5 Kid-Friendly Activities in Las Vegas
Las Vegas may be famous for a certain two-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, but that doesn't mean the fun stops once you leave the Strip—beyond the busy casinos, the city is home to a beautiful performing arts center, unique museums, and beautiful parks. It's also a great jumping-off point for further adventures in the American Southwest, so why not bring the kids along? Venture off the Strip with these five things to do in Las Vegas with kids.
Clark County Museum
Clark County Museum: This regional museum just might be the best way to spend $2 in the greater Las Vegas area. With exhibits covering the history of Southern Nevada from pre-historic times to the present, this is a great place to discover the region's past. After you've explored the museum, step outdoors and take a stroll down "Heritage Street," to view several well-preserved historic homes. Each is decorated with historically accurate items from the era, giving visitors a vivid look at what life was like before smartphones and big-screen televisions.
Smith Center for the Performing Arts
Smith Center for the Performing Arts: This beautiful facility joined the Las Vegas downtown scene in 2012. Featuring a wide array of performances from Broadway musicals to comedians, the Art Deco-inspired Smith Center is a beautiful place to catch a show. Upcoming programs include Disney Princess, Carroll Burnett, Neil Degrasse Tyson and Miranda Sings Live . The center's Broadway series also includes musicals like The Band's Visit and My Fair Lady. Arrive early to explore Symphony Park, part of the Smith Center campus, which features several large-scale sculptures.
Discovery Children's Museum
Discovery Children's Museum: Located on the Smith Center campus, the Discovery Children's Museum offers families three stories of interactive fun. Learn about water and physics in the Water World area. Then, climb net ladders, cruise down slides, and enjoy interactive displays in The Summit, the museum's three-story climbing structure. Imaginative kids will want to play in the museum's pirate ship or put on an impromptu performance on the theater stage in the Fantasy Festival exhibit.
Red Rock Canyon and other area parks
Red Rock Canyon and other area parks: A great place to experience the Mojave Desert, Red Rock Canyon offers visitors ample opportunities for hiking, picnicking, and horseback riding. Visit the LEED gold-certified visitor center and then take the 13-mile scenic drive to see park highlights and gain access to trailheads and picnic areas. Active families can go horseback riding on one of the designated equestrian trails. Down the road from the park's main entrance, travelers will find Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, which features hiking trails, picnic sites, and a historic ranch house. The nearby master-planned community of Summerlin also offers a variety of parks and walking trails, providing yet another way for the kids to expend some energy. Further afield, families seeking a day-trip from Las Vegas can find outdoor activities at Valley of Fire State Park near Overton, NV, and Death Valley National Park, located just over the border in California.
Neon Museum: Older kids and their parents will enjoy a visit to this outdoor museum, which features examples of famous signs that once decorated the streets of Las Vegas. During a one-hour guided tour, museum-goers will take a stroll through the Neon Boneyard where you can see remnants of the Las Vegas of yesteryear. Reservations are recommended, and tickets can be purchased online. If your family isn't in the mood for a guided tour, refurbished signs have been reinstated as public art along Las Vegas Blvd. north of Fremont St. and can be viewed free of charge in this "urban gallery."
Although families visiting Las Vegas will want to explore the Strip, they should be sure to add a few off-Strip activities to their itineraries. From nature to the arts, Las Vegas has a lot to offer travelers seeking off-beat adventures.
