There’s a parent app for things to do with kids? Here are our family-tested reviews in the GoWhee travel app for parents
Looking through some notes recently, we realized that we’ve added and reviewed over 50 different family-friendly destinations and attractions to the GoWhee travel app for parents. Are you trying to find parent-recommended things to do with kids? Below are places we’ve reviewed and suggest.
For more ideas on places to go with kids from Thailand to Oregon and beyond—of course—download the GoWhee app. We use GoWhee throughout our world travels, and have found it a consistently useful resource for parents trying to find places to go with their kids.
If you come across these places in the app, we’ve been there!
When you travel with your kids, take the travel app for parents with you
In this article
Mt Tabor Park and Playground, Portland, OR, USA
Nature, trails, playground, and peace…and just minutes from PDX Airport.
Near Southeast Portland’s Hawthorne neighborhood, we watched the sun get low in the sky from the top of Mt. Tabor—the only volcano inside an American city. (But relax, it’s dormant. Maybe extinct. We’re pretty sure, anyway.)
Near the top, amidst tall conifers, Mt. Tabor is home to a lovely little playground—perfect for the kids to get in one last expend-all-that-energy romp. Paved trails and ADA run from the ground level to the summit, and there are parking lots and off-street parking available.
The playground is a short distance down from one of the parking lots. There is equipment for toddlers and older kids alike. A great spot to get in some playtime before flying or driving.
The Grotto, Portland, Portland, OR, USA
An unexpected beautiful outdoor haven, just minutes from PDX Airport. The Grotto is a combination religious sanctuary and absolutely beautiful garden, full of trails and religious artifacts, culminating at a beautiful outdoor Christian altar set inside the bottom of a high cliff. Arriving about a half an hour before closing time, the kids and I walked along garden paths lined with tall, deep green, blooming rhododendrons. The serenity of the space suffused the air, the grounds, and our bodies and spirits.
No matter your faith, religion, or spirituality, this is a space suffused with calm. If you and your kids need an outdoor space that is also peaceful (and can help inspire a little peace in the family), The Grotto is a beautiful and free stop. There is also a little gift shop.
Foothills Park, Beaverton, OR, USA
When in the Beaverton area, a little west of Portland, this 10.5-acre park includes multiple playgrounds, extensive trails, and even a small lake (stocked with fish, and when we were there, ringed with grownup and child anglers).
This variety of amenities makes it so easy to have an extensive play time and recreation time in the park. The kids could play on the playground for a while, then we could wander a trail. At the same time, the park’s location also meant that Beaverton’s restaurants and other attractions were just a few minutes away.
Black Bear Diner, Beaverton, OR USA
A bear-themed diner? Seriously, sign us up. This spacious location has ample portions, including a hearty all-day breakfast and a tasty “cubs” menu for the kids. In addition to some activity pages, a great something to do for your cubs is to ask them how many bears they can find throughout the restaurant’s decor. Great food, friendly staff, and the kids had so much fun eating amidst all the bear-themed decor. See if the kids can fit their steps into the bear prints embedded in the walkway outside!
Paddling at Perkins Peninsula Park (Kayaking, SUP, etc), Veneta, OR, USA
Seasonally open May through October, from dawn to dusk, this 42-acre Lane County Park is convenient, easy to get to, and makes for great day trips from the Eugene/Springfield area. Located on wetlands near the southern edge of Fern Ridge reservoir, there’s an expansive parking area, though you will need to pay a fee or have a parking pass (details on the website).
Bring your own paddle craft for the boat launch. There’s also a fishing pier and a small swimming area. We found the wetlands, grasses, and little channels a magical place to do some family kayaking.
Outdoor Community Labyrinth at St Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Eugene, Oregon, USA
Whenever we need a calm reset, this outdoor grass and brick labyrinth is just the thing. Located at the northern edge of Eugene off River Road, you’ll find the labyrinth at the back of St Matthew’s Episcopal Church’s parking lot, just next to their community garden. The classical 7-circuit concentric labyrinth is laid out in a grassy field, and marked by bricks set in the ground. Walking the labyrinth has always brought calm to our family, and given us the chance to chat or just to enjoy a few minutes’ pace on a busy day. Plus, the labyrinth is always free and open to the public.
Multnomah Falls, Oregon, USA
620 feet tall. 2 drops, and a beautiful pool. Iconic Multnomah Falls is the must-stop, must-see, everyone-should-experience-this-place queen of Columbia Gorge waterfalls. East on I-84 to Multnomah Falls (exit 31, and it’s a left lane exit, so keep an eye out for that tricky one), your first stop is about 20 minutes from Troutdale in the northeastern Portland area.
