If you're in the city with kids -- or if you can bring them to a city nearby -- there are a million different places to find fun on any given afternoon or weekend of the year.
Check out some of our favorites in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, with ideas for finding urban-style adventures wherever you may roam.
New York City has some of the nation's most famous museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the American Museum of Natural History. In Boston, you'll find the Museum of Fine Arts, the Boston Children's Museum, and the Museum of Science. Chicago has the Museum of Science and Industry and the Chicago Children's Museum; in Los Angeles, there's the Museum of Contemporary Art; and in Atlanta, check out the newly-opened Georgia Aquarium. Keep an eye out for smaller, local, or lesser-known options, which might not be as overwhelming for small children (and usually offer more affordable or even free admission). "Please touch" exhibits are especially child friendly.
- Parks and Playgrounds
Even the biggest urban jungles have a patch of grass somewhere. Check out the city's web site for famous or popular green spaces and plan a day trip. In New York City's Central Park, for example, you can sail toy boats on a lake, or discover the five waterfalls in the park's northernmost corners. In Boston's Public Garden you and the kids can ride the Swan Boats or mosey just a few yards to see the bronze Make Way for Ducklings statues -- from the beloved children's book by Robert McCloskey -- near historic Charles Street. Navy Pier in Chicago is an entire day of fun in and of itself, complete with ferris wheel, and Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta is a must-do for locals and visitors alike, with the hourly festival of rings water shows and a special family fun day every fourth Saturday.
- New Neighborhoods
Take the kids for a walk just a few city blocks and you can experience whole new worlds together. (Just remember to pack a map!) Famous urban neighborhood communities like Virginia Highland in Atlanta, North Beach in San Francisco, or the North End in Boston offer infinite new sights, sounds, and tastes to explore.
- Community Events
No matter the season, fairs and festivals abound (both indoors and out). If you're lucky, you might get to see a parade or happen upon some live music. And if you plan ahead, you can scout out local fun-for-the-family events, like the Atlanta Downtown Festival and Tour, the Long Beach Sea Festival in Los Angeles, the Chicago International Children's Film Festival, or First Night Boston.
Though young kids might not be ready for Broadway (and you might not want to shell out more than $100 for tickets), there are plenty of smaller theaters that offer delightful, inexpensive performances. Search the internet to find Off-Off-Broadway shows and community theater programs. In the warmer weather, cities like Boston, New York, and San Francisco even offer free Shakespeare in the Park and other performances of the classics, which are great opportunities both for learning and wallet-friendly picnics.
The Bottom Line
Don't be overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the big city -- or its many offerings. With some careful research and some moxie, you can explore whole new worlds together and gain a lifetime of education, one step at a time.
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Tiffany Smith is the senior associate editor here at Care.com. She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite.