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Best Children’s Museums Around The World

29 Apr

For those looking to plan a fun and educational family vacation, you’ll probably want to incorporate some museums into the itinerary. While some institutions are geared more toward adults, there are plenty of worthwhile museums for children with interactive exhibits and playful experiences. To help you plan your trip, here are our top picks for the best children’s museums around the world.

Exploratorium, San Francisco

Kids at the Exploratorium

Kids at the Exploratorium. Photo credit: Joe Lewis via Flickr.

In San Francisco, California, you’ll find the Exploratorium, a combination of playground meets laboratory where visitors can explore science, art and human perception. Children can explore six galleries, interesting workshops and informative yet fun programming. In the Tinkering Studio visitors can explore wind using everyday objects as wind tubes, or create their own marble run with funnels, tracks, pegboards and dowels. Additionally, the Central Gallery focuses on seeing and listening through experimenting with light and sound. Note: They opened in a new location at Pier 15 on April 17, 2013.

Gain entrance to the Exploratorium with a San Francisco sightseeing pass.

The Strong in Rochester, NY

Located in Rochester, New York, the Strong National Museum of Play boasts being the world’s only collections-based museum dedicated solely to play. Featuring over 150,000 square feet of interactive exhibits, children will be able to play with life-size pop-up books, iconic toys and immersive games. Channel Spiderman at the American Comic Book Heros exhibit, walk through a giant kaleidoscope at the Field of Play, operate North America’s only working time machine at TimeLab and more. Make sure to also check out their indoor butterfly garden with about 1,000 free-flying butterflies and the 1,700-gallon coral reef aquarium. There are also rides, like the working 1918 carousel and old-time passenger train.

Miami Children’s Museum

Giant purple snail art at the Miami Children's Museum

Giant purple snail art at the Miami Children’s Museum. Photo credit: Claudia Sims via Flickr.

The Miami Children’s Museum resides on Watson Island in Miami. Featuring 56,500 square feet of space to play, imagine and create, families could easily spend all day exploring the museum’s many exhibits. Cure sick pets in Pet Central, play firefighter in the Safety Zone, give a checkup in the Health & Wellness Center of pick up groceries for dinner at the Supermarket. There are 14 themed rooms in total, each allowing children to learn while having fun. For added fun, print out this I Spy game and see if you can find the objects around the museum.


International Spy Museum in Washington, DC

International Spy Museum

International Spy Museum. Photo credit: dbking via Flickr.

Located in Washington DC you’ll find the International Spy Museum, a museum dedicated to educating the public about espionage and undercover operations through interactive exhibits and high-tech gadgets. The attraction boasts showcasing the world’s “largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever places on public display.” Children will have the chance to learn the secrets of being a spy by playing secret agent for the day and going on a mission. Families can also browse the many exhibits, featuring artifacts like lipstick pistols, WWI training videos, fountain pen cameras, Bond cars and more. For added fun, the museum hosts a KidSpy Overnight that is part slumber party, part undercover adventure.


Computerspielemuseum, Berlin

N64 at Computerspielemuseum

N64 at Computerspielemuseum. Photo credit: Philip Brechler via Flickr.

Opened in 1997 in Berlin, Germany, Computerspielemuseum is dedicated to video and computer games, both new and old. With over 300 exhibits and 14,000 games, the attraction allows children the chance to spend the day trying new virtual experiences while adults can take a trip down memory lane. Experience Tetris, Super Mario Land II, Donkey Kong, Dig Dug and even transport yourself through virtual reality. Additionally, interesting finds like the world’s largest Pac-Man controller and a human-sized joystick.

Science Center NEMO, Amsterdam

Display at Science Center NEMO

Display at Science Center NEMO. Photo credit: Ryan Somma via Flickr.

Located in Amsterdam, Science Center NEMO is the largest of its kind in the Netherlands, showcasing five floors of interactive exhibits, simulations and experiments that answer questions like “What will I look like in 30 years?” and “How does lightening work?” Children will use their sense of smelling, hearing, feeling and seeing to learn how the world works, while also taking in theater performances and films. One popular exhibit is The Search For Life which looks at extraterrestrial beings, how life began and the different between living and lifeless objects. There’s also Space Shower, where children can view mysterious rays from space. Don’t leave without heading to the fifth floor for a bird’s eye-view of the city.


