Here are 10 places I’ve either taken the kids, or plan to take them. Some of them, like London – are obviously kid-friendly places to go. But others, like Muscat, Oman (where they love children) and Rio de Janeiro (where there is fantastic music and wonderful food everywhere) aren’t such obvious choices.
1. Paris, France
Upside: Cafes, museums, carousels everywhere. Standing alone in a room at L’Orangerie surrounded by Monet’s Water Lilies. Downside: Don’t take the boat tour on a bateaux mouche – the Seine has high walls so children can’t easily see anything, and it’s crowded. Walk or take the Metro instead of the boat tour.
2. London, England
Upside: Hamley’s toy store, a boat trip to tour the macabre Tower of London, hop-on/hop-off double-decker bus tours, riding on the Tube, street entertainers, Covent Garden at night, taking a pedi-cab to see a kid-friendly show at the theater. Downside: Aside from jet lag, there isn’t any!
Upside: A city built on water, which is apparently sinking so take your kids to see it now while it’s still there. Riding gondolas, eating great food. Violins playing everywhere, sitting in St. Mark’s square at a cafe listening to violinists. Downside: Try not to go in summer, when it’s crowded with tourists.
4. Dublin, Ireland
Upside: Friendly people speak English and love the attention they get from Americans, good food and music in pubs everywhere – kids can go in most places. It’s an easy city to get around in on foot or by bus. Go see the petrified rat in the basement of St. Patrick’s cathedral. Downside: I would’ve said cigarette smoke but they’ve banned smoking now in pubs and restaurants so this is a big improvement. The weather can be rainy, grey, and wet depending on when you go.
5. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Upside: Beautiful music and delicious food everywhere, gorgeous beaches, shopping galore, you can take little trips to Buzios and boat trips to go island hopping, people are very friendly and open. Downside: Be prepared to buy and wear a Brazilian bikini which is basically the equivalent of using dental floss to cover your behind – otherwise you will stand out like a sore thumb, I’m sorry to tell you. Huge difference between the “haves” and the “have-nots” who live in shocking conditions in hillside favellas or slums. It can be dangerous at night.
Upside: In my opinion, the most beautiful country in the world, very outdoorsy, lots to do in nature including exploring the hot, natural mud pools at Rotorua, trekking on horseback, white water rafting, bunjee jumping (or just watching), skiing. Experiencing Maori culture and seeing the Haka performed by real Maoris. Rugby games. Downside: 24 hour plane ride from US so you’d want to go for at least 3 weeks.
Upside: Luxury train trip through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Downside: South Africa is dangerous so you would need to take precautions and travel wisely.
Upside: If you don’t know how to scuba dive, or don’t want to – you can snorkel and still see the most amazing fish! Downside: Pay attention to the crocodile warning signs. It’s a long-assed flight to Australia from the US. Although I loved seeing the Great Barrier Reef I have never in my life met so many overtly racist people as I did in Cairns – just a head’s up. I’m not saying that all people who live in Cairns are racist, but I was shocked and in fact had to ask a taxi driver to pull over and stop, and got out in protest after telling him he was a racist and I did not want to ride in his cab!
9. Muscat, Oman
Upside: I was shocked at how much the Omani people adore children and babies. Men, boys, women, young and old would all rush up to me to ogle the baby – once a taxi driver even pulled over to coo at the baby while I was walking on the sidewalk! The food is delightful, and the architecture a feast for the eyes. Downside: Don’t go in the summer when temperatures can climb to 110/120 degrees. It’s a Muslim country so you need to dress modestly, and don’t forget to take your shoes off when entering someone’s house.
10. Petra, Jordan
Upside: I haven’t been to Petra yet but I want to go and see the 2,000 city dug into the side of a cliff. It is near the Dead Sea and I would love to experience the sensation of floating in the Dead Sea. Downside: As an American I am still somewhat wary of traveling in Muslim countries so I don’t think I’d have the courage to spend the night in a Bedouin camp in the desert.
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