The English capital has numerous parks and playgrounds for your little ones to run around in – think Hyde Park and its playgrounds near Caster Gate, Westbourne Gate and Edinburgh Gate. Battersea Park, Finsbury Park, Greenwich Park and Clapham Common also feature playgrounds. It’s good to know that public breastfeeding is legal everywhere in London, and most department stores, shopping centres, museums and art galleries in the city offer parent and family rooms (most with nappy-changing facilities). Another great reason to travel to London with your tot: Kids under five travel free on public transport, as long as they are with a paying adult. They also get free entry into some of the city’s biggest paid attractions, such as the London Eye and the Tower of London.
Where to stay: The Dorchester offers inter-connecting rooms, as well as a concierge who can help you create a baby-friendly itinerary. The hotel also provides activity books, child-sized bathrobes and slippers, children’s books, board games and DVDs.
Where to eat: Giraffe offers a fun but wholesome kids’ menu (with allergy information), kids’ meal deals, and high chairs. The restaurant has numerous locations in and around London.
What to do: The V&A Museum of Childhood Sensory Pod is a multi-sensory space, with textured surfaces, mirrors, lights and bubble-filled columns that will leave your tot captivated and entertained.
Surprisingly, this crowded Italian city has ample spaces for your munchkins to let loose. Villa Borghese is a massive park with a large playground and picnic areas (in the Zoological Garden). Villa Pamphili, near the Vatican, has playgrounds, lakes and pony rides. You’ll find plenty of rest stops around Rome, too – the piazzas and squares are perfect spots for a quick break. Most of Rome is full of stairs and cobbled pavements, making it a little tricky to navigate a cumbersome stroller, so your best bet would be to use a baby carrier when sightseeing with Junior. Alternatively, bring a stroller that you can fold up and carry onboard the bus or train. Some museums, such as the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, allow strollers on their wheelchair access routes. In Rome, nursing in public is allowed, however it’s best to be discreet, so bring a scarf to shield your baby while breastfeeding. Nappy-changing facilities can be found in some of the major museums (like the Vatican Museum), theatres, prenatal shops and malls.
Where to stay: At Forty Seven Hotel in Rome’s historic centre, children are given a special greeting when they arrive. It also offers a room service menu for kids. Cribs and infant beds are available, and children aged 10 and under stay free when occupying the accompanying adult’s room.
Where to eat: For a special family dinner, you can’t beat the classy-but-child-friendly Mirabelle, which offers a kids’ menu.
What to do: Rainbow Magicland, a family-centred amusement park located in Valmontone, just outside of Rome, has fun rides and stage shows for kids of all ages. Children below 1m tall enjoy free entry.
Among the New Zealand city’s top playgrounds are Daldy Street Playground in the CBD, and Lake Town Green Playground in Takapuna, which is great for crawlers and toddlers with its soft surfaces, in-ground trampolines and slide. Nappy-changing facilities can be found in most of the city’s major tourist spots, including the Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland Museum, and the Auckland Zoo. Most of Auckland is generally stroller-friendly – the pavements are wide and smooth enough – but do remember that many streets in the city are hilly. If you need a nursing or parent room, check out the ones at the Westfield Mall and Smith & Caughey’s, both in Newmarket.
Where to stay: At the Heritage Hotel, up to two kids under the age of 14 can stay in your room for free, and cots are provided. Children under five years old also enjoy free meals if accompanied by one paying adult.
What to do: Under-fives will love Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium, which has an interactive play area and special activities designed just for them.