Great Family Vacations: Peru
Article by James Bridgeford II, an avid photographer and travel writer, originally from Kansas City, who has spent the last five years living in South America. He loves finding places off the beaten path and living among the locals. James wrote this article for Peru for Less, experts on developing custom family tours to Peru and elsewhere in South America. If you are planning your next family vacation and want to visit an exciting destination with rich culture and an assortment of family oriented activities, Peru is the perfect place, a safe country with a wide variety of experiences for travelers of any age. The best times to travel:Peru is a year-round destination, however it is important to note that there are two primary seasons in the Andes Mountains: dry season (from May to November) and wet season (from December to April). If you are planning a family adventure that involves hiking to Machu Picchu, you should avoid hiking late December through mid-March. The best places to visit: Lima, The Magic Water Circuit (Parque de La Reserva) Open Wednesdays thru Sundays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., the Parque de La Reserva is an exciting spectacle that features gushing fountains perfectly choreographed with dynamic lighting displays and music. Stop by after sunset when you can really experience the park at its best. It will take you about an hour and a half to explore the park in its entirety and admission is only 4 soles (about $1.50). Paracas & Islas BallestasThe tranquil village of Paracas is about a three-hour drive down the coast from Lima. From the bay of Paracas, you have the option to embark on a half-day adventure of Islas Ballestas, home to an assortment of marine life and bird species, including everything from sea lion colonies to endangered penguins. The Islas Ballestas has been nicknamed the "Galapagos of Peru" due to the abundance of wildlife. Ica and Nazca plus HuacachinaA three-hour drive from Paracas will take you to the city of Ica. It is from here that you can catch the hour and a half flight over the Nazca lines. The flight departing from Ica is longer than the one that departs directly from Nazca. Flying from Ica allows travelers more airtime and less road time, by avoiding the additional six-hour road trip from Ica to the city of Nazca. For a young adventurer, flying in a small plane over the Peruvian desert and seeing iconic images such as The Spider, The Monkey, and The Astronaut, which are only visible from the sky and have been etched in the land for more than 2,000 years, will definitely be a memorable life experience. I recommend flying in the morning as visibility tends to be clearer then. For an afternoon activity, visit the nearby oasis of Huacachina, located 15 minutes outside of Ica. Here, you can take a dune buggy ride into the desert and also go sand boarding down some of the most impressive sand dunes in South America. Be sure to do the dune buggy adventure just before sunset, as watching the sun set from the top of the dunes is an absolutely amazing experience. Amazon - Puerto MaldonadoIf you want to introduce your child to one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, a trip to the Amazon Rainforest is a must. In the Amazon, you'll encounter an abundant variety of unique wildlife ranging from colorful birds like Parrots and Macaws to exotic animals like the pink Amazon River Dolphin. The pristine nature of the Peruvian Amazon in the Puerto Maldonado region offers visitors a glimpse into an extravagant world of extreme diversity in nature. How to travel:Whether you want to play it safe or be adventurous and get off the beaten path, it is in your family's best interest to book with a reputable tour operator. This will allow you to maximize your travel experience using expert advice to make sure you get to the right places at the right time, and most of all, minimize the risk of any complications. Hotels recommended for families:When traveling with more than one young child, finding a hotel with reasonable rates can sometimes be a challenge. One hotel that has a really good room policy is Novotel Hotel in Lima and Cusco. Some other good family oriented hotels include the Hilton Doubletree in Paracas, Las Dunas Hotel in Ica and Rainforest Expeditions in the Tambopata Reserve (Amazon), where they specialize in activities for children.
It's never too early to start planning your next cruise, and Disney Cruise Line has sweetened the 2014 pot by rolling out expanded European cruises and adding two new knockout homeports—Venice, Italy, and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Some highlights of the family-friendly cruise line's 2014 offerings include: New Mediterranean cruises. Ah, Venice! It often tops favorite-city lists, and will serve as the homeport for the Disney Magic when it returns to the Mediterranean from May through August next year. That means that before embarking you can take a gondola ride on one of the city's canals, see iconic St. Mark's Square, and check out one of the world's best collections of modern art at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. While Disney cruises have always featured encounters with fairy tale characters for little ones, its new Mediterranean cruises will now offer Percy Jackson-crazed tweens the chance to step into the land of Greek mythology with stops in the Greek Isles, Crete, and Sicily. (And, of course, the gods of sun, sights, and shopping will smile down on you, too.) San Juan and the Caribbean. The Disney Magic will also be exploring the southern Caribbean from its new homeport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. With more U.S. carriers than ever, including JetBlue, making San Juan a destination, it's a convenient embarkation port—not to mention an intoxicating place to explore hundreds of years of Caribbean history, winding old-world streets, and shopping deals. Seven-night cruises in September and October will visit Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts, and a new port-of-call for Disney: Grenada, known for its snorkeling, waterfall-laced mountains, and Creole cuisine. Alaska. The Disney Wonder will depart from Vancouver to explore such Alaska ports as Sitka, Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan, featuring Disney's Port Adventures programs created in partnership with local tour operators who are experts on Alaska's natural history and environment. Seven-day cruises will run from June through early September. For more information on these and other Disney cruises for 2014 (including sails to the Bahamas and western Caribbean), visit disneycruise.disney.go.com.
