10 places every kid should see
The Field Museum (Photo: Courtesy The Field Museum)
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What made a monument worthy of inclusion? It needed to be fun, educational, and especially magical through the eyes of a child. It needed to inspire adults to tap back into that childlike sense of wonder. And it needed to have universal appeal.
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.
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.
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.
See more photos of the places.
SeaWorld San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas
SeaWorld's Texas outpost garnered the most votes of all the theme parks in our poll. We assume that the combination of roller coasters and flume rides with beluga whales, sharks, stingrays, sea lions, and a host of other aquatic animals gave it an edge. There are many hands-on programs, putting visitors up close and personal with some of the park's inhabitants (including a behind-the-scenes tour with the penguins). In May 2012, the new water park Aquatica will open with a set of educational thrill rides; expect rafts sailing through grottos with stingrays and a "zero gravity" area that simulates weightlessness. Other new attractions include Sesame Street Bay of Play (opened in 2011), a three-acre space with educational activities for young children, and the animal encounter show "One Ocean" in which orcas and trainers illustrate educational lessons about the fragility of the environment.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Watching an actual volcano in action is a far cry from the baking soda science experiments kids do at school. At this Hawaiian park, visitors watch—at a safe distance—as hot lava spills into the Pacific, where it bursts into particles later pulverized by the waves into black sand. The park is home to two of the world's most active volcanoes, and rangers will bring you down into the lava tubes (subterranean caverns formed by hardened molten rock) and maybe even play you a tune on a ohe hano ihu, aka the Hawaiian nose flute. Says reader Angela: The surreal black landscape is "one of the few places in the world where your kids can stand on earth that is younger than they are."