Top 25 Family Friendly Activities Around the World: 2014 Viator Travel Awards

December 18, 2013 by

Family & Kids, Things to Do, Viator Travel Awards


Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Viator Travel Awards, an annual awards competition where we – along with our readers, travelers, and fans – select the top things to do and see in each of the major regions we serve, the top things to do in our most popular tour categories, and more.

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Welcome to the 2014 Viator Travel Awards: Family Edition! Traveling with kids is always an adventure. Seasoned parents know that staying flexible, going with the flow and always having snacks on hand are some key ways everyone remains happy on vacation. Plus, cool sightseeing and outdoor activities – no matter if your trip takes you to the city, the mountains or the beach – can help keep the entire family entertained and in good moods (until kid #2 drops his ice cream in the sand, but that’s another story).

Consider these top sightseeing trips and tours for your next family vacation. Heck, if you see an adventure that piques your interest, consider planning an entire trip around it!

The tours and activities highlighted are chosen based on traveler reviews, data from the millions of people who check out during the year, and information on which tours travelers book most often. We think you’ll enjoy reading about the array of activities available and we also think this list is a great place to start if you’re planning a trip with your family.

You’ll find all kinds of activities listed below, including canopy tours and flight simulators, snorkeling tours and biking adventures, and even historical tours kids will actually enjoy! Join us for this tour of the Top 25 Best Family Friendly Things to Do Around the World!

1. Learn about other cultures

Old Lahaina Luau Maui

Old Lahaina Luau Maui

Vacationers flock to Hawaii for its sun, surf and sand, but equally compelling is its long and storied history and native culture. Even young children can appreciate the unique language – and can learn to say “aloha” and “mahalo” to locals. Better yet, visit Oahu’s Paradise Cove Luau, where you’ll not only eat a wonderful array of Hawaiian foods (including yummy Kalua pig!), but you can learn how to fish like ancient Hawaiians did, play Hawaiian lawn games and, of course, watch a fascinating show filled with songs, dances and other entertainment from across Polynesia.

But Hawaii isn’t the only place where music and food can introduce kids to traditional cultures. From a to a in New Zealand, family-friendly evenings can include a bit of fun as well as learning. And if sport is the thing that gets your kids interested in cultures, why not watch a  in Tokyo, or have them Learn How to Play Pétanque in Paris? For older kids, learning about can give them a glimpse into the Barcelona of the past, while a shows them another side of life they otherwise might never see.

2. Make history fun



History comes alive when children are actually touring the areas where historical events took place. Learning about history in a museum or a classroom can’t compare to actually seeing and touching landmarks up close, listening to witnesses of a significant world event via an audio tour, or going behind bars at an infamous prison. With the Small-Group Day Trip to Stonehenge, Glastonbury and Avebury from London visitors check out prehistoric stone markers; or you can discover a lost civilization by exploring the . In Rome, you can take a before sending the kids to a real . Back in America, you can take a to learn the secrets of this history-changing event, while on the other side of the world kids of all ages can get their hands into history with a in Shanghai, China!

3. Go by bike

Rome bike tour

Rome bike tour

Biking is one of my favorite family-vacation activities. We see the sights and enjoy some good outdoor exercise at the same time! In fact, exploring some cities and local landmarks is even better by bike, because you can cover more ground than you would if you were just strolling. For example, with the Versailles by Bike Day Tour you can tour the expansive gardens and also visit some attractions that other visitors don’t see such as Marie Antoinette’s country-style, rustic retreat. You can also see the sights of the Eternal City on the Rome City Bike Tour, cross the San Francisco Bay on the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge Bike Tour, or see the City of Light in lights with a . Ride down the massive boulevards of Berlin on a ; wind your way down the hidden alleys of the old city with a ; and while in the Big Apple, you can escape the urban jungle and explore the city’s oasis with a

4. See a show the whole family will love

The Beatles™ LOVE™ by Cirque du Soleil®. Photo courtesy of Joel Kramer on Flickr

The Beatles™ LOVE™ by Cirque du Soleil®. Photo courtesy of Joel Kramer on Flickr

Is any trip to New York City complete without having your kids see their first Broadway show? From  to , Broadway’s never been a more family-friendly place. Even Vegas has family friendly activities with the . If you find yourself in London, celebrate the city’s long-standing theatre traditions with . And on the other side of the world, there’s spectaculars to be had: check out the .

