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.
First, we picked 15 US landmarks every child should see before they turn 15 and you didn't always agree with our picks. Then, we asked you to help us put together the definitive family vacation checklist. What made a monument worthy of inclusion? It needed to be fun, educational, and especially magical through the eyes of a child. It needed to inspire adults to tap back into that childlike sense of wonder. And it needed to have universal appeal. Of course, the surest way to rile folks up is to publish a list and this case was no different. Our nominations process was fierce and brought out the full range of emotions in our audience—passion, joy, sadness, anger. You spoke up to nominate 562 attractions and voted over 138,000 times. So how did we arrive at the final list? As we explained in the rules, we used your votes—combined with factors such as geographic and thematic diversity—to guide our selection-making process. And we automatically eliminated places that had made our story last year. The final list for 2012 represents the best that our nation has to offer our children. (Psssst... want to see the top five winners by votes alone? Visit our nominations page.)
U.S. Space & Rocket Center
Blasting away the competition in our reader poll, this Huntsville shrine to NASA displays an amazing collection of rockets and space memorabilia. At the Davidson Center for Space Exploration, the star attraction is a restored version of the famous Saturn V rocket, but be sure to also check out the F-1 rocket engine, a motor that periodically vibrates and roars as if it were being tested for space-worthiness. Next-door is the country's original Space Camp, where aspiring astronauts can feel the gravitational yank of lift-off via the simulator. One Tranquility Base, 800/637-7223, ussrc.com. Museum: Adults, $20; kids, $15. Space Camp: Family of four from $1,248 for a three-day program, including accommodations and meals.
Across its nine acres of floor space, the Field showcases giant robot wolf spiders, 23 Egyptian mummies, and the biggest Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever dug up, in one of the broadest arrays of natural wonders under one roof. The collection of dioramas hold a dizzying array of species, from African lions and giraffes to Arctic penguins and polar bears, and it's a favorite childhood fantasy to slip inside one of the magical timeless worlds. Kids 12 and under can dress up like animals, dig up dinosaur bones, and explore a pueblo home at the Crown Family PlayLab. Friday nights from mid-January to mid-June, the museum hosts sleepovers, where children 6 to 12 and their parents can sleep right next to the dinosaurs (the 2012 nights are sold out, so book early for 2013). Talk about a dream vacation. 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., 312/922-9410, fieldmuseum.org. Adults from $15; kids 3-11, from $10.
San Antonio, Texas
SeaWorld's Texas outpost garnered the most votes of all the theme parks in our poll. We assume that the combination of roller coasters and flume rides with beluga whales, sharks, stingrays, sea lions, and a host of other aquatic animals gave it an edge. There are many hands-on programs, putting visitors up close and personal with some of the park's inhabitants (including a behind-the-scenes tour with the penguins). In May 2012, the new water park Aquatica will open with a set of educational thrill rides; expect rafts sailing through grottos with stingrays and a "zero gravity" area that simulates weightlessness. Other new attractions include Sesame Street Bay of Play (opened in 2011), a three-acre space with educational activities for young children, and the animal encounter show "One Ocean" in which orcas and trainers illustrate educational lessons about the fragility of the environment. 10500 SeaWorld Dr., 800/700-7786, seaworldparks.com. Adults, from $59.99; Kids 3-9, from $49.99.
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