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What to See in Palermo, Buenos Aires’s Largest Barrio

Buenos Aires’s largest barrio, Palermo boasts wide-open spaces thanks to 19th-century dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas, whose estate stretched almost from Recoleta all the way to Belgrano. After his exile, the property passed into the public domain and, ironically enough, the sprawling Parque 3 de Febrero takes its name from the date of his defeat in 1852.

Once part of the capital’s unsavory arrabales (margins), its street corners populated by stylish but capricious malevos (bullies) immortalized in Jorge Luis Borges’s stories, Palermo hasn’t entirely superseded that reputation—in some areas, poorly lighted streets still make visitors uneasy. Yet it also has exclusive neighborhoods such as Barrio Parque, also known as Palermo Chico, with embassies, single-family mansions, some of Buenos Aires’s highest property values, and several key museums.

Across Avenida del Libertador, the Botánico is an upper-middle-class enclave taking its name from the Jardín Botánico Carlos Thays (Av. Santa Fe 3951, tel. 011/4831-4527, 8am-6pm daily, free), a lovely botanical garden regrettably infested with feral cats. Once a neighborhood of imposing mansions, the Botánico is still affluent but less exclusive than when, in 1948, Eva Perón enraged the neighbors by making one of those mansions into a home for single mothers; it’s now a museum in her memory.

Neat paths surrounded a landscaped patch of grass framed by trees.
Palermo’s botanical garden. Photo © Pedro Angelini, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Opposite nearby Plaza Italia, the rejuvenated Jardín Zoológico (Av. Las Heras s/n, tel. 011/4806-7412, 10am-6pm Tues.-Sun., US$12, children up to age 12 free) is an ideal outing for visitors with children.

The real action is slightly northwest at Palermo Viejo, where Plaza Serrano (also known as Plaza Cortázar) has become a major axis of Porteño nightlife. Palermo Viejo further subdivides into Palermo Soho and the more northerly Palermo Hollywood, where many TV and radio producers have located facilities. Shaded by sycamores, many streets still contain low-rise casas chorizos (sausage houses) on deep, narrow lots. At the northern end of the barrio, Las Cañitas is a gastronomic and nightlife area challenging Palermo Viejo among partygoers.

Sights

Museo de Arte Popular José Hernández

Named for the author of the gauchesco epic Martín Fierro, Museo de Arte Popular José Hernández (Av. del Libertador 2373, tel. 011/4803-2384, 1pm-7pm Wed.-Fri., 10am-8pm Sat.-Sun., closed in Feb., US$0.20, free Sun.) specializes in rural Argentiniana. It’s tempting to call it the “museum of irony”: Argentina’s most gaucho-oriented institution stands in one of the country’s most urbane, affluent, and cosmopolitan neighborhoods. Even more ironically, oligarch Félix Bunge built the French-Italianate residence with marble staircases and other lavish features, and exhibits depict gentry like the Martínez de Hoz family—one of whom was the 1976-1983 dictatorship’s economy minister—as symbols of a romantic open-range lifestyle. That said, the museum’s worthwhile collections range from magnificent silverwork and vicuña textiles by contemporary Argentine artisans to pre-Columbian pottery, indigenous crafts, and even a typical pulpería (rural store).

Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo

Matías Errázuriz Ortúzar and his widow, Josefina de Alvear de Errázuriz, lived less than 20 years in the ornate Beaux-Arts building (1918) that now houses the national decorative art museum. The inventory of the Museo Nacional de Arte Decorativo (Av. del Libertador 1902, tel. 011/4802-6606, 2pm-7pm Tues.-Sun., closed last week of Dec.-first week of Jan., US$2.50, free Tues.) comprises 4,000 items from the family’s collections, ranging from Roman sculptures to contemporary silverwork, but mostly Asian and European pieces from the 17th-19th centuries. Many items are anonymous; the best-known are by Europeans like Manet and Rodin. Guided English-language tours (US$2.50) are offered Tuesday-Friday at 2:30pm.

Map of Palermo, Argentina
Palermo

Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA)

Dedicated to Latin American art, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Av. Figueroa Alcorta 3415, tel. 011/4808-6500, noon-9pm Wed., noon-8pm Thurs.-Mon. and holidays, US$7, US$3 Wed.) is a striking steel-and-glass structure that devotes one entire floor to Argentine businessman and founder Eduardo F. Constantini’s private collections, featuring prominent artists like Mexico’s Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. There are also works by Antonio Berni, Chile’s Roberto Matta, Uruguay’s Pedro Figari, and others. The second floor offers special exhibitions. The museum also has a cinema and hosts many events.

