Here are five more great kid-friendly cities, with suggestions of lots of fun activities. Again, thanks to our partners at parents.com for allowing us to share excerpts of this story. For a lot more great info on these places, visit Parents Magazine online.
The sky’s the limit when you choose one of these family-friendly and affordable urban hubs for your next trip.
The fastest way to create priceless vacation memories: Go somewhere with lots to do. Big cities boast the coolest museums for families, the bulk of the historical treasures, and massive parks. But navigating them can be a hassle. To find places that make it easy to bring the kids, we looked at the number, quality, and cost of family-friendly attractions; hotel prices; walkability; airport play areas; public-transportation options; crime rate; and more in each of the 100 largest American cities. Use our list of winners and special discounts to map out a last-minute family trip.
“Everyone is a kid in San Francisco,” says Robert Reid, former U.S. travel editor for Lonely Planet guidebooks. One of the coolest places for families: The Exploratorium. Its new digs on Pier 15 transformed it from a great science center into one that’s truly in a league of its own. Everything is meant to be tinkered with — from teddy bears for dissection to a fog machine to a high-end microscope ($25 for adults, $19 for kids ages 6 to 17, free for younger kids). On nearby Fisherman’s Wharf, check out the river otters on Pier 39, grab a sourdough roll at Boudin Bakery, or hop the ferry over to Angel Island for terrific views of the Golden Gate Bridge — or take a cable-car ride. When you’re ready to relax, jump on a subway or a bus to Glen Canyon Park, in the Diamond Heights section of the city. “Tall eucalyptus trees provide wonderful shade for a picnic,” says resident Naomi Laguana. “Pick up food at the market a few blocks away; my boys, who are 5 and 8, usually choose the pecan-crusted chicken fingers.”
“A priority is to see the Statue of Liberty because it’s such a memorable experience even for young kids,” says Ogintz. Liberty Island, home of the New York icon, reopens July 4 after being closed for nine months because of damage from Hurricane Sandy. Book a ferry ticket ($17 for 13 and up, $9 for kids ages 4 to 12, free for younger kids) and make a reservation if you want to climb the 393 steps to the crown (permitted for kids over 4 feet tall). Back in Manhattan, put the American Museum of Natural History and MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art (read the children’s book Seen Art? before you go) on your schedule ($19 for 13 and up, $10.50 for kids 2 to 12, free for younger kids for AMNH; $25 for adults, free for kids 16 and under at MoMA). Spend at least a half day in Central Park, where there’s a zoo, a carousel, and climbing structures to explore. Also consider tickets to a Broadway show. The Lion King, Matilda The Musical, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Newsies, Annie, and Wicked are all great picks for kids 6 and up; you may be able to snag last-minute discounted seats at the TKTS booth in Times Square. Young kids will be thrilled with a $5 Ferris-wheel ride at the largest Toys “R” Us in the country. Any time left? Squeeze in a trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden ($10 for 12 and up, free for younger kids); it’s a short subway ride.
Although San Antonio has a lovely zoo, children’s museum, and theme parks, remember the Alamo! Your kids will genuinely enjoy the exhibits and can burn off some steam roaming around the grassy areas. Besides, it’s free. Relish the local flavor by taking a boat ride or strolling the River Walk, which will be expanded from 3 to 15 miles by the end of the summer. If your child has special needs, head to Morgan‘s Wonderland, the country’s only fully accessible park where kids can hang out in the butterfly playground, music garden, sand circle, or carousel ($15 for 11 and up, $10 for kids ages 3 to 10, free for younger kids and anyone with special needs).
Who would have thought that the Indianapolis Children’s Museum is the largest in the world? Plan to spend the whole day there checking out its five levels with 15-plus exhibit areas (including ones on dinos and trains). And there’s something for grown-ups to look at too: A special Avatar exhibit is coming to the museum from June 22 to September 22, with props and costumes from the popular film ($18.50 for adults, $13.50 for kids ages 2 to 17, free for younger kids). For car lovers of any age, race to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, which has 75 cars on display ($5 for 16 and up, $3 for kids ages 6 to 15, free for younger kids). Often overlooked by tourists who focus on White River State Park downtown, Indianapolis also has an art and nature park called 100 Acres. “It’s free and you can take in some fantastic art while your children have fun climbing on the 20 fiberglass benches that make up the ‘Funky Bones’ sculpture or swinging from a giant-chopstick sculpture,” says local mom Lindsay Parker Williams.
Start with the historic attractions because you can’t see those anywhere besides Philly. Make your home base the National Constitution Center, which has hands-on exhibits and ever-changing kid programming ($14.50 for adults, $13 for kids 13 to 18, $8 for kids 4 to 12, free for younger kids). From there, walk two blocks to see the Liberty Bell; displays include an X-ray of the famous crack. Betsy Ross‘s House is also nearby, where kids will learn about the famous flagmaker’s life and meet a woman pretending to be Betsy herself ($5 for 12 and up, $4 for younger kids). If you have children age 7 and under, plan to visit the Please Touch Museum, a lovingly restored children’s museum that’s home to a railway exhibit ($16 for kids and adults, free for babies under 1). Have older kids? Then opt for The Franklin Institute, where a giant walk-through heart, a sports challenge, and a new spy exhibit will blow their minds ($16.50 for 12 and up, $12.50 for kids ages 3 to 11, free for younger kids). You’ll also enjoy the Philadelphia Zoo’s new KidZooU, a combo wildlife academy and petting zoo that’s filled with interactive features ($20 for 12 and up, $18 for kids ages 2 to 11, free for younger kids). End your visit with a trip to a local fave: Philadelphia‘s Magic Gardens dishes out funky folk-art fun for the whole family ($7 for 13 and up, $3 for kids ages 6 to 12, free for younger kids).