Family Travel: Kick Off The New Year In Florida, Wyoming And Beyond

Where will you be in 2010? As you plan for a new year, vow to make it a priority to travel with family and to explore new territory. Here are five ideas to consider.

1. Start the new year together.

Take advantage of a family-friendly New Year's Eve celebration such as the one planned at the WaterColor Inn & Resort in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. Ring in 2010 with fireworks, music and dancing. Kids ages 3 to 12 can opt for a Kids Camp Pajama Party that includes karaoke, a balloon drop and ice cream. On New Year's Day, the entire clan can launch the year with a polar-bear plunge into the Gulf of Mexico and a Candy Cane Fun Run.

Contact: 850-534-5000:

2. Glimpse a rare species.

Polar bears congregate along the coast near the seaport of Churchill, Manitoba, anticipating the winter freezing of Hudson Bay. There you can safely observe and photograph these impressive creatures in their natural environment as they hunt the ringed seal. The Tundra Buggy Lodge is dismantled and reassembled each year in an ideal viewing spot.


3. Explore America's colorful history.

Plan a visit to an iconic American West destination such as Cody, Wyo. There, the family will learn about the town's namesake, Buffalo Bill Cody, an American soldier, bison hunter, Pony Express rider and showman who put Cody on the map in 1895. Take a trolley tour, stroll historic Sheridan Avenue and visit the impressive Buffalo Bill Historical Center. June through September, take in the nightly rodeo and a mock Wild West shootout. Yellowstone National Park's east entrance is just two hours west.

Contact: 1-800-393-2639;

4. Explore a culture.

Visit Shanghai, China's largest port. The vibrant city blends the country's ancient culture and traditions with the latest in technology and architecture. Whisk to the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower for a bird's-eye view of the skyline, the Bund and the Yangtze River. Kids will enjoy the state-of-the-art Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, Huangpu River boat rides, views from the Jin Mao Tower and a ride on the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, an amusement-park-like tram, complete with a colorful laser light show.

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5. Put art and music on the itinerary.

From local art galleries and museums to the grand palaces of the world, make art and music a part of your travel plans. Exposing children to the great masters as well as fresh talent can make for a life-altering experience as well as a pleasant day. For example, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, holds more than 3 million works of art and artifacts symbolic of world culture.