Go to the lower viewing deck first to see the amazing pool. Then go up the short (.2 mile) but steep paved track to the famous bridge viewpoint. If you want more exertion and a higher-up view, a mile-long trail continues up Multnomah Falls. If not, you can turn around and head back down.
You never know what wildlife you might see around too. When we were there, a family of ducks—mama and ducklings—was out in the creek just downstream from the waterfall. They swam peacefully for a bit, then took off at a fast pace, as if Mama Duck had decided it was time to put the kids through sprints.
Horsetail Falls, Oregon, USA
Aptly named! White ribbons of water flow down to a wide pool, and yes indeed, it does bring to mind a horse’s swishing tail.
The waterfall itself is right across the street from the parking area. The main parking lot and trail area are at an overlook, so it’s easy to take in this ribbony, silky falls right without going far.
However, Horsetail Falls is especially kid-friendly. Go down past the parking lot, through the brush, to the edge of the rocky pool at the bottom of the falls. The kids can do a little “rockour” parkour on the big stones, to a small rock island in the pool. It’s the perfect spot to plunk lots of rocks into the water—and for the kids to burn off some energy before resuming the car ride.
Wahkeena Trail #420, Corbett, OR, USA
Similar to Multnomah Falls, you can view this waterfall from two main areas. Wahkeena Falls is also a good spot to do a toilet checkin, as there’s a restroom facility (with flush toilets) next to the parking lot.
The lower viewing area gives you a great view of this zigzagging waterfall. Instead of tumbling straight down like Multnomah, Wahkeena decided it wanted to bump its way along, tumbling left and right. Presumably this prevents the water from getting bored.
Also like Multnomah, a paved, .2-mile long track winds it sloping way up along a hillside to a higher outlook. This outlook has a wee bridge crossing over the flow. It’s a great spot for photos, videos, and selfies. You can also pick up a segment of a hiking trail to other points along the way.
Columbia Gorge Viewpoint, Crown Point, Vista House Oregon State Scenic Corridor, Corbett, OR, USA
If you’ve seen a photo of Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge area, odds are you’ve seen Vista House. The iconic structure sits near the edge of a cliff, and is surrounded by a wide viewing area. You can gaze east or west as far as the eye can see.
While there aren’t picnic tables or such as Vista House, you can easily bring a picnic or some steps. We “dined” at the back of our car, but other people sat on the Vista House’s steps and enjoyed both a snack and the scenery.
Tip: Bring a pair of binoculars.
As boats make their way inland or westward, you can try to see what type of boat is on the water, and what’s on deck. It’s a great game to keep the kids interested in this scenic stop.
Tip: Don’t worry about how loud the kids’ footsteps sound on the ramp.
Kids will love stomping around on the ramp. It’s going to seem louder than it is: Don’t worry about how much the sound travels. It’s likely less than you think.
Tip: Even if the building itself is closed, the view from the grounds is stunning.
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens, Portland, Oregon, USA
Rhodis come to full flower in so many colors. Pinks and whites are common, but so are rich, show-stopping reds, as well as subtle yet sumptuous creams, oranges, purples, and yellows. At our house, a red rhododendron in the front garden is one of our sure signs of spring, from warmer temperatures to sunnier days.
Over bridges, across ponds, and along winding paths up and down wee slopes, the 10-acre Gardens are located in Southeast Portland, next to the Reed College campus:
Rhodis bloom in the spring, but the Gardens are lush and beautiful year-round. Keep an eye out for wildlife, especially birds such as ducks, herons, and even bald eagles! Mondays are free admission, great for families!
Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint, Florence, OR, USA
Heceta Head Beach: Our favorite kid-friendly spot on the Oregon Coast!
Located about 20 minutes’ drive north of Florence, Heceta Head Beach at the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint is our favorite kid-friendly spot on the Oregon Coast. (But don’t get confused: There’s Heceta Beach is farther south, but not the same place.)
Rocky cliffs wall off the beach on both sides, sheltering this area from some of the harsher currents and winds. The parking lot butts right up to the sand—no tall stairs to go down or high dunes to clamber over. A long, wide gently curved beach gives ample room for beachcombing, splashing, rockfinding, tidepooling, dog romping, and general kid dashing about. There’s also a wee half-mile hiking trail up to the iconic Heceta Head Lighthouse above.
Beyond the surf, the surrounding lava cliffs inspire both awe and storytelling. You can also watch native birds nesting on a nearby rock (which is closed to public access, so the birds have a protected space).
