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Colorado Family Vacation: Kid-Friendly Activities

When planning a family vacation that’s enjoyable for everyone, it is of course important to consider the kids. Fortunately, Colorado has tons of fun-filled attractions that are sure to entertain the young (and young-at-heart), regardless of the season.

Carousel of Happiness

Located in the quaint mountain town of Nederland along the gorgeous Peak-to-Peak Highway, the indoor Carousel of Happiness is a lovingly restored, 107-year-old merry-go-round whose hand-carved animals twirl to the uplifting oom-pah of a Wurlitzer organ. The $1 rides go to a non-profit dedicated to keeping this history alive—and keeping the little ones grinning.

Children’s Museum of Denver

Recommended for kids up to eight years old, the recently-expanded Children’s Museum of Denver is entirely devoted to letting kids do what they do best—explore—but with a Colorado twist. The 9-acre campus is filled with pint-sized adventures, from the “big backyard” where kids see the world through the lenses of their favorite insect, to ziplining through the joy park or dashing through a waterfall in a miniature box canyon.

Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park

Colorado’s flagship amusement park, Elitch Gardens is filled with thrills for the entire family. Conveniently located in downtown Denver and open from May through October, the park has everything from mini trucks and a family coaster to stomach-churning rides like the “Mind Eraser.” Elitch also has a water park, though this is open only in summer.

canyon swing at Glenwood Caverns
Older kids will enjoy the thrill rides on offer at Glenwood Caverns and Colorado’s other adventure parks. Photo © Terri Cook and Lon Abbott.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Accessed by gondola and featuring spectacular views, Glenwood Caverns is America’s only mountain-top theme park. The western-themed attraction is built around several caves that you can tour to see the dripping stalactites, stalagmites, and more. There are also plenty of thrill rides, including the state’s longest alpine coaster, a 4-D ride theater, and a giant swing that swerves out over the rim of 1,300-foot-deep Glenwood Canyon.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

In the shadow of the towering, snow-capped Sangre de Cristo mountain range, Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to North America’s largest sand dunes. This perennial family favorite offers sandboarding, sand sledding, horseback riding, 4×4 adventures, nighttime stargazing, and more.

mountains and dunes in Colorado
Head to Great Sand Dunes National Park for outdoors fun and fantastic views. Photo © Sean Xu/iStock.

Hammond’s Candies

For a sweet treat, stop by Hammond’s, Denver’s historic candy factory, to see how the confectioner’s swirling lollipops, hand-twisted candy canes, and other sweets are made. After watching the process from start to finish through glass windows, kids can select their own favorite confection in the flavorful gift shop.

Kidtopia Snow Fort

Colorado’s most kid-centric ski area, Keystone Resort ups the fun each winter by building the world’s largest snow fort. Located near the top of the gondola and open from mid-December through March, the Kidtopia Snow Fort is filled with slides, mazes, fun photo ops, and more than a few snowball fights. A lift ticket or scenic gondola ride ticket is needed to access the fort.

alligator basking in sunshine
Head to the Colorado Gators Reptile Park for an unusual hands-on experience. Photo courtesy of Colorado Gators Reptile Park.

Colorado Gators Reptile Park

Not far from the Great Sand Dunes, the Colorado Gators Reptile Park is an unusual wildlife sanctuary filled with full-sized alligators and other exotic animals, many of which were abandoned by their previous owners. The park has a series of educational programs, including a kids’ Reptile Handling class, and—for brave adults—a Gator Wrestling Class, which (if you survive) earns you an official “Certificate of Insanity.”

Dog Sledding at YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch

Kids who love furry creatures will clamor to try dog sledding at the YMCA’s Snow Mountain Ranch. After an indoor educational program, you and your little one can board a wooden sled pulled by a line of excitedly yapping Alaskan huskies. Since it’s driven by a professional musher, all you need to do is hold on and drink in the gorgeous mountain views. The year-round facility offers many additional family-oriented activities, including snowshoeing, archery, fishing, and a creative arts studio.

oddities at UFO garden in Colorado
Visit Colorado’s UFO Watchtower for an alien experience. Photo © Terri Cook and Lon Abbott.

