Family Travel With the Young Sophisticate

Raising a cosmopolite?  If you’ve spent your child-rearing time in symphony halls and sushi bars, family travel doesn’t mean you have to suddenly like drinks in giant, environmentally-lethal plastic cups with frightening cartoon faces on the sides, long sweaty line-ups and a hotel room that looks the same as the last one—and come to think of it the same as the one you stayed in with your parents in 1979.

Here are some ideas for travel with family values, travel that respects children as young adventurers.

the-benjamin-exterior-full_hpgTell a story. Then invite them into it. Telling your kids “we’re going to New York” is great. Telling them “We’re going to stay in a hotel that was built before grandma was born, and it’s in a painting by one of the most famous artists ever, and we’re going to see her paintings at MoMA” is awesome. It gives them a concrete and specific way of experiencing a great city, art, and architecture, and gives everybody a sense of purpose and excitement for the trip.

Corndogs-300x200Find chefs who please food lovers of all ages. The best restaurants want to invite children into the pleasures of dining. At The National in Midtown Manhattan, Chef Zakarian and his crew turn out a branzino covered in pomegranate seeds that kids love, and steaming bowls of chicken soup with soba noodles. They’re just as happy to top pasta with tomato sauce or  lots and lots of butter for a supper that’s simple, but still leaves your children in that dreamy, satisfied state that arrives after a really good meal. David Burke’s Primehouse at The James Chicago doesn’t condescend to the steak-house lover who happens to be ten: kobe corn dogs are so tasty they do double duty on the kids menu and the late night bar menu.

Tip: To figure out where to eat we like Eater, an easy to digest app that shows restaurants near you (if you’re in a biggish city), with mini reviews, pictures, and a blog if you want to read more. “Hot” new restaurants are indicated with a cute little flame icon.

hidden-pond-bonfire_hpgGo back to summer camp. It’s got a wine list now.  Hidden Pond in Maine and Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort in Washington’s North Cascades give your kids all of the benefits of summer camp: nature, art, s’mores over a bonfire—but woven into the experience of the place in a natural way. You can take an art class with Judith, Hidden Pond’s artist-in-residence, or you may spot her painting lupins in a meadow and strike up a conversation. Earth restaurant serves food from the organic garden; you can wander through with your kids, show them how to crush herbs between their fingers, pick and eat veggies, or gather flowers and put them into a vase in a Potting Shed straight out of Peter Rabbit. Sleeping Lady’s rock pools have a little waterfall for kids to swim under, and meals are some of the best organic dining you’ve ever had, served camp style at assigned tables. With that wine list.

SoCal surf beach, West Inn & SuitesFine dining and art was fun, mom. But we want a theme park. It’s okay. Not all theme park hotels are going force you to put a big fake smile on your face for the whole trip. West Inn & Suites in Carlsbad CA is such a well-run hotel that it’s like being at home with your kids if every day were one of those days where everyone’s in a great mood, and if your home had a free shuttle to LegoLand®. Once you’ve done theme park duty (one day is good! Totally counts) borrow a boogie board and get into surf culture: check the surf cam, stop for fresh squeezed oj and eggs at one of the organic cafes in the surf towns strung along the shore, pick up some new board shorts, and hit the beach.  West Inn’s bedtime milk and cookie party by the fire in the lobby is a family affair. Force your teenager to come, get mom off her work email: they’ll thank you later. Attire: feetie pyjamas.

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