5. Indulge in cheese, chocolate, and other local treats

Dessert Walking Tour in New York City: Cupcakes, Cookies and Gelato

Dessert Walking Tour in New York City: Cupcakes, Cookies and Gelato

Still more opportunities to eat and sightsee at the same time: a Paris Chocolate and Pastry Food Tour, , and can leave you full and more knowledgable! Meanwhile, you can do a back-to-back New York Pizza Tour to Brooklyn and Coney Island and will give you all the most important Big Apple food groups while showing you a unique point of view of a city you may think you already know.

6. Make friends with the wild things

Singapore breakfast with oranguatans

Singapore breakfast with oranguatans

What better place than Asia to experience something truly exotic? Try the  and then the next day, the Singapore Zoo Morning Tour with optional Jungle Breakfast amongst Orangutans. Or in Thailand, there is the . If a safari is more your speed, it doesn’t have to be a multi-week trek through Africa. The is a simple day trip, but you’ll have the chance to see some of the most exotic animals on Earth. If you’re sticking closer to home, wild experiences can still abound: Take a , or a . Even a can yield plenty of excitement and discovery!

7. Segway your way around a city

Forget hoofing it around a city to check out the most important sights. Instead, book a Segway tour for easy cruising along sidewalks in some of the most-visited locales in the world. Tweens and teens will get a kick out of this unique self-balancing personal-transportation device (okay, you might look a little goofy, but the tours make for some great family photos). Small groups ensure personal attention during the Paris City Segway Tour, which passes by the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, among other landmarks. Then there’s the  and Chicago Segway Tour, both of which take you around America’s most popular cities. And with a , you can zip past the sites you’ve seen during the day, lit dramatically at night.

8. Soar into the sky

Grand Canyon All American Helicopter Tour

Grand Canyon All American Helicopter Tour

If you’d really like to soar into the sky with an experienced pilot, check out the Grand Canyon All American Helicopter Tour or the Big Apple Helicopter Tour of New York. Plane rides can be fun, too – you can experience the beauty and awesome power of , or a , or a of San Diego if you’re a bit braver.

But perhaps nothing is more mind-blowing and majestic than seeing the world wake up below your feet from the point of view of a hot air balloon. From the Strip during a to the Magic Kingdom with a  to the surreal landscape of a , it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience the whole family can control.

9. Go under the sea

Great Barrier Reef Nemo

Find Nemo in the Great Barrier Reef

Snorkeling is a wonderful way for active families to introduce kids to the underwater world in tropical vacation destinations. I suggest practicing at home in the bathtub with a basic snorkel set so kids can get a feel for the equipment. Then you’ll all be prepared to hop on such exciting trips as the Great Barrier Reef Diving and Snorkeling Cruise from Cairns. You’ll cruise to Australia’s famous Great Barrier Reef chock full of colorful fish and unusual coral, for several hours of snorkeling. SCUBA diving is an option, too – even for first-time divers. Also in the same area is the , where you can tour the reef on a glass-bottom boat or view coral from a semi-submersible submarine. Other cool underwater trips include those in Hawaii, like the Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Adventure Half-Day Tour on Oahu, an , or a . And for east coasters, there’s the super-fun !

10. Go off the beaten path with some off-roading

When you’re traveling with family, there can sometimes be a bit of schlepping – whether it’s getting everyone on the train or making sure everyone crosses the street safely, it can seem like a forced march instead of discovery. If the kids are itching to go off the beaten path, then off-roading adventures might just be up your alley. A is like a sand roller coaster, with plenty of fun bumps and careening. You can also meet and ride some camels, and the girls can even get Henna’d! It comes with a great BBQ meal, too, for your ravenous adventurers. And once you’ve gotten the 4×4 bug, try it out with a , or a , or for older kids, a ! Also from Vegas there’s a that makes it seem much more than a day trip, while further south is a in Sedona.

