We’ve traveled to 49 countries on 7 continents with our kids. As part of that travel we’ve stayed in dozens of hotels, eaten at hundreds of restaurants and participated in countless activities. Every once in a while something is so great that we not only want to go back and do it again, we also want to tell others about it. These are our favorite places to travel and our favorite things to do around the world with kids, all based on personal experience.
This is not an average list of things to do with kids. We seek out natural, cultural and foodie destinations and activities more than theme park-type experiences.
As we evaluate more hotels and destinations for kid-friendliness this list will evolve and get more sophisticated. In the meantime, we hope to inspire and provide you with ideas for travel this year or next.
- Safari Outfitter: Sunworld Safaris in Kenya and its sister company 4×4 Adventures in Tanzania are excellent. They crafted a 15-day safari for us to five parks throughout Kenya and Tanzania that was flexible, kid-friendly and priced at half what other companies quoted. My safari post is here.
- Camp: The Tortilis Camp was great. We were upgraded from the Family Tent to the Private House and it was a perfect layout for families – two bedrooms with a large open-air living area in-between along with two full baths. The food was the best that we had anywhere in Africa, and the staff went out of their way to make sure the kids were happy at meals. From our rooms we could see Mount Kilimanjaro, elephants, zebras and baboons.
Maasai Mara, Kenya
- Camp: Little Mara Bush Camp. This was the only camp/lodge that we stayed at in Africa with a kids club, and our kids loved it. There’s a Maasai who runs the kids programs, and our kids spent hours with him (their choice) doing nature walks, beading and archery. They say it’s the best kids club they’ve been to anywhere in the world. Beyond that, the family tent was excellent, with more than enough room for 4 or 5, and the tent is one of the closest to the main lodge. We could see hippos from our porch. It’s a great location for game drives too, and very close to the air strip. My safari post is here.
- Hotel: The Giraffe Manor was like a fairy tale. My kids liked it. I loved it! Giraffes come up to the property in the afternoons/evenings for treats and in the morning they poke their heads into breakfast. And there are a few rooms where the giraffes can wake you up in the morning. All food and drinks were included, and the food was excellent. There are also warthogs that roam the property which my youngest daughter loved. Our suite slept five. My post on our stay is here.
Lake Ndutu, Tanzania
- Destination: Lake Ndutu was one of our favorite parks in East Africa. The wildlife viewing was excellent (in February) with hundreds of thousands of wildebeest plus zebras, elephants, cheetahs, lions, flamingos and giraffes, and you can drive off-road which makes for a more personal experience. My safari post is here.
- Lodge: The Lake Ndutu Luxury Tented Lodge was great. There’s a family tent setup that connects 2 or 3 tents to sleep 7-8. The staff went out of their way to entertain our kids with magic tricks, the food was excellent, and the pool was the best that we found in East Africa. Two negatives: it’s one of the only places that charged for water at meals, and the laundry was priced several times higher than anywhere else.
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
- Destination: This is one of the easiest, most family-friendly parks. Yes, you may find 30 vehicles around one lion, but you can also go hours without seeing another vehicle. Other than giraffes, you’ll see virtually all of Africa’s great animals in the crater, and it’s easy to find them. The crater is fairly close to Arusha, with its international airport. If we had to pick one park for an introduction to Africa, or a must-see for a shorter trip to Africa, this would be it. My safari post is here.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
- Camp: The Serengeti Pioneer Camp was our single favorite place that we stayed. The location is remote but stunning, overlooking the Serengeti from the central and dining areas. Our tent was amazing – picture British safari luxury from 100 years ago – and both nights we were there, our tent was surrounded by impalas eating under a full moon. The food was excellent, and the managers were very kid-friendly – giving our kids Animal Bingo sheets to make the game drives in the park more fun for them. And they’ll do your laundry at no cost.
- Destination: Antarctica was amazing for an 8-year-old. My blog post is here.
- Cruise Line: National Geographic/Lindblad. They did everything right.
- Hotel: Raffles Beijing. The hotel is perfectly-located for walking, near the flag-raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square as well as the Forbidden City and Wangfujing Street, and the staff and rooms are excellent. There’s even an afternoon tea for kids. All rooms accommodate rollaway beds – not common in China!
