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Travel
12 best kid-friendly destinations
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12 best kid-friendly destinations

12 best kid-friendly destinations
With the Washington Monument in the background, cherry blossom trees began blooming despite cold temperatures in Washington, on Thursday, March 24, 2011. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 26-April 12, commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Tokyo to Washington, D.C.

12 best kid-friendly destinations

When traveling with toddlers, tweens, and teens, the trick is picking the right destination. Somewhere that offers hands-on activities, inspiring history, and even an animal or two can turn the dreaded “When will we be there” into “Where will we go next?”

It's a great big world out there, and packing up your little ones for a jaunt-whether it's to a nearby city, neighboring state, or across "the pond"-can be daunting. But when it comes to traveling with kids, all destinations are not created equal. We've covered our share of hot travel spots in the U.S. and Europe and we've found that those cities and landmarks that are best for family travel have a few things in common: Accessibility, a nice mix of indoor and outdoor activities, and a certain ineffable "wow" factor that you'll know when you see it on your children's faces. Here, a dozen of our favorite family-friendly destinations.

 

 

COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG, VA

Everyone in this living-history site likes to play dress-up, and visitors are no exception. At the Great Hopes Plantation-a re-creation of the town's original 1700s farm-a stash of old-timey accessories await, from tricorne (three-pointed) hats for boys and shifts and mop caps (bonnets) for girls. The costumes come in handy in the field, where kids can perform 18th-century household chores, such as picking bugs off potato crops, fetching water from the well, or hoeing the soil, that are likely to make clearing the dinner dishes seem like a breeze by comparison. Great Hopes Plantation can be accessed through regular admission tickets. Upcoming events for 2013 include a celebration of Presidents' Day, an exhibit dedicated to historic keyboard instruments (such as colonial-era harpsichords), and Painters and Paintings of the South, opening in March. ( history.org, adults from $22.95, children from $11.50, under six free).

 

WASHINGTON, DC

Everybody knows the National Mall is the place to be in D.C., right? But how about riding the streets of Washington, D.C., including the Mall, in a boat on wheels? Set in a WWII-era amphibious vehicle, the 90-minute D.C. duck tour covers both land and sea. The first leg hits the history-packed National Mall-look for the 19-foot-tall Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol building, and the Smithsonian museums-and then switches to a scenic river trip. Highlight: The boat pauses at Gravelly Point, a park located just a few hundred feet from the runway at D.C.'s Reagan National Airport, so you can watch roaring planes take off and land ( trustedtours.com , adults $31.50, kids 11 and under $16.20). Don't miss hour-long tours of the U.S. Capitol, offered Monday through Saturday, and it's best to reserve a spot on one of these popular tours in advance (visitor center entrance at First Street and East Capitol Street, N.W., visitthecapitol.gov , admission free). And at the National Museum of American History, you'll find countless artifacts from the nation's history, including the exhibits The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden and Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863, and the March on Washington, 1963 (1400 Constitution Ave., N.W., americanhistory.si.edu , admission free).

 

LONDON

Thanks to literature and film (think Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan, and a certain young wizard), American kids already associate London with mystery and discovery. And the city doesn't dissapoint. Archaeologist (and mother of six) Fiona Haughey leads two-hour trawls along the muddy banks of the River Thames. (Once so polluted that city residents avoided going near the river, the Thames is now alive with healthy fish-and tour boats!) Previous searchers have taken home Elizabethan pipes, Tudor tiles, and even horse teeth ( walks.com , beachcombing walk $12, all ages). For young history buffs, the Tower of London is an unforgettable experience, where you can ogle the 23,578 gems known as the Crown Jewels, take a Yeoman Warder tour that includes hair-raising stories from the tower's history, spot the six ravens who make the Tower their home and, according to legend, whose presence assures the continuity of the kingdom, and of course let your curious-and bravest-kids explore the interactive prisoners exhibit about the people who lived and died in this most iconic of prisons ( hrp.org.uk , adults $33, children $17).

