About 300 miles northeast of Los Angeles, vast Death Valley National Park is a place of extremes: hottest, driest, and lowest. Families might enjoy visiting a few of the ghost towns throughout the park, seeing the unparalleled springtime wildflowers, exploring the otherworldly sand dunes or spotting desert coyotes [Ideas for family vacation].
Start at Furnace Creek Interpretive Center to get information about what to see, or listen in as rangers give educational lectures. The museum here recalls the valley’s borax-mining days and explains how Death Valley won the temporary title of the hottest place on Earth. Other don’t-misses include Badwater Basin, which is, at 282 feet below sea level, the Western Hemisphere’s lowest point, and sunrise over Zabriskie Point.
Ubehebe Crater is located at the north side of the park, you can drive there to watch the sun set. This windy geological pockmark will be 500 feet deep and half a mile wide of it is surrounded by cinder and ash.
Another important stop at Death Valley is Scotty’s Castle, a 1920s retreat built around an oasis by a Chicago millionaire. This ranch villa with a hefty dollop of whimsy is named for Walter Scott, a.k.a. Death Valley Scotty. Tour reservations required.