10 Things to Do With Kids in Chicago, IL

There’s more than just wind to see and experience in the ‘Windy City’ of Chicago, especially with kids. With Chicago’s trains you can work your way around the city and see great sights like Willis Tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.   From the tower Skydeck to beautiful Lake Michigan, there are tons of fun things to do with the entire family in Chicago, Illinois.

  1. Hancock Observatory (Chicago, IL 60611).  Head to the 94th floor in the fastest elevator in the country.  The trip will only take a minute or so and when you look out you will have a 360 degree view of Chicago.  The lines tend to be short or non-existent and it only costs $15 for the trip.  You get an audio tour that will point out special sights so this is a great place to start your trip.  You can spend the rest of your trip finding those places you saw from up above.  While the Willis Tower is more famous, tourists typically prefer to go to the Hancock Observatory instead. 
  2. Willis Tower Skydeck (Chicago, IL 60603).  The Willis Tower skydeck is located on the 103rd floor and you will have the opportunity to stand out in a glass box, which is suspended on the side of the building, and look straight down.  An audio tour is available at no extra cost and will point out points of interest around the city that you can see from the skydeck.  There are shops and exhibits inside the Willis Tower explaining how the building came to be.  This tall building used to be known as the Sears Tower and is a must see if Chicago.  Tickets are required to take the trip to the top. 
  3. The Bean (Chicago, IL 60601).  Technically the name of this sculpture is Cloud Gateway, but in Chicago it’s known as the bean.  Once you see it you will understand why.  The sculpture is shaped like a bean and is mirrored.  This landmark is one of the most visited places in Chicago.  The Bean was even featured in the movie Source Code. Kids and adults alike will enjoy looking at the Bean and how the skyline bends as you walk around the sculpture.  Make sure you go under it as well.
  4. Chicago Greeter (Chicago, IL 60602).  An interesting concept, the Chicago Greeter pairs up savvy Chicagoans with tourists to help them enjoy the city.  The service is completely free!  This tour is 2 to 4 hours long and you will get an ‘insiders’ view of the city.  You need to register at least 10 business days in advance of your visit.
  5. Navy Pier (Chicago, IL 60611).  Enjoy the hustle and bustle of the Navy Pier and let the kids have some fun riding on the Ferris wheel.  The shops are kid friendly with everything from toys to souvenirs for sale.  If you are looking for something to eat there are several restaurants on the pier as well.  Time it right and you might see one of the large ships that docks at the port.
  6. Grant Park (Chicago, IL 60601).  An urban oasis, Grant Park is 319 acres of fun in the sun right in the city.  Grant Park is in ‘the loop’ area of downtown Chicago and is near other attractions such as Millennium Park’s Bean sculpture, Buckingham Fountain and the Art Institute of Chicago.  Running along the entire east side of the park is Lake Michigan.  Several large events are held in Grant Park each year.  
  7. The Elevated Train (varies).  The elevated train will take you around the city to various attractions, but the train itself is entertaining to ride too, especially if your kids don’t have much experience riding a train.  Public transportation will lesson your stress with finding suitable parking and is an economical choice.
  8. LEGOLAND Discovery Center (Schaumburg, IL 60173).  If your kids love Legos they will love LEGOLAND!  The center is set up with a Lego factory, a 4D movie theater, test areas and many areas to build with Legos.  Things are always changing so you will have to see it to believe it.
  9. Shedd Aquarium (Chicago, IL 60605).  Home to more than 25,000 fish, dolphins, seals and beluga whales, the Shedd Aquarium has a lot to offer for family entertainment.  The aquarium features tons of interactive exhibits throughout the complex.  There are shows that feature the seals and dolphins that will thrill the kids.  If you have time you can even see a 4D movie.
  10. Chicago Ghost Investigations (Chicago, IL 60610).  Looking for something a little different to do with the family?  Why not go on one of the two daily investigations in downtown Chicago.  Tours leave from the old water tower on Michigan Avenue.  You are accompanied by a seasoned paranormal investigator who will teach you how to use special ghost detecting equipment and teach you a psychic technique that will allow you to communicate with the spirits.

10 Things to Do With Kids in Washington DC

If you’re looking to give your kids a hands-on history lesson, the nation’s capital is where you want to be.  Kids will enjoy seeing some of the things that they have been learning in school.  There’s something about being able to explore the actual historical sites that will help your kids remember the facts better.  Known for the Smithsonian museums, Washington, DC has a lot to offer in the way of kids’ entertainment.  Check out some of these sites the next time you are in Washington, DC.

