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This is a recap of our trip to Valencia with kids.
Our third official Spring Break Family trip was a week split between Barcelona, Valencia, and Madrid, Spain with stops in Peniscola and Cuenca, Spain. Every year is becoming harder to top because this trip was absolutely phenomenal!
Standard note for all our itinerary posts: Agendas are great. In fact, I love agendas. But if I’ve learned anything from traveling overseas with kids, I’ve learned to be flexible. Our itineraries are intended to provide a loose framework for what we’d like to do but the city [and the mood of the kids] decide what we actually end up doing. That being said, we always have a ton of fun because we do it together. Now, let’s dive in!
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DAY ONE: Settling in and Checking into our Aparthotel [Managed/Serviced Apartment]
We really took our time driving from Barcelona to Valencia so we did not arrive in Valencia until the late evening. We spent our first day finding parking [the garage associated with our hotel was closed for the weekend], checking into our hotel, and getting acclimated to the immediate area.
Where to Stay in Valencia [Spain] with Kids: Mon Suites Catedral, 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment
Overall Rating: 4/5 — convenient location, full kitchen amenities, super secure apartment building, and clean.
Aparthotels [or managed apartments or serviced apartments] are our favorite places type of accommodation for families. You get the space of an apartment with the safety and service of a hotel. MonSuites is actually a chain with several locations around Valencia and we chose to stay near the Valencia Cathedral. Our location was very convenient to the majority of the places we wanted to visit.
Our apartment, while not super spacious, was big enough to fit us all comfortably and was very clean. The building itself was also very secure; entrance into the building lobby required a key, the elevator required a special passcode, and the apartment itself had a very thick door that required another [separate] key. Even though the apartment was located in a rather busy square, we had no concerns regarding safety.
But speaking of the busy square, the apartment itself was noisy. Granted, we were in Valencia during Las Fallas so we expected noise. From the chatter of patrons at the bars and restaurants down below to the fireworks and cannons [ok, cannon might be dramatic — handguns maybe?] being shot in the street, it was very loud. The glass does a good job of muting the sound but if you are noise sensitive or a light sleeper, this location is not the location for you.
Given the opportunity again, we would stay at ValenicaFlats Centro Cuidad.
Video Tour of our Mon Suites Catedral unit
DAY TWO: Exploring Las Fallas, Valencia Bus Tours [Hop On Hop Off Bus], Paella, and Night Exploration
Exploring Las Fallas
Las Fallas is an annual celebration in Valencia that runs from March 1st to March 19th to celebrate the arrival of spring. Different areas of the city are decorated with lights and mannequin displays called ninots. They range from cartoon-like, kid-friendly statues to wildly exaggerated adult figurines. The scenes are slowly set up throughout the duration of the festival culminating in one big bonfire [yes, bonfire] of the ninots on the final day.
We, unfortunately, were not in the city during the burning of the ninots [the way my asthma and allergies are set up, I’m sure it would have been a bittersweet experience anyway] but we did get to enjoy all the festivities leading up to the event. We walked from area to area, checking out the mannequins and taking pictures.
I don’t think pickpocketing is as big of a deal in Valencia as it is in Barcelona but any time you’re visiting a crowded city, you should protect your valuables. Wear your backpacks in front, keep your purses closed, don’t keep your wallet [or phone] in your pocket, and don’t walk away from your belongings.
Valencia Bus Tours
We were so impressed with our Barcelona bus tour experience, that we knew we had to take the Valencia Bus Tours as well! Valencia’s major tourist attractions pretty widely spread out and we knew we wouldn’t have time to see them all without a little help from Valencia Tours.
The Valencia Bus Turistic offers two routes [the Historic Route and the Maritime Route], runs daily, and has about a 5-10 minute wait at each stop [longer if there are special events like Las Fallas]. You can purchase 1 or 2 day passes that will give you unlimited rides during operating hours on any of those routes.
We knew we wanted to see as much of the city as possible so we rode both routes [with only a few stops] all in one day. We saw the Bioparc, the Valencia History Museum, and so much more! The cool thing about the Valencia Bus Turistic, is that they provide headphones you can plug into the back of your seat to listen to an audioguide during the ride. That audioguide [available in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Japanese] provides in-depth information for every landmark you pass so it feels like a personal tour of the city. Even though we were unable to visit all of the stops, we still learned a bit about each one — enough to make us eager for a return trip!
Thank you to iSango Travels for providing complimentary tickets!
This might be a little known fact but Valencia is the home of the famous Spanish rice dish called Paella. It almost seems sacrilegious to visit the area and not try paella. I mean, come on. It’s paella! It’s such serious business that I decided it deserved its own section in our itinerary. Yep, it’s in a league all its own.
Most folks have seen paella loaded with seafood — squid, shrimp, mussels, clams, and other crustaceans that half of our family is deadly allergic to. Well, luckily, traditional paella doesn’t have any shellfish. In fact, traditional paella doesn’t have any seafood at all. Traditional Valencian paella [the one most purist paella restaurants in Valencia serve] has chicken, rabbit, snails, and a mixture of beans.
