Visiting one of Virgin Atlantic's fantastic cities with kids this summer? We've put together a selection of amazing family day trips from five of our most popular destinations, from traditional amusement parks and state-of-the-art aquariums to panda habitats, petting zoos, ziplines, cable cars and more...
From New York
Playland Amusement Park
Historic Playland sits on the shores of Long Island Sound in the Westchester County town of Rye, and has been providing New York families with thrills and spills since 1928. With a journey time of just 44 minutes, the park is easily accessible from NYC's Grand Central Terminal via the New Haven Line train, which leaves for Rye once an hour.
More than 50 rides and attractions (including seven that pre-date 1930) are spread across the park, as well as an Olympic-sized swimming pool, indoor ice rink, mini golf, a boating and kayaking lake, a beach, boardwalk and pier, plenty of picnic areas and as many hot dogs, toffee apples and sticks of candy floss as you can stomach. Don't miss the 75 year old Dragon Coaster for the chance to be plunged 128 feet down into the mouth of the now fire-breathing dragon.
From San Francisco
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Consistently ranked as one of the top family attractions in all of the United States, Monterey Bay Aquarium is well worth the easy two hour drive south from San Francisco.
The Open Sea exhibit (the largest in the aquarium) has just re-opened after a year long renovation project and the 90ft wide window allows kids to gawp in amazement at hammerhead sharks, green sea turtles, Pacific bluefin tuna, tufted puffins and moon jellies as they scatter past just inches from their noses. You can even whet their appetites in advance with the Open Sea Web Cam.
Also sure to be a hit are the ridiculously cute and playful sea otters, one of whom, Joy, has been a surrogate mum to rescued pups an admirable fifteen times. Here, she helps settle her latest charge into his new home...
Lake Geneva is a popular and pretty summer resort town on the shore of Geneva Lake, just over the border in Wisconsin about 75 miles northwest of Chicago - so popular, in fact, that it's often referred to as 'The Hamptons of the Midwest'. As a previous haunt of Al Capone, and site of one of Hugh Hefner's Playboy Clubs (now a hotel but originally the subject of the Guns 'n Roses hit Paradise City) it might, at first, seem an odd choice for a family day trip.
These days however, Lake Geneva is decidedly clean-cut and offers a host of hearty activity options for energetic families, both on and off the water, including zip-lining over 80 acres of mature forest between Geneva Lake and neighbouring Lake Como, learning to row, kayak or stand-up paddleboard, or simply hiring a pontoon to pootle about on the water all day. Kids of an equestrian bent might also be interested in the Dancing Horses extravaganza at the nearby Animal Gardens Petting Zoo, open between May and October.
From Hong Kong
Ocean Park, situated in Wong Chuk Hang in the southern part of Hong Kong Island is really four major attractions in one, with an oceanarium, an amusement park, an animal theme park and an extensive cable car system that extends to the summit of Nam Long Shan (Brick Hill) overlooking the South China Sea and Deep Water Bay.
In Aqua City, kids can get hands on with sea cucumbers and sea stars in the Grand Aquarium, and then get splashed at Symbio, the world's first 360° water screen show at The Lagoon. Down on the waterfront in Amazing Asian Animals, visit the HKJC Giant Panda Habitat and say hello to An An and Jia Jia who were given to Ocean Park in '97 to mark the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty, or learn all about Chinese alligators at the Gator Marsh.
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Children's author and illustrator Eric Carle founded this wonderful museum in 2002 with the stated aim of 'celebrating the art we know first', and it's overflowing with familiar images from cherished bedtime stories, including Carle's own perennial favourite The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
From now until September 4th the 'bear of little brain', Winnie the Pooh, makes an appearance in an exhibition of drawings by E.H Shepard, and little ones can get hands-on with a variety of classes and workshops like tissue paper collage and portrait painting, as well as attending storytelling sessions in the library.
The museum is just south of the famous college town of Amherst in the beautiful Pioneer Valley; a two hour drive west of Boston into the heart of the Massachusetts countryside. Make a day of it and combine with a summer picnic and leisurely boat trip along the Connecticut River, or stay overnight and visit Six Flags in nearby Springfield, by far the largest amusement park in New England.
Header shot of Monterey Bay Aquarium © Rob Jamieson | Dreamstime.com, Ocean Park cable cars © Lee Snider | Dreamstime.com and second shot of the aquarium © Jjumawan | Dreamstime.com. Thanks also to Flickr photographer Monika Thorpe for the shot of Lake Geneva
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.