Words by Marcia Breen
The arrival of spring brings with it the travel bug. Of course with spring also comes rain – something you generally try to avoid during family travels. But some of the rainiest parts of America are also some of the most beautiful. So pack your bags (and your raincoat and boots) and have no fear if it starts raining in one of our country’s five most precipitous cities.
1. New Orleans, Louisiana
Average annual rainfall: 63 inches
Days of precipitation: 115
Seattle may have the reputation for being wet, but technically speaking, New Orleans reigns (get it?) supreme for rainiest cities.
One thing we all love: food. And the French Quarter’s Café du Monde, a bustling open-air café in the French Market, has prime indoor seating should the clouds open up. It’s been in business for 150 years and is famous for two things: its café au lait and bang-up beignets. Tables are first come, first serve. So move fast and get a seat at the back of the café along the river so your kids can peek through the windows or watch the beignets being made.
Other rainy-day hot spots in the Big Easy: The Louisiana Children’s Museum, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, where you can watch Mardi Gras floats being built (skip it in summer as it’s not air-conditioned).
2. Miami, Florida
Average annual rainfall: 62 inches
Days of precipitation: 135
If you find yourself caught in a downpour in Miami, head for Xtreme Action Park. It’s ideal for thrill-seekers. They have go-karts that reach 48 mph, a ropes course suspended 11 feet in the air, or, for those who prefer a slower pulse, they have bowling. There’s also a trampoline park, which has designated times for kids 6 years old and under.
Or you can school your kids in Pac Man at Arcade Odyssey where you can revel in the joy of a classic arcade with games like Centipede, Donkey Kong and Frogger. With 131 different video games and pinball machines, surely you can convince your kids that games of the ’70s and ’80s are the coolest… or at least embarrass them trying.
3. New York City, New York
Average annual rainfall: 50 inches
Days of precipitation: 122
When it starts to rain in the Big Apple, your little dino will especially dig the Museum of Natural History, home to the largest collection of fossils in the world. The fourth floor dinosaur wing is full of pre-historic giants like a full-size Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. It’s also worth checking out the 94-foot-long, life-sized model of a giant blue whale, the planetarium and the real exhibits behind the characters featured in the Night at the Museum movies.
Of course, if they need to burn off some energy, B-line it to Chelsea Piers. It’s the ultimate indoor playground with basketball and soccer, batting cages, rock climbing, and its famous four-story, year-round outdoor driving range.
Or for a calmer vibe, head to the New York Public Library at Bryant Park. It’s one of the city’s most iconic buildings and the architecture of this historic building alone is worth the trip. They’ll see the original Winnie the Pooh and friends on display in the children’s center, or they’ll tire themselves walking up and down all the steps.
4. Portland, Oregon
Average annual rainfall: 44 inches
Days of precipitation: 164
Portland’s Oregon Museum of Science and Industry has all the classics of a science museum – hands-on exhibits, workshops and science labs. But their coup de grace is a genuine naval submarine, the USS Blueback, where you can look through a periscope or hop in a bunk. Plus Theory, OMSI’s on-site restaurant, is unlike any museum café that you’ve ever been to. It’s tasty, healthy and reasonably priced.
The Portland Children’s Museum is another great spot for families with toddlers and younger children. Described as “the museum that doesn’t act like a museum,” kids are encouraged to touch, play, and explore their way through the many exhibits like the Pet Hospital, Treehouse Adventure, and Water Works. The hardest part will be getting them to leave.
Part public transit, part tourist attraction, the Portland Aerial Tram climbs 500 feet between the city’s South Waterfront and “Pill Hill,” home to Oregon Health and Science University. For less than five bucks round trip you can take it to the top for impressive views of downtown and Mt. Hood.
5. Seattle, Washington
Average annual rainfall: 38 inches
Days of precipitation: 149
If you see just one thing in Seattle, see everything. Take a 41-second ride to the top the city’s most iconic attraction, the Space Needle. From 520 feet up you’ll be met with a 360-degree view of downtown Seattle, Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier.
And while you’re in Seattle Center check out the Chihuly Garden and Glass, which, despite its extremely breakable-sounding name, is a great spot for kids. It’s home to the largest collection of pieces by contemporary artist Dale Chihuly, who creates colorful and vivid large-scale handblown glass sculptures. School-aged kids will be mesmerized by the the 40-foot-tall Glasshouse with its suspended flower blossoms.
No trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to Pike Place Market, which is the oldest continually-operating farmer’s market in the country. Eat and shop your way through the mostly indoor (or covered) nine-acre historic landmark loaded with farmers, craftspeople, restaurants, and of course, the famous fish-throwing fishmongers.
Wherever you pick, remember that the most important part of a vacation is the quality time that you spend as a family. And, you know, if it’s raining, your wellies.