But lighter crowds and back-to-school travel specials make summer’s end the perfect time to squeeze in a short family trip.Puerto Rico and Mexico are perfect for families looking for a sunny, beach escape. Tired of the sea and sand? Pay a visit to our friendly neighbor to the north, Canada. San Francisco is a fantastic blend of history, city life and nature. Or breakout of your comfort zone in Cuba. So go ahead, steal some time with the kiddies before they are buried under mounds of homework. It’s easier than you think to find a quick family getaway.
No time to get passports? No problem! Puerto Rico is the perfect Caribbean summer escape without the hassles of international travel. This US territory uses the American dollar and doesn’t require passports for US citizens. Wander Old San Juan’s cobblestone streets and find handcrafted “treasures.” Discover dungeons, towers and cannons at El Morro, a 16th-century stone fortress built to protect the town from seafaring invaders. Venture into El Yunque Rainforest and hike the only tropical rainforest in North America. Finally, paddle a kayak after dark into the mysterious – and illuminating – Mosquito Bio-Luminescent Bay in Vieques.
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Finding a flight to Riviera Maya is a snap, making it an easy choice for last minute summer getaways. Families looking for a jungle adventure will find it at Xcaret. Let the kids play Indiana Jones as they search for secret caves and hidden passageways that lead to a recreated Mayan village. Or swim, snorkel or float your way along an underground river. Plan a day trip to Tulum and explore Mayan ruins. For some serious shopping–and eating–visit the pedestrian friendly la Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue).
One summer trip to Toronto and Oh, Canada! Trek to the top of CN Tower and gaze down on the city through the Glass Floor. Want more excitement? Take the Edge Walk, an adrenaline pulsing “walk” outside on the roof! Don’t worry, tamer adventures are aplenty too. Set sail for a swashbuckling stint as the kids hunt for treasure aboard a Pirate Ship Adventure cruise. Visit Toronto Zoo, the proud home of Giant Panda Cubs! These little celebrities have their own YouTube channel; have the kids check it out before your visit. Of course, no trip to Canada is complete without a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame, it boasts the largest collection of hockey memorabilia in the world.
Lost in time is best way to describe Havana. It may only be 90 miles from Key West, but once your family steps off the plane, you’ll feel worlds away. Wander down the cobblestone streets lined with a rainbow of colorful colonial style homes. Have kids keep count of the retro 1950s cars as they cruise by. Savor a sweet treat at Museo del Chocolate, a tiny, air-conditioned chocolate shop. Stop in one of the many small museums peppered throughout the city and learn about Cuba’s rich culture and history. A “must see” is Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, a 18th-century stone fortress overlooking Havana Harbor. Kids will get a bang out of the cannon firing ceremony every night at 9pm. Off the beaten path lies Gran Parque Metropolitano, an urban forest with a river, bridges, walking trails and other family friendly amenities. Good to know: US travel to Cuba is getting easier, but there are still restrictions. Check with the US Department of Treasury for details.
Does your family enjoy “get-up-and-go” getaways? If so, San Francisco is the place for you. Jam-packed with diverse attractions and unique neighborhoods, it’s a whirlwind of family fun waiting to be found. Jog across the sprawling Golden Gate Bridge or admire the view from Coit Tower. Take a ferry to Angel Island (the Ellis Island of the West) or explore eerie Alcatraz. Street performers, a mirror maze, carousel, boat rides, aquarium, and of course, oceans of sea lions sunning themselves along Pier 39 can easily fill up an entire day. Slow your pace and walk among towering, ancient giants – redwood trees that is – in Muir Woods. Score a seat at AT&T Stadium – home to San Fran’s “other” Giants. If you’re lucky, you may witness a “Splash Hit,” a homerun slammed into McCovey Cove.
Maribeth Pjosek-Durkin contributed this toMiniTime.