The Children’s Museum, Brussels

Also known as the musee des enfants, The Children’s Museum in Brussels, Belgium provides interactive exhibits focused on helping youths learn about themselves and others. Exhibitions may focus on topics like imagination, communication, self-confidence and the five senses, and can be explored through play. For example, “1001 Landmarks” teaches children how to find their way around and promotes self-growth, while “The Family Super Market” highlights the fact every family has its own unique, important values. Additionally, children can learn to cook, build wooden structures, produce a television program or be a superhero for the day.

Toy Museum, Prague

Toy animals at the Toy Museum in Prague

Toy animals at the Toy Museum in Prague. Photo credit: Sarah_Ackerman via Flickr.

Located in Prague on the Prague Castle premises, the Prague Toy Museum boasts being the second-largest toy museum in the world. The attraction features several exhibition rooms showcasing toys from different decades and countries, and kids can immerse themselves in toy cars, Disney characters, robots, dollhouses, figurines, models, teddy bears and more. Children will love the expansive Barbie collection — taking up an entire floor — with Spice Girls Babies, Marilyn Monroe Barbie, a Donald Trump Ken doll and lesser-heard of Babies with a stomach compartment for Barbie babies. There is also a fun collection of wooden and tin dolls made by famous Czech cartoonist and filmmaker.

National Science and Technology Museum in Taichung, Taiwan

Located in Taichung, Taiwan, the National Science and Technology Museum is often touted as one of the best of its kind in the world. Featuring hands-on exhibits, an IMAX theater and interactive technology education, children are immersed in the world of science and technology in a fun environment. While most of the explanations are in Chinese, there are certain exhibits in English, and even the ones that aren’t can be enjoyed by foreign visitors. Kids can explore the greenhouse and gardens to learn about natural sciences, watch animated T-Rex and Velociraptors in action, view small reptiles in a mini zoo, create your own whistling wheel, learn about food preservation by canning your own goods or perform experiments with light to see how it moves.

The Toy Factory and Big Rocking Horse in Adelaide Hills, Australia

You won’t need a house number for The Toy Factory and Big Rocking Horse in Adelaide Hills, Australia, as it’s difficult to miss the world’s largest rocking horse. Located outside on their lawn, visitors are allowed to climb onto the enormous toy, which weighs 25 tons and stands about 60 feet tall. Inside, children can play with traditional wooden toys and building kits and take a tour to see firsthand how quality wooden toys are created. And if you’re child wants to take something home, the items and souvenirs are surprisingly inexpensive. Don’t leave without spending some time in their wildlife park. Families can purchase feed inside then head out to feed the kangaroos, wallabies, emus, alpacas, peacocks, sheep, goats and other animals.


Best Children’s Museums Around The World

The 10 Best Cities for a European Layover

4 Apr

Long flights with even longer layovers may seem less than ideal when you are eager to kick-start your vacation but your stopover doesn’t have to be boring. Whether your layover is a quick break or an entire 24 hours, venturing outside the airport in one of these ten European multi-faceted cities will make your layover just as memorable as your final destination.

Reykjavík, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Heading into Iceland’s capital in the dead of winter might seem counterintuitive (though the average temperatures aren’t much colder than New York) but the city has much to offer travelers in terms of history, culture and leisure excursions any time of year. And if you fly IcelandAir between the US and Europe, you can stopover in Iceland for up to a week at no extra cost.

From Kjavík International Airport, board the FlyBus for a 45 minute ride, hopping off at the very first stop in the city, called BSÍ, which is an easy walk to the city center. Those pressed for time can take a city tour highlighting the major landmarks and touristic attractions or you can explore on your own on foot. Use Tjörnin, a centrally located lake as your reference point, as many of the city’s museums and landmarks are within walking distance from here. For travelers with a bit more flexibility in their schedule, highlights include Perlan, the National Museum and Church of Hallgrímur not to mention the colorful nightlife scene. If you have an early flight the next morning and want to party, don’t plan on sleeping. Most locals arrive to the clubs after midnight on weekends.

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

Switzerland has a reputation for being on the expensive side, and compared to how the U.S. Dollar and the European Euro fare against the Swiss Franc, that’s a fair statement. Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city in terms of both geographic size and population so while there is no way to do everything in a few hours, it also means that you have endless possibilities based on your interests. Getting into the city center won’t be difficult. While trams and buses are available, trains from the airport to the central train station only takes 10-15 minutes and purchasing a ZurichCARD will save you money.

For a picturesque and affordable view of the city, climb to the top of Grossmünste that once served as a Roman cathedral. Head to Bahnhofstrasse for some serious shopping or visit Kunsthaus to view Swiss art.

The small size of Switzerland and efficient train system also means that if you have more time and want to venture farther away from the city, you can. Interlaken and Lucerne are each about an hour away from the city by train; you can even get to Geneva on the other side of the country in less than three hours.

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

One of the perks of having a layover in Prague is that the airport has a facility in Terminal 1 where you can leave your luggage for up to 24 hours. There’s a fee of 120 CZK per item but it beats lugging your bags around with you all day. On the flips side, a thirty-minute taxi ride into the city is the only realistic means of transportation and can be costly, but once you are in the city, costs are generally low compared to most destinations in Western Europe.

For a scenic tour, take either a one-hour cruise tide on the Vlatva River or opt for a bike tour if the weather is nice. If walking by foot, make sure to watch the Astronomical Clock chime every hour by Old Town Square and visit Prague Castle for a crash course in Czech history.

London, England

Westminster, London

Westminster, London

There’s hardly anything that can put a damper on a layover in London except maybe the frequent rain clouds. The city has a few different airports and all are accessible from the airport (via the Underground for Heathrow or via express trains and busses for both Gatwick and Stansted). The Underground (the Tube) is the cheapest method at £5 but takes more than an hour to reach the city so plan accordingly. If your next connection leaves a few hours, it’s best to stick around in the airport but if you have more time, as London airports are notoriously crowded.

If time permits, take the Piccadilly Line from Heathrow to the Green Park stop. Exit here and proceed through the park until you reach Buckingham Palace. From here, head north to Mayfair for shopping or west to South Kensington for museums.

Brussels, Belgium

Belgian Waffels

Belgian Waffels

A jaunt through Brussels may feel strangely reminiscent to another romantic European capital. The Belgium city was actually modeled after Paris and the similarities and differences are apparent. Conveniently located a mere seven miles from the airport, a quick trip to Brussels can and should be done. For an interactive and speedy tour of the city, join a bike or Segway tour or just explore on foot.

Start at Grand-Place, considered the heart of Brussels and featuring impressive architecture from the Baroque era. Make your way to the EU Headquarters for an audio tour of Parliament or simply stuff your face with sweets in one of the many local chocolate shops after a tour at the Belgium Chocolate Museum.

Lisbon, Portugal

Belem Tower, Lisbon

Belem Tower, Lisbon

There are certainly worse places to spend your layover than Lisbon. The city is known for its fascinating architecture and pleasant climate and is only five miles from the airport. If arriving during the day, opt for public transportation to get into the city.

A trip to Lisbon would not be complete without visiting The World Heritage Belem Tower, a landmark that is said to compare to Paris’ Eiffel Tower or London’s Big Ben. Grab a coffee in Baixa along Rua Agusta or view vibrant flowers in Jardim da Estrela. Laid-back by day and lively by night, Bairro Alto is a charming neighborhood lined with local restaurants, cafes and bars.

Madrid, Spain

La Cibeles, Madrid

La Cibeles, Madrid

Spain’s capital city has a population of more than three million, so it’s no surprise that Madrid Barajas Airport is the county’s busiest. Similar to Prague, the Madrid airport offers luggage storage space to travelers in terminals 1, 2 and 4 for €3.85 for the first day. If on a time crunch, take a taxi to reach the city in thirty minutes but if time allows, hop of the metro, which stops in terminals 2 and 4. Consider buying the Madrid Tourist Travel Pass if spending the entire day in the city.

