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There are few cities that are as instantly recognizable as Venice, and even fewer that match and exceed expectations from the minute families arrive. The hype around a city that has no roads or cars is real, and visitors to this magical place feel like they’re wandering through a medieval time capsule. It’s no wonder, therefore, that the city of Venice is a great place to visit for travelers from all over the world, including those with young children. While the stereotypical vision of a trip to Venice feels like it should include a lot of cultural museums and galleries, there are other ways to enjoy the City of Bridges with little kids as well as older children.
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History Is Not For Everyone
While the first thing most adults are likely going to want to visit is the Doge’s Palace to understand the historical relevance of Venice, small children are likely to detract from the enjoyment of this hours-long guided tour (you can, however, visit the Natural History Museum for an international dinosaur hit if you’re looking for a great kid-friendly museum)
Instead, a visit to the Piazza San Marco is a good idea (and it’s right next to the Doge’s Palace). For a few euros, kids can buy some pigeon food and have birds land on their arms, and there’s the fascinating St Mark’s Clock which tells time in both hours and moon phases. The sound of the bells at the top of the hour is iconic. No trip to the Piazza San Marco is complete without climbing the Campanile de San Marco, the enormous bell tower which looms over the square and gives unparalleled views out over the city. It’s also a great way to get some young energy out with 323 steps up to the top! There is also a parade of souvenir shops near to St Mark’s Basilica which will sell carnival masks that will delight older kids and younger children alike.
Travel Like A Local
It may seem like one of the best things to do in Venice is to take a gondola ride to travel Venice’s canals, but unless there’s a great bargain available, most tourists will pay a large number of euros for a quick one-way trip across the Grand Canal so that they can get the Instagram picture.
Buy day pass tickets ahead of time that are digitally delivered (so there’s no worrying about tickets being used as paper boats like my son did on day 1 of our trip!) and hop on and off to your heart’s content. Kids will love sitting at the back of a Vaporetto, a public waterbus, with the breeze in their hair as they travel under the Rialto Bridge and out to the magical islands of Murano and Burano.
Explore The Venice Lagoon
What most first-time visitors to Venice don’t recognize is that the city is more than just the two main islands that are split by the Grand Canal. The lagoon is home to several small islands that are some of the best places for a quieter family trip. The island of Murano is a 20-minute Vaporetto ride from the Piazza San Marco and is home to some of the most amazing glass-blowing demonstrations kids will ever see. They’ll lose their minds over the process, and parents can get a variety of Venetian glass keepsakes.
For a quieter day trip that is no less magical, head to Burano, which is about an hour’s water taxi ride one way. For the grown-ups, this island has a long history of lace making, but for the kids, the big attraction is the brightly colored houses and multiple gelato shops on the main street. The island is small enough that families can explore the whole place in an afternoon, and get incredible views back to the main city from just about anywhere on Burano.
Finally, Lido is another good place to go if young children need a relaxing day at the beach. There’s a long public beach with warm water in which to swim, as well as the usual selection of quaint alleyways to explore and plenty of kid-friendly places to eat.
Venice is unlike anywhere else on Earth. Check out these tips to make the City of Bridges fun for all ages!
Get Lost – Literally!
The dream of any family vacation to Venice is to find experiences that the whole family can enjoy. Fortunately, you can find adventures for young children right outside the door of your hotel. The whole city is filled with small alleyways and hidden shortcuts to explore, and intrepid young kids will love leading the way around the cobblestone streets, deliberately getting the family lost in the process.
On our first trip, we put our older son in charge, and he created the “left, right” game, where we took turns turning left then right at each junction. We stumbled across multiple landmarks unexpectedly, including the Bridge of Sighs, as well as numerous beautiful squares, like the Campo Santa Margherita and the Campo Santa Maria Formosa to relax in. We also found the best gelato store in the city to which we’ve never been able to retrace our steps! Venice is small enough that if you keep walking you’ll find either the lagoon or the Grand Canal to orient yourself again, and the locals are friendly enough (and speak good enough English!) that you’ll be able to get directions back to familiar territories if you’re starting to get worried about time.
Additionally, if you are planning on staying in Italy for more than a few days, it is important that you check out a few different cities. This 2-week Italy itinerary will help you do just that.
DON’T MISS! 7 Essential Travel Hacks For Babies and Kids
When You Go
Best Time To Visit Venice
Venice is a great destination year round as it has a Mediterranean climate. It’s best to avoid August in the city as it’s heaving with other tourists, but even in June or July you’ll find your own special corner. For a uniquely Venetian experience, aim to visit in February for some Carnevale fun, but also be ready to pay high season prices as lots of other tourists will want to share in the revelry.
Getting To Venice From Los Angeles
Make no mistake, Venice is a long haul from Los Angeles no matter what route you take. There are no direct flights connecting the two cities, so you’ll need to decide if you want to make your connection on the East Coast or somewhere in Europe. Currently, United Airlines offers a one stop option via Newark which will take around 15 hours total (including layover time) each way. You can find cheaper flights, but you run into two stop layovers which increase your chances of delays and cranky kids.
An excellent discount site for flights (and cars, hotels) is Expedia! This is where we start our research for the best deals!
Where To Stay In Venice
There’s a whole host of places to stay in Venice to fit any budget. All of these options are on the main islands so families can explore at any time of day. The Carlton Capri Hotel is great for those looking to save a little money, while a little extra will give you a night’s rest at the Hotel Mercurio Venezia, just off St. Mark’s Square. For those looking for a canalside view and a true feel of Venetian luxury, consider a stay at the Sina Palazzo Sant’Angelo.