If you followed us on our 60 day road trip across the US last summer (#HotMamaDoesAmerica), you will have noticed that we spend a lot of time in bars, pubs, saloons and basically any place with live music and cocktails. This is just how we roll, and there is no shame in our game. And the kids seem to love it too.
One thing we noticed traveling from city to city, is just how few resources there are on the web for finding “kid friendly” establishments that serve great drinks and live music. We would often have to call each place to find out what time the music started and whether or not they allowed kids in the bar area.
As parents, we have decided to give our children relatively uncensored experiences of cities and towns everywhere. This can mean different things depending on the city, for example visiting a prisoner of war memorial in Georgia, the ruins of a historic haunted prison in Philadelphia, a medieval torture chamber museum in Scotland, mine tours in Tombstone, family-friendly hotels in Vegas and various bars and saloons from Scottsdale to Memphis.
So kid friendly for us quite literally means that the kids are simply allowed in the door.
We started to wonder why there are so few resources on the web for families like ours. Are we the only parents looking for this kind of family fun!? In fact, I did some keyword research and found that while thousands of parents search each month for kid friendly resorts, recipes and casseroles, less than a hundred are searching for kid friendly pubs, live music and dancing.
You may not agree, but I think there is something wrong with this picture.
To find out if we are alone in this, I decided to ask 14 of the best family travel bloggers with expertise in traveling the world with kids. I basically asked these two questions:
- What makes a place kid friendly and how often do you seek out kid friendly experiences when you travel?
- Does a place have to be kid-oriented to be considered kid friendly?
To get a summary of the results at a glance, we have created this custom, shareable infographic that has unique data and selected quotes from each of the great travel bloggers who volunteered to contribute to this article. Click the image to see it in full resolution, and be sure to continue below for full answers from each contributor.
Infographic: What does Kid Friendly Mean?
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“Family friendly is not checking off a label, it’s an attitude and an atmosphere. It’s being welcoming and respectful towards children. It’s seeing them as a present participant in the travel experience, not a side event. It’s an experience that helps them learn, interact, and have fun. It doesn’t have to be kid-oriented, but can be kid-friendly simply with the right attitude.
The first thing we check when seeking out travel related experiences or attractions is age appropriateness. It doesn’t have to be necessarily kid-friendly, as we can generally have a wonderful time even when things aren’t necessarily kid friendly. But, if it’s not appropriate for their age, then we don’t visit.
We’re getting ready to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, which many people have warned us it’s not kid friendly and not to go. I don’t agree. I think you can definitely seek out the family friendly experiences – children live in New Orleans so they’ll be there. Sure, we won’t be throwing beads on Bourbon Street, but we’ll find some neighbourhoods that cater to the kids and have a wonderful time. I don’t agree with shielding our children from experiencing incredibly cultural celebrations and festivals because of a few people behaving badly. They can still get the spirit and the atmosphere from those who behave well and welcome the children as part of the experience.
Some things are not kid friendly because they may be too young to understand or too small enough to manage it. If that is the case, we often will tag team with each other. One will do the adult friendly activity while the other takes the kids to a child-friendly experience, like a kid’s museum. We have a four year age gap with our girls so sometimes our youngest can’t do an activity, so we split up again.
I don’t think hotels matter so much. As long as there is a bed they can sleep in, we’re not too fussed at how kid-friendly it is as for us it’s just a place to sleep. We rarely stay at resorts, but if we do, we’d look for swimming pools – ones with water slides work well, kid’s club and water sport activities. We stayed at a fabulous family friendly resort on Boracay Island that had all of these facilities, including cooking lessons, hair braiding, chocolate tasting and kayaks and stand up paddle boards for use on the private beach. Now that was magic and worth seeking out. I think any attraction that helps keeps the kids happy and engaged so that parents can relax and also enjoy the vacation is winning.
For restaurants, we definitely seek out kid friendly menus and atmosphere. We love restaurants that have activity packs or things for the kids to do while sitting at the table. Anything with live music works well. some restaurants will have a kid play section or outside area where they can run around or climb on play equipment. These restaurants are always packed with happy kids and parents. Australian restaurants do this really well.
