The new year is underway and it’s time to think about that trip, so we’ve put our expert travel heads together to collate a list of the top 30 places to go with kids. Whether you want a relaxing break for the whole family, or if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, there’s somewhere for everyone in this list.
1. Kerala, India
Kerala offers the Indian experience at a more manageable pace for families with babies or small children. Start in quaint Fort Cochin, a small, chilled-out quarter of Kochi with good hotels and restaurants. The peaceful backwaters can easily be reached on a day trip from here, but if you want to overnight along serene waterways on a houseboat made of wood and palm leaves, start out from Alappuzha (Alleppey) or Kumbakonam. Kids will also love the state’s national parks, with elephant spotting in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, and for teenagers, there’s bamboo rafting.
2. Maribor, Slovenia
Slovenia is a small but brilliant country – especially for family travel. Rent a car and head north from the capital to Maribor, a compact city just a stone’s throw from active entertainment appropriate for all ages. There’s canoeing on the river Drava in summer and skiing in the nearby resort of Pohorje in winter. In spring, try the resort’s Pohorjet – a single-track toboggan that hurtles down the ski slopes at up to 30mph.
3. The West Midlands, England
England‘s Midlands are perhaps not the obvious destination for a family holiday in the UK, but the region has tons of great activities for kids. See big game in the West Midlands Safari Park, or visit the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley to go back in time to the 1930s and taste the best chips – fried in beef dripping – you’ll ever have. Then there’s Birmingham, which has an excellent Sea Life Centre, and Derby, a pleasant gateway to the Peak District and the Severn Valley Steam Railway, which runs between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth.
4. Puglia, Italy
Puglia, in the heel of Italy’s boot, is a great choice for a family holiday in the sun. With no end of pristine beaches, the Salento peninsula is a highlight; the seaside town of Otranto with its hulking castle makes an appealing family-friendly base. The countryside has its charms too, not least the fairytale trulli – kids will love spotting these pint-sized limestone dwellings with conical roofs, which are dotted throughout the region. Head to UNESCO-protected Alberobello for a town full of trulli – you can even spend a night in one for added fun.
5. Reserva Monteverde, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a world leader in eco- and adventure-tourism, with the Monteverde area a prime example. About half of the protected area is conserved as the Bosque Eternal de los Niños (“Children’s Eternal Rainforest”), a huge stretch of lush cloudforest, rainforest and montane evergreen forest threaded with trails and full of wildlife-spotting opportunities. As you’d expect, there are plenty of outdoor activities: hiking, camping, zip lines, canopy tours and horse riding. Nearby Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Reserve offers yet more pristine forests and adventure activities, while Reserva Santa Elena even has pushchair-friendly trails.
6. Edinburgh, Scotland
The Scottish capital is small enough to stroll around and hosts a number of fun and educational attractions for the whole family. But what makes Edinburgh stand out is its festivals: there are twelve major festivals throughout the year, including the famous Fringe, from a storytelling celebration to a science fest. If you don’t go during festival seaon, the Camera Obscura makes for some ridiculous family photos, and of course there’s the Museum of Childhood where you can get nostalgic and the kids can get hands-on.
7. Brittany, France
For a European bucket-and-spade holiday, it’s hard to better Brittany. France‘s ruggedly beautiful northwest offers everything from charming seaside resorts and family-friendly campsites to remote coves and rocky promontories. For a first visit, base yourself in St-Malo, where a strip of gorgeous beaches stretches east from the winding streets of the old walled town. Older kids can try windsurfing or catamaran sailing at the St-Malo surf school, while grown-ups will find fresh oysters to feast on and local ciders to sample.
8. Florida, USA
Of course Florida can’t be beat on theme parks, but if Orlando isn’t your idea of a holiday, don’t discount the Sunshine State. In the Northeast you can drive on the beach at Daytona, or have your bones rattled on the Shuttle Launch Experience at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. For something a little more serene, kids will be fascinated by gators in the subtropical wilderness of Everglades National Park, or you could head further up the coast to Tampa Bay and the northwest to swim with manatees in the Crystal River.
On the surface, this sprawling city doesn’t seem like the most sensible place to take the kids. But Nairobi has access to some wonderful child-friendly attractions. Nairobi National Park, where lions, leopards, giraffe and zebra roam free within sight of the city, is the perfect day trip for wildlife-watching. For a more hands-on experience, try the Giraffe Center where you can feed these elegant, long-necked beasts from a raised gallery, or the The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust where orphaned elephants are rehabilitated and prepared for life in the wild.
For older children, Romania is a feast of freaky folklore. With its grim facade, turrets and ramparts, and precarious position – teetering atop a rocky bluff against a mountain backdrop – Bran Castle is the quintessential vampire count’s lair. The historical figure behind Romania’s Dracula legend – Vlad Țepeş – is as terrifying as Bram Stoker’s fiction – he wasn’t known as “the Impaler” for nothing. There are countless other atmospheric sites linked to the legend, not least Poienari Castle, where Vlad once lived, and the country’s “cult of the dead” is never far from the surface.