11. Have the ultimate theme-park experience

Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood

With VIP treatment at your favorite U.S. theme parks, you can scoot right to the front of the line at the most popular attractions. Indeed, you’ll feel like a celebrity with the insider access to the best seats in the house at live shows, too, if you book the Skip the Line: Front of Line Pass at Universal Studios Hollywood (or you can book a , too). For even more behind-the-scenes privileges at this Los Angeles theme park, consider the VIP Experience at Universal Studios Hollywood. And if you plan on doing a sweep of southern California theme parks, you can always save with a . And you can show up like a VIP with the ! But you don’t have to stick with America for the theme park fun; see Disneyland Resort Paris with Transport and see how the French can do it up right!

12. Take a cooking class

Everybody in the family loves Italian food, right? Well then, why not learn about its secrets while in Italy? With a , a daytime or learning how to – all in Florence! – you can eat your way through your vacation while learning a trick or two to bring back home. Also in Europe is a and a , to round out the yummy part of your palette. For more adventurous little eaters, a or a can awaken all the senses and give them some foodie street cred with their friends. Closer to home, a can give new life to family favorites, all while learning about their origins.

13. Go whale watching on any coast

Operators of whale-watching tours know exactly where to go in the ocean to view these magnificent creatures – so typically you’re guaranteed a whale sighting. And if you’re really lucky, you may even see one even breach and leap out of the water. On the , choose to cruise in a large, three-level boat or get close to the water in a Zodiac rafts. Another East Coast adventure is the Boston Whale Watching Cruise, and when you find yourself on the West Coast check out the Whale Watching & Wildlife Eco Tour from San Francisco. Farther west – WAY west – is an , and so far west that it’s east is the , which is a lot of fun. But what about those going towards Europe? Don’t fear – the includes the chance to see the numerous whales of Faxaflói Bay, as well as harbor porpoises, white-beaked dolphins, minke whales and humpback whales!

14. Ride the ducks

London Duck Tour

London Duck Tour

See the sights by land and water from an amphibious vehicle. Former WWII military “DUWKS” have been retrofitted for sightseeing – with bus-like seats and plenty of windows for great views of Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, for example, on the London Duck Tour. And, yes, you’ll plunge into the Thames River for the “boat” portion of the entertaining tour. Amphibious trips in the U.S. include: Boston Duck Tour, San Francisco Duck Tour and Seattle Duck Tour. Prepare for some lively accompaniment: some tours hand out quack-quack duck whistles to the kids, which pint-sized participants aren’t afraid to use. Loudly.

15. Zipline above the trees

San Juan zipline

San Juan zipline

Thrilling is one way to describe a zipline ride above jungle foliage. Other descriptors: exhilarating, breathtaking and fun – for the whole family! Children as young as five can sail through the Puerto Rican rainforest on the Zipline Canopy Eco-Adventure from San Juan. Test nine different ziplines and a couple of cool rappel stations! Mexico’s Cancun Extreme Zipline Canopy Tour and a  are a couple of other great options for an adrenaline rush on vacation. The view from the is nothing short of astonishing – and you’ve never seen Vegas like from the top of a .

16. Swim with dolphins

Ocean World swim

Ocean World swim

Marine-animal enthusiasts will love the opportunity to swim with dolphins on your next tropical adventure. School-age children who are comfortable in the water can not only pet, kiss and interact when , but they can hang onto a dolphin’s dorsal fin to be pulled around the water and then get a shove from the (strong) dolphin for the fun “foot-push” maneuver at high speeds across the water’s surface. Child age minimums vary, so be sure to check requirements before you book such adventures. The Caribbean is a hotbed of family-friendly dolphin encounters, including the Ocho Rios Dolphin Encounter, a , and the . In Hawaii, a fantastic encounter is

17. Speed along the open water

The makes one promise, and one promise only: You WILL get wet on this tour. There’s no more fun way to experience this natural wonder than from this wet and wild point of view! Another adventurous way to sight-see is with a half-hour , which not only shows you the sights along the Harbour but also shows you some wicked-cool boat tricks that will give you a splash or two (slickers included!). Another part-thrill-ride, part-sightseeing is the , which takes you around the waterways of New York while giving you a beast of a ride. Similarly, the is a thrill, and even comes with its own soundtrack! For older kids, the lets you captain your own speedboat!

