Printable Activities Make Travel Fun

Victoria, British Columbia

A harbor seal scrutinizes a trio of harlequin ducks

In my opinion, Victoria, British Columbia ranks as one of the most scenic, family-friendly destinations. You'll find more than enough to do--museums, gardens and zoos for children, and world class restaurants and shopping for adults--all amidst the splendor of the rugged Pacific Coast.

The full moon rising over the Parliament Building
Victoria BC, Empress Hotel
Fairmont Empress Hotel.

Our three days in this historic city after our Olympic National Park tour was too short. We skipped the "world renowned" tea service at the castle-like Fairmont Empress Hotel . My boys were more interested in spending countless hours on the shore, looking for river otters, sea otters and eagles--though I'm sure tea is a must-do if you're traveling with girls.

Royal British Museum in Victoria, BC.
Victoria BC, totem pole

Instead we explored the Royal British Columbia Museum. We were fortunate enough to visit while the exhibit, "Treasures: The World's Cultures of the British Museum" was on loan from the UK. Greek helmets, Egyptian papyrus, a mummy, gold Colombian masks, the Rosetta Stone and ancient artifacts spanning 1.5 million years of human history, from around the world--we couldn't have asked for more. Check the museum site for current exhibitions.

RBCM Treasures Lewis Chessman
RBCM Treasures Double-Headed Figure
RBCM Treasures Corinthian Helmet

Victoria BC, Victoria Bug MuseumThe Victoria Bug Zoo in downtown Victoria is literally, a hands-on adventure. This modest "hole-in-the-wall" houses an impressive collection of live crawling, flying, digging and jumping insects and spiders, big and small. If holding a tarantula, walking stick or millipede isn't your cup of tea, sit back and let your kid hold it, with the help of experienced "bug guides." The boys loved it. And yes, I held a red-kneed tarantula, but skipped the Madagascar hissing roach. Can't get enough of bugs? In the gift shop you'll find souvenir shirts and, for the brave, candies and lollipops with real bugs encased in them.

Victoria BC, Butterfly Gardens
One of the highlights children will enjoy is the Butchart Gardens, a National Historic Site. On the way, be sure to stop by the Victoria Butterfly Gardens. Housed in a 12,000 square foot greenhouse, the garden explodes with exotic colors and scents as 3000 butterflies flit through the trees. Get up close and personal with the resident tropical birds, ducks and flamingos that frequent the indoor pond. My sons enjoyed the Butterfly Gardens more than the Butchart Gardens. Admission rates here.

Victoria BC, Butchart Gardens
Butchart Gardens is 55 acres of exploration a mere 40 minutes outside of Victoria. Descending into the lush landscape of blooming shrubs, weeping willows, ponds and fountains, it's easy to forget that this was once a quarry. In 1904, what cement manufacturer Robert Pim Butchart saw as an exhausted limestone deposit, his wife Jennie saw as an empty canvas. Little by little, the abandoned quarry was transformed into a sunken paradise.

The paved paths and themed gardens are great for families young and old. Strollers, park benches, changing stations and restrooms are strategically placed. Stop by the Visitor Information Center for a Family Discovery Walk worksheet, encouraging children to learn about the garden through drawing and discovery. In the Children's Pavilion you'll find the Rose Carousel ($2), sporting a menagerie of ostriches, bears, zebras and horses, as well as chariots to accommodate disabled persons. In the summer, enjoy the fireworks display every Saturday night. Click here for rates.

And of course, who can visit British Columbia without embarking on the requisite whale tour around the San Juan Islands?

I wouldn't recommend it for small children, as the boat ride is long and rather rocky...but if, like us, you don't happen to spot an orca, there's a lot of other wildlife the guides will be happy point out: harbor porpoises, harbor seals, elephant seals, nesting eagles and a multitude water birds.

For younger children, a visit along the shore will occupy them, and guarantee an encounter with Victoria's abundant marine life and birds.

Color the flag of Victoria, BC:

Color the flag of British Columbia:

More Victoria crafts and origami to come.

©2010 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved.


Mount Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan, is actually an active volcano.

Japan, an island nation where more than 70 percent of the land is covered in mountains and hills, sits in the Pacific Ocean in what is called the Ring of Fire. Here massive plates of Earth's crust collide, creating volcanoes and deep sea trenches, and unleashing forces that are literally, earth-shattering: the islands are rocked by three minor earthquakes each day, or 1500 earthquakes every year. One out of every ten of the world's active volcanoes is found in Japan.