  1. National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC 20560).  Tons to see in this museum, they house over 125 million specimens.  Kids will enjoy the Discovery room because it’s a hands-on area where kids can learn and explore.  Another exhibit that is ‘big’ with kids is the life-sized dinosaur skeleton.
  2. National Air and Space Museum (Washington, DC 20560).  If you have a space buff in the family, this is the place to bring him.  This branch of the Smithsonian houses the largest collection of spacecraft and other flight related artifacts in the world.  Take a look inside the Apollo 11 space module or look at Wright’s first airplane suspended from the ceiling.
  3. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (Washington, DC 20001).  Watch real money be printed, stacked, and cut here.  Tours are available every 15 minutes.  Take a look at how paper money has changed through the years with exhibits that will show the history of money. 
  4. Lincoln Memorial (Washington, DC 20242).  The memorial is made of white marble and Lincoln is seated and gazing across a long reflection pool toward the Washington monument.  On the other side is the Ulysses S. Grant monument with Grant on his horse and his eyes are at the same level as Lincoln’s eyes.  These three men did a lot for the U.S. and visiting their monuments is definitely something worth doing with the kids while you are in Washington, DC.
  5. National Zoo (Washington, DC 20008).  Visit this 163 acre zoo that houses pandas, bears, lions, giraffes, monkeys and many more.  Admission is free, but there is a cost for parking.  This zoo is very kid friendly with many hands-on experiences available for the kids so that they can get up and personal with these animals.
  6. International Spy Museum (Washington, DC 20004).  Do you think you may be raising the next 007?  Slip into the International Spy museum to learn all about disguises and aliases.  Let the kids go to the Kidspy Zone where they can play games, learn the language of espionage and take part in an actual mission.  The one hour mission is for kids 12 and up and gets pretty involved with decrypting messages, meeting your handler and making a drop.  If you live in the area there are even spies in training camps that your kids can participate in.          
  7. Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (Washington, DC 20004).  Make sure to bring your camera with you to this attraction because the kids will love to take pictures with Selena Gomez from Wizards of Waverly Place, Taylor Swift (singer/actress) or Madonna (singer/actress).  There are many other famous people that have been immortalized in wax here.  Read about all of these famous people as you walk through the amazing life- like sculptures.
  8. Paddle-Boating on Tidal Basin (Washington, DC 20024).  Take a paddle-boat ride on the Tidal Basin and let the kids get a little exercise.  You will be able to see the Jefferson Memorial from the water and just get out and enjoy some nature.  It’s a nice change of pace from all the museum type attractions.
  9. Folger Theater (Washington, DC 20003).   To be or not to be… that is the question.  This Shakespearian Theater puts on plays all year round and also offers special exhibits for children. 
  10. Kennedy Center (Washington, DC 20566).  Go on a guided tour of this huge center which hosts many different kinds of performances.  Stage shows, ballet, or sporting events can be seen at this venue almost any day of the week.  If you have an aspiring actor or dancer they may enjoy dreaming about performing at the Kennedy Center someday.  Maybe the president will come over and catch the performance.

10 Things to Do With Kids in Virginia Beach, Virginia

Situated on the Atlantic at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Beach boasts more inhabitants than any other city in the state of Virginia. Primarily a resort city, there’s a plethora of options for travelers from all walks of life to be found in the area. However, parents may be surprised to learn how many kid-friendly attractions there are in Virginia Beach, a respectable selection of which are relatively free from the more commercial trappings in comparable resort cities across the country. If you’re considering Virginia Beach as a possibility for your next family vacation destination, here are ten of the attractions that your kids are sure to love.

  1. Back Bay Restoration Foundation Tram Tours (Virginia Beach, VA 23451) – About an hour after boarding the tram at Little Island City Park, you’ll alight in False Cape. Along the way, you’ll pass through a refuge that’s home to a wide variety of animals and wildlife, including great blue herons, ospreys, foxes and turtles. Visitors are alloted two hours in which to hike, enjoy a picnic and explore the area before heading back. Don’t miss the rangers and volunteers on site, who will gladly point out sites of interest and nearby animals.
  2. Beach Eco Tours (Virginia Beach, VA 23451) – Even if no one in your family has experience with stand-up paddleboarding, Beach Eco Tours assures that you’ll all be able to navigate well enough to enjoy the scenery while honing your skills. There’s even the possibility of dolphin-spotting, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled.
  3. Boardwalk (Virginia Beach, VA 23451) – Beaches along the East Coast are dotted with boardwalks, but the three-mile stretch of cafes, stores, entertainment options and even live performances offered along Virginia Beach is among the best. Renovations have been completed, offering an updated version of this timeless classic.
  4. Capt. Jack’s Pirate Ship Adventures (Virginia Beach, VA 23451) – Few things are as universally adored by children as pirates, which is why this themed adventure in Virginia Beach is sure to please. Water cannons, Spanish galleons and Blackbeard are all part of the fun, with free admission and plenty of excitement on hand.
  5. Carolanne Farms Park (Virginia Beach, VA 23451) – Whether your brood is made up of naturally outdoorsy types or you’re determined to instill a love of nature in them, the kayaking facility at Carolanne Farms Park is a great launch site. Keep in mind, however, that there is no outfitter on premises, so you will need to secure your own equipment and any necessary instruction.
  6. American Indoor Go-Karting (Virginia Beach, VA 23452) – Satisfy that need for speed that so many kids seem to have at American Indoor Go-Karting, which offers a discounted rate for customers that pre-purchase their tickets by calling ahead. If you have a particularly large family in tow, they also offer private event accommodations.
  7. Chesapean Outdoors (Virginia Beach, VA 23451) – The chance to surf or kayak with the dolphins doesn’t come very often in a lifetime, but it’s all part of the fun at Chesapean Outdoors. Instructors provide visitors with plenty of direction and “learner” boards designed for beginners. Confirmed land-lubbers can also get in on the fun, with guided bicycle tour of the oceanfront and surrounding historical wilderness. You and your family can also hike along the same paths once taken by the first explorers!
  8. First Landing State Park (Virginia Beach, VA 23451) – Rare plants, graceful cypress trees and lagoons are just a few of the examples of breathtaking natural beauty that you’ll find at First Landing State Park, which boasts more than nineteen miles of hiking trails, guided tours and even camping in climate-controlled cabins.
  9. Hunt Club Farm – Petting Farm (Virginia Beach, VA 23456) – City-dwelling kids may not get the opportunity to personally interact with farm animals very often, but there are plenty of domestic creatures at Hunt Club Farm. Feed the goats, meet the donkeys and watch pot-bellied pigs cavorting before embarking on a pony ride, a sure-fire way to help your kids learn more about farm animals in a controlled environment.
  10. Mount Trashmore Park (Virginia Beach, VA 23462) – More than one-hundred and sixty-five acres of man-made mountains, lakes, playgrounds and skate parks sprawl across Mount Trashmore Park, a former land fill that was reclaimed using largely eco-friendly practices. If you have the proper license, you can even fish in the lakes!