- Activity: The Great Wall of China is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and is amazing to see in person. I prefer the Mutianyu section of the wall, easily accessible with a private driver. Plan a trip for when you’ll have the wall almost to yourself. I’ve been able to accomplish this on cold winter days as well as on springtime afternoons.
Hong Kong, China
- Destination: Hong Kong is a great introduction to China (and Asia) for kids. English is still an official language, the metro (MTR) is very easy to use, the food is great, there are theme parks and a lot of interesting sites, and no visa is required to visit. My two blog posts on Hong Kong with Kids are here and here.
- Hotel: It’s expensive, but The Peninsula is the place to stay. Perfect service and location, and my son loved the pool.
- Activity: Lantau Island. Go to see the giant Tian Tan Buddha, but also wander around the nearby temples, the Lantau trail and the Wisdom Path.
- Activity: Ocean Park is an amusement park with rides, an aquarium, giant pandas, and a lot to do to occupy the better part of a day – without many other tourists. One of the better parks for kids anywhere.
- Destination: Bali is great for kids. There are beaches, hikes through amazing rice terraces, water parks and the Ubud Monkey Forest. It’s my 10-year-old’s favorite place in the world. My blog post is here.
- Hotel: The Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay. The villas (with private pools), beach, pools, restaurants, service, kids amenities and kids club were all excellent. My daughter loved the AntiGravity Yoga!
- Hotel: The Four Seasons Sayan. Our villa was perfect, and I love the view from breakfast. As with all Four Seasons, the attention to and respect for kid guests is great to see.
- Hotel: Kayumanis Jimbaran is a private villa complex just two minutes from the beach. We loved our villa, private pool (the largest that I’ve seen on the island), afternoon tea and the overall service. It’s also priced far lower than larger resorts.
- Restaurant: Cuca is next door to Kayumanis Jimbaran and is excellent, with inventive tapas and fun attention to retail. Very kid-friendly as well. My 11-year-old says it’s her favorite restaurant anywhere.
- Restaurant: Kayumanis Resto at their Jimbaran location has excellent food, and the teakwood building is beautiful. My very best meal in Bali was here.
- Restaurant: We love Kafe Ubud – it’s our go-to lunch place whenever we’re in Ubud. Great atmosphere and a wide-ranging menu.
- Activity: My daughter’s absolute favorite thing on the island is the Monkey Forest in Ubud. It’s a little nerve-wracking carrying/hiding bananas past the monkeys, but she loved feeding them and having them climb all over her.
- Activity: The A Day in the Life of a Balinese Farmer 4-hour excursion at Four Seasons Sayan was brilliant. We started with a hike through the nearby rice fields and forest, ate breakfast by the river, learned to prepare rice fields and plant rice, and then finished with Balinese massages. A really fun morning.
- Destination and Resort: Six Senses Laamu. Our new favorite resort anywhere. Absolutely stunning in every direction, and very kid-friendly. We loved our overwater villa, the pool, the sunset hammocks, the kid-sized bicycles with customized plates, the food, the beaches and the prices. We moved on to another resort after Six Senses and it was a disappointment. Don’t stay anywhere else! My blog post is here.
Zighy Bay, Oman
- Destination and Resort: Six Senses Zighy Bay. This is an amazingly kid-friendly resort, with an option to paraglide in to check-in (my daughter loved it). It feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere, but it’s actually easily accessible from Dubai. From the villa setup to the kid-sized bicycles to the dining options to the kids club and teen club, it’s very family-friendly. My blog post is here.
- Destination: Palawan was amazing and very kid-friendly, with easy island-hopping, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, beaches and short hikes. My blog post is here.
- Hotel: We loved the Miniloc Island Resort. Everything was taken care of for us (airport transfers, meals, excursion bookings) and the other kids at the resort all seemed to be having a great time. The resort will move a third bed into its double rooms for kids.
- Hotel: The Fullerton Hotel is perfectly located, just a short walk from the Merlion and the bay, and is very kid-friendly. We loved the interactive exhibits on the history of the hotel (it used to be the main post office). They even organized Segway rentals for us. Singapore is perfect for one-day or two-day layovers, but we want to go back for even longer next time to really explore. My 9-year-old loved it.
- Destination: Sri Lanka has it all: culture; nature; great food; fun activities; and warm weather. My blog post is here.
