Can visiting a place really change your child’s life? Keith Bellows, a writer and editor for National Geographic Traveler magazine, argues “Yes” in his new book, “100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life, From Your Backyard to the Ends of the Earth” ($18.95).
“I am the person – and journalist – I am today because of what I experienced at a very young age,” he writes. “Seeing the world so young opened my eyes to the huge diversity of history, culture and language that makes our planet so fascinating.”
So where does Bellows recommend among his 100 places? Here are four venues that made his cut, including one that’s an easy trip from Long Island:
-Birmingham, Ala.: The Alabama Civil Rights Trail gives parents and kids the chance to walk in the footsteps of “extraordinary giants” Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers and more. Parents should first introduce their kids to the concepts of voting rights, racial equality and segregation, Bellows says.
-El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, Mexico: Each year in fall and winter, Monarch butterflies travel to central Mexico. Because the monarchs only live six to nine months each, their offspring finish the journey without having been there before. Some 150 million flock onto trees in the sanctuaries. Having been there myself, I can testify that seeing them is a wonder; when the sun hits the clumps of butterflies on the branches they awake and fly among visitors as if you’re standing in a snowglobe filled with fluttering orange wings.
-The Great Barrier Reef, Australia: The book points out that parents spend a lot of time telling their kids to look up – at the night sky, at majestic mountains. At the Great Barrier Reef, they’ll look down into a universe below water. Snorkel with the kids and have them count the different colors they see in the fish, the book recommends.
-The Adirondack Mountains, N.Y.: The six-million-acre Adirondack Park introduces kids to escaping into nature. For us, it’s just a car ride away. The book advises families to walk in the woods slowly, taking in flowers, trees, rocks and bugs, and leaving technology at home.