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Miami/iStock
Miami/iStock

When it’s time to plan a family vacation, most parents automatically think of theme parks and water slides — but there are plenty of alternatives. From discovering dinosaur fossils to taking a swim in a geothermal spring, here are some destinations that are surprisingly fit for kids and families.

Miami
Miami may be one of the best party spots in the country, but it also delivers a convenient, easy beach vacation. If you’d rather skip the sand, add Jungle Island (from $33) to your itinerary. The zoological park is home to parrots, capuchins, warthogs, leopards, tortoises, and lots of other wildlife. The Miami Children’s Museum ($18) is another option; there are 14 galleries and interactive exhibits, including one that teaches kids about the cruise industry’s relationship to the local community.


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California Wine Country
Wine country with little ones? Yes! A relaxing vino vacation with kids in tow is possible, as vineyards are offering more than just tasting rooms. The Francis Ford Coppola Winery, for example, has two swimming pools (passes are $15-$35), private cabanas available for rent (from $170), and two restaurants. At the Castello Di Amorosa winery, which looks like a 13th century castle, there’s a coloring table for kids in the Knight’s Hall tasting room. Beyond the wineries, Sonoma’s Safari West (from $83 for adults, $45 for children) is an open air nature preserve with giraffes, rhinos, and cheetahs, among other gems.


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Norwalk, Connecticut
This under-the-radar coastal town makes a perfect getaway for Tri-State area families. Spend the day gawking at sharks or catch an IMAX movie at the Maritime Aquarium ($20 for adults, $13 for children), or visit the Stepping Stones Museum for Children ($15) to look at science-themed exhibits. Norwalk is full of stylish, yet affordable kid friendly restaurants — ranging from The Spread to chocolate café Chocopologie.

Utah
The Beehive State is famous for its national parks, including Bryce and Zion, but some parents may choose to hold off on a visit until their kids can tackle major hikes. Our advice? Don’t wait. The parks offer hiking trails for all abilities, and even a drive around a park is worth it for the otherworldly views. For an indoor activity, stop at the science-art-hybrid museum The Leonardo ($13 for adults, $9 for children) in Salt Lake City. In Midway, there’s the Homestead Crater ($16), where the whole family can take a dip. Have someone obsessed with dinosaurs in your family? A trip to Dinosaur National Monument, which has petroglyphs and a wall of fossils, is a must-do.

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