- Activity: Take the train south from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya / Ella. Incredible!!!
- Hotel: The Cinnamon Citadel Kandy is perfectly located for exploring the central part of the island and is very kid-friendly (rooms, pool and food options).
- Hotel: We enjoyed the Hotel Eclat. The location was good, a few minutes from a MRT station, and kind of in the middle of the all of the places we wanted to go. The food at the basement restaurant was good and my son loved the disappearing wall between the bedroom and bath.
- Activity: Our cooking class with Ivy Chen was excellent, making dim sum, baked duck and pineapple cake. Ivy is a great instructor (very patient!) and the food was great.
- Hotel: The Peninsula Bangkok. I’ve stayed here several times solo and with my kids and it’s probably my favorite hotel in the world. There’s so much to love: the service; the pool; the iconic ferries across the river; the spa; the view (above); the food. My post on the optimal Bangkok layover is here.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Activity: Hot air ballooning over Chiang Mai with Balloon Adventure Thailand. One of my favorite mornings ever.
- Tours: Best of Ephesus Tours. There’s a reason they’re ranked number one on TripAdvisor. Our guide Isik was great at tailoring the tour to our kids, the heat and the crowds, and the lunch she arranged was among the best we’ve had in Europe.
- Activity: Child-oriented operas at the Salzburg Festival (summer-only). The operas are a little over an hour and easily understood by kids regardless of the language. Very entertaining, and a great way to give kids an introduction to opera.
- Activity: The Toy Museum. Our kids had a great time here on a rainy afternoon. One of the better children’s museums that we’ve been to.
Zagreb / Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
- Destination: We really enjoyed several days in Zagreb. It’s a great city for exploring on foot, with parks and cafes everywhere.
- Hotel: The Esplanade is excellent – a great old hotel in a very good location. Five-star luxury at a bargain price.
- Activity: A day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park. This is one of the most beautiful spots in the world – a series of 16 torquoise-colored lakes joined together with waterfalls. My son loved running around the boardwalks.
- Tours: We did a private day-trip to Plitvice with Kamauf Day Tours. Nives was our incredible guide, with Dalibor the driver. We loved exploring the park with them, and they even made the drive fun for a seven-year-old.
- Restaurant: Of all the restaurants we tried, Bistro Fotić was the best. Every year in our Christmas cards, each family member lists his/her top meal of the year. It’s very likely that both mine and my son’s will come from our two dinners here: the prosciutto-wrapped filet with almonds for me and the duck breast with pepper raspberry sauce for my son. So great.
- Destination: Prague was a fun stop for three days with a lot to do with kids, from the castle and old town to playgrounds and kid-friendly museums.
- Hotel: We stayed at the Aria Hotel Prague, not knowing if it could compare to the amazing Aria Budapest, but it was similarly perfect. Service was outstanding, our suite looked out on the beautiful Vtrba Garden, and the kids loved the afternoon tea. The location is great too, below the castle and only five minutes from Charles Bridge.
- Restaurant: Our best Czech meal was at Hotel U Zlatych Nuzek. A great sidewalk setting and one of the best honey cakes we had in Prague.
- Restaurant: Cantina. Legitimately excellent Mexican food, not far from the Aria Hotel.
- Restaurant: Pivo & Basilico, below the castle. Authentic Italian from an Italian chef. We went twice in one day. The pizzas and pastas are perfect.
- Activity: A walking tour with OURWAY Tours. Javier was excellent at customizing the information, activities and pace for our kids.
- Activity: Tivoli Gardens amusement park. We’ve been a few times now with our kids at different ages and everyone always has fun. We can easily spend six hours there, between the rides, the playground, the restaurants (Wagamama is our favorite lunch spot) and the games.
- Restaurant: Tight is our favorite place to eat. Great food and family-friendly. It can’t hurt to have a reservation.
- Restaurant: In the meatpacking district, we love the pizza at Mother.
- Gelato: The caramel gelato at Siciliansk Is in Vesterbro is amazing! They have other locations around Copenhagen as well.
- Tours: Paris Muse is great. We’ve done three kid-oriented walking tours with them, through the Marais, Notre Dame and the Louvre, and all were excellent. Their guides kept our kids thoroughly entertained while educating them on art, history, architecture and culture. My oldest daughter was Joan of Arc for Halloween because of their tours!
