Best Destination for Teens (2013)


Traveling with teens just got easier: readers of 10Best and USA TODAY have voted on the Best Destination for Teens, and Wisconsin Dells has landed in the #1 spot.  This year-round water park haven obviously made a big splash with parents, nudging out Orlando, Chicago, San Antonio and Gatlinburg, which finished in places 2-5. 

  • Wisconsin Dells, WI

    Wisconsin Dells, WI

    The "Water Park Capital of the World" has a whole lot more to offer than just water parks. When not splashing around or relaxing by a pool, teens take a zipline tour, go fishing, hike in Devil's Lake or Mirror Lake State Park and - at the end of the day - tune in for some live entertainment, whether animal antics at Circus World or a double feature at the Big Sky Twin Drive-In Theater.
    Photo courtesy of Creatas Images

  • Orlando, FL

    Orlando, FL

    Adventure-seeking teens love Walt Disney World's Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids. Tower of Terror and Rock n' Roller Coaster.  Universal Studios has its own. Teens love to mingle and chill in one of Orlando's many water parks. Universal's Incredible Hulk Coaster, Revenge of the Mummy, and the park's 3D Spiderman experience also rate high with teens.  The city has lots of cheap eats and hotels, and observation is free at the eye-popping iFly skydive attraction/training center.
    Photo courtesy of Kinchan1

  • Chicago, IL

    Chicago, IL

    Chicago, with all its big-city thrills and the spooky Skydeck ledge, is made for teens.  They can see a big name concert, catch some rays at Oak Street Beach or enjoy a professional sports game – Chicago is sports-crazy with SEVEN teams. The city's famous deep dish pizza and hot dogs are both affordable options that are always a hit with the kids, and the subway might be something new. Six Flags Great America is right up the road.
    Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago

  • San Antonio, TX

    San Antonio, TX

    San Antonio's popular Riverwalk, appealing festival lineup, cultural mix and affordability make it an excellent option for families with teenagers. Both Six Flags Fiesta Texas and SeaWorld San Antonio offer the theme park experience, while the festive RiverWalk offers boat rides, people-watching, dinner and some shopping. Teen sports enthusiasts often talk mom and dad into catching a Spurs or Rampage game in AT&T Center.  The iconic Alamo brings history to life: its exciting tale offers new meaning on site.
    Photo courtesy of Al Rendon / SACVB

  • Gatlinburg, TN

    Gatlinburg, TN

    As a fun and affordable gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg offers the conveniences of a modern, walkable town surrounded by one of America's most popular national parks.  Adventurous teens can soar over the Smokies on a ziplining tour or take on some white water rapids, paddle in hand. Hiking, biking, go-cart racing, horseback riding and a stellar Titanic museum are on the list of things teens love in Gatlinburg.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Gatlinburg

  • Myrtle Beach, SC

    Myrtle Beach, SC

    Myrtle Beach, on the South Carolina coast, is loaded with teen-friendly activities, like the WonderWorks zipline, Skywheel, Broadway at the Beach, water parks, abundant water sports and a long stretch of sandy beach.  Many Myrtle Beach golf courses let teenagers under 16 play for free, with a paying adult.  Mini-golf is everywhere you look, and the scene on the Pier at night as as happening as the beach is during the day.  Families never lack for safe entertainment options.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Myrtle Beach

  • Riviera Maya, Mexico

    Riviera Maya, Mexico

    The beaches of Riviera Maya, Cancun's more laid-back and family-friendly cousin, are lined with resorts catering to families. Affordable all-inclusive packages and a wealth of activities make this tropical destination a winner for those with teens.  At resorts like the Grand Velas Riviera Maya, teens take eco tours, go snorkeling or boogie boarding, dive into Spanish or explore caves. The easy-to-reach setting is memorable and making friends at the beach and pool is part of the deal.
    Photo courtesy of Grand Velas Riviera Maya

  • New York City, NY

    New York City, NY

    Landmarks, people watching, Times Square, shopping, Broadway, pop culture references, celebs ... what's not to love about the Big Apple? Thanks to shows like Gossip Girl, tuned-in teens will already be familiar with some of this energetic city's cultural offerings, particularly the hip Museum of Modern Art. Teens can even take an On Location tour with stops at popular filming sites or catch a taping of a live TV show in Times Square.
    Photo courtesy of PhotosByDavid

  • Grand Teton National Park, WY

    Grand Teton National Park, WY

    Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park is home to more than two hundred miles of trails, eye-popping geysers, loads of impressive wildlife and a half dozen campgrounds. Besides offering teens lots of great hiking, the park has horseback riding, rock climbing, canoeing and white water rafting ... all through some of the United States' most beautiful scenery. Native American culture is part of the experience, and a winter visit can be paired with nearby skiing and snowboarding.  
    Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks

  • Oahu, HI

    Oahu, HI

    For a vacation that's relaxing overall but stimulating for teens, families head to Oahu. Teenagers gladly spend their days learning to hang ten at a Waikiki surf school while mom and dad enjoy some tropical cocktails poolside.  The North Shore is magnetic for the under-20 set, where they can watch pro surfers take on some of the world's toughest waves.  Teens also enjoy retail therapy at small town surf shops. Oahu is a near-perfect Instagram opportunity.
    Photo courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

The 10 Best Destination for Teens are as follows:

  1. Wisconsin Dells, WI
  2. Orlando, FL
  3. Chicago, IL
  4. San Antonio, TX
  5. Gatlinburg, TN
  6. Myrtle Beach, SC
  7. Riviera Maya, Mexico
  8. New York City, NY
  9. Grand Teton National Park, WY
  10. Oahu, HI

The original list of 20 nominees were chosen by an expert panel of editors and contributors to 10Best and USA TODAY, including family travel experts, authors and mommy bloggers.  

The public had four weeks to vote, and all voting was done online at 10Best.  The contest was promoted on USA TODAY, on social media and across various Gannett media.   

Congrats to all the winners of Best Destination for Teens.  

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