11. Bali & the Gili Islands, Indonesia
Bali’s enchanting Hindu culture and jaw-dropping tropical landscapes are enough to have any family spellbound. But there’s no shortage of activities to keep the kids having fun, from Ubud’s monkey forest and shadow puppet shows to waterfall swimming at Gitgit and dolphin-watching off Bali’s north shore. When it’s time for tranquillity, the idyllic Gili islands are a short boat ride away. With white sands and still waters, Gili Air is the perfect place to enjoy the irresistibly slow pace of island life, but Gili Meno’s turtle hatchery is definitely worth a day trip.
12. Toronto, Canada
Toronto is a-buzz with kid-friendly actiivities, from cheap thrills – marvelling at the slick skyline and crisscrossing town aboard a streetcar – to splashing out on a ticket to ascend the famous CN Tower and marvelling at dinosaur bones and Native Canadian headdresses at the ROM. Chinatown and nearby Kensington Market are great browsing and wandering territory, and the Toronto Islands are only a ferry ride away, but a world apart from the city’s hustle and bustle. With time on your hands, you can venture south to spectacular Niagara Falls or north to the rocky islets of Georgian Bay.
13. Havana, Cuba
Beyond experiencing the fading grandeur of this exciting city, Havana has a host of family-friendly attractions. A tour through the planetarium walks you through four floors of rooms, charting a journey through the cosmos, from the Big Bang (represented by a light and sound display) onwards. The Parque Almendares, as well as being a welcome expanse of greenery, is a perfect picnic spot and offers rowing on the river and crazy golf.
14. Rosario, Argentina
While Argentina isn’t well known as a family destination, it has a lot to recommend it. The food is delicious (kids will particularly appreciate the traditional heladerías, or ice cream parlours), there’s a stunning variety of landscapes and outdoor activities, and the wildlife-spotting is second to none. Rosario makes a good base if you want to venture away from Buenos Aires; not only does it have child-focused attractions like the Jardin de los Niños and the Museo de los Niños, but you can head out on river tours or rent a car and work your way north, ending up at the awe-inspiring Iguazú Falls.
15. Isle of Wight, UK
For the kind of nostalgic, buckets-and-spades holiday that brings back rosy memories of your own childhood, look no further than the Isle of Wight. There’s plenty to keep kids entertained, from rockpooling and playing on safe sandy beaches to a raft of old-school attractions, including a model village, a steam railway and Blackgang Chine, the UK’s oldest amusement park. Set in rambling cliff-top gardens, it’s a child’s fantasy of pirates, cowboys and princesses, though the star turn are the life-sized animatronic dinosaurs.
16. North Island, New Zealand
The North Island might not have snowcapped mountains, but it doesn’t skimp when it comes to dramatic scenery. Kids will be enthralled by the sulphur stink at Rotorua, the tiny living lights in the glowworm caves of Waitomo and the bubbling pools at Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula – and if you hire a motorhome you can explore at your own pace. These days it’s impossible to separate New Zealand from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and young fans will love the hobbit holes at Hobbiton, as well as Wellington‘s Weta Workshop, the centre of New Zealand’s film industry, where kids can learn all about prop building and prosthetics.
Belize is one of the safest and easiest Central American countries to explore with children. Apart from its colourful marine life and beautiful beaches, its (malaria-free) rainforest interior provides tropical excitement. At Caves Branch Jungle Lodge near San Ignacio you can float down river in an inner tube through luxuriant forest full of cheeky spider monkeys and squawking toucans, then wake up to a dawn chorus of chirping cicadas.
You won’t find finer views and clearer air than in Colorado. If you’re looking for a family trip that embraces the great outdoors, this state begs to be explored. Start in the compact, mile-high city of Denver, from where it’s a short drive to the sparkling alpine lakes and majestic peaks of the Rockies. Hidden further east is Colorado’s answer to the Grand Canyon, the dramatic Black Canyon of the Gunnison, one of America’s most overlooked national parks. Older kids with an interest in history will also be fascinated by the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde in state’s southwest corner.
19. Reykjavík, Iceland
This landscape of rare geological youth feels utterly alive – the earth belches out gasses, waterfalls cascade as if bursting forth for the first time, and the Northern Lights dance around the skies. You can easily experience much of the wonder on day-trips from the pint-sized, child-friendly capital, Reykjavík – the “Golden Circle” circuit is well established, while the otherworldly Blue Lagoon is also a simple excursion. Bathing in the latter’s warm waters, steam rising all around, and children will feel like they’ve entered another realm. You can remind them, too, that Iceland is home to the Huldufólk, or “hidden folk”, magical creatures invisible to the human eye. Belief in them is so strong that building projects have been diverted to avoid their supposed habitats.