- Hotel: The Cler Hotel is a perfectly-located boutique hotel, on Rue Cler in the 7th arr., only a few minutes from the Eiffel Tower. They have multiple options for families of 4 or 5.
- Activity: Luxembourg Gardens. From sailing toy boats to the amazing playground, we end up here several times during every trip.
- Activity: Cook’n With Class cooking classes. We did a macaroon-making class and really enjoyed it. When we return we want to move on to breads and pastries.
- Hotel: The Sofitel Athens Airport is incredibly convenient if you have a late arrival or an early departure. It’s only a couple of minutes’ walk to the metro and then roughly an hour (16 stops) to the Plaka/Acropolis, so you can stay at the airport and still walk around the best parts of Athens. If you’re staying for multiple days, stay in the city. If you only have a one-night layover, the Sofitel is great.
- Destination: Far less touristy than Mykonos or Santorini (no cruise ships!) and very family-friendly. My blog post on our three weeks on Naxos with all of our recommendations is here.
- Hotel: Nissaki Beach Hotel. Great location on a kid-friendly beach, excellent pool, wonderful breakfasts and staff. It was a perfect base for us for three weeks on Naxos.
- Restaurant: Ginger. Excellent food, very kid-friendly, and the best service of any restaurant that we went to.
- Restaurant: Nissaki Beach. The best food on the island, and tables on the beach mean that the kids can play on the beach or in the shallow water while waiting for dinner.
- Drinks: 1739 is a climb from the main part of Naxos Town, but don’t let that stop you. It’s a perfect place to get drinks and watch the sunset. And they have the best homemade lemonade we’ve found anywhere.
- Restaurant: Our favorite restaurant in the world is Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna in Oia, down the steps on the water. Great fish, vegetable fritters and baklava in a gorgeous setting.
- Hotel: Alexander’s Boutique Hotel in Oia has suites that can sleep up to six. We had two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a private deck with a hot tub. Gorgeous views!
- Destination: Budapest is an enjoyable, kid-friendly city with a lot to do. My blog post is here.
- Store: Fűszerész,at Károly körút 10, is the best spice shop that we’ve found anywhere in the world. Well worth seeking out.
- Hotel: The Aria Hotel Budapest is our favorite hotel in central Europe. It’s utterly family-friendly, with a perfect location, connecting rooms and a pool.
County Cork, Ireland
- Activity: Hiking along the coast near Sandycove Island just outside of Kinsale. My blog post with directions is here.
- Restaurant: Lemon Leaf Cafe, Kinsale. We love the atmosphere and the food, and their Deli around the corner is great for take-out.
- Restaurant: The Bulman Pub, Kinsale. Sit downstairs
- Store: Bookstór, Kinsale. What an independent book store should be.
County Leinster, Ireland
- Hotel: We love the Merrion Hotel in Dublin. It’s perfectly-located and is luxurious while also feeling boutiquey and kid-friendly – hard to pull off. Breakfasts are excellent.
County Mayo, Ireland
- Hotel: Ashford Castle is our favorite resort in Europe. My blog post on everything we love about it is here.
- Activity: A Hawk Walk at Ireland’s School of Falconry.
- Activity: Horseback Riding at Ashford Outdoors.
- Destination: Florence has become our kids’ favorite city – because of the way we do it. We love the hotel (below). We love spending days with Elvira (below). We love being considered almost-locals at our favorite restaurants (below). And we love just wandering around the touristy areas as well as getting lost in the streets out of the touristy areas.
- Hotel: Antica Torre di Via Tournabuoni. We always stay in the same two rooms here which form a connecting suite. The breakfasts are great, as are the personnel. Perfect location as well with views of both the Duomo and the Arno.
- Hotel/Apartment: Less expensive than Antica Torre is Palazzo San Niccolo. We had a great two-room setup and loved the property. The location isn’t quite as good if you’re always walking over to the historic center, but the savings more than make up for the extra 10 minutes of walking.
- Tours: I can’t speak more highly of Concierge in Umbria and Elvira Politi. They’ve arranged many, many activities for us on two trips, and Elvira is one of the reasons that our kids love the city and want to return every summer. My blog post about my Conde Nast Traveler trip to the city organized by CiU is here.
