It can be difficult to find things to do in Moscow that will appeal to children. After all, Moscow isn't exactly a child-friendly city. Some attractions designed for children are, in fact, not very appropriate for kids. Other attractions in Moscow that traditionally draw adults may in fact spark a child's imagination. The following attractions have either been designed with children in mind (whether or not they are ideal options for family entertainment), or they are attractions in Moscow that may intrigue children even though they are not marketed as such.
Believe it or not, St. Basil's Cathedral can be a great place for children. The colorful onion domes of this familiar Russian symbol are picture-book perfect. The interior of the cathedral is just as colorful; its stone walls are decorated with painted scrollwork. The interconnected chapels are almost maze-like, but the cathedral is small enough so your child won't get lost if he goes off exploring on his own.
One thing to watch out for, though - there are some especially steep stone steps that can be perilous for small children, so make sure that you are close enough to help them if they start to descend these stairs that were made with long-legged monks in mind.
Obraztov Puppet Theater and Museum
The Obraztov Puppet Theater features shows for children during the day. While shows are in Russian, their fairy tale plots are recognizable, colorful, and entertaining. The puppet museum features collections of theater-quality puppets from all over the world. Both children and adults will enjoy the Obraztov Puppet Theater and Museum.
Cat Theater in Moscow
The Moscow Cat Theater features a cast of housecats that perform acrobatic tricks to delight all audiences. The supporting canine cast alternates with human clowns, whose performances can border on the disconcerting. Just concentrate on the animal actors - that's what you've come to see anyway.
Great Moscow Circus
This Moscow attraction is advertised as child-appropriate, but the Great Moscow Circus is potentially low on the list of entertainment venues you would want to take you child to. Monkeys or other animals that misbehave may be abused in front of the audience, and acts that are unabashedly discriminatory will turn any parent's stomach.
Children's Musical Theater
Professional actors and actresses in colorful costumes interact with children prior to performing child-appropriate renditions of traditional operas and ballets. This cultural experience is also entertaining and will give children their first peek into the rich influence Russian culture has had upon dance and music.
Your children may have fun at Gorky Park, but your best bet is to keep them away from the rides. Maintenance and safety regulations in Russia are not what they are in the US, and a dangerous ride is far from fun for anybody. If you want to see what Gorky Park has to offer, however, you might steer your children towards the Russian spacecraft or other children's play areas.
The Moscow Dolphinarium offers afternoon and evening performances where dolphins, whales, seals, and sea lions balance balls, jump through hoops, and interact with trainers to the delight of the audience. If you prefer to sit and rest after a day of walking, this children's attraction might be preferable to the Moscow Zoo.
The Moscow Zoo
The Moscow Zoo may not be as grand as zoos in other capital cities, but it may still be a worthile afternoon excursion. The Moscow Zoo is known for its big cats and the monkey house, so be sure not to miss these animals in particular. Unfortunately, the level of care that the animals get at the Moscow Zoo is questionable. Your children might not notice this, but if you are an animal lover, you will.
Even children will love shopping for souvenirs at Izmailovo Market. While some souvenir displays may be hands-off even for adults, Russian souvenirs that appeal to children abound at Izmailovo Market. Matryoshka dolls, child-sized fur caps, classic Russian wooden toys, and small animal figures are wonderful memorabilia for children - and even more special if they get to pick what they like best. Choose gifts for friends and family back home or find an item your child can use at her next show-and-tell.
It may be asking a bit much of children to drag them around the Kremlin grounds, but this important attraction may interest them due to the variety of buildings and the grand scale of . . . everything. The Tsar Cannon and Tsar Bell are huge, but look even larger to a child, and are therefore impressive. And while children may not grasp the full significance of what they are seeing, when they're older they'll certainly appreciate having been to the Moscow Kremlin.
The Kremlin Armory Museum
The Armory Museum and State Diamond Fund are both located within the Kremlin. These collections of royal treasures will dazzle anyone who has ever dreamed of being a prince or princess (and who hasn't?). Diamond-encrusted thrones, gold-gilt carriages, and the sable-cushioned crowns of the tsars have magical effects upon all viewers. Explain how Faberge eggs were the "toys" of the kings and queens of Russia, and you'll have an instant history buff on your hands.
Moscow Boat Ride
When you and your child need a break, consider going on a boat tour through Moscow. These boat rides are soothing. The cool air, slow movement of the boat, and the Moscow architecture passing by has a lulling effect. And, because your child is confined to the boat, you can relax your white-knuckled grip on him or her and know that your son or daughter won't get lost in a crowd.