Now that summer is here it’s time to make plans for your family vacation. If you have teenagers you know how difficult it can be to make them happy on any trip. With my own teenager I often here things like “I’m bored, why are we here? Do they have WIFI? Do I have to go? I hope we are not going some place that requires me to learn something because we’re on vacation” Sometimes you feel like their is no way to make them happy.
One of my favorite memories as a teen was traveling to San Francisco. The city offers a a ton of things to do to keep them engaged and having fun. A place I never got to see personally but I would highly recommend is visiting Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz State Penitentiary or “the rock”, as it was known is probably not well known by teenagers of today but it is sure to keep them entertained. Named #1 tourist attraction of 2015 and 2018 by TripAdvisor, Alcatraz sits in the heart of San Francisco Bay. It was home of some of the most notorious criminals from 1934-1963 including Al “Scarface”Capone and “The Birdman” Robert Stroud.
One can’t travel to San Francisco without taking a ride on one of it’s most iconic landmarks, the San Francisco Trolley. It is the last manually operated cable car system in the world and the only mobile National Monument in the world as well. Of the original 23 lines that were built around the city in the late 1800’s only 3 lines remain today. The trolley gets over 7 million riders per year but it’s no surprise that most of those riders are tourists. What teen wouldn’t want to hang off the side of a trolley with awesome views of the city like in the picture. Makes for some pretty cool Snapchat and Instagram stories. For additional information and helpful tips on how to avoid the long lines check out this SFtodo.com article. The Powell/Mason line runs pretty close to one of the other famous Bay area attractions, the Fisherman’s Wharf.
Fisherman’s Wharf has a lot of things to keep your teenager happy. The Aquarium of the Bay, home to over 30,000 animals native to San Francisco area and California coast. You can also see the San Francisco Dungeon, 7D Experience, Madame Tussauds Museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Sea Lion Center and many more places to shop and explore.
We took our 13 year old son to Washington DC last year and he had a blast. We were a little uncertain what to expect with him, after all, teens can be hard to please. We stayed at a small hotel right off the DC Metro station. He had never been on a subway before so that alone was worth the trip for him. The main attractions for tourists is the National Mall. At one end is the the Lincoln Memorial and the other end is the Capitol Building. We took the Metro into the Mall and got off at the Federal Center stop. A short 3-block walk will take you to the Library of Congress and the Capitol building. We chose to take the free guided tour of the Library and then walked through the underground tunnel to the Capitol building. As cool as the Capitol building was, our son got bored with it kind of quickly. Our next stops took us to the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History. These were all great museums with a ton of things for kids of all ages to see and interact with. I would highly suggest getting to these museums early. Lines form pretty quickly and everyone has to go through security check but the lines usually move fairly quickly.
Next on our trip was a walk to the White House. We didn’t do the inside tour because you have to make your reservations in advance which we didn’t do so we just walked the outside grounds. You can’t get that close to it but we were still able to get some pretty good pictures. Even though it’s considered part of the Mall, it is kind of a walk. The walk up to the White House is entertaining in it’s own right. 15th street running on the right side of the White house is lined with street vendors selling everything from patriotic fidget spinners to replica President Lincoln Stovepipe hats to talking Trump Bobble-Heads. Once you are in front of the White House (Side actually, you can’t get right in front any longer) there was a street performer dressed up in a silver Statue of Liberty costume and protesters with mega phones urging the audience to join his cause. I played the “pick out the Secret Service officer” game. They try their best to blend in to the crowd but if you look hard enough you will find them… it was pretty fun actually.
After the White house we made our way to the Washington Monument and then on to the World War 2 Memorial before making our way down to the Lincoln Memorial. The Washington Memorial was closed so we were not able to go to the top, which was kind of disappointing because we were looking forward to seeing a great view of the mall and the city. Walking along side the reflecting pool you couldn’t help to feel like you were taking a step back in time and feel part of the crowd during Martin Luther King’s civil rights march. It was definitely a humbling experience. There is so much to see and do here, w simply ran out of time to see everything we wanted to. You need at least 5 days in my opinion to see most of the popular attractions. You could literally spend an entire day in many of the larger museums alone. All in all, it was well worth the trip and our son had a lot of fun. As a matter of fact, he asked to go back this year.
Another great place to go this summer is Gatlinburg Tennessee. Located in the heart of the Smokey Mountains about 40 miles from Knoxville, Gatinburg has been a tourist destination for decades. We visited here several years ago and stayed in a cabin rental which was a lot of fun. If you are going to visit Gatinburg, in my opinion you just need to stay in a log cabin. It is so much fun for everyone and it gives you some valuable family time you wouldn’t get in a hotel. Check out the Gatlinburg skylift which travels about 1800 feet up Crockett Mountain with beautiful views of the area. A fun place for kids and teens is the Gatlinburg Space Needle. The top observation deck will give you a breath-taking 360 degree view of the Smokey Mountains from 407 feet above the ground. At the base of the Needle is a 25,000 square foot, two story arcade with a pizzeria, escape room and theater. If your teens are cars fans, the Hollywood Stars Cars Museum is sure to entertain. It is home to forty famous cars from movies and TV including the General Lee from Dukes of Hazard, the Batmobile, one of the cars from the Fast and the Furious and many more. Another fun attraction is the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster. Weave you way through the Smokey Mountain Hillside at speeds up to 30 miles per hour so hold on tight, it’s sure to be a blast. If your teen likes to be creeped out take them on the Gatlinburg Ghost Haunt tour. This is a walking tour of the city that you will not experience anywhere else. You will here tales of famous settlers, pioneers, soldiers and regular folks living through hardship, misery, heartbreak and even death. After all the walking make a stop to the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen to fill your sweet tooth cravings. Stop in for a free sample or take home a box of your favorite treats that are all made on site. They have two locations to choose from in Gatlinburg so you are never far away.
These are just a few of my favorite places to go with your teenager that are sure to keep them happy. There are many more but I have personal experience with these and each one created lasting memories for me and my family.