- Tour/Activity: We loved our Artisan Gourmet Gelato Stroll through Curious Appetite. The gelato making session at the end was particularly fun. They have other cool-looking food tours as well.
- Activity: A cooking class through Let’s Cook – one of the best cooking classes we’ve done with our kids. A really fun and educational 4.5 hours and amazing, simple food.
- Activity: Private kid-oriented art and culture workshops through Arte al Sole. Our kids loved their drawing and painting session (sans parents) in Boboli Gardens. They also offer week-long day camps that we’re excited to do.
- Restaurants: There are a lot of great places to eat in Florence. The three that we keep returning to year after year are Quatro Leoni, Buca Mario, and MaMMaMia. MaMMaMia is the one we will eat at two, three or more times in a trip. Even though it’s in a touristy location the food, service, kid-friendliness and most importantly the cheesecake are excellent.
Lake Como, Italy
- Destination: Lake Como’s not the world’s most interesting destination for kids, but overall I recommend it. Base out of Como, and don’t go for longer than a week. My blog post is here.
- Activity: Take day trips to Lugano, Switzerland by train and to towns around the lake by ferry. We like Varenna and Bellagio.
- Restaurants: Our best meals were at Natta Cafe and Vintage Jazz in Como, Ristorante Trattoria Nisciolano in Cernobbio and Ristorante Terrazza Barchetta and Ristoro Forma & Gusto in Bellagio.
- Destination: We love Venice. My blog post on how to do Venice with kids is here.
- Hotel: We’ve stayed at the Hotel Al Ponte Antico three times and love it. Great staff, location and rooms. No connecting rooms, but it doesn’t matter – it’s one of our favorite hotels in the world and we wouldn’t stay anywhere else.
- Guide: We really enjoyed two days with Nadia at Friend in Venice. She set up a number of kid-friendly activities and even in the height of the tourist season managed to get us away from the crowds.
- Activity: One of our favorite cooking classes ever was with Marika at Acquolina. We did her 4-hour pasta class. Great setting, excellent food and very kid-friendly.
- Restaurants: We have a number of restaurants in Venice that we like, but our best meals have been at Muro Frari and Barababao.
- Activity: The tulip fields near Lisse and elsewhere in the Netherlands in the spring are absolutely incredible. What kid doesn’t want to run through fields of flowers? Keukenhof Gardens is amazing as well, with flowers, a petting zoo and even a zip line for kids. Well worth a day trip from Amsterdam.
- Destination. Oslo has always been one of my favorite cities, and it’s very kid-friendly. My top things to do with kids are here.
- Destination: The small town is charming, the lake is gorgeous and there are activities like boat rentals and alpine slides.
- Hotel: Penzion Mayer. A great connecting-room setup for families of five
- Restaurant: Also Penzion Mayer. Excellent meal. My 6-year-old still talks about the venison.
- Hotel: Hotel DO: Plaça Reial. A boutique hotel in a perfect location with great staff. Their connecting rooms can sleep up to five, and there’s even a small pool on the roof. They don’t get a lot of kid visitors, but it’s the only place we would stay. The photo above was the view from our room.
- Activity: Park Güell. Take a taxi there, enjoy Gaudí’s park for a few hours, and then walk down into town. There’s a playground, but it’s more about exploring the passageways and discovering all of the fun elements, like mosaic salamanders.
- Activity: Hike from the French border to the town of Molló. It’s all downhill so it’s perfect for kids, and the scenery is perfect. We stopped for a picnic lunch halfway – at the spot pictured above. Xavier Mas Soler from Guies Roc Blanc was our excellent guide.
- Activity: Molló Parc. Don’t think zoo. This is an animal park in the Pyrenees that rescues local animals. Bears, wolves, wild boars, otters – you name it. And I fed marmots out of my hand! The setting is stunning, with hills (mountains) and river valleys in and surrounding the park. One of the best animal parks I’ve seen in the world.
London, England, UK
- Hotel: The Rosewood London. It’s near a Tube stop and only 10 minutes from Covent Garden and the Theatre District. Two connecting rooms worked perfectly for us. My kids particularly loved Pearl, the resident Golden Retriever. Service is excellent.
