Magical Mystery Rides

John Lennon Quote about life and happiness

I recently wrote about curating my own childhood in my 40 Great Things About Being a Father post. This gave me the idea to write about some of the specific things I plan on recycling from my childhood.

My dad was a big Beatles fan and a few times during my childhood he’d take us on “Magic Mystery Tours”. Over the years my memory turned these into Magic Mystery Rides and now that I have kids of my own, I’m continuing the tradition.

So what is a magical mystery ride? Here are the criteria:

  1. It has to be a rare event, something that you don’t do very often. Ideally it would only occur once.
  2. It is usually short in duration. Only a couple of hours, but no longer than an afternoon or evening.
  3. It has to be memorable. The goal for a magic mystery ride is to find something so unique that your kids will remember it forever.
  4. You only do a Magic Mystery Ride once a year, maybe twice a year. (If every other weekend were a magic mystery ride, it wouldn’t be that special.)
  5. MYSTERY – you can’t tell your kids what it is.
  6. It ideally would be spontaneous for your kids. The parents can have it planned ahead of time, but you’d ideally not tell your kids about it until you are about to leave.

Magical Mystery Tours

Here are a few of the examples of these Magical Mystery Tours from my childhood:

  1. Christmas light extravaganza. My dad discovered a neighborhood in our area that went all out with Christmas lights one year. He packed us into the car and drove us to the neighborhood. It was a winter wonderland. Each house we passed somehow out did the house before it. One house even had a light show set to Christmas music.
  2. Ice Castle – I live in a cold state and about every 4 years the city will build a giant castle made from ice bricks taken from local lakes. Picture a three or four story castle made entirely out of ice. Complete with chain-saw wielding ice sculptors and endless amounts of hot chocolate. What kid wouldn’t love that?
  3. Motion Simulator – This was by far the most memorable Magic Mystery Tour we went on. If you aren’t familiar with a motion simulator I’ll do my best to describe the experience. You get into a large capsule with a small group of 10-14 people. You buckle yourselves in to seats and a large screen in front of you lights up. Hydraulics lifted the capsule up in the air and the screen displays a variety of different scenes. First you’re on a roller coaster, whipping around a track. Then your immediately transported into a jet fighter and flying through the sky at Mach 5. Then just as quickly you’re in outer space peering down at the earth hundreds of miles below you. All the while the hydraulics are jostling you about and fans are blowing you in when appropriate to convince all of your senses that what is happening on the screen is actually happening to you. As a ten or eleven year old in the late eighties or early nineties, this was just about as cool as it could get. I’d never seen or even conceived of anything like it at the time.

Magical Mystery Rides

Now that I’m a parent myself and my memory has turned the Magical Mystery Tours into Magical Mystery Rides, I knew I wanted my kids to share in this fun memory. Since our kids are just now getting to the age where they might remember these fun events, we only just started doing them last year. So here are the two we’ve completed thus far:

  1. First Movie – While future movie outings won’t elevate itself to magical mystery ride status, I thought their first movie in the theater was Magical Mystery Ride worthy.
  2. First Sporting Event – This past winter we took our boys to a hockey game. This was their first time at any major sporting event. Similar to the movie, subsequent sporting events likely won’t be branded as Magical Mystery Rides.

Future Magical Mystery Ride Ideas

I’ve found a motion simulator in our area that I plan on taking the kids too when they are both tall enough to ride. I’ll also keep an eye out for the Ice Castle. Beyond these two recycled ideas, I’m always on the look out for unique opportunities that are worthy of the title of Magical Mystery Ride.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you have suggestions for Magical Mystery Rides for me? Or are there any things from your own childhood that you have or plan to implement with your own kids?


  1. What a fantastic idea!

    I plan to take my son to a drive-in movie in the next year or two. He’s a touch too young for the late hours now.

    In our area, there is a train yard that does short rides, and sometimes a full-size Thomas the Train actually shows up. Children darn near poop themselves when he does.

    When I was a kid, we once went on a scenic flight in a small propellor plane to see the fall colors. It’s one of the more memorable experiences on my childhood.

    1. Those all sound amazing. We have a drive in theater just a few miles from our house. Unfortunately my oldest doesn’t like movies, but hopefully he’ll grow out of that. If not I’ll likely just take my youngest. Sounds like your kids have a few Magic Mystery Rides in their future!

  2. That’s an awesome idea. My dad had his own catch phrase every time we went off to do something new – “we’re off on another adventure”.

    I’ve always appreciated the positivity and excitement that came with experiencing new adventures as a family and it’s something we work hard to do with our kids as well.

    1. It’s really funny how those things stick in our heads as kids. Sounds like you have some great childhood memories as well, and from the sounds of it, you’ll be creating some more with your own family soon!

  3. I absolutely love this! Leave it to MSF for some great parenting ideas. I have to admit tho that I couldn’t help but sing John Legend’s “All of Me” while reading this post. “I’m on your magical mystery ride…”

  4. Great Stuff MSF!

    I still have a few years to think of these with my son, but I love the idea of spontaneous adventures. I know I am excited to sneak my son out of school on a Wednesday and catch a minor league game with him. Mom may not get notice of it until later because it will be our cool thing to do.

    Awesome Idea, thanks for sharing!

    1. Great idea. There are few things more fun for a kid than getting broken out of school for something cool. So far I’ve only taken m kids out of school for a dentist appointment, but I think I’ll have to add a spontaneous break out for a fun activity to the list.

  5. Awesome idea, stored this post in my fatherhood folder 😉 Just popped into my mind: to get more ideas we should listen to them more carefully when they ask for something we know it is impossible or at least momentally. Example: my daughter is in love with the cartoon Moana at the moment, so when she saw the big turtles in the water immediately asked me if we could relocate and live in Maui. While I know this is impossible at the moment what she really liked to do is to see turtles so we are planning a visit to the nearest see life aquarium later this year.

  6. I don’t recall ever experiencing the equivalent of a Magical Mystery Ride as a child. But I do remember friends of mine who ‘kidnapped’ their two daughters, in the middle of the night to go to Disney. The girls had no idea that the trip had been planned! They were woken up at the crack of dark and hustled into the car in their pj’s. The was the start of their memorable vacation.

    After hearing that story, I was green with envy that nothing like that had happened in my life.

    So okay a drive to Florida might not fit your criteria. But what about waking your sons in the middle of the night to look at shooting stars, or northern lights or…..???

    1. That is next level stuff right there. I remember being allowed to stay up late to watch the world series when I was young, but nothing quite this elaborate. I will have to find a way to integrate a midnight wake up call into a future Magic Mystery Ride. Thanks for the suggestion!

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