New Orleans, LA
The Big Easy has gotten pretty easy for families to love: There’s the music and food for you, pirate ships and kid museums for them, and Mardi Gras fun for everyone.
Drop Your Bags
Hotel Monteleone is unusual: It’s old world, elegant — and still embraces children. To take full advantage of the perks, upgrade to the “All About Kids” package, which includes a disposable camera, a deck of cards, a coloring book and crayons, plus admission to the Louisiana Children’s Museum and either the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas or the Entergy IMAX Theatre, which specializes in nature documentaries geared to kids. You’ll just need to get ’em out of the heated pool!
Dance, Eat, Party!
Every weekend, the French Quarter is full of top-tier (free) concerts. Bop along to the lively music on Royal Street, then meander into historic Jackson Square.
For classic N’awlins cuisine that the kids will actually eat, try Joey K’s on Magazine Street. It has the best fried catfish, macaroni and cheese, red beans and rice, and crispy fried green tomatoes around.
Give kids an age-appropriate carnival experience at the famous Mardi Gras World, home of colorful parade props and floats — check out the 140-foot sea monster! During the tour, try on festive costumes and watch artisans craft props.
City Park’s Storyland is a fairy tale–themed preschooler playground. Mardi Gras float makers constructed the park’s 25 larger-than-life sculptures, including Captain Hook’s pirate ship, Jack and Jill’s hill, and Pinocchio’s whale.
Las Vegas, NV
Enjoy the glitz, the headliner shows, and the posh shops while providing kids with plenty of G-rated thrills, from roller coaster rides to canyon views.
Drop Your Bags
Many families prefer to sleep off-strip, where it’s both quieter and cheaper. Two ideal properties: The Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa, which boasts a 16-screen movie complex as well as a 72-lane bowling alley, and the newly opened Cancún Resort with its refreshing two-pool (four- waterslide!) playground.
If you’d rather stay on the main drag, consider Mandalay Bay. There, a quarter mile–long lazy river encircles three pools, including a 1.6 million–gallon wave pool complete with a picturesque real sand beach. Make your way to the island in the middle where you’ll find family cabanas, each with a TV and fridge. For a different sort of watery fun, visit the on-site Shark Reef aquarium. You can marvel at more than 2,000 sea creatures from a Giant Pacific octopus to rare golden crocodiles to, yes, 15 species of sharks.
Go Outside and Play
Don’t stay indoors in a city blessed with such a great climate. Steal a half-day to take in the colors and sights of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area; it’s a 25-minute ride from the strip. And, unlike the Grand Canyon, it’s doable even for little ones. Arrive in the morning and bring a picnic lunch, or head there toward evening to catch a gorgeous sunset.
Plenty of outdoor venues within the city also have family appeal. The main attraction at LINQ, an open-air esplanade between the Flamingo and the Quad, is the High Roller, the word’s tallest observation wheel. (Its air-conditioned cars can each hold up to 40 riders!) Most days, live bands play alongside boardwalk-like food stands and games.
Near the end of busy Fremont Street you’ll find the Downtown Container Park, an outdoor entertainment space made out of shipping containers and modular cubes. Sit inside one and enjoy an ice cream!
If you get a rare rainy day, bolt for the Adventuredome theme park inside Circus Circus. The Canyon Blaster, a doubleloop, double-corkscrew coaster, will thrill them.
Take In a Show
A can’t-miss event for kids is Gregory Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theater, held inside the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood’s V Theater. Everyone will get the giggles watching pups play Double Dutch and cats push strollers. Guest stars include parrots, geese, and even mice!
Napa Valley, CA
Parents can enjoy some vino while keeping the action decidedly family-friendly for their brood.
Drop your bags
At the Calistoga Ranch in Napa, let the little ones gather eggs from the chicken coop; the chef will scramble, fry, or poach them for breakfast. Then tackle the resort’s easy-to-navigate hiking trails with mountain views. After your morning walk, cool off at the family pool, which offers kids’ meals in a tin lunch box.
Paddle & Sip
Rent kayaks, including beginner models for little ones, at Napa Valley Adventure, then spend the day on the Napa River. Challenge the kids to spot mink muskrats or foxes along the shorelines.
Ready to relax? Head to family-owned Honig Vineyard & Winery in Rutherford. In the tasting area for parents, little ones can enjoy toys, puzzles, and crafts while sampling juice and Goldfish crackers.
Dig into a meal at The Boon Fly Café at The Carneros Inn, a rustic farmhouse named for one of the original pioneers of the town. It’s known for breakfast items like Green Eggs and Ham (the secret ingredient: leeks. Shhh!).
This chic French-speaking city is synonymous with elegant boutiques and quaint cafés. You’ll adore the old-world vibe. Can kids have a blast? Mais oui!
Drop Your Bags
For Parisian ambience without the fight, check into the charming Le Place d’Armes Hotel & Suites. The historic 19th-century building sits in the heart of Old Montréal, across the street from the Notre-Dame Basilica. Bonus: Each child gets a welcome gif! Just down the block is the Old Port, where you can take a family cruise down the St. Lawrence River.
Board the two-level glass funicular and glide to the top of the 575-foot Montréal Tower Observatory. Built at a 45-degree angle (Italy’s famed Tower of Pisa is only 4 degrees!), the summit provides amazing views.
Then walk over to the nearby Biodôme. Located in what was once the 1976 Olympic Stadium, the complex houses 4,800 animals, 750 plants, and a botanical garden. (You can book a discounted tour of both the Biodôme and the
Observatory at Viator.com.)
Save time to stop at Les Délices de l’Érable in Old Montréal, the only maple museum in North America. Admission is free, as are samples of maple syrup, caramels, and classic French macarons.
Photo Credit from top: Sara Essex Bradley; Andrew Geiger/Plain PIcture; Saraesse x Bradley; Perry Mastrovito/Gett Images