Rich with cultural and historical significance, Boston is a favorite travel destination for millions of families each year. As a metropolitan area of the oft-traveled New England region and a seat of the American revolution, there’s no shortage of exciting entertainment to be found in the Boston area. From modern fun to activities with a more anachronistic bent, here are ten of the reasons why kids and their families love to vacation in Boston!
- The Discovery Museums (Acton, MA 01720) – The Children’s Discovery Museum and the Science Discovery Museum are two separate parts that form a cohesive whole, with something for the whole family to enjoy between them. The Children’s Discovery Museum is directed at children between the ages of one and six, offering hands-on exhibits and interactive activities to keep curious fingers engaged all afternoon. School-aged youngsters, especially those with an affinity for science, are sure to flip for a day at the Science Discovery Museum.
- Kidstock Theater (Winchester, MA 01890) – While the activities at Kidstock Theater are directed more at residents and visitors with a more long-term stay in mind than the average vacationing family, there are single-day events available for those who are merely passing through. As a complete art center, Kidstock boasts performance spaces, instructional studios, art rooms and costume shops on their list of many activities for kids with a fondness for the arts.
- Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, MA 02360) – Plimoth Plantation offers kids and their families a realistic glimpse into the lives of the first European settlers of the Colonies, as well as the Wampanoag People who already inhabited the area. A variety of exhibits, performances and other interactive programs allow kids and adults alike to explore the first days of European settlement, and how the decisions made then shape the world we live in today.
- Wicked RC (Framingham, MA 01702) – While there’s no doubt about the fact that the city of Boston has great historical significance for Americans, you may find your kids itching for an afternoon of fun that’s a bit more modern. Wicked RC boasts one of the best indoor remote-controlled race tracks in the area, and is sure to be a favorite destination for kids itching to leave history behind them for a moment.
- Boston Children’s Museum (Boston, MA 02210) – Featuring an in-house art studio that encourages kids to be their messiest, most creative selves and exhibits that emphasize cultural sensitivity and diversity, Boston Children’s Museum will offer your kids an entertaining and informative afternoon. There’s also an area emphasizing the importance of and encouraging physically active play, like climbing and powering exhibits with their own energy.
- Wheelock Family Theatre (Boston, MA 02215) – This non-profit theatre strives to provide both kids and the opportunity to explore and observe the ancient art of stage-play. There are classes and workshops in place for pint-sized residents of Boston, but visiting families are able to take in a production or two during their time in the city without committing to any classroom instruction.
- Harvard Museum of Natural History (Cambridge, MA 02138) – The award-winning Harvard Museum of Natural History isn’t just a must-see for the dinosaur junkie on your list, as it also features exhibits touching upon the space sciences and animal husbandry. Keep in mind before visiting, however, that available street parking is very limited.
- Beantown Trolley Tours (Randolph, MA 02368) – With several ticket locations scattered around the city, you shouldn’t have any trouble tracking down a Beantown Trolley for a guided tour of the city. Purchase of a ticket allows you access to the trolley throughout the day, as well as a Harbor Cruise from the New England or, in colder weather, a visit to the U.S.S. Constitution.
- Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm (Lincoln, MA 01773) – A working farm that also houses several species of birds, the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s 232-acre Drumlin Farm lets kids take a hay ride on nature trails, explore the farm itself and watch exciting demonstrations put on by the resident animal experts. There are also a variety of “Drop-In Discovery” activities along the way, meaning that your youngsters will be engaged throughout your visit.
- The Haymarket (Boston, MA 02109) – The Haymarket, an open-air produce market that’s been operating for more than two centuries in the same spot, is one of Boston’s cherished traditions. Beloved by locals and visitors alike, be prepared to encounter sizable crowds at this charming and venerable attraction.
During your visit, don’t forget to sample some of the local cuisine that New England is known for. Boston boasts a strong culinary culture, playing host to several renowned eateries. A jaunt out to nearby Cape Cod, with its fishing villages, beaches and historical sites of its own is always a great way to spend some quality family time together during your travels.
Founded as a Spanish settlement on the banks for the Rio Grande river in 1706, the desert city of Albuquerque is the sixth fastest-growing city in the United States and very heavily planned. As such, it’s relatively easy to navigate and filled with a plethora of informative and fun attractions for visiting kids and their families. If you’re in search of a family vacation destination that’s a bit less common than the old-faithful amusement park and touristy standby cities, Albuquerque may be just what you’re looking for.
- Rio Grande Zoo (Albuquerque, NM 87102) – The Rio Grande Zoo is like visiting three attractions at once, as it’s housed in the Albuquerque BioPark which also features the Albuquerque Aquarium and the Rio Grande Botanic Garden. Home to more than two hundred and fifty species in carefully designed habitats, the Rio Grande Zoo also offers a variety of interactive opportunities, demonstrations and educational programs for young visitors.
- The Box Performance Space (Albuquerque, NM 87102) – Kids with an affection for the performing arts are sure to get a major kick out of The Box Performance Space, which hosts a variety of improv performances, children’s shows and even improv classes for youngsters. Make sure you don’t miss this gem if you have a budding thespian in the family!