 

BOSTON

Even die-hard Yankees fans have to admit that visiting Fenway Park, Major League Baseball's oldest stadium, is an exercise in Americanism: Babe Ruth pitched there! Ted Williams hit a 502-foot home run! Fenway turns 100 next year, but its features are still intact. Check them out for yourself on a guided 50-minute tour, where hands-on exploration is encouraged: You can touch the Green Monster (the park's 37-foot-tall left-field wall), peek into the dugout, poke around inside the press box, and even walk across the baseball diamond, depending on how friendly the grounds crew is feeling that day ( mlb.mlb.com , Fenway Park tours, adults $12, kids 3-15 $10, seniors $11). Boston is also, of course, the epicenter of America's Colonial history. Who needs a social studies book when the Freedom Trail lets you learn about Colonial history as you walk in its footprints? For example, from June through November, you can learn from an 18th-century ship captain while parading around Boston's waterfront on the 90-minute Pirates and Patriots tour, led by an actor in 1770s naval garb, focuses on maritime history and introduces the scrappy, ship-raiding characters that inhabited the city's North End during the Revolutionary era. Stops include the aptly named Long Wharf, once the longest in the world and the center of Boston's colonial shipping industry, and Griffin's Wharf, site of the 1773 Boston Tea Party. ( thefreedomtrail.org , Pirates and Patrios Tour runs from June through November, adults $12, kids 6-12 $7).

 

BERLIN

While the German capital may not spring to mind as a must-see for families with children, this sprawling metropolis has become one of the best places on the continent to have-and be-a kid. Beyond its vibrant art and food scene (you may find no better breakfast in all of Europe), Berlin offers two things that will not only entertain the young ones, but may bring out the kid in you, too. About half a million Berliners take to their bikes each day, so you'll be in good company on one of Berlin on Bike's rentals. Choose from city, touring, and trekking bikes, all of which come with rear baskets. Even the kids can get a set of wheels, with three sizes of smaller cycles as well as child seats and trailers (reserve in advance) and helmets for all. A free route planner on bbbike.de helps you map paths through the city based on your desired speed, road surface, and the availability of designated bike lanes, of which Berlin has some 400 miles ( berlinonbike.de , $13 for 24 hours). And, of course, Berlin has a "zoo story" as well. Built on the site of the 18th-century pheasantry that once supplied fowl to the King of Prussia's royal kitchen, the 168-year-old Zoological Garden was Germany's first zoo and, with 17,727 animals, has one of the most diverse populations in the world. Savvy visitors will want to sync their trips with the feeding times of their favorite animals (pandas at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., penguins at 1:45 p.m.), or splurge on a private, 20-minute visit with a single species, complete with zookeeper Q&A. And be sure to keep an eye out for the zoo's newest arrival, Kathi, a baby hippopotamus born in October ( zoo-berlin.de , from $29.50 for a family ticket, private tours an additional $107)

 

PHILADELPHIA

In addition to the excellent ranger-led tours of Independence Hall (where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were adopted), a less serious but equally entertaining adventure awaits visitors. Acquaint yourself with the spirits of America's founding fathers on Philadelphia's Ghost Tour, a 90-minute, candle-lit stroll that winds past landmarks like Independence Hall; the Powel House, which hosted George and Martha Washington's 20th wedding anniversary celebration; and the 238-year-old City Tavern, John Adams's former watering hole. A cape-wearing, lantern-carrying guide points out "haunted" graveyards (St. Peter's Cemetery) and reports sightings of Benjamin Franklin, who's said to roam the city's streets. The best part: All the ghost stories are based on documented accounts, which makes them all the more spooky ( ghosttour.com , adults $17, kids 4 and up $8). Once your kids' appetite for real-life thrills is whetted, head over to the world-class science museum, the Franklin Institute, for hands-on activities that teach science in a fun way, including teachng anatomy with a stroll through an oversize human heart ( fi.edu , adults $16.50, children $12.50). The Please Touch Museum continues the hands-on theme, with kids learning music at the Rainforest Rhythm exhibit and exploring child-size environments ( pleasetouchmuseum.org , $16).

