Taking the kids to the US for a family holiday is sure to be met with squeals of excitement, but it’s a big country. Where do you begin to plan any kind of itinerary. Well summer in America has arrived and it’s undoubtedly the land of superlative theme parks. After all, this is the home of Walt Disney who famously created the ‘happiest place on earth’. Some of the many museums dedicated to contemporary and historical culture also house some of the best interactive exhibits for kids too, and many offer free entry, so don’t focus only on amusement parks.
We picked some of the best kid-friendly experiences to help you create some wonderful family memories that will give your kids bragging rights for a long time to come.
We realise the eye-rolling you’ll be met with from your children at the mere mention of visiting a museum, but be fearless! Here’s some of the best and we guarantee they’ll be impressed!
1. The Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum in Washington DC is filled with the largest collection of historic space and aircraft in the world. There’s loads of things that the kids will love such as observatories, a planetarium, Imax shows, guided tours, live science experiments and flight simulators. The museum allows you to customize your tour to suit the bits that your kids are most interested in.
Entry Fee: Some shows and attractions require a ticket while others are free. Info on ticketing here.
2. Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Washington ”“ A great experience for kids and a fun getaway for grown ups too. Some of the scenes from the movie ‘Night at the Museum’ were filmed here and the enormous reconstructions of prehistoric dinosaur skeletons will have you looking over your shoulder to make sure one didn’t smile at you. Great collection of natural gems and minerals, ancient artefacts, an insect zoo (yay bugs!) and a living coral reef make for a fascinating day all round.
Entry Fee: Free
For more: www.mnh.si.edu
3. Metropolitan Museum of Art: The MET represents a vast variety of cultures, themes and subjects that will immediately attract the kid’s attention. Many of the displays incorporate dimensional audio-visual sound effects for a far more engaging experience. The museum provides sing-along inter-activities and simple guide maps for children that allow them to discover the museum on their own.
Entry: Adult $65, Children under 12 years – free
For more: www.metmuseum.org
4. National Children’s Museum, Washington – The layout of the National Children’s Museum takes a child’s psychology and unique perspective on the world around them into consideration. Along with the exhibits, children are encouraged to participate by experimenting, observing and analysing using the hands on activities.
Entry: Adults and kids – $10
For more: www.ccm.org
5. Prospect Park Audubon Centre, New York – In the heart of Brooklyn mother nature takes a stand and city kids are able to interact with exhibits that teach them all about plants and animals. Housed in the historic Boathouse, the park also has an animal encounter programme, outdoor learning activities and Lefferts Historic House great for families who can participate in old time crafts such as candle making, butter churning and farming activities.
For more: www.prospectpark.org/education/kids
6. Ontario Science Centre, Ontario – A super cool and thoroughly enjoyable experience, the Science Centre features some fascinating interactive science and technology experiments, showing you how science plays a role in our everyday lives, often without us even realising it. Great exhibitions such as the recent Game On 2.0, 60 years of video games, an IMAX Dome theatre, even sleepovers so you can explore the museum at night, conduct workshops and finish off with DJ/PJ party.
Entry: Fee is seasonal and dependent on exhibitions and acitivities
For more: www.ontariosciencecentre.ca
And of course a day (or more!) of magic does us all good and the array of theme parks in the US dedicated to putting your stomachs in your throat, and your eyes shoved firmly to the back of your head are at the top of every kids wishlist.
7. Six flags: Across a multitude of locations, Six Flags is a household name among theme parks in the States. With three in California, two in Georgia, Chicago, Washington, Springfield, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Texas and also in Montreal and Mexico City, there’s sure to be one nearby on your US visit. It’s best to do your research online before arriving and take advantage of some of the discounts available, you can even buy a Flash Pass in advance to so you spend less time waiting in line for rides, and more time enjoying yourself.
Entry: Regular Pass $65
For more: www.sixflags.com
8. Universal Studios, Los Angeles: You don’t need to be a kid to visit Universal Studios. Getting inside the magic of movie-making is what it’s all about along with some of Los Angeles’ best shops, restaurants and cinemas at CityWalk. Universal Studios Hollywood is a great day for the whole family.
Entry: General one day pass $80
For more: http://www.universalstudios.com/
9. Orlando Theme Parks: I guess you could call it the theme park ‘state’, but Orlando has a huge concentration of a variety of theme parks and you could easily spend a few weeks here taking them all in. DisneyWorld, Universal Studios, Sea World, Magic Kingdom, Legoland even the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; Orlando has it all. Make sure you plan your visit well in advance and check the online sites to secure any special offers and discounts, it’s easy to spend money very quickly here!
Entry: Dependent on attraction
10. San Diego Zoo: Spread over 100 acres, the iconic Zoo is home to over 3,700 rare and endangered animals and an amazing botanical collection with more than 700,000 exotic plants. Loads of live shows, petting zones and fun activities help make the experience personal and informative.
Entry: 1 day pass is $44 (Adults), $34 (Kids)
For more: http://www.sandiegozoo.org/