To some, visiting a theme park postpandemic might feel like jumping into the deep end of a crowded pool, where concert-, theater-, and stadium-goers also float. But with news of Disneyland in Anaheim preparing for a phased reopening starting April 30, including a new ticketed experience at Disney California Adventure Park that started March 18, do we dare to dream? To plan?
Several new kid-friendly museums, exhibits, and theme parks are slated to open globally in 2021, the kind of places adults might visit without children. Whimsy, joy, and playfulness don’t come with an age limit. Check this list of openings, which we will continue to update, and longer-running experiences we’re obsessed with—plus ways to extend a future trip beyond a day.
Note that the CDC still doesn’t recommend nonessential travel; vaccinated travelers have a new set of rules to play by, though.
Hans Christian Andersen’s House, Denmark
Opening summer 2021
“Fairy-tale” might be an overused travel adjective, but a new Hans Christian Andersen museum opening in Denmark this year really will deserve the description. H.C. Andersen’s House, in Odense on the island of Funen some two hours’ drive from Copenhagen, is set to showcase the life and work of the famous spinner of fantastical yarns (“The Snow Queen,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” to name a few). H.C. Andersen’s House will feature a children’s house and an underground museum set among gardens ripe for exploration. It all leads to the writer’s actual childhood home. Read the full story.
Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, London
Opening March 27, 2021
When a major exhibit dedicated to Alice in Wonderland opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London later this month, the immersive showcase will surely take viewers down a rabbit hole of inspiration and nostalgia. According to museum organizers, the exhibit will feature a large collection of Alice in Wonderland–related artifacts over the last 157 years, such as illustrations by Sir John Tenniel from the original novel, as well as early concept art from Walt Disney’s 1951 film. (Our guess is that Tim Burton’s 2010 big-screen interpretation will also get a nod.)
However, Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser won’t just focus on direct adaptations of the tale. Expanding on the award-winning Wonderland exhibit from the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, the V&A presentation will push further, exploring the classic tale’s delightfully weird influence spanning visual art, fashion, music, dance, and photography. Read the full story.
Legoland New York, Goshen, New York
The largest Legoland in the U.S. is set to open at some point in 2021, bringing seven themed lands and some 50 rides and attractions to Goshen, New York, in the Hudson Valley. It’ll feature a Knights Kingdom with a dragon-themed roller coaster, a Ninjago realm where kids can get their ninja on, plenty of places to exchange those minifigures, and all manner of other cubic fun. Hopefully it’ll also feature the shorter lines and brick-building centers that make the whimsical parks in California and Florida so much fun. A new Legoland Hotel opens in 2021, too, with 250 rooms (all with separate kid’s zones) themed around pirates, Lego Friends or Ninjago.
Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is a culture-vulture’s destination any year, whether you’re looking for intimate galleries, regional art museums, or a whole lot of Georgia O’Keeffe. The most toddler-friendly of all, though, is the Museum of International Folk Art on Museum Hill.
Now, you might be thinking that a museum full of ceramics and small children don’t quite mix—but there are more than 130,000 objects from 100+ countries, and many of them are tiny. The permanent exhibit Multiple Visions: A Common Bond features Alexander Girard’s collection of folk art—kids will love to look at pint-sized toreadors, the Indonesian shadow puppets, the colorful dolls and wooden figurines from diverse cultures. There’s a full day’s worth of exploring to do here, and the museum is officially open at 25 percent capacity.
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, Denmark
Reopening March 27, 2021
First opened in 1843, Copenhagen’s storied amusement park Tivoli Gardens is said to have inspired Walt Disney during several trips before Disney opened Disneyland in California in 1955. Home to more than 26 rides ranging from the Star Flyer, which gives parkgoers bird’s-eye views of the city, to the winsome Music Carousel, the park’s smart Scandinavian design aesthetic and midcentury-modern stylings will delight kids and adults.
The grounds are compact and walkable, and the 38-room Nimb Hotel stands in the center of the action. Tivoli reopens for the season March 27, and to comply with Danish health and safety protocol, guests 15 years and older will be required to show documentation for a negative COVID-19 test within the last 72 hours. Children up to 14 years old are not required to show a negative COVID-19-test. Guests need advance reservations to enter the park.
Super Nintendo World in Universal Studios Japan, Osaka
After multiple pandemic-related delays, Super Nintendo World finally opened in Universal Studios Japan in Osaka on March 18, 2021, with an augmented-reality Mario Kart ride and a family ride called Yoshi’s Adventure. Themed mostly around the Super Mario video game, Super Nintendo World features real-life versions of Bowser’s Castle, Princess Peach’s Castle, and Mount Beanpole. The park also features interactive elements that allow guests to compete with each other as they would in a video game. That includes collecting stamps, tackling boss battles, and watching a leaderboard to see who has the most virtual coins.
While Japan’s borders are still closed to most overseas travelers, there are also Super Nintendo Worlds under construction at the new Epic Universe theme park in Universal Orlando and inside Universal Studios Hollywood. Opening dates have yet to be announced but likely won’t be for another year or so due to pandemic-related delays. Read the full story.
Written by Sarah Buder, Tim Chester, Julia Cosgrove, Laura Dannen Redman, and Lyndsey Matthews.
This article was originally published on March 18, 2021; it was updated with additional information on March 23, 2021.