Museo Eva Perón

Eva Perón, the charismatic spouse of populist president Juan Domingo Perón, made a point of antagonizing her political opponents, or, in her words, “the oligarchy.” At her most combative, to the anger and dismay of neighbors, she chose the upscale Botánico neighborhood for the Hogar de Tránsito No. 2, a shelter for single mothers from the provinces. Even more galling, her Fundación de Ayuda Social María Eva Duarte de Perón took over an imposing three-story mansion to house the transients on their way to the capital.

Since Evita’s 1952 death, middle-class multistory apartment blocks have mostly replaced the elegant single-family houses and distinctive apartments that then housed the Porteño elite (many have moved to exclusive northern suburbs). Fifty years later, on the July 26 anniversary of her death—supporting novelist Tomás Eloy Martínez’s contention that Argentines are “cadaver cultists”—Evita’s great-niece María Carolina Rodríguez officially opened the Museo Eva Perón (Lafinur 2988, tel. 011/4807-0306, 11am-7pm Tues.-Sun., US$4) “to spread the life, work, and ideology of María Eva Duarte de Perón.” What’s missing is a critical perspective. Rather than a balanced account of her life, the museum is a professionally presented chronological homage that sidesteps the demagoguery and personality cults that typified both Evita and her charismatic husband.

There’s a museum store with a selection of Evita souvenirs on site and a fine café-restau- rant as well. Guided English-language tours, bookable in advance, cost US$6.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Patagonia.

On the Wild Side: Bermuda’s Nature Reserves

Bermuda may seem like a manicured garden, but its somewhat limited open spaces nevertheless give an intriguing glimpse of the island’s wildlife. Well-managed government national parks in many parishes, as well as nature reserves owned by the Bermuda National Trust and Bermuda Audubon Society, account for 850 acres of green space and boast spectacular scenery.

Spiky green fruits hang off a tree with leaves resembling palm fronds.
A pandanus palm at the Arboretum. Photo © Malcolm Manners, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Pembroke Parish

Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute: Part museum (with exhibits on Bermuda shells, geology, wildlife, and shipwrecks), part conference center and hub for ocean-based activities around the island, BUEI attracts the ecologically-inclined. Sign up for monthly lectures, spring whale-watching tours, or moonlit cruises to watch phosphorescent glow worms.

Devonshire Parish

The Arboretum: Devonshire’s largest open space is a beautifully unkempt 19-acre spread of rolling meadows, upland forest, and bluebird and redbird sanctuaries. Cedars, avocado trees, giant rubber trees, and fiddlewood groves abound.

Sandys Parish

Hog Bay Park: This is a rugged, 38-acre reserve in Sandys Parish where hikers can walk undulating trails through farmland, forest, and coastline, stopping to spot turtles and take a dip.

Smith’s Parish

Spittal Pond Nature Reserve: A magnet for migratory birds, this 34-acre park hugs the South Shore in Smith’s Parish. Trails, brackish ponds, and phenomenal ocean outlooks draw birders, cross-country runners, and local families, but like all the parks, it is quiet and underused.

Hamilton Parish

Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo: Tour this historic Flatts facility, home to more than 200 local fish and invertebrate species, a 140,000-gallon reef tank, and a Natural History Museum that tells the story of Bermuda’s origins. Zoo exhibits reflect links with island environments around the globe. Its support charity runs snorkeling and turtle-spotting marine excursions.

St. George’s Parish

Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences: Visitors are welcome at this world-renowned institution at Ferry Reach in the East End. Take a free morning tour of the station, where scientists come to study global warming, natural disasters, genomes, marine science technology, and potential medicines from the sea.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Bermuda.

Visit the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium

Honolulu Zoo

Only a mere 2,392 miles from the nearest zoo, the Honolulu Zoo (151 Kapahulu Ave., 808/971-7171, 9am-4:30pm daily, $14 adults, $8 military adults, $6 children 3-12 with an adult, $4 military children with an adult, children 2 and under free) is a must-see in Waikiki. The plant and animal collections emphasize Pacific tropical ecosystems and are organized into three ecological zones: the African savannah, the Asian and American tropical forest, and the Pacific Islands. Mammals and birds are the spotlight here, with just a few reptiles on display, including a handful of Galapagos tortoises, a Komodo dragon, and dangerous-looking gharials. There’s an Indian elephant enclosure with two playful inhabitants. The baboons are quite interactive as well. Zebras, giraffes, hippos, and rhinoceroses are also major draws. The kids will love the massive jungle gym by the snack bar and the Sumatran tiger area. Right next door is the Keiki Zoo, with a crawl-through circular koi fish tank, lizards, farm animals, and a goat petting area.