We spent some time recently in Nashville with the kids and visited many adult-friendly music establishments with the kids. Some of the ways they made it kid friendly was by having certain hours of the day for families or certain nights that were family nights. We had an evening at the Bluebird Cafe for open mic. Kids usually don’t go, but ours were welcomed. They had a kids menu and the artists interacted with the girls and high fived them as they walked past. This was a friendly attitude which makes kids feel wonderful. My girls sat quietly for the two hour show and loved it! The Grand Ole Opry was another event that catered to kids and adults. Sometimes popcorn, ice cream, and an entertaining show is enough for the kids. The Grand Ole Opry was more kid friendly than the Bluebird as it was a loud show so kids could be a bit more fidgety and were encouraged to sing along with the performers.
Other attractions can be great at offering kid version audio tours. We had this experience at the Daintree Rainforest Center in Australia. It would have been very boring for the girls otherwise, but the audio kept them engaged and they had scavenger hunt tasks to do. I think age appropriate ways to engage in an adult friendly activity like this can work really well.”
Thank you Caz and Craig!
“Being “kid-friendly” doesn’t mean that that a place or experience is designed for kids, but that it is appropriate for and even encourages kids to be a part of it. A kid friendly destination is a place where kids will both be welcome and be able to enjoy themselves in some capacity. There needs to be something that’s engaging in a non-academic way and probably also visually stimulating to keep a kid’s attention.
We do fully consider how kid-friendly a place is going be before confirming travel plans. When it comes to hotels, we don’t care about the style as long as we have enough space in our room for the four of us to function (we spend very little time in our hotel rooms). For restaurants, ideally a kid-friendly restaurant would have a menu that reflects a variety of foods that adults would eat too, but child sized. When dining out, there’s nothing more frustrating to us as parents than seeing that, yet again, our kids can have mac ‘n cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich. Do restaurants think kids can’t eat human food? And when we’re talking about attractions and events, we try to incorporate our kids into almost everything, so they are just as comfortable visiting a museum or historic site as they are watching a parade in Disneyland. You’d be hard pressed to find an attraction/site that didn’t have some aspect of kid-friendliness.
When we’re visiting a place that’s clearly meant for adults, we bring along some sort of activity for the kids. If we’re doing something relating to culture or history, we take the time to explain what we’re doing and we talk to the kids about it before we even get there. And something really cool that many people might not know is that adult activities, such as wine tasting, usually have some sort of experience for kids too, whether it’s a play area, a snack tasting, or even grapes to crush. Businesses are getting wise to the fact that parents take their kids everywhere nowadays.”
Thank you Rob!
“What isn’t Kid Friendly? Unless it is specified Adults Only my kids can do it. They understand that sometimes Mum needs to go to a museum. And that might not be as fun as a playground. So we have Parents day and kids day. Kid friendly doesn’t need to be kid oriented. Sometimes those kids might surprise you.
We do seek out kid hotels and kid attractions. It plays a pretty integral part of our family travels. Mainly, because I enjoy kids things too. Everyone is so much more relaxed when theirs a playground at a restaurant or a kids club at the hotel.
Trying to get the kid involved and interested is the key. So if you are visiting an art gallery, look to increase their interest before hand with YouTube videos on the artist. Or have them sketch while there or organize a scavenger hunt. When attending spa treatments, my daughter always comes and gets her own nails done or hair cream bath. There are so many ways kids can enjoy adult activities if one has the time, patience and knowledge on how to go about it. ”
Thank you Erin!
“Kid-friendly simply means that something is able to be enjoyed by my kids. It definitely doesn’t need to be kid-oriented. Some of our favorite hotels around the world aren’t kid-oriented, but they’re kid-friendly because our kids are comfortable there. The employees go out of their way to make my kids feel welcome. They’re proactive at suggesting things that we would enjoy.
Kid-friendliness is important when we’re pre-booking tours or activities. Are they planned with kids in mind? Will my kids find them interesting? If it’s a cooking class, do they even want kids there? A four-hour tour of a museum or a European city is not kid-friendly, but a 1.5-hour tour with a scavenger hunt is.
