Top Travel Destinations in the US for 2012

It’s vacation time and FamilyVactionCritic.com has complied a list of vacation spots for you and your family to visit without breaking the bank.

Here are their top five US picks:

1. BOSTON
An awesome aquarium, a superior science museum, and a notorious New England charm have long attracted families to Boston. This summer, the new and improved Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum is scheduled to reopen, 11 years after the original museum was struck by lightning and burned down in 2001.

The new museum will have replicas of the three merchant ships: the Beaver, the Eleanor, and the Dartmouth, and new exhibits featuring Samuel Adams and King George III. For families with younger kids, the Boston Children’s Museum is a must. As an added bonus, Fenway Park, America’s oldest ballpark, celebrates its 100th birthday this year.

2. SAN FRANCISCO
Kids (and grownups) of all ages will get a thrill out of riding the cable cars through the hilly streets of San Francisco, watching performers along touristy Fisherman’s Wharf, chocolate-tasting at Ghirardelli Square, and taking a winding drive down famous Lombard Street. The number of kid-friendly attractions (don’t forget the zoo, museums, Alcatraz and Union Square) are endless.

2012 marks the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge; and the tourist board didn’t pass up the opportunity to commemorate the occasion a variety of family-friendly events planned throughout the year.

3. DENVER
A host of outdoor activities, public parks, and incredible vistas in every direction make Denver a great choice for families. In winter, hit the slopes at several nearby mountains, and in the summer visit the city’s Botanical Garden and let the kids wander down the Children’s Secret Path.

Nearby Breckenridge Ski Resort is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this ski season. Families can participate in all kinds of fun activities at Breckenridge, and take a ride on the new Gold Runner Alpine Coaster, a super-speedy, 2,500-foot mountain roller coaster that’s open in summer and winter.

4. ORLANDO
2012 will bring several new attractions and events to the theme park capital of the world. Universal Studios will open a cool new attraction in 2012: Despicable Me. Despicable-Me riders will be transformed into the movie’s famous little minions and take a 3-D ride featuring Gru and his lair, the adorable orphans, and an interactive dance party.

LEGOLAND Florida is expanding in 2012, with the addition of a new water park adjacent to the current attraction, scheduled to open by summer. It will have a wave pool, a LEGO-themed raft ride, water slides, and an interactive water-play area for younger children.

In the Magic Kingdom, the massive expansion of Fantasyland continues. Over the course of the next two years, this area of the park will more than double in size. Several new attractions are scheduled to open in 2012, including Under the Sea — Journey of the Little Mermaid, Storybook Circus, and the Great Goofini.

5. THE GRAND CANYON
For those who have yet to visit this spectacular national park, it’s located in the northwest corner of Arizona, close to the borders of Utah and Nevada. It’s an area of the country you must see at least once in your lifetime, and it’s super family friendly. Like many of the country’s national parks, the Grand Canyon offers the Junior Ranger program for kids 4 to 14. Children can pick up an activity booklet at the visitor center and complete a series of activities and assignments to receive their very own Junior Ranger Badge at the end of their visit.

Best of all, admission to Grand Canyon National Park (along with more than 100 of the country’s other national parks) will be free the following days: Sept. 29 (National Public Lands Day) and Nov. 10 to 12 (Veterans Day weekend).

See the full list of FamilyVacationCritic.com’s 2012 list here.

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