Traveling with children can be a chaotic, maddening experience. The extra baggage, the extra time, the toll it takes on your psyche. If you’ve never taken a trip with your kid (or kids), I suggest you try it – once. I’m not talking a load the fam into the Suburban and drive to grandma’s house type trip. I’m talking an eight-hour, transcontinental flight followed by a seven-hour drive to a remote destination in the Sequoia National Park type trip. You’ll wish you had driven off the edge of the mountain on the way up to see the biggest freakin-ass tree in the world.
Arriving at your destination always offers a sense of relief. Tucking the kids into bed after a full day of travel calms the mind and brings a renewed sense of adventure. Waking up the next morning, filling your lungs with the air of a new city and gazing out over a foreign skyline is invigorating. And then you gotta figure out what the hell you’re going to do for five days with those screaming maniacs that are destroying the adjoining suite.
Of course, you can take the typical route, doing all the typical family things, buying all the typical family crap and eating at all the typical family joints. Or you can go rouge, get weird and, in the process, challenge your kids to think differently about the world. Theme parks and beaches are great, but honestly, what can be gained from visiting them other than a suitcase full of useless corporate trinkets and breeches full of sand?
Here are four amazing places around the globe that, though they aren’t design specifically for kids, are absolutely perfect for them.
1. The Hundertwasser Museum – Austria, Vienna
This magnificent museum celebrates the work of Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000). Situated in the Kunst Haus Wien, a building constructed in accordance with Hundertwasser’s architectural and artistic design concepts, the museum is a wonderland of art and philosophy. Hundertwasser believed “there are no straight lines in nature,” so the building itself and its interior are crazy-wobbly and wonderfully colorful. He also incorporated roof gardens and tree windows.
Inside, on top of and just about everywhere you look, there is vegetation, using the building as a means to provide environmental stability in an urban landscape. Your inner art geek or environmentalist will be nurtured by a visit here. And the kids will love running around on the goofed-up floors, staring out the windows into a network of painted water ducts and gazing at Hundertwasser’s art: a cross between Mondrian and Dr. Seuss.
2. Le Centre Pompidou – Beauborg, Paris
Founded in 1977, the multi-level complex at Pompidou is a center of cultural activity, modern art and music. The building itself, with its exposed pipes and ducts, is a site to behold. There is a massive library, rooms full of modern and contemporary art, and a section dedicated to music and music studies.
Even if you don’t go inside (you really should), the giant courtyard hosts dozens of musicians and artists in a festival atmosphere. Children will find much to enjoy, shooting up and down the escalators into different worlds, and watching the wide variety of people from different points on the globe come together to share their creative spirit.
3. Pinball Hall of Fame and Museum – Las Vegas
Imagine the joy of taking your little twerp into a gallery of vintage pinball machines and video games. Some of these machines date back to the early ‘50s and run all the way to the mod, multi-ball/multi-level machines of today. Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club member Tim Arnold started the museum as a not-for-profit venture, in hopes of preserving the games for future generation of geeks and gamers.
Along with the hundreds of pinball machines (which still take quarters, by the way), there are classic video games like Gorf, Space Invaders, Tron and Asteroids. Doubly cool is the fact that any revenue the museum takes in above operating costs goes to nondenominational charities.
4. The Great Elephant – Nantes, France
Located in Les Machines de l’île (the Machines of the Isle of Nantes), The Great Elephant is part of an exhibit celebrating the work of Jules Verne and Leonardo Da Vinci. Based on a larger machine, The Sultan’s Elephant, which was created as part of a huge, traveling marionette show by Royal de Luxe theater company, the 20-foot-high creature has wheels and moves and generally freaks people out. OK, this one might be geared slightly toward children, but the engineering ingenuity it took to create this will spark the imagination of anyone who views, enters or rides it.
Have you taken any awesome trips with your kids? Let us know in the comments below.