Parents know: The joy of a well-planned family vacation is worth all the airport meltdowns and cries of “Are we there yet?” The key is choosing a destination that appeals to all ages. Gone are the days of doing only “kid things” or “adult stuff.” The following cities cross party lines and make everyone happy. Read on for the best family vacation ideas, complete with recommendations for kid friendly hotels.
It’s the city of culture, from the vast Museum Campus (dotted by Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and The Field Museum) to more obscure spots like the Museum of Broadcast Communications (featuring cool exhibits on subjects like rock ‘n’ roll on TV). Beyond the museum scene, the whole family can get inspired at immersive experiences like Wndr Museum, home to Chicago’s first-ever Infinity Mirror Room by Japanese artist Yoyoi Kusama; or the corridors of the Pilsen neighborhood, where vibrant street murals inspire your next family photo.
Stay at: Kimpton Hotel Monaco is located in the heart of downtown and a short walk from Millennium Park, where in summer you can splash in Plensa Fountain and in winter you can ice skate in the shadow of the Cloud Gate sculpture.
Of course that elevator ride to the top of the Space Needle will make any kid giddy. But back on land, there’s even more to explore. Start at Volunteer Park: home to a conservatory, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, a playground, and one of the city’s largest wading pools. After that, take a cruise through the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame at The Museum of Pop Culture. Save time for old-school fun: Both kids and kids at heart will love the Seattle Pinball Museum, where you can play over 50 games while sipping a vintage soda.
Stay at: Kimpton Palladian Hotel in music-centric Belltown is a renovated 1910 spot where you can see the sun set over Puget Sound with Mount Rainier in the backdrop.
Wander through the Malayan woods and African rainforest at the Toronto Zoo, Canada’s largest zoo and home to 5,000 creatures. More animal encounters are waiting at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, where a moving-floor tunnel under the shark tank elicits gasps and grins. Into fantasy? Kids will love getting lost in the real-life castle Casa Loma, an 18th-century Gothic revival built by the man who established the first hydro-generating plant at Niagara Falls. Finally, take the short ferry ride from Queen’s Quay Terminal in downtown Toronto to interconnected Islands and Centreville, where you can hit a theme park or simply take a nature walk.
Stay at: Kimpton Saint George lends out PUBLIC cruiser bikes so you can cruise into Yorkville, a trendy neighborhood just east; or Annex, a hotbed of indie culture just west.
It’s a city where world cultures swirl, starting in Chinatown. Enter through the Dragon’s Gate and walk under red lanterns to discover restaurants, shops, herbalists, bakeries, and more — all spread across 24 city blocks. Between Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf lies North Beach, the city’s answer to Little Italy. From morning foccacia at Liguria Bakery to evening tiramisu at The Italian Homemade, you can eat your way through the neighborhood. Also hit Japantown, which has several block-long malls filled with crazy unique shops, restaurants, and ice cream stands, including the not-to-be missed Uji Time Dessert, with its IG-worthy fish-shaped cones. Meet at the five-story Peace Pagoda, where cultural festivals are often held.
Stay at: Kimpton Buchanan is a modern boutique hotel found just steps from the J-Pop storefronts and ramen shops of Japantown.
Skip the siesta and spend all day exploring this city known for a sparkling waterfront and some of the coolest historic architecture in the world. Start at the foot of Palacio Nacional for the Magic Fountain show, a blast of 3,620 water jets and 4,760 lights that dance to a music score. Then hit Barcelona’s most family-friendly beach, Platja del Bogatell. Dig your toes in the sand and romp around the children’s playground — all just minutes from city center. Cap off any trip with a ride on the Port Cable Car, an urban ski-lift up Barcelona’s tallest hill, Montjuic. Along the way you’ll see the sea, the legendary Las Ramblas, the Arc de Triomf, Sagrada Familia, and more.
Stay at: Kimpton Vividora is a new Gothic Quarter hotel where comforts run deep and you’re likely to hear the sound of Catalan jazz floating in from the streets.