, mountain, desert or urban setting, these perfect-for-kids destinations offer activities your whole crew will love (including you).

Beach: Santa Barbara, Calif.

Just two hours north of Los Angeles sits this sunny coastal city on California’s central coast. Following recent natural disasters—first wildfires, then mudslides—the “American Riviera” is now even more welcoming to visitors. Year-round mild temperatures, easy access to the beach and a thriving food and wine scene make Santa Barbara a well-rounded contender for your next family trip.

What To Do

Load up the kids in a bike surrey and cruise along the oceanfront path. Then take advantage of the Pacific and sign up for a family group surfing lesson with Santa Barbara Surf School or rent kayaks to look for frolicking dolphins in the harbor—you can opt for a double kayak rental to pair up with little ones. If your crew is feeling adventurous, take a day trip to nearby Channel Islands National Park to explore the sea caves by kayak or snorkel.

When To Go

Early spring or fall to avoid the biggest beach crowds. Temperatures hover in the 60s or 70s year-round, although it gets cool at night, so pack layers.

Make It A Race-cation

You and the kids can participate in the Santa Barbara Chardonnay 10-Miler and 5K, an April event with post-race wine tasting and a taco party.

Mountain: Asheville, N.C.

This quirky Appalachian town is an active family’s dream, with more than 200 waterfalls and eight national and state parks to explore nearby. Asheville’s artsy vibe gives it an eclectic edge over your standard mountain town. The famous Biltmore Estate features family fun like horseback riding, fly-fishing lessons, a petting zoo, an old-fashioned toy store and more all on the grounds.

What To Do

Start your trip with a hike. Your kids might appreciate the Hollywood status of Bridal Veil Falls (38 miles from downtown), featured in The Hunger Games. The easy stroll on wide gravel roads makes it an easy trek for all ages to reach the 120-foot falls. Another 3-mile round-trip option is Catawba Falls Trail, which leads to a gorgeous cascading waterfall about 25 miles from downtown. Combine zip-lining and white-water rafting with French Broad Adventures, an outfitter which also offers canyoneering—a combo of hiking and rappelling down waterfalls.

When To Go

May–November. Asheville does have seasons, but it doesn’t experience extremes—the hottest day rarely exceeds 80 degrees; the coldest day doesn’t get below 30 degrees.

Make It A Race-cation

See the stunning architecture of the Biltmore Estate while running the Asheville Full and Half Marathon. The course is entirely on the grounds, with packed dirt roads through peaceful forests and manicured gardens.

Desert: Moab, Utah

With its distinguishing red rocks and otherworldly landscape, Moab is a unique spot for a family adventure. The southeastern desert is a mountain-biking mecca, but pretty much anything you want to do for an adrenaline rush can be found here. With two stunning national parks nearby—Arches and Canyonlands—it’s worth the four-hour drive from the Salt Lake City airport.

What To Do

Sign up for a guided trail run with the family-friendly 360º Moab Adventures, which offers customizable adventures with insane red-rock views and plenty of photo ops. Or start with a visit to the Moab Adventure Center to explore your options, from mountain-biking tours to river rafting, Hummer tours or rappelling. Both national parks have kid-appropriate hikes, but one perfect sunset option outside the parks is Corona Arch—a 3-mile round-trip hike that leads to a jaw-dropping natural arch.

When To Go

Spring or late fall, when the desert sun is less intense during the day—it can get well over 100 degrees in July.

Make It A Race-cation

Mad Moose Events offers both a March (Canyonlands Half) and October (Canyonlands The Other Half) road race, or consider an all-trail event at the Amasa Run, an April event with 10.5K, 15K and 25K options.

Urban: Minneapolis, Minn.

Parks and lakes rule this city, which has often been voted one of the most bicycling-friendly in the U.S.—even with winter temps well below freezing. More than 200 miles of bike trails and an easy bike share program mean you and your family can safely explore this urban gem on two wheels.

What To Do

Get an insider’s perspective of Minneapolis on a guided tour with Minneapolis By Bike. You’ll get a mix of history and sightseeing—with stops at the iconic Stone Arch Bridge, St. Anthony Falls and more—over a very kid-doable distance of 5 to 6 miles. (There are also carriers and pull-along bikes for small kids.) Next, explore the lakes. Minneapolis boasts 13 of them within the city limits, and one of the best for activities is Lake Harriet. Run around the perimeter (just shy of 3 miles) or take sailing lessons through the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

When To Go

May to October are the most pleasant months, before the colorful leaves fall and frigid temps set in.

Make It A Race-cation

Women Run the City, the largest all-women event in Minneapolis, features a 5K, 10K and 10-mile race.


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