- American International Rattlesnake Museum (Albuquerque, NM 87104) – Kids that have an interest in all things slithery and reptilian will be awed by the impressive collections of rattlesnakes at the American International Rattlesnake Museum, which provides plenty of information for each snake on the premises, including the history, origin, genus and species of each reptilian inhabitant.
- Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum (Albuquerque, NM 87104) – Learning about technology, science and art in a hands-on environment that encourages plenty of interaction, exploration and experimentation helps kids retain those lessons, which is why the Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum is a must-see attraction while you’re visiting Albuquerque.
- New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (Albuquerque, NM 87104) – Walk through a volcano, explore the ice age and navigate a cave at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, which also features eight Timetracks exhibits showcasing the history of New Mexico from the present, all the way back to the Paleozoic era. Don’t miss the IMAX theater, planetarium and the hands-on experience of The Naturalist Center!
- National Hispanic Cultural Center (Albuquerque, NM 87102) – The architecture of the National Hispanic Cultural center alone is worth seeing, making it an ideal setting for the artifacts and exhibits showcasing Hispanic culture and art. On the premises is also the Roy E. Disney Center for the Performing Arts, La Tiendita Gift Shop and a Research & Literary Arts Complex.
- Sandia Peak Tramway (Albuquerque, NM 87122) – The world’s longest tramway, Sandia Peak Tramway, stretches over 2.7 miles and offers breathtaking views of the Sandia Mountains, the city of Albuquerque, hiking and mountain biking trails. There are also dining options at both the base and peak of the Tramway.
- Albuquerque International Balloon Museum (Albuquerque, NM 87113) – If you can’t make it to Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta, a stop at the Albuquerque International balloon Museum is the next best thing. Dedicated to the science, art and history of ballooning, all of your kids’ questions about balloon flight are answered through the exhibits and artifacts on display.
- The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History (Albuquerque, NM 87123) – The Congressionally chartered National Museum of Nuclear Science & History offers kids the chance to explore the atomic age from the earliest research to modern use. Albert Einstein, Madame Curie and the Manhattan Project are among the many subjects of permanent exhibits, and the on-site store offers plenty of nuclear physics and atomic energy-related merchandise.
- Holocaust & Intolerance Museum of New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM 87102) – While the horrors of the Holocaust may seem a bit heavy for very young children, there’s no doubt of the importance of teaching kids about tolerance. Talking points on everything from genocide to schoolyard bullying are offered at the Holocaust & Intolerance Museum, which is not dedicated to any specific time, area, culture or religious affiliation.
While Albuquerque has a variety of year-round offerings for visitors, there are also a number of annual festivals and celebrations held within the city. From the Native American Gathering of Nations Pow-Wow to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, there are plenty of unique cultural festivals that can make your visit even more exciting for the whole family.
The Mile-High City offers a variety of exciting attractions for vacationing families, all nestled in the stunning natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains. If you’re considering Denver as a destination for your next family vacation, you may be surprised at the number of kid-friendly activities there are to choose from. These ten attractions are among the best, but are still only a small sampling of the many exciting options available to families visiting Denver.
- The Butterfly Pavilion (Broomfield, CO 80020) – Billed as an “insect zoo,” The Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center is one of the jewels in the Denver metro area’s kids’ attraction crown. More than 1,600 free-flying butterflies float flutter through the Wings of the Tropics conservatory, which also houses plenty of tropical plants. Keep in mind that touching the butterflies is not permitted, and be sure to warn little fingers away from the temptation to catch one of these beautiful creatures before arriving at the facility.
- Chautauqua (Boulder CO 80302) – Though President Teddy Roosevelt once said that chautauquas were “the most American thing in America,” there are now only three left in the nation. The only chautauqua west of the Mississippi is in Boulder, housing a dining hall, community house, cottages and an auditorium. Miles of hiking trails, plenty of family-friendly events and lectures are among the available activities, which are sure to take up the better part of an entire day.
- Denver Botanic Gardens (Denver, CO 80206) – While the Denver Botanic Gardens sprawl over twenty-three acres and features more than 1,500 plant species, the three-acre Mordecai Children’s Garden and Pipsqueak Pond are the highlights for families with kids in tow. After entering through a cave, children emerge to find six gorgeous environments that encourage fort-building, wildlife observation, harvesting and arts and crafts activities.
- Denver Art Museum (Denver, CO 80204) – Recognized internationally for their family-friendly programs and environment, the Denver Art Museum is a great stop on your family vacation. Don’t forget to pick up Family Backpacks on Saturdays and Sundays, which are filled with games and gallery-related activities and ideas for keeping kids engaged while learning the finer points of art appreciation.
- Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve (Golden, CO 80401) – Interactive exhibits, walking trails and activities that encourage learning about environmental and nature conservation are scattered over the one-hundred and ten acres of Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve, which also houses Buffalo Bill’s Museum and grave.