But kid-friendliness isn’t important when we are seeking out hotels. I want to stay at the perfect hotel in the perfect location anywhere we travel – high-end or low-end – and that’s rarely going to be a kid-oriented hotel. A boutique hotel in Florence can be kid-friendly. The Park Hyatt Tokyo is my 7-year-old daughter’s favorite hotel anywhere. It’s not kid-oriented, but we felt incredibly welcome and comfortable there. The Four Seasons Bora Bora and Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives cater far more to honeymooners than to families, but both were very kid-friendly.
The problem is that you don’t always know what’s kid-friendly or not kid-friendly until you go. So we stay where we want to stay and hope for the best, and we’ve only been disappointed in kid-friendliness a handful of times. Likewise, we dine where we want based on the foodie tastes of our kids. We don’t need crayons. Our kids are well-behaved. I can’t think of any non-kid-friendly dining experiences that we’ve had anywhere, and we’ve eaten in a lot of the world’s best restaurants.”
Thank you Eric!
“The term kid-friendly to us simply means an activity our children have the ability to do and are allowed to take part in. I do not believe an activity has to be identified as kid friendly for them to be able to take part in and have a great time. For example, canoeing through Lake Louise in Canada was not advertised as kid-oriented however, as they allowed all of our kids to participate with the supervision of an adult, it became a fantastic adventure for our little ones. Gliding through the crystal blue water surrounded by incredible landscape was fun for the whole family.
As we narrow down what countries we visit every year, we don’t look for only kid-friendly options. My husband and I generally follow our bucket list as to where we would like to visit next. When we had the opportunity to visit China and Egypt, we were told from many sources how utterly crazy we were to take our kids to both places. In the end, we were glad we didn’t listen as both turned out to be very memorable trips. In regards to hotels and restaurants, we figure as long as they allow our children in the door that is friendly enough for us. While we don’t necessarily base many parts of our travels on kid-friendliness, I admit that planning for our itinerary is largely based on attractions and activities we believe our kids would have a fun time participating in. I want them to enjoy our trip as much as we do, and I know that being dragged to museums and places that include pure sightseeing might not always be the most enjoyable experience for them. As I am filling our schedule I make a conscious effort to include stops in-between “grown-up” activities that are age appropriate and fun for them. For example, in every country we have traveled to thus far, we have made a conscious effort to spent time in playgrounds, botanical gardens, aquariums, zoos, theme parks and taking hikes in nature.
I believe many adult friendly activities can be catered to kids as the parent takes into account what he/she thinks their kids can handle and make safety a top priority. One example is when we visited the coastal region of Lima Peru where we discovered paragliding at the edge of the cliffs along the seashore. I would have never considered taking a leap off a cliff strapped to a parachute at the mercy of the wind to be a kid-friendly activity. However, we were surprised to find out the youngest age of participants to be allowed was 5 years old when we inquired. Our son who at the time was 7 years old was so excited to try it, and after much pondering we agreed to let him do it. In the end he had a great time and he still talks about what an epic time he had peacefully gliding through the air while admiring the amazing views of the coast below.”
Thank you Anabel!
“We are known to push limits in this area. Basically as long as kids aren’t strictly prohibited, we believe well behaved children are always welcome everywhere. However, I think it’s very important to know your own kids limits and realistically evaluate what they are capable of in any given situation. We’ve included our son in numerous outings that would never be deemed “Kid-oriented” but are now spectacular family memories. It’s been my observation that kids have a way of rising to the occasion when offered an opportunity for an experience that is more mature than they are accustomed to in every day life.
When planning a family trip we really try to schedule a mix of activities, attractions, restaurants and hotels that will please everyone in our family. That usually means a combined itinerary of checking out some strictly kid-oriented activities and attractions mixed in with dining at fine restaurants while staying at luxury hotels that we prefer. I’m often amazed at how many restaurants and hotels that are more adult oriented have little touches like children’s menus or kids amenities that make for a more sophisticated family travel experience.
Sometimes we worry about that and other times we don’t. We have been known to make it an adventure and try to explain why adults think the activity is so fun, and other times we just allow some screen time so that our kid is occupied and satisfied while we have some peace to enjoy the adult activity.”