While there are so many exciting entertainment options in Virginia Beach, it’s a good idea to remember the distinction for which it’s named, which has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest pleasure beach in the world. Slather on some sunscreen and hit the beach for a bit of lighthearted fun!

10 Fun Things to Do With the Family in Chicago

Boasting more than 7,500 acres of park, two well-respected conservatories and twenty-six miles of lakefront, Chicago is a cosmopolitan city with plenty of bucolic hideaways. With scores of museums and cultural attractions alongside a famed culinary scene and great sense of kid-culture, here are ten of the reasons why you might want to consider the Windy City for your next family getaway.

  1. Chicago Children’s Museum (Chicago, IL 60611) – Because there’s so much to do at the Chicago Children’s Museum, it might be wise to take advantage of the First Free Monday program, which allows kids under the age of fifteen free admission and extends the operation hours of the museum for the day. Budding scientists will get a kick out of the Inventing Lab, while dinosaur aficionados are sure to flip for the Dinosaur Expedition exhibit. Of the twenty-seven benches stationed inside the museum, only one plays music when you sit on it. Letting kids know in advance and presenting them with the challenge of finding it can make for an afternoon of fun all by itself!
  2. American Girl Place (Chicago, IL 60611) – Built around the universe created by the beloved American Girls books and dolls, American Girl Place is packed to the brim with accessories, clothing and memorabilia. There’s also a cafe, whose menu is heavy on the kid-friendly fare and features great desserts. Because the attractions within American Girl Place are in such high demand, it’s advised to make reservations for the theater and cafe well in advance.
  3. Shedd Aquarium (Chicago, IL 60603) – The Shedd Aquarium is the world’s largest indoor aquarium, also boasting an oceanarium that houses a variety of marine mammals. Coral reefs, sharks and a variety of other underwater marvels call the Shedd home, making it easy for your little ones to observe the wonders of the sea without a wetsuit.
  4. Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago, IL 60637) – Pretending to ride the Pioneer Zephyr 1933 train, taking a simulated tour through a coal mine and exploring a German U-505 Submarine are all adventures your child can have at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. Be sure not to miss the Idea Factory and the ToyMaker 300, which are always a hit with the smaller set.
  5. Ukrainian Village Children’s Center (Chicago, IL 60622) – Kids between the ages of two and seven are welcomed at the Children’s Center, which offers a variety of arts and crafts activities throughout the day. While the Center does allow parents to drop older kids off for the day, they also welcome you to stay so that you can watch your little one have a creative blast.
  6. FireZone (Schaumburg, IL 60173) – Teaching kids about fire safety and satisfying the curiosity of youngsters that have a fixation on firefighters is the goal of FireZone, a themed center just outside of Chicago. Actual firefighters teach kids about how to prevent fire and how to stay safe if one occurs, but also bring kids aboard fire engines for exploration and direct them through firefighter activity stations.
  7. Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago, IL 60614) – Lincoln Park Zoo, established in 1868, is one of the oldest zoological attractions in the country and a leader in community education and conservation. Perhaps best of all, you can visit Lincoln Park with your entire brood in tow for free!
  8. DuPage Children’s Museum (Naperville, IL 60540) – Three floors of artistic, scientific and mathematical exploration are packed with exhibits and interactive installations throughout the DuPage Children’s Museum. The Third Thursday program also encourages parents of autistic children to bring their youngsters to DuPage on the third Thursday of the month between five and seven in the evening for access augmentative communication devices and other resources.
  9. Garfield Park Conservatory (Chicago, IL 60624) – Aspiring artists will be overjoyed to find themselves inside a replica of Monet’s famed garden, while kids of all ages will have a blast in the Elizabeth Morse Genius Children’s Garden. Open year-round, this unique and exciting installation offers a completely interactive experience, encouraging young visitors to climb flower vines, peek inside mammoth seeds and help to pollinate a massive flower.
  10. Indian Boundary Park (Chicago, IL 60645) – If you find yourself and your children in need of a mellow afternoon for a bit of downtime, Indian Boundary’s lagoons, fountains, petting zoo and playgrounds may be just what the vacation doctor ordered. Because Indian Boundary is also a residency site for the Civic Orchestra of Chicago’s MusiCorps program, there are also free and family-friendly concerts offered onsite throughout the year.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a child that doesn’t adore pizza; thankfully, Chicago is renowned for their deep-dish style pies. After a long day of trekking through museums, parks and shops, make sure you stop off for at least one slice.

