By Anaita Vazifdar-Davar
Want a fun family-friendly destination this season? Here are some unusual options that will keep both parents and kids happy!
Our daughter’s first trip abroad was to Paris and it proved that the most romantic city in the world can also be the most fun for kids.
Our first stop was the Eiffel Tower. Although there’s a thrill in being at the top, we stopped at the second level, approximately mid-way up the tower, for a clear view. Pop in a coin or two and let the little ones use the telescope to identify familiar landmarks.
To avoid a long wait, we had booked in advance and our ticket also offered us a boat ride down the Seine, the river that runs through Paris. Did you know you can spot a replica of the Statue of Liberty as you cruise down the river? Even more exciting – every summer, the beach comes to the riverbank! You’ll find parasols and deck chairs, sand and beach towels, music and more in the middle of the city.
Museums and art galleries in Paris always have something of interest to young visitors and the parks too have so much to offer. At Parc de la Villette, our daughter spent an afternoon exploring science and technology in the Cité des Enfants; if we had had time, we would have loved to hop into a hot-air balloon at Parc André Citroën and taken in a marionette show at the Jardin du Luxembourg.
And the next time we go, we’ll pluck up the courage to join Pari Roller, a weekly mass skating event that goes through several areas of the city. By then, my kids will be older, so I bet we won’t be allowed to leave without a day (or three!) at Disneyland Paris.
In most cities, we’ve found that the best way to get acquainted with the sights is via a hop-on hop-off bus tour. In Dublin, you can take this a step further and ride a floating bus! Viking Splash Tours has a fleet of amphibious vehicles and a “Viking” guide to point out the major attractions (while the kids don a Viking helmet). For an altogether different travelling experience, step aboard a vintage double-decker bus for an afternoon tea tour of the city.
Also on the water is Jeanie Johnston, a replica of the ship that crossed the Atlantic so many years ago, carrying those who hoped for a better life in the “New World”. Take the kids on board to understand the great famine and how it shaped the history of Ireland. And, if they’d like to learn more, the architecturally splendid General Post Office’s GPO Witness History interactive exhibit details the Easter Uprising of 1916.
If you want a leisurely day in the city, head to Phoenix Park, one of the biggest in Europe. Apart from housing the residence of the President of Ireland, it is also home to Dublin Zoo, one of the oldest in the world. Older kids may enjoy a Segway tour of the park; younger ones can rent a bike and follow a cycle trail.
This is a city steeped in history and folklore – the Book of Kells (at Trinity College Dublin) is truly impressive…if your little ones can appreciate what creating this ninth century manuscript entailed. Even if they don’t have the patience to take a tour of the 13th century St. Patrick’s Cathedral (where Gulliver’s Travels author Jonathan Swift is buried), perhaps they will enjoy evensong here.
The Little Museum of Dublin contains memorabilia (and an entire section devoted to Irish rock band U2!) but the kids may be more keen on visiting the National Leprechaun Museum. The mischievous little bearded man (with or without his pot of gold) is found on souvenirs all around the country, as is the shamrock, the symbol of Ireland.
Can the Mecca of high fashion be of interest to kids? Sì, signora! We found Italy’s financial capital to be a warm and welcoming city, with people going out of their way for children – there’s always a smile for the young ones and, along with your cappuccino, baristas will bring a lollipop or a sweet treat for the bambini.
Which kid can resist a castle? In the heart of modern Milan, you’ll find a 14th-century fortress. With medieval moat, high walls and circular towers, Castello Sforzesco also houses the Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery), the Museum of Musical Instruments and more.
If your little ones think Leonardo is just a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, let Milan stun them with the real creative genius, Leonardo da Vinci. View The Last Supper, da Vinci’s iconic mural in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, and then discover his myriad inventions at Leonardo3 – The World of Leonardo da Vinci. Here, with the help of digital tech, kids can assemble his creations and see how they work.
Travelling with a footie fan? You must make a pit stop at the San Siro Stadium, home to AC Milan and Inter Milan.
When the kids run low on energy, hop aboard a vintage tram that trundles along the city streets or take a boat ride down the Navigli canals. Stop (anywhere, everywhere!) for gelato; we had a taste of this Italian dessert at the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, considered the world’s oldest shopping mall.
Admire its domed roof and then stand in line at the mosaic bull for your chance to spin around thrice; it’s said to bring good luck! You already have a lot of that, don’t you, for you’re here in Milan, one of the most marvellous metropolises in the world.
Anaita is Senior Editor at Spenta Multimedia Pvt. Ltd.