Start your exploration in Plaza Mayor, a plaza located in the heart of Madrid. Browse through the Prado Museum for European art dating back to the 12th Century, see Picasso’s famous Guernica painting at the Reina Sofia or visit the Royal Palace. For a snack, stop into the Mercado de San Miguel, a covered market where you can sample tapas, wine, oysters, pastries and much more.

Istanbul, Turkey

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Truly a unique city, Istanbul is split between two continents. After a short boat ride from the European side, travelers can reach Asia to experience a different side of Istanbul. The airport is about fifteen miles from the city and various transportation options are available including taxis, an express bus and the underground metro. Also worth noting is that most tourists from the U.S. (among other countries) are required to buy a $20 visa before leaving the airport in Istanbul, regardless of how long they are in town.

Once downtown, the famous Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are within close proximity of each other near Sultanahmet Square. The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Basilica Cistern and the Topkapi Palace are also nearby. For a more leisurely stop, shop at the Grand Bazaar for souvenirs or relax at The Turkish Baths.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Red Light District, Amsterdam

Red Light District, Amsterdam

Consider yourself lucky if your layover happens to be in Amsterdam. There is hardly a tourist that won’t find this city effortlessly enchanting. Schiphol Airport is less than six miles away from the city and the commute is relatively stress-free. In twenty minutes and for under €4, you can reach Amsterdam Central Station via train (storage lockers are available at the airport for €5-10 per day so there’s no need to lug your bags). Known for its scenic canal system, many tourists sign up for a canal tour to better orient themselves with the city. If navigating by foot, make sure to pick up a map, as many of the street names look similar to the English eye.

The Anne Frank Museum and the Van Gogh Museum are two popular attractions as is the infamous notorious Red Light District just a few steps from the train station and outdoor markets.

Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt

Frankfurt

While Berlin and Munich would most likely be stops on a trip to Germany, Frankfurt sometimes gets overlooked for no good reason. Eight miles from the airport, the city is reachable via the fast and cheap S-Bahn train. Before leaving the airport, make sure you know which train station you want to get off at, as there are three main stations. Most likely, Hauptbahnhof will be the best starting point.

Ride the elevator to the top of the Main Tower for a ski-high view of the city or grab a traditional “Apfelwein” in Old Town. If the weather is bad or if you are in the mood for museums, Frankfurt makes it easy because most of them are lined next to each other along the river. Römerberg is another central square and is where the Christmas markets take place each winter.

The 10 Best Cities for a European Layover amsterdam , belgium , brussels , Czech Republic , England , Europe , Frankfurt , germany , Iceland , Istanbul , Lisbon , London , Madrid , netherlands , Portugal , prague , Reykjavík , Spain , Switzerland , turkey , Zurich

Finding the Beat of Brussels

29 Mar

Grand Place. (Photograph by Marianne Janssens, Flickr)

I marched into Parking Garage #58 with confidence, punched the 10 key to the highest floor, and zoomed up. When I exited, the lot was desolate, with some late winter snow and ice remaining. What a pleasant surprise to discover one of the best views in the city: St. Catherine’s Square, a melange of Art Nouveau, gleaming corporate buildings, and a few layered church spires in all their glory. And it was free.

There’s no way I would have found this spot on my own and I have my Brussels Greeter, Martine, to thank for it.

Watch the world go by at a cafe. (Photograph by Sofie Coreynen, Visitflanders/Flickr)

Watch the world go by at a cafe. (Photograph by Sofie Coreynen, Visitflanders/Flickr)

The greeter program is free and connects locals with people who want an insider look at a city. At times, the perceived symbols of a country can be written about so ad nauseam in travel literature that I find myself bored with them before I even arrive. Not so for tiny Belgium. That’s probably because most of the nation’s icons are edible: from the decadent waffles and sinful toppings I just had to sample to the moules frites I washed down with a crisp cold beer. And everyone knows about the chocolate.

