There’s no shortage of destinations around the world that cater to families, but certain places go beyond expectations. From the white-sand beaches of Jamaica to dog sledding in Finland, these international destinations offer fun, cultural experiences the kids will be talking about for years to come. These are the best international destinations to visit with kids.
1. Toronto, Canada
This Canadian metropolis is big enough to offer plenty for kids, but small enough not to feel overwhelming. Some of the popular things for families to do while visiting Toronto include Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, home to more than 16,000 marine animals; Le Dolci, for kid-friendly baking classes; and Mysterious Minds Escape Room, where kids work together to figure out how to “escape” before time runs out. Toronto also has a great food scene and there are plenty of kid-friendly restaurants in town, including Ricarda’s, an upscale family-friendly spot that has an all-you-can-eat jazz brunch with a dedicated kids’ play zone and a fully supervised area with trains, dollhouses, a play kitchen, cars, coloring books, and more.
Or take a food tour with Culinary Adventure Co. Food Tours, where a food guide will take families to Chinatown (one of the largest in North America), as well as Kensington Market, so kids can sample a variety of cuisines. The recently opened Hotel X Toronto is another reason to bring your family here. It has a 3,000-square-foot kids’ activity center, a 250-seat cinema for movie nights, and an amazing rooftop pool that kids can’t help but jump in.
2. Lisbon, Portugal
For many families ready for their first international trip, Portugal is good choice. English is spoken widely there, it’s easy to get around the country, and the food is simple and fresh (great homemade pastas for kids and plenty of seafood for parents). Lisbon is known as the “City of Seven Hills” (think San Francisco) and when the little ones get tired, it’s easy to hop on a tram.
Martinhal Resorts—which has four properties in Portugal—is a great hotel option for families; in fact, it was created specifically with kids in mind! The Martinhal Chiado Family Suites, located in the heart of Lisbon, has strollers, as well as all baby essentials for the room: cribs, highchairs, little potties, step stools, and toys.
After Lisbon, families should head to the Algarve region in the south, where Martinhal’s flagship property, Martinhal Sagres Family Resort, is located. It has five swimming pools, an expansive beach, a bike shop that offers tours and hourly rentals, and plenty more. Families can spend days hanging by the beach, biking to Cape St. Vincent lighthouse, or simply relaxing in the Mediterranean sun.
A short flight from the States, Jamaica has plenty to keep adventurous kids busy. Jamaica bobsledding, 4×4 off-road safaris, zipline adventures, Reggae family catamaran cruises, and dolphin swims—the options are endless. Plus, there are some fantastic all-inclusive properties on the island. Beaches Negril is located on the widest stretch of Negril’s famed Seven Mile Beach, and has nine different restaurants, Pirates Island Waterpark, Sesame Street camps and parades, autism-friendly programming, day and night entertainment, a teens-only lounge, and so much more. The property also recently unveiled nine new family-friendly suites and rooms, which sleep up to eight guests. Beaches Ocho Rios is another great Jamaica property for families.
4. Tel Aviv, Israel
How many big cities feature amazing beaches steps away from your hotel? Many people are surprised to find that Israel has prime sandy beaches along Tel Aviv’s coast, as well as a fantastic promenade for biking and strolling. Plus, there’s plenty of shopping in unique, one-of-a-kind marketplaces—like Sarona and Carmel—where kids can find everything from dreidels to unique desserts. Families can also visit Tel Aviv’s oldest neighborhoods, including Neve Tzedek, which has museums, galleries, and a variety of charming restaurants. Kid-friendly food like hummus, falafel and pita are inexpensive and accessible everywhere.
Day trips to Jerusalem (to see the Western Wall and to experience things read about in history books or Sunday school) can be arranged by family-friendly tour operators. Hotel picks include the Norman Tel Aviv and the Tal By the Beach Hotel Tel Aviv.
5. La Paz, Mexico
La Paz combines an authentic Mexican ambiance with the high-quality services expected from a world-class beach destination. Tucked away on the eastern side of the Baja California Sur, approximately two hours from Cabo San Lucas, La Paz is ideally situated along the peaceful waters of the Sea of Cortez. Here, families can enjoy snorkeling with baby sea lions, swimming with whale sharks, standup paddleboarding, kayaking and more. The city’s historic charm, natural beauty, white-sand beaches and turquoise-blue seas have made La Paz an in-demand destination for adventure fans, nature lovers and families. One of the best ways to experience La Paz is by boat with UnCruise, a small ship adventure cruise line. The seven-night cruise on the Sea of Cortez allows families to get up close with local marine life.