Russ Sommers Memorial Playground at Bandon City Park, Bandon, OR, USA
Just outside of downtown Bandon and only minutes from beaches and scenic clifftop viewpoints, the lovely town of Bandon has a brilliant free public playground, tucked inside a large, tree-lined local park. Technically the Russ Sommers Memorial Playground, there is a large play space full of a mix of equipment.
When we drive to the Southern Oregon Coast, this is one of our favorite stops. It gives the kids a chance to get out of the car and romp off some energy, plus we can all relax in the fresh air.
Smith Creek Village at Silver Falls State Park, Sublimity, OR, USA
A cozy getaway in the middle of the gem of Oregon’s State Parks system. We stayed in the Calypso Cottage, which had a separate bedroom for the parents, and in the front room, two daybeds for the kids. Big, lovely dual shower and a separate jet tub!
There’s a cafe on site for breakfast, lunch, and snack options. Full kitchen makes it easy to prep your own food as well.
Nearest town is Silverton, about 25 minutes away by car. Lovely town with dining, grocery, and other attractions for exploring and touring.
Main benefit is that you are staying right inside Silver Falls State Park. Big misty forests and lots of hiking trails are minutes away. Makes it easy to explore up to 10 iconic waterfalls, including some (like Silver Falls and Middle North Falls) that you can walk behind.
The Oregon Garden, Silverton, OR, USA
Not far from I-5, Silverton, Oregon, is a lovely small town set in the farmlands and foothills just west of the Cascade Mountains. Comfy rooms, included breakfast, and gas fireplaces make for a lovely spot for a family trip.
Bonus: During the winter holiday season, The Oregon Garden hosts a beautiful holiday craft market and lights display, including food/drink vendors, photo spots, Santa, and a marvel of lights at every turn.
The Oregon Garden is also a lovely place to stay both for visiting the town of Silverton itself, and as a base for Silver Falls State Park, which is only about a 25-minute drive away.
Salt Creek Summit Sno-Park, Oakridge, OR, USA
About an hour and a half drive southeast of Eugene on beautiful Highway 58, Salt Creek Summit Sno-Park is a great way to find a little winter wonderland amidst an area that is known more for winter rain, not snow.
There’s a decent sized parking lot, which also has toilets. The slope is right next to the parking area. Along with a wide expanse for sledding, a flatter area at the bottom is great for building snow figures, snowball fights, and romping around in some lovely powder.
The area is signed pretty well from the highway. Watch out for signs for Salt Creek Sno-park or Salt Creek Falls Observation Site at milepost 57.
One big thing to remember: Oregon Sno-Parks require a permit, which must be bought beforehand and displayed while at the park: Sno-Park Permit.
Delta Ponds City Park, Eugene, OR, USA
A wonderful way to get in a dose of nature and wildlife spotting, while being right in town!
Delta Ponds has two parking areas over near Eugene’s Valley River Center shopping area. While from many parts of the trail you will be able to hear traffic on a nearby highway, the trail takes in ponds, streams, cute bridges, and trees.
There can also be lots of wildlife, and animals signs, about. We’ve seen turtles and lots of different birds, such as herons, geese, and ducks. While we haven’t seen a beaver, we’ve seen lots of trees that show signs of beaver gnawing.
Delta Ponds makes a great short excursion and dose of Vitamin N, while not even having to leave the city to get it.
Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, Bandon, OR, USA
On Oregon’s southern coast, the small town of Bandon-by-the-sea is completely, beautifully, bountifully blessed with an almost ridiculous number of cool sea stack rocks. From atop a bluff just outside of downtown Bandon, Face Rock SSV gives your family free parking and expansive views of stack rocks up and down the coast.
Bring binoculars, too. Some of the offshore stacks are protected habitats for nesting seabirds. At various times of year, whales can be spotted during their annual migrations.
Just off the side of the viewpoint area, a wooden staircase leads down to a beautiful secluded beach where, yes, there are even more incredible rocks on the sand and off in the water. If you’re there during spring and summer, you might also see one of the famous sand labyrinths that local artists make for the annual Circles in the Sand (https://www.sandypathbandon.com).
Monroe Park, Eugene, OR, USA
We regularly take our kids to this park, which is right in the midst of a cute neighborhood just west of downtown Eugene.
The park has a nice hill that’s lovely for lounging on (or rolling down!). Big fields make it easy to run around, throw a frisbee, or have a wee soccer game.
The park has been getting some lighting upgrades, and the restroom facilities can be hit or miss in terms of cleanliness.
The playground area isn’t huge, but has nice structures and a very popular merry-go-round.