But, I was grateful to Martine for that glimpse of another side of Brussels from lofty new heights.

Brussels is far from undiscovered, but it can feel underrated. It is an easily walkable city, with evenly spaced cobblestones, and the ambiance of a merging and blended Europe. But outside the bustling Grand Place, I was comfortable as a tourist, with room to roam. Streets like Rue Lebeau curve around; you feel embraced by the city but not smothered by it. Your independence is respected but if you wish to chat, the locals are most happy to oblige.

The museums in Brussels are worth a week alone and, being an admirer of René Magritte (I have a copy of “La Clairvoyance” in my apartment back in New York), the Magritte Museum quickly became one of my favorites. His modus operandi – a jumble of text, photos, and objects that don’t seem to belong together — left me pleasantly puzzled and mildly amused. (For instance, why is Magritte’s painting of a blue sky with perfect, fluffy white clouds called “The Curse”?!)

The bookshop at the Belgian Comic Strip Center. (Photograph by Johan Martens, Visitflanders/ Flickr)

The bookshop at the Belgian Comic Strip Center. (Photograph by Johan Martens, Visitflanders/ Flickr)

At the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, which encompass ancient and modern art in one location, I was floored by the enormous Rubens room, and could almost feel the pulse of the peasants milling about in the Bruegels. On another side of town, don’t miss the Belgian Comic Strip Center, worth a stop to pay to Tintin and The Smurfs.

Locals are definitely bon vivants — people who live well and have refined taste. The Grand Sablon area hits a sophisticated note as a center for chocolate and home decor, ranging from kitschy to gilded and elegant. Surrounding the Sablon are streets worth savoring like Rue Ernest Allard and Rue des Minimes. I ducked into Claire Fontaine, a tiny gourmet shop, for spices and takeaway sandwiches. Top dining choices in the area are Restaurant JB, LOLA, and Aux Vieux Saint Martin, all teeming with locals.

Closer to the Grand Place is Galeries Royales St Hubert, a vibrant 19th-century shopping stroll that set the standard for similar arcades in London, Milan, and St. Petersburg. Here, you’ll find shops like Ganterie Italienne selling buttery leather gloves in a space where nothing has changed for decades, from the wood floors to the antique register. Nearby is La Taverne du Passage, an old-school choice for dinner, with big bowls of mussels and great wine.

Other shopping streets in Brussels include Boulevard de Waterloo, which is more like Fifth Avenue in New York, and Avenue Louise, strewn with international chains like Zara and Longchamp. But the most delightful neighborhoods to while away a day are near St. Catherine, where an old fish market has been replaced by delicious seafood restaurants. Ramble around the Dansaert, chock-full of unique, trendy shops and excellent eateries.

The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. (Photograph by James Stringer, Flickr)

The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert. (Photograph by James Stringer, Flickr)

After all that walking, you’ll crave a good night’s sleep. There’s a huge range of accommodations, and rates are especially good on weekends due to all the business travelers departing en masse. I loved staying at The Dominican Hotel a former abbey that pays homage to its history by piping Gregorian chant into the elevators. The soaring public spaces and relaxing outdoor garden practically force guests to unwind while the thoroughly modern lounge pulsates with a diverse mix of people each night.

Or, for a completely different vibe, there is always Hotel Welcome, where each of the 17 rooms has an international theme like Silk Road or Egypt, and the gregarious owner, Michael, couldn’t be more friendly.

In places like New York, London, and Paris, locals (I’m guilty, too) feel the need to shout from the rooftops about how great their city is, perhaps to justify sky-high rents and expensive dining. You’ll find a refreshing change of pace in Brussels. They instinctively know they are fortunate enough to live the “good life” daily in a city that feels more like an inviting village than an anonymous urban expanse. Everything is close by and not too congested, rents are decent compared to other capitals, and there’s a decidedly peaceful vibe that works its way into your stride.

The only complaints I heard from locals revolved around traffic and lack of parking — and that, in my estimate, is about as good as you can get.