- Elitch Gardens Theme Park (Denver, CO 80210) – Just across the highway from the Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos, lies Elitch Gardens Theme Park. More than forty-five rides, attractions and shows, along with a water park to which admission is included with the theme park price, make the trip a great stop for lighthearted fun while you’re in Denver. Don’t miss the Ferris Wheel, which provides a breathtaking view of both the city and the Rocky Mountains.
- Children’s Museum of Denver (Denver, CO 80211) – Divided into a variety of “playscapes,” the Children’s Museum of Denver is a great escape for kids of all ages. The first floor houses the Center for the Young Child, which caters to kids from newborn to age four, and the Parent Resource Center, which is rife with information about parenting. There are so many activities that you should plan to spend the better part of the afternoon here, especially after kids discover the My Market and Assembly Plant exhibits.
- Four Mile Historic Park (Denver, CO 80246) – Denver’s oldest house, Four Mile House, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and situated on the twelve acres of Four Mile Historic Park. Dedicated to celebrating the diversity of the men, women and children that helped to build the West, there are a variety of activities and attractions for kids and adults alike to be found.
- Tiny Town Colorado (Morrison, CO 80456) – If you want to truly awe the youngsters in your family, take a trip to Morrison, Colorado in order to visit Tiny Town. Comprised of more than one hundred structures built on a one-sixth scale, the town can be explored by riding the authentic steam locomotive.
- Parfet Prehistoric Preserve Triceratops Trail (Golden, CO 80401) – There’s something about even the mention of dinosaurs that tends to captivate and inspire kids, which makes a visit to Triceratops Trail a great choice for your family vacation. A simulated dinosaur dig, the Trek Through Time exhibits and Dinosaur Ridge are all exciting options for kids and adults alike. Explore millions of years of Colorado history over the course of a single day!
If there’s a sports connoisseur or two in the family, be sure to keep in mind that Denver is one of the few cities in the United States with teams from four major sports, including the NFL’s Denver Broncos, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, the MLS team Colorado Rapids and the MLB’s Colorado Rockies. No matter what time of year you schedule your visit, chances are you’ll be able to catch a professional-level sporting event while you’re in Denver with your family.
The sixth largest city in Texas, El Paso, is situated along the United States-Mexico border adjacent to Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. The diverse community is home to many citizens that speak Spanish predominantly, which can make the city a great destination for a family vacation when one or more members of the household are in the process of honing their Spanish language skills. Among the many activities and attractions suitable for kids in the area are these ten, which only scratch the surface of things to do with kids in El Paso.
- El Paso Zoo (El Paso, TX 79905) – Developed under a “total immersion” concept, the El Paso zoo was designed to transport visitors beyond the confines of the city surrounding the campus. The open space park allows kids to run and play as they observe animals in a simulacrum of their natural habitats, providing plenty of opportunities to expend excess energy while exploring the basics of life science.
- Magoffin Home State Historic Site (El Paso, TX 79901) – Less than a mile from the U.S.- Mexico border lies the Magoffin Home, a Texas Historical Commission property that serves as both a stunning example of Territorial-style architecture, a museum celebrating the life of a multicultural family that was instrumental in the community and the only house museum in El Paso.
- Wyler Aerial Tramway (El Paso, TX 79930) – Kids are sure to love a ride on the Wyler Aerial Tramway at Franklin Mountains State park, with a few that spans seven thousand square miles, three American states and two separate countries. Experience the natural beauty of the American Southwest from great heights, with an informed cabin attendant acting as tour guide.
- El Paso Museum of History (El Paso, TX 79901) – Promoting an understanding of the rich cultural diversity of the border region through a variety of exhibits, installations and educational programs, the El Paso Museum of History is a great stop if you’re looking for a bit of educational fun on your Texas journey.
- National Border Patrol Museum (El Paso, TX 79924) – Learn about the history of the United States Border Patrol, from the earliest days of the Wild West through the present at the National Border Patrol Museum and Memorial Library Foundation, where a variety of exhibits showcase the organization’s past. There’s no admission fee to tour the museum, but donations are gratefully accepted.
- War Eagles Air Museum (Santa Teresa, NM 88008) – Just across the Texas border into Santa Teresa, New Mexico is the War Eagles Museum, a sixty-four thousand square foot building filled with military aviation artifacts from the World War II era and beyond, along with a selection of antique automobiles.
- Western Playland Amusement Park (Sunland Park, NM 88063) – Cross the border into New Mexico to find this amusement park, with a variety of classic and modern ride attractions to choose from. Great for a bit of lighthearted fun after touring museums and sites of historical significance, the short lines and relatively low-traffic park is a fun way to spend an afternoon.
- El Paso Museum of Archaeology (El Paso, TX 79924) – Aspiring archaeologists will flip for the El Paso Museum of Archaeology, with it’s focus on prehistoric Southwestern culture. Most of the collections are centered around prehistoric Southwestern and Northern Mexican prehistoric artifacts like pottery, basketry and sandals, as well as some Mesoamerican and Native American objects.