Japan has a rich cultural history stretching back tens of thousands of years. The Jomon and Ainu, two of Japan's earliest cultures, left behind some of the world's oldest pottery fragments. By 500 B.C. migrants from China and Korea introduced wet-land rice farming and metal-working.

Japan is home to the world's oldest surviving monarchy. Emperor Akihito can trace his lineage all the way back to Emperor Jimmu, who ascended the throne in 660 B.C. A legendary figure, Jimmu is regarded as the direct descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu.

Travel Fun: Mon
Before embarking on your family vacation, why not create a mon, or family crest? Mon were symbols of recognition for families and clans, or organizations such as merchant and artisan guilds. Most mon are designed in a circular pattern and feature animals or plants.

Here's the mon of the imperial family, that you can color. The mon is a yellow or gold chrysanthemum with 16 petals:

Here's another mon, used by the Tokugawa shoguns (generals), with three hollyhock leaves inside a circle:

What would your mon, or family crest look like? As you travel through Japan, how many mon can you find?

Fun Facts:

  • Name: Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku, "Land of the Rising Sun"
  • Founded: February 11, 660 BC (recognized as National Foundation Day)

  • National Anthem: Kimigayo ("The Emperor's Reign," one of the world's shortest anthems, with only 11 measures and 32 characters)
  • Capital: Tokyo
  • Head of State: Emperor
  • Head of Government: Prime Minister
  • Population: 127.5 million
  • Geography: archipelago of more than 4,000 islands. The four largest islands, Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū and Shikoku make up 97% of the land mass. The total area of Japan is about the size of Germany or Switzerland, or slightly smaller than California.
  • Money: yen
  • National Animals: green pheasant, koi
Koi-nobori Origami
  • March 3, Girl's Day
    Hina Matsuri is the annual Girls' Day Festival celebrated on March 3 by families in Japan and Okinawa. Girls display their collections of elaborate dolls portraying the Japanese royal court, arranged on up to 7 tiers...

  • May 5, Boy's Day
    On Boy's Day, Japanese families display beautiful carp banners outside their homes. Called koi-nobori, each streamer traditionally symbolizes a male in the household. The largest carp at the top represents the father, followed by the eldest son, while the littlest carp at the bottom represents the youngest boy...

  • Iris Festival (Shobu no Sekku). Each May, the beautiful iris, with long leaves resembling the blades of a sword, is celebrated. For centuries it was customary to place iris leaves in a boy's bath to give him a martial spirit. It is also believed that the powerful fragrance of the iris wards off evil, and in Yamashiro Onsen, Kaga-shi and Ishikawa, shrines are filled with straw bags stuffed with irises. The shrines are hoisted on the shoulders of young men and paraded around.

    Print and fold an Iris Origami
    Iris Origami
Fun Stuff:

Japanese Flag

Carp Kite

Japanese Emperor

Japanese Empress

©2010 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved.


Kohala Coast, photo by Tammy Yee.

White sand beaches, sunshine and unique culture...Hawaii has everything to offer on your next family vacation, including downtime for parents. Each of the main islands has its own personality, where you can explore a wide array of activities in diverse settings, from sandy shores, to tropical rain forests, to snow-capped volcanoes.

The Hawaiian Islands:

From the gentle waves of Waikiki to the winter behemoths crashing along the famous North Shore, Oahu sports a third of the state's best surfing beaches.

North Shore Day Trip
Wintering on Oahu would be incomplete without visiting the North rent a car and pack the kids. The waves at Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay can reach 30 to 40 feet; conditions in which only the best and bravest big-wave riders can compete. The roar of waves pounding the shore is an experience you won't forget.

Remember, as a safety precaution, always watch your children and never turn your back to the ocean. During high surf season, rogue waves can sometimes wash up on the beach, so keep children away from the shoreline.

While you're on the North Shore, stop by the Waimea Valley Audubon Center. Allow a couple of hours to explore 1,800 acres of tropical paradise, one of only two places where you can find Hawaii's elusive and endangered bat, the state's only endemic land mammal.

Waimea Falls Park, Oahu, Hawaii
Torch Ginger, one of 5,000 species of tropical plants you'll find at Waimea Valley Audubon Center.

A leisurely 3.5 mi. hike or a ride aboard one of the free trams will take you to the 40-foot Waihi Falls (Waimea Falls). Call ahead to check on park conditions...the last time I visited, drought conditions had dried up the falls. But you'll still have a lot to see, and it's a great, inexpensive place where children can run free, and there are many small, safe side trails for kids to explore, as well as regular hula shows. Cost: Adults $8; seniors, military discount, local residents and children 12 and under $5; children under 3 free. Closed on New Year's Day and Christmas. Phone: (808) 638-9199.