5 Great Ski Resorts For Families
We've already shared where to go this season whether you're a ski-lover or still a little hesitant to hit the slopes. But what about a good old fashioned family ski adventure? We've got five family-friendly resorts around the U.S. and one in eastern Canada where there are plenty of snow activities to keep everyone busy. Okemo Mountain Resort, Ludlow, VermontOkemo hosts a wide range of family-friendly fun, offering everything from snowcat rides and snowtubing areas to zipline tours and a roller coaster built right into the snow. Try your hand at snowshoeing at the Okemo Valley Nordic Center, take a dip at the indoor pool, do some laps around the Ice House skating rink, and warm up afterward with s'mores at the Coleman Brook Tavern. The Okemo Ski & Ride School offers seven fun programs for children ready to start out on the mountain, giving parents the chance to hit the slopes knowing their kids are in good hands for the day. Penguin Playground Day Care is available for kids as young as six months old to age four, while several skiing lessons and private workshops are based on age group—two advanced ski and snowboard classes are geared toward seven to 14-year-olds, giving them some more freedom on the mountain without being completely unsupervised. Kids' Night Out also takes place every Saturday night for children ages six months thru 12, giving parents the night off after a long day on the mountain. How to get there: Driving directions from all angles are available on the resort's website. Visitors coming from New York City can hop on Amtrak's Ethan Allen Express with service to Rutland. Both Albany and Manchester airports are about a two-hour drive from the Okemo Mountain Resort—another option is flying Cape Air (partners with JetBlue) from Boston's Logan International to Rutland Regional Airport. Wachusett Mountain, Princeton, MassachusettsAbout an hour outside Boston, Wachusett Mountain sits at 2,006 feet, taunting ski and snowboard enthusiasts to leave Bean Town behind for the day and hit the slopes. But what about the kids? A variety of children's programs are available including Polar Kids, a beginner-friendly full or half-day experience for children ages 4-12 with trained ski and snowboard instructors to show them the ropes. (90-minute classes take place twice daily for from $45 on weekdays or for from $60 on weekends; equipment rental is an extra $20). How to get there: The Wachusett Ski Train connects the Princeton ski resort with Boston's North Station on weekends with trains leaving at 8:35 a.m. and arriving at the Fitchburg commuter rail station by 10 a.m. (Ski Train tickets cost $10 per person each way). From the station, complimentary shuttles are available to take you to and from Wachusett Mountain, returning skiers to the station in time for the 5:35 p.m. train back to Boston. Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, CanadaIf you've got a valid passport and the urge to explore ski options outside the U.S. without traveling too far from home, consider visiting Mont-Tremblant, a vibrant ski town located 90 minutes outside of Montreal. Not only is it relatively accessible for skiers in the northeast (thanks to a new 90-minute direct flight from Newark on Porter Airlines), it's known for being an incredibly family-friendly ski resort. Choose from snow tubing, ice skating, snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, dogsledding, snowmobiling, paintball, ice fishing, or take the family along for a sleighride. The resort offers Kidz Club Daycare for children ages one to six ($99 for a full day), where kids can do arts and crafts and play games on and off the snow. Children ages three and four can participate in Mother Nature Camp, a cross between ski school and day care that allows parents to take on the mountain between 9:45 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. daily (prices vary). How to get there: Direct flights are available from Newark and Toronto, with connections to Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C. and several other U.S. cities through Porter Airlines—shuttle service is available from Mont-Tremblant International Airport to area hotels for $35 per person round-trip. Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, CaliforniaFamilies will love the SnoVentures Activity Zone, where kids ages 6-12 can ride mini-snowmobiles around a smooth outdoor course ($25 for every 15 minutes), go snowtubing down the hill ($20 per hour, ages three and up), or try out snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, dog-sledding, and horse-drawn carriage rides in the snow (prices vary). Off-mountain family activities include miniature golf, a 30-foot tall indoor climbing wall, and a skyjump bungee trampoline, while an aerial tram ride to High Camp el 8200 takes you to ice skating facilities and a large swimming pool and hot tub area with views of the Sierra Mountains and Lake Tahoe (re-opening in Spring 2013). Children ages 3-13 can also take group or private ski lessons (prices vary). How to get there: 72 non-stop flights are available daily from 15 U.S. cities through Reno Tahoe International Airport. Make it a familly road trip: the resort is located 42 miles from Reno, 96 miles outside of Sacramento, and 196 miles from San Francisco. The entrance is six miles north of Tahoe City and Lake Tahoe's North Shore on Highway 89. Beaver Creek Resort, Avon, ColoradoFamilies will find activities for every night of the week—everything from storytime and skiing with forest service rangers to complimentary family snowshoe tours and disco-themed ice skating nights—as well as kiddie menus, magicians, and family entertainment at the resort's restaurants. Snowtubing, ice skating, and guided tours of the mountain are also available. Half-day and full-day child care is available for $108-$135 and accommodates children ages two months to six-years-old. Sip hot cocoa for free each morning at 9:30 at the top of the Centennial Express Chairlift #6 and save room for complimentary cookie time at 3 p.m., a daily event that makes the entire resort smell like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. How to get there: American Airlines, Delta, and United Airlines all fly into Eagle County Airport (30 minutes from the resort) while other airlines service Denver International Airport about 100 miles away. By car, Beaver Creek is 120 miles west of Denver and 20 miles east of Eagle on I-70. Colorado Mountain Express shuttle buses are also available from either airport to a number of area ski resorts, as well as a Ski Lift Rideshare Program geared at helping skiers and snowboarders meet up and carpool to their mountain destinations. Tell us: Where is your favorite place to ski with the whole family?
12 Best Kid-Friendly Destinations
It's a great big world out there, and packing up your little ones for a jaunt—whether it's to a nearby city, neighboring state, or across "the pond"—can be daunting. But when it comes to traveling with kids, all destinations are not created equal. We've covered our share of hot travel spots in the U.S. and Europe and we've found that those cities and landmarks that are best for family travel have a few things in common: Accessibility, a nice mix of indoor and outdoor activities, and a certain ineffable "wow" factor that you'll know when you see it on your children's faces. Here, a dozen of our favorite family-friendly destinations. SEE WHERE TO BRING THE KIDS THIS SUMMER! 1. COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA Everyone in this living-history site likes to play dress-up, and visitors are no exception. At the Great Hopes Plantation—a re-creation of the town's original 1700s farm—a stash of old-timey accessories await, from tricorne (three-pointed) hats for boys and shifts and mop caps (bonnets) for girls. The costumes come in handy in the field, where kids can perform 18th-century household chores, such as picking bugs off potato crops, fetching water from the well, or hoeing the soil, that are likely to make clearing the dinner dishes seem like a breeze by comparison. Great Hopes Plantation can be accessed through regular admission tickets. Upcoming events for 2013 include a celebration of Presidents' Day, an exhibit dedicated to historic keyboard instruments (such as colonial-era harpsichords), and Painters and Paintings of the South, opening in March. (history.org, adults from $22.95, children from $11.50, under six free). 