- Wet ‘N’ Wild Waterworld (Anthony, TX 79821) – A variety of waterslides, wave pools and a dedicated Toddlers Cove area in nearby Anthony, Texas offer plenty of opportunities for relief from the heat of the border region, which may be especially oppressive to those unaccustomed to such weather. There’s plenty to do for younger kids and older ones alike, so be prepared to spend the better part of a day here.
- Mission Valley Visitor Center (El Paso, TX 79907) – Along the El Paso Mission Trail lie the two remaining mission churches of Ysleta and Socorro, along with the presidio Chapel of San Elizario. The Mission Valley visitor Center in El Paso is an ideal place to begin your exploration, as there’s plenty of Mission Trail information available from the knowledgeable staff who are eager to point you in the right direction and answer any questions.
The close proximity to Mexico makes it tempting and somewhat easy to cross the border, turning your little ones into international travelers by journeying just a few additional miles. Keep in mind, however, that there are certain risks you’ll want to take into a account before making the trip, and that the area may not be as safe. Be sure that you have all of your travel documents in order, including passports, before crossing the border and that you’ve done an adequate amount of research about the area.
Considered the cultural gateway into the American West and sprawling over almost three hundred square miles, Fort Worth is a surprisingly impressive family vacation destination. With scores of museums, art galleries and recreational options to choose from, you’re sure to find something to suit every member of your family in the Fort Worth area. These ten attractions are ideally suited to visiting with the younger members of your household, who will find more than enough to keep them engaged and entertained while you’re away from home.
- Trinity Park (Fort Worth, TX 76107) – One of the best playgrounds in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to ParentsConnect.com, Trinity park wanders through cultural districts and downtown with paved multi-use paths, a scattering of playgrounds, picnic areas, restrooms and shelters along the trails. Be sure to check out the Shakespeare in the Park program if you’re visiting Fort Worth during the summer months, or Mayfest in the spring.
- Department of the Treasury Bureau of Engraving and Printing (Fort Worth, TX 76131) – Kids can learn how money is made at the Department of the Treasury, and interesting lesson in today’s debit-card economy. The forty-five minute tour is guided, and admission is free, with plenty of exhibits and installations displaying the history of paper currency and how it’s created.
- Fort Worth Zoo (Fort Worth, TX 76110) – The pathways at the Fort Worth Zoo are largely shaded and easy to navigate, with plenty of exciting exhibits and habitats along the way. If possible, arrange your trip so that you can take advantage of their half-price admission program on Wednesdays throughout the year.
- Fort Worth Museum of Science and History (Fort Worth, TX 76107) – Dig for dinosaur bones, wander through a specially-designed Children’s Museum exhibit aimed at kids under the age of eight, catch a film in the IMAX theater or a show at the Noble Planetarium, all on one inclusive campus. There’s plenty to excite and entertain visitors of all ages at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, meaning that adults and teenagers aren’t forced to suffer through an experience aimed solely at little ones.
- Cowtown Cattlepen Maze (Fort Worth, TX 76106) – More than five thousand, four hundred square feet of ever-changing wooden pathways designed to mimic the motif of the Old West, the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze will keep your kids challenged and excited. Race the clock or each other, maybe winning a prize along the way. Don’t forget to stop by the observation deck before starting out, to strategize and plan a navigation plan.
- Burger’s Lake (Fort Worth, TX 76114) – A spring-fed lake perfect for swimming and cooling off during Texas summers sprawls over an entire acre of this thirty-acre park, with six diving boards, a twenty-five-foot trapeze, a massive slide and inner tubes for lakeside fun. Those that aren’t fond of the water can test their skills on the volleyball park, and take advantage of a picnic table for a lunch break, of which there are more than three hundred.
- National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame (Fort Worth, TX 76107) – Girls are sure to be thrilled with a museum dedicated to the efforts and accomplishments of women in the Old West, as well as the chance to hop on a green-screened simulated bronc ride that puts them right in the middle of their own old western film. Little ones under the age of six will also love the Connie Reeves Discovery Corral, which provides plenty of age-appropriate.
- American Airlines CR Smith Museum (Fort Worth, TX 76155) – Commercial aviation is the star of the show at the American Airlines CR Smith Museum, which features plenty of hands-on activities and a flight simulator to help kids and adults alike understand and appreciate the wonder of commercial air travel. If you’re in the Fort Worth area for an extended period during the summer months, you may also be interested in looking into the Eagle Aviation Academy, a week-long program for kids in fifth through eight grade to learn more about aviation.
- Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth, TX 76107) – Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful examples of modern architecture, housing one of the best art collection in the world, the Kimbell Museum is a destination not to be missed if you have any interest in instilling an appreciation for the arts in your children. Keep in mind that even though the Kimbell is considered a family-friendly attraction, strollers are not permitted in the galleries during peak times.
- The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (Fort Worth, TX 76107) – As the oldest art museum in the state of Texas and one of the oldest in the entire Western region of the United States, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is a great stop for families due to their specialized art programs for kids. The first Sunday of each month is a free-admission day, which can be helpful if your vacation is beginning to run a bit over-budget.
