By Jeff Bogle and Karen Cicero | Updated on February 10, 2020
"Want to wow your big kid? From cities and swanky resorts to nature trails and national parks, these are the top family vacation destinations to hit while your children are still young.
Once your child stops needing a nap and a stroller, a world of new vacation possibilities awaits. But you have only so many school breaks before your kid flees the nest. Here, travel experts share their top iconic places you've just got to visit as a family while your children are still young, plus planning tips to ensure your kid has the best time ever.
#1 Paris Book the earliest ticket you can (usually 9 or 9:30 a.m.) to ascend to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Show up 90 minutes ahead of time to take pics at the base when it's relatively uncrowded. (Grab breakfast at a nearby café before returning close to your assigned time.) When you're done, walk along the Seine River to the Musée d'Orsay, an art museum in a former railway station. Kids who love ballet will delight in the paintings of Degas, while Dr. Who fans might recall the Van Gogh gallery that was featured in an episode. It may be a little mobbed, but it's still worth going to the Musée du Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and so much more. "If you have time, spending a day at the Palace of Versailles, a quick train ride from Paris, is wonderful," says Catherine McCord, author of Smoothie Project, who took her 8-year-old daughter to Paris. "Walk through the mazes before you go inside."
Feel like a local: Book a walking tour with a local guide to explore off-the-beaten-path areas. Look at GetYourGuide.com for options that focus on neighborhoods (like the Latin Quarter) and themes (such as vintage shopping, chocolate tastings, or secret passages).
#2 New York City
Reserve a ticket to visit the Statue of Liberty's crown—climb 377 steps to the top via a winding staircase—because same-date spots are rarely available. In Times Square, Broadway shows beckon—Wicked, The Lion King, and Aladdin are good picks for kids who haven't reached double digits (ask for the free "My First Broadway Show" sticker sheet at the theaters), while Dear Evan Hansen, Mean Girls, Beetlejuice, and Hadestown will enthrall high-schoolers. And head over to Central Park to sail remote-controlled boats and climb on the Alice in Wonderland statue, suggests Beth Beckman, founder of LittleKidBigCity.com.
Feel like a local: Venture outside of Manhattan! Beckman, who has a 7-year-old, suggests Brooklyn's Prospect Park for its catch-and-release fishing clinics and paddleboats.
Take a goofy selfie squeezed into a red telephone booth with your kid, while explaining that once upon a time people actually stood inside those things to make calls. "My kids were also amused by the black taxis and how the seating arrangements inside were so different from everywhere else," says Sajay Garcia, a travel blogger who posts YouTube travel videos at Growing Up Garcia. "The Changing of the Guard and the historic carriages near Buckingham Palace also kept my kids entertained."
Feel like a local: Sit alongside Londoners at the open-air theater in The Regent's Park. "Buy food from a neighborhood grocer and have a picnic at the park before the show," suggests Emily Goldfischer, an American mom of two living in London. "And if you're going to The British Museum, check out the adventure playground at nearby Coram's Fields," she says.
#4 St. Louis
Ride to the top of the Gateway Arch, then check out the renovated visitors' center. It houses America's largest terrazzo floor map, showing North America's historic rivers and trails, so you can trace pioneers' journeys to the West. (Sneak in that learning!) Burn off steam on the walking and biking trails along the banks of the Mississippi River. Nearby, the new St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station features 80-plus sharks and stingrays in an exhibit that extends overhead.
Feel like a local: Head to City Museum, a playspace with more than two dozen slides constructed from repurposed materials. Even tweens who think they've outgrown playgrounds will have a blast. "My 9-year-old loved zipping down a ten-story spiral slide into a cave," says Brandon Billinger, who blogs at TheRookieDad.com.
#5 Turtle Bay Resort, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
Great for kids who: Love dogs
As if it weren't already rad enough to learn how to stand-up paddleboard in Kawela Bay, where The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was filmed, Turtle Bay Resort gives kids a trained surf dog to keep them company on the board during their lesson. Afterward, they can make a TikTok with a centuries-old banyan tree in the background. Can you imagine the likes?"