Another plus? The park is just a block away from restaurants and cafes.
Circles in the Sand, Bandon, OR, USA
The Oregon Coast is full of serendipitous delights, and Bandon’s Circles in the Sand are one of the most enjoyable.
Typically from May to August each year, volunteers create beautiful, elaborate sand labyrinths. Guided walks are available, but the free labyrinths are also open to the public (the entire Oregon Coast is public property). You and your family can check out the labyrinths until the tide washes them away.
Shore Acres State Park, Coos Bay, OR, USA
One of our fave spots at the western edge of the continent. Shore Acres has two incredible things side by side: Amazing clifftop views of the Oregon Coast… and lavish, beautiful, gardens.
This area used to be the estate of a timber baron. Now, visitors can explore the English-style and Japanese-style gardens. There are also amazing rose gardens and beautiful lily ponds. Nearby, a walled lookout gives expansive views of the coast, along with incredible rock features just below.
Playground at Adams Elementary School, Eugene, OR, USA
Outside of school hours, this big, lovely, fenced-in playground and recreation area is open to the public and has free on-street parking.
Adams Elementary is set in a lovely neighborhood in the Friendly Street area of Eugene. The colorful equipment has excellent swing sets, bars, and play structures, including climbing domes, an obstacle zone, and a climbing wall. There are also fields for soccer or football, a track for running and walking, and courts for basketball and other games.
Just a few minutes from downtown Eugene, Adams is also only a few blocks north of Friendly’s markets and food carts.
Discovery Gardens at River Forks County Park, Roseburg, OR, USA
Douglas County has some INCREDIBLE county parks. And Discovery Gardens, a project with Oregon State University, is a wonderful place to stop with kids.
The gardens have distinct zones. Some highlight local native plants. There’s a Japanese-style garden area. And there’s an a sort of kid zone garden, complete with tunnels, stepping stones, and other attractions for big movement. Signs and other informational areas also add an educational element.
The fenced-in space can give each family member what they need. A quiet spot for calm or reflection. Active zones for romping. And overall, lovely paths that give a family a way to be together in a beautiful space.
Once you’re done at the gardens, head into River Forks County Park for two great playgrounds too, near views of two rivers.
Yakso Falls (Trail #1519), Oregon, USA
Across from Lake in the Woods Campground on Little River Road
Eventually, the road becomes packed gravel. There are some potholes, but the road was easily navigable (we saw sedans and compacts up here too).
For the endpoint, you may need to ignore your GPS or directions app. Ours had the endpoint about a mile away from the actual trailhead.
The trailhead is across from Lake in the Woods Campground. The parking lot may be open, and you can access the trail by leaving the campground, crossing the road, and picking up the trailhead at the side of the road.
The trail to Yakso Falls is pretty easy going. The end is a little narrow and steep, but you get to go down to the side of the pool where the 70-foot fall hits the water—perfect for throwing rocks in the pool or doing a little wading.
Lake in the Woods campground also has picnic tables and pit toilets—and you can take a short drive to another well-regarded waterfall, Hemlock Falls, along Hemlock Creek Trail #1505.
Toketee Falls Trailhead / Toketee Falls Trail #1495, Clearwater, OR, USA
Start through a forest of fir and hemlock—and there are some great downed trees the kids can romp on. As you make your way toward the rockier sections, expect some ups and downs. However, the trail has staircases, natural rock steps, and fenced-in sides to help you along and give some measure of safety. Looking down from some parts of the hemlock-lined trail, you can just see the North Umpqua, flowing through the bottom of a steep, narrow, tall canyon.
Toketee itself is one of the most iconic waterfalls in Oregon. Set in the midst of a curved wall of volcanic basalt, the falls seem to be in a centerstage spotlight. From where the water first tumbles over its high crest, a 40-foot cascade flows into a middle pool, tucked into the rock. Then the waters plunge again, falling 80 feet to the pool below.
Toketee is an amazing sight, but be ready to appreciate it not from the bottom pool, but higher up. The trail takes you to a fenced-in overlook (with a convenient bench).
Watson Falls Trailhead / Watson Falls Trail #1496, Idleyld Park, OR, USA
Even from the parking lot, you can see the crest of Oregon’s third-tallest waterfall.
The parking area has picnic tables, toilets, and info signs. The trail can be steep in sections. You can feel the fan-shaped area narrow as you make your way toward the basalt cliffs where the falls rush down nearly 300 feet.
Mama and daughter decided that Watson’s lower vantage was a good stopping point for them. They hung out at a bench near the bottom of the falls, where the waters had fallen so far they were more mist than stream.