Hotwire.com placed Fort Worth at number four on their “Value friendly destinations” list, making it an ideal choice for family vacations where the budget is a concern. The unique atmosphere of the city will allow your family to explore everything from ranch life to refined museums and galleries, leaving you with a well-balanced and inclusive vacation experience. A thriving downtown area and blossoming culinary scene will also provide the adults in the family with plenty of grown-up diversions after the kids are in bed.
The rich history and desert beauty of Tucson and the nearby Sonoran desert makes it an interesting and diverse place to visit, and a surprisingly great choice as a family vacation destination. In addition to the many annual cultural events and fairs that take place around the city throughout the year, there are also a variety of kid-friendly and family-themed attractions in the area. These are ten of the best things to do with your kids in the Tucson area, each of which makes a strong argument for choosing Tucson for your next family vacation.
- 390th Memorial Museum Foundation (Tucson, AZ 85756) – More than 10,000 photographs, 90,000 pages of combat history and the collected oral histories of 100 World War II veterans take center stage at the 390th Memorial Museum Foundation, which celebrates the 390th Bomb Group. Responsible for cutting supply lines to the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge, among other heroic feats.
- Abraham Lincoln Regional Park (Tucson, AZ 85730) – Sprawling over 191 acres, the Abraham Lincoln Regional Park features a four-field softball complex complete with a concession stand, a swimming pool, playgrounds, volleyball courts and a walking path. The Attrubury Bird and Animal Sanctuary is also located on the premises, ensuring that there’s something to entertain every member of your family.
- Arizona State Museum (Tucson, AZ 85721) – The history and rich culture of Arizona, the entire American Southwest and northern Mexico are celebrated at the Arizona State Museum, which is both the oldest and the largest anthropological museum in the region. Boasting the largest collection of Southwest American Indian Pottery in the world, the ASM is also affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.
- Colossal Cave Mountain Park (Vail, AZ 85641) – This 2,000-acre park is on the National Historic Register, with the La Posta Quemada Ranch and crystal-filled caverns on the premises. Museums, trail rides and cave tours are offered daily, and picnicking is permitted on park grounds.
- Gadsden-Pacific Division Toy Train Operating Museum, Ltd. (Tucson, AZ 85754) – There’s something about toy trains that inspire unbridled joy in some kids. If there’s a model train aficionado in your family, you simply can’t pass up a visit to the 6,000-square-foot Gadsden-Pacific. Upwards of fifteen loops of track with a variety of trains running, railroad memorabilia and a rug system complete with wooden trains for the very small set are among the attractions, along with the full-sized caboose and real switch controllers.
- Kitt Peak National Observatory (Tucson, AZ 85726) – Perched above the Sonoran Desert is the Kitt Peak Natural Observatory, which makes it easy for kids and adults alike to explore the universe, thanks to the world’s largest collection of optical telescopes. Tours are of either the docent-lead or self-guided varieties, with nightly stargazing in the Visitor Center Public Telescopes available through advance reservations.
- Children’s Museum Tucson (Tucson, AZ 85701) – Play-based, interactive learning is the name of the game at Children’s Museum Tucson, which sprawls over more than 11,000 square feet packed with hands-on activities and exhibits. Adults are encouraged to participate, meaning you won’t be reduced to supervisor duty during the visit.
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (Tucson, AZ 85743) – With a renowned zoo, botanical gardens and a natural history museum on-site, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is actually an interactive, educational complex. More than 1,200 types of plant and 300 animal species call the site home, easily explored via two miles of walking paths.
- Biosphere 2 – University of Arizona, Tucson (Oracle, AZ 85623) – An hour north-east of Tucson, the University of Arizona, Tucson-sponsored Biosphere 2 lies. The living laboratory is a glass-enclosed structure that boasts three separate habitats, including a Savannah and a Rainforest.
- Old Tucson Studios (Tucson, AZ 85735) – Train rides, a simulacrum of an Old West schoolhouse and a small selection of rides aimed at the smaller set make Old Tucson Studios an exciting destination for kids. Adults with an affection for old Western films may also get a kick out of touring the attraction, as a number of the golden-age films were shot at Old Tucson Studios.
While Tucson is a beautiful and vibrant city, there are certain safety precautions you’ll need to take if you’re planning to visit. It’s important to always bring plenty of water and a fully-charged, functional cell phone if you’re planning to explore the desert parks, as it’s quite easy to become disoriented and lost in the desert. Make sure that you wear proper protective footwear, as there are rattlesnakes in the area. Also, flash flooding is a very real possibility during the monsoon season, which stretches from July to September. Never attempt to drive across a flooded road, especially if it’s barricaded. Not only is this behavior dangerous, but can be quite costly if you’re issued a citation by police under the 1995 “Stupid Motorist Law.”
As the capital of Ohio and the largest city in the state, Columbus was named the best place in the country to raise a family by Newsweek in 2009. For parents whose plans run more along the lines of visiting Columbus than moving there permanently, taking advantage of the ample collection of kid-friendly activities in the city can make for a great family vacation. Here are ten of the best attractions for kids that Columbus has to offer, which make up only a small selection of the many available options.
