10 places every kid should see
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Of course, the surest way to rile folks up is to publish a list and this case was no different. Our nominations process was fierce and brought out the full range of emotions in our audience—passion, joy, sadness, anger. You spoke up to nominate 562 attractions and voted over 138,000 times.
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So how did we arrive at the final list? As we explained in the rules, we used your votes—combined with factors such as geographic and thematic diversity—to guide our selection-making process. And we automatically eliminated places that had made our story last year. The final list for 2012 represents the best that our nation has to offer our children.
Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco, California
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of those quintessential American icons, equal parts eye candy and engineering lesson (it's also one of our record-breaking bridges). The suspension bridge connects San Francisco and Marin County in a mechanical feat that was unprecedented in the 1930s; at its opening ceremony, the bridge's chief engineer, Joseph Strauss, said "What Nature rent asunder long ago man has joined today." Take a walk along the pedestrian path for astonishing views of Angel Island, Alcatraz, Treasure Island, and San Francisco. If the 220-foot height of the bridge is unsettling for the little ones, opt instead to view the landmark from a distance (there are relatively tourist-free viewpoints at Lincoln Park). It might be hard to find an empty spot, though. The famed bridge is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2012-there will be fireworks and a festival on Memorial Day weekend-and is expected to draw more than ten million visitors throughout the year. 415/921-5858, goldengatebridge.org. Free.
Arches National Park
This national park is especially convenient for families whose kids may be too young for a strenuous hike. It only takes a couple hours to drive past many of the park's 2,000 brawny, pink sandstone arches. And you'll still have time to reach Moab, less than 20 miles away, for lunch. The park's real time to shine, literally, is at sunset, when Delicate Arch reflects the sunlight in blazing reds that contrast sharply with the snow-topped La Sal Mountains in the backdrop. Expect to see tons of photographers there, as if Beyoncé were about to appear. 435/719-2299, nps.gov/arch. Park entrance fee is $10 per vehicle; bike or foot entrance is $5.
The Field Museum (Photo: The Field Museum)
The Field Museum
Across its nine acres of floor space, the Field showcases giant robot wolf spiders, 23 Egyptian mummies, and the biggest Tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever dug up, in one of the broadest arrays of natural wonders under one roof. The collection of dioramas hold a dizzying array of species, from African lions and giraffes to Arctic penguins and polar bears, and it's a favorite childhood fantasy to slip inside one of the magical timeless worlds. Kids 12 and under can dress up like animals, dig up dinosaur bones, and explore a pueblo home at the Crown Family PlayLab. Friday nights from mid-January to mid-June, the museum hosts sleepovers, where children 6 to 12 and their parents can sleep right next to the dinosaurs (the 2012 nights are sold out, so book early for 2013). Talk about a dream vacation. 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., 312/922-9410, fieldmuseum.org. Adults from $15; kids 3-11, from $10.