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Family Travel: 5 Places Near and Far to Take the Kids




Kids find their own version of castle exploration in Scotland.

Jo Eike

On the cusp of spring, thoughts of hitting the road often pop up along with the crocuses dotting the landscape. Here are 5 places to dream and scheme about visiting with the kids in the near -- or far -- future. 

 

LEGOLAND is the dream theme park for little kids

LEGOLAND California Resort

You really couldn’t pick a better theme park for young kids than LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, California. It’s smaller and easier to take in than Disneyland, and has a variety of rides that appeal to all ages. Top hits for our family were the roller coasters, a build-and-race LEGO play area, and a driving school for kids. The center of the park features world landmarks re-created in LEGOs, and it’s even cooler than you’d think. Buy a combo ticket and visit their on-site aquarium and water park, too. You can do all of LEGOLAND in a couple of days; add a day each for the San Diego Zoo and playing at the beach and you’ve got yourself a perfect spring-break getaway. california.legoland.com   — Barb Kittell 

 

Children's Museum of Phoenix

Spring Training in Phoenix 

Short flight times, warm weather and a companion airfare coupon made Phoenix an easy three-day jaunt for us. Spring training baseball games are like major league games without regular-season prices or crowds. Any one (or all) of 10 small-ish stadiums in the greater Phoenix area offer nostalgic, family-friendly baseball on a small-ball scale that everyone can enjoy; cactusleague.com. Castles ~n~ Coasters amusement park is a diminutive park with rides, mini-golf and an arcade. The park is small enough that kids will feel as though they’ve mastered it in a single afternoon. Food options are scant, but easy parking and short lines make up for this particular misery. Check online for admission deals before you go; castlesncoasters.com. Phoenix Children’s Museum is one of the best our family has encountered. Unfortunately, we allotted only a small window of time on the morning we flew home — we easily could have visited more than once on this short trip and not been bored. It’s pure kid-vacation gold; childrensmuseumofphoenix.org   — Dawn Zedonis 

 

Scotland explored with kids

A Summer Week in Scotland with Kids

Last summer my husband and I brought our three young children to Scotland for a week and had a truly incredible and unforgettable vacation. Now, if you’re looking for somewhere that will guarantee sunny, glorious weather, Scotland is definitely not it. When the sun’s shining, it’s one of the most beautiful places around, but the weather is notoriously unreliable — come prepared for the rain. What it does have, however, is stunning and inspiring scenery, amazing modern and ancient architecture, a rich culture and a fascinating history. Oh, and did I mention castles?  

If you pass through Edinburgh, be sure to visit iconic Edinburgh Castle, which sits proudly overlooking this beautiful city. Kids love learning the fascinating and grisly history of the castle, checking out the cannons, and seeing the Stone of Destiny, where kings of Scotland were enthroned for centuries. edinburghcastle.gov.uk  

In Glasgow, older kids will enjoy visiting the Burrell Collection in a sprawling woodland park in the middle of the city. This beautiful art collection includes works by major artists such as Cézanne and Degas, and you can introduce your little thinkers to Rodin’s original sculpture. There’s plenty of parkland outside the museum to explore, and younger kids will love getting to meet the Highland cows, roaming the grounds with their hipster hair and enormous horns. Bonus point: Admission is free. glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/burrell-collection

Further south on the Ayrshire coast, take a trip to the beautiful Culzean Castle, which offers a find-the-Lego-mini-figures hunt in many of its grandiose rooms to keep the kids engaged (a lifesaver for my 3-year-old). The grounds are extensive and picturesque, offering a beach full of rock pools and many forest trails to explore, so definitely pack a picnic. In 2015 they opened a giant castle-themed adventure playground, jam-packed with zip lines and crazy slides galore. Be sure to allow your kids enough time to play here; mine wanted to stay all day. nts.org.uk/Property/Culzean-Castle-and-Country-Park   Jo Eike 

 

The indoor pool at Alderbrook is fun no matter what the weather is outside. 

Alderbrook Resort and Spa

Sometimes a vacation needs to be little more than a change of scenery and a nice pool. Any time of year, Alderbrook Resort and Spa on Hood Canal delivers, with the added bonus of an elaborate video-game room, wooded trails, kayaks and views of the Olympic Mountains; alderbrookresort.com. The resort has comfortable rooms in the lodge as well as cabins with kitchens that ring a grassy field. The restaurant is spendy, but the kids’ meals are gigantic, so at least you’re getting your money’s worth. In the summer, there’s casual outside dining, often with a front-row seat to the resort’s steady stream of weddings.

For our family, the big draws are the canal-side pool and hot tub, housed inside a giant greenhouse sort of building. As your kids frolic and you paddle leisurely across the heated pools, take a peek outside to see whiskered seals swimming in the canal and peering back at you.

A short drive to the old-timey Union Country Store is rewarded with a couple of scoops of ultra-rich Olympic Mountain Ice Cream and other goods (5130 E State Route 106, Union). In the other direction is Twanoh State Park with easy trails and beaches; stateparks.com/twanoh.   Lisa Stiffler    

 

Victoria Children's Farm

Victoria, B.C.

Enjoy a car-free trip to Canada by taking the Clipper to Victoria, British Columbia, a picturesque, walkable city with plenty of kid-friendly attractions. A trip on a Clipper catamaran is a bit spendy and the boarding process is a way more of a pain than it should be, but the roughly three-hour trip is comfortable and you arrive in the heart of town; clippervacations.com.

One of our family’s favorite attractions is the impressive Royal BC Museum with its life-sized dioramas of turn-of-the-20th-century Canadian towns and homes and an exhibit on native populations that includes carvings and clothing, as well as displays of Northwest wildlife that make visitors feel as if they’re strolling among local old-growth forests; royalbcmuseum.bc.ca  

A less educational but largely charming destination is Miniature World, with more than 85 displays including war scenes, fairy tales, Camelot-themed vignettes and a giant carnival; miniatureworld.com. Especially if the weather is fair and your kids are little, take a walk up to the Beacon Hill Children’s Farm, where kids get to brush other kids of the goat variety; beaconhillchildrensfarm.ca. Our elementary-aged daughter loved the pomp and circumstance of high tea at the ivy-covered Fairmont Empress, but it’ll cost you; fairmont.com/empress-victoriaLisa Stiffler 

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