Learning how to surf in Waikiki — Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson
There's no doubt that traveling with teens who may prefer to be home with friends or glued to their smart phones can be challenging. But, it can be incredibly rewarding and fun at these ten destinations, all of which won our Readers' Choice contest for 'Best Teen Destination.'
Family travel expert Katie Dillon (@lajollamom) explains why each is a winner with kids over 12 (and the parents trying desperately to distract them from technology).
1. Oahu, HI: Waikiki is one of the best places to learn how to surf with its long breaks, sunshine and gorgeous beaches. In between lounging and people watching, teens can shop or head to the North Shore for a glimpse of the famous massive waves.
2. Wisconsin Dells, WI: It's no surprise that the "Water Park Capital of the World" is a hit with the teen set. We're talking 50ft slides with launch capsules plunging riders straight down, 4-D movie theaters watched from pools and all sorts of mind-boggling thrills for the entire family.
3. New York City, NY: Between shopping 5th Avenue, giant slices of pizza, landmarks and even visiting sites from famous TV shows like Gossip Girl, the excitement of NYC is a teen dream.
4. Jackson Hole, WY: The outdoorsy teen will love being near two of the most scenic national parks: Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Hike, bike, go fly-fishing, stand-up paddle board and catch a glimpse of Old Faithful. There's just so much to do here.
5. Park City, UT: Snowboarding and skiing draw teen interest in the winter, however, Park City is a four season destination. Go hot air ballooning, river rafting, golfing, mountain biking and more after the snow melts. Mom will love the spas and Dad should pack his golf clubs.
6. Maui, HI: Some of the nation's most beautiful beaches await in Kaanapali. Lounging on them in between water sports is a must as is a breathtaking sunrise at Haleakala volcano, even for a sleepy teen.
7. Chicago, IL: The excitement of a big city is alive and well in Chicago, a city full of teen food favorites like big hot dogs and deep dish pizza. Not to mention there are seven sports teams to watch live.
8. San Diego, CA: This city by the ocean makes and excellent teen vacation any time of the year. Beaches offer plenty of opportunities to learn how to surf, kayak caves and relax in Southern California sunshine. Mix in some culture at the Balboa Park museums. Their close proximity to each other are perfect for short attention spans.
9. Orlando, FL: Teens will probably love Hollywood Studios most out of the Disney parks for thrill rides like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Universal Studios is another favorite with its roller coasters and City Walk entertainment, dining and shopping area. Or, hop over to water parks like Disney's Typhoon Lagoon or Wet-n-Wild. Orlando is definitely not just for little kids.
10. Gatlinburg, TN: Your teen will love soaring over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on a zipline or paddling the thrilling white water rapids below. Ride the Aerial Tramway to the summit and even ski in the winter at this scenic mountain resort destination that's also affordable.