Dad and son continued up the trails’s switchbacking, narrow, final few hundred yards to the finale overlook, which looks out about midway up Watson Falls. The overlook is fenced for safety, but it can be wet and slippery. The chill mist of the falls touches you here, and you can see out clearly all the way from the crest to the pool.
Little Falls, Steamboat Creek Rd, Oregon, USA
A few minutes north of the junction of Highway 138 and Steamboat Creek Road, Little Falls isn’t actually a hike. You pull off the road, get out of the car, and there they are, part of Steamboat Creek as it makes its way toward the North Umpqua.
There’s no hike. The short wee falls themselves are less than 10 feet high. Yet Little Falls is a perfect “waterfall hike” for a different reason.
Some Oregon waterfalls can make a perfect picnic spot!
The stream runs past a long, wide, flat expanse of rock. It’s perfect for a sunny-weather picnic, a wade in the cool waters, and hanging out on the rocks.
Little Falls makes a great end-of-day chill out treat. Or, use it as an easy stop to break up your day’s drive or adventures around Highway 138.
Eugene Public Library, Downtown Branch, Eugene, OR, USA
The Eugene Library might as well be our home away from home! Whether you live in the area or area visiting, the library has not only a beautiful downtown space, but a range of free family friendly programs that are open to the public. We’ve attended everything from storytimes to Minecraft club, performances of the Nutcracker to Harry Potter-themed celebrations and other events.
If it’s raining, parking in the underground garage can be a great idea. Plus, if you have an electric vehicle, there are also free charging stations.
Library staff are so helpful. They’ve assisted our kids with finding books, and they are always a great resource for ideas on book recommendations and more.
The ground-floor children’s section is beautiful. Plus, at the back, there’s also a fenced-in courtyard for a little fresh air.
The library is also easy to work into an overall Eugene visit. It’s close to lots of cafes and restaurants, and the farmers and craft markets are only a few blocks away!
South Falls: Walk-behind waterfall at Silver Falls State Park, Sublimity, OR, USA
The South Falls day-use area is an ideal jumping-off point for families to visit the gem at the heart of this iconic Oregon State Park.
Park in the day-use area for access to big fields, a playground area, picnic tables, and the park’s lovely cafe and gift shop too.
From the parking lot, snag a free map of the park and follow signs for South Falls. The hike has some incline, but overall is great for mobile kids.
South Falls is known for being a waterfall you can walk behind. No matter how many times we’ve gone, that sight never gets old for adults or kids alike!
The trail systems also link up into the Trail of Ten Falls, which is about 8 miles total. If you don’t want to do the entire trail in one go, you can hike South Falls all on its own easily.
North Falls and Upper North Falls at Silver Falls State Park, Sublimity, OR, USA
Technically these are 2 different waterfalls. However, each is a short hike, accessed from the same North Falls parking lot. Great stop for families.
North Falls is a quick, stroller-friendly hit, great for stretching your legs after a car trip. It’s less than a quarter-mile from the parking lot, on paved trail. Safety fences give peace of mind while keeping the view of the river canyon unobstructed. You’ll see the waterfall from the side at first. Go on a few more yards for a viewing platform and a better angle.
Upper North Falls goes from pavement to trail. The trail gets a bit rough and narrow as you get to the waterfall, so definitely keep an eye on the kids. This part is not stroller friendly. However, the waterfall’s dramatic cascade is worth it. It’s a fairly short hike, and a great one for families, especially to introduce you to the beauty of Silver Falls State Park and all its waterfalls.
Winter Falls at Silver Falls State Park, Sublimity, OR, USA
Seasonal fall, with a parking lot and trailhead that also gives you access to other falls, including walk-behind Middle North Falls, Drake Falls, and more!
Winter Falls only runs during some of the year. We visited in January and experienced a lovely, tall horsetail cascade. From the parking lot, you’ll be able to see whether or not this fall is flowing.
Whether it is or not, hike down the canyon trail (a bit steep in spots, with switchbacks) to get to the bottom of the falls. There’s a viewing platform, with a bench, near the bottom. Great pool and view.
From the bottom, you can walk along the river for access to other trails. This is also a great spot to use for access to the walk-behind Middle North Falls, one of our family’s favorites.
If Winter Falls is flowing during your visit, it’s a great treat!
Middle North Falls at Silver Falls State Park, Sublimity, OR, USA
Don’t let the blah name fool you: Middle North Falls is one of the most amazing waterfalls in all of Silver Falls State Park, if not the entire state of Oregon.
The Winter Falls trailhead and parking lot is a great access point for heading down into the river canyon. Lush forests. Gurgling water. Lovely bridges and the occasional bench.