UFO Watchtower

For an out-of-this-world experience, stop by Colorado’s UFO Watchtower, purportedly one of the best sites on the planet to view Unidentified Flying Objects. Although there are no facilities, you can camp overnight to take advantage of the prime viewing hours or simply stop by to leave a trinket in the “Healing Garden” and enjoy the fabulous views.

Related Travel Guide

Southern California Family Vacation: Alternatives to Disneyland

Universal Studios Hollywood. Photo © fcarucci/Dreamstime.
Universal Studios Hollywood puts visitors into the action of their favorite movies. Photo © fcarucci/Dreamstime.

Universal Studios Hollywood

The longtime Hollywood-centric alternative to Disneyland is the Universal Studios Hollywood (100 Universal City Plaza, Los Angeles, 800/864-8377, hours vary, adults $85-95, children under 48 inches tall $72, parking $10-15) theme park. Kids adore this park, which puts them right into the action of their favorite movies. Flee the carnivorous dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, explore The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or quiver in terror of an ancient curse in Revenge of the Mummy. If you’re more interested in how the movies are made than the rides made from them, take the Studio Tour. You’ll get an extreme close-up of the sets of major blockbuster films like War of the Worlds. Better yet, be part of the studio audience of TV shows currently taping by getting tickets at the Audiences Unlimited Ticket Booth. If you’re a serious movie buff, consider buying a VIP pass—you’ll get a six-hour tour that takes you onto working sound stages, into the current prop warehouse, and through a variety of working build shops that service movies and programs currently filming.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

Six Flags Magic Mountain (Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia, 661/255-4100, hours vary, adults $73, children $48) provides good fun for the whole family. Magic Mountain has long been the extreme alternative to the Mouse, offering a wide array of thrill rides. You’ll need a strong stomach to deal with the g-forces of the major-league roller coasters and the death-defying drops, including the Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom, where you plummet 400 feet at speeds up to 85 mph. For the younger set, plenty of rides offer a less intense but equally fun amusement-park experience. Both littler and bigger kids enjoy interacting with the classic Warner Bros. characters, especially in Bugs Bunny World, and a kids’ show features Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, and more. Other than that, Magic Mountain has little in the way of staged entertainment—this park is all about the rides. The park is divided into areas, just like most other major theme parks; get a map at the entrance to help you maneuver around and pick your favorite rides.

Knott’s Berry Farm

For a taste of history along with some ultramodern thrill rides and plenty of cooling waterslides, head for Knott’s Berry Farm (8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, 714/220-5200, hours vary, adults $38, seniors and children $34, parking $15). From the tall landmark GhostRider wooden coaster to the 30-story vertical-drop ride to the screaming Silver Bullet suspended coaster, Knott’s supplies excitement to even the most hard-core ride lover. For the younger crowd, Camp Snoopy offers an array of pint-size rides and attractions, plus Snoopy and all the characters they love from the Peanuts comics and TV shows.

In the heat of the summer, many park visitors adjourn from the coasters to Knott’s Soak City (hours vary daily Memorial Day-Labor Day, adults $28-34, seniors and children $24, parking $15-20), a full-size water park with 22 rides, a kid pool and water playground, and plenty of space to enjoy the O.C. sunshine.

Convenient to the parks, Knott’s Berry Farm Resort Hotel (7675 Crescent Ave., Buena Park, 714/995-1111, $155-222) is a high-rise resort with a pool and spa, a fitness center, and several on-site restaurants.

Related Travel Guide

California Coast Road Trip: Visiting Santa Cruz

The seacoast city of Santa Cruz, with its ultra-liberal culture, redwood-clad university, and general sense of funky fun, prides itself on keeping things weird. The beach and the Boardwalk are its prime attractions. Hit the surf and soak up the sun!

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Photo © Ken Wolter/123rf.

