Growing up is hard. Bones get creaky and joints get stiff. Responsibilities seem to pile on like daily mini-avalanches, each task harder and more tedious than the previous. It’s hard growing up, but that doesn’t mean you always have to act like an adult. Around the world, there are a number of fun, whimsical places where grown-ups, parents, and grandparents can close their eyes and return to their childhood. Here’s our pick for the best ten places to relive your younger days and feel like a kid again.
Perched on top of the village of Hohenschwangau, the Neuschwanstein Castle is arguably one of the world’s most iconic castles. Officially located in Schwangau, Germany, the castle has served as the inspiration for several Disney princesses’ castles and has been featured in movies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It’s one of the world’s most iconic examples of Romanesque architecture. The castle is located about two hours outside of Munich, so once you’ve booked your flights to Germany, you’re only a train, bus, or car ride away from this magnificent site. If you spent your childhood fantasizing about dragons, knights, and princesses, a visit to the Neuschwanstein Castle will bring you back to all your earliest childhood times. The castle’s interior is charming, and guests are welcome to take tours of the interior which reflect the elusive and extravagant personality of the king and commissioner, Ludwig II. The castle served as the home to the wealthy king for only 172 days before his death in 1886. It was still unfinished. Because of Ludwig’s insistence on extravagant spending and large palaces, many believed the king to be mad. When you’re visiting, try closing your eyes and listening closely, you might be able to hear the king’s laughs echoing through the halls.
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The Grand Canyon
There’s nothing quite like the Grand Canyon that can make a person feel small. Its seas of red stone and sloping cliffs are intimidating and can bring anyone back to when they were just 4 feet tall. To really get under the skin of the park, it’s important to not just pick a gate and a view, but to descend into its rocky depths. When you decide to go under the rim and take some hikes, you should consider taking a ride on the back of a mule. If you decide to take a guided tour through the Canyon’s crevices, you’ll be introduced to a variety of geological and zoological wonders that are sure to leave you wide-eyed and filled with wonder. Sapphire blue waterfalls will explode around you and the vastness of the natural world is sure to make you feel like you’re reliving your bravest childhood adventure.
The Galápagos Islands
The tiny creatures that call the Galápagos home are sure to tickle any childhood fantasies about esoteric tortoises, giant manta rays, and lizards that look like small dragons. The Galápagos is also synonymous with early education. It’s here that Charles Darwin spent hundreds of hours unearthing the ins and outs of his precious finches. The islands are not only known for their biodiversity but its stark land that makes visitors feel like they’ve stepped out onto another planet. If you spent your childhood catching frogs in your backyard, watching robins through binoculars, and dreaming about riding horses through the desert, the Galápagos will re-emerge you in the wonders of the world’s most unusual wildlife.
Buckingham Palace is sure to transport you to a time where you didn’t have to worry about taxes, bills, or work. The palace is splendid, and watching the changing of the guards through the shining gates will make you feel like a little kid again. If you happen to visit the Palace during the Christmas holidays and catch the palace draped in a blanket of snow, it will make you feel like you’re stepping into the snow globe that you spent a good portion of your childhood shaking and wistfully staring into.
For those who spent hours pouring into Dr. Seuss’s books and building gingerbread houses, Park Güell, nestled in the heart of Barcelona, is filled with whimsical statues and buildings. The park was designed by one of Cataluña’s most famous architects, a man by the name of Antoni Gaudí. Currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park is filled with mythological references, historical nuances, and quirky symbolism. In the center of the park a brightly colored mosaic salamander, nicknamed ‘el drac’—the dragon—sits with its mouth open, as if it’s about to start singing. The mosaic benches and enormous bird nests make the park look like it’s awaiting some large mythical bird to arrive. Perhaps a griffin or a hippogriff? Gaudí was known for Catalan Modernism, and if Park Güell tickles your fancy for this esoteric and tipsy-topsy world, then be sure to head over to the Sagrada Familia, which is perhaps his best-known feat. Its large circular spires look like Dr. Seuss’s truffula trees or perhaps a lollipop, ready to be grabbed and licked away.
The Georgia Aquarium
As the inescapable tentacles of old age creep around joints and backs, being able to jump into the ocean and look around the salty depths for turtles and fish becomes harder and harder. For those who want to be able to experience the magic of the unseen underwater world, Georgia’s Aquarium is a way to dip into the water without even having to put on a swimsuit. The aquarium is the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere and is home to tens of thousands of animals. The aquarium has shows featuring barking sea lions that will bring you back to the first time you went to the marina and is one of the only places where you can see whale sharks in captivity. There are dolphins, beluga whales, and tons of interactive tanks with sturdy animals that guests can gently touch to truly interact with marine life. Its bubbles and waves are fun for guests of all ages and visitors can lose themselves in the halls for hours at a time.
There’s a charming small park known as Lilleputthammer located in Øyer, Norway that is sure to make any grown-up feel small. This is because everything in Lilleputthammer is shrunk down to miniature sizes. For all the adults who remember playing with dolls and toy houses, the adventure park is a way to reconnect to these playful moments and while it might make you feel like you’re sizing up, the park’s tiny houses and roads actually make you feel like you’ve entered a life-sized doll town. Except here, you’ve become the action figures. While there are rides, most of the available activities are for children under the age of 10. So for the adults that are bent on reliving their youth, a few laps around the town might be the most that you’re able to do while visiting here.
Moulin Rouge oozes typical France. The architecture, the dancers, the food and the music. For those who grew up watching the Aristocats or Amélie, Moulin Rouge will bring the smells and curls of those youthful times back to the front. Moulin Rouge is feathers and sequins, but the rest of Montmartre—where the Moulin Rouge is located, in Paris—is filled with other quaint and whimsical places to visit. The Café des Deux Moulins is where Amélie spent her afternoons skipping about serving cafés to grumpy Frenchmen and here you’ll be able to reconnect with your youthful past. It’s here, under fairy lights with French music swimming around you, that you’ll bring stars back into your eyes and feel like you’re 13 again and all the romantic possibilities still exist in the world.
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory
If ice cream was the only thing you dreamed of and wanted when you were a kid, then Waterbury, Vermont is where you need to go. I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! This is the place where people of all ages and sizes can squeal in glee as they watch the production of everyone’s favorite creamiest treat. The factory is the original Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory and offers unique flavors that are not available anywhere else in the world. It offers visitors a delicious treat at the end where visitors are encouraged to sample flavors to their heart’s desire. For those with a sweet tooth that doesn’t seem to want to retire, the Ben & Jerry’s factory is the place to go.
Hong Kong’s Pink Dolphins
The only thing better in this world than watching happy dolphins dip and jump through crystal clear waters is watching BUBBLE GUM PINK dolphins skip and dive through crystal clear waters. Hong Kong’s pink dolphins are animals that seem to have jumped directly out of the pages of an 8-year-old girl’s diary. These dolphins, known as Chinese white dolphins are a variety of endangered Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin. They’re found around Southeast Asia and Australia, but the ones with pink skin are found exclusively along the Chinese coast. These fascinating creatures begin their lives black, and slowly change to grey as they mature, until finally, when they become mature adults, they turn white. The famous pinkish hues appear because of blood vessels, rather than diet—like flamingos—or pigment—like pigs. Hong Kong is famous for these pink dolphins, and visitors can find several tours available to get close to them and enjoy these natural wonders.
Did we miss your favorite place? Is there a special place where you like to go and play pretend? Let us know what it is in the comments below!