- Activity: Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Mason. We took five kids under eight to a proper British High Tea, and it went perfectly! The kids had fun getting dressed up and using their manners, and everyone enjoyed the sandwiches and pastries. Information is here.
- Activity: Afternoon Tea at the Milestone Hotel. An excellent tea with some fun kid-friendly touches, including teas for kids, individual towers of sandwiches and even cupcake decorating. A more intimate setting than Fortnum & Mason.
- Tour: We loved the Tower of London Tour with Context Travel. It was nicely customized for our kids, including the stories and the pace, and we avoided the crowds.
- Tour/Activity: Also with Context Travel, we did their Drawing London tour and were blown away by Edward, our guide, who has illustrated for the New Yorker, Economist and others. He met us at our hotel, led us to interesting sites near the hotel, and then took us to the British Museum for a hands-on workshop. He taught our kids drawing techniques that immediately had an impact. A really fun activity.
- Activity: Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo. We loved all three elements, and really loved the playing with the lemurs. Easily the best kid activity that we’ve done on the island.
- Restaurant: La Trattoria in Hamilton. Excellent kid-friendly atmosphere and food, right in the middle of Hamilton.
Lake Louise, Canada
- Destination: To get to Lake Louise fly into Calgary, rent a car and drive two hours. You’re then in the middle of Banff National Park, with absolutely stunning views and a lot of outdoor activities to choose from. Even with very young kids we went hiking, canoeing and horseback riding.
- Hotel: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. It’s iconic with amazing views.
Herradura, Costa Rica
- Hotel: Marriott Los Suenos. Our kids loved the meandering pool and the swim-up snack bar. We did zip-lining and a day trip to Manuel Antonio Park from there, and there are some good places to eat down the beach so you don’t need a car to be able to get a little local flavor.
- Hotel: Round Hill Resort. Montego Bay isn’t an exciting destination, but we loved spending five nights at Round Hill. We chose beachfront rooms and couldn’t have been happier with the kid’s club, the food, the pool/beach, the water activities and the laid-back atmosphere. A good getaway option from practically anywhere in North America now that there are non-stop flights from LA to Montego Bay.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
- Hotel: Rosewood Mayakoba is the nicest, most kid-friendly hotel we’ve ever stayed at. The service level is incredible, including how the staff interacted with our kids. My blog post is here.
- Tours: We saw Chichen Itza with Your Private Tour. It was far less expensive than similar tours that our hotel and travel agent had proposed. We had a great time at Chichen Itza with Roberto, although the cenote (Ik Kil) and lunch there were disappointing – we should have headed to Valladolid for lunch instead.
San Diego, California, United States
- Hotel: We loved the Rancho Bernardo Inn‘s Halloween package for kids including in-room camping, s’mores, scavenger hunts, toys, games and free kid meals. A great base for exploring San Diego.
- Hotel: The Hotel del Coronado is iconic, with a great beach and pool and rooms that can easily sleep families. There are a lot of stores and restaurants within easy walking distance, and the zoo is just minutes away.
Aspen, Colorado, United States
- Hotel: The St. Regis Aspen Resort is extraordinarily kid-friendly. Our three kids slept upstairs in our loft suite, and they even had their own bathroom. Great location with coffee and wifi included. The teddy bears at check-in were a huge hit, as were the periodic surprise snacks.
- Restaurant: We ate at a lot of good restaurants, but our best meal was at Mezzaluna. Great staff, excellent food and a comfortable atmosphere for kids.
- Restaurant: We also loved lunch at the Highlands Taqueria at the base of Aspen Highlands ski area. There’s a free city bus that will take you there. Excellent carnitas tacos – some of the best we’ve had.
- Activity: Rafting with Blazing Adventures. We took our three kids (5, 7 and 9) on their Lower Roaring Fork trip with Class II rapids. It was a great introduction to rafting for the kids and everyone had fun, despite it being a rainy day. Note: there’s a discount when booking online.
Orlando, Florida, United States
- Activity: I know I said in the introduction that we aren’t a theme park family, but we love Universal Orlando and its Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We always go mid-week during the off-season to avoid lines, and find that two days at the parks is perfect.
- Hotel (Universal): Hard Rock Hotel Orlando. It’s perfectly located for the two Universal parks and the pool is excellent. Our kids didn’t want to leave.
