A couple of days outside of Moscow
June 13, 2012 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Where should I go for a couple of days outside of Moscow with my young son?

I'm taking my seven-year-old son to visit my brother's family in Moscow in July, but we want to go off for a couple of days on our own while they're otherwise occupied. I've been considering taking the overnight train to Tallinn and back, with a hotel night in the middle. I think the overnight train would be pretty fun for him in itself, and he got excited when I told him about it. But a 2nd class coupe on that train is looking more expensive than I'd thought, so I'm exploring other options.

Do you have favorite Golden Ring cities or other excursions?

What did you think of Tallinn if you've visited?

I'd like the trip to be enriching and cool, and have something different from Moscow. Perhaps it should be not-too-challenging in terms of managing ourselves with my modest Russian skills, since I won't have another grown-up to let off steam with when things get tricky. (Or maybe I should be more adventurous.) Some nature might be nice too, perhaps, if it doesn't take away from the other-placey-ness too much.

And to squeeze in one more bit, any concerns about sharing a non-lux coupe in an overnight train with my kid and a couple of strangers? I'm not too worried about real danger, but just wondering what do you think it'd be like for the little guy?
posted by spbmp to Travel & Transportation around Russian Federation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This may be too obvious, but how about the high-speed train to St. Petersburg. Lots of eye candy architecture there, plus boat trips traversing the rivers/bridges.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 4:49 PM on June 13, 2012

If logistically feasible, I don't think the trip to Tallinn is a bad idea. Old Tallinn is beautiful and Estonia has a much stronger Western Europe vibe than Russia does. Certainly more accommodating of non-Russian-speaking travelers.

Moscow by itself has plenty to see to fill up two free days, although I'd be a trifle concerned about "walking while foreign" around the city. Some of the attractions may wear on a young child, though.

Finally, Russians may be violent sociopaths, but they do love children. It's a part of the culture. If your son is not too shy and is willing to be "cute" to strangers you meet, you shouldn't have much trouble.
posted by Nomyte at 7:16 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Around Moscow, I liked Vladimir, Suzdal, and Yaroslavl. Sergiyev Posad was interesting too. You could also consider Yasnaya Polyana.

On trains, you should be fine as long as you consume your own foodstuff and avoid the generous offers from strangers. Find a polite way to refuse. You lose out on some well-meaning hospitality, but on the plus side, you don't wake up hours later without your money.
posted by vidur at 11:23 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The following is from a good friend of mine who is from Russia.

Here, you can post this:


While I personally love it and I think you yourself will enjoy it a great deal, I'm not sure how much fun the Golden Ring stuff is going to be for a 7-year old.  Yeah, you can go to Suzdal or Sergiev Posad, but it's all architecture and history. While very interesting and beautiful, it's not really THAT physically impressive (which is what 7 year olds are going to care about), especially after seeing the Kremlin.  Are you going to have any time in Moscow itself?  The Cat theatre, the puppet theatre (there are a few, but the Obraztsov one is the classic), the circus (nikulin or the new one), if you want to walk around, victory park or sokolniki, never mind the usual attractions.  Maybe a riverboat trip?  There's an entire site for "family attractions" but it's all in Russian - http://www.osd.ru/respinf.asp?ob=81&dt=3530. Unless you've seen everything or just completely hate it, it seems like staying in the city would be a more efficient use of your time.

Also, the "walking while foreign" and "violent sociopaths" comments are moronic.  If you lose the "I'm a Western tourist gracing your country with my presence, bow down to me and the purchasing power of my currency" attitude frequently espoused by American tourists, you will have no problems in ordinary situations.  No, it isn't Stockholm or Zurich; yes, you should be a _little_ more careful if you're not white or male, just like anywhere else.  Just stay away from groups of drunk men and don't accept suspicious offers from strangers.

p.s. as far as trains, the 'sapsan' high speed train to St. Petersburg is probably going to be the most exciting, but it's also the most expensive.  Going to Tallinn (beautiful place, by the way) seems silly if you only have two days - you won't get to see much of it.

posted by bilabial at 5:34 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's plenty to do in Moscow especially for a 7-yr old. The Space Museum could keep him occupied for most of the day. It did for me and I'm an adult. The nearby All Russia Exhibition Center is pretty amazing even though it has sort of devolved into a kitschy shopping park but is fun nevertheless. From there you can take a ride on the monorail. It's almost like Disneyland!
posted by JJ86 at 5:45 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

We definitely plan to leave town for a bit, but I appreciate and will use the Moscow suggestions, too! (Things like the puppet theatre.) Having heard some plusses and minuses for various places, these suggestions have me feeling more at ease with and excited about the Tallinn idea, money permitting, despite the short visit. Thanks for your thoughts, everyone.
posted by spbmp at 7:12 AM on June 15, 2012

This suggestion has been made on prior Moscow threads, but I will repost because it is fantastic -- the flea market at the Partizanskaya subway stop. Everything from artisans to antique dealers. It is FANTASTIC and would be super fun for a seven year old and for anyone, actually. Also, a few times on my recent trip to Moscow I saw street performers with trained/dressed monkeys -- hope your seven year old sees a monkey! Gorky Park is also awesome, and an easy subway trip. Lots of other kids, and a few amusement park-style kiddie rides.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:16 AM on June 15, 2012

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