As I think we know, I do not have kids. I know when I do, Eric and my travel bug will have to tame itself due to budget changes and the fact that traveling with kids can be just difficult sometimes. It’s unlikely that I will visit Peru or Italy with young children, but I would like them to see some special places in the United States.
Eric and I both traveled a fair amount as children so sometimes we discuss our philosophies behind travel with children. I think the biggest debate in our minds is whether children gain a lot of important knowledge and fun experiences while traveling or whether it is a bit “wasted” on them because they don’t fully appreciate what they are seeing. I think there is a little bit of both in this and it really depends on the personalities of the kids and where you take them. Some children will embrace a new experience and enjoy it and others will be dreaming of getting back to movies and video games with their friends.
I found a great article from Budget Travel on CNN about the 15 Landmarks (in the USA) that Every Child Should See By Age 15. Below I have listed these landmarks, whether I saw them by age 15, and whether I agree all kids should see it.
Grand Canyon, Arizona- I saw at age 25.
Yes. The Grand Canyon is cool and at a young age you probably won’t mind the tiny hotel rooms. The article recommends some things to do on the West Rim, so that’s worth considering since the South Rim was pretty uneventful.
Redwood National Park, California- Technically, never seen but I have been to Muir Woods.
Yes. What kid doesn’t love playing in the woods? Bonus points for being near San Francisco and other kid-friendly things.
Monticello, Virginia- I saw at age 15, whew!
Maybe. I think a kid who is into history may be more excited about this. It’s pretty, but I wouldn’t go out of my way for it. I enjoyed other parts of VA more at age 15.
The Freedom Trail, Massachusetts- I saw at 10 (maybe before, can’t remember).
Yes. I know I’m bias, but it’s history every American kid should know. Plus I was a huge fan of Mike’s Pastry rock candy as a kid, which is at the end of the freedom trail!
Niagara Falls, New York- I saw at age 24.
Yes. Go to the Canadian side though, and try to stay clear of the ridiculous Vegas-style attractions nearby. Kids will love the Maid of the Mist, the Whirlpool Jet Boat Rides, and the deck view area under the falls. If the “kids” are over 21, there are some awesome wineries nearby as well. Just say’
The National Mall, Washington DC- I saw at age 10.
Yes. DC is a must-do for kids in my opinion. There is so much to see and do but one of my personal favorites? The Air and Space Museum.
Williamsburg, Virginia- I’ve never seen.
Yes. I know I just said I haven’t been there, but kids love this kind of thing so I still think they should go.
Walt Disney World Resort, Florida- I saw at age 9.
Yes. Okay, maybe not as educational as the others listed, what kid does not LOVE Disney World? It’s simply a must-do for most kids.
Independence Hall, Pennsylvania- I’ve never seen.
Yes. I have to say yes for this one based on the history aspect alone. You may want to check out this website, Liberty's Kids, to give your kids a little background. I will say the article mentions ghost tours based on true stories as a kid-friendly idea. You know your own kids, but this would’ve given me nightmares as a kid. I’d like to go now though!
Alcatraz Island, California- I saw at age 24.
Yes. It may not be for every kid but most I know would love to visit a famous jail. Plus, the kids will love the whole ferry experience and running around at a place where criminals once did.
Ellis Island, New York- I’ve never seen.
Yes. I went to NYC in fifth grade and we didn’t go to Ellis Island. However, for kids today I think it’s worth seeing. The US is getting more and more multicultural every day and kids should know about the immigration experience back then and now.
Yellowstone National Park- Wyoming, Montana and Idaho- I’ve never seen.
Yes. Eric went at age 17 so I consulted him for this. He thinks the idea of seeing buffalo, bears, elk up close could be enough to convince children under 15 of the coolness of Yellowstone. I wonder a bit about their ability to appreciate the beauty of the place, but it depends on the kid.
Fenway Park, Massachusetts- I saw at a young age, obviously!
Yes. Like you expected me to say otherwise? I actually have a condition for this one, I think all kids from Boston and all kids interested in baseball should see Fenway by age 15. Kids who have heard all about Babe Ruth and Ted Williams or even are current fans of baseball will love it!
Carters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Idaho- I’ve never seen.
Maybe. It certainly sounds pretty awesome, but I don’t know enough about it to say for sure. Also, is it hard to get to Idaho with kids?
San Diego Zoo, California- I’ve never seen.
Yes. I’ve never been, but who hasn’t heard of the greatness that is the San Diego Zoo?
I guess I agree with Budget Travel, huh? That being said, I don’t think kids MUST see all of these places, I just think they happen to be places it is cool to take your kids to. For an absolutely must see list, I would want to know your family lives and what their interests are. This is a good start though!
Have you ever been to these landmarks? Would your recommend them to people with children? Would you add any places to the list? If you don't live in the US, where would you go in your country?