Thank you Sarah!
“I don’t really think about a place being “kid-friendly” before making plans to visit with my kids. Often, we are visiting family friendly destinations but I would not hesitate to visit a place that wasn’t targeted at families.
A few years ago, we visited the Corning Museum of Glass. Many people were shocked that we would even consider a visit with a 3, 5, and 7-year-old but it never crossed my mind. The museum had scavenger hunts and other “kid-friendly” activities and the kids had a blast. There were many displays that were not “kid-friendly” but my kids still enjoyed. Inside the exhibits it was a do not touch policy but they were mesmerized by all of it.
When we travel we don’t really think much about a place being “kid-friendly”, but we are kids at heart and that often means visiting theme parks and kid-oriented places. The funny thing is before we had kids my husband and I would visit family friendly destinations like zoos and theme parks.
Now that we travel as a family of 5 the most important thing for us is the hotel being family friendly. This is because we don’t fit in a standard hotel room anymore. Our accommodations have to fit us and we often look to suite hotels that are often family oriented.
I think that any place you visit can be more kid-friendly by involving the kids. When you make them an active part of your destination it is that much more fun for them. Include them in the visit to the art museum by discussing the art work and asking questions. Let them be the guide and see where it takes you.
When we are planning our family travels I like to include the kids as much as possible. This makes it more fun for them but also gives you an opportunity to explain the expectations for the places you are planning to visit. A trip to the art museum is not the same as a visit to a playground. When expectations are set-up early on the kids are better able to understand what is expected.”
Thank you Leah!
“Kid friendly for us means something our kids actually enjoy doing and are able to participate in as “equals”. For example, when we look at kid friendly tours, we want to make sure they are going to keep our kids entertained and engaged, not just give them some crayons and paper. Nothing needs to be kid-oriented, but it can certainly have an element of kid-friendliness so everyone in the family can enjoy the experience.
Kid-friendliness is important on a certain level. We always choose a destination based on destination first and then we find the kid-friendly things to do. After traveling with our kids for 15 years, our definition of kid-friendly has evolved. We used to look for hotels that were more American style when they were little and now we tend to stay anywhere from luxury properties to rental homes. Our kids have probably visited over 100 museums, so in their minds, every museum is kid-friendly. I would agree. We still seek out parks, swimming pools, and beaches, but travel has certainly evolved to include attractions that don’t fit the typical definition of “kid-friendly”.
Recently I have seen hotels offer mock tail mixology classes instead of their adult counterparts (not sure how I feel about this). I’ve seen plenty of tour companies thinking outside of the box to accommodate children of all ages on their tours and I think they are doing a fabulous job. More resorts are offering a variety of classes for their younger guests to allow parents some quiet time instead of sitting kids in front of a tv or computer. I think properties/companies are starting to realize families want to travel and kid-friendly essential to their success.”
Thank you Kirsten!
“There are many styles of “kid friendly”. For me a kid friendly hotel, welcomes children. I don’t want to walk into a hotel and have everyone staring at me along with my three children. Kid Friendly for me also means there’s a children’s menu (I do prefer one with healthy options), maybe a kids club, and even some kid friendly activities during the day.
I don’t always seek out kid-friendly places, because I don’t want to feel as though we are in Disney World all the time, but I do like a place that caters to, or acknowledges, the children. A simple crayon and paper during dinnertime can go a long way.
Oh I make adult-friendly activities kid friendly all the time. There’s a vineyard that plays live music out in the Hamptons every summer. It’s not 100% kid-friendly, but with a picnic blanket, the right games and snacks, the kids have a absolute blast as do the parents!”
Thank you Brianne!
“Thanks to my husband’s job, I’m often traveling alone with the kids – so to me, the term ‘kid-friendly’ means I can walk in the door with a 5-year old and a toddler and we won’t immediately be asked to leave! If we are welcome in an establishment by the people who work there, then I’m happy to call it kid-friendly, although I think some things make me more comfortable; for instance, if restaurants have kids menus, hotel rooms have cribs, or tours have kids prices, then I assume they’re used to having kids there. I think a lot of the time, parents worry about what others will say if they take their kids somewhere that you might not normally take a child; a pub in the middle of England, or a whale-watching tour in Iceland, but at the end of the day, if your kids are well-behaved, I think you’ll be welcome almost anywhere.
