Family travel spots aren’t limited to theme parks and tourist attractions. Plenty of other destinations have fun activities and adventures for all members of the family -- including the adults! Suggestions from experts on traveling with kids cover the world, with activities ranging from beach and museum visits to scavenger hunts and family bike rides.
Finding Paradise (Island)
Considering a holiday at a resort or other secluded destination? Jen Leo, writer for CNTraveler.com and co-founder of family-friendly BestKidsApps.com, suggested looking beyond free breakfasts and spa services to find perks and activities for kids. Her family stayed at the Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Ritz-Carlton, which installed a tent in their room where her daughter could sleep as part of the hotel's Indoor Campout package. They also vacationed at the Atlantis resort on the Bahamas’ Paradise Island. Yes, you can build a sand castle there, but there are also game and culinary rooms, fountains, water slides and more.
Family bonding doesn’t happen only at well-known destinations. Mara Gorman, of the family travel website The Mother of All Trips, recommended the remote locale of Chincoteague, Virginia. “The beach there is totally not developed because it’s on a national wildlife preserve, and you can go in the reserve and see the wild ponies that live there,” she said. “You can [also] do things like take your kids on a boat tour where you catch clams and crabs and really experience the wildlife in the area.”
Museums are classic ways to teach kids appreciation for art and history. Debbie Dubrow of the kid-friendly travel website Delicious Baby has a fondness for living history museums like Bend, Oregon’s High Desert Museum – where her son was so excited to learn about pioneer living that he wanted to wash his shirt in a basin, just like the pioneers. These museums “let kids imagine themselves in the historical period they're learning about and give you a natural, in-context way to talk about what was happening at the time.”
Related: Delicious Baby: Washing the Clothes
Play Like the Locals
For young children who might not have the attention span for culture, Leo of CNTraveler.com recommended researching your destination city’s indoor playgrounds because they’re “off the radar for tourists,” she said. Indoor playgrounds are intended for locals, but they’re “really just for kids under 5," she explained. "They might have a jungle gym and slides and a café and Wi-Fi for parents.”
Gorman’s family took a summer vacation to the Bordeaux region of France, where the historic town of Saint-Emilion boasts a creative tourism bureau offering free scavenger hunt maps of the area to jump-start visitors’ explorations. Not going to Bordeaux? Parents can make their own maps before their vacations. Leo recommended using mobile apps such as Android’s Google Field Trip during your journey.
The popularity of ethnic and niche food trucks and local food specialties in major metropolises has offered more eating adventures during family travels. Vancouver, British Columbia, is one of Gorman’s favorite places to recommend for travelers, in part because of its amazing food scene. “There are a million options in terms of eating in Vancouver,” she said. “Everything from amazing food trucks to Granville Island, which has one of the best food markets you’ll find anywhere. The neat thing is you can ride a boat over there.”
Let the kids get hooked on marine life (and maybe learn a thing or two) with a visit to an aquarium. Gorman likes the one at the Bristol Zoo Gardens, a couple of hours’ train ride outside London. Bristol “has a really nicely developed waterfront area,” she said. “There’s an aquarium that’s not too big so they won’t get bored [and] they built a big plaza for the millennium there for the kids to run around.” Stateside, check out the the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta or the The John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
Bike-friendly cities allow visitors to see the sites at their own pace and get in some exercise in the process. Gorman commends cities like Vancouver, where “you can rent bikes and ride all over the seawall, which is amazing to do.” Families can visit the city’s beachfront and Stanley Park, a large urban park near downtown.