16 Best Summer Attractions for Families

At the end of every summer comes a day of reckoning, the time when every man, woman, and child must answer a crucial question: So, what did you do on your summer vacation? We're here to make sure you have a very good answer.

Igor Mitoraj's Eros Bound sculpture at Citygarden in Saint Louis.

(Courtesy Steve Hall)

At the end of every summer comes a day of reckoning, the time when every man, woman, and child must answer a crucial question: So, what did you do on your vacation? We're here to make sure you have a very good answer, whether it's in the form of awe-inspiring photos of Utah's desert rock canyons at sunset, fish tales earned on a kayak trip in South Carolina, or that American classic: a story about how you rode the killer new roller coaster five times without getting sick. Whether you reveal the location of your new secret beach, however, is entirely up to you.


Denali National Park & Preserve, Alaska

The trailhead for the newly rebuilt Triple Lakes Trail in Denali National Park & Preserve is steps from the visitor's center, so even the laziest hikers can make it to the great Alaskan outdoors. But push yourself (if you can) to the outer reaches of the 8.6-mile hike. That's where you'll find the namesake lakes that attract trumpeter swans, horned grebes, muskrat, moose, and the occasional grizzly. You'll also cross a 130-foot suspension bridge over rushing Riley Creek and hike along ridges that look up to Pyramid Mountain., seven-day park permit $20 per vehicle.

Grand Canyon, Ariz.

Like most spectacular national parks, the Grand Canyon is plagued by spectacular traffic. Not at the paved Hermit Road Greenway Trail, which skirts nearly three thrilling miles of the South Rim and is off-limits to cars. You can rent a bike trailside in one of five frame sizes and Burley Bee trailers for the under-eight set., from $10 per hour.

Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix, Ariz.

Bang a gong, play an African talking drum, or form an Indonesian gamelan band at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. The 12,000-piece collection contains noisemakers from every country—and at least one from an international superstar (a Steinway piano John Lennon once owned). Best of all, you can hear each one, either in audio and video recordings, a weekly concert series, or in the Experience Gallery, where museumgoers can play dozens of exotic items. (We've got dibs on the sneezewood xylophone from Mozambique.) 4725 E. Mayo Blvd.,, adults $15, children 5 and under free.

Dinosaur Hall, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, Calif.

In the public imagination (and in prehistory), Tyrannosaurus rex has always loomed larger than life. The new Dinosaur Hall at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, opening July 16, brings the mythic monster down to size. Three sizes, actually. The 14,000-square-foot space—twice as large as the museum's former dino display—was built to show off the three growth stages of a T. rex: a 10-foot baby, a 20-foot teenager, and an appropriately imposing 30-foot adult. The alpha beasts are in good company: The museum's skeleton crew includes 17 other full-body specimens (many rarely displayed) and more than 300 fossils. 900 Exposition Blvd.,, adults $9, children 4 and under free.

House of Air trampoline park, San Francisco, Calif.

Whether you flip for freestyle frolicking or organized games, the nine-month-old House of Air trampoline park has you covered. The former airplane hanger in the Presidio contains a free-jumping area the size of a basketball court (with 42 contiguous trampolines and elasticized walls), a trampoline dodgeball court, and a bounce house for the littlest leapers. If you need another push to get hopping, consider the thrill of checking out (ever so briefly) the Transamerica Pyramid while mid-air, through the hangar's wall of bay-facing windows. 926 Old Mason St., West Crissy Field,, $14 per hour.

Boulder Brew Bus, Boulder, Colo.

When you sign up for a Boulder Brew Bus tour of the area's best craft breweries, you get more than a built-in designated driver and his tricked-out wheels. On the four-hour trip, a chauffeur shuttles you to three esteemed hop houses—Avery, Twisted Pine, and Upslope—for unlimited beer samples and behind-the-scenes tours. Mid-jaunt, guides dole out BBQ from the West End Tavern. Eat up—you'll need the fortification. 926 Pearl St.,, tour $45, including one meal and tastings.


Grand Canyon

From the Grand Canyon (pictured) to The Dalí Museum in Saint Petersburg, Fla., see your summer vacation options.

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