Finding the Beat of Brussels Annie Fitzsimmons , Art Nouveau , Aux Vieux Saint Martin , beer , Belgian Comic Strip Center , belgium , brussels , Brussels Greeters , chocolate , Claire Fontaine , Dansaert , frites , Galeries Royales St Hubert , Grand Place , Grand Sablon , Hotel Welcome , La Taverne du Passage , LOLA , Magritte Museum , Parking Garage #58 , Rene Magritte , Restaurant JB , Royal Museums of Fine Arts , Saint Catherine , The Dominican , Urban Insider , waffles

Asian-Inspired Chocolate in Brussels

23 Mar

Chocolatiers at work at Laurent Gerbaud in Brussels (Photograph by Annie Fitzsimmons)

When we travel, we can become someone else, and in Brussels, I fancied myself a chocolate designer. I’d open a small corner shop just off the Grand Place, where it’s less chaotic and I could create beautiful pieces of art that also happen to be delicious. It would be more of a chocolate salon, a place where marble counters and elaborate displays showcase impossible-to-resist treats.

Of course, I have zero talent in chocolate design, but daydreaming about my boutique comes easily in Brussels, where there are more than 500 chocolatiers — the equivalent of about one for every 2,000 people.

And the Belgians actually eat the stuff, at one of the highest rates in the world for pounds consumed each year. When flying home, visitors can stock up (or replenish what they already devoured), as the city’s airport sells more chocolate than any other in the world.

A look inside the Neuhaus Chocolate shop in Brussels (Photograph by Marianne Janssens, Flickr)

A look inside the Neuhaus Chocolate shop in Brussels (Photograph by Marianne Janssens, Flickr)

While doing some proper background research on the Brussels chocolate scene, I found myself drawn to the houses of Marcolini, Galler, and Neuhaus. Wittamer, owned and operated by the same family since 1910, has a rich history in the Grand Sablon and a cheery second-floor cafe — the perfect place to duck in from the cold.

But I discovered very different flavors at Laurent Gerbaud, who owns a a sleek shop away from the tourist’s epicenter of chocolate, the Grand Sablon. There is no marble or gilded anything here; it’s more like a Zen chocolate zone with a coffee counter. And there’s a reason for that: Gerbaud has been making a name for himself by creating confections inspired by extended stays in Asia for more than three years now. (Just look at his signature — the Chinese symbol for chocolate, embossed with “LG,” his initials.)

At his shop, you’ll discover chocolate-coated fruit and truffles with flavors like Japanese citrus, black pepper, sweet chili, and ginger, alongside more traditional squares festooned with pecans and dried cranberries.

I found myself completely satisfied with a bite or two of Gerbaud’s chocolate, when three packs of peanut M&Ms can somehow feel inadequate. “My tastes really changed thanks to China, as there were no sugar or sweets then,” says Gerbaud, who is preparing for a month of chocolate-related travel in London and Asia. “Back in Belgium, there was too much fat, sugar, and alcohol.”

Stripes of candied orange peel are coated in dark chocolate at Laurent Gerbaud. (Photograph courtesy Laurent Gerbaud)

Stripes of candied orange peel are coated in dark chocolate at Laurent Gerbaud. (Photograph courtesy Laurent Gerbaud)

While the health benefits of chocolate can be overdramatized, you won’t find any added sugar, butter, or alcohol in Gerbaud’s creations. He explains that with a 75 percent cacao bar, you already have 25 percent sugar, which is plenty. “Fifteen years ago, you could only find 55 percent cacao, and now tastes have shifted to darker blends,” he says.

Selecting just the right cocoa beans for aroma and taste is crucial to the process, something Gerbaud likens to selecting the right grapes for wine. His exclusive dark chocolate is made from beans from Madagascar and Ecuador and produced in Italy.

Gerbaud has to laugh at chocolatiers who present new collections of chocolate each season as though they’re fashion designers, believing instead that fantastic new products take time and inspiration. When I ask him how he decides on new flavors, he says: “I always think, do I want a second one or not? I work on product, not the next or new thing that the press wants. I do only what I like.”