A lion cub laying in the grass in Honolulu Zoo.
A lion cub at Honolulu Zoo. Photo © Daniel Ramirez, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

[pullquote align=right]Every Wednesday during the summer, The Wildest Show Summer Concert Series is a fun family event featuring local musicians.[/pullquote]There are several after-hours events at the zoo, as well. Twilight Tours are on Friday and Saturday evenings. The guided, two-hour walk is a great chance to see who wakes up after everyone has left, and the Dinner Safari is a buffet and a two-hour guided night tour. Every Wednesday during the summer, The Wildest Show Summer Concert Series is a fun family event featuring local musicians. Check the website for the schedule.

If you plan on returning to the zoo more than once during your stay or visit O‘ahu several times a year, consider an annual pass. There are several levels of membership, but the average family can take advantage of the Chimpanzee Family membership: unlimited entrance and benefits for one year for two adults and up to four children under 18. There is a pay parking lot for the zoo on Kapahulu Avenue, $1 per hour and the kiosks accept credit cards or coins only, no bills. Free parking is located at the Waikiki Shell parking lots across Monsarrat Avenue on the makai side (ocean side) of the zoo.

An adult giraffe in Honolulu zoo.
A giraffe at the Honolulu Zoo. Photo © Daniel Ramirez, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Waikiki Aquarium

Situated on 2.35 acres right on the shoreline in Kapi‘olani Park, the Waikiki Aquarium (2777 Kalakaua Ave., 808/923-9741, 9am-4:30pm daily, $9 adults, $6 military, students, seniors, $4 youth 13-17, $2 children 5-12, children 4 and under free) has a number of beautiful collections focusing on the South Pacific and Hawaiian marine communities. With your paid admission you receive a free audio tour wand, which gives insight and information for all the different collections.

Two white jellyfish float on a dark backdrop of water at Waikiki Aquarium.
White-spotted jellyfish at the Waikiki Aquarium. Photo © Pat McGrath, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The aquarium has both indoor and outdoor viewing areas. Inside you’ll find displays showcasing the marine life around the different islands and the creatures living in different marine ecosystems, from the intertidal zone to the open ocean. Corals, giant clams, colorful reef-dwelling fish, predators like sharks, trevally, and groupers, jellyfish, chambered nautilus, and even a gold American lobster (only one in 30 million American lobsters show this genetic disposition) are some of the curious residents at the aquarium. Outside you’ll find the monk seal, a tidal pool with fish that reflect the marine life around Waikiki, an interactive area where people can hold hermit crabs and other little creatures, and a serene grassy open space under palm trees right next to the ocean for the kids to run around on and get some energy out or to sit and enjoy a snack.

The Waikiki Aquarium also has a signature summer concert series on the lawn that draws a more mature crowd than the zoo’s summer concert series. Ke Kani O Ke Kai: The Sound of the Ocean starts in June and runs through August. Check the website for the latest schedule and information. Parking at the aquarium is very limited. Park along Kalakaua Avenue, the ocean side is free and the mountain side is metered parking, $0.25 per half hour.

Map of Waikiki (Southeast)
Waikiki (Southeast)

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.

Should You Cuddle a Koala?

It is the most iconic souvenir picture any visitor to Australia can bring home: the one of you holding a little koala. After all, everybody will immediately know you’ve been to Australia. But should you get that photo? And will you actually get to hug the animal?

[pullquote align=right]There is a controversy as to whether you should be able to hold a koala. After all, this is not at all natural for the animals, even if it feels like the most natural thing to us.[/pullquote]Picking up a koala is actually against the law in all states bar Queensland. You can get near a koala in most wildlife parks; all of the park managers are very aware that these are the most-loved animals, the ones that overseas visitors want to get close to, so they arrange feeding schedules and talks about them. In some wildlife centers you can get into the enclosure and stand next to the koala perched in its tree and get your photo done. It comes at a price—usually quite a steep price, of around $20 each and more. But even then you do not get to hold the koala, although sometimes you are allowed to stroke one gently on the back.

A koala clings to a branch.
A koala at Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome. Photo © Micki Takes Pictures, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

There is a controversy as to whether you should be able to hold a koala. After all, this is not at all natural for the animals, even if it feels like the most natural thing to us. Is it stressing them too much, is it a marketing ploy at the cost of the animals’ well-being? If you are an ardent animal lover and conservationist, then the answer should be not to hug any wild animal.