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Shiv collections and cramped jail cells don't exactly sound kid-friendly, but they offer a glimpse into Alcatraz, America's most notorious island prison-and the National Park Service is all for bringing younger ones for a visit. Hop a ferry from San Francisco's Pier 33 and stroll the damp, gray halls of the maximum-security pen, which housed criminals like Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly from 1934 to 1963. (You can even get behind bars in one of the cells, if you dare.) Don't miss the audio tour, which was updated in 2007 when former inmates and guards recorded their memories of doing time at "the Rock." If you're feeling brave, take the night tour, which lets you roam the prison after dark. Browse our favorite budget hotels in San Francisco. Alcatraz Cruises is the official carrier for tours to Alcatraz Island ( alcatrazcruises.com , adults 12-61 $26; kids 5-11 $16, 4 and under free). In SF's gorgeous Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Science is more like a combo zoo, museum, and classroom, including a planetarium, aquarium, 40,000 live animals, a rainforest exhibit, and natural history exhibits such as dinosaurs and other fossils ( calacademy.org , adults $29.95, kids 12-17 $24.95, kids 4-11 $19.95).

 

NEW YORK CITY

Between 1892 and 1924, more than 17 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island; today, their descendants account for 40 percent of Americans. Go on a hunt for your ancestors at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, where for $5 you can search through millions of records to find the exact date your relatives sailed into the Port of New York, as well as which ship they were on and whether they traveled with other family members. (Bonus: copies of the documents are yours to keep.) And don't miss the construction of the Peopling of America Center, which cost $20 million to build and is slated to open in 2012. The new space focuses on U.S. immigration from 1955 (when Ellis Island closed) to the present, and houses interactive multimedia exhibits, like a touch screen that reflects demographic changes in American cities over time ( ellisisland.org , adults $37.95, children $18.95, children under 5 free). The American Museum of Natural History is a magnet for kids of all ages, with its iconic "dinosaurs in the attic"-featuring some of the world's best reconstructed dinosaur skeletons-and colossal blue whale model suspended from the ceiling of its hall of marine life ( amnh.org , $19).

 

SAN DIEGO

With more than 4,000 rare and endangered animals representing 800-plus species and subspecies, the San Diego Zoo is one of the most diverse in America. But its coolest attraction-literally-is the Polar Bear Plunge, which has reopened after a $1 million makeover. Aside from permanent polar residents Kalluk, Chinook, and Tatqiq, new features include a snow den you can burrow into (the snug space mimics where female bears birth their cubs); a helicopter used on actual Arctic explorations that invites climbers into the cockpit; and the Experience Wall, where zookeepers open the glass panels surrounding the bears' habitat, letting them sniff at visitors through wire mesh ( sandiegozoo.org , ages 12 and up $40, ages 3-11 $30). SeaWorld San Diego continues the wild theme of this Southern California city, allowing kids to have a Dolphin Interaction, Shark Encounter, splash along one of its many thrill rides, and of course take in one of the park's legendary sea mammal shows ( seaworldparks.com , adults $78, children $70).

 

BARCELONA

Families visiting Barcelona for the first time often report that the city has a fairytale, made-for-children quality about it. That, no doubt, is thanks to the imaginative artists who have helped make the extraordinary place that it is. La Sagrada Famlia, architect Antoni Gaud's famous basilica, is as stunning as people say, but it's one of Barcelona's most popular attractions, so you'll want to arrive when it opens, at 9 a.m. ( sagradafamilia.org , $11). Then wander the alleys and hidden squares in the Barri Gatic, or Gothic quarter. Xocolateria La Xicra, on the Plaa de Sant Josep Oriol, makes a decadent chocolate con churros (hot chocolate with doughnut-like sticks for dipping). Next, head to Museu Picasso, in the La Ribera neighborhood, to learn how the master's famous Blue Period came about during his stay in Barcelona in the early 1900s ( museupicasso.bcn.cat/en , $8).