What to See in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (400 Beach St., 831/423-5590, 11am-10pm Sun.-Thurs., 11am-11pm Fri.-Sat., ride hours vary by season, rides closed weekdays in winter, parking $15), or just “the Boardwalk” as it’s called by the locals, has a rare appeal that beckons to young children, teenagers, and adults of all ages.

The amusement park rambles along each side of the south end of the Boardwalk; entry is free, but you must buy either per-ride tickets ($3-6) or an unlimited-rides wristband ($33). The Great Dipper boasts a history as the oldest wooden roller coaster in the state, still giving riders a thrill after all this time. In summer, a log ride cools down guests hot from hours of tromping around. The Boardwalk also offers several toddler and little-kid rides.

At the other end of the Boardwalk, avid gamesters choose between the lure of prizes from the traditional midway games and the large arcade. Throw baseballs at things, try your arm at skeeball, or take a pass at classic or newer video games. The traditional carousel actually has a brass ring to grab.

After you’ve worn yourself out playing games and riding rides, you can take the stairs down to the broad, sandy beach below the Boardwalk. It’s a great place to flop down and sun yourself, or brave a dip in the cool Pacific surf. Granted, it gets crowded in the summertime.

Looking for something tasty to munch on or a drink to cool you off? You can definitely find it at the Boardwalk. An old-fashioned candy shop sells sweets to the sweet, while the snack stands offer corn dogs, burgers, fries, lemonade, and other generally unhealthy traditional carnival food.

The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. Photo © Jon Bilous/Dollar Photo Club.
The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. Photo © Jon Bilous/Dollar Photo Club.

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

West of the Boardwalk, on Lighthouse Field State Beach, is the world’s first surfing museum. Housed in the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse, the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum (Lighthouse Point, West Cliff Dr., 831/420-6289, 10am-5pm Wed.-Mon. July 4-Labor Day, noon-4pm Thurs.-Mon. rest of the year) relates the history of surfing through a collection of surfboards from different times and other ephemera of surf culture.

Seymour Marine Discovery Center

“Ms. Blue,” one of the largest blue whale skeletons, rests across from Seymour Marine Discovery Center (100 Shaffer Rd., 831/459-3800, 10am-5pm Tues.-Sun., $8 adults, $6 children), where tours and exhibits let you dive into the latest ocean discoveries and where shark-petting is encouraged.

Santa Cruz Arts and Entertainment

An eclectic city of art and entertainment, Santa Cruz’s diversity gives it that uniquely captivating edge. Watch a Shakespearian production at the Sinsheimer-Stanley Festival Glen (UCSC Theater Arts Center, 1156 High St., 831/459-2159, $36-48 adults, $16 children under 18), an unforgettable venue set in a grove of massive redwoods beneath the starry sky.

Feel like a good movie and popcorn? Nickelodeon Theatre (210 Lincoln St., 831/426-7500, $10.50 general, $8 matinee) shows all the major blockbuster films, including a variety of foreign and indie productions. Don’t pass up the snack bar’s award-winning organic popcorn and locally made treats.

One of the oldest museums in the state of California, the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History (1305 East Cliff Dr., 831/420-6115, 10am-5pm Tues.-Sat., $4 adults, free children under 18) is where Ohlone Native American artifacts are preserved and visitors can learn about local flora and fauna. In the heart of downtown, Museum of Art & History (705 Front St., 831/429-1964, 11am-5pm Tues.-Sun., $5 adults, $3 students and seniors) is a small facility with three floors of galleries, changing exhibits, and a gift shop.

Santa Cruz has a couple fantastic entertainment venues that feature class-act musicians. At Kuumbwa Jazz Center (320 Cedar St., 831/427-2227, $23 and up), local talent and internationally acclaimed jazz acts play to a packed house in a concert setting with food and drinks available. Moe’s Alley (1535 Commercial Way, 831/479-1854, up to $20) offers live performances from jazz and blues to reggae and salsa in a laid-back scene.

Events in Santa Cruz

The second-largest gathering of “Woodies” in the world, Woodies on the Wharf (late June, free), features over 200 vintage and classic station wagons, and celebrates these beauties with music, food, prizes, and good old fashioned fun.