I do try to be practical when I bring my kids along though, especially to an activity or a place that might not seem kid-friendly at first glance. I prepare my kids in advance; I tell them what we’ll be doing, the behavior I expect from them, and how long we’ll be spending there. I do my research, and am prepared to bring along my own supplies if necessary; for example, if a hotel doesn’t offer a crib or pack and play for a baby to sleep in, I’ll find a local place to rent one from – I’ve even been to the local Target to buy my own! I also pack a bag full of things to keep them occupied; coloring books, games, snacks, drinks, and anything else that I might need in case they get bored before our activity is over.
Above all, I try to be considerate, both of other people and of my kids. Some places just do not welcome kids, and I completely understand that; I don’t want to take them somewhere they’ll be a nuisance, it won’t be fun for anyone! But I also try to be as relaxed as possible; I want to my kids to see the world and I try to show them as much of it as possible while I have the chance.”
Thank you Kate!
“For me to consider a place kid-friendly I like for it to have the following features: kids are allowed in, there is something interesting for the kids to see or do, and there will not likely be something seen/heard that will require a discussion I am not ready to have based on the age of the child.
We have a pretty wide range of what we consider to be kid friendly destinations. For example, we are huge Disney World and Disneyland fans, but Elizabeth also went to Las Vegas twice in a few months time.
This may be controversial, but I don’t think we need to make everything specifically kid-focused when travelling. When on a trip there should be activities that are fun for everyone on the itinerary!
When researching activities for our family trips I tend to plan a lot of museums, outdoor options like walking tours or botanic gardens, and shows/concerts that I think can be good for all ages. These are basically the same activities I would plan when we traveled before becoming parents. I don’t think an activity needs to be kid-oriented for it to be kid-friendly. Some of our favorite memories are strolling the Conservatory at Bellagio, walking the Freedom Trail in Boston, and Elizabeth’s first concert in Milwaukee. Some would say these were not great choices for kids, but our entire family had fun.
Our challenges when planning a family vacation stem more from my daughter’s food allergy, not her age. Before she was diagnosed I planned our family trips the same way I did before having her.
If you are visiting a destination not specifically kid-focused, I think having an understanding of the city and yourselves is most important. For example, in Las Vegas we visited several resorts on the Las Vegas strip but did not walk Las Vegas Boulevard. This kept us separate from some of the more suggestive bits of Las Vegas. I would like to visit New Orleans as a family, but we would probably visit the French Quarter during the day when the atmosphere is calmer.
Most places can be kid-friendly with some research and care. Even at preschool age we routinely brought our daughter to visit various museums, outdoor venues, and even fine dining restaurants.
For places that may be a little less kid-focused I think the timing of your activities can do a lot to make them kid friendly. For example, we had our pool time in Las Vegas in the morning before the party people were up and moving. This allowed us to leisurely hang out at the pool until noon when rowdier crowds started to show up. For bars with live music we tend to arrive a little before the performers are set to start and then leave mid-way through the set.”
Thank you Cristin!
” I have been thinking alot of about this. At first, I was all … well any place that accepts people is kid-friendly being that kids are people too (barring the obvious age restricted places like casinos and nightclubs where you have to be of a certain age to enter). BUT then I started thinking, and I realized its not so black and white. There are many times where we parents opted to either get a babysitter (if we are in a position to do so, like at home) OR for go’d something because the enjoyment level of us, and other patrons would be compromised by having my kids in tow. For us, the threshold did not include little ones. Examples would be expensive, fancy dinners. My kids would not eat, not enjoy, and disrupt other patrons. So for those reasons, my kids were not welcome (by my standards). Other kids, maybe older, with better palettes, and better behaved – bring em!
