A is for Aquarium
WHAT Two gigantic tanks containing California coastal marine life aside, the 650sq m large Splash Zone is a huge draw at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Housed in a former sardine cannery in Monterey, California, it boasts more than 30 hands-on activities for kids under 9. Junior can crawl through a tunnel filled with tropical fish displays and use squirt toys to discover how animals resist crashing waves.
WHERE 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, California.
HOW MUCH Tickets cost US$49.95 ($70.94)/adult and US$29.95 ($42.54)/child aged 3 to 12.
B is for Beach
WHAT Soft white sand, great views and an impressive range of cafés and restaurants make Sydney, Australia’s Bondi Beach a fantastic destination for families. While daddy takes the kids for a swim, or cycling on rented bicycles and kick-scooters, mummy enjoys shopping at Bondi Junction. If your peewee is a little more skilled, he can even venture into the Bondi Skate Park. Or pop into the Marine Discovery Centre at the Bondi Pavilion to learn more about Bondi Bay’s amazing marine life.
WHERE Bondi, Sydney East, New South Wales.
C is for Circus
WHAT Nothing beats the magic of a circus, especially when it features the high-energy acrobatics, powerful athleticism and inspiring imagery of a breathtaking Cirque du Soleil production. Beyond casinos, you’ll find a number of scintillating Cirque du Soleil shows at Las Vegas in the US including Zarkana (where an extraordinary circus comes back to life at an abandoned theatre), and Mystère. Everyone will be enchanted by their sheer grandeur and artistry.
WHERE Aria Resort and Casino and Treasure Island, Las Vegas.
D is for Disneyland
WHAT Hong Kong Disneyland is an accessible theme park option to introduce your tot to if you can’t bear the hassle of a long-haul flight to the US. Don’t miss the Flights of Fantasy parade, plus hop on the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, both exclusive to this HK outpost. Stay at one of the two Disney-themed hotels to enjoy a fabulous international buffet with Disney characters like Mickey and Donald.
WHERE Lantau Island, Hong Kong.
HOW MUCH Theme park tickets from HK$589 ($107.87)/adult and HK$419 ($76.74)/child aged 3 to 11.
E is for Elephants
WHAT Visit the Thai Elephant Home in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to find out all about these magnificent creatures. This family-run business believes in treating elephants well and riding them bareback — which is better for the pachyderms. Sign up for the one-day elephant-riding programme to learn simple riding commands and even share a mud bath with them. A variety of accommodation options are available.
WHERE Keudchang Maetang, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
HOW MUCH The one-day elephant-riding programme costs 4,900 baht ($197.38) per person
F is for Fossils
WHAT Your little palaeontologist will, ahem, “dig” going back in time to discover Mother Earth’s past at the American Museum of Natural History in the Big Apple. He’ll be awed by the huge dinosaur exhibits and have fun “excavating” dinosaur fossils in a pit. At the interactive Discovery Room, junior will be able to “hunt” animals and track real-time earthquakes anywhere in the world.
WHERE Central Park West at 79th Street, New York.
HOW MUCH Tickets are priced at US$22 ($31.24)/adult and US$12.50 ($17.75)/child aged 2 to 12.
G is for the Grand Canyon
WHAT Need we say more? One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon will surely amaze both young and old. Hike along one of the trails (easy and difficult ones are available), explore caves, watch birds, or simply soak in the breathtaking views. Arrange for your kiddo to take part in the junior-ranger programme (from age 4), where he’ll be sworn in as a National Park Junior Ranger after completing a series of activities.
WHERE Grand Canyon, Arizona.
H is for Honey
WHAT Honey drizzled on toast may be junior’s favourite breakfast, so why not show him how the sweet stuff is made? Just across the Causeway, you can go back to nature with a trip to Simple Bee. Besides learning how honey is collected and sampling it straight from the comb, you can even stay in a treehouse!
WHERE Simple Bee is at Jalan Macap Baru, 76100 Alor Gajah, Malacca, Malaysia.
Read on to learn where to find an ice-cream graveyard!
I is for Ice cream
WHAT Question: What’s better than digging into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? Answer: Touring Ben & Jerry’s headquarters at Waterbury, in Vermont in the US. The best part of your 30-minute visit has to be tasting freshly-made samples of the frozen goodies, plus paying tribute to ill-fated flavours at the “Flavour Graveyard”, where tombstones mark their “resting places”.
WHERE 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Waterbury, in Vermont.
HOW MUCH Tickets, at US$4 ($5.68) an adult, are sold daily on a first-come, first-served basis. Kids aged 12 and under enter free.
