Guest Author - Kimberly Misra
I have to admit that the title of this book made me want to buy it right away, if only to see which 500 places were included. There are several guidebooks written for travelers with children, but this book sets itself apart by showcasing the sheer variety of places you can take your kids to. For those who love to plan vacations (or just dream about them), this book is an excellent catalyst. It will not tell you in great detail what to see in any given area, but it will definitely give you some new destination ideas. The author of 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up is Holly Hughes, an editor and writer who travels with her three children and husband. The author has been to many of the places described and personal anecdotes are interspersed throughout the book.
The overall structure of the book seemed strange at first since it is not divided by geographic region. Instead, there are fifteen categories such as Cities Great and Small, Walk with the Animals, Windows on History, and Holy Places. In the chapter entitled “Out & About”, you’ll find a page on rock-climbing in Yosemite, dune-walking in the Sahara, and walking through the English Cotswolds. There is a geographic cross-reference at the back, so if you’re heading to Africa you can look up the pages that might interest you.
While I found the layout confusing at first, I can see the point of it. If you wanted to take a trip to a historic site, you’d have a whole chapter full of ideas. Some sections reference nearby sites included in the book. The section on the Arizona-Sonora Desert refers you to the section on Saguaro National Park, for example. Each section also has an age rating, which is dubitable at times. Just keep in mind that the recommendation does not involve the traveling part of getting there, just the being there. While floating in the Dead Sea may be good for all ages, I don’t think my toddler is ready for the flight to Israel quite yet.
The greatest thing about this book is that it opens up new possibilities. While everyone will certainly have quibbles over what’s included and not included (Disney World is suspiciously absent), it makes an interesting read. Did you ever consider taking the kids to the Cahokia Mound in Illinois? (I hadn’t even heard of it before reading this book). I’d also never heard of Vestmannaeyjar’s great puffin rescue in Iceland, where every August local children rescue puffin chicks confused by the city lights. How about taking your kids to Vieques, Puerto Rico to swim with pyrodiniums (bioluminsecnt organisms)? While few families could make it to all (or even most!) of the places listed, this book is a great resource for ideas and inspiration, and I highly recommend it.