2. WASHINGTON, D.C. Everybody knows the National Mall is the place to be in D.C., right? But how about riding the streets of Washington, D.C., including the Mall, in a boat on wheels? Set in a WWII-era amphibious vehicle, the 90-minute D.C. duck tour covers both land and sea. The first leg hits the history-packed National Mall—look for the 19-foot-tall Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol building, and the Smithsonian museums—and then switches to a scenic river trip. Highlight: The boat pauses at Gravelly Point, a park located just a few hundred feet from the runway at D.C.'s Reagan National Airport, so you can watch roaring planes take off and land (trustedtours.com, adults $31.50, kids 11 and under $16.20). Don't miss hour-long tours of the U.S. Capitol, offered Monday through Saturday, and it's best to reserve a spot on one of these popular tours in advance (visitor center entrance at First Street and East Capitol Street, N.W., visitthecapitol.gov, admission free). And at the National Museum of American History, you'll find countless artifacts from the nation's history, including the exhibits The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden and Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863, and the March on Washington, 1963 (1400 Constitution Ave., N.W., americanhistory.si.edu, admission free). 3. LONDON Thanks to literature and film (think Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan, and a certain young wizard), American kids already associate London with mystery and discovery. And the city doesn't dissapoint. Archaeologist (and mother of six) Fiona Haughey leads two-hour trawls along the muddy banks of the River Thames. (Once so polluted that city residents avoided going near the river, the Thames is now alive with healthy fish—and tour boats!) Previous searchers have taken home Elizabethan pipes, Tudor tiles, and even horse teeth (walks.com, beachcombing walk $12, all ages). For young history buffs, the Tower of London is an unforgettable experience, where you can ogle the 23,578 gems known as the Crown Jewels, take a Yeoman Warder tour that includes hair-raising stories from the tower's history, spot the six ravens who make the Tower their home and, according to legend, whose presence assures the continuity of the kingdom, and of course let your curious—and bravest—kids explore the interactive prisoners exhibit about the people who lived and died in this most iconic of prisons (hrp.org.uk, adults $33, children $17). 4. BOSTON Even die-hard Yankees fans have to admit that visiting Fenway Park, Major League Baseball's oldest stadium, is an exercise in Americanism: Babe Ruth pitched there! Ted Williams hit a 502-foot home run! Fenway turns 100 next year, but its features are still intact. Check them out for yourself on a guided 50-minute tour, where hands-on exploration is encouraged: You can touch the Green Monster (the park's 37-foot-tall left-field wall), peek into the dugout, poke around inside the press box, and even walk across the baseball diamond, depending on how friendly the grounds crew is feeling that day (mlb.mlb.com, Fenway Park tours, adults $12, kids 3-15 $10, seniors $11). Boston is also, of course, the epicenter of America's Colonial history. Who needs a social studies book when the Freedom Trail lets you learn about Colonial history as you walk in its footprints? For example, from June through November, you can learn from an 18th-century ship captain while parading around Boston's waterfront on the 90-minute Pirates and Patriots tour, led by an actor in 1770s naval garb, focuses on maritime history and introduces the scrappy, ship-raiding characters that inhabited the city's North End during the Revolutionary era. Stops include the aptly named Long Wharf, once the longest in the world and the center of Boston's colonial shipping industry, and Griffin's Wharf, site of the 1773 Boston Tea Party. (thefreedomtrail.org, Pirates and Patrios Tour runs from June through November, adults $12, kids 6-12 $7). 