Context Travel and its stable of fun, interesting scholars, lead fantastic tours for families (and also just adults) in major foreign cities. We just came back from a trip to Italy with our two boys, 9 and 6, and, after having had a great experience with Context in London (The British Museum for Families tour), did three great private tours that I can’t recommend highly enough. The first, Ancient Roman Discovery, kept our two boys rapt for almost three hours. As much as you might think talk of gladiators would hold little boys’ attention, you have to remember what an abstraction the ruins really are. Our fantastic tour guide, who is a working archaeologist and mother as well, was able to intuit their interests as well as change gears when attention spans were on the wane. She came armed with pictures to help round out what they were seeing, as well as activity games and workbooks to keep them piqued.
And you realize how much your kids have absorbed after a trip with a good guide to, say, the Uffizi in Florence (the Arte Firenze for Families tour) when you start seeing Roman mythological works show up in their drawings (my six-year-old drew this from memory at lunch right after our tour).
While one of the great joys of Venice for adults is getting lost in labyrinthine alleys, when you have kids in tow, there are times when you need to narrow the universe. The best money we spent in Venice (at 290 euros it wasn’t cheap and meant a cheaper hotel room in the end), was on the Lion Hunt tour. The excellent guide used a search for the Venetian lion (the city’s symbol) throughout the city as a teaching device for kids. Just the right balance of history, whimsy, and passion to get the kids (and adults) excited.