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The best things to do with kids in 13 U.S. cities

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There are a plethora of reasons to travel with kids; travel teaches young children to be flexible, can help instill a love of adventure, and exposes families to new cultures. Of course, that doesn’t mean traveling with a six-year-old is easy, especially when navigating the streets of a bustling city.

The best way to ensure that both kids and parents are happy exploring a new place is to find activities that accommodate everyone in the family, from baby to grandpa. Fortunately, cities around the U.S. offer a laundry list of top-notch spots sure to impress.

To help guide you and your littles through the urban jungle, we’ve rounded up the best places to play in 13 American cities. Sure, we’ve included a few touristy hot spots in the maps below, but for the most part our picks are carefully curated with an eye for insider gems from coast to coast. Behold, the ultimate list of things to do with kids when traveling in the U.S.


A carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
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New York City

Whether it’s because of honking taxis or the sheer size of the most populous city in the U.S., navigating New York City with kids can be a daunting task. But look beyond the hustle and bustle of the streets and you’ll find a laundry list of family-friendly activities.

Most people know that Central Park is packed with playgrounds and that kiddos love the (free!) Staten Island Ferry. Dive a little deeper and you’ll discover countless other children’s museums, a theater with performances just for kids, and recreational facilities that let children ice skate, climb, and swim.

We’ve mapped the 35 best things to do in the Big Apple with kids, right this way.


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Kids and families swim at the Annenberg Community Beach House at Santa Monica State Beach.
California Beaches

Los Angeles

There are so many kid-friendly places to see in Los Angeles, where do you begin? As the second-largest urban region in the United States, LA offers families more activities and adventures than many small countries, but that doesn’t mean they are all worth the time.

Sure, you could spend a week at Disneyland, but that’s not really what the city is all about. Take some pointers from the locals and see Los Angeles County as they do: Full of vibrant cultural opportunities, art, amazing outdoor spaces, and yes, even public transportation.

Check out the full list—with 30 amazing spots—over here.


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Children play at Maggy Daley Park in downtown Chicago.
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Chicago

Chicago’s world-famous architecture and cultural offerings make it one of the most popular cities in the U.S., but locals will tell you that Chicago is also a great place to live or travel to with kids.

Sure, children and parents alike love the deep-dish pizza, but the Windy City offers everything from top-notch kid-centric theater productions to one of the world’s largest aquariums. It’s also a relatively easy city to navigate with kids, especially because many of the main attractions are concentrated in Chicago’s downtown.

27 places to travel as a family in Chicago, mapped.


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Visitors in the Main Hall of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.
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Washington, D.C.

With a plethora of attractions, easy-to-use transportation, and some of our country’s top museums, Washington, D.C., should be on every family’s must-travel list. But determining which sites to see—and what to do when you get there—can be downright overwhelming.

If you’re looking for the top spots in Washington, D.C., for families, we’ve got you covered with this handy map. From vintage carousels to artsy hot spots, D.C. offers something for everyone. We’ve catalogued the most important tourist sites on the National Mall as well as under-the-radar destinations that will have your kiddos pretending to be international spies or kayaking in the Potomac.

See the top 28 things to do with kids in D.C., over here.


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A father and daughter walk on Baker Beach in San Francisco, California.
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San Francisco

Known around the world as a first-rate destination, San Francisco has carved out an enviable reputation for its steep rolling hills, pastel-painted Victorians, cable cars, and iconic Golden Gate Bridge. But the city is also a mecca for families, with a laundry list of kid-friendly attractions that go way beyond the cliched tourist destinations (we’re looking at you, Alcatraz).

From historic theaters to museums with dozens of hands-on experiences, San Francisco offers both locals and visitors a never-ending list of things to do. And while there’s plenty of activities if rain forces your family inside―like the de Young Museum and the Exploratorium―the city really shines when the clouds clear and you can play outside.

Check out 29 top-notch options for families, here.


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Mt. Elliott Park is a recently renovated park on the East Riverfront.
Michelle & Chris Gerard

Detroit

From the Detroit Institute of Arts to the Motown Museum, Detroit is full of intriguing spots sure to impress any seasoned traveler or local; but what about families with kids? The city may not have the flashy kid-centric tourist traps like Disneyland, but there’s still plenty for the younger crowd.

We’ve rounded up the 18 best spots that will keep the entire family happy while exploring the Motor City. Whether it’s checking out the aquarium on Belle Isle or munching on snacks in the Eastern Market, there’s something for everyone on the list.

We’ve mapped all the best spots, this way.


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Boston

Other great metropolitan areas boast world-renowned museums, gorgeous green spaces, and zoos that keep kids coming back again and again. But in Boston and its surrounding region, everything is a bit more doable for families: The top sites are often clustered together or just a short ride away on the city’s subways, buses, and commuter rail.