- COSI Columbus (Columbus, OH 43251) – The COSI hosts an array of traveling exhibits, alongside their renowned permanent installations. The kid-friendly attractions include a Kidspace for little ones. a Big Science Park that teaches kids to lift a car off the ground using scientific principles and allows them to ride a Centripetal Generator. Don’t miss the only high-wire unicycle installation in the country, which older kids are welcomed to ride.
- Ohio Historical Society (Columbus, OH 43211) – The Ohio Historical Society network spans the entire state, with the headquarters in Columbus hosting a museum and several historically-themed attractions on the grounds. The highlight of the complex is the Ohio Village, a fully recreated Ohio town from the nineteenth century, complete with costumed interpreters and several authentic buildings.
- Columbus Zoo, Aquarium and Zoombezi Bay (Powell, OH 43065) – Combining the kid-pleasing charms of a zoo, water park and playground makes the Columbus Zoo, Aquarium and Zoobmezi Bay a safe bet for parents looking to keep their kids entertained for an entire day. The pachyderm building on site is also the largest in the world, and is open year-round. Fifteen water slides, a lazy river and wave pool make up the water park section, which also includes a shallow area for little ones.
- Slate Run & Slate Run Living Historical Farm (Canal Winchester, OH 43110) – One of the best ways for kids to learn about history is to observe it in action, an opportunity afforded by the Slate Run Living Historical Farm. Helping with chores on the working 1880′s era farm give kids an accurate picture of life during that time period, while the thirteen miles of trails are a delight for fans of hiking. There’s also a campground space that families can reserve through the park offices, a sure-fire hit for outdoors enthusiasts.
- Franklin Park Conservatory (Columbus, OH 43203) – More than seventy-three thousand square feet of greenhouses and classrooms call the ninety-acre Franklin Park Conservatory home, including a Victorian glass house. Waterfalls, unique gardens, collections of exotic plants and educational programs are among the offerings at Franklin park, as well as several summer programs directed solely at kids.
- Ohio Railway Museum (Columbus, OH 43085) – One of the oldest railroad museums in the nation, The Ohio Railway Museum boasts the Ohio Public Service Interurban Car #21, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Kids with an affection for trains are sure to be in heaven with the exhibits and rides on streetcars or a classic Pullman passenger.
- The Kelton House Museum & Garden (Columbus, OH 43215) – Special tours led by historical reenactors celebrate the significance of Kelton House during the time of the Underground Railroad, while meticulously manicured gardens reflect the Victorian theme of the home beautifully. Tours and teas are available to visitors, with many special events held on-premises throughout the year.
- German Village (Columbus, OH 43215) – Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, German Village is a short jaunt from downtown Columbus. The brick streets, lovingly maintained homes and diverse selection of shopping, dining and park options make this quaint four-mile area a favorite with Columbus residents and visitors alike.
- The Works (Newark, OH 43058) – Whether the tastes in your family run towards visual art, exploring scientific concepts through interactive learning or simply enjoying the peace of a beautifully-maintained courtyard, there’s something for each of you at The Works. Visitors of all ages and abilities are invited to experience the engaging exhibits and installations, making sure that everyone in the family has a great time.
- Santa Maria (Columbus, OH 43215) – Give kids an up close and personal view of American history with a visit to this impressive replica of the famed Santa Maria, part of the fleet that carried Christopher Columbus on his fateful journey. The forty-five minute tour includes interaction with navigational tools, but there’s also a special children’s tour available.
If the timing of your trip coincides with the arrival of the Ohio State Fair, be sure to take the chance to experience one of the largest state fairs in the nation. Columbus plays host to a surprising number of festivals and special events throughout the year, so be sure that you check local listings in the weeks leading up to your trip to get the most out of your visit.
With an array of museums to choose from, a burgeoning culinary culture and a reputation for being a relatively low-cost vacation option, Houston is becoming a favorite vacation destination for families. Kids love the slight eccentricity that results from Houston’s long-standing lack of zoning laws, and the replica of presidential busts visible along the I-10 freeway unofficially dubbed “Mount Rush Hour” by local residents. These, among other attractions, make the Houston area worthy of your vacation consideration.
- Downtown Aquarium (Houston, TX 77002) – Everything really is bigger in Texas, as proved by this mammoth restaurant, aquarium and amusement park in one sprawling setting. Replicas of a Louisiana swamp, a rainforest and ancient Indian ruins feature alligators, piranhas and white tigers, respectively. Kids also love the train ride through the center of a 200,000-gallon shark tank, which houses several varieties of shark.
- Houston Museum of Natural Science (Houston, TX 77030) – Ranked one of the most highly-attended museums in the United States, the Houston Museum of Natural Science boasts four levels of installations and exhibits. Native American history, astronomy, space science and paleontology are only a small sampling of the subjects covered, ensuring that there’s something to inspire every little scientist in your family.
- The Company Onstage (Houston, TX 77035) – In addition to the classic plays directed at a grown-up audience, the Company Onstage also mounts a full season of theatrical productions aimed at kids. Reservations are recommended for children’s shows, as they do tend to sell out relatively quickly.