J is for Jellybeans
WHAT No prizes for guessing that a sugar high awaits you at the end of your 45-minute tour of Jelly Belly’s factory in Fairfield, California. During your visit, you’ll walk along glassed catwalks to get a bird’s-eye view of how workers process, flavour and sort the candies. Though you’ll get a free bag of jelly beans at the end, you’re likely to purchase even more at the factory store before you leave!
WHERE 1 Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield, California.
HOW MUCH Free.
K is for Knights
WHAT Plenty of medieval thrills await your tyke at one of Britain’s most iconic attractions, Alnwick Castle, when he takes part in the Knight’s Quest programme. Junior might even get to try on a helmet and brandish a sword. He or she can also try his or her hand at various feudal crafts, like making herbal soap balls. By the way, this castle was also the setting for Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films.
WHERE Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, NE66 1NQ.
HOW MUCH Book your tickets online for £13.45 ($23.95)/adult and £6.97 ($12.41)/child aged 5 to 16. Tickets cost more at the gate.
L is for lions
WHAT A zoo excursion is great but observing the king of the jungle in his natural habitat at Kruger Park in South Africa is even better. Home to nearly 2 million hectares of historical and wildlife sights, you’ll discover everything from bushman rock paintings to archaeological sites. Children can join any closed-microbus game drive (kids under 8 are not allowed on an open safari vehicle after dark for safety reasons). Stay on-site at one of several lodges and camps.
WHERE Kruger National Park, South Africa.
M is for Make Believe
WHAT Your little one might well have checked out the Kidzania theme park in Singapore, but there are still countless great reasons to give this one in the “Land of Smiles” a whirl. Suitable for kids aged 4 to 15, Kidzania Bangkok allows mini-“workers” to try their hands at more than 80 professions, including becoming a Court Officer at the courthouse. Most of the staff is proficient in both English and Thai.
WHERE Kidzania, Level 5, Siam Paragon, 991 Rama 1 Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok.
HOW MUCH Tickets are priced at 690 baht ($27.80) for adults and 528 ($21.27) baht for kids aged 4 to 14.
N is for Nutcracker
WHAT Thrill your little ballerina with all things tutu and twirly with a trip to White Lodge Museum and Ballet Resource Centre, UK’s first dedicated ballet museum. You’ll learn about the daily life of The Royal Ballet School students, the history and development of this classical dance form, and view costumes from famous productions.
WHERE The Royal Ballet School, White Lodge, Richmond Park, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 5HR.
HOW MUCH Admission is free but send an e-mail to email@example.com to book your visit.
O is for Orchard
WHAT Picking his own apples, cherries and peaches will be a super-fun experience for your little fella. Besides harvesting and tasting the bounty at Paynes Orchards in Australia, you’ll get to purchase the fruit, too. Contact the orchard to find out when the fruit-picking season starts.
WHERE Paynes Orchards is at 372 Bacchus Marsh Road, 40 minutes west of Melbourne.
HOW MUCH The Apple Safari — where you can pick a bag of apples and take it home — costs A$9 ($9.62).
P is for Planes
WHAT Your pint-sized pilot will love exploring the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Watch junior (and daddy’s) eyes light up as he checks out plane models with a historic past, plus, sit in during storytelling sessions about famous aviators. Every Friday and Sunday at 10.30am, catch a free screening of One World One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure — where the Sesame Street friends take an imaginary trip to the moon — at the Einstein Planetarium.
WHERE Independence Avenue at 6th Street, SW Washington, DC, USA.
HOW MUCH Admission is free.
More memorable family getaway suggestions right up!
Q is for Queen’s Guard
WHAT The Queen's Guard refers to the infantry and cavalry soldiers who guard the official royal residences in London. Catch the Changing the Guard ceremony daily at 11.30am at Buckingham Palace from May to July (and alternate days throughout the rest of the year) and their iconic full-dress uniform of red tunics and bearskins will surely intrigue your imp. Bone up on fun facts like: When the Queen is in residence, there are four sentries at the front of the building; when she is away, there are two.
WHERE Buckingham Palace, London, SWA 1AA.
R is for Road Trip
WHAT Planning a road trip? Organise one to the iconic Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia. You’ll soak in spectacular views, visit landmarks like the awe-inspiring 12 Apostles, plus sample scads of wildlife, nature and yummy food. Don’t forget to factor in plenty of stops for the kids, too — not just to stretch those little legs — but also to capture souvenir shots, such as of koalas.
WHERE Torquay, Victoria 3228, Australia.