Watch for signs and a junction for Middle North Falls. The trail leading up to the fall itself is a big narrow, but gives an amazing view of the treat before you.
Like South Falls, you can walk behind Middle North Falls. The deep recess and wide falls makes you feel like you’re in a different world, or at the mouth of a cave. It was the highlight of our trip, and one of our favorite stops in Oregon.
Find more things to do with kids in Oregon and beyond
Alice Ball Park, Greenwood, Seattle, WA, USA
What a great find! While staying in Seattle’s Greenwood Neighborhood and taking an evening walk with the kids, we happened upon this green gem at the edge of the main local strip. Bistro tables make it easy to sit, relax, snack, or read. Along with a grassy space for playing or relaxing, the mulched border areas of the park have rocks and tree stumps for romping. There are also lots of little areas, like hidden play spots, with toys and other play gear for little ones. And when you want to get inside, there’s a lovely branch of the Seattle Public Library right across the street.
Greenwood Branch – The Seattle Public Library, Seattle, WA, USA
Just across the street from Alice Ball Park, and along the same street as eateries, cafes, shops, and more.
Libraries are one of the secret weapons we traveling parents always keep in our back pocket. Located in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, this high-ceiling, airy branch has an extensive children’s section, complete with squashy chairs for snuggles and reading. There are also computers available, and librarians can walk you through special checkout options available to non-residents. Our kids couldn’t wait to come back.
Find more things to do with kids in Washington State and beyond
Aloe Greens Park & Playground, Anaheim, CA, USA
In Anaheim for Disneyland, Universal, or other adventures? This one-acre park opened in 2020, is a short drive from the Disney area, and has well-designed play structures. Shaded seating areas are great for picnics and a break from the SoCal sun too.
One area of the playground has permanent percussion instruments, and there are even game tables for ping pong, foosball, and checkers. Some kids liked the artificial turf so much, they romped around in their sock feet. The play structures have lots of variety for endless romping, make-believe adventures, and big movement so the kids can really get some energy out.
This park is great for a driving break, or when you need a down day from Disney or Universal adventures.
Find more things to do with kids in California and beyond
Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
Oaxaca has some of the highest plant biodiversity in the world. The Jardín Etnobotánico is full and lush with Oaxacan plant life. Yet even though there are fascinating plants, large and small, everywhere you turn, the Jardín’s botanical bounty represents only about 10% of each individual plant species that grows in Oaxaca. Not bad for a state about the size of Minnesota in the USA, or Portugal in Europe.
Visitors to the Jardín must go on a guided tour. It’s also well worth it: Guides are knowledgeable about history, culture, botany, and more. The Jardín’s website gives details on when they run tours in different languages, including English.
For us, visiting the Jardín introduced us to plants we’d never seen before, or showed us different—often larger—versions of plants we were familiar with from travels in the southwestern US. The wee monstera plants Jodie was fond of growing at home? The ones here could have taken up an entire room. The kids especially loved a fan palm they found, where each frond was big enough to use as a hammock.
Mayordomo Chocolate, Oaxaca, Mexico, Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
Oaxaca is renowned for its love of good food and drink. And whether hot or cold, the drinking chocolate of Oaxaca is a delightful way to experience Mexican chocolate.
We especially enjoyed the welcoming cafe and chocolate shop Mayordomo, located just off the zócalo near the mercados mentioned above. Aster especially enjoyed the cold chocomil, essentially a cold chocolate milk, but more full of chocolate flavor than sweetness.
We also tried hot chocolate, mixed with your choice of milk (leche) or water (agua). Mixed with a traditional molinillo, an intricate mixing baton made of wood, the chocolate is prepared and served tableside. The mixed, whipped chocolate takes on additional flavors and aromas, unlocked from the aeration just like decanting a bottle of red wine.
Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico/Zona Arqueológica de Monte Albán, Ignacio Bernal S/N, San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, Oax., Mexico
Dozens of recognized indigenous cultures have called Oaxaca home for thousands upon thousands of years. One culture, the Zapotec, was especially good at terraforming area hilltops into cities. One of the best preserved and most studied, Monte Albán, is located only about 20 minutes southwest of Oaxaca. The hilltop city, complete with vast grassy fields and the stone remnants of massive stepped pyramids, makes an ideal family half-day trip.
You’ll go on an organized tour to safely explore the ruins. Research and excavation are ongoing, so not all areas are open to the public. Whether observing plants important to the Zapotec or climbing to the top of a staircase and looking out over the vast Oaxacan countryside all around, Monte Albán gives perspective on the vast applied knowledge of the Zapotecs, from astronomy to engineering. It’s a fascinating way to gain perspective on an ancient culture that’s alive and well in Oaxaca today.
