Scientists say that time spent in nature can make us happier and kinder, which sounds exactly how I want my kids to be during a family vacation. If you're hoping for some time to reconnect with loved ones and Mother Nature, book a flight or take a drive to these naturally beautiful destinations.
1. Lake Mead, Nevada
The Lake Mead National Recreational Area is just a few miles outside of Boulder City, Nevada and backs up to the famous Hoover Dam. Bring your RV or a tent and enjoy fishing, boating, and hiking around the lake man made when they dammed the raging waters of the Colorado River. While you're in the neighborhood, take some time to explore Black Canyon on the other side of the dam.
2. Moab, Utah
A few hours south of Salt Lake City, you'll find a sandy haven for outdoor adventurers. Nearby Arches National Park is a popular playground for hikers and rock climbers. You can also rent a jeep for some more rugged exploring of paths seldom taken. After a long day in the sun, stop by The Moab Brewery for home brewed root beer.
3. Santa Rosa County, Florida
What makes Santa Rosa such a treat for nature lovers is the variety of scenery available. You can spend a day lounging on the white beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, or head inland for canoeing and kayaking down the Blackwater River, one of the purest sand bottom rivers in the world.
4. Savannah, Georgia
Skidaway Island State Park is a great place for an inexpensive family vacation. Spend your days walking beneath the live oaks and your nights gathered around the campfire. You can also head over to Tybee Island for swimming or into Savannah proper for a deep-fried taste of civilization.
5. Yellow Stone National Park, Wyoming
This is the grandmother of nature-loving vacation destinations. As such, expect to have to book months in advance to camp in the park and to share the great outdoors with lots of other enthusiasts, especially during the summer months. Still, planning and company are a small price to pay for the wonder of Old Faithful.
6. Dillon, Colorado
If crowds aren't your thing, discover this small town on the shores of the Lake Dillon Reservoir. Hike through White River National Forest and catch a glimpse of the wildflowers, or strap on a life vest and go white water rafting in the mountains. Be sure to pack your camera to make your own photographic memories; the best part of Dillon is the view.
7. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
This Tennessee town has been named one of America's prettiest towns and one of the most popular places to get married. Need more convincing? The Great Smoky Mountains, to which there are three entrances from Gatlinburg, is the most popular national park in the country - beating out both the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone!
8. Catskills, New York
The region commonly known as the Catskills is actually made up of four counties in upstate (well, east central) New York. Here you'll find rivers, rolling mountains, and the only New York state park dedicated to horseback riding. Just about every outdoor activity you can think of can be enjoyed somewhere in the Catskills, including a relaxing round of golf.
9. Somerset, Wisconsin
Another option for the budget vacations, Somerset is a beautiful place for a simple getaway. Pitch a tent and rent a tube for drifting down the Apple River. Do make sure you're booking with a campground that caters to families and not one that advertises discounts for bachelor and bachelorette parties.
10. Malibu, California
Malibu may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of roughing it, but there is no more beautiful spot in the country to be outside. Consider camping at Malibu Creek State Park or the Malibu Beach RV Park. Both offer easy access to gorgeous canyons, perfect for hiking, and the wide beaches for which Southern California is famous. Be forewarned: the landscape isn't the only thing that's shockingly pretty here.