Yipee Holiday

This year as always, April 23rd is being enthusiastically celebrated in Turkey as National Sovereignty and Children’s Day. This special day, commemorating the opening of parliament and honoring children, offers an opportunity for a three-day outing. Here are close to a hundred suggestions on for a holiday sure to steal children’s hearts away.

Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture offers countless walking tours to please the tiny traveler. To spend your holiday in the heart of nature, you can start your tour on the city’s Anatolian side. The Kanlıca coast is ideal for photographing the Judas trees that transform the Bosporus slopes into a cloud of purple. And the quarter’s famous groves, including its inimitable yoghurt dusted with powdered sugar, are perfect picnic and recreational areas. Or, make the little ones happy by renting a boat at Beykoz and fishing in the Bosphorus. Branch out into the Çamlıca Hills to witness the great bird migration that is repeated every spring. For more than birds, you can see 300 different animal species, including lions, penguins and zebras, at the Boğaziçi Hayvanat Bahçesi (zoo) at Darıca Bayramoğlu. If it’s aquatic creatures you love, ten thousand different species await you at the Turkuazoo (+90 212 240 27 40), a 80-meter underwater tunnel which is Turkey’s first public aquarium. The Üsküdar-Kadıköy route is another fun itinerary for the kids. The Kite Museum (+90 216 553 23 37) at Üsküdar not only takes you into the colorful world of kites, you can also learn to make kites in its workshops. After touring the Toy Museum (+90 216 359 45 50) in Göztepe, you can enjoy a ride on the merry-go-round or a gondola or take a wild spin in the bumper cars at the Bostancı Lunapark (+90 216 384 72 10).

You can capture your children’s hearts with a ferry ride from Bostancı to the Islands in the company of seagulls. As you stroll through the streets of Burgazada, much loved by cats, you can tell your child about the stories of Sait Faik. On Büyükada you can take a bicycle tour or a turn around the island in a phaeton. You can gather mimosas in the countryside on Heybeliada. The banks of the Golden Horn meanwhile offer another memorable outing for children. They’ll go bananas over the old-fashioned toys sold in the tiny historic shops near Eyüp Sultan Mosque. Dolls, toy cars, tops and much, much more. Wafer halvah and cotton candy vendors vie with balloon men on the square on Fridays when an Ottoman military band concert at noon offers an added boon. Take the telefrique up Pierre Loti Hill for a bird’s-eye view of the estuary before touring Miniatürk (+90 212 222 28 82) with its miniature models of Turkey’s architectural monuments. The Rahmi Koç Museum (+90 212 369 66 00) on the Golden Horn houses a host of objects from antique cars to ships and airplanes, and young visitors can learn how each machine works in a section designed expressly for that purpose. Two more venues sure to capture children’s interest around the Golden Horn are Santral Istanbul and Energy Museum (+90 212 311 78 090 and the Dolphinarium (+90 212 581 78 78).

You can give your child a new travel experience on a journey of just a few hours to Istanbul’s outlying areas. The shores of Lake Terkos a scant hour outside the city are suitable for hiking, line fishing and canoeing. Durusu Park Equestrian Sports Club (+90 212 767 91 11) is another surprise of this region where you will encounter rustic fish restaurants. With its open and enclosed riding areas, specially trained horses, and forest and lakeshore hiking trails, Durusu is a recreational area in the true sense of the word for adults and children alike. For those who are up to a three-hour train trip outside the city, our first suggestion is the Lake Manyas Bird Sanctuary. This national park 20 minutes from Bandırma boasts a bird observation station as well as a museum featuring the bird species that inhabit the lake area. Meanwhile at Bursa, where you can sweeten your travels with the local chestnut candy, the Karagöz House (+90 224 220 26 26) at Osmangazi is another favorite with children. This venue, where 61 different items are on display illustrating Turkish traditional shadow theater, puts on a Karagöz-Hacivat puppet play every Saturday at 11 a.m. Bolu, dotted with lakes large and small, is a travel haven for the kids which, besides activities such as a phaeton tour around Lake Abant or a nature camp at Aladağlar, will give children a different vacation experience while also teaching self-confidence, sharing and a love of nature.

