Start spreading the news, you’re leaving today – and it isn’t for the concrete jungle where dreams are made!
Look beyond famous family-friendly centres like New York and Los Angeles and pursue the unsung heroes of the United States.
Just as big, just as brilliant, these sightseeing heavyweights capture the essence of America and are easy to manage with children. Here, we introduce you to our seven favourite kid-friendly cities that aren’t New York, LA, or Chicago.
San Diego, California
It is all about savouring the sun in San Diego, the eighth biggest city in the US and definitely one of its most relaxed. You just have to remember the four B’s – Balboa, bears, Belmont and beaches. Balboa Park contains gardens, museums, and San Diego Zoo, whose star performers are its panda bears, polar bears and koalas. A zoo ticket covers your trip on an aerial tram and guided bus tour. Go wild on the attractions of Belmont amusement park, then cycle or follow the boardwalk past Pacific Beach. There are, in fact, more than 60 beaches in the area, including La Jolla Cove where you can hunt for critters in the rock pools.
San Francisco, California
San Fran packs a punch with its recognisable monuments. First cab off the rank is the Golden Gate Bridge, which can be traversed by bike. Stop by Golden Gate Park while you’re at it, before moving to Fisherman’s Wharf. Have an art attack at the Museum of Modern Art before strolling the Mission streets to spot the murals. Brave the spooks of Alcatraz, the notorious prison island accessible by guided tours.
The ever-present drizzle won’t dampen your spirits in this riverside hub in the north east. Portland’s bridges, cycling routes, excellent public transport and numerous parks earn the Oregon city its fame in the family-friendly books. So, we must admit, does the volume of coffee houses and breweries where the grown-ups can enjoy their respite after a long day exploring Portland Japanese Garden, Portland Art museum and Portland Children’s Museum. Flock to Oregon Zoo to meet the flamboyant flamingos, and then revel in the street performers and yummy treats of the Saturday waterfront markets.
The political powerhouse of the United States, stately Washington DC is where all the action takes place. Shine a spotlight on the monuments, memorials and museums to get a taste of national history. Snap photos outside the White House, Washington Monument and on Capitol Hill, walk the Lincoln Memorial steps where Martin Luther King Jr. spoke his famous words and sit a hair’s breadth from where Lincoln was assassinated in Ford’s Theatre. Family-friendly museums like the National Museum of Air and Space and the fossil-laden Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History have free entry.
History is everything in Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg will throw you back in time to revolution-era 18th century. Clop along on a carriage ride, shake hands with the 18th century tradespeople and brush shoulders with the founders of modern America. If you can’t get enough of the past, Historic Jamestowne is a hop, skip and jump from Williamsburg.
Orlando is a larger-than-life theme park giant tailor-made for thrill-seekers, animal lovers and Disney die-hards. Walt Disney World kicks off the high-octane fun with its Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, home of the Cinderella Castle icon. Read our ultimate family guide to Disney in Orlando. Next on the list is Universal Orlando Resort and its three parks – the Islands of Adventure which is best for the thrill rides, the relatively new Volcano Bay water park, and the film-buff favourite Universal Studios, complete with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Although it has seen some controversy over its dolphin, sea lion and killer whale shows, SeaWorld is also a huge popular family magnet in Orlando.
Boston is a dark horse that well and truly earns its place on the map, with a surprising amount to offer curious families. The Freedom Trail charts the history of America’s revolution. The well signposted, self-directed track connects 16 important sites such as the first public school in the country and the oldest church. After chowing down on some chowder, lobster or oysters, tick off a peek into Boston Public Library, Harvard University and Fenway Park, the home of the Red Sox baseball team.
Hungry for more? We know we’ve barely scraped the surface.
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