10 Things to Do With Kids in Atlanta

The indomitable spirit of Atlanta helped the city to regain its collective footing after the Civil War, becoming a booming hub in the South. Known as the city “too busy to hate” during the Civil Rights Movement, Atlanta was able to retain its reputation as a culturally progressive beacon among other Southern cities of comparable size. The rich history, strong and diverse economy and number of interesting attractions have allowed Atlanta to land a number-seven spot on Forbes’ Most Visited Cities list. If you’re considering a family trip to Atlanta, this is only a small sampling of the many great attractions for kids and families.

  1. Fernbank Science Center (Atlanta, GA 30307) – Housing one of the largest planetariums in America, the Fernbank Science Center is a great stop for kids that have an interest in space and astronomy. The observatory also contains one of the largest instruments dedicated to public viewing and education, a telescope that patrons are welcomed to try out when weather conditions are satisfactory.
  2. Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta (Atlanta, GA 30313) – Recommended for kids age eight and younger, Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta features a permanent exhibit that covers food production from gathering to delivery, a water play area where brightly-colored raincoats are passed out to allow “fishing” with magnetic poles, and an art gallery that encourages painting on a washable Plexiglas wall.
  3. Yellow River Game Ranch (Lilburn, GA 30047) – Yellow River Game Rance, a twenty-four acre facility, is a preserve that’s home to more than 600 animals. Mountain lions, bears and buffalo are among the inhabitants. While predators and wild animals are contained, tame and calm ones wander as they please. There’s also a petting zoo area for kids, filled with barnyard animals.
  4. Medieval Times (Lawrenceville, GA 30043) – Few places offer the chance to eat dinner as knights joust in the arena overlooked by the dining room, but Medieval Times does just that. Cheer for your favorite constants, marvel at the elaborate costumes and enjoy a hearty meal in the mock castle, but be sure to make reservations in advance to ensure that you get a seat.
  5. Atlanta History Center (Atlanta, GA 30305) – From its humble beginning as a railroad town to one of the nation’s great cities, the history of Atlanta is displayed in an engaging and interesting way at the Atlanta History Center. Admission price covers the Museum, tours of two historic homes and entry to the gardens. The Tullie Smith farm, an 1840′s replica home, features costumed interpreters that explain everything from animal husbandry and basket weaving to candle-making and blacksmithing.
  6. Kangaroo Conservation Center (Dawsonville, GA 30534) – The largest collection of kangaroos outside of their native Australia is in Dawsonville, an hour’s drive north of Atlanta. Three-hundred kangaroos, along with several other exotic species, are housed on the premises. Tours, exhibitions and shows are among the available activities, but an advance purchase of tickets is required due to tour visitor limitations.
  7. Center for Puppetry Arts (Atlanta, GA 30309) – Kids that have a fondness for puppets are sure to love Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts, which is the largest puppetry organization in the United States. The Family Series includes original adaptations of beloved classic tales, but there’s also a behind-the-scenes tour for those that are really interested in the art of puppetry. The Create-a-Puppet Workshop exhibit lets kids leave with their own custom souvenir, which is included in the admission price.
  8. Zoo Atlanta (Atlanta, GA 30315) – The private, non-profit Zoo Atlanta offers kids the chance to see a wide variety of animals in a semblance of their natural habitat, and also to watch a variety of exhibitions and feeding sessions. Zoo Atlanta does boast a renowned collection of great apes in The Ford African Rain Forest, a petting zoo that lets kids interact with barnyard animals in a more hands-on environment and a playground for fun between habitats.
  9. Tellus Museum (Cartersville, GA 30120) – Boasting more than 120,000 square feet, the Tellus Museum is largely comprised of four galleries. An eighty-foot-long Apatosaurus and a replica of the Wright flyer call the Tellus home, along with a digital planetarium and observatory.
  10. Margaret Mitchell House (Atlanta, GA 30309) – While young children may not be overly impressed, older ones that are familiar with Margaret Mitchell’s timeless masterpiece will love the docent-led tour of her house. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building includes a restored version of Mitchell’s apartment and a a museum of Gone With the Wind-related memorabilia.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s childhood home is located in Atlanta, and is a National Historic site ideal for following up a visit to the The King Center. Dr. King’s grave is also in Atlanta, but may prove to be a bit morbid for younger children. For lighter entertainment, Atlanta is also home to three major professional sports teams: NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, MLB’s Atlanta Braves and the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.

