Your kids call it an interest; you call it an obsession: that all-encompassing thing that’s engulfed them so intensely that they’ll barely pull themselves out of their weird little world to say hello.
What might pull them out, at least for a little while? A vacation focused around their latest fascination that the whole family can enjoy. We’ve matched five famous kid-obsessions with 10 cities that will help feed their hunger—and maybe turn it into a lifelong passion.
THE OBSESSION: SAVING THE WORLD
THE TELL-TALE SIGNS: A kid who harasses you for not recycling that one piece of junk mail, begs to “adopt” another endangered animal, and would rather walk, bike, hop … anything to avoid riding in a car.
THE DESTINATION: Tampa Bay, Fla. Saving the world is just part of life in Tampa Bay. Instead of riding in pollution-churning cars, kids can take a free streetcar between downtown and historic Ybor City, or stroll along the Tampa Riverwalk that connects museums and parks. Throughout the year, young planet protectors can participate in beach cleanups and tree plantings. Tampa Bay’s TECO Manatee Viewing Center is a great place to observe the once-endangered West Indian manatee; the more adventurous can paddle a canoe to see alligators in the Hillsborough River.
YOU COULD ALSO TRY … Seattle. Your child might already be sipping through a reusable straw, but it’s the law in Seattle! In addition to outdoor spots where kids might glimpse animals like orcas and grizzly bears, Seattle is home to Pike Place Market, a 1907 farmer’s market where kids can see the eco-importance of locally sourced food.
THE OBSESSION: OUTDOOR ADVENTURES
THE TELL-TALE SIGNS: A child who’d rather sleep in a tent than a bed, prefers riding a zip line over a roller coaster, and thinks that being lost in a forest would be the best thing ever.
THE DESTINATION: Salt Lake City. The perfect home base for national parks such as Zion and Arches, Salt Lake City is cradled by two different mountain ranges and has plenty of nearby activities for the outdoor-obsessed. The Living Room Trail is a short hike with fantastic city views and bizarre Flintstone-chair-like rocks. Rent kayaks to explore the briny waters of the Great Salt Lake, or challenge children with a steep 3.1-mile hike to explore Timpanogos Cave National Monument.
YOU COULD ALSO TRY … Chattanooga, Tenn. With more than 50 trailheads within 30 miles, Chattanooga is known as the Scenic City. Families can hike or bike the city’s riverside trails or head to craggy Lookout Mountain for zip-lining, hiking, and city vistas. For a bigger payoff, climb to the Cumberland Plateau for views of the “Grand Canyon of Tennessee.”
THE OBSESSION: ALL THINGS FOODIE
THE TELL-TALE SIGNS: A kid who streams cooking shows 24/7, thinks the perfect gift is a set of pots and pans, and turns up his nose at any kind of frozen food.
THE DESTINATION: Montreal. Montrealers pride themselves on their farmers’ markets, neighborhood chocolatiers, and local pasticeries. Get your junior gourmet started at the bustling 1933-era Atwater Market. Pick up smoked meats and made-that-day cheese for a picnic in one of the city’s many outdoor spaces, like the Lachine Canal. In the Old Port neighborhood, cooking classes at the Academie Culinaire get the whole family baking and basting. Even a picky younger sibling will explore weird yet familiar-ish foods such as poutine: gravy-and-cheese-topped french fries.
YOU COULD ALSO TRY … San Antonio. Thanks to its Spanish, Mexican, and German heritage, this city’s food scene is overflowing with flavor. Shop for Southwestern spices and tortilla presses at the historic Market Square, or watch a Saturday cooking demo in the San Antonio Botanical Garden’s outdoor kitchen with its jumbo veggie patch.
THE OBSESSION: ALL THINGS ART
THE TELL-TALE SIGNS: A child who spends hours on Insta editing and filters, refuses to wear any clothing or jewelry she hasn’t “improved,” and is more likely to be covered in paint or chalk dust than the latest fashion.
THE DESTINATION: Santa Fe, N.M. Sure, children can explore more traditional museums like the Center for Contemporary Arts or the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. But Santa Fe also offers junior Jackson Pollocks a little more “out there” ideas. The Museum of International Folk Art boasts everything from African metalwork to European “tramp art,” while visitors to the innovative Meow Wolf House of Eternal Return wander through a surreal installation with neon-decked caves and wild soundscapes. Window shop at the glitzy galleries on Canyon Road, or head over to Santa Fe’s historic plaza, where young artists can interact with Native American potters and jewelers.
YOU COULD ALSO TRY … Chicago. Kids can design their own tours through the Art Institute of Chicago’s JourneyMaker. Or exit the museums and check out Millennium Park’s outdoor artworks or Art on theMART, a public video projection on the side of the historic Merchandise Mart.
THE OBSESSION: TECHNOLOGY
THE TELL-TALE SIGNS: A kid who creates video games instead of playing them, is probably building a robot in her room, and thinks self-driving cars are so 2018.
THE DESTINATION: Tokyo. This technologically advanced city is sure to wow even the STEM-iest of kids. Take a computer-driven monorail to the futuristic Odaiba district for the 65-foot-tall Unicorn Gundam automated robot statue, or check out soccer-playing robots at the nearby National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. The new MORI Building Digital Art Museum: teamLab Borderless offers interactive installations like a virtual wall you tap to create music. Even eating in Tokyo is futuristic: Kids can chow down on sushi that’s delivered via miniature bullet trains.
YOU COULD ALSO TRY … Silicon Valley. Computer-driven attractions dot this region, such as the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose and the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Don’t forget photo ops outside Facebook and Apple headquarters.