Venice is lauded as a romantic city, but that doesn’t mean it’s reserved for couples. A gondola ride through its labyrinthine canals can wow a ten-year-old just as much as honeymooning adults. It’s easy to take the city’s signature ingredients—bridges, water, history, opera, and the drama of festivals like Carnivale—and experience them with a childlike sense of fun.
A Grand Entrance
Kids love pomp and circumstance, and the best introduction to Venice is to arrive in grand style—by boat. There are cheaper ways to connect from Marco Polo Airport to the city, but the wow-inducing ride provided by a water taxi is the one your family will remember. Drink in panoramic views of the Venetian islands before you cross the lagoon and make waves down the glorious Grand Canal. With a flat fee for up to five passengers, it’s perfect for families.
Not only are under-10s admitted free at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Dorsoduro, but they’ll love to explore the lovely garden or sip an aranciata (orangeade) at the pavilion cafe. The museum’s intimate size means that you’ll have plenty of opportunity to do it justice.
Spirit of Carnevale
Even if you can’t make it to Carnevale di Venezia (Venice Carnival), running for two weeks until the beginning of Lent, you can still embrace its spirit. Music-loving kids will enjoy an audio tour of the grand opera house La Fenice, where Carnevale’s masked ball is traditionally held. Since the festival is all about decadent costumes, explore the fascinating collections at the Museum of Palazzo Mocenigo (best for school-aged kids) before heading to a mask-making workshop at one of the city’s mask shops, such as Peter Pan Masks in Santa Croce, run by three friendly sisters.
For a full-tilt water park experience, head to Aqualandia in Jesolo, a coastal resort town near Venice that’s famous for its 15 km beach. Aqualandia is popular among families for its palm-tree laden grounds packed with a lazy river, wave pool, bungee jumping and waterslides for every taste.
Gondolas are so synonymous with Venice that many travellers can’t fathom the idea of missing the experience. If your kids are in this camp, it’s absolutely worth the splurge for the photo ops alone. Here’s a tip: take the gondola to dinner, before the prices rise post-sunset.
Theme parks in Italy, you ask? Gardaland, a two-hour train ride from Venice, is the country’s most popular for good reason: plenty for the little tots, a King Tut-themed restaurant, and adrenaline-pumping thrills for the older kids. Gardaland has seven roller coasters, among them daredevil rides with the ominous-sounding names of Raptor and Oblivion: The Black Hole, that might impress even young rollercoaster veterans.