Reading and family vacations don’t always go hand in hand, unless you’re threatening to take away the kids’ tablets on a road trip and replace them with a book. But there are plenty of fun places you can go to spark your children’s imaginations and get them reading before, during and, hopefully, after your trip. Harry Potter makes the list, but so do some off-the-radar places you probably didn’t know existed and were ready to delight your kids.
Disneyland isn’t just all Mickey and Dumbo rides, the theme park was practically built around the idea of storybooks and fun. Disneyland’s popular Storybook Land even features canal boats that journeys right into the mouth of Monstro the Whale. Remember to pay homage to Brothers Grimm classics at the Snow White’s Scary Adventures and get your thrill ride fix with the Matterhorn Bobsleds.
New York City
Grown-ups already know New York City is home to dozens of award-winning writers and illustrators alike, but there are also quirky spots for pint-sized book lovers. Alice’s Tea House serves high tea and treats surrounded by its namesake storybook motif. Before you go, read the Little Red Lighthouse to your kids and then stop and see the real thing in Fort Washington Park on the Hudson River under the George Washington Bridge. Although you can’t go inside of it, the park makes for a charming picnic spot. For something ultra-Manhattan, Eloise lovers can also enjoy a snack at the Tea Room and visit the Library Rooms in the hotel where the 6-year-old book character lived, the Plaza Hotel.
London is home to one of the greatest group of storybook characters of all time. Wendy, her brothers Michael and John and dog named Nan ventured to Never, Never Land in Peter Pan. But London, Ontario, is home to its own storybook adventure at Storybook Gardens. This reasonably priced little theme park features Storybook Valley with favorite nursery rhyme stops from Humpty Dumpty to the Old Woman’s Shoe. For something a little more daring, Pirate’s Island features a larger-than-life Pirate Ship and the Enchanted Forest welcomes kids on a Carpet Slide, Elephant Ride and Felix the Fox’s Archery Range.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter
J.K. Rowling managed to turn even the most stubborn book readers into die-hard enthusiasts with her Harry Potter series that is now one of the main draw’s at Universal Orlando. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a Potter fanatic’s dream with Diagon Alley for a multi-dimensional thrill ride that iconic Hogwarts castle kids have been dreaming of, and plenty of magical experiences.
Children’s Fairyland has been entertaining kids since 1950 when it opened its gates in Oakland, Calif. This park is low on thrills and big on kid-sized rides, animals, games and a storybook backdrop kids can explore. The Jolly Trolley takes families for a train ride while a simple Jack and Jill Hill sails kids down a gentle slope on cardboard “sleds.” It’s old-fashioned fun surrounded by storybook charm like an Alice in Wonderland tunnel and Cinderella’s slipper slide. Although Fairyland is designed with kids up to 8 years old in mind, older kids can find something fun to do, too.
Before heading out on your literary vacation, arm yourself with all the books you’ll need to bring the trip to life. At the end of the day it will mean more to your kids if they can dive into the books and then see them spring to life on vacation. It’s also an added bonus you’ll look like a hero for putting together such a cool itinerary.