Whether families are embarking on a trip to Israel to explore their own culture, visit relatives or just enjoy a great vacation, the destination offers a serious dose of fun for young travelers.
The city of Tel Aviv alone, for example, is an intriguing mix of beach resort and urban sophistication suited to visitors of all ages, including grandparents and children in a multigenerational family group.
The first stop for kids is the beach promenade, which runs north to south along the Mediterranean Sea and is flanked by a row of resort hotels. In addition to sunbathing and swimming, families can rent bicycles, strap on in-line skates or let loose at the playground along the three-mile boardwalk.
Families can also book a Segway tour
along Tel Aviv beach, either joining a group or arranging a private outing, as long as there are two or more people in the group.
In stark contrast to Tel Aviv's modern energy, the old port of Jaffa offers a glimpse into the region's ancient past with its warren of winding streets, colorful flea market and historical architecture, including St. Peter's Church and the imposing Clock Tower. The story goes that Jaffa is the port that Jonah embarked from before being swallowed by a whale, a biblical story with which many kids might be familiar.
For more contemporary fun, young visitors can explore the old train station in Jaffa, which has been transformed into an entertainment venue. Here kids can enjoy a 3-D journey back a century in time via holograms and videos of the site's history as well as peruse art galleries and watch street performers, including free circus acts in the center stage.
A chef statue greets diners at Abu Gosh restaurant on the square. With plenty of cultural and beach activities, Tel Aviv is ideal for multigenerational travel. Photo Credit: Felicity Long
Another top draw for families is the Dead Sea, so named because Earth's lowest point on land has such high salinity that it is inhospitable to aquatic life. The dense water is ideal for floating, although parents are cautioned to keep an eye on young swimmers. Just because they aren't likely to sink doesn't mean they can't get in trouble by tipping over in the water or even by swallowing the stingingly salty water. It's also a good idea to limit immersion times to avoid dehydration.
Older kids can test their mettle by rappelling off the Ramon Crater, a surreal 30-mile-long canyon with moonscape views in the Negev desert. The good news is that family members either too young or too old — or simply too risk averse to rappel off a cliff — can enjoy the views from the cliff-top visitors center. The rappelling experience itself includes a demonstration by an adventure guide, assistance donning gear and step-by-step instructions along the way.
At the same location, families can also meet multilingual local guide Arthur du Mosch from Art4Tour, who creates customized four-wheel-drive tours of the desert. Those with more time to spend in the area can also join Mosch for customized single- or multiday horseback riding and hiking excursions with overnight camping.
Children tall enough to ride a camel will get a kick out of a visit to the Ship of the Desert Khan Bedouin settlement in the Negev, where the hosts prepare an alfresco, tented meal of local specialties and share stories about their way of life.
In Jerusalem, the Israel Museum, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls, offers a selection of cutting-edge temporary and permanent exhibitions in its Archaeology, Fine Arts and Jewish Art and Life wings as well as the Ruth Youth Wing for Art Education with exhibits, activities and guided tours for children.
One of the most fascinating activities in Old Jerusalem for families is the Look Into the Past 360-degree, virtual-reality experience at the Western Wall. While possibly a little too intense for really young children, school-age kids will probably be wowed by the special effects that put participants in the middle of ancient temple life, from daily worship to its eventual fiery destruction.
The Israel Children’s Museum in Holon offers several age-appropriate experiences, ranging from a guided visit with the museum’s half-owl, half-cat mascot Yanshul (at left in photo) to an interactive Beatles retrospective featuring videos, costumes and a recording studio. Photo Credit: Felicity Long
Meanwhile, the Israel Children's Museum in Holon offers several age-appropriate experiences, ranging from a guided visit with Yanshul, a stuffed animal that seems to be half owl and half cat, to an interactive Beatles retrospective complete with videos, costumes to try on and a recording studio. Reserve ahead to make sure you have an English-speaking guide.
As to accommodations, Tel Aviv offers a range of family-friendly properties, including the 54-room Center Chic Hotel overlooking Dizengoff Square, which features a homey living room, a rooftop garden and a quirky statue of a girl on a guestroom terrace looking out over the city. By contrast, the 324-room, oceanfront Herods Hotel offers access to the beach and promenade, a seawater swimming pool, a spa and complimentary amenities for babies.