But on the other hand, the koalas offered up for the picture experience are not wild, nor have they even lived in the wild, generally; the money made on the photos is often put back into caring for the koalas in the center and in the wild, and these stunts are very well organized. The time with them is strictly limited, the koalas get rest days and are never used two days in a row, and you are under the strictest instructions when you do get close to one. You must stand like a tree, arms out, and no grabbing hold of the animal. The koala will be placed on you, and your arms are gently positioned so it is comfortable for the koala, not necessarily you. No squeezing, tickling, or cuddling of any kind is allowed. Even standing like a tree, however, the experience is quite magical, with this little creature clinging onto you with its funny-toed feet and hands and its fluffy little ears sticking out in front of your face. But just to put an end to two myths: They don’t smell bad (there’s a little eucalyptus breath as if they’ve been sucking a throat lozenge), and they are not as soft as you might think—more like a well-worn fleece, slightly matted, but nice and warm.

So should you cuddle a koala? Obviously it’s up to your conscience, but if you really can’t resist, here is a selection of wildlife centers where you can get up close and personal to a koala:


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Sydney & the Great Barrier Reef.

Family Vacations in Minnesota: Where to Go with Kids

Gooseberry Falls State Park.
Gooseberry Falls State Park. Photo © Jim Sorbie, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.
Color travel map of Minnesota
Minnesota

Minnesota is a terrific place to travel with children. While you won’t find the kind of big, flashy attractions that you might elsewhere, you will find that your children are welcomed and even catered to just about everywhere you go. (Folks looking for an escape from kids may want to take note of that, as well.) All but the very fanciest of restaurants have high chairs and children’s menus on hand, and nearly every museum has something to offer even the youngest of visitors.

A lakeside resort—of which there are hundreds, particularly in the Central Lakes—is a great place to park the family for the week, alternating time on the lake with forays to local attractions. While you’re out there, away from the crowds and high ticket prices in the cities, take the kids to a small-town festival or a Northwoods League baseball game. You don’t need themed rides and costumed mice to make memories.


Where to Go with Kids in Minnesota

Visiting the Twin Cities with Kids

The metro area has a handful of indoor water parks attached to chain hotels. The Depot, in downtown Minneapolis, is the most conveniently situated. Another hotel that does double duty as an attraction is the Marriott Residence Inn in Edina, which is connected to an indoor park and climbing structure.

Young kids should never be bored in the Twin Cities. The excellent Minnesota Zoo and Minnesota Children’s Museum can each fill a kid-sized day. The Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center is a great place to run off energy. And the south Minneapolis neighborhood of Linden Hills, with toy shops, a children’s bookstore, and trolley rides, is a relaxing place to spend an afternoon.

Older kids will get more out of the Science Museum of Minnesota, The Bakken (all about electricity), and the Minnesota History Center.

Kids here even get their own Tony Award-winning theater: Definitely get tickets to whatever’s at the Children’s Theatre while you’re here. Or, during the summer, be sure to catch a St. Paul Saints baseball game.

And, of course, what’s a trip to Minnesota without a visit to the amusement park in the Mall of America?

Visiting the St. Croix Valley with Kids

On your way up toward the North Shore, the excellent North West Company Fur Post, populated with knowledgeable costumed reenactors, is a great place to learn about Minnesota’s fur trade and the lives of the Ojibwe.

Visiting the Arrowhead with Kids

Duluth is another especially family-friendly destination. Canal Park is compact and easily traversed by little legs, and is adjacent to the city’s top family attraction, the Great Lakes Aquarium. Best of all, two scenic train rides depart from Duluth, and what kid wouldn’t enjoy that?

Much of Arrowhead’s beauty lies in remote wilderness, which can be daunting for some families. Gooseberry Falls State Park is accessible and well suited to young feet. North of Grand Marais, Grand Portage National Monument is another excellent historical site with costumed interpreters.

Inland, in Ely, the International Wolf Center and North American Bear Center offer animal-loving kids a chance to learn about two fascinating denizens of the Northwoods.

Decades of school groups have made a pilgrimage to Chisholm’s Minnesota Discovery Center to learn about the mining heritage of the Iron Range. You can spend much of a day exploring the vast museum and grounds.

Visiting the Central Lakes with Kids

The Central Lakes area is truly Minnesota’s playground. This is where you’ll find the state’s biggest, poshest, and best-known family resorts. Alexandria is a good home base for families exploring the lakes. Older kids, in particular, will enjoy the Runestone Museum, based on a hoax some people just can’t let go of.

