An Urban Parent’s Guide to Raising Cultured Children

There’s a lot to be said about making your house a home, and embracing both the neighborhood and city around you, but sometimes your thirst for adventure can’t be quenched by everyday surroundings and carries you beyond the borders of the familiar. Exploring new cultures and regions, experiencing foreign customs and cuisines and, quite frankly, just taking a break from regular routines to enjoy an adventure with family can be particularly fulfilling. Even the busiest working parents know the importance of booking a flight or jumping in the car to a new experience.

This week, with a helping hand from Milly Designer Michelle Smith, we have selected fantastic getaways that take the family out of the comfort zone, together.
“I love family adventures! I want my children to understand the world is a very large place, with cultures and languages different than our own,” confessed Ms. Smith.

The Smith family, attracted to the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea, visited Barcelona. There they explored the Gaudì architecture, ate wonderful Catalan food and experienced the dramatic sea views from Montjuïc. In addition to an aquarium, zoo, the beaches and great day-cruises, Barcelona treasures include the Picasso and Joan Mirò museums and other phenomenal must-sees that can teach your family about history and culture of Catalan.
“My husband and I have traveled the world with our kids—throughout Europe,” Ms. Smith explained, “lots of interesting places, for work and leisure.”

While some families might make the mistake of labeling Amsterdam as a city for partiers, it is an incredibly family-friendly place to travel to. Walks through Vondelpark, rides on the canals, and hours at phenomenal museums such as the Rijksmuseum, Tropenmuseum and Van Gogh are just a few options. NEMO is the city’s science and technology institutions dedicated to young people and is extremely hands-on. The best place in town to enjoy some locavore grub is in the beautiful Jordaan historic district, and shopping the De Negen Straatjes or “Nine Little Streets” is charming and engaging for kids and parents.
“We do as the locals do—the first stop is always a playground. Despite language barriers, children always figure out a way to laugh and play together,” Ms. Smith explained. “ We all eat the local specialty foods and shop the markets—food is a great way to discover local culture. No chicken fingers and fries for my kids!”

Some American families may shy away from treks to Asia, fearing language difficulties. But one country that many find easy to travel in with their families is Japan. Venture off the beaten path to Kyoto, the old imperial capital of Japan. The gardens, shrines and temples that decorate this stunning city are some of the most cherished. The Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama with its free-roaming primates is sure to be a hit. And koyo, or the changing of the leaves, is truly a sight to behold.
While not many people would turn down a day at the beach, the mountain presents a higher calling for adventurers and snow bunnies alike. As one of the most family-friendly, luxury ski resorts in the world, Beaver Creek is an excellent destination year-round. They arrange mountain tours, provide daycare, stage numerous theatrical and musical productions and of course there is the fantastic skiing, family private lessons, mountain biking, hiking, ice skating and other adventure sports. Towards the end of the day, Beaver Creek serves freshly-baked cookies for kids and there is often lodge entertainment for the whole family. There's just nothing like sitting by the fire after a long day in the snow.
While it has a well-earned reputation as a party town, families, too, can find their groove in NOLA. Jazz is for all in this Gulf Coast town, and Preservation Hall is a booze and smoke-free facility, perfect for families. New Orleans has a plethora of historic parks, house tours and nature walks, notably the Audubon Park, the Garden District and the Edgar Degas house. The Louisiana Children's Museum is a great break from the heat. History buffs should venture to the newly updated National World War II Museum. And what family can resist a ride on the Creole Queen?
“We most recently visited San Francisco. We had a wonderful time visiting the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Golden Gate Park, riding the cable cars and taking a boat ride around the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz,” Ms. Smith said. “The Farmers Market was also memorable for the delicious food.”

In addition, the Bay Area offers a bevy of things to do, including the Aquarium of the Bay and the California Academy of Sciences, which boasts one of the largest research collections in the US and is rated as the greenest museum in the world. Families who wish to be outside will fall in love with the gorgeous Yerba Buena Gardens, its playground and science facility, and the frequent presence of live music at this rustic, but urban, public park.
This autumn, Chicago is the place to be for families planning on traveling, but hoping to stay stateside. In addition to incredible food, jazz, public art and outdoor activities along Lake Michigan, there are a handful of awesome theatrical productions to see. Currently, the Emerald City Theatre at the Apollo Theater is running "Knuffle Bunny, A Cautionary Musical," which traces Trixie and her stuffed animal bunny on a dramatic adventure. Until January 6, the Kohl Children's Museum has an exhibition "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," which presents history and information about the movie and musical in a hands-on format, perfect for the whole family.

Photo Credit: Vincent Desjardins
Ms. Smith and her family have traveled the country extensively and one of their stops has been Houston, Texas. There you can sample classic Texas-Mexican Gulf cuisine at 59 Dinner, explore the Children's Museum of Houston and Downtown Aquarium or meander the Kemah Boardwalk, a 40-acre waterfront carnival park, which has a Ferris wheel with great views of the city.

Photo Credit: Katie Haugland
Aside from the gorgeous beaches and surf, Miami has art, fantastic pan-Latin American cuisine and the incredible Everglades nearby. The 1.5 million acre park features a fascinating array of wildlife and top-notch ecotourism opportunities to be had on land or by boat. The National Park Service arranges special young rangers tours for families looking to learn a little more about the bio-diversity and history of the nature park. For those seeking even more adventure, there is snorkeling, deep-sea angling, scuba diving and boating for all ages.

With all the distractions of the city, it seems there’s never really time for much of anything—particularly not for enjoying those very distractions. You and your kids have your hands in this and that, lending your limited and often sparse attention to a cultural event here, or a social gathering there, but when was the last time you forgot about the ticking hands on your watch face and took joy in the simple act of being together?


For the next seven weeks, we follow families that do.   


Each day, with every meal and chore, these New Yorkers take a step back from it all. From neighborhood outings to museum visits, we connect with parents and their kids about how they keep their busy schedules in check and make time for what matters at the end of the day, when soccer season is over and to-do lists are crossed off: each other.


We also look to Houston, Miami, San Francisco and Chicago to see what they have to offer families who are searching for ways to be a part of each others’ everyday lives.


When it comes to your family, who doesn’t have a moment to spare?


Week One: From the Comfort of Your Front Yard

Week Two: Fashion, and Family: A Lifestyle

Week Three: Art and the City: A Family Affair

Week Four: Walking the Walk: The Family that Plays Together …

Week Five: Around the World in So Many Ways

Week Five: Around the World in So Many Ways

Week Six: Put Down the Textbook, for a Lesson Learned

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