Near the parking area, there’s also a museum that showcases various artifacts from the area (and you’ll also find the restrooms here.)
Playa La Entrega, Oaxaca, Mexico
When what you want is a chill day on the beach, with tasty restaurants all around and shops where you can get what you need for the day, Playa La Entrega is a winner. You’ll also see plenty of locals or area visitors coming down here to enjoy the beach as well.
About 10 minutes by car from La Crucecita, a taxi ride will set you back about 60 pesos, approximately US$3 each way. When you arrive, people will be waiting to try to steer you toward their restaurant or shop, in a row of palapas at the back of the beach. Ignore them or gently tell them “no gracias” as you will, or read up in advance on the options to see where you want to head to.
For us, Renta de Snorkel Vicente, and neighboring restaurant Juqulita, offered just what we needed. Vicente kitted us out with snorkeling gear, complete with well-sized gear for the kids, including PFDs. Juqulita set us up with a square table right on the sand.
With shallow and deep areas, the water itself makes for fine snorkeling. An array of fish varieties swim through and nibble coral all around Entrega. When you curve to the left around the rocks, you can also surprise the kids with a jaunt into a little shaft of a cave, or a tucked-away beach just a little farther beyond the rocks.
Entrega was Aster’s first snorkeling experience. The calm, clear water, abundant fish, and comfortable conditions gave her an incredible first time masking up for the water, and now she can’t wait to snorkel anytime it’s an option.
Plus, when all that water romping has you hungry, Juqulita (or your choice of restaurant) has an extensive menu that makes it easy for kids and adults to find a tasty meal.
Playa Santa Cruz, Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico
Playa Santa Cruz is a long, built-up stretch of gentle, wave-tickled beach just a few minutes away from La Crucecita by car (and will cost you about 35 pesos, approximately US$1, each way). About a block away from the centro, with its lovely gazebo (and vibrant Saturday market), Playa Santa Cruz has a paved boardwalk for easy strolling and rolling.
This beach is more about languid strolls, playing in the warm water, or perhaps wandering over to the rocky headlands nearby. There’s plenty of room on the wide beach for building sand castles. The water is typically pretty shallow for a decent way out, so your kids can go out a little ways while you keep a good comfort level with their playing.
When looking for a beach that’s easy to get to—especially if you have baby or kid gear to haul—the flat paths and gentle beach here make Playa Santa Cruz perfect for families visiting Huatulco, especially if you have small children. Proximity, amenities, ease of access, and wonderful calm water: That makes Playa de La Cruz one of our best Huatulco beaches for kids.
Restaurante LUZMAR, Crucecita, Oax., Mexico
At the southern end of La Crucecita’s downtown area. Lovely breakfast and lunch spot. Once you see the bright, earthy red walls, you know you’ve arrived. The kids always found it easy to find something they liked, but there were plenty of tasty and spicy dishes for us parents too.
Alejandro’s Panadería, or Panificadora San Alejandro, Crucecita, Oax., Mexico
One block south of the Mercado, on the north side of Flamboyán, Alejandro’s was the incredible Mexican bakery we had been looking for.
Whether baguettes or sandwich rolls, chocolate-covered donuts or pastries filled with mango or banana, we visited Alejandro’s just about every day. It gave us an excuse to take a stroll after a busy work or school day, and the baking was always delicious, fresh, and affordable.
Urbana, La Crucecita, Huatulco, Oaxaca, Mexico
Delightful menu. Excellent salads, not to mention the flavorful shrimp tacos. Extensive food and drink menu has something for everyone. The mango smoothies are also delicious. Open seating is comfortable, and you are at the southern end of the town center. Easy to get to, but easy to feel like you’re in a spot that’s out of the way.
Find more things to do with kids in Mexico and beyond
Art in Paradise Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Talk about hours of sheer glee.
Throughout the floor-to-ceiling 130 paintings across six rooms of Chiang Mai’s Art in Paradise, the artists had created hyperreal scenes that came fully, 3D alive in photos and videos. When I think back to my memory of seeing us on surf boards riding big waves, being trapped inside an hourglass, hugging an elephant’s trunk, or standing above a bottomless crack in the floor, I know what my eye could perceive. I could see the flatness of the floor. Or the converging corner lines of floors and walls.
But in the eye of the camera, reality shifted.
