FX Excursions

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A St. Petersburg Summer Night

by Carley Wade

Dec 19, 2017

© Grauvision | Dreamstime

Destinations / Europe

Millennials who grew up watching Reagan or repeats of Red Dawn on Saturday mornings may not consider Russia a vacation destination, but today’s Motherland is worth considering — and for families at that.


Summer is the perfect time for a visit since Beliye Nochi, or the unique natural phenomenon known as White Nights, means the sun doesn’t descend low enough at St. Petersburg’s northerly location for it to grow dark at night — so much so the streetlights don’t need to be turned on!


St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg, Russia. Photo: Carley Thornell


What are turned on, however, are the seasonal fountains of Peterhof in this imperial capital. The series of palaces and gardens constructed under the orders of Peter the Great are often called the “Russian Versailles,” and the rushing spray of the jets here dance to music as the water flows down a path to the sea at the Gulf of Finland. Reaching the complex just an hour outside of the city is a true highlight — ride a unique hydrofoil and bounce along the water on a vehicle that looks like you’re about to board a submarine a la the Hunt for Red October (don’t worry, it doesn’t descend!).


© Carley Thornell


Back in the city center, the hop-on, hop-off canal cruise is an easier ride and an easier way to see most of the city’s highlights, and enjoy English-language narration for each. Although it may be a bit tricky to get around not knowing any Russian, most passersby on the street can point you in the right direction and most signs are in English; or, private guides from companies like Esperance Travel specialize in both group and one-on-one tours in the city center and beyond.


All of the larger hotel chains are fluent and most offer concierge service to help plan activities or family-friendly restaurants. At boutique Domina, each of the five floors has a different theme, one of which is family; kids will love the open, multilevel floors with inset loft spaces on the top level. The “Dom” is also within walking distance of Mariinsky Theater, which features special opera and ballet programs during White Nights for kids. Or, within walking distance of the illustrious Hermitage art museum, the Kempinski Hotel offers up a hearty breakfast spread, a cool view over most of the city from its rooftop bar and restaurant (youngsters welcome) and nautically themed accommodations. Traveling at the end of June also brings an opportunity to witness Scarlet Sails, a frigate with red sails, fireworks, concerts and a massive water show.


Train Museum in Russia

© Carley Thornell


Want to visit all of Russia in one fell swoop? The Grand Maket Rossiya, an 8,600-square-foot model train museum, presents the entire Russian Federation in miniature — so St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square and playful polar bears in Siberia are all within reach.


Those who wish to trek to the capital for real can also avoid the airport with an easy, high-speed train ride from St. Petersburg to Moscow, arriving within four hours. Business class is in order for the entire family, since it includes enough food and snacks for much of the day.


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