A Historic Tour of One of the Oldest Cities in the Americas
Dominican Republic with kids By Rowena Carr-Allinson
Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo at night (Courtesy Go Dominican Republic)
On a family vacation to the Dominican Republic with the kids? In addition to the Caribbean island’s beach charms, don’t miss a day of history and culture in Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial. Here, you’ll find everything from kid-friendly museums and cafes to cathedrals and other history spot to gaze at in awe as well as learn some history.
Take a family-friendly historic tour of one of the DomRep’s most beautiful cities.
The Zona Colonial
First things first: hit the Zona Colonial in the heart of the city. Some streets date back as far as 1512 and the area is a family-friendly, lively neighbourhood packed with historical sights. Tourist-friendly cafes and restaurants abound so families can take a well-deserved break in between.
From the Catedral Primada de America to Chocolate Museum
Catedral Primada de America (Courtesy Go Dominican Republic)
One of the city’s top sights is the Catedral Primada de America, which as its name implies is one of the earliest cathedrals built in the Americas and famous for its dramatic architecture.
It’s just a stone’s throw away from the Parque Colon too, where you can hunt for spot of shade for a little respite from the heat. And don’t miss its main attraction – the bronze statue of Columbus.
Inside the Amber Museum (Courtesy Go Dominican Republic)
From here, either wander down to the Chocolate Museum where the family can learn all about Cacao, taste organic products and find out about the local asset that is the great cacao bean. Or go for some more history at the Museo de Ambar where you will be spellbound by the story around the creation of amber and its fossils, perfect preserved pieces in the rich, honey-like rock. Mom might like to pick up a jewel of a souvenir!
From the Pantheon to Calle de Damas
Another few minutes walk away, near the Rio Ozama, you’ll find the 8th century Jesuit National Pantheon where some of the country’s great heroes rest for eternity.
Another must on the historic trail is the Museum of Royal Houses where you’ll be charmed not just by the architecture but also by the contents of the museum, which covers Columbus, as well as the Dominican Republic’s historic past and the slave trade.
Alcazar de Colon (Courtesy Go Dominican Republic)
A few steps beyond and you’ll find the Alcazar de Colon, the oldest viceregal residence in America and the city’s most visited museum. A world heritage site, it boasts an impressive collection of European Renaissance art. A rarity in the Caribbean!
The Ozama Fortress overlooking the water is also worth a peek. A sixteenth-century reinforced castle, at the entrance of the city, it was built by the Spanish to defend Santa Domingo and is often called "La Fortaleza" or "The Fortress". It’s the oldest European built official military building in the Americas.
Need another break? Head to the charming Calle de Las Damas and its cobblestone street, the first ever built in the New World, and its picturesque setting. It might not be the most obvious of kid-friendly attractions, but an ice cream break goes a long way to keeping the kids happy!
Another great way to see the city minus all the walking is to hop aboard the Chu Chu Colonial, a cute, white family-friendly train that takes a 45 minute tour of Zona Colonial.
It’s a perfect way for the kids to enjoy the tour, while parents get the lowdown on the history and architecture. Trips run from 9am until 5pm, and cost $12 USD for adults and $7 USD for kids.
A Few More Things to do…
Three Eyes National Park (Courtesy Go Dominican Republic)
For something a little different, head over to the lush vegetation of the Three Eyes National Park, one of the island’s natural pride and joys. For a ‘tour’, take the ferry across the water; but be prepared for a bit of a hike down to the lake and the interconnected caves.
For a treat after the intense historical tour, make a pit-stop at the National Aquarium or at the Agua Splash Caribe Parque Acuatico - a surefire hit with the kids. Another great family-friendly reward after a day on the cultural trail is the kid-friendly Museo Trampolin with its interactive displays covering everything from the local flora to dinosaurs and earthquake simulators.
Rowena Carr-Allinson contributed this to MiniTime. Since the arrival of her son in 2011, she has taken him everywhere from Bangkok to NYC, writing family friendly articles en route.