We dashed from scene to scene, giggling and marveling as we looked at each setup both with our eyes and in the camera. In a room devoted to cityscapes, we would stand in front of London Bridge on one wall, then at another seem like we were ready to go up the Eiffel Tower in Paris. A room riffing on classical paintings might have, say, a teacup out of frame, there for you to hold and be part of the scene.
Also: Just wait until you see the upside down furniture, the LEGO cityscape, and the cafe!
Biscotti House, Chiang Mai, Thailand
A little outside of central Chiang Mai, this lovely coffee shop and café is a wonderful space for families. In addition to a play area with toys and books, the menu has drinks and meals for adults and kids alike. There is also an on-site bakery, serving up cookies, breads, and more. We met up here twice with some other traveling families, and spent many happy hours in conversation, enjoying excellent coffees and foods, and a welcoming atmosphere.
While here, also take some time to go across the street and check out the cool temple complex.
Cookventure, Chiang Mai, Thailand
We were in Chiang Mai over Thanksgiving, and took an afternoon cooking class with Apple. Along with a visit to a covered market, kids can crack a coconut and watch the coconut pulp get ground up (for turning into coconut milk later!). Apple’s setup is so homey, welcoming, and fun. She runs an excellent class, and from her own parenting and cooking experience is so adept at working with kids.
Throughout the class, there are chances to cook, then sit down to eat, and cook some more. If kids need a break, there are plenty of places where they can sit down out of the way to take the time they need. A wonderful way to introduce you and yours not only to enjoying eating Thai food, but making it too! You’ll get a souvenir cookbook at the end too.
The Riverie Hotel by Katathani, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Beautiful hotel. The spacious lobby makes a wonderful space for relaxing or working. The on-site, downstairs Blossom restaurant has a buffet breakfast full of various Thai, Chinese, and Western-style breakfast foods. Outside space is enjoyable too: There’s ample seating, riverside paths, and balconies that look out over the river. From the rooftop restaurant, or possibly your room’s balcony, also look around for the massive Buddha statue on top of a hill just outside the city.
We found the Riverie staff courteous and kind, and they were so welcoming to our two kids. The rooms were bright and comfy, and the kids loved their bunk beds! It’s easy to call a Grab to head into Chiang Rai central itself. There are ample on-site dining options (including a rooftop steakhouse), and a pool with a lazy river and waterslides. All told, The Riverie is a relaxing, fun space for families to relax and have fun, in a stately, beautiful setting that also showcases Northern Thai culture.
Central Festival Chiangmai, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Going to the mall in Thailand… is incredibly fun. If you have some shopping to do, there are plenty of store brands and product brands you might recognize. Our favorite part of the Central Festival Mall though, is the downstairs food court. This is not to be confused with, say, a typical American mall food court. From fresh sushi to roast duck, curries to pasta, there are over a dozen options here for freshly made meals. Our kids loved going to the sushi place, where a lunch of sushi for both of them was only the equivalent of a few dollars.
Next to the food court, a supermarket can also help you stock up on groceries. There was excellent fresh produce as well, making it much easier to do some cooking.
Just at the top of the escalator from the food court, also check out the information table. Foreign visitors can get a little packet that includes coupons and more.
Cat N A Cup Cafe, Chiang Rai, Thailand
A wonderful way to pass some time in central Chiang Rai: Coffee, hot cocoa, fried rice, desserts… and lots and lots of cats.
The enclosed kitty room is separate from the front order counter. The result? A serene space with wood floors and large windows for people watching.
Shelves, boxes, stairs, and boards give the resident cats somewhere to romp or nap. They will come to you, and there are lots of sweet cats here. We stayed for a couple of hours, delighting in the cat company. A great space for a surprise that will make your kids sparkle.
Find more things to do with kids in Thailand and beyond
Cozy Restaurant, Phong Nha, Vietnam
Staying at a nearby Homestay, our family of four loving eating at this bright, friendly, laidback restaurant. Tucked down an alley, you have a quiet experience. The staff is welcoming and kind, and helped us get the right intonation when we tried pronouncing the Vietnamese names for the food we ordered. We enjoyed multiple meals here and loved each one. Excellent pho, curry, and the specialties are must-tries. Welcoming to kids.
Roots Plant Based Cafe, Da Nang, Vietnam
Delightful spot just a few minutes walk from the Da Nang Beach. Plant-based menu offers a range of bowls, from Mediterranean falafel to veggie bowls. There’s even a vegan take on an English Breakfast, and it’s very tasty. Kids may prefer the array of smoothie and fruit bowls. We loved coming here for breakfast, but their anytime menu makes Roots a wonderful fit for any meal. They also accept Visa.