By Plane: 3 Family-Pleasing Vacation Destinations
Managing children in a confined space for an extended period of time is no easy task - especially when you're flying through the air, but nonstop flights are the fastest means of transportation for long-distance destinations. When traveling with young children, load up digital devices with new games for in-flight entertainment. Pack plenty of snacks and extra clothes for mishaps. Eliminating potential crankiness will help ensure a smoother, saner flight for all.
Photo credit: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau
One of the oldest cities in America, Boston is awash in historical significance and claims many firsts - the first lighthouse, subway, library, university and public school in America, for example. Join actors in period costumes to relive the Boston Tea party by dumping tea overboard one of the authentically restored tea ships at Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum. Lace up your sneakers and walk The Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile red path that leads to 16 American Revolution sites including the Paul Revere House, USS Constitution and Bunker Hill Monument. Follow costumed guides representing the 18th Century on a 90-minute tour or venture out on your own. Download The Freedom Trail® Official App for more guidance.
Boston Children's Museum features high-tech, hands-on art, culture and science experiences. Kids can ride a Bobcat in the Construction Zone or scale a three-story structure made of flowing, curved platforms at New Balance Climb.
Budding architects and engineers can design, build and test a prototype, and young biologists will enjoy The Hall of Human Life at the Museum of Science along the Charles River.
When your children have had their fill of history and museums, author Eileen Ogintz suggests in her book "The Kids' Guide to Boston" a visit to the Charles Bank Playground nearby the Museum of Science, or head to the public garden adjacent to Boston Common to ride the famous Swan Boats. They really look like swans!
Airport 411: Boston likes kids and it becomes clear the moment you arrive at Boston Logan International Airport. There is a special area with kids in mind. Kidport is an aviation themed play area featuring climbing structures and slides where kids can burn off energy while parents can relax. The airport is conveniently located with great access to mass transit. To get to your hotel, just jump on the subway, affectionately called "The T".
For more ideas, visit bostonusa.com.
Photo credit: Choose Chicago
The third largest city in the U.S., Chicago is known for its beautiful downtown, 26 miles of lakefront and friendly Midwestern vibe.
Experience the iconic Navy Pier, a landmark extending nearly 1 mile into Lake Michigan where visitors can ride on a 150-foot Ferris wheel and enjoy restaurants, shops and fireworks extravaganzas.
Adjacent to the Navy Pier, explore the Chicago Children's Museum. Build a skyscraper, tinker with real tools or climb on a rope-suspended schooner.
Enjoy incredible views of the city at Skydeck Chicago where you can step onto The Ledge, a glass balcony extending 4 feet outside the 103rd floor, if you dare.
Pack your swimsuits to play in the fountain and cool off at Millennium Park, a gathering spot in the heart of downtown Chicago. Have your photograph made in front of The Bean, an outdoor sculpture resembling an enormous metal bean. In the summer, kids can splash around in Crown Fountain, an interactive work of public art.
Take Chicago's First Lady Cruise to learn about 50 famous Chicago buildings. You can also choose from other cruise outings such as fireworks cruises, nighttime tours and dinner cruises.
Visit Museum Campus to explore The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. A must-see for dinosaur lovers, The Field Museum is home to Sue, the most complete T-Rex ever found. Favorite sea creatures, including sea turtles, sea otters, sea lions and dolphins are crowd pleasers at the Shedd Aquarium. If you plan to visit more than one museum and the Skydeck Chicago, check into buying a Chicago CityPASS to save some bucks.
Airport 411: Watch out for the 40-foot high replica of a Brachiosaurus dinosaur looming over Chicago O'Hare Airport in Terminal 1 and a replica of a World War II Wildcat Fighter Plane in Terminal 2. Take the little ones to Kids on the Fly play area to learn the inner workings of an airport through an interactive exhibit. And the "L" train is the easiest way to get into town from the airport - no need to rent a car and pay for parking.
For more ideas, visit choosechicago.com.
3. Austin, Texas
Photo credit: Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau
Known as the live music capital of the world, Austin boasts more than 100 live music venues, beautiful art and outdoors spaces. The Colorado River runs through downtown, but residents call it Lady Bird Lake.
Spend a day at Zilker Metropolitan Park, a 350-acre oasis beloved by locals and ideal for families. Take a ride on the Zilker Zephyr, an open-top miniature train for a 25-minute tour alongside Barton Creek and Lady Bird Lake. Austin Nature and Science Center, also located in the park, features exhibits of live animals that have been injured or orphaned. Kids can go on an archeological dig by uncovering castings of actual dinosaur bones that have been found in Texas.
Before you leave the park, cool off at Barton Springs Pool, a 3-acre natural limestone pool fed by underground springs. All activities are wallet-friendly since many are free and others cost just a few dollars per person.
Head over to iFly Austin Indoor Skydiving to experience skydiving without a plane. A wind tunnel and powerful fans create a true free fall effect during which participants are completely disconnected and don't even need a parachute. Participants from ages 3 to 103 have flown here.
Take another adrenaline-pumping adventure by flying across breathtaking canyons and Lake Travis on the longest and fastest zipline in Texas at Lake Travis Zipline Adventures. After your high-flying ride, relax on the half-mile beach. Lounge in a hammock, play a game of horseshoes or cool off in the lake. Loaded picnic baskets are recommended.
End your day in Austin with a spectacular view of 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats that live beneath the Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge and take flight in a mass exodus each night at dusk. It's free, but courage is required. A trip to Texas isn't complete without good eats. Get your fill of live music and brisket at Stubb's Bar-B-Que's Gospel Brunch each Sunday. Curra's Grill on South Congress Street serves up delicious molé and margaritas downtown, as well as Tex-Mex items for the kids. And if you're looking for an authentic souvenir, shop for cowboy boots at Cavender's.
Airport 411: When you land at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, you will immediately realize this city knows how to set the tone for your visit through live music. As you make your way through the airport, you can catch a performance from local musicians at several locations, and there are some great local restaurant options. It's a great way for kids to unwind after a flight or entertain them during delays.
For more ideas, visit austintexas.org.
Sara Kendall is a freelance writer who loves to travel with her husband and two daughters. She has discovered fun and learning happen together when exploring our beautiful country.