5. BERLIN While the German capital may not spring to mind as a must-see for families with children, this sprawling metropolis has become one of the best places on the continent to have—and be—a kid. Beyond its vibrant art and food scene (you may find no better breakfast in all of Europe), Berlin offers two things that will not only entertain the young ones, but may bring out the kid in you, too. About half a million Berliners take to their bikes each day, so you'll be in good company on one of Berlin on Bike's rentals. Choose from city, touring, and trekking bikes, all of which come with rear baskets. Even the kids can get a set of wheels, with three sizes of smaller cycles as well as child seats and trailers (reserve in advance) and helmets for all. A free route planner on bbbike.de helps you map paths through the city based on your desired speed, road surface, and the availability of designated bike lanes, of which Berlin has some 400 miles (berlinonbike.de, $13 for 24 hours). And, of course, Berlin has a "zoo story" as well. Built on the site of the 18th-century pheasantry that once supplied fowl to the King of Prussia's royal kitchen, the 168-year-old Zoological Garden was Germany's first zoo and, with 17,727 animals, has one of the most diverse populations in the world. Savvy visitors will want to sync their trips with the feeding times of their favorite animals (pandas at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., penguins at 1:45 p.m.), or splurge on a private, 20-minute visit with a single species, complete with zookeeper Q&A. And be sure to keep an eye out for the zoo's newest arrival, Kathi, a baby hippopotamus born in October (zoo-berlin.de, from $29.50 for a family ticket, private tours an additional $107) 6. PHILADELPHIA In addition to the excellent ranger-led tours of Independence Hall (where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were adopted), a less serious but equally entertaining adventure awaits visitors. Acquaint yourself with the spirits of America's founding fathers on Philadelphia's Ghost Tour, a 90-minute, candle-lit stroll that winds past landmarks like Independence Hall; the Powel House, which hosted George and Martha Washington's 20th wedding anniversary celebration; and the 238-year-old City Tavern, John Adams's former watering hole. A cape-wearing, lantern-carrying guide points out "haunted" graveyards (St. Peter's Cemetery) and reports sightings of Benjamin Franklin, who's said to roam the city's streets. The best part: All the ghost stories are based on documented accounts, which makes them all the more spooky (ghosttour.com, adults $17, kids 4 and up $8). Once your kids' appetite for real-life thrills is whetted, head over to the world-class science museum, the Franklin Institute, for hands-on activities that teach science in a fun way, including teachng anatomy with a stroll through an oversize human heart (fi.edu, adults $16.50, children $12.50). The Please Touch Museum continues the hands-on theme, with kids learning music at the Rainforest Rhythm exhibit and exploring child-size environments (pleasetouchmuseum.org, $16). 7. SAN FRANCISCO Shiv collections and cramped jail cells don't exactly sound kid-friendly, but they offer a glimpse into Alcatraz, America's most notorious island prison—and the National Park Service is all for bringing younger ones for a visit. Hop a ferry from San Francisco's Pier 33 and stroll the damp, gray halls of the maximum-security pen, which housed criminals like Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly from 1934 to 1963. (You can even get behind bars in one of the cells, if you dare.) Don't miss the audio tour, which was updated in 2007 when former inmates and guards recorded their memories of doing time at "the Rock." If you're feeling brave, take the night tour, which lets you roam the prison after dark. Browse our favorite budget hotels in San Francisco. Alcatraz Cruises is the official carrier for tours to Alcatraz Island (alcatrazcruises.com, adults 12-61 $26; kids 5-11 $16, 4 and under free). In SF's gorgeous Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Science is more like a combo zoo, museum, and classroom, including a planetarium, aquarium, 40,000 live animals, a rainforest exhibit, and natural history exhibits such as dinosaurs and other fossils (calacademy.org, adults $29.95, kids 12-17 $24.95, kids 4-11 $19.95). 