10 Things to Do With Kids in Philadelphia

With its impressive number of renowned museums, rich culture of historical significance and booming culinary scene, the City of Brotherly Love can be a surprisingly ideal destination for your family vacation. There are a wide variety of reasons why Philly deserves to be on your short list of vacation spots, but these ten are focused on all of the great things there are to see and do with your children.

  1. The Mud Room (Ardmore, PA 19003) – A ceramics and craft studio that stocks clay mugs, plates, figurines and pots, The Mud Room is a great place to let kids relax and unwind from the pressure of a packed itinerary on a whirlwind vacation. Their works of art will not only allow them to exercise their creative sides, but also provide a built-in souvenir of their time in Philadelphia.
  2. American Helicopter Museum & Education Center (West Chester, PA 19380) – Kids who are fascinated with air travel will love the American Helicopter Museum & Education center, which allows kids to interact with and even climb inside some of the aircraft. There’s also a toddler learning area for kids under the age of six, filled with plenty of proverbial bells and whistles to keep little hands busy.
  3. New Hope and Ivyland Railroad (New Hope, PA 18938) – Roll through the hills of Bucks County on a restored 1920′s passenger train, a historic diesel train or an authentic steam locomotive on the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad. Kids with a fondness for trains will be enraptured, but even kids without a particular fixation on them will enjoy the novelty of this attraction. There’s also a gift shop, and an arcade for kids to browse and play in while waiting for the next train.
  4. National Constitution Center (Philadelphia, PA 19106) – Featuring interactive exhibits showcasing key moments in American history, politics and the key document governing the United States’ democratic system, the National Constitution Center is a can’t-miss offering on your trip to Philadelphia. Instilling a sense of civil responsibility and an understanding of the events that led to the establishment of the American political structure in kids while presenting the information in an absorbing, engaging way, the National Constitution Center hosts a variety of events and limited-time exhibits.
  5. The Franklin Institute (Philadelphia PA 19103) – Named after the great scientist, inventor and political figure Benjamin Franklin, the Franklin Institute is not only one of the oldest centers for science education and research in the country, but also a great destination for kids. There’s even a special program in place directed solely at homeschooled kids, which provides additional opportunities and special experiments to further their education.
  6. Betsy Ross House (Philadelphia, PA 19106) – The image of the American flag is an iconic one, the original creation of which is attributed to the national treasure Betsy Ross. Kids can tour the house, interact with an actor in period costume and watch demonstrations of life in colonial America. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the Betsy Ross house and Historic Philadelphia also offer a variety of specialty programs and exhibits.
  7. Abe’s Buggy Rides (Bird in Hand, PA 17505) – Learning about other cultures is both fun and engaging for kids, which is why Abe’s Buggy Rides can be such a big hit with the smaller set. Rolling through the Lancaster County countryside in a horse-drawn Amish buggy is a great way to let kids observe Amish farms, a schoolhouse and other sights while enjoying the novelty of riding in a buggy with real horse-power.
  8. Please Touch Museum (Philadelphia, PA 19131) – All too often, kids are instructed not to touch anything in museums. The Please Touch Museum turns the concept of looking-but-not-touching on its ear, with fully interactive and hands-on exhibits that teach kids about a variety of subject through play and experimentation.
  9. Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse (Philadelphia, PA 19121) – With a 24,000 square foot, three floor playhouse and extensive outdoor playgrounds, the Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse is an ideal place to let the kids burn some energy in a beautiful, kid-friendly setting. The playhouse includes bikes and cars for kids to ride in a miniature town, complete with a stop light, parking meters and a gas station, along with a staggering array of additional toys on the upper levels.
  10. The Crayola Factory (Easton, PA 18042) – While the Crayola Factory is a bit of a drive from the metropolitan Philadelphia area, the interactive exhibits and projects make the trek well worth it. While The Crayola Factory is a factory in name only, there is a section that helps kids see and understand a bit about the manufacturing process of their beloved crayons.

Because of Philadelphia’s historical significance and a city-wide dedication to preserving it, the city is a great choice for parents in search of a vacation destination that offers the opportunity for learning alongside carefree fun. Visiting Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and the same streets that Benjamin Franklin walked all provide your family with great fun that also presents the opportunity to learn about the history of this great country.

10 Things to Do With Kids in Los Angeles

Away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, there’s a vast array of exciting activities in and around the Los Angeles area for kids! While Tinseltown may feel more like an adult vacation destination, there is a staggering array of reasons to consider making your next family trek to sunny Los Angeles. Here are ten of the attractions you may find to be a surprising motivation for your decision to vacation in the City of Angels.