It just wouldn’t be right if Santa Cruz wasn’t host to some of the most recognized surf contests, such as the O’Neill Coldwater Classic (Steamer Ln., late Oct., free), an event that draws international boarders to Steamer Ln., a popular surfing spot in the West Cliff. SCLU Longboard Invitational (free) rounds up nearly 200 longboarders from across the state each Memorial Day weekend to compete in the longest-running longboard surf contest. Hang out with the best surfers around, get some sun, and see who will win the title!

If it’s music and food you enjoy, the Mole & Mariachi Festival (144 School St., 831/429-1840, free) livens up downtown Santa Cruz with musical acts, local food, and family-friendly activities.

Every November is a celebration of sea glass, art, and ocean stewardship at Santa Cruz Sea Glass & Ocean Art Festival (400 Beach St., 831/332-7188, free). November also hosts the Santa Cruz Film Festival (Del Mar and Rio Theaters), which showcases a collection of independent films from all over the world.

Jump on board the Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train (400 Beach St., 831/335-4484, 5pm-8pm late Fri.-Sat. Nov.-Dec., $28 adults, $22 children) and sip hot cider as you go a-caroling for holiday fun Victorian-style. The train departs from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The premier way to see the best art in Santa Cruz, Open Studios Art Tour (831/475-9600 ext. 17) displays the works of more than 300 artists during the first three weekends in October. An events guide ($10) and the Open Studios Art Tour iTunes app ($5) are handy tools that provide a glimpse of an artist’s work and exhibit location.

Maps - Northern California 7e - Santa Cruz and Vicinity
Santa Cruz and Vicinity

Related Travel Guide

Water Parks and Amusement Parks in Maine

Looking up at the sign above the Matterhorn carnival ride at Palace Playland.
Palace Playland in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Photo © Martin Lewison, licensed Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike.

Map of Southern Coastal Maine
Southern Coastal Maine
If you’ve got kids or just love amusement parks, you’ll find Maine’s best in the Old Orchard area, where sand and sun just seem to complement arcades and rides perfectly. (All of these parks are seasonal, so call or check websites for current schedule.)

The biggie is Funtown/Splashtown USA (774 Portland Rd./Rte. 1, Saco, 207/284-5139 or 800/878-2900). Ride Maine’s only wooden roller coaster; fly down New England’s longest and tallest log flume ride; free-fall 200 feet on Dragon’s Descent; get wet and go wild riding speed slides, tunnel slides, raft slides, and river slides or splashing in the pool. Add a huge kiddie-ride section as well as games, food, and other activities for a full day of family fun. Ticketing options vary by the activities included and height, ranging $25-36 for “Big” (48 inches and taller), $20-27 for “Little” (38-48 inches tall) and “Senior” (over age 60), and free for kids under 38 inches tall.

Three miles north of Funtown/Splashtown USA, Aquaboggan Water Park (980 Portland Rd./Rte. 1, Saco, 207/282-3112, 10am-6pm daily late June-Labor Day) is wet and wild, with such stomach turners as the Yankee Ripper, the Suislide, and the Stealth, with an almost-vertical drop of 45 feet—enough to accelerate to 30 mph on the descent. Wear a bathing suit that won’t abandon you in the rough-and-tumble. Also, if you wear glasses, safety straps and plastic lenses are required. Besides all the water stuff, there are mini-golf, an arcade, go-karts, and bumper boats. A day pass for all pools, slides, and mini-golf is $20 (48 inches and taller), $16 (under 48 inches tall), and $5 (under 38 inches tall). Monday is $12 general admission. A $30 superpass also includes two go-kart rides and unlimited bumper-boat rides.

The biggest beachfront amusement park, Palace Playland (1 Old Orchard St., Old Orchard, 207/934-2001) has more than 25 rides and attractions packed into four acres, including a giant water-slide, a fun house, bumper cars, a Ferris wheel, roller coasters, and a 24,000-square-foot arcade with more than 200 games. An unlimited pass is $32/day; a kiddie pass good for all twoticket rides is $24; two-day, season, and single tickets are available.

