By: Fiona Moriarty, Hipmunk
You spent a few years post-college hitting all the beachfront party destinations (Cancun, Cozumel, The Bahamas). And the romantic spots (think Rome and Paris) should be saved for a trip a deux. Because as nice as it would be to believe a toddler will appreciate The Louvre, we aren't fooling ourselves. But just because your traveling companions require naps, frequent snacks, and choose cartoons over culture, that doesn't mean you can't have a great experience. Hey, sometimes it's nice to have an excuse to leave the museum early. "Someone's just feeling grumpy today." (Yes, and it's me.)
In an effort to embrace the wild world of travel with kids, we scoured this year's best destinations to find the ones you AND the little ones will love. There are a few great locations that combine grownup interests with kid-friendly fun -- and Sydney, Australia, is one of the best. Nailing down an itinerary that makes EVERYONE happy doesn't get any easier than this.
Built in 1932, the "Coathanger" is the world's largest steel arch bridge. Architecture buffs will love seeing this bit of history -- it's one of the first landmarks immigrants to the nation would've seen when arriving in the harbor -- and everyone will be swept away by the breathtaking vistas. Climb on your own, or take a guided tour.
Located in one of Mosman, one the city's more upscale neighborhoods, a zoo trip offers great people- and real estate-watching in addition to close animal encounters. The Wild Ropes course and Lemur Forest Adventure are highlights. For serious animal lovers, the Roar and Snore, an overnight zoo stay, is can't-miss.
The Sydney outpost of the wax museum is home to historical figures like Captain Cook and Ned Kelly, leaders like Queen Elizabeth II and Barack Obama, and Marvel superheroes like Spider-Man and Wolverine. Kids eight and older can get a one-of-a-kind wax replica to take home.
Take the animal fun underwater at Sydney's aquarium, which houses Australia's largest collection of marine creatures. Adrenaline junkies-in-training can can swim with sharks through a safe, see-through enclosure, and budding marine biologists can spend a day behind the scenes with the team.
Little learners (and big ones) can get engaged with the museum's interactive exhibits on science, technology, design, and history. Plan your trip around the Sydney Science Festival, August 13-23, for even more learning fun.
The modern building was inspired by a jigsaw puzzle, and represents the many intertwining cultures that comprise Australia's identity and history. Explore various facets of the country through exhibits like, "Defining Moments," "Landmarks," "Eternity," and more.
Want an excuse to shop? This tower tops the bustling Centrepoint mall. But, the Skywalk is an attraction all its own. It's the highest point in the city, and the stunning glass-floored viewing platform had an unbeatable view of the metropolis. You can grab a bite at one of the restaurants, or take a virtual tour of the city in the 4D cinema show that highlights notable landmarks.
8. Manly Beach
A famous surfing destination, Manly has some of Australia's best waves. The beach is patrolled, and there's a playground accessible for anyone who doesn't fancy the water. Manly's about a 30 minute ferry ride from Sydney's Circular Quay, and has an electric BBQ for grilling, in addition to cafes and restaurants within walking distance, for when you've worked up an appetite.
The expansive grounds are open year round, and boast almost 20 theme gardens like the Begonia Garden, Rainforest Walk, Rare and Threatened Plants Garden, and Camellia Garden. There are free guided walks, and self-guided tours highlighting World War I and Aboriginal heritage.
10. Hyde Park
Named after London's Hyde Park, this lush urban oasis is a sanctuary to office dwellers in the area, and home to several historical artifacts. It's Australia's oldest park and one of the most famous. Take a midday break at the Archibald Fountain, which commemorates the Australian-French alliance during WWI, and stop by the ANZAC Memorial, or take a break from your itinerary and enjoy picnic here after a trip to the adjacent Australian Museum.
The monument superseded the Sydney Harbour Bridge as Sydney's most famous landmark when it was opened in 1973. Construction had begun in 1964. The venue hosts music performances of all varieties, plus dance and theater. If you're not up for a show, you can tour the edifice with tours in seven languages, and even explore a special behind-the-scenes tour.
12. Bike Tours
For an active, fun way of taking in the sights, try one of the local bike tours. You can bike the Sydney Harbour Bridge, see the opera house and Hyde Park, or ride through the fish market along the waterfront.
13. Greenwich Baths
A slower-paced beach experience than Manly, Greenwich Baths is an enclosed, harbor-side beach with lifeguard supervision. There are snacks and drinks for sale, and free deck chairs on offer.
There's no way to see all the sights Sydney has to offer in just one trip, but this family-friendly list is a great place to start. Ready to experience it yourself? Catch a flight and start planning your travel now.