India with Kids
India might not be the typical family destination—there's no getting around the fact that it's dirty, and the unfamiliar can be a bit scary at times—but it's the kind of trip no child (or adult) will ever forget. Here are some ideas to help you plan.
Wildlife Safaris and Animal Rides
India abounds with national parks and reserves: the real-life setting and inspiration for Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. An excursion to one of these parks, like Ranthambhore or Keoladeo, both in Rajasthan, can be a wonderful way for kids to learn about local flora and fauna. Also in Rajasthan, kids and grown-ups will almost undoubtedly get a thrill out of a camel safari in the desert. The Chokhi Dhani resort outside Jaipur has a nightly, carnival-like village fair on the resort grounds, complete with magic stalls and elephant rides that will captivate most kids—you can stay at the resort or just visit the village for an afternoon or evening (nighttime is livelier).
Kid-Friendly Museums and Sites
You could argue that all of India is a cultural museum for kids used to life in North America, but there are also specific sites and museums that appeal to the younger generation. The National Rail Museum in Delhi, for example, has old steam engines parked outside, and a toy train that kids can ride. For those interested in astronomy and observatories, the Jantar Mantar collections of outdoor solar instruments, including things like 90-foot-long sun dials, in Jaipur and Delhi can be fascinating (the one in Jaipur is the best preserved). A good guide is crucial if you want to understand how these huge stone-and-marble instruments can tell time, track the position of stars, and predict eclipses, all without a single computer—but even the small children will have fun climbing around these outdoor "sculptures." Parks and beaches are almost always good places to take children, and Kerala's beaches are legendary. In Mumbai you can escape the city congestion at the Hanging Gardens, a park in Malabar Hill overlooking the South Mumbai skyline and Arabian Sea, or head to Chowpatty or Juhu Beach—but don't go in the water.
India's festivals are especially fun for younger audiences. From the kite-flying festival of Makar Sankranti to the throwing of colors and water balloons during Holi to the elaborate parade-and-float-driven Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai, participating in and viewing these festivals can be cultural immersion for kids without their even knowing it. They'll almost certainly come home with amazing stories to tell their friends.
Kids and Indian Food
Indian food might be different, but it doesn't have to be scary. If your kids are giving it a try for the first time, order less spicy versions and ask your waiter for suggestions that might appeal to picky eaters. In Mumbai, Cream Centre along Marine Drive is a classic crowd pleaser that caters to little clients, too. Dishes served here include the famed chole bathure, curried chickpeas (ask for the mild version) with a giant puffed bread—what child can resist a piece of bread larger than his or her own head? And for those times when you or your kids want some good old American comfort food, there are usually decent places to find the familiar: Italian restaurants serving pasta and pizza, for instance, are plentiful in tourist destinations.
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