S is for Staycation
WHAT A memorable holiday need not start with a daunting long-haul flight, not when you can savour a staycation. For a top-notch one with a fab view of the Singapore skyline, check into The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore. My kids — aged 1 and 3 — were transfixed by the sights and enjoyed pointing out the landmarks like the Esplanade and Gardens By The Bay, which meant that the hubs and I enjoyed plenty of downtime. We loved the spacious Premier Suite and little touches like the welcome snack of “tic-tac-toe-styled” cookies (my elder son couldn’t get enough of this). Thanks to the newly launched Ritz Kids privileges programme, the complimentary mini-canvas tote with baby amenities also made us feel really cosseted. Though we cooled off in the hotel pool, what the kids really loved was the huge tub in the bathroom, where they spent many happy minutes soaking (and splashing!) while peering out of the iconic octagonal windows. The Greenhouse features an extensive buffet dinner, with everything from fresh seafood to local faves like chilli crab, but it was the dessert spread that was a hit with the kids. I recommend an after-dinner stroll at the Helix Bridge, where you’ll be able to catch Marina Bay Sands’ 8pm laser light show.
WHERE The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore is at 7 Raffles Avenue. Call 6337-8888.
HOW MUCH A stay at the Premier Suite costs $1,490++ a night; buffet dinner at the Colony costs $92++/adult and $46++/child aged 6 to 12. Room rates start at $590 a night.
T is for Trek
WHAT Want to share your love for the outdoors with your kids? Then organise a trek around New Zealand’s Aoraki and Mount Cook Mackenzie region. With plenty of short walks to choose from (start with a 10-minute Bowen Bush Walk through totara trees and a celery-pine forest), hiking with a toddler in tow won’t sound that daunting after all. Now to inhale deeply, breathe in the fresh air and imagine that you’re in Middle Earth!
WHERE 1 Larch Grove, Aoraki, Mount Cook Village, New Zealand.
U is for Up
WHAT Get up, up and away in hot air balloon rides in Australia’s Gold Coast. On arriving at the launch site in the wee hours, you’ll first see how the balloon — more than 10 storeys high — is inflated. There are small holes on the sides of the basket, so your little one won’t miss the view. After marvelling at the great views during your 30-minute flight, you’ll be whisked off to O’Reillys Canungra Valley Vineyard for a relaxing breakfast, plus, toast your feat with a glass of champagne!
WHERE Gold Coast, Australia
HOW MUCH A Hot Air balloon package costs A$250 ($267.24)/adult and A$209 ($223.42) kid from age 4.
V is for Village
WHAT Give your family a taste of life away from the madding crowd by whisking them off to a traditional Fijian village. After being welcomed warmly with traditional songs, you’ll be briefed on village etiquette, take part in a meke (traditional dance), and enjoy local produce while wearing a sarong.
HOW MUCH Priced at FJ$252 ($173.69)/adult and FJ$145 ($99.94)/child aged 4 to 15.
W is for Wild West
WHAT Why not say “howdy” to a visit to Enchanted Springs Ranch, an old-west theme park 25 minutes away from San Antonio, Texas? This replica of a 19th-century old Texan town boasts everything from trading posts to saloons and even a herd of buffalo. This gorgeous parcel of Texas Hill Country is also home to rolling hills, lush pastures, flowing streams and two beautiful fish-filled lakes. Psst, Oprah Winfrey loves this place and calls it one of the wackiest family attractions ever.
WHERE The ranch is at 242 State HWY 46 West Boerne, Texas.
X is for Experiment
WHAT Since the Japanese excel in state-of-the-art innovations, a visit to Miraikan in Tokyo (the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) will surely prove enlightening. Check out robots of the future, plus other interactive displays, including gadgets that predict earthquakes, as well as one that studies your DNA.
WHERE The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation is at 2-41, Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo.
HOW MUCH Get your tickets on site, priced at ¥620 ($7.74)/adult over 18 and ¥210 ($2.62)/under 18 years.
Y is for Yellow
WHAT This might be the colour of your kiddo’s favourite crayon — so, let him go on the Crayola Experience factory tour to find out how this waxed wonder is made. Besides a chance to doodle on walls, junior will love creating a craft piece with you. Pssst, don’t forget to look for the World’s Largest Crayon!
WHERE The Crayola Experience is at 30 Centre Square Easton, Pennsylvania.
HOW MUCH Admission tickets at US$17.99 ($25.54) for ages 3 and up, US$19.99 ($28.38) for tickets purchased on site.
Z is for Zoo
WHAT The world’s oldest zoo and a Unesco World (according to Unesco website) Heritage site, Zoo Vienna (Schönbrunn Zoo) makes a fascinating and educational experience for your family. Founded in 1752, this zoo was the birth-place of the first zoo-born African elephant in 1906. This historical zoo with a unique charm is now home to more than 700 species of animals, including giant pandas and orangutans!
WHERE Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna.
HOW MUCH Tickets cost €18.50 ($28.23)/adult and €9 ($13.73)/kid. Children under 6 enjoy free entry.
This story was first published in the May 2014 edition of Mother & Baby Magazine.
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