- Nature Discovery Center (Bellaire, TX 77401) – Kids are encouraged to explore the life inside a log, examine a crystal cave and reconstruct the skeleton of a turtle at the Nature Discovery Center. Microscopes, puzzles, books and drawing supplies are available for further research, and one Discovery Room that changes one to two times over the course of each year. There’s also a Storytime offering that features a related craft project for kids between the ages of two and five, held at four o’clock each Wednesday afternoon.
- Lunar and Planetary Institute (Houston, TX 77058) – A nod to Houston’s contribution to the American space program, the Lunar and Planetary Institute is dedicated to the solar system and any new discoveries within it. Collections of lunar and planetary data, image processing facilities and a research library make this a great destination for both kids and adults, with a Free Family Space Day held on the third Saturday of each month. Kids between the ages of five and eight are encouraged to learn about space and planetary science through interactive exhibits, hands-on activities and telescope viewings.
- Glazed Over Ceramic Studio (Houston, TX 77079) – Kids love selecting their own pieces of pottery to decorate with brushes, sponges and stencils, which are then fired by the Glazed Over staff. It’s best to plan this activity early in your vacation, because the glazing and firing process can take up to seven days to complete.
- Kemah Boardwalk (Kemah, TX 77565) – Forty waterfront acres of shops, restaurants and a carnival area make the Kemah Boardwalk an ideal destination for summer fun, with a variety of activities to keep kids entertained. Ride a miniature train and a speedboat, play in the main plaza’s dancing fountain and enjoy a low-key day free from the pressure of adhering to a tight itinerary on the shore.
- Moody Gardens (Galveston, TX 77554) – The wide variety of activities and themes within Galveston’s Moody Gardens makes this destination feel like several. An aquarium, white sand beaches, replicas of the pyramids and a 3D theater with six-story screens are all available at Moody Gardens, along with a Discovery Museum to provide a bit of educational fun.
- Houston Zoo (Houston, TX 77030) – Sprawling over fifty-five acres and home to more than 4,500 animals, the Houston Zoo includes a section called the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo. The area features a petting zoo to allow hands-on interaction with a variety of animals, a large carousel featuring sixty-four animals for kids to ride and a playground with water installations ideal for cooling off in the Texas heat. There’s also a butterfly pavilion, which is shaded from the sun and hosts shows and demonstrations.
- The Grand 1894 Opera House (Galveston, TX 77550) – Listed in the National Register of Historic Places and named “The Official Opera House of Texas” by the state Legislature, The Grand has survived several devastating storms since it was built in 1894. Three tiers of seating and opera boxes satisfy adult sensibilities, while the Children’s Series Performances introduce youngsters to the joy of live theater.
In addition to these attractions, Houston is also the headquarters of the United States’ manned space program. As a result, there are a vast array of space-themed attractions sure to wow any budding astronauts in the family.
The city by the bay is definitely an accurate description for San Francisco. Many attractions are on or near the water including the city’s biggest attraction, the Golden Gate Bridge. There are many more things to see and do in San Francisco though and many are kid friendly. Check some of these sites out the next time you and your family are in San Francisco.
- The Exploratorium (San Francisco, CA 94123). An amazing new concept in museums and perfect for kids. The Exploratorium is located inside the Palace of Fine Arts. The concept of the Exploratorium is to give kids and adults a hands-on learning experience in many different areas. There are cow eyeballs in an exhibit where everyone can touch an actual cow’s eye and learn about the parts of the eye. There’s a planetarium and a place you can make your own petroglyph and the list goes on and on.
- Paramount’s Great America Theme Park (Santa Clara, CA 95054). Meet your favorite Nickelodeon characters at Nickelodeon Central or ride one of the family friendly rides like the Rip Roaring Rapids. There are also 11 roller coasters and thrill rides from which to choose. Top off your trip with a ride on the world’s tallest double decker Ferris wheel.
- Raging Waters (San Jose, CA 95148). The largest water park in Northern California and home to the Dragon’s Den and a 350,000 gallon wave pool. Stay cool in one of the many water slides or other wet and wild attractions. This park is only open May-September.
- iFly SF Bay (Union City, CA 94587). This is an indoor sky diving facility that is a tunnel of wind that gives you the same feeling as free-falling from an airplane. Kids as young as 3 can do it. Your first time you will get instruction, a jumpsuit, goggles and other things that you will need to have a successful experience. There is no upper age limit, but they want you to be in good physical shape and not weigh more than 230 lbs. if you are less than 6 feet tall.
- San Francisco Chinatown (San Francisco, CA 94108). Immerse yourself and your family in another culture for a while by strolling through San Francisco’s Chinatown. This is the largest and oldest Chinatown in North American. Enjoy a tea tasting or some authentic dim sum. This is a sight to behold because it is so different than the rest of the city. Don’t plan on bringing a stroller through though because these shops are small and cramped.