- Hotel (Disney): The Four Seasons Resort Orlando. It’s kid-oriented from check-in to the rooms to the pools, while still finding the balance between luxury and comfort. We planned a day at Disney World, but never left the hotel – the kids were having too much fun! My post on our stay is here.
Big Island, Hawaii, United States
- Restaurant: Cafe Pesto, Kawaihae. Casual with great food. The pizzas are excellent.
- Restaurant: Merriman’s, Waimea. One of our favorite restaurants in the world. Local ingredients, great service, excellent food.
- Restaurant: Canoe House, Mauna Lani. We had our wedding reception at the Canoe House. The food alternates between good and excellent depending on the chef, but the setting is always perfect, right on the ocean.
Oahu, Hawaii, Unites States
- Hotel: Holiday Inn Express Waikiki. Excellent service and location, easy parking, and nicely affordable (with breakfast included). My post on their True Hospitality is here.
- Activity: The Secret Beach and Jungle Expedition Tour at Kualoa Ranch. We loved both. My Oahu post that includes Kualoa is here.
- Restaurant: Eating House 1849. Located right in the middle of Waikiki, it’s our favorite restaurant on the island. Highly recommend the butterfish. And the spicy edamame are crazy good.
New York, New York, United States
- Destination: New York has been one of our kids’ favorite destinations since they were little. It truly has everything to offer. Whether it’s shopping, playing in Central Park, exploring museums, going to plays or just wandering around taking it all in, there’s plenty to occupy families for a week. It’s an easy city to navigate with strollers too.
- Restaurant: Osteria al Doge has excellent Italian/Venetian food and is perfectly-located in the theater district. We’ve been to dozens of restaurants in the city, but Osteria al Doge is the one that we make a point of returning to every visit. Get a reservation at least a week in advance, especially if you want to eat at a peak time (before or after shows).
- Activity: Ice skating outside in the winter. There are a lot of places to skate – Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Bryant Park and many others. We like Bryant Park because of the easy location. Go early and on a weekday when kids are in school. It gets crowded on weekends.
- Hotel (Family): The Westin New York at Times Square is perfectly located for families, easy to walk from there up to Central Park or down to the High Line, and minutes from all of the theaters. Plus it’s only a 10-15 minute walk from Penn Station if you’re taking the train from the Newark airport.
- Hotel (Family): Hotel Giraffe is one of my favorite hotels anywhere. Located near Madison Square Park / Flatiron, it’s far more boutiquey than the Westin but still has family-friendly room options.
- Hotel (Couples): The Library Hotel is our favorite hotel for a romantic weekend. Great rooms, perfect service and an excellent breakfast.
Cleveland, Ohio, United States
- Destination: Cleveland is a very cool city, and remarkably kid-friendly. My blog post on everything we did is here.
- Hotel: The Ritz-Carlton Cleveland is the best place to stay. Excellent location too.
Charleston, South Carolina, United States
- Hotel: French Quarter Inn. Excellent hotel in a great location, and their queen suites are perfect for families of five or six.
- Restaurants: We didn’t have a bad meal in Charleston. I list all of the places we ate on my blog post here. If we had to choose our two favorites: Monza and Amen Street.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina
- Destination: Iguazu Falls is easily seen in two days and the airport is close to the falls, so it’s an easy place to add onto most South American itineraries. My 6-year-old and I had a great time taking the train to Devil’s Throat, exploring all of the walkways in the park, and getting soaked at Salto Bossetti. And the butterflies, birds and wildlife are amazing.
- Hotel: This is not a good hotel – by far the worst on this entire list – but stay at the Sheraton Iguazu Resort. It’s inside the park so you have full access to the falls before and after normal ticket holders can be there. Location is everything.
Atacama Desert, Chile
- Hotel and Destination: We stayed four nights at Tierra Atacama. We’re not desert people, but we really enjoyed the hotel and excursions, and late afternoons by the pool are perfect. The location in San Pedro de Atacama is excellent. Blog post to come.
Patagonia (Torres del Paine), Chile
- Hotel and Destination: Tierra Patagonia is amazing. We loved the hotel, the setting, the excursions (everything is included) and the overall kid-friendly vibe. Would love to return. My blog post is here.