  1. Bob Baker Marionette Theater (Los Angeles, CA 90026) – Founded in 1963, the Bob Baker Marionette Theater is the longest-running children’s theater in Los Angeles. The productions are even more impressive when you realize that the marionettes, puppets, costumes and props are all produced on-site. Because kids can be so entranced with the art of puppetry, Bob Baker Marionettes are also available for purchase in the shop.
  2. Heritage Square Museum (Los Angeles, CA 90031) – Kids with an affection for period costumes, history and Victorian architecture will be wowed by this open-air museum, consisting of eight separate Victorian-era buildings rescued from demolition. Three houses, a railway depot, shop in the process of being renovated are among the offerings, which can be toured with a period-costumed guide at the helm. There are some living history programs available, and picnicking is allowed on the lawn.
  3. Boone Children’s Gallery (Los Angeles, CA 90036) – Located within the Los Angeles County Museum of Art West, the Boone Children’s Gallery is a fully-interactive attraction designed to foster an appreciation and understanding of art in young children. Budding artists will love the demonstrations on Korean brush painting techniques, along with the other special and seasonal offerings.
  4. The Getty Center (Los Angeles, CA 90049) – Atop the Santa Monica Mountains, a world-class collection of art is nestled within The Getty Center. Kids will love the monorail transportation from the parking lot to the museum, which features a Family Room and offers materials for kids to play games at the exhibits. There are also projects for making masks, sculptures and drawings for the smaller set.
  5. Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden (Arcadia, CA 91007) – One hundred and twenty-seven acres of plants, divided by their continent of origin, provide kids with an exciting and entertaining natural science lesson. Baldwin Lake is home to a variety of animal species, which will be almost as enthralling to little ones as the African-style grass hut replicas left behind after the filming of early Tarzan films.
  6. Discovery Science Center (Santa Ana, CA 92705) – Almost sixty-thousand square feet of interactive exhibits, hands-on learning opportunities and installations designed to spark kids’ curiosity are housed within the sprawling Discovery Science Center, which is also known as the Discovery Cube. Kid-favorite exhibits include the variety of velociraptors, a Tyrannosaurus and an argentinosaurus, the opportunity to walk through a tornado and experience a simulated earthquake.
  7. The Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits (Los Angeles, CA 90036) – After being trapped within the La Brea Tar Pits during the Pleistocene Epoch, a vast array of prehistoric animals were discovered by modern scientists. Thanks to the remarkable preservation power of the tar, the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits now houses more than one million fossils and bones. Kids love the tar-pulling exhibit and the life-sized robotic animal sculptures, which provide a realistic simulation of what various species looked and sounded like before their extinction.
  8. Griffith Observatory (Los Angeles, CA 90027) – After extensive renovations, the Griffith Park Observatory is once again open for business and boasting a top spot among Los Angeles tourist attractions. A seamless dome in the planetarium, a presentation theater with 200 seats and an extensive collection of meteorites are all awe-inspiring sights for kids with a curiosity about space.
  9. The Huntington (San Marino, CA 91108) – With art collections, botanical gardens and a library on-site, the Huntington is a great destination for families. Kids love the waterfalls, Japanese garden and the specially-designed Children’s Garden, while the paved pathways make it easy to navigate the one hundred and fifty acres with a stroller.
  10. Disneyland (Anaheim, CA 92802) – No list of family vacation destinations in the Los Angeles area would be complete without an appearance by the embodiment of childhood fantasy. Meeting real-life representations of their favorite animated characters, enjoying the themed rides and experiencing the enchantment of Disneyland are experiences that your little ones aren’t likely to ever forget, making it a perfect choice for a family vacation.

It’s important to keep in mind that some areas of Los Angeles can become a bit less than kid-friendly after dark, with an adults-only culture that shows up with the sun goes down. Be sure you do a bit of research about the area in which your hotel accommodations are located, and what to expect from the neighborhood during your stay to ensure that your little ones aren’t exposed to anything unsavory, and you’re not charged with answering awkward questions.

10 Things to Do With Kids in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The largest city in the five Plains States, which includes Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, Oklahoma City is also the state capital and the third largest city in the country in land area. The state capitol building also has the distinction of being the only one in the world sitting directly atop an oil well. If you’re considering a Oklahoma City for your next family vacation destination, here are ten of the best kid-friendly attractions in the area.

