ROME, Italy -- You can't tell by the photograph above where this caption was taken but it was certainly inside the Colosseum. And I must confess I'm not crazy about the idea of organized trips, but when traveling with kids this option is brilliant. Everything on the tour is provided for you such as: tickets, headphones and best bet: excellent information right at your fingertips. And when traveling with kids these type of offerings are magical to have on hand. My kids and I were on a tour of Rome with lots of college kids -- and I mean lots of college kids. Our tour visit of the Colosseum turned out to a brilliant and informative one. Sometimes meeting locals from a particular country can be a memory keeper but meeting folks from your own country in a foreign land can be just as magical.
VENICE, Italy -- We arrived in Venice, literally a city that floats on water on the last two days of The Carnival of Venice, an annual festival, that ends with Lent, forty days before Easter on Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday or Martedì Grasso), the day before Ash Wednesday. Our first protocol of the day was certainly to enjoy a gondola ride and say hello to a gondolier as we walked down and around tiny waterways and canals. However we had no idea nor did anyone quite prepare us on the amount of young children who participate along with their parents in the Carnival of Venice. We saw hundreds of kids dressed in the most beautiful costumes, mini-portions of what any self-respecting adult would wear. FYI Every year the city of Venice hosts at least twenty Carnival of Venice themed family events. See website below for more details.
Best Bet for a Museum visit in Venice: The Peggy Guggenheim...
The Louvre is at once spectacular and intimidating and for art novices, its sheer size and collection may even prove anxiety-inducing. To avoid shuffling through each corridor aimelessly, it's wise to visit armed with an intinerary or even a guide to create a tour according to what you'd most like to see. Thanks to one New York expat, there's now a third option. Daisy de Plume (yes, a pseudonym!), art fanatic and entrepreneur, launched ThatLou (Treasure Hunt at the Louvre) as a way to give purpose to touring the museum (and make it fun!). She runs a hunt open to the general public on the first Sunday of each month and several thematic hunts throughout the month.
Beyond its value as a unique way to explore pieces of history, ThatLou is a great way to meet new people.
Note: some tours are bilingual, others are all in French. Consult the "Menu of Hunts" for more information!
History comes alive at the Royal Palace and Fortress on Tower Hill. Seeing the armory and the dungeons used to imprison queens kings princes and the crown jewels elicits some extra sensory experiences conjuring voices in the walls as if shrieking from nights of torture. Yet a silent comfort from the stronghold abating the crusaders at our surreal precipice. The thoughts of the traitors gate nearby whispers like a voice from within the iron maiden beckoning us to cross it's threshold into hell. Scary yet beautiful place.
ISTANBUL, Turkey --- Opened in late 2007 Santralistanbul is a former power station that has been converted into a five-floor museum cum laude modern art gallery space. Most folks in the know simply refer to this museum as Turkey's Tate Modern. Sure the Istanbul Modern and the Sakip Sabanci receive all the attention in town, but if you are traveling with kids to Istanbul this place should be on your Top Ten without a doubt.
Fun factor for the kids: The Museum of Energy that's located in the basement. Monumental structures of cast iron structures built by companies such as Siemens and AEG are fully on display. Kids can play around in the control rooms that years ago controlled the entire city's power supply. In addition there are 22 interactive scientific displays that can keep the kids entertained. Parent note: The museum is very, very difficult to find. Be sure to hop on the free...
Athens, Greece -- No matter your age, it's a thrill to visit the Parthenon -- one of the world's most famous landmarks. Yet Athens has much more to offer than simply traveling from one magnificent ruin of the city’s classical past to another. For instance, there are the kid-friendly events at the New Acropolis Museum whereas individual family backpacks are provided to families upon arrival. The backpacks provide games and fun gadgets for children to use while visiting the museum, such as the challenge of finding 12 representations of the goddess Athena located throughout the museum. The quest for Athena can really bring the museum’s antiquities alive for the younger visitors.
Duplicates of the family backpacks are available in the gift shop as souvenirs of the museum. (Retail value: $85) Plus, the outside cafe on the 2nd floor of the building offers free WiFi and an amazing overhead...
It's not going to blow anyone's mind to say that the Van Gogh Museum is a must-see in Amsterdam. When we were there they were in the midst of moving to the Hermitage, so the full collection was not on display. Still, the fraction of the collection that we saw was incredible.
But here's the thing: you can take small kids, and they will actually be entertained. We were delighted to be offered a "treasure hunt" packet for our four-year-old. She took to the hunt as a pirate would, tracking down sunflowers and portraits and yellow bedrooms. Older kids would be happy doing it on their own, but for young kids it's fun for parents to play along. At the end there was a little prize for her, and this made everyone happy.
We got a similar thing at the Rijksmuseum. Every museum should offer this sort of thing!