8. NEW YORK CITY Between 1892 and 1924, more than 17 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island; today, their descendants account for 40 percent of Americans. Go on a hunt for your ancestors at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, where for $5 you can search through millions of records to find the exact date your relatives sailed into the Port of New York, as well as which ship they were on and whether they traveled with other family members. (Bonus: copies of the documents are yours to keep.) And don't miss the construction of the Peopling of America Center, which cost $20 million to build and is slated to open in 2012. The new space focuses on U.S. immigration from 1955 (when Ellis Island closed) to the present, and houses interactive multimedia exhibits, like a touch screen that reflects demographic changes in American cities over time (ellisisland.org, adults $17, children $9, children under 5 free). The American Museum of Natural History is a magnet for kids of all ages, with its iconic "dinosaurs in the attic"—featuring some of the world's best reconstructed dinosaur skeletons—and colossal blue whale model suspended from the ceiling of its hall of marine life (amnh.org, $19). 9. SAN DIEGO With more than 4,000 rare and endangered animals representing 800-plus species and subspecies, the San Diego Zoo is one of the most diverse in America. But its coolest attraction—literally—is the Polar Bear Plunge, which has reopened after a $1 million makeover. Aside from permanent polar residents Kalluk, Chinook, and Tatqiq, new features include a snow den you can burrow into (the snug space mimics where female bears birth their cubs); a helicopter used on actual Arctic explorations that invites climbers into the cockpit; and the Experience Wall, where zookeepers open the glass panels surrounding the bears' habitat, letting them sniff at visitors through wire mesh (sandiegozoo.org, ages 12 and up $40, ages 3-11 $30). SeaWorld San Diego continues the wild theme of this Southern California city, allowing kids to have a Dolphin Interaction, Shark Encounter, splash along one of its many thrill rides, and of course take in one of the park's legendary sea mammal shows (seaworldparks.com, adults $78, children $70). 10. BARCELONA Families visiting Barcelona for the first time often report that the city has a fairytale, made-for-children quality about it. That, no doubt, is thanks to the imaginative artists who have helped make the extraordinary place that it is. La Sagrada Família, architect Antoni Gaudí's famous basilica, is as stunning as people say, but it's one of Barcelona's most popular attractions, so you'll want to arrive when it opens, at 9 a.m. (sagradafamilia.org, $11). Then wander the alleys and hidden squares in the Barri Gòtic, or Gothic quarter. Xocolateria La Xicra, on the Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol, makes a decadent chocolate con churros (hot chocolate with doughnut-like sticks for dipping). Next, head to Museu Picasso, in the La Ribera neighborhood, to learn how the master's famous Blue Period came about during his stay in Barcelona in the early 1900s (museupicasso.bcn.cat/en, $8). 11. NIAGARA FALLS Sure, your grandparents honeymooned there, but the majestic waterfalls straddling the U.S.-Canada border are worth a 21st-century trip. Ever wonder what it's like to be a rubber ducky in a massive bathtub? Sign up for the Cave of the Winds tour, which begins after you change into a complimentary yellow poncho and sandals (trust us, you'll need 'em). After riding an elevator 175 feet down into the Niagara Gorge, you'll stand on the Hurricane Deck, where you'll be drenched by the tropical-storm-like spray from the 181-foot Bridal Veil Falls, where the water falls at a rate of up to 68 mph (niagarafallsstatepark.com, Cave of the Winds operates May 1-Oct. 25, adults $11, kids 6-12 $8, 5 and under free). 12. ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA Swashbucklers, hoist your sails and head for the artifact-packed St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. This is the only place in the world to display an authentic pirate's treasure chest (property of Captain Thomas Tew roughly 400 years ago), plus a 19th-century Jolly Roger flag and an original "Wanted" poster with a 500-pound sterling reward for the capture of pirate Henry Every, dated 1696 (thepiratemuseum.com, adults $12, children under 5 free). St. Augustine's historic district, founded in 1565, is a mecca for history buffs and window-shoppers alike, built around a central plaza that is the oldest public park in the U.S., the district includes St. George Street, a pedestrian walkway with museums, restaurants, and shops. Cannon-firing demonstrations take place Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at the Castillo de San Marcos fort (nps.gov/casa, adults $6, children under 16 free).