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Vacay Without the Bust! Which Way to Geaux?


After a long, trying year of being cooped up at home, it is likely this summer will be a busier time for travel than usual. Businesses are reopening, travel restrictions are loosening, and family members are looking to get together again after distancing themselves for so long. You may have been saving up your vacation money for a year now, or you may have a tighter budget and antsy kids itching to get out the house. Maybe you’ve been planning to get out of town no matter the circumstances. Whether you’re expensive, frugal, or somewhere in-between, we’ve compiled a list of places to geaux all over the country that will scratch your travel bug without doing too much damage to your bank account. Price estimates were based on a family of four.

North
Lutsen, Minnesota

Check out all the Land of 10,000 Lakes has to offer at the Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior. From bonfires to hikes to live music, the Lutsen Resort has something for everyone in your family.

The Resort includes lodging that fits in any budget, from the Cliff House Townhomes to the Log Cabins to the Poplar River Condos & Guestrooms and the Historic Lodge Rooms. All these rooms feature stunning views of Lake Superior, several luxurious accommodations, and can be pet-friendly upon request.

Before you get to your room, make sure to stop at a grocery store along the way so you can stock up on snacks, drinks, and anything else you may need if you plan to cook any meals.

The Lutsen Resort offers two unique fine dining restaurants available to guests and to the public. Both restaurants have Scandanavian influences as a true reflection of North Shore cuisine. The Strand Waterfront Dining & Wine Bar is located in the Historic Lodge at Lutsen Resort and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can have signature Swedish pancakes or blueberry fritter bread for breakfast, or indulge in some pine cured salmon and a glass of wine. For a more casual experience, the Lutsen Resort Poplar River Pub offers pizza, burgers, and sandwiches along with Minnesota craft beers. If you want to eat away from the resort, check out the Rustic Inn Cafe. Rustic Inn Cafe’s menu offers food for meat lovers, seafood connoisseurs, vegetarians, vegans, and even those who want to stop by just for dessert from their signature pie menu.

During your stay, you and your family can kayak on Lake Superior or on Caribou Lake, and you can take a guided waterfall tour or hike through the gorgeous Minnesota scenery. For your younger ones, there are kids camps, a nine-hole “pitch and putt” golf course, and a playground. You can even do yoga on the shore of Lake Superior. At the end of your day, make s’mores with your beach bonfire before retreating back to your lodging a few steps away.

Northeast
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Home to thousands of restaurants, bustling nightlife, tons of amusement parks, and 60 miles of beaches, Myrtle Beach is a gem along the eastern coast for your family’s summer vacation.

The Dunes Village Resort will offer you a great place to stay while you explore all Myrtle Beach has to offer. The resorts have a wide variety of condos, suites, and beach houses that can accommodate anywhere from 6-16 guests. They feature private bedrooms and full bathrooms, along with a living room with a queen-sized sofa bed, multiple TVs, a dining room, a kitchen, and a dishwasher, washer, and dryer so you can easily make yourself at home. 

Before you settle in, make sure to fill that refrigerator with beach snacks to help cut back on costs of picking up grub while on your way to the sand!

Beyond the beach, you can experience a thrill ride at one of many amusement parks like Pavilion Park or the Family Kingdom Amusement Park, and you can also take a splash at Myrtle Waves Water Park. 

You can’t visit Myrtle Beach without stopping at the Sky Wheel, a 200-foot tall Ferris Wheel with glass-enclosed gondolas that allow a bird’s eye view of the blue Atlantic waters. If you need to get away from the tourist attractions, take a 15-minute drive away from the beach to go on a guided kayaking tour on the Waccamaw River with the birds, frogs, and gators.

If you’re looking to add a little education into your summer vacation without losing the fun, make the trip to WonderWorks, an amusement park for the mind. This amuseument park features over 50,000 square feet of “edu-tainment” that is so fun that it won’t feel like “work” at all.

For even more family fun, visit The Funplex, where fun is literally in the name. This new outdoor theme park is lined with palm trees and features seven rides, a walk-up bar and restaurant, and hours of family entertainment.