You won’t find in Gerbaud’s shop is flowers mixed with chocolate (he says “lavender and rose are too much like toilet water”), but you will always find milk chocolate with pistachio (“the symbol of addiction”).

The best selection to take home with you? A small mixed bag of treats called “A little bit of everything.” But savor it slowly, or you may be the one frantically buying up chocolate before your flight home.

Asian-Inspired Chocolate in Brussels Annie Fitzsimmons , belgium , brussels , chocolate , chocolatier , Galler , House of Wittamer , Laurent Gerbaud , Marcolini , Neuhaus , Urban Insider , Wittamer

I Heart My City: Kids Edition

6 Mar

Get a taste of the wild -- and learn about the importance of conservation -- at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. (Photograph by Stephanie Bond, Flickr)

It’s time for another special edition of I Heart My City!

This time we’re serving up recommendations for the world’s best educational experiences for kids (and kids at heart) in 15 cities around the world from the people who know them best: our ever-inspirational I Heart My City community. They also happen to be fun.

Ewelina’s Krakow (Poland): The Stanislaw Lem Garden of Experiences, an open-air education exhibition that allows kids to explore the natural world and the laws of physics.

Kids get a grip on geography at the Te Papa museum. (Photograph by Chris Zielecki, Flickr)

Kids get a grip on geography at the
Te Papa museum. (Photograph by Chris Zielecki, Flickr)

Larisa and Michael’s Philadelphia (United States): Franklin Square Park, a neighborhood park just off Independence Mall, has a playground and carousel, plus a mini-golf course featuring small-scale models of Philly’s historic buildings. It’s a great place to work off some youthful energy after seeing the Liberty Bell.

Katherine’s Athens (Greece): The Hellenic Children’s Museum or the free zoo in the National Gardens.

Charlotte’s Wellington (New Zealand): The city’s elaborate playgrounds, the kids areas at the Te Papa, or bird spotting in Zealandia, the bird sanctuary in Karori.

Natalie’s Toronto (Canada): Riverdale Farm: There are animals, it’s a great spot to picnic, and it’s free! It’s also a great way to see Cabbagetown, filled with historic Victorian homes. 

Christine’s Melbourne (Australia): Take a day trip to see the penguins on Phillip Island.

Kristina’s Santiago de Chile (Chile): The city zoo, located on a slope of the Cerro San Cristobal, which has a seemingly incongruous urban backdrop.

Annie Fitzsimmons’s New York City (United States): The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, which is in a model schoolhouse brought to Central Park in 1877. Shows are staged year round.

Kids learn by doing at the touch pool in Two Oceans Aquarium. (Photograph by Flowcomm, Flickr)

Kids learn by doing at the touch pool in Two Oceans Aquarium. (Photograph by Flowcomm, Flickr)

Yamina’s Brussels (Belgium): The Children’s Museum, where kids are allowed to touch everything, climb walls, listen to stories, and attend workshops.

Lea’s Vienna (Austria): The Haus der Musik museum, an interactive sound museum which provides a new approach to music on a playful and scientific level.

Luci’s Brisbane (Australia): Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. It’s also home to dingos, wombats, and platypus.

Jo’s Cape Town (South Africa): Don’t miss the Two Oceans Aquarium, aptly named for the Atlantic and Indian oceans, which converge in the area.

Nat Geo’s Washington, D.C. (United States): The National Air and Space Museum (for the rockets and the gift shop’s freeze-dried astronaut ice cream) and the Newseum, for the First Dogs exhibit, a tribute to presidential fidos.

Yvonne’s Berlin (Germany): The Berlin Zoo (the famous polar bear Knut’s birthplace), where you can see cute baby animals. It’s also the oldest zoo in Germany.

Megan and Natalie’s Seoul (South Korea): Lotte World. Thrills aren’t the only thing to seek at this South Korean theme park. The adjacent Lotte Folk Museum boasts a miniature village that displays life in the Joseon Dynasty on a 1/8th scale.

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