20. Zion National Park, USA
If you’re looking to introduce young kids to the joys of the outdoors, Utah’s spectacular Zion National Park is one of the most accessible places to start. Shuttle busses and well-marked trails (starting at just 0.4miles) make accessing the stunning waterfalls and wildlife of Zion Canyon a breeze. Add in horseback rides, ranger-led youth tours and s’mores by the campfire in one of the park’s three campsites and you’ve got the makings of an unforgettable family trip.
Senegal has a lot to offer families, from wide open beaches on its wild Atlantic coast to some seriously curious natural wonders. There’s the pink-hued Lake Retba, which, at its brightest, is a startling sight. There are undulating sand dunes ripe for you and your 4X4 to explore, and don’t miss Ile de Fadiouth – a small island in the south made entirely from shells.
22. Antalya, Turkey
Antalya, in southern Turkey, is packed with activities to keep the whole family entertained. Behind Konyaaltı beach lies the Antalya Aquarium (complete with 4-D cinema), the Wildpark (devoted to insects and reptiles) and – for when the kids really can’t bear the heat – an indoor snow park. Next door is Antalya Minicity, which has a 1:25 scale re-creations of some of Turkey’s most iconic landmarks. The Toy Museum at Antalya’s harbour also provides a fun distraction from the beach.
23. Tokyo, Japan
There are loads of kid-friendly destinations in Japan, but when it comes places with activities all the family will enjoy – as with everything – you’re spoiled for choice in Tokyo. The Ghibli Museum and Odaiba are highlights, and the city has plenty of huge parks and interactive museums to explore together. Tokyo Disneyland is also nearby, while Yokohama (for Chinatown and yet another ferris wheel), Kamakura and Nikkō (more nature and history, less neon) are all visitable on a day-trip.
24. Cape Tribulation, Australia
Queensland‘s Cape Tribulation is great fun for adventurous children, and adults too. With both rainforest and palm tree-lined beaches, there are plenty of activities on offer. From here, you can also take a boat trip out to the barrier reef or trek through Daintree Rainforest on the look out for prehistoric cassowaries, avoiding crocodiles, spiders and snakes along the way. The brave might want to try a night-time rainforest walk, or a thrilling tree top jungle zip wire.
25. Wales, UK
It’s hard to choose one place to base yourself in Wales – the country is brimming with family-friendly holiday locations. Pembrokeshire has beautiful beaches and a rugged coastline ripe for exploration, whether you want to take a walk on the Coast Path or get a bit more hands-on with some coasteering and kayaking. Up in North Wales, adventure hubs like Zip World, where a four person zip line is capable of speeds up to 100mph, and Bounce Below, a series of trampolines inside underground caves, are bound to keep the kids happy.
26. The Maldives
The Maldives might seem like a honeymoon-only destination, but don’t be put off. Most resorts are child-friendly – it’s best to check first, though, to avoid being surrounded by just-married couples. Rent a hut on the beach and children will spend hours playing in the white sand, jumping in waves and snorkelling in the shallow waters. Many islands have swimming pools and offer beach games, kayak hire, and dolphin-spotting trips too, with diving courses for older children.
Ko Samui or Ko Lanta are great options for family holidays, with plenty of facilities and lots of distractions for kids. If the thought of resorts makes you shudder, Thailand‘s well-developed traveller infrastructure makes it fairly easy to head to a more secluded island or part of the mainland. Thailand is especially great for kids in January – National Children’s Day (second Saturday of the month) means free activities and public transport for children throughout the country.
28. Cape Town, South Africa
The outdoors is never far away in Cape Town, which makes the city a particularly great destination for children. Its hard to beat the city’s fabulous beaches, the highlight of which for most kids is Boulders, home to a resident penguin-breeding colony, while the beach at Fish Hoek, a little further north, boasts a playground alongside its beautiful beach and gentle waves. There’s also an abundance of parks and open spaces – perfect for picnicking in fine weather, while for rainy days there’s a handful of good, hands-on museums.
29. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
The fearless wildlife of the Galápagos islands make adults feel like kids – and make kids feel like they just can’t believe their luck. They’ll tip-toe in between giant tortoises, have birds land inches from their nose, splash around in the shallows with playful baby sea lions, and snorkel near hammerheads and enormous turtles. When they tire of the wildlife one-on-ones, regale them with tales of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century pirates who hid out on the islands – the landscape is still (almost) exactly as those old sea dogs would have known it, and there’s still even some old pirate graffiti to boot.
Perhaps the Caribbean’s most laidback place to take the kids, tiny Tobago provides dozens of activities and wildlife experiences, from beachside horse-riding to hummingbird spotting. Instead of high-rise hotels you’ll find small-scale guesthouses used to catering to families. Steel bands and street eats, fresh juices and safe swimming beaches – one you’ve been “Tobagoed” you’ll want to return.