Affordable Family Vacations
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KIDS' MUSEUMS THAT AREN'T KIDS' MUSEUMS
You've wangled good deals on flights and accommodations, but you still need to keep the kids occupied. One week of coughing up for the latest/loudest/sparkliest attractions will drain your bank account and possibly rot your little darlin's brain. Consider a visit to a free museum—seriously, they've come a long way from moth-eaten taxidermy. Interactive exhibits are all the rage, and museums are also safe spaces where younger kids can toddle around (tired critters + early bedtime = large glass of wine for parents on hotel balcony).
London's Tate Modern entertains from the get-go: To reach the museum, you can cross the cool Y-shaped Millennium Footbridge over the Thames; inside, there's a family zone on the third floor, but the big draw is the enormous Turbine Hall, where you'll find parents slumped on the floor as their hyperactive kids glide around on their Heelys or participate in the huge installations; for example, Carsten Höller's 2006–07 Test Site was a tangled series of five-story-high slides that made kids of everyone who slid down them.
Closer to home, all 19 of Washington's Smithsonian museums are free. At the Air and Space Museum, youngsters enjoy climbing into the nose of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, or touching a piece of the moon—okay, it's a lunar rock, but you get the picture.
The five world-class museums known as Museums Island in Berlin are free on Thursdays. In the Pergamon Museum, highlights include reconstructions of the vibrant blue Ishtar Gate, which was the entrance to Babylon around 575 B.C., and the Great Altar of Pergamon; kids can climb the steps to eyeball a frieze of brawling gods and giants. And when little Johnny is making a six-figure salary doing something extremely smart thanks to all the stuff he learned on holiday, then he can cough up for your vacation.