If you find yourself wanting to challenge your family to a race, race to victory at Broadway Grand Prix Family Race Park. The park features seven go kart tracks for your need for speed. You can also climb to the top of the rock wall, play on two 18-hole mini golf courses, and check out the arcade.

Myrtle Beach has plenty of restaurants that will satisfy any craving. Get a taste of the coast at Bubba’s Fish Shack, where you can order anything from fresh catch specials, fried Big Dawg platters, shellfish, Bubba-wiches, Bubba-Que platters, burgers, and wings. For a light breakfast or lunch, or even just dessert, stop at Croissants Bistro & Bakery to cater to your sweet tooth. You are guaranteed to find whatever you or your family is in the mood for at Myrtle Beach.

East
Outer Banks, North Carolina

You won’t find any crowded beaches or tourist traps at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Instead, you’ll stumble upon hundreds of miles of shoreline and charming towns and villages that add character to these barrier islands.

The Outer Banks includes 14 small towns that will suit any desired experience, from beaching, golfing, fishing, surfing, and kayaking. Even better, you can drive to any of these places within a few minutes or a few hours. We promise that it will be worth the drive when you see how much fun your kiddos are having.

Each town in Outer Banks has hotels, condos, and Airbnbs for your family to rent, all within walking distance of the nearest beach. Not only will your options be budget-friendly, but they will also be peaceful and private, half of which are family owned and operated. 

There are even campgrounds for those looking to sleep under the stars and to the sound of the rolling waves. Whatever your style, the Outer Banks will surely suit it.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina take pride in their local restaurants and cafes, which offer seafood, barbeque, vegan, gluten-free, and culture-oriented meals for the whole family. 

Before you start your day, don’t forget to pick up coffee and breakfast at one of many breakfast restaurants in the area, from Ashley’s Espresso Parlour in between Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills to Beads & Beans on Hatteras Island. 

For lunch, stop and enjoy the stunning view at Steamers near Kitty Hawk along with the clams, lobster, or fish and chips. If you’re hungry for a fine-dining experience, check out The Colington Cafe in Kill Devil Hills and its delicious crab cakes and filet mignon.

During your stay, there are some places in the Outer Banks you have to visit. Climb the 220 steps to the top of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla and soak in the stunning view while learning about its rich history. You can also hike the majestic sand dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head, watch the sunset and the rolling waves, and even fly kites.
For the daredevils in the group, if they’re feeling adventurous, they can take hang gliding lessons which will surely give them a view of the Outer Banks from a whole different level. 

Next, you can take a stroll through the 10 acres of Roanoke Island’s Elizabethan Gardens for something a little more relaxing. The Outer Banks are also known for their wild horses, most of which can be found on Currituck Beach. For an indoors adventure day, you can stop at the aquarium on Roanoke Island, or visit one of their many historical museums.

Southeast
Orlando, Florida

Everyone knows The Sunshine State is the place to be for theme park enthusiasts and Disney fans alike. About 10 miles away from Walt Disney World, Universal Studios is filled with awesome attractions and epic fun for everyone in the family. Plus, it is easier than you think to arrange a budget-friendly trip here.

Go retro at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, where you can rest in vibrant, affordable rooms modeled after the classic Florida resorts from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Your family’s suite will feature more than just comfortable amenities; your stay will also include benefits such as walking paths to Universal’s water theme park, Volcano Bay, early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and complimentary shuttle buses to Universal Studios, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal CityWalk.

You’ll find endless opportunities for adventure at Universal Studios–it will be impossible to see it all in one trip! Step into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where you can walk through Diagon Alley and visit famous sites come to life. Watch a wand choose a wizard at Ollivander’s wand shop, visit the Hogwarts castle, and talk to a Gringotts goblin at Gringotts bank. You can also plunge yourself into the magic with one-of-a-kind experiences like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey or Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, where you’ll soar around Hogwarts or navigate the dangerous underground vaults in these multidimensional adventures. After your magical journey, grab some fish and chips at the Leaky Cauldron and celebrate with some Butterbeer. 