For the right kind of kid, the Minnesota Military Museum in Camp Ripley, south of Brainerd, and the Mille Lacs Indian Museum, in the city of Mille Lacs, are absolute mustsees. The Headwaters Science Center in Bemidji does a great job spanning various ages and interests.

Little Grand Rapids is a surprisingly good family destination, with the varied and well-developed Forest History Center and an excellent Children’s Discovery Museum.

Visiting the Prairieland with Kids

This area of the state is the home of two beloved children’s literature classics: the Little House books in Walnut Grove and the Betsy-Tacy books in Mankato. Fans of both series make pilgrimages to Minnesota, and both towns—though Walnut Grove in particular—work hard to satisfy them.

A popular, one-of-a-kind attraction for families is the Harkin Store outside of New Ulm, where costumed guides show off wares dating back to the late 1800s.

Thanks to its location deep in the southwest corner of the state, Blue Mounds State Park doesn’t get the crowds you’ll find elsewhere. It’s also among the easiest state parks for families to enjoy, with gentle trails and a herd of bison.

Visiting Bluff Country with Kids

Watching hundreds of eagles soar over the Mississippi River at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha is an unforgettable experience for kids and adults. Combine it with a trip to LARK Toys in nearby Kellogg and your kids will think they’ve gone to heaven. And, if they’ve got a sense of humor, they’ll get a kick out of Austin’s SPAM Museum as well.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Minnesota.

Sights and Beaches in Puerto Morelos

The beach in Puerto Morelos has improved significantly in the last few years, and more and more travelers are spending lazy afternoons in the sun and sand. Here are some key sights and beaches in the area.

Be aware that the low season here is very low, and many businesses close in May, September, and/or October.

Beaches in Puerto Morelos

Playa Principal

Puerto Morelos improved its beachfront area considerably, with leafy arbors and however, lacks the creamy white sand found elsewhere in the Riviera Maya, and the same regulations that protect the town’s famous coral reef also prevent the removal of sea grass in the shallow areas. Fishing boats also moor on the beach, though there’s still plenty of room to lay out a towel. A good beach option is Club de Playa Los Pelícanos (central plaza, 9am-3pm Mon.-Sat.), which has lounge chairs, umbrellas, and kayaks. It’s located off one corner of the main plaza, in front of the restaurant of the same name.

A palapa on a sandy beach in Puerto Morelos, Mexico.
Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo. Photo © Tono Balaguer/123rf.

Coral Reef

Puerto Morelos’s top attraction is snorkeling on the reef. Directly in front of the village, around 500 meters (0.3 mile) offshore, the reef here takes on gargantuan dimensions— up to 30 meters (99 feet) wide. Winding passages and large caverns alive with fish and sea flora make for great exploring. And since it’s a marine reserve, and fishing and motor traffic are limited, the reef is more pristine here than almost any place along the Riviera. A local cooperative (central plaza, Av. Rafaél Melgar s/n, no phone, 9am-3pm Mon.-Sat., US$25 pp for 2 hours) offers guided tours of the reef, with boats leaving every 30 minutes— or sooner, if there are four snorkelers—from the municipal pier.

Other Sights in Puerto Morelos

The Central Plaza

Puerto Morelos’s peaceful central plaza has always been a highlight of the town, but a face-lift has made it even more appealing. New paint, better landscaping, and an improved play structure for kids make it a great place to while away the early evening hours, especially for families. Locals and visitors alike mingle on shaded benches and in the bleachers facing the basketball court. Many of Puerto Morelos’s best restaurants face the plaza or are just a block away, so you’re sure to pass by more than once. On Sunday, a small tianguis (flea market) is held here, and you can have fun browsing through someone else’s old treasures.

Ruta de los Cenotes

Marked by an enormous mustard-yellow arch on Highway 307, the “Cenote Route” is one of the newest developments along the Riviera Maya, and a sign, for better or worse, that the megaresorts are finally starting to appreciate cenotes. The route is simply a paved road, which begins just south of Puerto Morelos and extends nearly 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) into the scrub forest, passing several cenotes along the way. The most popular stops, at least for tour groups, are cenotes like Boca del Puma and Selvática, which also have ATV tours, ziplines, paintball—you get the picture. But the route also has some true gems: gorgeous and remote cenotes, undeveloped and all but overlooked by the package tours, and well worth the drive to reach them.

Independent travelers will particularly enjoy Siete Bocas (Carr. Pto. Morelos-Vallarta Km. 16, no phone, 8am-4pm daily, US$10 including life vest), so named for its seven openings (or “mouths”). Three openings have steep stairways leading straight into the cool, clear water; the other four allow sunlight into the underground chamber, lighting up the water dramatically, especially around midday. Inside, you can swim or float through the cave, with its spectacular stalagmites and stalactites, often with no one else around (BYO snorkel gear). Most visitors stay only a short time, but camping is permitted on-site (US$16 pp), just a few meters from the cenote.