  1. Oklahoma City Zoo (Oklahoma City, OK 73111) – It’s hard to go wrong with a zoo, and the Oklahoma City Zoo is ranked among the nation’s best. An accredited living museum and a botanical garden, there are a staggering number of exhibits and attractions within the Zoo, including a Butterfly Garden, Cat Forest and a variety of rides and shows.
  2. Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum (Oklahoma City, OK 73106) – Learning about the rich history of Oklahoma is as simple as showing up at the Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Museum, which celebrates both famous Oklahomans and everyday Joes alike. You can also share your own story at the ONEOK Tell Your Story exhibit, emailing a copy to yourself as a memento of this particular leg of your family vacation.
  3. Oklahoma History Center (Oklahoma City, OK 73105) – With Smithsonian-quality exhibits and interpretive programs, the Oklahoma History Center tells the story of Oklahoma’s past in rich detail. With a Learning Center that boasts 215,000 square feet, over 200 interactive computer, audio and video activities and art galleries, be prepared to spend the better part of a day exploring the OHC.
  4. Science Museum Oklahoma (Oklahoma City, OK 73111) – Oklahoma’s premier destination for scientific exploration and education, the Science Museum Oklahoma is home to cultural galleries, a planetarium, interactive exhibits and a two-story tree house that boasts the tallest spiral slide in the United States.
  5. Frontier City Theme Park (Oklahoma City, OK 73131) – If you’re looking for a carefree way to spend an afternoon, Oklahoma’s largest theme park may be just the thing. Sprawling over 40 acres with more than 50 rides, daily live shows and free concerts, Frontier City is also a smoke-free complex.
  6. Harn Homestead Museum (Oklahoma City, OK 73105) – An original 1904 Queen Anne-style Victorian home, a dairy barn, one-room school house and two other historic homes make up the Harn Homestead Museum, which offers hands-on whitewashing, wood chopping and tub laundry activities for kids during the summer season. You can also opt for a self-guided tour, if your family prefers to move at their own pace.
  7. International Gymnastics Hall of Fame (Oklahoma City, OK 73111) – Kids with a fondness for tumbling will flip for the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, which features photographs, artwork and video displays depicting some of the world’s greatest gymnasts. There’s also a gift shop, library and collection of awards and medals.
  8. Myriad Botanical Gardens (Oklahoma City, OK 73102) – The 17 acres surrounding the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory are known as the Myriad Botanical Gardens, meticulously landscaped and overflowing with beautiful plant life. Homeschoolers can also take advantage of specialized programs on-site.
  9. Chesapeake Boathouse (Oklahoma City, OK 73129) – On the banks of the Oklahoma River lies the Chesapeake Boathouse, which offers free tours of the district, summer adventure camps for kids and a full fitness center. Provided that everyone in your family is over the age of eight, you can also take advantage of kayaking activities.
  10. Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum (Oklahoma City, OK 73136) – Boasting the largest collection of fire department patches in the world, a selection of artifacts from the Ben Franklin collection and antique fire equipment dating back to the mid-eighteenth century, the Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum is sure to excite any kid with a fondness for firefighters.

Don’t let the “Plains State” designation fool you into thinking that the geography of Oklahoma City is treeless and flat like the true high plains; in fact, the area is liberally dotted with low trees and shrubs across gently rolling hills. The Stockyards district is also one of the largest cattle markets in the world, with a variety of merchants in the area peddling their Western-themed wares. If you do decide to visit the Stockyards on Monday morning, during the weekly cattle sales, be prepared to spot the occasional PETA activist protesting nearby, which can make for an awkward conversation or two with young children.

10 Things to Do With Kids in Portland, Oregon

While the City of Roses might be known as a haven for hipsters, there’s also a surprising number of attractions that will appeal to kids and young families. If you’re planning a family vacation and have an interest in visiting the Pacific Northwest, here are ten of the reasons why you might want to consider Portland a potential destination.

  1. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (Portland, OR 97214) – The USS Blueback, Kendall Planetarium and OMNIMAX Theater are among just a few of the many attractions at Portland’s Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, which offers programs and exhibits for kids of all ages. The paleo, weather and watershed exhibits are not to be missed, nor are the physics, chemistry and laser labs inside the Turbine Hall.
  2. Oregon Coast Aquarium (Newport, OR 97365) – Indoor and outdoor exhibits at the Oregon Coast Aquarium are home to more than 500 species, including the Oddwater exhibit, which showcases some of the more bizarre creatures that call the ocean home. The sea lions, seals and otters are perennial favorites, as is the seabird aviary.
  3. Laurelhurst Park (Portland, OR 97214) – For those moments on your vacation when your brood simply needs a bit of unstructured, outdoor play, Laurelhurst Park is one of the best choices in the city. In addition to the playground, soccer field and volleyball court, there’s also a disabled access play area and restroom on premises.
  4. Discovery Museum (Portland, OR 97221) – Boasting 20,000 square feet, the Discovery Museum is filled with plenty of interactive installations and hands-on activities designed to keep kids and adults engaged and entertained as they learn about sustainability and conservation of trees, both on a local and global scale.
  5. PLAY Boutique (Lake Oswego, OR 97034) – With more than 5,000 square feet of indoor play space, PLAY Boutique is an enriching and exciting opportunity for kids to engage in a variety of activities that encourage a sense of community and emphasize the importance of creative play. Parents can decompress in the parent lounge, or participate alongside their kids.
  6. Oregon Zoo (Portland, OR 97221) – Petting pygmy goats, feeding lorikeets and touring the insect zoo are only a small sampling of the activities available to your kids at the Oregon Zoo, but the real jewel is the African rainforest, which features a realistic thunderstorm every half hour. Don’t miss the elephant museum, or big cat and primate habitats.
  7. Tillamook Air Museum (Tallamook, OR 97141) – If there’s a flight-crazy kid in your family, you can’t skip the Tillamook Air Museum in nearby Tillamook, Oregon. Home to one of the nation’s best collections of War Birds, the exhibit all also features a collection of related aviation and wartime artifacts, and a jet simulator.
  8. Historic Belmont Firehouse (Portland, OR 97214) – There’s something about firefighters that excite even the most laid-back children, which is why the Historic Belmont Firehouse is sure to please. In addition to a collection of antique artifacts, fire alarms and an Amokeag Steam Pumper from 1879, the Belmont also offers programs on fire safety and education for youngsters.
  9. Museum of Contemporary Craft (Portland, OR 97209) – Budding visual artists and arts and crafts lovers will get a big kick out of touring the Museum of Contemporary Craft, which showcases the development of various crafts along the West Coast from the present back to the mid-twentieth century.
  10. Pittock Mansion (Portland, OR 97210) – While kids may not be overly enthusiastic about the idea of exploring the history of a family that contributed significantly to the city of Portland in the early twentieth century, they will be wowed by the eccentric architecture and lavish interiors of the Pittock Mansion. Picnicking in the outdoor gardens is also permitted, which offer stunning views of the city.

