I always think that the places you travel to depend on where you reside. For my family, we live in Santa Barbara, which means that we almost always travel to cities.
But why wouldn’t we? Santa Barbara is a popular tourist destination, compared by many to Hawaii. Summers are spent at the beach, splashing in the waves, lounging on shore, or playing volleyball. Hence, whenever we have an opportunity to travel, the first places we look at are cities, whether it be San Francisco or New York. I’m thrilled about this, since I believe cities are such an amazing place for families to travel to. Here’s why:
If that isn’t enough to convince, I’m sure this will. As a result of our family’s GIANT love of cities, we’ve put together a list of the best cities (and things to do in them) for families just like us.
New Orleans is one of my favorite places to visit, period. The culture, charm, and delicious food... what could be better? This city strikes me as being extremely family-friendly, too - there are many aquariums, insectariums, and more that would really appeal to young children. The colorful buildings don't hurt, either.
Stay: The Roosevelt Hotel. We stayed here a while back and all loved it, from the old, charming building to the buffet breakfasts every morning. The room was large and spacious, with great views of the city. There was even a rooftop pool!
Eat: Cafe Du Monde: It's famous for its tantalizing beignets. I always remember when I was really little and we would go there, order beignets and milk, and cover our faces in powdered sugar. And Central Grocery: the most amazing muffalettas on this planet. It's not my opinion - it's just a fact.
Do: The Audubon Aquarium. Perfect for kids of all ages, this aquarium is nestled right in between the French Quarter and the Mississippi River. It has awesome, interactive displays with tons of incredible sea creatures. To this day, it's still one of my favorite aquariums, and that's saying a lot.
New York City
New York is seriously such an amazing city for families - there are a million things to do, a million things to see.... a million things to eat. And you'll have no trouble convincing kids to take a trip to New York, that's for sure (because who wouldn't want to go to New York?)
Stay: Renaissance New York, Hotel 57. This dog-friendly hotel has a perfect location, just a few blocks away from Central Park yet still smack-dab in the center of the city. Our room was just as perfect and had fantastic views of the city everywhere you looked.
Eat: Bouvette. Located in the Villages, this French restaurant is insanely good. We went there for breakfast and left declaring that it was the best we've ever had. Of course, this isn't the only good place to eat in New York....
Do: Walk the Brooklyn Bridge: we loved the interesting perspective this gave on the city, as well as the thrill of the walk. Go to the many museums: kids will love this experience and the education on modern art this will undoubtably give them. Walk through Central Park: does this need any explanation? Filled with excitement and adventure, kids will find this pretty hard to beat.
This is such a great city for families for a number of reasons. There's an immense historical background with this city, so kids will enjoy getting to experience places like the Lincoln Memorial up close. The museums are pretty unbeatable, too - there's even a spy museum!
Stay: The George. We loved this dog-friendly boutique hotel, mainly for its incredible location. It was only a couple blocks from Union Station, which we ate at nearly every day.
Eat: ShakeShack. Amazing burgers, fries, and shakes - what could be better than that, especially when it comes to kids?
Do: Go to the Mall, a cluster of some of the world's best museums, historical monuments and memorials, and more. We were fascinated by the wide array of things to see here.
Not to pick favorites, but out of all the cities here, this is probably my... well, favorite. I could honestly live in San Francisco. The buildings, the piers, the food... everything about it, I love. It's what my parents would call a "walking city" because you walk to get nearly everywhere you need to go, but that only adds to the fun. Walking past the charming buildings and pushing up the steep hills, then stopping to grab a bite at an insanely good restaurant? Count me in!
Stay: We've stayed at a few different places in San Francisco over the years, but my top two would be Hotel Vitale and the Griffin. Hotel Vitale is a dog-friendly hotel located just across the street from the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero, a building crammed with incredible restaurants. We would often pick up Chinese food and eat on the roof, gazing at the ocean. The Griffin is a smaller, boutique hotel on the opposite side of Hotel Vitale that we actually stayed out the most out of all the hotels we've stayed at in San Fran.
Eat: Pizza Delfina. Hands down the best pizza I've ever had. The beautiful setting, in Pacific Heights, doesn't hurt, either.
Do: Take a trolley from the top of the city to the bottom, or, if you're feeling a bit adventurous, walk up to Coit Tower and gaze at the incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver is an amazing city - we compared it to San Francisco actually, and for good reason. This city looks like it's made completely of glass covered in green roofs, yet shares the same amazing museums, food, and walks as San Francisco. Need I say more?
Stay: The Loden. This dog-friendly hotel is a block away from the harbor and is one of the nicest hotels in all of Canada. Luckily, the US dollar is currently really strong in Canada, so everything is about twenty-five percent off.
Eat: Bao Bei. This restaurant's Asian inspired food might be a little challenging for some kids, but my brother and I fought over the last bites, and that's saying a lot. If that hasn't sold you, I don't know what will.
Do: Walk through Stanley Park. There are First Nation totem poles there that kids will love, and Beaver Lake, in the center of the park, is pretty awesome, too.
A little bit about us...
We're a family of four (a daughter, a son, and their mother and father.... oh, and a six-month old Standard Poodle puppy). But we all share one thing in common: our love of travel and adventure!
Hotel of the Month
Solage Calistoga: the image of perfection. We stayed here recently on our trip to Napa Valley and couldn't have been more amazed at this stunning resort. The rooms, each one an individual cottage, were immaculate and private. The property itself contained multiple pools and other amenities, all of which were designed beautifully. One of our favorite parts had to be the Michelin-star restaurant, which served some of the best food we'd ever eaten. Solage Calistoga was the perfect fit for our family (and dog!), and we are eager to stay there again.