12 Unplugged Family Vacations to Take in 2021

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Your family’s devices help you stay connected when you are apart. But, when you are on vacation, the digital world can distract you from quality time together. This season, go off-grid, reconnect and get your adventure on with an unplugged vacation. We’ve rounded some of the coolest WiFi-free summer vacation ideas we could find. Stay at a Montana dude ranch, travel back in time in Maine or explore the Green River in Utah. Read on to find out where you can take your family off the grid for the summer vacation of a lifetime.

photo: iStock

1. Green River Rafting through Utah's Desolation Canyon

Desolation Canyon became famous after John Wesley Powell’s historic descent of the Green and Colorado Rivers in 1869 and 1871. This nearly untouched canyon is deeper in some places than the Grand Canyon at the Bright Angel Trail, featuring scenic red rock canyon walls that tower overhead. The canyon is also family friendly, with more than 50 Class II-III rapids which can be navigated via oar raft, inflatable kayak, or paddle raft.

Off the water, you’ll explore Native American ruins, abandoned homesteads, and maybe even the hideout of the infamous Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Price: Start at $1649
Ages: 7 & up.
Online: oars.com

photo: Airbnb

2. Spend the Night in a Treehouse.

Ditch the devices and spend the weekend pretending you are the Swiss Family Robinson in your very own treehouse. Kids will love waking up in the trees and you'll love the togetherness. We've got loads of ideas for treehouses in California and those all across the U.S. for your next treetop adventure! 

photo: Kate Loweth

3. Explore Nature at Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch.

We love this spot in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains for its unending beauty, on-property activities and loads to check out nearby. You won't find any TVs in the cabins here—instead, spend your time fly fishing in the pond, playing a game of ping pong, taking a horseback ride up the ridge and borrowing some of the property's bikes to take to the trails. The Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch offers both adventure and relaxation with yoga and massages offered throughout the week and a hot spring pool for evening relaxation.

All your meals are included in your stay including a gourmet sandwich and salad to take with you on your day's activities. A few nights during the week kids can dine early and then enjoy games and crafts while the parents eat. Read all about it here

Prices: Adults start at $360/person and kids $270/person for cabin lodging and meals
Ages: All ages are welcome here although this property is particularly suited for the 6-and-up crowd
Online: idahorocky.com

4. Take a River Trip in Big Bend National Park Texas

One way to grab your kids’ attention is to take them into the untamed wilderness of West Texas. Far Flung Outdoor Center offers families the opportunity to float the Rio Grande on overnight excursions that can last anywhere from two days and one night to four days and three nights. They have a variety of trips to fit different interests and abilities, but one thing all of the options have in common is the lack of cell service, traffic, and people.

While on the water you’ll have the opportunity to explore the canyons of the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park. There’s plenty of time for swimming, hiking and mom and dad can even relax with a glass of wine. You may have to do some paddling, but you won’t have to do any cooking or cleaning. Far Flung staff takes care of the less vacation-y stuff and let you enjoy your time away from society.

Prices: Half-day float is $84/adult, $79/kid
Ages: Depends on the excursion. Options for families with children of all ages
Online: bigbendfarflung.com

5. Take a trip to the Stony Creek Farmstead in Walton NY

Who would've imagined you’d find the ideal unplugged farm experience in New York? Retreat from city life to this safe haven located in the Catskills about two-and-a-half hours Northwest of the Five Boroughs. Accommodations at the farmstead are truly off-grid with luxurious platform tents to keep your sheltered. If the mention of tents gave you pause, not to worry. These roomy locations have canopied ceilings, canvas walls, wood floors and enough room for a cabinet bed, a set of bunks, and a large secondary room. And yes, there's a bathroom.

Feel free to kick back or get busy pitching in. Your kids are sure to enjoy gathering eggs, visiting with the farm animals or wandering the property. Meals are served onsite, and you can end your day with quiet evening playing board games.

Price: Starts at $265/nt
Ages: All
Online: stonycreekfarmstead.com

6. Become Naturalists at Little St. Simons Island in Georgia

For an opportunity to turn your young tech-heads into naturalists, head to this sustainable island paradise. Little St. Simons is an all-inclusive resort like no other located on Georgia’s Golden Isles. With seven miles of beach and 11,000 acres of the undeveloped wilderness, there are endless natural wonders to explore during your vacation. The property offers families a twice daily complimentary naturalist program that boasts guided kayak tours, garden tours, fish printing workshops and a chance to meet some sea turtles.

While there is plenty of time and opportunity to commune with nature, the all-inclusive aspect of your stay on the island shouldn’t be overlooked. You get to enjoy unlimited soft drinks, beer and wine and three full meals along with hors d'oeuvres and snacks prepared by seasoned chefs. And you have full use of recreational equipment like bicycles, kayaks, and skiffs, as well as the fishing tackle—so the fun never runs out.

Price: Start at $475 for double occupancy. Children 12 years and under cost an additional $100/night
Ages: The Island does not allow children under the age of 7 from October-April to ensure that all guests are old enough to enjoy the seasonal nature activities.
Online: littlestsimonsisland.com

7. Travel Back in Time in Maine

A truly off-the-grid adventure awaits your family just beneath the towering wilderness of Little Spencer Mountain at Spencer Pond Camps in Maine’s Moosehead Lake Region. Stay in cabins that are over 100 years old with zero electricity and only wood stoves to cozy up by. This rare opportunity gives your family the chance to truly experience what life used to be like before the internet, phones, computers and central heating came along.

Each cabin has docks for the young swimmers to jump off and your family is provided with bikes, kayaks, and canoes to use throughout your stay. Imagine afternoons filled with frog catching, picking berries and just relaxing and listing to the local, natural inhabitants. If you want to take your Maine experience to the next level book an unforgettable float plane ride or a white water rafting trip. There’s even the option to take a cruise on the Steamship Katahdin on Moosehead Lake. Your family will love this very On Golden Pond experience.

