Vacations: Best Destinations for Babies and Toddlersby Dianna Graveman
It's almost that time of year--vacation season! And at the forefront of many parents' minds is where to take a trip that will help develop memories of a lifetime, for both them and their young children.
Sure it would be great if your child could see the seven wonders of the world before he grows up. Of course you want to enrich her life with history and culture and lessons about nature. But you might be better off saving those trips for when your children are no longer toddlers and have longer attention spans. So where can you go when your kids are still tiny, but your family is nonetheless in need of a getaway?
The Web is full of suggestions about the best family vacation destinations. Travel Channel lists its own top ten family vacation spots. For this article, however, I went straight to the experts: parents with babies or toddlers who have been on vacation with their wee ones during the past few years and enjoyed the experience. Here were their suggestions:
Walt Disney World (Orlando, Florida)
Magic Kingdom Theme Park is divided into sections: Main Street, U.S.A.; Adventureland; Frontierland; Liberty Square; Fantasyland; and Tomorrowland. New attractions in Fantasyland slated for their debut in 2013 include The Pirate League and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where little girls will be transformed into tiny princesses. While your very young children may enjoy the costumed performers and excitement, babies may be frightened by the larger than life Disney characters. Children as young as 3 or 4 may enjoy the experience, but if your only child or oldest child is younger than that, you may want to reserve that vacation destination until he is older.
Sesame Place (Langhorne, Pennsylvania)
Sesame Street comes alive for you and your child with rides, water slides, and performances and interactions with familiar furry friends. Young children who watch the television program will probably enjoy a hug and breakfast with Elmo and friends, as well as some playtime in Big Bird's Court, designed for children 5 and under. There is also an outdoor, full-size replica of the television set for some great photo ops.
The Sesame Street gang can also be found at Beaches Resorts, where several of the characters interact with children in themed activities. Nurseries at the resorts provide plenty of toys and cribs, with a high staff to infant ratio. A nurse is also on site twenty-four hours a day in case of a medical emergency.
Disney Cruise Line (Multiple Destinations)
For both children and adults, the cruise line offers Broadway-quality, original Disney musicals and first-run movies. Children and family members also have many opportunities to interact with Disney characters, and themed celebrations for the whole family are held on deck. A nursery is available for an extra charge to help parents care for their toddlers and babies, three years and younger.
If money or time off from work is a concern, check out your town's visitors' center or simply explore the Internet for the best attractions for toddlers in your own hometown! Almost every major city has a children's museum, an aquarium, or a zoo to explore. St. Louis has City Museum, the Magic House, the St. Louis Zoo, the Butterfly House, and more. New York has the Bronx Zoo, the Children's Museum of Manhattan, the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the Children's Museum of the Arts, and New York Aquarium. Your city or the nearest big city to your town probably has some great attractions, too. While many of the exhibits might appeal to older children, almost any children's museum will have interactive activities for youngest set. Call ahead to find out what is available at the museum that might be of interest to your child.
And don't forget that very young children tire easily and can be easily entertained (and overjoyed!) to chase waves along the shore or dig their little toes into soft sand. Any beach will do, when it's time to just relax, have a picnic by the sea, and build sand castles. You don't have to have a day full of jam-packed activities, and it's probably better if you don't. If you choose to visit a resort, which resort probably isn't all that important. Most resorts today offer amenities like nurseries, cribs, and age-appropriate activities in order to attract young families to the destination.
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