LHemisfericWith its beautiful old neighborhoods, modern architecture and prime location on the Mediterranean coast, Valencia is emerging from the shadow of Madrid and Barcelona and fast becoming the go-to city in Spain and a great destination for a family vacation.

Turia was once a river that ran through Valencia. After a series of devastating floods, the river was diverted and turned into the Jardin del Turia, a 7 mile long park with fountains, beautiful gardens, soccer and rugby pitches and several children’s playgrounds. The playground that is without a doubt the most memorable is El Gran Gulliver or the giant Gulliver. Based on the book Gulliver’s Travels, this play area allows kids to pretend they’re Lillipitians and climb over an enormous statue of the sleeping Gulliver climbing frame complete with slides, ropes and ladders.

Bioparc is an open-air zoo in the center of Valencia. This zoo without borders employs the “zoo-immersion” concept, surrounding visitors in the recreated habitats of the animals that are in the zoo. Discover the wildlife of the African Savannah, equatorial Africa and Madascar without ever stepping foot outside of Valencia. Many of the animals in Bioparc are part of European conservation breeding programs and the zoo-immersion is an important step in helping to educate and increase awareness about the animals and their environment.

The futuristic Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts & Sciences), is Europe’s largest leisure-cultural complex. The “city” is comprised of 6 different cultural and entertainment destinations, including L’Hemisferic, which houses the IMAX Dome, Science Museum Principe Felipe, full of interactive and educational exhibitions and L’Oceanografic. Europe’s largest aquarium, L’Oceanografic is divided into 10 zones and has the only beluga whales in Europe.

Valencia has a number of options for hotels, but the Novotel Valencia Palacio De Congresos is a great choice for those looking for affordable accommodations suitable for the entire family. Located a mile from Bioparc, a block from the hop-on, hop-off tour bus and a short metro ride from the city center, the hotel also offers a number of amenities to keep you entertained for those days when you might prefer to lounge at the hotel, such as a pool and video games in the lobby.

Disclosure: Valencia Tourism provided my accommodations and activities. All opinions and observations are my own.