There’s never a dull moment in this family-friendly city. A few days in Dubai will keep children of all ages enthralled, from the touchdown views of the Burj Khalifa to theme parks galore to shopping expeditions. If you’re worried about the heat, there are beaches, the world’s largest indoor theme park in IMG Worlds of Adventure, and the Wild Wadi, Dubai’s near-legendary water park, one of several water parks offering the chance to keep cool. While Dubai is an international, outward-looking city, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding offers insights for young and old into the heritage, food, and culture of the region and is a great place to get an understanding of Emirati heritage and everyday life.
Come to Jordan for history, adventure, and authentic culture. Here your children can be wowed by the ancient world, learn about timeless desert cultures, and splash in the Mediterranean Sea to their hearts content. Start in Amman for its Roman theater and excellent Jordan Museum, as well as a fun deep-dive into souqs and shopping on offer here. Then hit the road around the country: Petra is the stand-out sight, and emerging from the Siq, the narrow canyon that leads visitors to the Treasury, is an unforgettable moment. After exploring this wonder of the world there are more incredible moments to come: desert camping and camel trekking in Wadi Rum and seaside fun in Aqaba.
This is a fabulous place to come with teenagers, who’ll love the urban cool of the city. The city’s museums, especially the Exploratorium and the California Academy of the Sciences, are engaging and hands-on. Hire bikes for the ride across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and take the ferry back from Sausalito. If everyone’s feeling very active, mountain biking in Marin County is a self-propelled thrill ride. Book ahead for a visit to Alcatraz, the former prison island that’s now a fascinating destination for stories of escape bids and famous felons to fire young imaginations. Use Uber and Lyft taxi apps when getting round as hills and little legs don’t (always) go together.
The Dutch capital is one of the world’s best places to explore by bike. After all, it will feels like everyone else is getting around on two wheels, so you should too. Families move around on a variety of two-wheeled wonders and there are plenty of ways to get moving with small children on board. Attractions include pancake cafés, pedalo rides along Amsterdam’s famous canals, the NEMO Science Museum that is simply brilliant for kids, and the Vondelpark for summer picnics. Come early in the morning or late to dodge the queues at the Rijksmuseum and get up close and personal with Rembrandt’s Night Watch. Make the painting accessible for little ones by telling them its story and inviting them to use their imagination to describe some of the characters in it.
Switzerland is superb in summer or winter, and Zurich is a fabulous gateway to its Alpine playgrounds. Before you rush off though, see the best of the city. When it’s warm there are river and lakeside lidos to swim in, and a car-free Aldstadt (Old Town) to explore. Older children will love the bike and skate parks in the city center and the FIFA World Football Museum is a must-see for soccer-mad kids. From here hop on a train to Interlaken for mountain sports year-round and the once-in-a-lifetime journey on the Jungfraujoch to the highest railway station in Europe and breathtaking Alpine panoramas.
Orlando is arguably the world’s ultimate family travel destination. The theme parks around this part of Florida will need no introduction to your little ones and much of your visit will be spent at Disney World parks -the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom- as well as other big hitters including Universal Studios with its Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Then there’s Legoland, the big rockets of Kennedy Space Center, and water parks aplenty. This, however, is no quick fix of thrills. Everyone will need some time to relax by the pool and a break from the queues, no matter how incredible the rides are at the end of them.
Manchester is famous for its football. For fans, United, City, and the National Football Museum will be the big drawcards. Even if you can’t take in a match, stadium tours will let your kids follow in the footsteps of their heroes. But this is only one side of this underrated English city. The brilliant Science and Industry Museum tells the story of Manchester’s industrial achievements and their contribution to the world. Kids find LS Lowry’s cartoonish figures fascinating, and this Mancunian artist’s work is celebrated at the arts center that bears his name. And a frequent tram ride from the center is the East Lancashire Railway in Bury, where young train buffs will thrill to the sights, sounds, and smell of steam trains.