We tried Valencian Paella at La Bernarda because of its rave reviews and its proximity. It isn’t a dish that stole my heart but I’m glad we tried it while we were there [even if only for bragging rights]!
Like most cities, Valencia has a completely different feel at night. The contrast of the city was even greater during Las Fallas because many of the ninots were lit up and the streets were decorated with arching lights. We decided to take an evening to explore and see the city in its nocturnal glory.
As you can imagine, that same nocturnal glory brought out a lot of party goers. Valencia’s historic district [where we stayed] is littered with bars. That combined with the ninots and the special occasion meant that everyone was out in droves at night. Despite the party atmosphere, it felt strangely kid-friendly. Spaniards are known for their long nights for kids and adults alike; it was extremely evident when we saw kids even younger than ours running the streets well past 10 PM.
It is well worth it to explore Valencia with kids at night. Just keep them close to you if possible. And don’t split your group — all of the streets look alike at night and it is easy to get lost. Bug and I got lost trying to find a bathroom [kids always have to pee at inconvenient times]; we ended up finding a new area that we happily showed to Phil and Princess the next day but it was a teensy bit uncomfortable.
DAY THREE: Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias [Museu De Les Ciencies Principe Felipe & Oceanografic] and Las Fallas Parade
Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias
Valencia is home to many extremely unique attractions [like the Valencia Bioparq] but the City of Arts and Sciences is arguably the most remarkable. This compounds spans many city blocks and consists of several one of a kind venues. It wouldn’t be fair to call it just a museum because it is more than that. It is an aquarium, a garden, a performing arts theater — in short, it is everything!
You can get a full list of their venues and information on ticket prices at the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciences website. You could easily spend an entire day visiting each of the venues in this place but with time being so finite we decided to visit the Museu De Les Ciences Principe Felipe [The Prince Felipe Museum of Science] and the Oceanografic [the aquarium].
I have to say our combo tickets for our family of four were pricey [around $100] but if there was ever a splurge to be made on a trip this was it!
Museu De Les Ciences Principe Felipe
The Museum of Science is the main building in the CAC complex and is directly behind the reflection pool. The entire building almost looks like an alien space ship but it is actually designed to resemble an eye. Either way, it is incredibly striking and if you don’t want to foot the cost of admission [hello, budget!], you can tour the expansive first floor. There are occasionally exhibits set up in this area that you can check out free of charge.
Upstairs, there are tons of exhibits ranging from body heat dynamics to space exploration. Our favorite section, however, was the children’s area. There is a live chicken egg incubator where kids can see chickens hatching. There is also a very large, interactive exhibit designed especially for kids. The theme during our visit was storybook adventures where we learned the kinetics of making a string puppet like Pinocchio move, demonstrated the ocular strength of the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, and bowled our way to quiz victory while learning about the taste buds of Hansel in Hansel and Gretel. They also had a short film playing, an arts and crafts area, and picture props for the kiddos.
It takes about 2-3 hours to explore the entire museum but a worthwhile adventure when visiting Valencia with kids.
Our visit to the CAC Oceanografic was hands down my favorite activity that we’ve ever done on any vacation to anywhere. That’s a mighty strong sentiment, I know, but we loved this place so much!
The park is divided into ten areas with each representing a different climate or habitat. The entire venue is open with very few high walls and dividers so you really get a personal experience with the animals. In the wetlands section, you can even visit the area while the birds roam [and poop] freely. There is also a live world-class dolphin show where you learn more about their conservation efforts. You’ll be able to see all types of aquatic life from sea turtles to walruses and learn about each one along the way. Seriously, if I had to pick one activity to do in Valencia with kids, it would be this.
Plan to spend 3-4 hours at the Oceanografic [longer if you decide to visit the theater; shorter if you skip the dolphinarium show].
Las Fallas Parade
The night before the burning of the ninot, everyone gathers in the center of the historic district for a parade. Large groups in traditional Valencian clothing march down the street with accompanying bands. It is a blast! The kids danced alongside the parade groups, took pictures with the ladies dressed in traditional costumes, and asked for costumes of their own [next time, ladies, I promise].
It is a sight to see [and hear] but it draws massive amounts of people. If you decide to experience the Las Fallas Parade with kids my tips would be:
- Keep the kids very close to you.
- Consider babywearing instead of using a stroller.
- Carry your kids that are too big to be worn but too small for the crowds.
- Avoid the main square of Plaza del Ayuntamiento as it gets really crazy there.
- Protect the ears of super young kiddos with ear muffs like these.
You can see our entire trip costs here: Family Exclusives | Downloads
The very next day we departed extremely early and headed for Madrid!
Have you been to Valencia with kids? Have you experienced Las Fallas with kids? Leave a comment with your favorite activity below!