On a warm and sunny day, you’ll want to make a splash at Universal’s Volcano Bay. Relax on Waturi Beach or go on a heart-pounding water rafting ride at Puihi of Maku Puihi where you’ll tumble down a lava-tube path and through a dark, winding cavern. There is also the Kopiko Wai winding river for those who simply want to relax before or after feasting on some chicken tacos from The Feasting Frog. 

Don’t forget to stop by other attractions like Jurassic Park in Universal Studios and The Cat in the Hat at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. During your stay in Orlando, we assure you there will never be a dull moment.

South
Nassau, Bahamas

This island in the Bahamas is nothing short of its own name–paradise. With miles upon miles of soft, white sand; warm, turquoise waters; colorful coral reefs; and tons of opportunities for adventure, Paradise Island is the ideal island getaway for the whole family.

When you’re not relaxing on one of the island’s stunning beaches, you’ll have plenty of options for exploring all it has to offer. 

Of course, if you find yourself wanting time on the water with the whole family involved, you can bet there are plenty of water activities you can all dip your toes into. 

In Nassau, you can board a catamaran for a coral reef excursion, explore a shipwreck on a scuba diving trip, or even try Snuba, which pairs snorkeling with underwater breathing. If fishing is more your speed, you can even hop aboard a charter boat for an excursion.

You can tour the forts of Nassau, which date back to the 18th century, and stand in the same spot as the British Lords who built them. You can also take time to appreciate local artists at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, which includes hands-on activities and interactive workshops that are perfect for the little artists in your family. 

Other art galleries in the area include Doongalik Studios and the Educulture Junkanoo Museum, both of which feature rich, local culture your family will truly enjoy. 

Don’t forget about the largest water park in the Caribbean, Aquaventure! It’s home to wild rides like The Power Tower, a 120-foot tower with four water slides, a lazy river, and over 20 swimming areas. 

However, no trip to the Bahamas is complete without visiting the beach pigs at Big Major Cay about 35 miles southeast of Nassau–you can even swim with them! Make sure you bring your camera because this is one photo op that you won’t want to miss. At the end of the day, stop by La Caverna, where you’ll have a menu full of homemade Italian dishes like Lasagna Al Forgno and Spaghetti Alla Carbonara. If you need vegan and vegetarian friendly options for someone in your crew, visit Luca Fusion and try their daily vegan and vegetarian specials, along with traditional Caribbean dishes for lunch and all-day breakfast. Another local gem is the family owned and operated Athena Cafe. where you can order anything from local conch to Athenian-style fish and burgers.

Comfort Suites at Paradise Island will provide you with an affordable, luxurious place to sleep after your day in paradise with the benefits of a guest staying at the Atlantis Resort. You’ll have access to all amenities and Atlantis facilities and the Aquaventure park.

Southwest
South Padre Island, Texas

Beautiful beaches, bumpin’ nightlife, and bustling activities, South Padre Island, Texas, is part of the world’s longest barrier island located on warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and it can be the perfect place for you and your family to vacation only one state away from home.

At South Padre Island, you can lounge on the beach with your crew, take sandcastle lessons, and even walk the Laguna Madre Nature Trail. 

Don’t pass up the largest outdoor laser tag arena in Texas, Bobz World, where you can also play in the arcade, take a stroll through the museum and Jurassic-themed botanical garden, and play black light mini golf. 

If you’re looking for the water without the sand, check out Beach Park at Isla Blanca, a new water park that sits on 25 acres and contains almost two dozen attractions and 13 water slides, from an underwater scuba adventure to a zip line that will send you soaring 10 stories in the air. 

South Padre Island is also brimming with arts and culture, where you can visit the many art galleries and dance to live music as the sun sets over the bay.

It’ll be easy to find somewhere to rest your head after you spend the day in the Texas sunshine. You can stay at The Pearl South Padre hotel, which features exquisite views of the ocean from every room, rent an oceanfront condo from the Seabreeze Beach Resort, or book a quaint Airbnb within walking distance of the soft, sandy shores.

