FAMILY TRAVEL

15 More Places Every Kid Should See Before 15

First, we chose 15 places we thought every kid should see before 15. Then, we asked you to help come up with the list and your response was overwhelming. Did your favorite make the cut? Read on to find out.

An engineering wonder about 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, this dam supplies 20 million residents of California, Nevada, and Arizona with water and provides hydroelectricity to 1.3 million customers. No written description truly captures the visceral effect of peering out over the parapet at the top of the dam and looking down at the Colorado River, racing along 700 feet below. More than 1,200 feet wide at the top, this all-concrete wonder was the largest dam in the world when it was completed in 1936 (it was one of many public works projects intended to help lift the country out of the Great Depression). A bypass bridge opened in 2010 and provides fabulous photo opportunities for pedestrians. Experts lead walking tours that will thrill future engineers. One tip: Avoid visiting in the summer when temperatures can hit 110 degrees. 866/730-9097, usbr.gov.Tour Adults, $11, Kids 4-16, $9.

 

Acadia National Park

Maine

At just 49,300 acres, this wilderness where the tall Cadillac Mountains meet the Bay of Fundy is one of the country's smallest national parks. To put it into perspective, you could fit Acadia into Yellowstone National Park 45 times! But it is not lacking in appeal. Mountain trails lead to pristine views of rock-rimmed islands plus beaver, red fox, and long-tailed weasel sightings that will be perfect fodder for "What I Did Over My Summer Vacation" essays. Breathe in the salt air and glance up at Acadia's skies, typically graced with rare birds, such as peregrine falcons and bald eagles. The coast here tends to attract seals and finback whales, as well as many varieties of seabirds, such as the double-crested cormorant. Ranger-naturalists also lead free hikes through the park, starting from the Hulls Cove Visitors Center. 207/288-3338, nps.gov/acad. Park entrance fee starts at $10 per vehicle; bike or foot entrance is $5.

 

Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco, California

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of those quintessential American icons, equal parts eye candy and engineering lesson (it's also one of our record-breaking bridges). The suspension bridge connects San Francisco and Marin County in a mechanical feat that was unprecedented in the 1930s; at its opening ceremony, the bridge's chief engineer, Joseph Strauss, said "What Nature rent asunder long ago man has joined today." Take a walk along the pedestrian path for astonishing views of Angel Island, Alcatraz, Treasure Island, and San Francisco. If the 220-foot height of the bridge is unsettling for the little ones, opt instead to view the landmark from a distance (there are relatively tourist-free viewpoints at Lincoln Park). It might be hard to find an empty spot, though. The famed bridge is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2012-there will be fireworks and a festival on Memorial Day weekend-and is expected to draw more than ten million visitors throughout the year. 415/921-5858, goldengatebridge.org. Free.

Museum of Science

Boston, Massachusetts

More than one and a half million visitors annually come to this museum on the Charles River to try their hand at scientific research, from learning the physics behind seesaws and swings to recreating Galileo's famous experiments (do a feather and a weight really fall at the same rate?). While other museums can take years to develop exhibits, Boston's museum has a flexible space, called the Current Science and Technological Center, where staff create live presentations to relay discoveries, some of which have just been announced. The museum's planetarium is a stellar attraction, too, with a full-dome video and audio system that bring the cosmos closer to earth. 1 Science Park, 617/723-2500, mos.org. Adults, $22; kids (3-11) $19.

 

Carlsbad Caverns

New Mexico

At sunset, spectators gather at an amphitheater in this national park in southeastern New Mexico to wait for bats to fly. Predictably, a swirling dark cloud of the flying mammals funnels out the cavern and swoops above, where it splinters apart into groups heading to the nearby Pecos and Black River valleys. This rare natural show makes Carlsbad Caverns stand out from other national parks, especially to impress kids. Cave expeditions are also a draw, with rangers leading tours lasting from between an hour and a half and five and half hours. Some of the caves are huge, such as the well-named Big Room, which could fit 6.3 football fields. Adventurous kids will enjoy crawling through passageways or making rope-assisted descents through curtains of stalagmites, mentally soaking up all the educational lessons about geology explained by the rangers along the way. 575/785-2232, nps.gov/cave. Book ahead for guided tours. Entry fee: Adults, $6; kids under 15, free.

SEE THE PLACES!

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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