Family-friendly adventures

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These adventures will keep kids and grown-ups smiling while exploring the world. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures.

Step into a fairy tale in Prague, Czech Republic

Prague Castle. Image by Fandrade / Flickr / Getty Images.

Once upon a time there was a magnificent castle on a hill where the kings of Bohemia lived, travelling through the cobbled streets and over a bridge where a wild river ran underneath. Eight centuries later and Prague Castle still stands as the largest castle in the world, looking like something from a bedtime story. Its awe-inspiring cathedral will have even the most world-weary kids standing with their mouths open. Ride the funicular up Petrin Hill to a miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower. From there, your panoramic view over Prague captures glimpses of Cinderella-like horse-drawn carriages below that your family can ride back down in the city.

Related article: Exploring Luxor, Egypt's open-air museum, just got easier

Visit in April and May for colourful spring blooms, or December and January for a snowy winter wonderland and Christmas markets.

Have your beach and tempeh too in Bali, Indonesia

Families on a budget, you can still have a tropical adventure! Bali is affordable and has sunshine, white-sand beaches, palm trees and clean waters where kids can snorkel and dive to see colourful fish and coral. Locals are friendly and can help keep the little tackers well fuelled on gado gado veggies for sunrise surfing. If you’re a land lover, bicycle to the pinecone-like temples at festival times and discover that they aren’t solemn and serious, but places of music filled with Balinese dancers waving shimmering finger jewellery. Kick back, eat your fragrant coconut curries topped with crunchy fried onion and enjoy!

Bali is best in the dry season between April and October, but the rainy season still offers warm weather and turns everything a lush green.

Keep body and soul active at a ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

City-slicker kids may go a little wild with all the play space they’ll find on this ranch, but let them loose – that’s the beauty of being in the mountains of New Mexico with acres of wild pasture to explore. Horse ride or bike ride together through fields of sagebrush and rocky creeks, or let the children learn how to make their own wooden racing carts while you sneak off to a yoga session. There are also more spiritual adventures, such as the ‘drum and journey circle’ to promote healing and self-expression. After all, Santa Fe is a haven for artists and explorers alike.

Santa Fe is sunny most of the year, but winters can also see the city transform under a blanket of snow. Check with the Bishop’s Lodge for accommodation prices and availability.

Come face to face with wildlife on an African safari, South Africa

Boy stroking an elephant in South Africa. Image by Will Gray / AWL Images / Getty Images.

Children’s storybooks of lions, hippos, zebras and giraffes come to life on the open plains of a wildlife park in South Africa. You can really feel part of the action in an open-top safari vehicle, gaping in awe at the mighty elephant just metres away from you. Waking up in a lodge to see the sunrise over the arid grassy savannah, seeing huge flocks of ibis swirling overhead, gaining a true sense of untamed nature... these are experiences your family will remember long after you’ve returned home.

This adventure is best for children over 12. To avoid annoying pill-taking, seek out one of South Africa’s malaria-free wildlife parks.

Feel the living jungle in Costa Rica

That steam rising from the volcano in the distance isn’t dangerous, but its breath does make it seem like everything is alive in Costa Rica, where parrots call, monkeys howl and the Sarapiquí River speaks in whooshes as you raft down its white-water back. Your kids can meet the locals in their village and make ceramics or get more active with a zip-line through the forest canopy, hyped up on raw chocolate from the local cacao plantation. You can even get up close to the volcano crater’s rim but this ain’t no school science project – it’s real.

Visiting in the dry season (December to April) makes it easier to avoid rain; May to November brings fewer tourists but soaking afternoon showers.

Make a splash at Marmore Falls, Umbria, Italy

When Ancient Romans decided to divert the river Velino to the cliffs at Marmore, sending it crashing into the world, pouring over treetops, it’s unlikely they knew they were creating the world’s tallest human-made waterfall. Today you can take the kids up close and feel the clean spray on your face as you make your way along the paths to the gardens above. Alternatively, take a raft to the waterfall’s base on the Nera River. Once you’re ready to dry off, take a donkey ride around the town, exploring archaeological sites that date back to the Bronze Age.

Check the official Marmore Falls website (www.marmorefalls.it/indexen_GB.php) for opening times.

Cruise down the Nile, Egypt

Sunset on the Nile by S J Pinkney. CC BY 2.0.

Egypt is a bustling world of bazaars filled with exotic bargains and iconic pyramids but it offers a gentler side too. That side is best experienced on a relaxing ride down the Nile on the cushions of a felucca, a motorless sailboat that has caught the breeze since ancient times. The ruins of Karnak and Luxor present an incredible open-air educational adventure for children and adults alike. If you take a horse-drawn carriage, you can avoid tiring out the little ones and spend more time looking into the faces of centuries-old statues towering above you.

If you want to avoid the one-hour flight between Cairo (home of the pyramids) and Luxor, take a sleeper train, or spend a day and night travelling down the Nile via felucca.

Sleigh ride in a winter wonderland, Wyoming, USA

Kids (and grown-up kids) love playing in Wyoming’s snow. Here, elk roam among the snow-heavy trees, mountains turn into ski slopes and alpine lakes become the dark ice of ‘wild’ ice-skating rinks. For extra Christmas-style magic, take your children on a horse-drawn sleigh ride around Teton Village, a fairy-tale setting with rugged mountains and twinkling stars looking over you at night. The sleighs resemble massive apple crates on skis pulled by powerful horses; get your family aboard, sit back and enjoy the vast spaces of Wyoming.

Visit Wyoming in the coldest months (December to February) for a snow-filled adventure; see www.elkadventures.com.

Bike through history in Andalucia, Spain

So your family likes things sporty and spiced? Steer clear of tourist crowds by biking the ancient route of Los Pueblos Blancos. Stop off in the whitewashed villages set in the hills to taste Andalusian tapas, rich in local olive oil and sunshine. The cathedrals and Moorish buildings make a living history lesson for the children – no laptops necessary – as you follow your guide along the river to Granada. Passing glowing groves of sun-drenched citrus trees will whet your thirst for some fresh orange juice en route.

Setting aside a week allows for an easy ride from Sevilla to Granada – people don’t rush here. See www.andaluciancyclingexperience.com.

Ancient and modern meet in Tokyo, Japan

The Tokyo Rockabilly Club in Yoyogi Park by fakelvis. CC BY-SA 2.0.

It’s the details that make a family holiday stress free. Japan has excellent transport and a safe, child-friendly culture where climate-controlled bullet trains and ubiquitous vending machines keep kids excited and adults at ease. The adventure may be nature focused – a whispering forest of towering bamboo. Or a step into a fascinating culture that dazzles children with samurai, sumo and video games, where spiky-haired teenagers on the street dress like manga characters. Keep everyone active with a bike ride around peaceful Yoyogi Park, where Elvis impersonators and other interesting characters abound.

Despite the radiation scare of 2011, Tokyo is very safe for travel.