Ten Vacation Spots the Whole Family Will Love—Trail Runners Included

Ariella Gintzler April 22nd, 2015

Plan a dream getaway for non-running kids and spouses, without sacrificing trail time


The snow is melting and the air is warming. In a few months the kids will be out of school, which means it will be time to pack everyone into the car and leave town on vacation. Whether you like beaches or snowy mountains, theme parks or museums, you’re looking to rest, relax and catch up on family time.

But family fun that the whole family actually enjoys is sometimes hard to come by. Crowded amusement parks, bumper-to-bumper traffic, sunburnt, hungry kids, your toddler realizing Mickey Mouse is much scarier in person … sometimes parents need a little vacation from their vacation. Thankfully, many of the country’s top family-vacation spots are not far from great running trails. Here are 10 getaways to consider this summer or fall.


1. Orlando, Florida


Photo by Christian Lambert Photography / Creative Commons 2.0


Orlando is home to the theme-park trifecta: Walt Disney World, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Sea World. The kids are begging to go, and so you steel yourself for a week of crowds, junk food and singing cartoon characters.

Luckily, the greater Orlando area offers trail runners some fun of their own. Myriad state and national conservation areas within an hour’s drive of Orlando offer runners and hikers access to unique salt marsh ecosystems, prairies and forests replete with a diversity of birds and other small mammals. What the terrain lacks in technicality it makes up for in beauty and uniqueness.



Wekiwa Springs State Park. Photo by Flickr user Rain0975Creative Commons 2.0


What: A sunny vacation close to the beach, with something for everyone

When: Between Labor Day and Thanksgiving is usually the quietest time, as most kids have returned to school. Weather-wise, January through March, between the wet season and the bug season, is ideal


Things to do:

>The Disney World Resort includes the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, with rides, shows and interactive displays that allow you to “travel” to a different country—or into your child’s favorite Disney movie.

>On Universal’s Islands of Adventure, visitors can choose from Marvel Super Hero Island, Seuss Landing, the Looney Toons-themed Toon Lagoon, dinosaur-themed Jurassic Park and, of course, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

>Kids might also enjoy kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, scuba diving, visiting the Kennedy Space Center or watching the Cirque du Soleil. Parents can enjoy a round of golf on their recovery day.



>The 6,000-acre Seminole Ranch Wildlife Management Area, 20 miles east of Orlando, contains 4.3 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail, through river marsh, pasture, hardwood forest and cabbage-palm hammocks.

>The Hal Scott Regional Park and Preserve, 25 miles east of Orlando, offers roughly 17 miles of trails through flatwoods and open prairie along the Econlockhatchee River.

>Wekiwa Springs Sate Park, just outside Orlando, in Apopka, Florida, has a 10-mile loop that passes over gentle to moderate terrain through a floodplain forest of scrub oak and mixed hardwoods. The trail is open September through May, and visitors must pay a state-park fee at the entrance.

>Shingle Creek Regional Park, in Orlando proper, is open year round, and boasts the 5-mile Shingle Creek Regional Trail.


2. Southern California


Photo by Shinya Suzuki / Creative Commons 2.0


Southern California: land of sun, beaches, theme parks and movie stars. Disneyland may be your kids’ “happiest place on earth,” but that doesn’t mean adults have to suffer in silence. The surrounding area boasts enough urban wilderness—and real wilderness—to make mom and dad happy, too.

The Mediterranean climate means mild winters and hot, dry summers—ideal conditions for all-year trail running. The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the Angeles National Forest, home to a section of the Pacific Crest Trail,  both offer over 500 miles of backcountry trails through native chaparral, sagebrush and oak scrub forest, with everything from steep, mountainous climbs to rolling forest paths and coastal overlooks.



Crystal Cove State Park. Photo by Eugene KimCreative Commons 2.0


What: Sun, beaches, roller coasters, Disney characters and movie set tours. Oh, and trail running

When: July through August is the most popular time to visit southern California, though also the hottest. April, May, September and October are typically still warm and sunny, as well as less crowded.


Things to do:

>Disneyland is a perennial favorite with the kids—a place to ride roller coasters and come face-to-face with their favorite Disney characters. In nearby Buena Park, Knott’s Berry Farm (a Wild West theme park) offers a more old-school experience.

>At Hollywood’s Universal Studios, the family can tour a movie set, ride a movie-themed roller coaster and, of course, take a picture at the famous Hollywood sign.

>In Los Angeles, visit the Graff Lab, a graffiti park where the art changes every day. Even further south is Legoland California. At San Diego Sea World and the San Diego Zoo, kids can watch whale and dolphin shows, visit the zoo’s famous giant pandas and have breakfast with the koalas.



>Crystal Cove State Park, 24 miles from Anaheim, boasts 17 miles of singletrack and gravel trails. Higher trails afford vistas of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding backcountry, while lower trails travel through a canyon, along Moro Creek. Trails are marked easy, moderate, difficult and strenuous. No dogs are allowed on the trails.

>Big Santa Anita Canyon, in the Angeles National Forest, 22 miles from Hollywood, offers over 30 miles of alternately forested and exposed singletrack.



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