Enjoying Museums and Cultural Activities with Kids

Go up

You’ll want to find a balance between seeing the cultural sites that brought you to your destination and having delightful experiences with your kids. We think it’s great to do both. You’ll probably be surprised at how much fun you have at the “children’s” attractions and what they teach you about local culture. If you work at making the “grown up” attractions fun for your kids, you’ll probably be surprised at how much they take in and how much they enjoy them.

Choosing Activities

It’s helpful to show up in each destination you are visiting with a list of activities along with their addresses. Here are some tips on putting together a good list

  • Fodors travel guides list child friendly activities.
  • Local information booths at your destination can also help.
  • We always search the web before we go for tips. Look for children’s museums, aquariums, science museums, zoos, factory tours, farm tours and waterparks. You won’t want to spend your entire vacation doing these things, but they’re great to add to the mix. We try to have at least one activity per day that we think the kids will absolutely love.
    Find Zoos and Aquariums in your destination
    Find Children's museums in your destination
  • A really good map of your destination will include parks
  • In the US, we often stop in public libraries or bookstores for a quick break as many have a small play area for young children.
  • Here are some “grown up” activities that kids can really enjoy: art museums, natural history museum, street food stands (it’s fun to watch how things are prepared), farmers markets, boats, ferries, trains and tall towers. When visiting these attractions, we try to be creative and find ways to make them fun for the kids. Some days that means riding up and down on a cool glass elevator repeatedly while the other parent visits the museum.

Cutting out the lines

Waiting in lines can put everyone in a foul mood. There are several ways to avoid the lines:

  • Search online for advance tickets
  • In some countries, people with small children are automatically escorted past the line. It won’t hurt to ask a guard whether that is the custom where you are
  • Many cities sell ticket packages online or at venues like train stations, department stores and museums. Not only do these packages offer a discount, but they often mean that you get to skip the line.

Visiting Art Museums with Kids

For example, I don’t expect my kids to take in the entire Louvre, but they do go with me to museums and we try to find an area that’s especially fun for them. For example, the Louvre has an underground castle. When we’re looking at paintings, I try to prioritize and move quickly (and don’t expect to take everything in within a single day) but I also try to engage the kids. One trick is to buy some postcards of the artworks in the museum bookstore, then ask your kids to match them up once inside. Here are some examples of things I might ask the kids as we tour the exhibits:

  • Find all the dogs
  • Imitate the way that sculpture is posed
  • Which painting has the most people looking at it. Why?
  • Which painting has the most people looking at it. Why?
  • What do you see in the picture
  • What do you like about this picture
  • Which is your favorite picture

Mostly, though, I’m careful to respect their limits and take a break or leave when they get bored. An appreciation of art is a lifelong gift, and I don’t want to turn them off of museums as a whole while they’re young, there is plenty of time later for them to learn about the major art movements, famous painters, and techniques that they're seeing.

For more great tips, visit Visiting an Art Museum with Children

Visiting Churches and Temples

Churches and Temples can be lots of fun with kids. While you’ll want to keep the total number you visit to a minimum to avoid burnout, they often have cool crypts and towers to explore. Some churches (especially in Italy and Spain) also have rooms full of treasure to admire.

Learn something about the architecture and history of the church before you visit, have your kids guess how the huge stone walls are supported, point out any special architectural features of this church, and tell them about any interesting historical events that happened here.

You might make plans to visit one church while services are in session (even if you are not religious) so that everyone can get the full sense of the church. Even though I am not Catholic, Christmas mass in Barcelona is one of my great travel memories.

Visiting Archeological Sites

Archeological Sites can be fascinated, and even preschoolers can get caught up in imagining the lost towns (or at least appreciate the really big rocks!)

It can be difficult for everyone to imagine exactly how those old rocks formed buildings, towns and cultural centers though, so we find it helpful to get books that overlay drawings of famous monuments over pictures of the currently existing form. For example, we like the book Ancient Rome: Monuments Past and Present

It’s also helpful to read stories before you go that are set in the monuments you will be visiting and give insight into what life must have been like


  1. Enjoying Travel With Kids on January 28, 2009 at 6:52 p.m.

    Great ideas! We love taking our kids to museums. When they're young and little sponges for information, there's always something of interest for them. We always like to remind our kids when in old cathedrals, historic building etc, to LOOK UP! Don't miss the amazing ceilings! My 4 year old and I used to wander through these places, reminding each other to look up.

  2. Chloe on August 12, 2009 at 2:59 a.m.

    What a fantastic site - I want to take my 2.5 year old to Seville but had decided it was probably too adult a holiday - till I found Delicious Baby. Keep up the good work!

  3. Rachael Greenberg on April 13, 2010 at 1 p.m.

    This is a great site! Thanks for all the recommendations and travel advice!