Just down the road from Siete Bocas is Lucerno Verde (Carr. Pto. Morelos-Vallarta Km. 17, cell. tel. 998/224-3731, 8am-5pm daily, US$5 including life vest), an open-air cenote surrounded by huge tropical trees. Completely different from its neighbor but no less dramatic, Lucerno Verde is like an enormous swimming hole with clear turquoise water and seemingly no bottom. There’s a zipline as well as a thick safety line stretching across the cenote. Look for the freshwater turtles that make their home here. Camping is permitted here, too (US$10 pp).

Croco Cun Zoo

A charming little tropical petting zoo, Croco Cun Zoo (Hwy. 307, tel. 998/850-3719, 9am-5pm daily, US$26 adult, US$16 child 6-12, free 5 and under) is located five kilometers (3.1 miles) north of the Puerto Morelos turnoff. Seventy-five-minute guided tours, offered in English or Spanish, bring visitors up close and personal to all sorts of local creatures. You can feed spider monkeys, walk through a crocodile enclosure, and hold boas, iguanas, and baby crocs. Well managed and reasonably affordable, Croco Cun is a hit for youngsters and adults alike.

Ya’ax Ché Jardín Botánico

Just south of the Puerto Morelos turnoff, a sprawling peaceful botanical garden, Ya’ax Ché Jardín Botánico (Hwy. 307 Km. 320, tel. 998/206-9233, 8am-4pm daily Nov.-Apr., 9am-5pm daily May-Oct., US$8.50 adult, US$4.25 child), has three kilometers (1.9 miles) of trails winding through diverse habitat, from tropical forest to mangrove swamp. In addition to hundreds of marked plants, there are remains of a Maya ruin and a re-creation of a modern Maya home. Monkeys can be sometimes spotted in the afternoon. Wear long sleeves and pants, and plenty of bug repellent.

A wooden dock in Puerto Morelos stretches into the water from a white beach dotted with clumps of sea grasses.
The beaches of Puerto Morelos are dotted with sea grasses. The grass remains intact as part of a larger effort to preserve the offshore reef. Photo © Ken Marshall, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Excerpted from the Eleventh Edition of Moon Cancun & Cozumel.

Visiting Adventure Island and Busch Gardens in Tampa

A single-car rollercoaster runs along a metal track at Busch Gardens Tampa.
The Sand Serpent at Busch Gardens Tampa. Photo © Jeremy Thompson, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.
Map of Tampa, Florida
Tampa

Adventure Island

Adventure Island (4500 E. Bougainvillea Ave., 813/987-5660, Mar.–Oct., hours and days vary; closed Oct.–early Mar., $49.99 adult, $45.99 child age 3–9, free for child 2 and younger) will wet your whistle, and pretty much everything else. It’s a 30-acre water park, with slides, corkscrews, waterfalls, a monstrous 17,000-square-foot wave pool, and a children’s play area. There are 50 lifeguards on duty, but it’s still only appropriate for the truly water-safe. There’s also a championship white-sand volleyball complex. If you buy a ticket to Busch Gardens, you can combine it with a ticket here for a discount.

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens (E. Busch Blvd. and 40th St., 888/800-5447, winter daily 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; summer daily 9:30 a.m.–10 p.m., $81.99 box office adult, $71.99 online adult; $73.99 box office child age 3–9, $63.99 online child age 3–9; free for child 2 and younger; $14 parking) is expensive. Is it worth it? Definitely. It is a wonderful full-day extravaganza for people of any age. Busch Gardens can entertain you for a full two days, but if you do just one day, everyone will be clamoring for more. A 14-day 6 Park Orlando FlexTicket ($329.95 adult, $309.95 child) is a fairly good deal if you have the stamina to hit SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Studios Florida, Aquatica, Islands of Adventure, and Wet ’n’ Wild along with Busch Gardens.

Rides for Little Kids: The amusement park has a huge section of the park geared to children ages 2–7 called Sesame Street Safari of Fun (to the far left when you’re looking at the map), near Stanleyville, as well as in sections near the Congo. This is one of those parks where there are those vexing height limitations that preclude you from riding if you’re taller than the marker.