 

NIAGARA FALLS, NY

Sure, your grandparents honeymooned there, but the majestic waterfalls straddling the U.S.-Canada border are worth a 21st-century trip. Ever wonder what it's like to be a rubber ducky in a massive bathtub? Sign up for the Cave of the Winds tour, which begins after you change into a complimentary yellow poncho and sandals (trust us, you'll need 'em). After riding an elevator 175 feet down into the Niagara Gorge, you'll stand on the Hurricane Deck, where you'll be drenched by the tropical-storm-like spray from the 181-foot Bridal Veil Falls, where the water falls at a rate of up to 68 mph ( niagarafallsstatepark.com , Cave of the Winds operates May 1-Oct. 25, adults $11, kids 6-12 $8, 5 and under free).

 

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL

Swashbucklers, hoist your sails and head for the artifact-packed St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. This is the only place in the world to display an authentic pirate's treasure chest (property of Captain Thomas Tew roughly 400 years ago), plus a 19th-century Jolly Roger flag and an original "Wanted" poster with a 500-pound sterling reward for the capture of pirate Henry Every, dated 1696 ( thepiratemuseum.com , adults $12, children under 5 free). St. Augustine's historic district, founded in 1565, is a mecca for history buffs and window-shoppers alike, built around a central plaza that is the oldest public park in the U.S., the district includes St. George Street, a pedestrian walkway with museums, restaurants, and shops. Cannon-firing demonstrations take place Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at the Castillo de San Marcos fort ( nps.gov/casa , adults $6, children under 16 free).

 