18. Canoe and kayak

If your family doesn’t feel the need for speed, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy water excursions. A takes you through the limpid waters of this surprising coastal city. Unsurprisingly, Hawaii offers up some of the best experiences, with a as well as a that takes you on both land and sea. The lets you explore dozens of islands, limestone cliffs and caves. And finally, a is nothing short of magical and will make you never see the sea in the same way again.

19. Take a hike

Walking together as a family doesn’t have to simply get you from one place to another; all over the world, hiking trips can take your family vacation memories (and photo ops!) to another level. The makes you feel like you’ve gotten away from the glitz of Vegas; the , on the other hand, takes you to the heart of the city and lets you see its hidden oasis. A  is a great way to see the nature that a world-class city, as does an . If you prefer a more in-depth hiking experience, a is a real winner.

20. Raft down a lazy (or not so lazy) river

River-rafting adventures can range from mild to wild: Older kids will whoop their way through the rapids on exciting whitewater trips, while younger children appreciate the mellow pace of a gentle float trip. The Grand Canyon Rafting Trip from Las Vegas is an exhilarating once-in-a-lifetime adventure that also includes a helicopter trip to the canyon rim. Other options include the , which lets you explore a bit more on your own. Further north is the out of Las Vegas, while on the other side of the world, the will leave you soaked, exhausted and begging for another chance to go at it! For older kids who can do it on their own, a in Montego Bay is a blast.

21. Catch a game (or a match!)

Love them or hate them, but the New York Yankees are a part of the city’s history, as well as the history of baseball. So while you’re visiting the city, take a to get the real inside scoop on the team. But in the way that baseball is America’s sport, so too do other cultures express their national pride through sporting traditions. Experience the utter chaotic fun that is a , or check out . A Sports Lovers Tour of Melbourne, Australia takes you on a tour of the stadiums and museums of cricket and tennis, as well as a drive around the Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit at Albert Park!

22. Get a bird’s eye view

Especially if you’re new to a city, it’s fun to ascend a local landmark to get the lay of the land from above. Kids get a kick of towering over tiny cars that look like little toys and people who resemble ants. The lets them have the bird’s eye view as well as a fun adventure up in the hills – and if they love that, then head over and do it again with a ! While not for the faint of heart, the is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that makes you feel like you’re walking on air.

23. Learn about marine life up-close

Treat your budding marine biologist to an experience of a lifetime – learning about sea creatures from experienced naturalists. The Dolphin Experience at the Miami Seaquarium gives children ages 5 and up the opportunity to interact with dolphins in shallow water: shaking hands, leaning in for a kids and trying out some training signals! Here’s another idea: the lets you arrive with ease so you can relax and enjoy exploring coral reefs, shipwrecks and the Discovery Touch Pool. In Mallorca, two experiences await that put everybody in the pool: the and the  give families hours of fun in the sun with dozens of water rides, river rides, and wave pools.


24. Walk in the footsteps of their heroes

If your tweens or teens are fans of J.K. Rowling’s books, and especially if they’ve seen all of the Harry Potter films on the big screen, you’ll want to book one of two walking tours on your next trip to England. The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter gives you an up-close-and-personal look at some of the authentic sets, costumes and props that were actually used in the Harry Potter movies.

25. Hang ten

Even if you’ve never surfed before, experienced instructors will have you up and riding gentle waves that are ideal for beginners during introductory lessons. Though adults can usually handle group classes, I’d recommend private of semi-private instruction for your children, such as with . When my tween-age kids learned to surf in Hawaii, a patient instructor took turns giving them pushes when good waves came up behind them and shouted at them to stand up at the perfect moment. Success! With Oahu Surfing Lessons, you can choose to surf on traditional boards or try the newest craze, stand-up paddleboarding. Other tropical locations for sampling a new sport: Surfing Lessons on Sydney’s Bondi Beach, Maui Surf School Surfing Lessons and Puerto Rico Surf Lesson.

- Viator Travel Team


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