On the way back to the hotel, be sure to take the kids to the old-time plantation-style Matsumoto Store in quaint Haleiwa town, for an island favorite, shaved ice. Li Hing Mui, lychee, guava, lilikoi, mango and coconut are just a few of the exotic flavors to experience--only in Hawaii!

One of your few opportunities to get up close to Hawaiian wildlife is also in Haleiwa. To the side of Haleiwa Beach Park is Ali'i Beach, where large pacific green sea turtles regularly come ashore to bask in the sun. The high tide water line at the beach is often strewn with debris, great for beach combers.

Pacific Green Sea Turtle (honu), Haleiwa, Oahu, Hawaii
A sea turtle basks at Ali'i Beach, Haleiwa. Photo by Tammy Yee.

Before leaving Haleiwa, stop by Macky's Shrimp Truck, near the Haleiwa roundabout, to savor the best garlic shrimp in the islands (app. $12). Then topping off your trip, stop by Dole Plantation, where the kids can ride a sugar train (Adults - $7.75, Children 4-12- $5.75 9:30 am to 4:30 pm) or wander through Pineapple Garden Maze, which held the 2001 Guinness World Record as the world's largest maze (Adults - $6.00, Children 4-12- $4.00 9:30 am to 4:30 pm) while you kick back with a waffle cone of pineapple sherbert.

Fun Facts:

On August 21, 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state of the union.

The Hawaiian flag was commissioned by Kamehameha the Great in 1816 while Hawaii was still a kingdom. The eight stripes represent the eight major Hawaiian islands (Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Oahu, Kauai and Niihau) and the Union Jack in the upper left corner symbolizes the kingdom's friendship with Britain.

  • Nickname: The Aloha State
  • Motto: Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka 'Aina I Ka Pono (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness)
  • Song: Hawai'i Pono'i (written by King David Kalakaua)
  • Capital: Honolulu (on Oahu)
  • Geography: the Hawaiian Archipelago consists of 132 islands stretching over 1500 miles, and is one of the most remote places on Earth.
  • Population: 1.3 million
  • Demographics: Hawaii is known for its diversity. There are no ethnic majorities.

    Native Hawaiian3.6%
    African American1.6%
  • Flower: Ma'o hau hele (yellow Hawaiian hibiscus, or Hibiscus brackenridgei)
  • Bird: nene (Hawaiian goose)
  • Gemstone: black coral

"The USS Arizona is the final resting place for many of the ship's 1,177 crewmen who lost their lives on December 7, 1941..." read more
Color the USS Arizona Memorial:

  • Pacific Green Sea Turtle (Honu)
    Did you know that all the hatchlings in the nest of the Pacific green sea turtle are either male or female? The sex of the turtles is determined by the temperature of the nest. Cooler nests produce a clutch of males, while warmer nests produce more

    Color a Baby Sea Turtle

Fun Stuff:

Count and Color Creatures of the Reef
Hawaii State Flag
Under the Sea with Baby Honu


Dollar Bill Folding: Aloha Shirt
Green Sea Turtle (Honu)
Hawaiian Butterfly (Pulelehua)

Hawaiian Limpet ('Opihi)

Hawaiian Owl (Pueo)
Humpback Whale

Hawaiian Owl and Turtle

Kamehameha the Great Crossword

Coloring and Activity Books for long trips

Hawaiian Books Your Child Might Like:

A is for Aloha
From the meaning of the word aloha to the plight of the state bird author U'ilani Goldsberry answers questions that most Malihinis have about this lush multi-island paradise.

Completes Sleeping Bear Press's acclaimed Discover America State by State series.

From Hawai'i with Aloha, Grandma and Grandpa
Did you know...

That Kilauea has spewed enough lava to fill more than a million Olympic-sized swimming pools? That a newborn humpack whale calf drinks one hundred gallons of milk a day? Or that twenty-seven Waimea Canyons stretched end to end can fit into the Grand Canyon? 

Children learn about the wonders of Hawai'i as they join Grandma and Grandpa on a trip through the Hawaiian Islands.

Baby Honu's Incredible Journey
Baby Honu has just hatched from his egg. Will he find the courage to face sand crabs and sea birds on his perilous journey to the sea? And what wondrous creatures will he encounter in the ocean?

A best-selling island classic, with a helpful glossary to educate children about Hawaiian marine life.
©2010 Tammy Yee
All rights reserved.