Travelling is all about creating memories you’ll never forget, and sharing those moments with the people that matter. From penguin spotting with the kids to beachside yoga with a view, swap the classic tourist attractions for one-of-a-kind experiences in four of our favourite destinations – Melbourne, Milan, San Francisco and Bangkok. Former Grazia Travel Editor, Suzanne King, rounds up 12 unforgettable experiences that will make you want to squeeze someone’s hand, whether you’re sharing them with your partner, your family or virtually on social media.

Melbourne

Hot air balloons flying over Melbourne
Pictured: Hot air balloons over Melbourne

Couples: St Kilda 

Food trends come and go in Australia’s gourmet capital, but lazy weekend brunches in the seaside suburb of St Kilda never go out of fashion. Take your pick from the many cafés and cake shops that line Acland Street, then walk hand in hand down to the Esplanade to browse the stalls at the Sunday craft market, enjoy some rollercoaster action at Luna Park and take a people-watching stroll along the beach. If the weather’s fine and you’re both feeling active, you can try your hand at SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) while you’re there. The locals make it look so easy…

Families: Phillip Island 

Wildlife viewing with children can be disappointing – all too often, the wildlife turns shy and fails to show up where it’s meant to be. No such problems at Phillip Island, 90 minutes south of central Melbourne: not only are the resident Little Penguins ridiculously cute (and the world’s smallest species), they’re also highly dependable, unfailingly turning up at dusk every day to return to their burrows after a day’s feeding at sea. Watch your children watching the penguins, waddling and flopping their way along the beach, and you’d swear their smiles couldn’t get any bigger.

Solo: Hot air balloon trip 

There aren’t many cities that you can fly over in a hot air balloon – but Melbourne is one of the few. Steel yourself for an early morning alarm call and by way of reward you get to soak up amazing aerial views on a sunrise flight, as the streets far beneath you slowly start to come to life. Quite what those views will be depends on the wind – you could find yourself gliding between skyscrapers, drifting over familiar landmarks or admiring the city skyline as you sail serenely over the inner suburbs.

Planning a break to Melbourne? We’re offering a range of selected hotels with up to 50% off on stays from 1 October 2018 to 30 November 2018. Find your hotel deal here and book by 15 November 2018. Terms and Conditions apply.

Bangkok

Rooftop bar at sunset in Bangkok
Pictured: Sunset from Sky Bar [Image: © Lebua Hotels & Resorts]

Couples: Sky Bar 

Down at street level Bangkok is ever chaotic but you can easily escape the constant bustle by heading heavenwards, to one of the many rooftop bars and restaurants. Among the most spectacular is the 63rd-floor Sky Bar, 820 feet up on top of the Lebua State Tower, with an eye-catching backlit bar that changes colour throughout the night. Come just before sunset, order in the cocktails, then just relax and enjoy the romance of the moment, as darkness falls and the city turns into a sea of sparkling lights. 

Families: Art in Paradise 

Most art galleries are strictly hands-off but not Art in Paradise in the Esplanade shopping mall. Admittedly, coming here won’t advance a child’s knowledge of Thai culture – but it’s certainly an experience they’ll remember. At this gallery of optical illusions, you’re encouraged to get in amongst the artworks to stage memorable photos, with tips on where to stand and how to pose to get the best effects. Result: an out-of-the-ordinary batch of holiday snaps showing you and yours teetering on a rope bridge, travelling on a flying carpet and being held in a giant robot’s hand.

Solo: Thai cooking class 

Visiting street markets and eating local foods are two of the best ways to get under the skin of a city – and signing up for a class at one of Bangkok’s many cookery schools neatly combines the two. The best start with a guided trip to the market to pick up supplies and learn about the local produce before heading back to the kitchen to prepare classic Thai dishes. It’s worth putting in the effort at this stage – at the end of the session, you get to sit down and eat the results.

Thinking of a trip to Bangkok? We’re offering a range of selected hotels with up to 50% off on stays from 1 October 2018 to 30 November 2018. Find your hotel deal here and book by 15 November 2018. Terms and Conditions apply.

San Francisco

San Francisco cable car on a sunny day
Pictured: A San Francisco cable car

Couples: Exploratorium

The only problem with hands-on galleries and museums is that they tend to be so full of tiny hands having a go on all the exhibits that grown-ups barely get a look-in. Hurrah, then, for the Exploratorium, San Francisco’s museum of science, art and human perception, which once a week turns into an adults-only zone. On After Dark Thursday nights, big kids get a child-free chance to play with all the interactive displays and hear from an ever-changing cast of guest speakers, with a bar and live music thrown in for good measure.

Families: San Francisco streetcars and cable cars

Clanking and clanging their way around town, San Francisco’s vintage streetcars (aka trams or trolleys) and cable cars (the open-sided vehicles familiar from countless films) may not be the fastest means of transport but they’re certainly the most characterful. The former are powered by overhead wires, the latter pulled along by underground cables, and both have three big plus points: they’re more photogenic than a regular bus, they allow you to see parts of the city that you’ll miss if you opt for the speedier underground system and they provide far more scope for keeping little ones entertained.

Solo: Beach yoga

Yoga on the beach – how much more ‘California can you get? When it’s a silent disco session, at sunset, with a view of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge, the answer is not much. Clearly this is the kind of yoga session you want to share on social media, so on a Wednesday or Friday evening, head to Baker Beach to join the Outdoor Yoga SF crew (pictured in main image) donning headphones and spreading out towels, ready for a session of stretching, bending and downward dogging to a suitably zen and groovy playlist.

Ready to explore San Francisco? We’re offering a range of selected hotels with up to 50% off on stays from 1 October 2018 to 30 November 2018. Find your hotel deal here and book by 15 November 2018. Terms and Conditions apply.

Milan

The Naviglio Grande in Milan Italy
Pictured: The Naviglio Grande in Milan

Couples: La Scala

Even if you never get tickets for a performance at La Scala, Milan’s famous opera house, you can still get a taste of the behind-the-scenes hard work that goes into staging each production. Open to the public for guided tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays (booking essential), the three pavilions of the huge Ansaldo Workshops in the southwest of the city are where the theatre’s impressive sets and costumes are created and stored, and provide a chance to watch talented craftspeople preparing for the next season’s shows.

Families: Naviglio district

Milan’s classic tourist attractions aren’t exactly the stuff of children’s holiday dreams, so abandon the usual must-do list (queueing for the Duomo, viewing ‘The Last Supper’, browsing the designer boutiques) in favour of a two-wheeled family adventure. Pick up picnic supplies, hire bikes, and cycle along the Naviglio Martesana, one of three canals that link the city to the surrounding villages and countryside. Paths are largely flat and a metro line runs nearby so you can jump on the train to skip the urban section and switch to pedal power once you reach somewhere more rural.

Solo: Bar Luce 

It’s probably not so surprising that film director Wes Anderson masterminded the look at Bar Luce. From the architectural paper on walls and ceiling to the retro shades of the Formica furniture and the presence of a vintage-style pinball machine and jukebox, the whole thing is clearly the work of someone with a certain visual flair. The bar is part of the Fondazione Prada art complex, so you can get a cultural fix first before retreating to this eminently Instagrammable space for a drink, a bite to eat and an attempt to capture the perfect arty shot.

Ready to explore Milan? We’re offering a range of selected hotels with up to 50% off on stays from 1 October 2018 and 30 November 2018. Find your hotel deal here and book by 15 November 2018. Terms and Conditions apply.

Lead image: Julianne Aiello © Outdoor Yoga SF

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