And then there are the things you can only do in Boston: Ride on a swan boat in the middle of summer, visit a historic fort, reenact the Boston Tea Party. It all makes for great fun as a family, offering experiences that are both educational and entertaining.

See 24 things to do with kids in Boston, over here.


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Local school children participate at Kids Fashion Day at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art on March 5, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Photo by Skip Bolen/Getty Images

New Orleans

New Orleans may have a reputation for Mardi Gras and late-night jazz concerts, but the Big Easy is also an ideal destination for families with kids. With a vibrant food scene, a walkable downtown, and a system of streetcars that make transportation a breeze, New Orleans offers an array of child-friendly activities that you won’t find anywhere else in the United States.

Outdoorsy types will appreciate NOLA’s many parks and nature-focused destinations; families can kayak along the bayou or explore a larger-than-life storybrook playground. And just because you’re with kiddos doesn’t mean you have to miss out on Cajun culture: We’ve identified the best cemetery tours, jazz venues, and even bookstores that cater to the under-18 crowd.

Behold, the 23 best places in New Orleans for families and kids.


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The four-acre Dilworth Park—one of the city’s original squares—features a splash fountain that keeps kids cool in the summer.
Photo by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

Philadelphia

From world-class museums to under-the-radar playgrounds, the City of Brotherly Love doesn’t skimp on kid-friendly activities. That might come as a surprise to visitors of Philadelphia; other popular cities on the eastern seaboard—think New York; Washington, D.C.; and Boston—can sometimes overshadow this Pennsylvania underdog.

But locals know that Philadelphia offers a range of activities for children of all ages. Where else can kids visit a new Revolutionary War museum, splash in a historic fountain, and gush over animals at our country’s oldest zoo?

We’ve gone beyond some of the traditional historic sites—here’s looking at you, Liberty Bell—to offer 24 destinations curated to create a top-notch family-friendly itinerary. See them all, here.


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Kids play in the splash fountains at Centennial Olympic Park on a hot summer day in Atlanta.
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Atlanta

It may not get as much press as the Disneylands of the world, but Atlanta’s rich history, plethora of cultural attractions, and love of parks means the city is ideal for kids from zero to 100.

Outdoorsy types will enjoy biking on the Beltline, exploring why Atlanta is sometimes called a “city in a forest,” and hiking up the iconic Stone Mountain. Kids can also experience the city’s famous Southern culture; we’ve identified the best museums and historical sites that will please both adults and the under-18 crowd.

We’ve rounded up the best of the best for families, with an eye for under-the-radar—and less touristy—spots. Check out the map, right this way.


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A boy feeds the giraffes at Zoo Miami.
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Miami

Miami might have an international reputation for thriving bars and late-night pool parties, but it’s also packed full of family-friendly activities for kids of all ages. Sure, you could spend a week exploring all of the city’s sandy white beaches, but the Magic City offers so much more.

Take some pointers from the locals and see Miami as they do: full of great museums, vibrant culture, and amazing outdoor activities.

The weather in Florida also means that while the rest of the United States is hunkered down for cold temperatures and snow, Miami is the perfect family getaway. From exploring one of the region’s top-notch parks to picnicking next to a waterfront Italian-style villa, the city offers plenty to pique the interest of both adults and children.

We’ve mapped the 21 best spots, over here.


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A play fountain located at the Seattle Center.
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Seattle

At first glance, Seattle’s reputation for rain and gray skies may dissuade families from checking out all that the city has to offer. But don’t let a little drizzle get you down. You can score gorgeous days in the spring, summer, and fall in the Emerald City, and Seattle has more to entertain kids of all ages than you could possibly pack into a weekend or two.

From beaches that will make you feel like you’re in California—we’re looking at you, Alki—to top-notch theater productions specifically geared toward the younger set, Seattle is full of things to do as a family. Perhaps the best part is that parents will have a great time too, reliving childhood dreams at the Pinball Museum or sampling delicacies at the iconic Pike Place Market.

Pack the rain jacket and head to these 24 top spots in Seattle.


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The 70-degree Barton Springs Pool feels lovely on a hot afternoon in Austin.
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Austin

Austin might have an international reputation for first-class events and a hoppin’ music scene—think SXSW or the Austin City Limits Music Festival—or its robust film and food scenes, but it’s also an excellent city for families. Mild weather year-round, a plethora of outdoor activities, and a thriving arts community mean that you can always find something to do.

As you might expect from a growing metropolitan area, Austin boasts top-notch zoos, aquariums, and the always-necessary children’s museum. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find more unique attractions: The younger crowd will have a blast checking out one of the country’s best toy museums, learning about the difference between stalagmites and stalactites in an underground cavern, and watching 1.5 million bats fly from a downtown bridge.

See the full map, over here.

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