On this trip it would be very easy to choose the kid-pleasing activities and spend every day at a beach, playground or children’s museum, but there are so many other things Mr. Hotford and I really, really want to do, that we have taken our chances over the last few months, with variable outcomes.
Should you ever think the following seem like a good idea in your own travels with kids, let me tell you now, they are not:
Gambling. There is absolutely nothing in Las Vegas for kids. You feel like their innocence will be slowly eroded by the empty atmosphere of faux-fun and the many sex hotline calling cards lying around everywhere.
Prison tours. I did wonder on the boat over to Alcatraz in San Fransisco why there were no other kids, and as soon as we got inside I realised why – it’s very sad and quite scary inside an old prison (duh!). As soon as we saw A’s little face drop and felt the disapproving eyes of our fellow tour-goers (“Why would you bring a child here?” their eyes glared judgingly) we had to replace their audio tour with Mr. Hotford’s phone playing Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood on YouTube. It chewed up his data and made for a strange prison soundtrack, but the kids went through that whole place non-the-wiser as to what a prison is and I think that is a good thing.
Movies not aimed at little kids, in particular Steam Punk Anime. On a rainy day in northern Washington State, we had the bright idea of going to see a film at an art house cinema in a lovely small coastal town called Port Townsend. The film was a PG cartoon – April and the Extraordinary World. Sounds magical and harmless. Turns out it’s in French (the kids don’t speak French), with subtitles (one of them can’t read) and has some very dark themes. Even after realising these things, we persisted until (spoiler alert) April’s parents were electrocuted and then her cat died. We left with the girls in tears but the nice cashiers were kind enough to refund us, pitying our inability to exercise any Parental Guidance at all.
Walking tours. We are now in New Orleans, which literally rocks. It’s a bit like Vegas in that it is really a place for adults, mostly drunken adults swaying in the streets. Although unlike Vegas, New Orleans has a deep and vibrant soul and is utterly beautiful too. We were booked onto a ghost tour for a few minutes, but then came to our senses, remembering Alcatraz. “Every story starts with a murder!” boasted the pamphlet. So we swapped to a simple historical walking tour. What could be more enjoyable than a two-hour stroll looking at architecture and taking in the cemetery in 35 degree heat? Erm, the Children’s Museum? The playground? The beach? A ghost tour?
Here is M dying in the cemetery:
Often though, in fact probably more often than not, the risks we take pay off. Here are some that we doubted were going to work that were surprisingly successful:
Whale watching. Five hours on a rocky boat? Could be an expensive ticket to the wrong kind of wailing, or a sea-sickness vomit-fest without any escape. But we saw a humpback whale so close to the boat for about an hour that you could see the barnacles on its body and hear its tail slap the water. It was magical and the girls were not bored for one second. They were so focused on scanning the horizon for smoke stacks that they didn’t get sick either.
Visitor centres in National Parks. Lots of historical and geographical info could get boring, but importantly, they also have “movies”. After watching the one about Mt St Helens, a volcano that erupted in Washington State in 1980 killing 57 people, A. Hotford exclaimed: “That was a lovely movie wasn’t it?” So glad she enjoyed it, most adults were close to tears. We have spent hours in visitor centres, often they are more exciting than the park itself to kids, especially the gift shops.
Watching live music. Last night we went to Preservation Hall and watched a jazz band play. Apart from when A. Hotford briefly lost her cool when they went on stage (“But I was going to dance on the stage!” she cried), the girls were really into it and boogied on down, much to the delight of all the women of grandparent age in the audience.
We weren’t allowed to take photos at the jazz concert, so here are a few others of us eating and drinking (always crowd pleasing activities) in New Orleans:
Tomorrow we are leaving New Orleans and heading up in the general direction of Memphis then Nashville. Let’s hope their new found love of live music lingers on and gets us through to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis Tennessee, we’re going to Graceland… well at least there will definitely be a gift shop there!
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