Kick off your Summer adventure in New York, Chicago or Dallas.
For a family vacation that mixes skylines and skyscrapers with a bit of history, arts, food and adventure, look no further than the United States’ map. Be it the Southwestern sprawl of Dallas,
Midwestern summer breezes blowing off the Great Lakes in Chicago or the famous hustle and bustle of New York City in the Northeast, there’s a destination to suit every member of your clan. So pack your bags, snap photos aplenty and get ready to make memories.
Some 22 million tourists annually visit the city of Dallas, home of legendary football team the Dallas Cowboys and a cultural melting pot of people from across the globe. “Dallas is great for a family adventure. There is so much for families and children of all ages to see and do,” says Phillip Jones, CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. “It’s an affordable destination,” he adds, citing deals such as the CityPASS programme. “It bundles the city’s best attractions into one discounted ticket.”
Kick off a day of family sightseeing with a big `ole Texas-sized breakfast. One popular local spot, which actually has several locations, is Bread Winner’s Café where a basket of house-made baked goods welcome diners. Entrees range from Banana Bread French Toast to scrambled eggs with crispy tortilla strips and Jalapeño Bacon and Cheddar Waffles. While the kids sip fresh juices, mom and dad may opt for a Texas Bluebonnet Mojito.
Make your next stop the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Wander the trails and learn how wetlands clean the water and see alternative energy in action. Traverse the Texas Skywalk, where there’s netting suspended above the trails and you’re one with nature and the treetops.
Want to ice skate in the summer? You can! Head to Galleria Dallas to browse some 200 shops — from the American Girl Boutique to the Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop — and dozens of restaurants, plus glide on a year-round ice skating rink.
Take a walk on the wild side at the Dallas Zoo, named one of “20 Best Zoos” by USA Today, and the biggest one in the Lone Star State. Visit the Giants of the Savanna, an 11-acre safari exhibit where visitors can feed the giraffes. Don’t miss the Lacerte Family Children’s Zoo and bird landing with an array of colourful cockatiels and lorikeets.
And if you want to channel your inner cheetah, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science allows guests to race one of the wild cats or challenge an Olympic runner — virtually, of course. Don’t miss the popular earthquake simulator or gargantuan skeleton of “Alamosaurus,” a plant-eater who once lived in Texas and towered over the T. rex.
The Dallas Museum of Art offers free admission and diverse family programming. Download one of several free self-guided tours designed for youngsters or check out an Art-to-Go bag filled with cool, kid-friendly museum activities.
The next day, consider ditching the rental car to board the historic McKinney Avenue Trolley in the Uptown neighbourhood. The kids can check out the old-school reversible benches and maybe even ring the bell. The best part: It’s free. Jones of the CVB says the trolley is one of his favourites. “Hop on for a complimentary ride through town and a history lesson from the dedicated drivers.”
Hop off near West Village, a walkable urban stretch with shops, eatery and a theatre (there are also periodic outdoor film screenings). Nearby is an outpost of Gloria’s Latin Cuisine. The Salvadoran, Tex-Mex and Mexican-infused menu offers plenty of choices, from crispy tacos to creamy black bean soup and sweet tres leches cake for dessert.
Finish the evening downtown from GeO-Deck at Reunion Tower, where you and yours can collectively gaze from some 500 feet up upon the city’s brilliantly illuminated skyline.
New York City
New York has a well-deserved reputation for being the city that never sleeps. Families can take a bite out of The Big Apple, too. The Official NYC Family Ambassador programme launched in 2009 and touts New York City as a safe, welcoming, family-friendly destination, says Chris Heywood, a spokesman for NYC & Company, the city’s tourism arm.
Last year, NYC & Company launched a guide called Free in NYC, which highlights the best free activities New York City has to offer, including events, museums, tours, TV show tapings, attractions and more. “We encourage families to visit year-round and invite those who have already visited to return,” says Heywood. While not every activity is free, of course, there are countless ways to enjoy family time in the city.
Begin your excursion in world-famous Times Square, located in the heart of Manhattan. There are throngs of people, massive billboards, vendors hawking souvenirs and the lights of Broadway. Hot musicals for families include the new School of Rock from Andrew Lloyd Webber, Matilda and the long-running favourite, The Lion King.
Want the force to be with your relatives? Then stop by “Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume” at Discovery in Manhattan, which will feature 70 hand-crafted costumes from the first six blockbuster Star Wars films. Costumes include Darth Vader’s menacing black mask, the gilded suit of C-3PO, the lavish royal gowns of Queen Amidala and a bikini worn by Princess Leia.
At Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan, the Nintendo NY store has reopened after a major renovation. Expect new Wii U and Nintendo 3DS demo units, plus a 15-foot gaming screen. A large bronze coin at the store entrance displays the store’s tagline: “Where everyone comes to play.” On the Upper East side, you’ll find more fun at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum with its latest exhibition entitled “Pixar: The Design of Story,” running through August 2016. Original artwork and more highlights the creative process behind Pixar Animation Studios’ popular films such as Toy Story, The Incredibles and Cars.
The whole family can take a step back in time at the “Dinosaurs Among Us” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side. Envision ancient, rarely seen fossils and life-like models, amongst them a 23-foot-long feathered tyrannosaur!
Make time during your trip to head uptown to historic Harlem. Besides the famed Apollo Theatre, check out the new Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling. State-of-the-art spaces encourage kids and families to learn via encounters with art and artists. The museum will also collaborate on exhibitions with the nearby Studio Museum in Harlem and El Museo del Barrio, both of which celebrate artists of colour. While in Harlem, grab a bite at the newly opened Streetbird Rotisserie, the latest and fifth New York restaurant from celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson. Besides rotisserie chicken, the eatery serves dishes inspired by street food from around the world.
Chi-Town offers a little something for everyone in the family. From amazing sports franchises — like the Cubs, White Sox, Bears and Bulls — and one of the largest park systems in the nation, to top attractions including Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, children and adults alike have their pick of activities.
Lincoln Park Zoo, located north of downtown Chicago and within a short walk of Lake Michigan, is one of the few urban zoos in the country that offers complimentary admission. Its proximity to North Avenue Beach is also a good excuse to bring along swimsuits and beach towels during the summer months.
The Magnificent Mile, just north of the Chicago River, is ideal for strolling and family shopping. Along the famous mile you’ll find stores ranging from American Girl Place to Candyality, a Chicago-based candy shop. For dining, Chicago’s classic deep-dish pizza is always a good choice. Sample the pizza at spots like Giordano’s, Gino’s East or Lou Malnati’s. Portillo’s serves up Chicago-style hot dogs, burgers, shakes, chocolate cake and more.
The new Maggie Daley Park is equipped with an ice skating ribbon that winds through the park like a floating lazy river of ice, state-of-the-art play areas and a rocking climbing wall that stands nearly 40 feet tall. If the little ones aren’t tuckered out from running, climbing, jumping and catapulting there, they can splash around at Crown Fountain in Millennium Park. An ideal family spot during the summer months, Millennium Park offers places to picnic, enjoy outdoor concerts (many of them free) and view movies at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Take family snaps and selfies near the Cloud Gate sculpture, affectionately known as the Bean.
Navy Pier also packs entertainment and attractions for families. It’s being updated to become what officials call a “greener and more contemporary urban space.” Changes include a new, taller Ferris wheel expected to open Memorial Day weekend.
Visit These fun destinations with Cayman Airways
Cayman Airways offers non-stop flights from Grand Cayman to each of these family-friendly gateways. To book your flight call 345-949-2311 or 1-800-4-CAYMAN, contact your local agent, or visit caymanairways.com.
By Donna M. Owens