The Old Orchard Beach’s pier, jutting 475 feet into the ocean from downtown, is a mini-mall of shops, arcades, and fast-food outlets. Far longer when it was built in 1898, it has been lopped off gradually by fires and storms. The current incarnation has been here since the late 1970s.

Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Maine.

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

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.

Atlantic Coast Road Tripping: A Classic Seaside Stop in Ocean City

Aerial view of Ocean City stretching out along the narrow Assateague Island, a barrier island with a strip of visible beach.
Aerial view of Ocean City. Public Domain photo by US Army Corps of Engineers.

About the only place left on the entire East Coast that retains the carnival qualities of classic seaside resorts, Ocean City (pop. 7,105, swelling to some 400,000 in summer) has by far the best array of old-time funfair attractions in the Mid-Atlantic (well, south of Wildwood, New Jersey, at least). On and around the main pier at the south end of the island, there are enough merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, roller coasters (including The Hurricane, which is illustrated with scenes from Ocean City storms past), mini-golf courses, haunted houses, and bumper cars to divert a small army.

A block inland, Trimper’s Amusements, which has been operated by the same family for five generations, since the 1890s, has two more roller coasters, plus a Tilt-a-Whirl, a 100-year-old Hershell carousel, and a spooky haunted house. Places like Trimper’s, and the sundry batting cages, go-kart tracks, and zip lines, are threatened by rising property values (and property taxes) and increasingly close to becoming extinct, so enjoy them while you can. Trimpers’s local rival, Jolly Roger, also runs a big water park and another amusement park at the north end of town, along the bay at 30th Street.

To go along with its great beaches, Ocean City has a radio station, the excellent WOCM 98.1 FM, playing classic rock ’n’ roll and broadcasting details of Ocean City’s nightclub scene.

From the pier north, Ocean City stretches for over three miles along a broad, clean, white-sand beach. A wide, part-wooden boardwalk lines the sands, packed with arcades full of video games and a few nearly forgotten old amusements like Skee-Ball and Pokerino, not to mention midway contests—the kind where, for $1 a try, you can win stuffed animals and other prizes by shooting baskets or squirting water into clowns’ mouths. A ramshackle collection of fortune- tellers, T-shirt stands, and burger-and-beer bars completes the scene, forming a busy gauntlet that is among the nation’s liveliest promenades.

On summer weekends, Ocean City becomes Maryland’s second-largest city, and most of the fun is simply in getting caught up in the garish human spectacle of it all, but there are a couple of specific things worth searching out. For the price of a bumper car ride, you can enjoy the quirky collections of the Life-Saving Station Museum (daily May–Oct., weekends only in winter; $3), at the south end of the boardwalk, where alongside displays of shipwrecks and bathing suits you can compare and contrast bowls full of sand from 100 different beaches around the world. The museum also marks the starting point for the open-air trams ($3) that run north along the boardwalk for over two miles.

Ocean City Practicalities

Much of Ocean City’s charm is decidedly lowbrow, but the food is better than you might expect, with numerous places offering plates full of shrimp and pitchers of beer for under $10, and freshly fried chicken or crab cakes available from boardwalk stands. Thrashers Fries are available (no ketchup; salt and vinegar only!) from a number of counters along the boardwalk, and you can top them off with a cone or milk shake from Dumser’s Ice Cream, which runs a trio of stands at the south end of the boardwalk.

Places to stay are also abundant, though many of the huge concrete towers you see are actually condominiums and not available for overnight stays. In fact, of all the dozen or more grand, older hotels, only the Atlantic Hotel ($80 and up; 5 Somerset St.; 410/289-9111), on the oceanfront, is still open for business. Modern motels like the Oceanic (710 S. Philadelphia St.; 410/289-6494), looking across the inlet to Assateague Island, charge as much as $200 a night for a room that goes for less than $50 off-season.

For help finding lodgings and restaurants, contact the Ocean City visitors center (4001 Coastal Hwy.; 410/723-8600 or 800/626-2326), in the Convention Center.

Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Road Trip USA.

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.


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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