- Golden Gate Bridge/Park (San Francisco, CA 94118). The jewel in San Francisco’s crown has to be the beautiful red golden gate bridge. You can walk across or rent bikes and ride across the bridge. If you go to Golden Gate Park you will be able to capture some fabulous iconic pictures of the bridge. No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Koret Children’s Playground and Carousel (San Francisco, CA 94118). This is one of the oldest and biggest playgrounds in the city. It’s located in Koret Children’s Quarter in Golden Gate Park. The kids will love sliding down the giant hillside slide and riding on the 1912 Carousel. There’s also a huge climbing structure where kids can play for hours. This playground is geared for kids over the age of 3.
- Golden Gate Ferry Ride (Larkspur, CA 94939). Take a ride on the ferry and get a view of the bridge from the water. Riding on the ferry will allow you to feel the wind off the water and the enjoyment of riding on the boat with or without your car.
- Cable Car Ride (San Francisco, CA 94115). You must ride a cable car while you are in San Francisco. These cable cars have been around since 1873 and will truly give you the full experience of how hilly San Francisco truly is. You can buy a ticket for a single ride for $5 or by an all-day pass which will give you time to enjoy the cable cars and the city. You can even get off at the Cable Car Museum for free and learn the history of the cable car.
- Land’s End Trail (San Francisco, CA 94121). Probably one of the greatest hiking trails in San Francisco. The trail runs right along the water and if you go far enough you can actually go under the Golden Gate Bridge. Along the trail you will see the Sutro Baths and Mile Rock Beach. To reach the beach you will have to go down about 100 steps, but the views are worth the effort.
Everything is bigger in Texas, including things to see and do. When you think of Texas you might think of cowboys and cattle, but Dallas is far more cultural and metropolitan. When you come to Dallas there are lots attractions for families including many festivals throughout the year. Check out these 10 things to do with the kids in Dallas.
- Museum of Nature and Science (Dallas, TX 75210). The Museum of Nature and Science encompasses several buildings with something for every age group. The Children’s portion has an area where kids can experiment with water, a section where kids can do real farm chores and a backyard area where kids can explore. Other buildings house scenes from the Ice Age, a paleontology lab, a planetarium and an IMAX theater.
- Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, TX 76011). Newly completed, the Cowboys stadium is a marvel in technology. Take a behind the scenes tour into the player locker rooms as well as the famous Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader’s locker room. This tour lasts 75 minutes and they often sell out so it’s best to buy your tickets ahead, (817)892-4600.
- Dallas Zoo (Dallas, TX 75203). The zoo features a monorail through the African territory which includes a stork area, crocodile isle, gorilla research center, and chimpanzee forest. Zoo North has tortoises, elephants and tigers. Inside the zoo is a toddler friendly area called LaCerte Family Zoo where the kids can ride a pony, meet other animals and help in the bird exhibit.
- Six Flags Amusement Park (Arlington, TX 76010). Six Flags over Texas has wild and exciting rides with new rides being built and introduced almost every year. Toddlers and younger children tend to love to meet the Looney Tunes characters and their favorite super heroes from The Justice League. There are family friendly areas with go karts, carousels and the river ride.
- Pole Position Raceway (Frisco, TX 75033). In this suburb of Dallas you can experience the thrill of go kart racing. Some of the karts get up to 40 mph. Kids 48 inches and over can drive their own kart and smaller kids can ride along with an adult. Races are held every day and you can show up and drive with no reservation required. This is an inspired option on a rainy day.
- Medieval Times (Dallas, TX 75207). If you love jousting and sword play then this is the place for you. The experience is enhanced by being served food in the way it would have been served back in king Arthur’s day. The plates are metal as is the cup and you eat everything with your hands.
- The Sixth Floor Museum (Dallas, TX 75202). The Sixth Floor Museum is in Dealey Plaza in Dallas’ West End historic district. The Sixth Floor Museum is where Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F Kennedy from and now houses historical pictures and information about the event. The West End has a lot of other shops and restaurants and can be accessed from the Dart rail.
- Frontiers of Flight Museum (Dallas, TX 75209). Walk through the history of aviation at the Frontiers of Flight Museum. Starting back in the 20’s with how inventors came up with their flying machines to planes from the war and finishing with modern day marvels of jets and rockets.
- Dallas Arboretum (Dallas, TX 75218). The gardens at the Dallas Arboretum are 66 acres of beautiful plants, flowers, trees and displays. The children’s area has staff on site to answer questions and to explain specific exhibits throughout the year. There is a sunken garden as well as teepees and covered wagons for the kids to explore.
- White Rock Lake (Dallas, TX 75218). Close to the Dallas Arboretum is the White Rock Lake where you can swim and fish. There are many different species of birds at the lake and it has been designated as an official site by the Audubon Society. There are over 9 miles of hiking and biking trails around the lake. This is a large lake where you can water ski, canoe and kayak with your family.
Next time you are in Texas you can head into Dallas and have some fun with the family. There are thousands of restaurants in the area and many things to see. The Texas State fair is held every year in October and is one of the largest fairs in the country so if you’re in Dallas in October try to check it out. Many other festivals go on all year round so it doesn’t matter what month you go you will be able to find lots to do.