From the Grand Canyon (pictured) to The Dalí Museum in Saint Petersburg, Fla., see your summer vacation options.
NEW JOYS OF SUMMER
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.
St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum, Saint Augustine, Fla.
Swashbucklers, hoist your sails and head for the artifact-packed St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum (12 S. Castillo Dr., thepiratemuseum.com, adults $12, children under 5 free). This is the only place in the world to display an authentic pirate's treasure chest (property of Captain Thomas Tew roughly 400 years ago), plus a 19th-century Jolly Roger flag and an original "Wanted" poster with a 500-pound sterling reward for the capture of pirate Henry Every, dated 1696. Across the street, cannon-firing demonstrations take place Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at the Castillo de San Marcos fort (12 S. Castillo Dr., nps.gov/casa, adults $6, children under 16 free).
The Dalí Museum, Saint Petersburg, Fla.
Touring the Dalí Museum's new waterfront home is like stepping inside one of the artist's trippy, drippy dreamscapes. A concrete cube with a glass dome that seemingly melts down its side, it houses an impressive three-story corkscrew of a staircase, 96 surrealist oil paintings (including The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory), and more than 1,300 watercolors, sketches, sculptures, and objects. The whole affair is surrounded by the Avant Garden, which includes a hedge labyrinth and a vertical, mist-soaked orchid wall. 1 Dalí Blvd., thedali.org, adults $21, children under 6 free.
The Jones, Kansas City, Mo.
Look out, Las Vegas. Kansas City is making waves with a swanky swim-up bar that rivals the splashiest pool scenes along the Strip. The Jones, a 20,000-square-foot pool deck and lounge, is perched on the roof of a six-story building downtown and has 12 private cabanas you can reserve online. With a menu full of signature drinks (including the Bobby Jones, made with sweet tea vodka, lemonade, and Chambord) and a rotation of West Coast and local DJs on weekends, this is not your teenager's pool party. Come early to snag a lounge chair—or to avoid the slightly wilder late-night scene that keeps going until 3 a.m. Saturdays. 1271 Main St., thejoneskc.com, admission $5, cocktails from $6.
Heartland Harvest Garden, Kingsville, Mo.
Why stop at smelling the roses when you can go ahead and eat the exhibits at the Heartland Harvest Garden? The 12-acre addition to Missouri's Powell Gardens encourages kids to think with their stomachs—sampling fruit from the garden's trees and racing through a maze of edible hedges. A blackboard near the entrance lists what's ripe for the snacking each day. 1609 NW U.S. Hwy. 50, powellgardens.org, adults $9.50, children $4.
Citygarden, Saint Louis, Mo.
Forget monkey bars. At Citygarden, Saint Louis's coolest playground is cleverly disguised as an art park, with 24 climbable, crawl-able, slide-able sculptures by contemporary masters including Keith Haring, Jim Dine, and Mark di Suvero spread over three acres. There's also a 40-foot-long waterfall, 102 computer-controlled spray jets, and a 7' x 14' LED wall that screens art films, video installations—even the occasional family-friendly flick at the holidays. citygardenstl.org, free admission.
NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte, N.C.
Feel the need for speed? Get behind the wheel of one of the 15 racing simulators at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. You'll start your engine, shift gears, and maneuver through a virtual track, all while competing against other drivers in a race projected on a 50-foot video screen. Win or lose, you still get a victory lap around Glory Road, a replica of the 33-degree banked turns of the Talladega Superspeedway and the display area for the museum's 18 historic cars (including the 1939 Ford Coupe that Red Byron drove to win the first-ever NASCAR race). There's also a pit-crew challenge to see how fast you and your family can jack up a car, change a tire, and refuel. 400 E. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., nascarhall.com, adults $20, children 4 and under free.
Lincoln, New York, N.Y.
Imagine that a giant grabbed on to a baseball diamond by its first and third bases and lifted the whole thing 23 feet in the air. That's roughly what you get at the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Lawn, a sloping, 7,200-square-foot swath of green draped across the roof of Lincoln Center's new restaurant, Lincoln. It's also a popular picnic spot and a cheap, cheeky alternative to the pricey Italian fare downstairs. No matter where you plant yourself, you're guaranteed a top-notch view of Henry Moore's bronze Reclining Figure—and a fresh perspective on the city park. W. 65th St. between Broadway and Amsterdam Aves., lincolncenter.org, free admission.