Rides for Big Kids: Major coasters are the biggest draw for those over 48 inches tall (or over 54 inches for Montu, Kumba, and SheiKra roller coasters) and with no serious health problems. The rides at Busch Gardens are either little-kiddie or pee-your-pants huge. The following are the roller coasters, in descending order of excellence. The Montu, at the far right of the park, is one of the tallest and longest inverted roller coasters in the world. You are strapped in from above, so your feet dangle while you travel at 60 mph through 60-foot vertical loops and stuff. The SheiKra has an incredible 90-degrees-straight-down-from-200-feet-up thrill at the beginning, an underground tunnel, speeds of 70 mph, and water features late in the ride, but overall the ride is too short. It went “floorless” a few years back to add another level of thrill, but it still doesn’t make top billing in our book. Kumba is third best, with a full three seconds of weightlessness, an initial 135-foot drop, and cool 360-degree spirals. It has good speed, a long ride, and one of the world’s largest vertical loops. And the Gwazi is for purists: An old double wooden coaster, it’s got that tooth-rattling charm as it barrels over the boards in 7,000 feet of track. Opened in early 2011, the newest coaster is Cheetah Hunt, which zips riders up to 60 mph three different times over a track stretching more than 0.8 miles. Paired with the ride are live cheetahs, trained to race along for up to 200 yards, next to a glass-walled observation area.

Beyond the coasters, the Tanganyika Tidal Wave, Stanley Falls, and Congo River Rapids boat rides are guaranteed to saturate you with water—so time them for the hottest part of the day.

Animal Attractions: Busch Gardens contains about 2,700 animals. Colorful lorikeets will land on your shoulder or flirt shamelessly with you in the Lory Landing aviary. There’s a Myombe Reserve, which lets you get up close with gorillas and chimps. But the best animal attraction is the Serengeti Plain, which really takes up the whole right half of the park—you see it all by getting on the Serengeti Express Railway (or the Skyride or a Serengeti Safari). Ostriches may race the train; there are big cats, huffing rhinos, and gracefully awkward giraffes. It’s thrilling and a wonderful opportunity to sit down a spell and regroup. (The lamest attraction at the park, though, is Rhino Rally. Don’t bother.)

The four-acre Jungala is set in the Congo area and has guests mingling with exotic creatures, exploring a “village” hidden deep in the jungle, and connecting with the inhabitants of the lush landscape through up-close animal interactions, multi-story family play areas, rides, and live entertainment.

If you visit in the summer, count on heavy rains in the afternoon. Bathrooms are plentiful and clean, there are scads of strollers to rent, the food is much better than it needs to be (and there’s an all-day dining deal that seems reasonable if you’re spending all day at the park), and they even have a dog kennel to watch your pet while you enjoy the rides.


Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Tampa Bay & St. Petersburg.

Portland for the Pint-Sized

Portlanders are known for keeping their kids in tow instead of opting for nannies or babysitters. It’s no surprise then that the city offers numerous places that appeal both to the young and the young-at-heart.

Corner of the building housing Powell's City of Books with the signpost affixed to the brick.
Powell’s City of Books features the largest children’s book section on the West Coast. Photo © Kimi Owens, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Young and old alike will find themselves wanting to touch, twirl, poke, and examine things around every corner of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (1945 SE Water Ave., 800/955-6674). You can ride the motion simulator, check out a flick in the incredible IMAX theater, tour a real U. S. Navy submarine, or visit the latest traveling exhibition. You can also find fun for all ages at Oaks Amusement Park (7805 SE Oaks Park Way, 503/233-5777). Ride the Scream-n-Eagle, take a spin around the old-school skating rink, or have a picnic along the banks of the Willamette River. The rink is open most days, and rides are operational on Saturday and Sunday noon–7 p.m. and during special events.

[pullquote align=”right”]A great day trip with the kids is the 20-minute drive out to Sauvie Island where there are U-pick farms and wildlife areas to explore.[/pullquote]Of course, the Oregon Zoo (4001 SW Canyon Rd.) is a big draw for families, with its Asian elephants, adorable penguins, majestic polar bears, fascinating fruit bats, and a plethora of animals from all corners of the world. In fact, on any given day, there are 2,200 specimens representing 260 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. You can check out the daily keeper talks or ride the zoo train, which takes you around the zoo and shows off some of the pretty forested areas of Washington Park. Wintertime visitors can also check out ZooLights, when the zoo is transformed into a colorful wintry wonderland and hours are extended past dark.

