8 Trips that Celebrate the Magic of Childhood
Fairy-tale castles and soaring skyscrapers. Dinosaur digs and stingray swims. Discover our top experiences for kids and parents around the globe.
As every parent knows, traveling with children presents its challenges; the days of packing light and spending hours exploring the nightlife can seem a distant memory. But our kids also inspire us. There’s little more enticing than experiencing the world through the eyes of a child, other than seeing the looks on their faces when they do. Here are the top eight travel experiences for kids — and their parents.
1. A Fairy Tale in Sintra
Perched atop a lush hill in Portugal’s Sintra Mountains stands one of the most enchanting and unreal-seeming castles in the world. The 19th-century Pena Palace was built under the direction of King Ferdinand II, whose tastes certainly ran to the opulent. Consider the building — a hodgepodge of medieval, Renaissance, Gothic and Islamic styles that adds up to one grand Romantic expression — an opportunity to teach your little one about the world’s architecture in one gorgeous place.
2. Whale Watching in Dana Point
Is anything more thrilling than spotting the world’s largest mammal cruising alongside you? Dana Point, California, is a famous gathering area for blue whales as well as dolphins and other kid-pleasing marine life. The Biggest Show on Earth at
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel makes it easy to introduce kids to the gentle giants, including an overnight stay at the hotel, an introduction from an expert naturalist and a whale-watching catamaran excursion, including snacks and transportation.
3. Catching ’Rays in Grand Cayman
One of the most beloved destinations in the Caribbean, Grand Cayman’s Stingray City is a series of shallow sandbars known for its large population of gentle stingrays (they’ll even give you a smooch!). While this up-close-and-personal interaction is best for older kids and up, children of all ages can get to know the friendly fish with Stingray Detective at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, a fun-filled scavenger hunt that lets kids follow the clues to learn more about these fascinating local celebrities.
4. Singing Sand in Qatar
Calling all budding scientists: “Singing” sand dunes — those whose grains produce a deep, reverberating hum when moved — are only found in around 30 of the world’s deserts. Just an hour southwest of Doha lies one of these magical locations. The beauty of the desert itself will awe them, but kids will especially love running up the dunes and sliding down them to create the mysterious song. Bring a sled (a thick piece of cardboard or a large plastic tray will do the trick) to amplify the effect.
5. Crazy for Cars in Wolfsburg
If your child has seen the “Cars” films more times than you can count, it might be time to shift into high gear. The Autostadt is Volkswagen’s acclaimed automotive theme park, located next to its factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. The park boasts a state-of-the-art car museum, an interactive play area where kids can test-drive electric cars and earn a “license,” and the Car Towers, where robot-powered lifts bring visitors up massive cylinders that hold up to 400 cars each.
6. Nocturnal Animals in Singapore
Indulge your little night owl with a rare post-bedtime excursion. Night Safari, Singapore’s famous outdoor zoo, lets kids see a different side of their favorite animals. Twilight is when many species, from elephants and leopards to tapirs and flying squirrels, come alive, and seeing them by moonlight is a treat. Choose from a tram ride or a trail walk to explore the various geographic zones — either way, it’s going to be a wild night.
7. Dinosaur Spotting in Istanbul
“Fun for the whole family” is often a misnomer, but not when it comes to dinosaurs. All ages will be equal parts educated and enthralled by the big, bad prehistoric beasts on display at Istanbul’s Jurassic Land. From fossils, eggs and giant animatronic dinosaurs to a 4-D cinema and laser tag, there is something for everyone to “dig” at the ultimate experience for dinosaur fans.
8. Skyscraper-Scaling in Dubai
An architectural experience of a more modern kind, Dubai’s megatall Burj Khalifa skyscraper quite literally towers above the rest. The world’s tallest building shatters a number of other records, too: It has the greatest number of stories, the longest elevator ride and the highest outdoor observation deck of any building on the planet. Still not dizzy? The Burj is more than twice as tall as New York City’s Empire State Building — a height to give even King Kong a case of vertigo.