Easter Island, Chile
- Destination: This is a great place to take kids who enjoy and appreciate history and vanishing cultures. Plus it’s a Polynesian island! My blog post is here.
- Hotel: We stayed at the Taura’a Hotel in Hanga Roa and loved it. It’s not fancy, but the owners are great, the breakfast is excellent and it’s just a short walk into town. We also did our island tours through the hotel and really enjoyed them.
- Restaurant: We didn’t have a bad meal, but Te Moana was the best. It’s a great setting for watching the sunset, and there’s even a playground right next door.
Ecuador and the Galapagos
- Destination: We loved everything about Ecuador, from Quito to the Galapagos to the cloud forest. My blog post on Quito and the Galapagos is here.
- Tour Company: Metropolitan Touring is amazing. They handled everything for us, including our Galapagos ship, hotels and transfers.
- Hotel: In Quito, stay at Casa Gangotena. Perfectly-located with colonial charm and excellent service.
- Hotel: Mashpi Lodge is a 3-4 hour drive from Quito, but don’t let that put you off. It’s one of our favorite hotels anywhere. Amazing excursions, and the cloud forest setting is extraordinary.
Australia and Oceania
- Activity: We loved Australia Zoo near Brisbane – especially the private animal encounters that we booked in advance. Go on a weekday when Aussie schools are in session! My blog post on everything we did in and around Brisbane is here.
- Activity: Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was excellent as well, and the boat ride from Brisbane is a nice, relaxing way to get there. Go to Lone Pine before Australia Zoo – otherwise it will seem small by comparison.
- Activity: X-Wing Australia mini-segway (“robo glider”) tours. There may be other places in the world where 6-year-olds can ride Segways, but we haven’t found one. My daughter LOVED this. I did too!
- Destination: I’ve brought my kids to Sydney twice now. It’s a very easy city to get around, the people are friendly, there are pedestrian areas and parks everywhere, and there is a LOT to do with kids. Plus it’s Australia! Didgeridoos, boomerangs, koalas, kangaroos, wombats – they peek out from every gift store, but there are also a lot of places to see Australian animals up-close (see below) and it’s hard to walk around Circular Quay without hearing didgeridoo sounds.
- Hotel: The Shangri-La. I’ve stayed at many hotels in Sydney, both with and without kids, and the Shangri-La is by far my favorite. Great location, breakfast and staff. The photo above shows the view from our room our last stay.
- Activity: The Featherdale Wildlife Park. This is located outside of Sydney, but my daughter absolutely loved visiting when she was four. If you want to touch and feed native Australian animals, this is the place to go.
- Activity: The Taronga Zoo. If you can’t make it out to Featherdale, the Sydney Zoo is the next best thing. It’s a great way to spend the better part of the day, with views of Sydney and the Opera House, and the ferry ride over from Circular Quay is enjoyable.
- Hotel: The Four Seasons Bora Bora was incredibly kid-friendly. Our kids are always asking to return. My blog post is here.
Photo Workshops and Expeditions (Adults)
- Piper Mackay Photography. Africa-centered. Small groups. Very well organized. I got a greater number of amazing shots on my trip with Piper Mackay than I have on any other trip.
- National Geographic Expeditions. Larger groups, but the NatGeo name opens doors so you get some very cool cultural/educational elements in addition to great photos.
- Santa Fe Photo Workshops. Their workshops in Santa Fe are excellent, but they also organize really good, small group trips around the world. Primarily Cuba and Mexico.
- Nomad Photo Expeditions. My trip to China with Nomad was perfect. I got excellent images, it was a small group, and the main photographer and local guides were great.
- Flytographer. Marta from Flytographer photographed us in Venice. It was a great experience, and it’s nice to finally have photos with me in them! I would love to book them again in another city – they have photographers all over the world.
Disclaimer: We paid full retail pricing for the vast majority of trips, tours, activities and hotels mentioned in this Top Spots list. I receive frequent offers for free stays and activities and I turn down the majority of them. When I do accept free or discounted travel, it is done without any expectation of positive coverage on the part of the sponsoring organization and it does not influence whether or not something is included on my Top Spots list. There’s nothing here that my family and I don’t absolutely love. Be sure to do your own research though – you’re responsible for your own trip planning decisions.