Encourage little 'mad scientists,' party like a wizard, perfect your beach skills, or go wild on safari.

Share story

Still trying to come up with summer vacation ideas? Or maybe you’re a planner thinking ahead to winter breaks.

If you need some dream ideas, look no further. Here are five picks for families — or the young at heart — from near to far.

Get inspired at the Exploratorium in San Francisco

The Exploratorium’s more than 600 exhibits, housed on 3.3 acres, will encourage every member of the family to see the world differently. The learning lab encourages creativity and tinkering as a means of expanding perceptions.

Young children and toddlers are engaged by shadow, light, bubbles and color as a means of stimulating exploration and discovery. Kids can create a marble machine, study plankton populations or check out an upside-down world in this internationally renowned center characterized as a “mad scientist’s penny arcade.”

Wonder at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Los Angeles

If you and your family are fans of the boy wizard, this is your season. The recent opening of Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter, inspired by J.K. Rowling’s tales, means chocolate frogs and Butterbeer are among your culinary options.

Young muggles and wizards can experience the Flight of the Hippogriff, Universal Studios Hollywood’s first outdoor roller coaster as well as a 3D-HD adventure where Hogwarts castle is the focal point.

Across the pond in England, global tour operator City Wonders now offers “The Making of Harry Potter,” a behind-the-scenes guided tour of original sets, props and costumes from all eight Potter films.

Spoil yourselves in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.

Expect a warm welcome and impeccable service when you check into Acqualina Resort & Spa. This ultra-luxury property is on 4.5 beachside acres between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Opt for your favorite water sports, build sand castles or take a stroll on the beach.

Several pool areas, designed for different age groups, give way to a grassy play and relaxation zone where soccer and lawn games are popular. Parents can unwind in the top-notch spa knowing the kids are learning about coral reefs, pinnipeds and sea turtles in the AcquaMarine Children’s Center.

Oceanfront accommodations include spacious rooms and suites with up to four bedrooms.

Acqualina Resort & Spa
Acqualina Resort & Spa

Learn a new sport at Beaches in Turks and Caicos Islands

During a family holiday at Beaches, your crew can learn to scuba dive, become certified sailors and balance on a stand-up paddle board. If that isn’t enough of a sporting challenge, carve out time to snorkel, paddle a sea kayak, wind your way down water slides and climb aboard a giant, seafaring bicycle.

Refuel between outings at any of 21 restaurants where options range from fresh pineapple and watermelon to spicy jerk chicken. The family-focused, all-inclusive resort makes sampling new activities and unfamiliar taste treats possible.

Beaches resort in Turks and Caicos (Beaches)
Beaches resort in Turks and Caicos (Beaches)

Go wild in Sossusvlei, Namibia

Check into Wilderness Safaris’ Little Kulala, a desert eco-retreat within southern Africa’s Kulala Wilderness Reserve. Climb aboard a Land Rover to scope out desert-adapted springbok, ostrich and oryx, or float above the dramatic landscape in a hot air balloon. Visit (and slide down) the world’s tallest dunes amid Namibia’s famed red Sand Sea.

Then fall asleep on your rooftop bed and enjoy a late-night show, with shooting stars and the Milky Way serving as headliners.

Also check out Travel Beyond’s Namibia tours.