In fact, when I was a kid, my parents dragged us to the fanciest restaurants (always!) on vacation. Honestly I always wanted to go to McDonald’s on vacation! LOL but we did learn to sit, be quiet, eat filet mignons and what not. With that in mind, we have brought our kids on casino trips, the nicer restaurants where grown ups drink wine and kids eat plain pasta or french fries. You know, a step up from Fridays but not quite your Michelin 5 star. On trips we have had jokes where “This is the grown up portion of the show” for example in Hawaii we visited a coffee farm (because I was super interested) and in the Central Coast of California visited some wineries. Not for the kids interests, but we explained to them that this is an activity mom or dad wants to do (and we do lots for the kids). But of course at the winery we brought crayons and cards and let the kids run around in the grass, stuff like that. We also kept the time spent doing adult activities to a reasonable amount.”
Thank you Harmony!
“As long as I don’t get attitude or disapproving looks from anyone when I walk in with my kids, almost any place can be kid-friendly!
We choose travel destinations based on where we want to go, then we research the destination to find kid-friendly places and attractions. It’s worked for just about every destination we’ve visited. We are open to bringing our kids just about anywhere, so long as their safety isn’t compromised. For example, I don’t know that I’d bring young children to a place like Istanbul. While it’s a wonderful city and rich in history and culture, it is way too crowded and chaotic. It would put my anxiety into overdrive and it wouldn’t be enjoyable for anyone.
My kids have been to typical “adult-friendly” places like wineries and breweries. (There really is no shame in my game!) Some such establishments make it a point to have activities or things to do for kids, knowing that Mom and Dad would like to enjoy a drink or sample a beer flight. We’ve seen things like kids’ board games and video games at craft breweries, as well as sidewalk chalk for the kids to use on the outdoor patio.”
Thank you Francesca!
“Kid-friendly generally means that kids are allowed in the door for my family. No one will stare at us or make rude sounds when I sit down or wander through with my troop. Kid-oriented is when a destination, attraction or restaurant is actually geared towards children. These spots have a time and a place for sure, but they aren’t the spots I like to center our trips around.
I don’t look for the typical meaning of “kid-friendly” at all when I plan our travels. My kids can find fun anywhere because I have always planned what we want to see as a family first. I don’t believe in sitting on my phone while my kids experience a destination. I’m not paying all of this money for anyone to be bored for long periods of time. I want us to interact together and have an adventure. That means I look for the total package when it comes to activities. Yes, I need to make sure my children are allowed through the doors. Obviously, if children under 12 are not allowed to stay at a B&B or you have to be 18+ to enter a restaurant, we aren’t going to make a reservation. I’m not going to avoid the cute boutique hotels and a great location just because it doesn’t have a playground next door or an indoor pool for my kids though.
Kid-friendly comes in so many shapes and sizes. Simply having crayons at a restaurant can make a place kid-friendly, but you know what, as a mom, my purse is what makes a place kid-friendly. I always have an activity ready to go while we wait for a meal. Activities that are hands-on or have scavenger hunt sheets and audio guides also make a spot kid-friendly. Some of the top museums in the world, ones that many parents would never think to bring their young children, actually have some of the best children’s programming. I’ve had to drag my 5-year-old son out of Holyrood Palace because I got bored well before he did. He was that engrossed in the children’s audio guide they had created. Obviously I should have asked for the kid’s guide instead of the adult guide. The lesson learned here— never underestimate what your children will enjoy. Kids don’t need clowns, cartoons and screens to have fun. They can find fun anywhere, especially if they can explore with their family and share the magic they find in the world.”
Thank you Keryn!
That’s a Wrap!
As you can clearly see, kid friendly means a little something different to every family, and that is OK. In this blog roundup, we heard from 14 family travel experts who unanimously agree that a place definitely does not have to be kid-oriented in order to be a kid friendly travel destination. The lesson is this: Don’t be afraid to take your children, no matter what age, to any city, establishment or attraction, as long as they will let you in the door with them! And I leave you with this, from when my daughter was just a year old (leave a comment if you know what movie this is from for bonus points!):
Again, I want to thank all of the wonderful bloggers that agreed to participate in this blog roundup! You gals (and guys!) all rock – keep inspiring families to get out there with their kids and make the world a better place.
You might also like to read:
Our Road Trip Page with Interactive map and links to all videos and posts related to the road trip. You can start here and follow our journey from California to New York and back!
Happy Travels 🙂