10 Trips to Take Before Your Kid Starts Kindergarten
Whether your youngest family member loves Dr. Seuss, dinosaurs, or dancing around in their pajamas under the stars, there's a family vacation designed just for them. We rounded up a few of our favorite destinations around the country that cultivate amazing experiences for kids who have yet to start kindergarten. Whether you want to spend a week at the beach or just a day at the museum, here are a few options near you.
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1. The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum
In Theodor Geisel’s hometown, there’s a wondrous attraction that will make your little ones feel as if they’re walking right into a Dr. Seuss book, starting with the squiggly railing at the entrance. “Our kids loved playing in life-size representations from their favorite stories,” says Meg Brunson, founder of FamilyRoadVentures.com. Little visitors can try out instruments for Horton’s Who-Ville Band, dress like Yertle, and invent zany words using a touch screen in the railroad cave they’ll remember from Green Eggs and Ham. “We made red bow ties in The Cat’s Corner!” says Brunson. End your visit at the bronze sculpture garden of Dr. Seuss characters—it’s a fab place to throw down a blanket for lunch.
2. The Dr. Seuss Experience
Seattle, Boston, and Houston
This pop-up exhibit—with a balloon maze and swings surrounded by Lorax trees—will tour cities this year after a stint in Toronto. (See the schedule at experienceseuss.com.) Kaley Richarz, of Hamilton, Ontario, said her 3-year-old talked to the Cat in the Hat; it uses AI technology to reply. “My son asked him if he wanted tea,” says Richarz. “He responded that he loves tea and thanked him for bringing it.” The fam also listened for “Whos” in Horton’s forest and sent fuzzy balls through a vacuum tube.
3. Seuss Landing
In this part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure, kids can eat green eggs and ham (if they’ll eat them anywhere, it’s here) and ride a carousel with 50 of Dr. Seuss’s animals. “The best photo op is in front of the three-story-tall hat at the Cat in the Hat ride,” says Derek Burgan, a writer for the theme-park site TouringPlans.com.
4. Sesame Place
While most theme parks offer more to do as kids get older, this Muppet-friendly mecca near Philadelphia is tailor-made for the toddler and preschool crowd. There are nearly 20 rides your family can go on together, including Flying Cookie Jars and, new this spring, Big Bird’s Tour Bus. A Neighborhood Street Party Parade, meet and greets with characters, and live shows may excite kids even more than rides. “Elmo the Musical—Live! is our family’s fave,” says Lori Ciupinski. “My 3-year-old wouldn’t sit still, but then the show started, and it was like it cast a spell on her. She was glued to it.” West Coasters, hang tight for the second Sesame Place, opening in San Diego next spring.
5. Dinosaur Valley State Park
Glen Rose, Texas
Two enormous dinosaur statues that were exhibited at the 1964 New York World’s Fair greet families at the entrance to this park 90 minutes from Dallas. Copy what Kristal Holtzclaw Molina’s family did on a visit with her kids, ages 3 and 4, last July: Take a quick pic, then look for tracks. The park has five main sites, all in or near a riverbed. “The kids found sauropod and theropod tracks in an area called the Blue Hole,” says Molina, who blogs at SimplyKristalClear.com. “One side has a sandy bottom that the kids loved.”
6. Junior Driving School at LEGOLAND
Carlsbad, California, and Winter Haven, Florida
Just for littles ages 3 to 5, these colorful cars look like they’re made from a LEGO set. Your child hops in solo (she’s got this!) and gleefully steers around a track with pint-size stop signs and fuel pumps. Attendants break up traffic jams and give gentle coaching on pressing the gas pedal. Before it’s all over, your threenager earns a driver’s license to take home.
7. Roaring Camp Railroad
Feed a kiddo’s insatiable train hunger and check a big item off your list with the railroad’s Redwood Forest Steam Train. This 75-minute ride goes clickety-clack through redwood groves, pumping out steam along the way. It stops at the summit of Bear Mountain so passengers can walk among the towering conifers.
8. The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island
Amelia Island, Florida
There were once real pirates in the waters near this resort, which makes it extra fun to pretend they’re still around, right? Book the Pirate Tuck-In experience: A swashbuckler (bearing milk and cookies) and a real macaw will read a story and leave a keepsake treasure chest. During the day, the blue-and-gold macaw sits poolside waiting to dish out high fives and dazzle kids with the 30 words it can speak.
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9. Franklyn D. Resort & Spa
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
The greatest perk kids and parents get at this all-inclusive is their own nanny, who hangs with the little ones or the whole fam (you decide) during the day. “My toddler has lots of energy,” says Erin Benson, who visited last fall. “Our nanny had him constantly doing something—swimming, arts and crafts, playing games on the beach. For the first time, I actually relaxed on vacation.”
10. Tyler Place
Your children will live their best life at this idyllic lakefront resort. Here, “all-inclusive” extends far beyond the burgers and fresh fruit on the table. There are trampolines, an inflatable water park on the lake, beginner fishing lessons, nature hikes, movie nights, and pajama parties, all with the guidance of a counselor for every three to six kids. Best of all, each kiddo gets his own bike or trike to use (plus a helmet!) for your family’s entire stay.