New York City (Photo: Marley White | Courtesy NYC & Company)
The United States–home of the free, and land of the brave–is also home to some of the best family-friendly cities the world over. From Niagara Falls to the shores of Hawaii, it’s sundry natural wonders are a lifetime must-see, and the different climates across the continent allow you to experience both the snow and sun on the same trip.
From the east to the west, here are the best U.S. cities to travel with kids.
New York City, New York
New York City has a beat of its own and Times Square in Manhattan is certainly the center of it. The Toys ‘R Us, with its massive 60-foot ferris wheel, is a major kid-friendly attraction. At the nearby M&M World you can sample every flavor of M&Ms. Same at the Hershey’s store. Visit Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, or one of the many other family-friendly museums on the square, then catch dinner and a live Broadway show towards evening.
Niagara Falls, New York
Niagara Falls, New York is full of fun kid-friendly attractions. The Aquarium of Niagara with over 2,000 species of fish and sea creatures, and the Niagara Falls State Park where you can go hiking, biking, camping or fishing through the lush nature, are just some. But the main attraction is no doubt the breathtaking beauty of the falls itself, the incredible natural phenomenon of more than six million feet of water cascading over rocky crests. Take a ferry out to get a close look at the falls but be prepared to get wet!
For the history buffs, walk the historic Freedom Trail and learn the history of the Revolution. Stop along the route for a quick bite at the Quincy Market, and sneak in a spot of souvenir shopping at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The iconic Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, is also one of the top kid-friendly attractions in Boston. Catch a home game or take a tour to get a close up look of the massive ball park.
Washington, D.C. (Courtesy Destination DC)
No photo album of family vacation photos is complete without a photo in front of the White House. Grab a ride on the carousel at the National Mall then take advantage of the many free kid-friendly museums in D.C. like the Museum of Natural History (great for the dinosaur lover!) and the National Museum of Air and Space, to name just a few.
Chicago (©City of Chicago)
Navy Piers, the kid-friendly amusement park on the shores of the beautiful Lake Michigan, is every child’s dream. Grab a ride on the 150 foot high ferris wheel for breathtaking views of the shore and city. The Bean sculpture in Millennium Park is sure to be another kids favorite, as will a night game at the nearby Wrigley Field.
Take the kids on a time-traveling adventure in Colonial Williamsburg, the world’s largest living history museum. Step back in time to the 18h Century and meet the tradespeople, townsfolk and political figures that lived in Britain’s largest and wealthiest outpost. Your kids will have the opportunity to dress up and get a hands on experience in the Revolutionary City. Six family-friendly hotels in the colonial town and just outside provide convenient accommodation options for families.
No list of cities to visit with the kids would be complete without The Theme Park Capital of the World! Home of the top kid-friendly attraction in the U.S.–Disney World and its four theme parks–Orlando sparkles with fun and fist-pumping adventure. Ride some of the highest roller coasters in the world, and let your kids meet their favorite Disney characters. You’ll need at least a week here to explore all the different parks.
San Diego, California
San Diego (Courtesy Visit San Diego)
For a family of animal lovers, a trip to the world-famous San Diego Zoo should definitely be on the itinerary. After the zoo, visit the Safari Park, an enormous wildlife reserve with exotic animals from Africa and Asia. If you’re craving some relaxation, head to one of the stunning beaches in the area. No trip to San Diego with the kids is complete without a stop at Belmont Park, the popular, beachside amusement park.
San Francisco, California
Fisherman’s Wharf is oozing with sights, sounds and delicious smells. Grab a bite of the city’s famous sourdough as you watch the boats moor in the harbor, then hop on one of the city’s iconic cable cars for a tour through the town. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy breathtaking views of the bay. No trip to San Francisco with the kids is complete without a visit to Alcatraz Island, just a short ferry ride from Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf.
Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles (Courtesy LA Tourism & Convention Board)
As one of the largest cities in the country, it’s no surprise that sunny LA comes with a myriad of things to see and do with the kids. But what does come as a surprise is that it offers an assortment of them. While more popular for its beautiful, sandy beaches like the ones in Venice and Malibu as well as its Hollywood spots, the City of Angeles also offers more awesome hiking trails than you can count, an observatory that has great views of the city at night, great museums for fun, learning opportunities like the LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits, many pockets of different cultures, plenty of cuisines from all over the world, and whole lot more.
Miriam Groner contributed this to MiniTime. Originally from Australia, Miriam now lives in New York City where she writes and blogs on a variety of topics.
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