4. Los Angeles
There is no shortage of good parks and playgrounds in the City of Angels. Lincoln Park in Burbank is not only canopied to shield your little ones from the sun, it is also fenced-in for extra safety and features slides and “jungle gym”-type facilities. In Pasadena, check out Reese’s Retreat in Brookside Park. It has “canons”, sails and a padded ocean floor for wannabe pirates, swings, slides, and a sand and water area. Closer to the ocean is Polliwog Park at Manhattan Beach (above), with numerous grassy areas, slides, play areas and gazebos. Parent and nursing rooms are aplenty, too – you will find private areas to feed and change Junior in the Westfield Malls, Ikea, Disneyland (which has a Baby Care Center), and shopping centres like The Grove and The Americana. Major attractions such as the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach also offer parent rooms. You’ll have no problem ferrying Baby around in his stroller, as LA is stroller-friendly.
Where to stay: The Disneyland Hotel is perfect for kids of all ages. It has a host of recreational activities, fun facilities, and famous Disney characters to entertain your little ones.
Where to eat: Engine Co. No. 28 is located inside a restored firehouse, complete with a brass pole and red brick floor. In addition to adult-friendly fare, the restaurant features a “Junior Fighter’s Menu” created just for kids.
What to do: Pretend City Children’s Museum has interactive exhibits and activities that allow and encourage purposeful play, hands-on learning experiences, role playing, and educational programming.
Takino Suzuran Hillside National Government Park in Sapporo is a favourite of families with young children. It has an indoor playground with slides, beautiful gardens, picnic spots, and cafes. There is also Hakodate Park at the foot of Mount Hakodate, with numerous cherry trees, fountains, walking paths, a mini zoo and a children’s playground. Hokkaido is easy to move around with a stroller, as the city is relatively vast and open. There are also many places to change and feed Junior – Mitsui Outlet Park, one of Hokkaido’s largest outlet malls has nursing rooms as well as provides strollers if you need one; Otaru Aquarium has nursing and diaper-changing rooms; and Sapporo Tokyu Department Store and Sapporo Parco both offer nursing and baby-resting rooms, as well as diaper-change facilities.
Where to stay: If you’re visiting the mountains, check out Hilton Niseko Village. Kids under the age of six stay free when sharing a bed with their parents. High chairs, cribs, children’s activities, a kids’ menu and a playground are also available.
Where to eat: Niseko Pizza serves excellent fusion pizza. They have an extensive menu that’s kid-friendly.
What to do: Take your tots to Maruyama Zoo, located within Maruyama Park in Sapporo. The massive zoo is home to over 700 animals, many of which are native to Hokkaido. It is easily accessible by subway.
Treat your kids to an afternoon at Stanley Park, which boasts a splash park and a playground, or John Lawson Park in West Vancouver, which has plenty of wide, open spaces and a playground. The playground at Kitsilano Beach is right next to the beach and is a great place for tots to swim, climb and dig. The city also has many public nursing rooms and/or nappy-changing facilities – check out Pacific Centre Mall (H&M nursing room), the Vancouver Public Library (central branch; above), and any Vancouver Community Centre. Public breastfeeding is also widely accepted – just remember to be discreet. Vancouver is generally stroller-friendly. There are many venues and establishments that are more than willing to accommodate a stroller, and you won’t have a problem pushing Junior around when you are sightseeing.
Where to stay: The Delta Vancouver Suites, located downtown, offers free meals from the kids’ menu for children under six, a special Kids’ Essentials kit for infants and kids up till age seven, babysitting services, playpens, cribs, high chairs and safety kits containing socket protectors and night lights.
Where to eat: Milestones has several locations all over Vancouver. It has a child-friendly menu, big booths, and wide aisles for stroller parking. Word puzzles and riddles on the placemats are bound to keep your kids entertained during dinner.
What to do: Maplewood Farm is located 10 minutes from downtown Vancouver. As well as farm animals, it houses rabbits, birds and goats, and is a wonderful place for kids to learn about sheep shearing and even watch a milking demonstration.
– TEXT BY SASHA GONZALES
PHOTOS COURTESY THE LUSCIOUS FOOD STORE / LEE THOMAS, STEFANO AMANTINI, SERGEI BACHLAKOV (CORBIS)
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.