It’s not difficult to discover places that will more than please a child along the coastal strip from Izmir to Antalya. Starting from the Toy Museum (+90 232 425 75 13) in Izmir, you can proceed directly to Kuşadası. Don’t be surprised if you run into some crested pelicans at the Dilek Peninsula National Park, a ‘biogenetic reserve’ recognized by the Council of Europe. After Adaland (+90 256 618 12 52), the region’s largest water park, if you stop at the Doğanbey Flora and Fauna Museum (+90 256 537 63 27) you will see all the living species that inhabit the area. Having come this far, how about meeting a Carian Princess? The skeleton of a princess, uncovered near Bodrum in 1989, has been dressed by a British cosmetic surgery team. The 40-year-old princess, who lived approximately 2,400 years ago, can be seen at the Bodrum Underwater Archaeological Museum (+90 252 316 25 16).  Whether this lovely princess will awaken to Prince Charming’s kiss is anybody’s guess, but one thing is sure: the children are going to love the free-range horses at the village of Taşlıca near Bozburun. There is also a beautiful and very special beach nearby: Iztuzu Beach at Dalyan, one of Anatolia’s most important habitats for the Caretta caretta sea turtle. Floating through the air with your child in a glider at Babadağ in Fethiye is just the thing for adrenaline addicts. And no child will turn up his nose at a waterfall tour on camelback at Manavgat.

Far from the sea, this time we are in the skies of the capital, Ankara, for an excursion into the heart of nature as well as culture. Appropriately for April 23rd, you can start this outing with a tour of ‘Anıtkabir’ (Ataturk’s Mausoleum) and the Old Parliament Building (+90 312 311 04 73) and continue on to the Ankara Parks. Another of the most outstanding places of natural beauty you can show your mini traveling companions near the capital is Kızılcahamam. This time we branch out as well to Kayseri, set against the matchless backdrop of Mt. Erciyes and its snow-capped peaks, to glide through the still waters of  Sultansazlığı National Park, one of the leading wetlands not only of Turkey but of the world, in the Develi Basin surrounded by high mountains on four sides. A natural area ideal for observing birds and other wildlife, it is sure to turn your children into instant nature buffs. It would make no sense to come this far and not stop at Cappadocia. Dotted with fairy chimneys, underground cities, rock-cut churches, pigeons’ nests and pottery workshops, Cappadocia promises children a magical mystery tour. There are many places to visit in this must-see region that offers countless activities from mountain biking and balloon rides to nature walks and jeep safaris. Göreme Open Air Museum, Ürgüp, Güvercinlik Valley, Avanos, Paşabağı, Uçhisar and Sinasos... And by the way, have you ever watched the sunset at Kızılçukur?

Traveling with the kids is a new trend in the world today, and Barcelona is a favorite destination with its numerous sights to see: The Wax Museum, the Aquarium, the Chocolate Museum (Museu de la Xocolata), the Barcelona Zoo, and Port Aventura, an amusement park. Paris Disneyland, 32 km outside the city, have long been classic entertainment for the kids. If it’s the warm Mediterranean sun you crave, then Italy’s famous entertainment park, Gardaland, is ready to welcome you at Verona. Germany has its entertainment park as well in the Europapark near Stuttgart. And the world-famous Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, once the home of the Danish spinner of fairytales Hans Christian Andersen, is popular with children for its lunapark and street shows. And don’t forget that you’ll find ideal weather for touring in Egypt, another favorite destination for travel with the kids. The Giza Pyramids at Cairo, the Valley of the Kings at Luxor, snorkeling at Sharm-el Sheikh and a cruise on the Nile are just a few of Egypt’s memorable holiday offerings.