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News

  • The British man who killed four people during a London rampage had made three trips to Saudi Arabia: He taught English there twice on a work visa and returned on a visa usually granted to those going on a religious pilgrimage. More details about attacker Khalid Masood's travels, confirmed by the Saudi Arabian embassy in Britain, emerged Saturday amid a massive British police effort to discover how a homegrown ex-con with a violent streak became radicalized and why he launched a deadly attack Wednesday on Westminster Bridge. The embassy said he taught English in Saudi Arabia from November 2005 to November 2006 and again from April 2008 to April 2009, with legitimate work visas both times. He then returned to Saudi Arabia for six days in March 2015 on a trip booked through an approved travel agent and made on an 'Umra' visa, usually granted to those on a religious pilgrimage to the country's Islamic holy sites. The embassy said Saudi security services didn't track Masood and he didn't have a criminal record there. Before taking the name Masood, he was called Adrian Elms. He was known for having a violent temper in England and had been convicted at least twice for violent crimes. Masood drove his rented SUV across London's crowded Westminster Bridge on Wednesday, striking pedestrians. Then he jumped out and stabbed to death police officer Keith Palmer, who was guarding Parliament, before being shot dead by police. In all, he killed four people and left more than two dozen hospitalized, including some with catastrophic injuries. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack, calling him a 'solider' who responded to its demands that followers attack countries in the coalition fighting IS in Syria and Iraq. British officials said security at Parliament will be reviewed after new footage emerged that showed the large gates to the complex were left open after Masood rushed onto the grounds. There are concerns that accomplices could have followed him in and killed even more people. The footage from that day shows pedestrians walking by the open gates and even a courier entering Parliament grounds. Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Ian Blair told the BBC that changes to the 'outer soft ring' of Parliament's security plan are likely in the aftermath of Masood's attack. The new footage follows earlier video that showed slight delays and confusion during the evacuation of Prime Minister Theresa May from Parliament as the attack unfolded. Masood, who at 52 is considerably older than most extremists who carry out bloodshed in the West, had an arrest record in Britain dating to 1983. In 2000, he slashed a man across the face in a pub parking lot in a racially charged argument after drinking, according to a newspaper account. Masood's last conviction, in 2003, also involved a knife attack. One victim, Danny Smith, told The Sun newspaper that Masood had stabbed him in the face with a kitchen knife after an argument just three days after they met. Hundreds of British police have been working to determine his motives and are scouring Masood's communications systems, including his possible use of the encrypted WhatsApp device, to help determine if he had any accomplices. Still, police have released many of those they took in for questioning in the case. One 58-year-old man remains in custody for questioning after being arrested Thursday in the central English city of Birmingham, where Masood was living. Authorities haven't charged or identified him. A 32-year-old woman arrested in Manchester has been released on bail and faces further inquiries. Police said Saturday that a 27-year-old man arrested Thursday in Birmingham has been released. Eight others arrested in connection with the investigation had been set free earlier, including a 39-year-old woman who had initially been freed on bail but now faces no further police action, police said Saturday. Details about how Masood became radicalized aren't clear, although he may have become exposed to radical views while an inmate in Britain or while working in conservative Saudi Arabia. It's also not clear when he took the name Masood, suggesting a conversion to Islam.
  • RADFORD, N.C. (AP) - A North Carolina sheriff says a newborn and the baby's 2-year-old sister have been found stabbed to death.Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin tells WRAL (http://bit.ly/2n1S80h) the bodies of 4-day-old Genesis Freeman and 2-year-old Serenity Freeman were found Saturday in the woods near an intersection close to the city of Raeford.Before they were found, their 30-year-old father Tillman Freeman was arrested and charged with two counts of child abuse and child endangerment. Authorities said the father refused to cooperate with the investigation into the children's whereabouts. TRENDING STORIES: Plane crashes near Cobb County home; 1 killed Company will pay you $10K a month to travel, stay in luxury homes Home Depot accused of unsafe practices; Criminal investigation launched They have not said who they think killed the children, who were reported missing following a domestic dispute. Freeman's wife was in a local hospital when the children disappeared.Details about the domestic dispute were not immediately released. It's not clear whether Freeman has an attorney.
  • One day after 11 of 14 charges were dropped against him, an Atlanta man has been indicted in connection with women he allegedly held at a Sandy Springs house, the Fulton County district attorney said Friday. Kenndric Roberts, 33, was indicted on six counts of trafficking a person for labor servitude, six counts of false imprisonment, two counts of possession of a firearm during commission of/or attempt to commit certain crimes, and participation in criminal street gang activity, District Attorney Paul Howard said. The indictment means that Roberts will be held without bond in the Fulton County jail, Howard said. A judge had set bond at $80,000 on Thursday during a preliminary hearing. “It was distressing,” Howard told Channel 2 Action News on Friday about the previous day’s developments. “We thought it put our victims in a state of vulnerability. “We thought it was important that this defendant remain in jail.” Roberts was arrested March 8 after one of the women called 911, telling police, “I’m in a very bad situation, and I need to get help,” officers said. Eight women were removed from the house, police said. Six indicated they were held against their wills. Police also found expensive cars and an AK-47 in the 6,800-square-foot house, Carter said. Detectives learned the women were forced to dance at local strip clubs, according to a news release from Howard’s office. The money they earned would be given to Roberts. Police also said Roberts was a Gangster Disciples member and required the women to get gang-related tattoos as a sign of loyalty. In Thursday’s hearing, attorney Mike Maloof Sr. referred to Roberts as a “poor man’s Hugh Hefner.” “Everybody had grand designs on making money, and they lived well,” he said. “That’s not trafficking.”   In other news:
  • Tens of thousands protested Saturday under sunny skies in London against plans for Britain to withdraw from the European Union. The Unite for Europe march, which saw many people carrying bright blue EU flags, came just days before Britain is expected to begin its formal separation from the other 27 nations in the EU. The crowds observed a minute of silence at Parliament Square as a tribute to the four victims killed and dozens wounded in an attack Wednesday on Parliament. Many bowed their heads as Big Ben chimed and placed flowers at Parliament's gate to honor the victims. Police did not provide a crowd estimate. Organizers said more than 25,000 people were present. There was also a smaller anti-Brexit protest march in Edinburgh, Scotland. Organizers considered delaying the long-planned march because of the attack — in part to avoid putting extra strain on British police — but decided to go ahead. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron told the crowd that 'democracy continues' despite the assault. 'We stand in defiance of that attack,' he said. Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger Article 50 of the EU treaty on Wednesday, setting the Brexit process in motion. Negotiations are expected to take at least two years. Britain voted in a June 23 referendum to leave the EU.