With this month’s cover story in mind, I asked our kids, now 27 and 23, to recount their fondest childhood memories. Their answers caught me off guard. Sure, we did all the gotta-dos: Disneyland, Knott’s, Magic Mountain, Cirque du Soleil, ice-skating shows, water parks, and the other standard whole-paycheck options. But did they mention those? Well, no.
Daughter Lanie remembers a world-broadening four-week road trip when she was 9, and staying in budget motels and dining with other team families during soccer tournaments. She also mentions our Christmas morning breakfasts of lox and bagels, a tradition born the year I presented my wife a bagel slicer as her “big” gift. “She opened it the night before, and her anger carried over to the next morning,” Lanie says. “I thought you guys were going to separate over it.”
Though he was only 6 at the time, son Parker remembers the same 1998 road trip, particularly camping in Yellowstone, and also the day two years later when we found ourselves overlooking the riotous elephant seal rookery at Piedras Blancas, near San Simeon. He also mentions a sailing trip to Catalina, where he first dove from a boat into the blue-green water of Two Harbors.
Our list of “41 Fun Things to Do With Kids” begins on page 86, and if there’s a prejudice to it, it’s that we believe the best memories aren’t necessarily the most expensive ones. They’re often the result of simple, shared pleasures—being with friends and family, seeing new places, moments of spontaneous discovery and joy. We can’t guarantee our recommendations will claim a spot among your kids’ most treasured memories, but we’re sure they’re worth the effort.