Venice has always made me feel like a child: exuberant, overly-excited with a youthful level of wonder and awe. So when I was invited to spend a weekend with my family at the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa, I couldn’t wait to see my own kids’ reactions to this magical city.
Magic is exactly the right word: from the speeding water taxis, singing goldolieri, hand-blown glass animals, dazzling palaces and dark dungeons, the city induces reverie in children and adults alike. Small children are easily overstimulated and can tire quickly of long walks and guided tours. Furthermore, the downside to Venice is, unfortunately, the unbridled tourism. Crowds can make the city hard to navigate, and even the most well-organized museums feel chaotic.
The key to a successful trip to Venice with children is good advance planning and lots of breaks. So, with no further ado, here are some tips for navigating the wonders of La Serenissima with tiny companions. Check out the gallery below for pictures of the highlights of our trip.
- Water taxi ride. Yes, Venetian taxis are famously expensive, and live up to that reputation, but it’s an experience worth having. When your kids step out of the train station and are still recovering from their first view of the bustling canal, there’s nothing like hopping on a private boat which whisks you straight into the middle of the action, and lands you safely at your first destination.
- Visit a mask maker. Handmade carnevale masks are an ancient Venetian tradition, and you can still find artisans in the city who practice this craft and even organize workshops for kids.
- Spotting winged lions. My kids LOVE a good scavenger hunt, so I try to invent them wherever we go. The Lion of St. Mark is the symbol of Venice and, once you start looking for them, you’ll spot them everywhere. It’s a fun and easy way to keep the little ones engaged with their surroundings.
- Take breaks. Scheduling in a 10 minute rest every hour will save your sanity in the long run. Whether it’s a quick stop at a canal-side café or a shady bench in a quiet park, kids need time to unwind and digest all the information the day has thrown at them.
- Skip the crowds. Visit smaller museums and palaces, off the beaten path. We enjoyed a lovely visit at Palazzo Grimani, a breathtaking 16th century palace of the aristocratic Grimani family. There were no lines, kids tickets were free, and we were practically alone to explore the intricate stucco-work and frescos and classical statues. A couple other palazzi worth visiting are Ca’ D’oro and Ca’ Rezzonico, which both feature original decor and furnishings.
- Murano. All the tourists do it, but the glass-blowing island is especially fascinating for kids. Plus, you’ll find a fun kids’ park where they can blow off some steam while parents rest on a quiet bench.
- Stay in a family-friendly hotel. At the end of a tiring day, you’re going to want a hotel that makes your life easier, and caters to small children’s needs as well. Look for a hotel that provides a play area (possibly a pool), children’s menus, and family rooms. We were lucky enough to stay at the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa, which is housed on a private island across the lagoon from Venice, and provided a peaceful oasis compared to the bustling city. A full service, family-friendly pool complete with a play fountain, a challenge-course playground, kids’ cooking classes and large, scenic lawns picnicking were only a few of the highlights of our stay. In fact, the kids had so much fun at the hotel it was actually hard to drag them into the city to get a glimpse of Venice! (Full disclosure: our stay here was a gift from the hotel because of an ongoing collaboration with Marriott group).