10 Must-See US Destinations for KidsCity Travel, Family & Kid Travel, Featured, United States — By Lost Girls on July 14, 2010 at 2:28 pm
by Amanda Pressner
LG Exective Editor
The editorial folks at Sherman’s Travel just released their list of The Top 10 Places Kids Should See, which we’ve passed along below. Our question is, shouldn’t this be a list of the top 10 spots kids should see in the United States? Or will the rising prices of passports for both adults and children mean that our kiddos have to stay within US borders ’til they can rebel and do study abroad in college?
Let us know which spots you think are can’t miss for kids–both in America and overseas–in the comments:
10 Must-See (US) Destinations for Kids
Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, New York City. No visit to New York City is complete without a trip sailing past Lady Liberty. Combining the trip with a stop at neighboring Ellis Island packs the iconic image with new meaning. A top attraction for kids is the carefully restored Main Building’s computerized Passenger Record, which lets visitors trace loved ones’ lineage as far back as 1892 (for free). Map out the family tree before circling back to Liberty Island for an up-close-and-personal look at the country’s most famous statue. Advance planning is needed. The National Park Service only lets 240 people climb to the top of Lady Liberty’s pedestal each day. Reservations go on sale a year in advance. Cruises leave from Battery Park daily from 8:30am–4:30pm; $12 adults, $5 ages 4–12, crown tickets additional $3. For more trip planning information, Visit the ShermansTravel New York City Travel Guide, then search for New York Travel Deals.
Fenway Park Baseball Game, Boston. Boston boasts a number of historic sites, but there’s none as kid-friendly as the oldest operating ballpark in the country: legendary Fenway Park. Fenway’s small size means there’s no bad seat in the house. Though the stadium has remained unchanged since its debut in 1918, the newest (and most popular) seating section is above the “Green Monster” – the giant wall in left field. That is, if you’re lucky enough to get tickets. If not, tours of the park are also available. Buy some peanuts and crackerjacks, and let the all-American sports revelry begin. Baseball season runs March–October.; game tickets start at $12. Stadium tours are held daily 9am–4pm; $12 adults, $10 ages 3–15.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska. For the best views of Alaska’s frozen wonders, take the kids to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, where glaciers cover more than a quarter of the 3.3-million-acre park. Sailing along the preserve’s coastline, you’ll enjoy close encounters with the icy behemoths, along with a variety of exotic sea creatures, including humpback whales, orcas, and sea lions. Eight-hour day cruises depart daily from Glacier Bay Lodge from May through September; tickets are $185 for adults or $92.50 for ages 3 through 12). Sadly, Glacier Bay is one attraction for kids that might not be the same for future generations. The glaciers here have steadily retreated over the past 200 years. Glacier Bay is open 24 hours a day year-round, winter services are limited. Visitor center is open daily late May–early Sept., 11am–9pm. Park entrance is free.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Spanning 277 miles and close to a mile deep in some parts, the Grand Canyon is one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and a place every kid should see, thanks to abundant wildlife and fascinating geological features. Visitors can enjoy hiking, whitewater rafting – even mule rides down into the New in 2010, you can also rent a bicycle from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and pedal through the park’s scenic roads and designated trails. The South Rim is open 24 hours a day year-round, the North Rim is open mid-May–mid-Oct. Visitor center hours are 8am–6pm. Entrance fee is $25 per car for a 7-day period.
Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral. This September and November mark the final shuttle launches as NASA’s U.S. space program winds down after more than 130 missions. So many want to be at NASA’s launch headquarters in Cape Canaveral (about 55 miles outside of Orlando) to catch the final liftoffs of shuttles Discovery and Endeavor, respectively. To ensure a viewing of one of these momentous last liftoffs, you’ll have to plan ahead and maintain a good degree of flexibility, as launchings are regularly rescheduled due to weather-related or technical glitches. Best views are from the Kennedy Space Center Causeway and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The Visitor Complex offers plenty of attractions for kids, including a shuttle launch simulator, astronaut encounters, behind-the-scenes tours (like to the actual Mercury Mission Control Room from the 1960s), and cool hands-on exhibits. Launch-viewing tickets from the Kennedy Space Center Causeway ($56 adults, $46 ages 3–11) and the Visitor Complex ($38 adults, $28 ages 3–11) are available three to six weeks before launch date; sign up for email alerts for on-sale dates. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is open daily 9am–7pm (except December 25 and certain launch days); admission is $38 adults, $28 ages 3–11.