No matter where you stay, make sure you stop at the grocery store and stock up on water, sunscreen, and snacks to bring with you on your daily excursions, especially when you find yourself sinking your toes into the sand. You’ll be so at peace that you just might forget to reapply your sunscreen! 

You’ll really want to stay hydrated and protected from the sun while you enjoy a picnic by the clear, indigo waters. 

South Padre Island also has a variety of restaurants for your family to refuel at while on the go, serving foods that will keep you feeling refreshed throughout your trip. Pick up the summer omelette for brunch at Yummies Bistro, build your own fresh ceviche at Ceviche Ceviche, or try the flounder at Pier 19 for dinner with a view. It’s the perfect beach vacay only a few steps (miles) away. 

West
Winter Park, Colorado

In the heart of the Rocky Mountains is the stunning state of Colorado.

Here you’ll stand in awe at the magnificent views while basking in the cool, mountain air and embarking on adventures fit for all experience levels, and right outside the capitol city. 

Spend your summer at the Winter Park Resort where you’ll have dozens of lodging options from top-notch lodges and townhomes to the high-quality Vintage Hotel.  All lodging options are suitable for all budgets, are complete with comfortable amenities, and are located just outside the resort so your family will never be far from the fun.

Colorado is perfect for families that cannot get enough of the outdoors. The short summers at Winter Park Resort are ideal for hiking the Waterfall Trail or taking a bike ride along the Fraser River Trail before stretching your worn-out muscles with some relaxing yoga. 

You can also get a front-row view of the mountains at 10,700 feet in the air from the Gondola, or spend a night in the middle of it all at one of the local campgrounds. Don’t forget to pack plenty of food and water for any outdoor excursions! 

After your busy day, stop by a Colorado favorite for dinner like Deno’s Mountain Bistro–you just have to try their signature steaks! Pepe Osaka’s Fishtaco is another option with a menu full of fusion like Thai Chicken Tacos and soft shell crab enchiladas. For a taste of homemade comfort foods, Goodys Mountain Creperie is the place to be. You can get anything sweet or savory here, from the loaded Goodys Cheeseburger, to their homemade chili, to their strawberry shortcake crepe and their Monte Cristo crepe (full of honey-roasted ham, swiss cheese, ground mustard, and raspberry jam). 

Wherever you are in Winter Park, you’ll find anything to satisfy any hankering for adventure.

Northwest
Yellowstone, Wyoming

In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant established Yellowstone National Park as the first national park in the country. Whether you want to get up close and personal with the massive canyons, impressive hot springs, and gushing geysers, or see everything from the comfort of your own vehicle, Yellowstone National Park is waiting for you.

You can sleep right in the heart of Yellowstone National Park in one of its summer lodges, some of which are renowned for their architecture. While you may be dying to stay in Old Faithful Inn, the world’s largest log structure, or pass underneath the massive white columns of the elegant Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cottages, places like this in Yellowstone sell out quickly. You may be interested in staying in a nearby hotel or Airbnb. Wherever you stay, you will get a breathtaking view of the incredible landscape.

Yellowstone National Park is located in three states. Between Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, you’ll have access to the park and to other points of interest. No matter where you go, you’ll be spending a lot of time outside, so don’t forget to pack plenty of water and snacks. As the original entrance to Yellowstone, Gardiner, Montana is a charming town brimming with activities. Bathe in the Yellowstone Hot Springs, go hiking with the llamas, or take a horseback tour. 

After your day of exploration, grab a bite to eat at Yellowstone Pizza, where you can order everyone’s favorite. About 15 miles from Yellowstone is Island Park, Idaho. This is a quiet town with the world’s longest main street and the world’s largest caldera. 

In Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, along with the colorful Grand Prismatic Spring, is a must-see. A classic stop is Old Faithful, the iconic geyser. If you finish your tour in West Yellowstone, refuel at Buffalo Bar and try their ground buffalo tacos or their tender pot-roast sandwich. If you want to start your day with a delicious pancake breakfast, don’t pass up Running Bear Pancake House.

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25 May 2021


By Emily Drez

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