A great day trip with the kids is the 20-minute drive out to Sauvie Island, where there are U-pick farms and wildlife areas to explore. A favorite in the fall is the Pumpkin Patch (503/621-3874), where kids can hop on a hayride out to the pumpkin patch. If you pick a pumpkin, you pay according to the size and weight, but otherwise, it’s free. The produce market is full of fresh fruits and vegetables (as well as pumpkin-carving kits, fall decor, and other goodies), and you can pick up some hot buttered corn and homemade cider at the concession stands. While you’re out there, visit the Maize, a truly mindboggling five-acre corn maze; and after dark, in October, the truly brave-hearted can traipse through the Haunted Field of Screams.

Portland Saturday Market (48 Naito Pkwy., 503/241-4188) has long been a favorite for kids, especially since it’s the place where elephant ears were invented. Portland’s Elephant Ears is one of many carts in the market’s food court, but this one is a particular favorite among the small set. The smell of those ginormous fried dough treats is hard to resist, especially when you can douse them in marionberries, apple butter, cinnamon and sugar, or whatever you like. Kids are also pretty fond of touring the merchant booths, as there are a number of vendors with things to touch, test-drive, or try on.

There are great stops for the little reader in your life. Powell’s City of Books (1005 W. Burnside, 503/228-4651) has a truly jaw-dropping kids’ room. In fact, it has been dubbed the “largest children’s book section on the West Coast.” There are tables and chairs for impromptu storytime, and a staff person is on hand to help you or your child find exactly what you are looking for. Plus, it has a fun merchandise section with irresistible craft items, T-shirts, and cool educational toys. On the east side of the river, you’ll find Green Bean Books (1600 NE Alberta St., 503/954-2354), which has a fantastic collection of books for young readers and soon-to-be-bibliophiles. It also has an amusing collection of old vending machines that now distribute things like fake mustaches, finger puppets, and little fuzzy friends.

Many Portland hotels feature kid-focused packages. Hotel Monaco (506 SW Washington, 888/207-2201), for instance, offers a “Mini DaVinci” deal with passes to the Portland Children’s Museum, milk and cookies, and even paint sets and canvasses for you to keep.


Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Portland.

Kid-Friendly Activities and Attractions in Guatemala

Colorful embroidered textile with two figures of kids holding hands amidst a floral pattern.
Photo © Cameron Ferrelle.

Latin Americans are very family oriented and Guatemalans are no exception. There is plenty to see and do in Guatemala for families traveling with children of all ages. The following is a list of kid- and family-friendly attractions throughout the country.


Guatemala City

Among Guatemala City’s museums, none is more kid friendly than the Museo del Niño (Children’s Museum), in Zona 13 near the airport. There are a number of interactive displays as well as opportunities for play.

Just across the street, you’ll find the city’s excellent La Aurora Zoo, harboring a good collection of animals from Guatemala and around the world. Cages are being gradually phased out.

If you want to see the city’s sights but have kids in tow who might not want to walk, opt for a trolley tour.

Lake Atitlán

On the lake’s beautiful shores, there are plenty of places to stay for families traveling with children. Among the best are the family-size villas at San Buenaventura de Atitlán, equipped with a kitchen and several rooms.

Nearby, kids (and outdoor-loving parents) will enjoy the Reserva Natural Atitlán, where they can see monkeys and coatimundis along the nature trails leading to waterfalls. There are also a butterfly farm and private lake beach in addition to an excellent visitors center.

Pacific Coast

The Pacific Coast is extremely family friendly, primarily thanks to the presence of the twin theme parks of Xocomil and Xetulul, near Retalhuleu. Xocomil is a water park on par with the finest in the United States and Xetulul includes re-creations of famous Spanish, French, Italian, and Guatemalan landmarks along with an exhilarating roller-coaster and assorted other rides.

After the parks close, the fun continues across the street at the excellent accommodations of Hostales del IRTRA, with numerous swimming pools, restaurants, and activities.

For some seaside fun, head to Monterrico, where (in season) you can participate in a race involving newly hatched sea turtles making their maiden voyage across the sandy beach to their ocean home.

Kids will also get a kick out of the Auto Safari Chapín, in Taxisco about 90 minutes from Guatemala City. It’s a drive-through safari experience, in which you can see several of kids’ favorite animals, including lions, zebras, and parrots.

Petén

Children will certainly be impressed by the Mayan ruins at Tikal, along with the abundant wildlife found along the various nature trails criss-crossing the park or swinging from the trees.

At the entrance to Tikal, older kids and adults will enjoy the Tikal Canopy Tour, allowing them to zip across the forest canopy along metallic cables while strapped to a harness.

If you want to see more of the forest canopy on slightly less adrenaline-inducing conditions, head to Parque Natural Ixpanpajul, where there are plenty of outdoor activities, including walks along hanging bridges connecting forested jungle canyons.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Guatemala.

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