San Diego Zoo, San Diego. The world-famous San Diego Zoo is home to some 4,000 rare and endangered animals, including six resident pandas and the largest colony of koalas outside of Australia. Large natural-looking enclosures and huge glass-viewing areas allow kids to get close-up views of the animals. Top attractions for kids include watching polar bears swim at the Polar Rim exhibit; meeting the zoo’s new panda cub, Yun Zi, at the Giant Panda Research Station; or experiencing an “eye-to-nostril encounter” with massive hippos through the underwater-viewing window in the Lost Forest. Special programs for tykes are scheduled throughout the year and include Kids’ Safari (schedule varies by season; ages 3 to 7; $15), an interactive program that teaches kids to explore wildlife using all their senses, and Zoo Sleepovers, where families can camp out and see what kind of animal shenanigans take place after hours (schedule varies by season; $119 to $149 per person depending on sleepover theme; includes tent, evening snack and breakfast, and take-home gift). Open daily year-round, hours vary by season. One-day zoo pass costs $37 adults, $27 ages 3–11; two-day pass to zoo and Wild Animal Park costs $70 adult, $50 ages 3–11.
The Smithsonian, Washington, D.C. From memorabilia celebrating everything from rock stars to astronauts, and the Smithsonian Institution is a must see in the nation’s capital. Open to the public and boasting a massive collection of scientific, historic, and cultural artifacts, The Smithsonian Institution includes 19 museums and zoos, including the massive National Air and Space Museum – with airplanes dangling from the ceiling, lunar basalt rocks up for inspection, and more. One of the museum’s most interactive exhibits, “How Things Fly,” offers paper airplane-making lessons and puts kids behind the controls of a stationary Cessna 150. Open daily except December 25, hours vary by location; free admission to all Smithsonian museums. Want a place to stay right in downtown? Check out these cheap accommodation options right in the heart of D.C.
Walt Disney World, Orlando. The four-park resort comprising Walt Disney World offers fantasy at Magic Kingdom, with icons Mickey, Minnie and Cinderella; the massive Epcot Center, measuring 300 acres – enough room to recreate 11 countries in its World Showcase section; Hollywood Studios, which brings Tinseltown to life with backstage shows and some of the parks’ scariest rides; and the 12-year-old Animal Kingdom – Disney’s newest addition celebrating Mother Nature’s own breed of magic, with 250 species of wild animals roaming the property and a full-fledged safari. Open daily, hours vary by park; tickets start at $79 adults, $68 ages 3–9.
Willis Tower, Chicago. Formerly the “Sears Tower” – re-christened in 2009 when London-based insurance broker Willis Group Holdings bought the building – is the Western hemisphere’s tallest skyscraper still offers the same vertigo-inducing views that made the attraction an instant tourist magnet after its opening in 1973. For kids, the bird’s-eye look at the country’s third-largest city is eye-opening. On the clearest days, visitors can spot four states (Illinois and its neighbors, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan) from the 1,353-foot Skydeck and zoom into local neighborhoods with the high-powered telescopes on hand. The observation deck is lined with knee-high exhibits and attractions for the littlest ones, including coloring sheets, a Chicago scavenger hunt to see who can spy the most city landmarks, and four retractable glass-bottom balconies that cantilever 4.3 feet off the building’s edge. Open daily, 9am–10pm, April–September, 10am–8pm, October–March; $15.95 adults, $11 for ages 10 and under.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Yellowstone National Park is perennially a must-see for kids. The country’s first national park, Yellowstone features 290 waterfalls, over 300 geysers, and the vast Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. A highlight of a visit here then and now is surely Old Faithful, the mind-blowing 130-foot geyser that erupts about every 75 minutes. The diversity of the park’s living creatures is equally as awe-inspiring, with 67 species of mammals and 322 species of birds, including iconic American animals like bison and bald eagles, as well as elk, wolves, and falcons. The park holds plenty of outdoor fun and attractions for kids of all ages, from hiking to camping to horseback riding. Open 24 hours a day year-round. Visitor center hours vary by season and location. Entrance fee of $25 per car for 7-day period includes admittance to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.