City Travel for Families
I remember watching the wind blow old newspapers down the abandoned streets of the Mission in San Francisco, and the echoing emptiness of the normally teeming plazas in Lisbon’s Chiado. The pandemic was hard on big cities. Millions checked out, trading cramped apartments for life in the small towns. Tourism ground to a halt, then diverted to the “safety” of quieter, outdoor destinations.
But city travel is back, and for good reason. Cities are a concentration of energy and culture. They can be vibrant and delicious, enchanting and mysterious, diverse and accessible. We love traveling to cities, including the big ones. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your city visit.
STAY NEAR A GREAT COFFEE SHOP
Great coffee shops are more than just a place to get your daily cup. They’re a community centre, a gathering place for the likeminded, a place to catch local gossip, to get the best dinner recommendations and perhaps to find a friend. Great shops are often in interesting, up and coming neighborhoods, the kind you’d want to live in, and where people “like you” live. The key to any city’s is its people, and a good coffee shop is where you’ll find them.
We travel with skateboards and a scooter, and before that a stroller (Viggo’s mobile nap-mobile). Wheels help us cover at least twice the daily distance in a big city. They’re fun, they reduce whingeing and they’re super convenient when you need to run back to the grocery store.
DON’T GET GREEDY
We always prefer to really understand the vibe of a place, as opposed to rushing to catch all the things you’re “supposed” to see. We lived in Paris and I still haven’t been up the Eiffel Tower. But we can tell you where to get the best baguette on the Mouffetard, and that’s what we’d prefer.
TREASURE HUNTS FOR ALL
We travel to find treasure. For us it’s a great conversation or a perfect espresso. But the kids need their treasure too. Last month in Japan we were hunting for a clothing shop we really love near Kyoto’s Nishiki market. We stopped in a tiny bar for a whisky and some takoyaki, like savory ebhelskiver with piping hot squid inside, and got into a hilarious conversation with the other two at the bar. Squidless, the kids waited patiently; they knew their treasure was coming. The next stop was boba and one of those insane Japanese vending machine shops, filled floor to ceiling with little vending cubes that pop out plastic balls filled with tiny toys, figurines, stickers, bouncy balls… true treasure at 100 yen a pop. Balance makes everyone happy.
PICNIC IN A PARK
On a Sunday afternoon take a picnic and head to the park, or wherever people are picnicking. You’ll see a window into the relaxed side of family life in the city, the kids will get a run and you might make some friends.
DON’T OVERDO IT
Even the most amazing city gets hectic after a while. Apartments are often small, and unless each day has a program and a mission it’s not long before we all start climbing the walls. We love landing in Lisbon, and enjoy every day we spend there. But there’s something special when we pile out of the car down on the Costa Vicentina, and the kids just run and run. The city will be there when you’re ready to return to it.