Price: Start at around $260/night for up to 4 people but vary according to accommodation, number of people and length of stay
Ages: All
Online: spencerpond.com

photo: by Kate Loweth

8. Explore a Volcanic National Park in California

Just four hours away from San Francisco, you lose WiFi and discover natural wonders in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Drakesbad Guest Ranch offers families a cozy mountain retreat with cabins that can sleep up to 10 people at a time. Some accommodations come with electricity, some give your clan the opportunity to spend your evenings in the soft glow of lamplight. Located 30 minutes from the nearest town, your stay comes with all three meals for convenience.

Finding things to do to fill your days is easy. The ranch offers horseback rides to locations like Boiling Springs Lake, which is the largest acid lake in the US. If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, there are plenty of hiking trails the whole family can enjoy. 

Find out everything you need to know here.

Prices: $180 and up/adults, $75/kids 7-14, 7 & under are free
Ages: All
Online: drakesbad.com

9. Experience Living on a Dude Ranch in Emigrant, Montana

Mountain Sky Ranch is a dream opportunity for families looking to turn off electronics and tune into nature. Set on 17,000 acres of wilderness, the property is located in Paradise Valley and runs all the way to Gallatin National Forest. There are a variety of lodging options for families to choose from including restored cabins built in the '20s, small lodges with stone fireplaces, and options with picturesque views set to the soundtrack of a nearby babbling creek.

One of the best parts of the ranch experience is that it offers “choose your own adventure” options. Fill your family’s days with hiking, riding horses, fly fishing, and yoga. There are even kid and teen programs that will help your young'uns learn how to re-engage with their surroundings when separated from their digital devices. Additional opportunities include evenings spent around the campfire, hayrides, and getting your dance on—western style.

Price: Start at $3,520 per child/week, $5,270 per adult/week
Ages: All
Online: mountainsky.com

10. Budget (or Upscale!) Bucket List Trip to Alaska

Alaska is poised to be one of the most popular destinations for summer travel. The state is known for its jaw dropping setting and wide-open spaces that are naturally made for social distancing. With large-scale cruise operations paused, Alaska’s most treasured places will be devoid of the massive crowds that usually arrive during summer, especially for Inside Passage cruise ports like Ketchikan.

Hotel prices currently reflect the high demand and limited inventory. For those looking to book an affordable bucket-list trip of a lifetime, Edgewater Inn Restaurant & Marina provides a picture-perfect destination for families, groups or couples. Conveniently located minutes from downtown and with rates starting at just $180 per night, the hotel is the perfect home base for budget-minded travelers looking to explore spectacular southeast Alaska.

Edgewater Inn allows guests to experience the best that Alaska has to offer, from enjoying a deep-sea fishing excursion or taking in the vast natural splendor of the Tongass National Forest to shopping in downtown Ketchikan. The hotel offers 46 charming guest rooms, with rustic, locally inspired décor, an on-site dock and full-service marina for fishing and sightseeing excursions. Guests can enjoy delicious meals at Edgewater’s on-site restaurant while enjoying beautiful waterfront views and fresh locally caught seafood dishes.

For those looking to splurge, Edgewater Inn’s sister property, Salmon Falls Resort, is located 15 minutes away and reopens June 1. Salmon Falls Resort is an intimate full-service waterfront resort that has catered to discerning travelers for more than 30 years and is frequently voted among Alaska’s top fishing resorts and luxury lodges. It offers exciting Alaskan adventures paired with an authentic lodge-style resort experience. Rates start at $650 per night for luxury category rooms and are all-inclusive.

Ages: All
Online: ketchikanedgewaterinn.com & salmonfallsresort.com

photo: via Kerry Cushman

11. Unwind and Connect with Nature in California

Just four hours north of San Diego, your family can unplug, relax and commune with nature in the charming town of Ojai where you’ll find healthy bites, plenty of outdoor activities and a bit of luxury too. Set up your base camp in an Airstream at Caravan Outpost. There, surrounded by lush greenery, you can play a family game of cornhole, go for rides on the complimentary bikes and make campfire smores under the stars. The Ojai Valley Inn is another fantastic option that also offers a little pampering at its onsite Spa Ojai.

Ojai is home to a host of healthy eateries like Hip Vegan Café and The Nest. And your whole crew will enjoy spending the afternoons biking or strolling the Ojai Valley trail where you’ll take in mountain views and wildflower-filled landscapes.

Price: Varies
Ages: All
Online: Find out everything you need to know here

12. Take a Canoe Trip in Ely, Minnesota

Head to the Northwoods of Ely Minnesota where canoe country will sweep your family away for a stretch of time filled with wholesome, nature-based entertainment. If you prefer to lead your own adventure but appreciate a little help preparing and packing for your excursions, then head to Boundary Waters Outfitters. There you will find package options that set you up with all of the gear you need to explore the Boundary Waters.

Imagine guiding your crew along small rivers and across glacial lakes where you will spot bald eagles, river otters, and moose. Eventually, you can fish your way to a spot where you might spend the evening around the campfire and the nights staring up at the star-lit sky. No guide included, just you and your clan braving the untamed wilderness (no phones allowed). Packages do include trip routing and detailed maps along with a continental breakfast the morning of your trip and free showers when your return. The Griswolds would be proud!

Note: guided adventures are available for those looking for a more relaxed approach to their vacation.

Price: Family packages start at $965 for 4 days (family of 4 people)
Ages: All
Online: boundarywatersoutfitters.com

—Kate Loweth & Annette Benedetti

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