Known as a progressive, forward-thinking and eco-conscious city, Portland is a great choice for families that appreciate the outdoors and a culture of open-mindedness. While Portland is the largest city between San Francisco and Seattle, the vibe is much more relaxed and laid-back than other cities of comparable size. If you’re looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of living in a city with a more frenetic pace, Portland may fit the bill perfectly.

10 Things to Do With Kids in New York

The Big Apple is such a sprawling metropolis that there seems to be something to suit almost any individual whim or interest. Visiting New York with your children presents the opportunity for your entire family to make memories that you’ll treasure for a lifetime, which can make it an ideal vacation destination. Though the reasons to travel to New York City are as varied as the local culture, here are ten of the things that make New York a great place to vacation with your little ones.

  1. Books of Wonder (New York, New York 10011) – Specializing in children’s books, both new releases and rare, out of print specialty items, Books of Wonder is paradise for young book worms. Be prepared to spend the better part of an afternoon wandering the stacks and watching little ones’ eye light up, and keep an eye out for special events and appearances hosted by the store.
  2. Wollman Rink (New York, NY 10021) – If you’re visiting the Big Apple during the colder months, a trip to Wollman Rink is a must. The iconic image of ice skating in Central Park is one that both you and your children will carry for the rest of your lives, even if you’re less than skilled skaters.
  3. Chelsea Piers Toddler Adventure Center (New York, NY 10011) – For active play in cooler temperatures, the Chelsea Piers Toddler Adventure Center is an ideal stop when you have little ones in tow. Featuring kid-favorites like a ball pit, trampoline, miniature rock-climbing wall and an obstacle course, this spot is great for burning excess energy.
  4. The Swedish Cottage (New York, NY 10001) – The rich history of the Swedish Cottage, which was constructed in Sweden in 1875 and moved to Central Park two years later, includes housing the Civil Defense headquarters during World War II and an entomological laboratory. Since 1947, however, the Swedish Cottage has been the home of a renowned marionette theater, beloved by children for decades.
  5. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York, NY 10128) – Programs at the world-renowned Solomon R. Guggenheim museum include those directed at young children, tweens and teens. Events change periodically, so be sure to keep an eye on the schedule in the weeks leading up to your trip.
  6. Wild West Playground (New York, NY 10001) – The wooden play structures of this famed playground within Central Park are reminiscent of a Wild West-era frontier town, incorporating traditional structures alongside sprinklers and an amphitheater setting that allows you to keep a close eye on your kids as they explore their own corner of the Park.
  7. Alice’s Tea Cup (New York, NY 10023) – The little princesses in your family entourage are sure to be delighted by Alice’s Tea Cup, a tea room with healthy fare, boutique teas and an air of fantasy that lends itself perfectly to daydreaming and make-believe.
  8. Lower East Side Tenement Museum (New York, NY 10002) – A guided tour through this living history museum allows kids to understand a bit more about the immigrant culture of the United States throughout the years, including costumed actors and a walk through a garment workshop.
  9. American Girl Place (New York, NY 10017) – Nestled in the heart of Manhattan is a little girls’ wonderland, filled with the American Girls books, the dolls inspired by them and a host of related activities. From buying outfits to match those of their favorite doll and enjoying a meal in the dining area, there’s no shortage of delight to be found here. Be sure, however, that you make reservations, as seating in the dining room and theater tend to fill quickly.
  10. Brooklyn Botanic Garden (Brooklyn, NY 11225) – Fifty-two acres of rolling hills, ponds and thousands of plants create a natural oasis in the middle of one of the world’s most bustling cities. While kids may not be overly impressed with more than a thousand varieties of roses, they’re sure to be enchanted with the Japanese gardens and the C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum.

From the legendary shows of Broadway to the staggering sights of Times Square, there’s no shortage of awe-inspiring landmarks and attractions in New York City. While your surroundings in the Big Apple can be quite dazzling, it’s wise to keep in mind that seeing everything on your list may not be possible. Rather than packing your itinerary too tightly, try to choose the most important attractions and take all the time you need to enjoy them.