St. Petersburg, on the Baltic Sea in Russia, has a historic city center which is a UNESCO World Heritage site that's full of amazing museums, palaces, and cathedrals. While it’s possible to take your kids to all of these places, eventually they may get bored of history and art. The good news is that "Petersburg" or "Peter," as the city is frequently called, offers some fun activities that allow for a fulfilling travel experience for visitors with children.
From puppet museums and shows to historic zoos and battleships, the whole family can have a good time on this Russian adventure. St. Petersburg is also home to one of the world's largest planetariums, with its educational programming and interactive games, and the internationally renowned Mariinsky Theatre, where you can view unforgettable ballet, opera, and classical music performances.
After a nice walk along the canals of St. Petersburg, you'll see the 7,600-ton Cruiser Aurora, opposite the Nakhimov Navy School. The battleship, built in 1900, played a crucial role in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. This impressive piece of Russian history is worth showing the kids. Entering the battleship is free, but if you flag down an attendant, you can view the engine-room for an extra fee.
Note: The site is closed on Mondays and Fridays and is not wheelchair accessible.
"Puppet theater” is a Russian term for a theater that offers shows for children, but not all performances involve puppets. Bolshoi Puppet Theatre, established in 1931, also features regular plays for adults and little ones. The productions of children’s fairy tales are some of the best in St. Petersburg, usually entailing a lot of colors, songs, and movement—making for an enjoyable outing even for those who don’t understand Russian.
Since the Leningrad Zoo—sometimes referred to as the Saint Petersburg Zoo or Sankt-Peterburgskiy Zoopark—was built in 1865, it's been an important part of the city's history and a fun and educational way to spend a day in the city. The zoo saw and survived the Leningrad blockade during World War II, and retains the old city name to honor the zoo workers that helped to keep some of the animals alive during the war. In addition to seeing roughly 2,000 animals, your kids can ride ponies in a special section of the zoo.
Planetarium 1 in St. Petersburg has one of the world's biggest projection domes, at 121 feet (37 meters) in diameter. You and the kids will be shown some amazing lessons—through performances and interactive games using modern technologies and surround sound—about the planets in the solar system, space, comets, and more.
The attraction is hard to miss; it's a dome-shaped building located on the Obvodny Canal, the city's longest canal. Planetarium 1 is open every day.
Even if no one in the family speaks Russian, it doesn’t matter because at the world-famous Mariinsky Theatre you can see amazing opera, ballet, and classical music performances. The historic theater—dating as far back as 1783 and which officially opened in 1860—also puts on fairy tales like “Cinderella" that the kids will love.
Check the schedule before going, and it is recommended to buy tickets online in advance if there’s a show you want to catch.
A perfect place for anybody who likes real and model trains, the Railway Museum of Russia showcases the country’s expansive locomotive past. Visitors can learn about the industry's technological and social history, and of course, see a lot of trains, which have been extremely influential to Russia’s development. Don't miss the kids' center for ages 3-14, where youngsters enjoy puzzles and riddles, participate in crafts, and more.
You can take a guided museum tour or look around on your own. The attraction is closed on Thursdays.
Since 1999, the St. Petersburg Puppet Museum has been the place to be for doll lovers of all ages. The two-story museum has a wide collection of not only handmade dolls but also traditional toys, soldiers, fairies, and other treasures in 12 different exhibitions, such as one about the beloved three little pigs. It's a good spot to spend part of a day—the museum hosts puppet shows, interactive programs, and special workshops like one that teaches children and adults about how to become a professional puppeteer. Visitors also enjoy the gift shop along with the outdoor rose garden.
One of Russia's most popular tourist attractions, the Fountains of Peterhof are located in the Peterhof Park Complex around the Grand Palace. Known as Peter the Great's "Russian Versailles," the palace serves as a museum of history and art. The Grand Cascade is the best-known area, entailing 64 fountains, more than 200 bronze statues, and additional decorations.
The fountains are usually visible from late May through October. As May comes to an end, there's an all-day festival at Peterhof, with attendees enjoying as each section of the park's fountains are turned on, accompanied by fireworks, classical music, and other entertainment.