Take the kids on a fantastic trip with these amazing holidays that are perfect for families. Read more on fridaymagazine.ae
1. Orlando, Florida
There are many reasons Orlando remains a top destination for families: the sun usually shines, there are hotels to suit all tastes, but above all, it’s home to two of the best theme parks in the world. Walt Disney World, Florida, is where you’ll find the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and the Hollywood Studios, plus the brilliant water parks at Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.
Trust us, even if you don’t consider yourself a Disney fan, resistance to the charms of the House of Mouse is futile – one ride on the superb Soarin’, Splash Mountain or The Tower of Terror and we guarantee you’ll be hooked and singing It’s a Small World for ever more.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure (www.universalorlando.com), meanwhile, is home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – a mind-blowing recreation of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, complete with rides, talking portraits and shops selling wands.
Universal also has roller coasters such as The Incredible Hulk and a whole section dedicated to Dr Seuss, which will appeal to younger children and those who remember The Cat in the Hat books first time around. Just over an hour’s drive away is Daytona, with its glorious sandy beach, ideal for surfing, and the Nascar racetrack, where you can take a spin inside a real stock car. A holiday in Orlando is exhilarating, but exhausting and requires lots of advance planning.
Where to stay: Base yourself on International Drive and you’ll be in easy reach of all the main attractions. Alternatively, if you want to stay in the theme parks, then the Portofino Bay at Universal (www.loewshotels.com/Portofino-Bay-Hotel) is an extraordinary hotel modelled on the Italian resort, with rooms from Dh1,302 a night. While at Walt Disney World, choose a themed hotel such as Animal Kingdom Lodge (www.disneyworld.disney.go.com), and you can wake up to see real animals from your bedroom window (rooms from Dh1,456 per room per night).
For more: www. visitorlando.com
2. Rome, Italy
Kids fans of Horrible Histories? Then take them to Rome, where at the Colosseum, one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world, they can run around and imagine what life must have been like for the gladiators and animals that fought here nearly 2,000 years ago.
You can even enrol them at Gladiator School (www.gsr-roma.com) for the afternoon while you go off to explore the designer shops along the Via Condotti. They’ll marvel at the apparent traffic chaos by the impressive Vittorio Emanuele II monument where you can see foolhardy tourists riding Segways (our advice is not to try this); at the Trevi Fountain they can throw in three coins and make wishes, then it’s just a short walk to the magnificent Pantheon, built in AD126.
Rome is, of course, also a fantastic place to introduce your children to the wonders of authentic Italian gastronomy - whether you opt for a pizza in Piazza Navona, pasta in Trastevere or gelati (ice cream) on the banks of the Tiber River, Rome offers a feast for all the senses.
Where to stay: Jumeirah Grand Hotel Via Veneto (www.jumeirah.com) has a great location in the heart of historic Rome and is housed in two renovated and restored 19th-century villas and offers superb suites ideal for families, from 5,146 euros (Dh25,600) a night.
For more: www.turismoroma.it
3. Sydney, Australia
As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge discovered on one of their trips to Sydney, this Australian city has heaps to offer – and while Prince George is perhaps a little too young to enjoy it right now, for children aged two and up, it’s an absolute paradise of wildlife, history and, of course, all those fantastic beaches, including Bondi, which has a children’s pool and playground.
At the excellent Featherdale Wildlife Park (www.featherdale.com.au) they (and you) can cuddle up to koalas, hand-feed kangaroos, see dingoes or check out the crocs and snakes. No child will be able to resist the Tyrannosaurs exhibition at the Australian Museum (www.australianmuseum.net.au), a homage to the most feared of all the dinosaurs.
Much-loved Luna Park has lots of rides and a giant Ferris wheel, while children aged 10 and up (and their brave parents) will jump at the chance to climb the Harbour Bridge (www.bridgeclimb.com).
Sydney is a very easy city to get around and children will also enjoy a ferry ride over to Manly Bay, particularly if it’s a bit choppy. If you have a few days to spare, combine a trip to Sydney with a visit to Uluru (Ayers Rock) or Queensland for the Great Barrier Reef and you’ll have a holiday to remember.
Where to stay: The Four Seasons Sydney (www.fourseasons.com) offers babysitting services, children’s menus, cribs or rollaway beds, complimentary welcome amenities and best of all, child-sized robes. Suites from Dh2,040 a night.
For more: www.sydney.com
4. Kerala, India
If you want to introduce your children to the fabulousness of India, vibrant, colourful Kerala, with its breathtaking landscapes, glorious beaches, distinct cuisine and amazing wildlife, is the perfect place to do it. Once firmly on the hippie tourist trail, it has evolved to become the hottest destination in India, and it’s easy to explore.
Your children will see wild elephants and jungles, and magnificent natural wonders including the beautiful Athirapally Falls and the Chalakudy River; banana, rubber and tapioca crops; and at Periyar National Park they can look for real-life animals straight out of The Jungle Book, including, if they’re very lucky, tigers. (Our advice is not to make any promises, just in case the big cats are feeling a little shy when you visit.)
Where to stay: The Malabar House (www.malabarhouse.com) in colonial Fort Cochin is a contemporary luxury boutique hotel with rooms starting at Dh659 a night. The hotel group also offers special family packages in conjunction with its other hotels, including a stay on a rice barge for an authentic Keralan experience.
For more: www.keralatourism.org
5. Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm is known for being a cool city for adults. But it’s also officially one of the most child-friendly cities in the world, with a whole island, Djurgården, dedicated to families.
At Skansen open-air museum you’ll find traditional Swedish homes, experience life in the 19th century, and at its open-air zoo you can see native wildlife including adorable Swedish brown bears.
For fans of Vikings and Disney’s Frozen there is the Vasa, a museum housing the only preserved 17th-century ship in the world. There’s lots of creative play to be had at Junibacken, dedicated to children’s characters Pipi Longstocking and Emil. You may even persuade your kids to visit the brilliant Abba Museu (www.abbathemuseum.com), which has lots of interactive exhibits.
Visit Stockholm in the summer, when it’s the midnight sun, and there’s a non-stop calendar of festivals to experience. Your children will enjoy the novelty of nights that never get dark as well as medieval performances, hot-air balloon races and fireworks against the bright sky. And you’ll also love exploring Nordiska Kompaniet, or NK, quite simply one of the most stylish luxury department stores in the world.
Where to stay: A favourite of royalty and celebrities, The Grand Hotel Stockholm (grandhotel.se) offers impeccable service, a fantastic location and exquisitely appointed rooms (from Dh1,794 a night).
For more: visitstockholm.com