A family vacation is a great way to reconnect, relax and re-energize so it’s no surprise that 69% of Americans are hitting the road and the air for a summer vacation. To help you plan a family-friendly education detour, we went straight to Trip Advisor’s Top 10 Summer Destinations. We picked five awesome locations that feature amazing ways to learn something new. Each of these still boasts major fun, but will help keep those brains in gear a little more than just vegging out on the beach.
1 Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: Check out WonderWorks, which is described as “an indoor interactive amusement park for the mind.” Legend has it that the museum began as a top secret research lab on a remote island and when you visit you’ll find out why everything is upside down! Enter the inversion tunnel so you can participate in the journey which features more than 100 interactive exhibits from creating giant bubbles to lying on a bed of nails. The aerial walking course is a big hit with tweens and teens.
If you’re up for a drive, a second option is the USS North Carolina, a decommissioned World War II battleship located about an hour away in Wilmington, NC. Take a step back in history and time as you explore the decks and engines of this ship, which saw its heyday in the Pacific theater.
2. Las Vegas, Nevada: When your family is along, you may be less interested in the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” mantra. Not to worry! There are fun, family-friendly and yes, educational side trips just outside of the city. Our favorite is the Hoover Dam. One of the largest in America, it was built so that Nevada, California, and Arizona could increase irrigation waters and manage flood waters, and create hydroelectric-power. Come to see the amazing views as well as learn more about the benefits of hydroelectric power.
Another quirky option is the Atomic Testing Museum which has a number of exhibits to explore, as well as an actual bunker. There are usually engineers on hand who have put in years at the Nevada Test Site and can answer questions.
3. New York City: New York offers almost limitless possibilities for educational detours from amazing museums to grandiose architecture. But one not-to-be missed stop is Ellis Island. It’s estimated that half of all Americans can trace their family history to someone who passed through the island. Plan a visit to learn about the experiences of American immigrants, the history and timeline of the Island, and even uncover your own family history.
For a bird’s eye view of the city, head over to Top of the Rock in Rockefeller Center where your kids can see Manhattan from one of three observation decks with the help of a GPS-activated audio/visual guide that provides information about each of the landmarks they’re seeing.
4. Orlando, Florida: Get your mouse on, and then blast off to the Kennedy Space Center, home to two launch pads, one of the world’s longest runways and the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Kids love the interactive displays but their favorite part will be the Shuttle Launch Experience™. This ride simulates what it’s like to journey to 17,500 mph and you get a first-person view of Earth from space. Awesome! Also check out Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor’s Center to see all kinds of space artifacts, including launch pads and the history of space travel. Other features include IMAX films, talks with astronauts and tours of the launch sites.
Another option of course is Epcot Center, which has two main parts: Future World, which features technological innovations, and World Showcase, which introduces the culture and cuisine of 11 countries. Take a vacation around-the-world and into the future without ever leaving the comfort of Disney!
5. San Francisco, California: The Exploratorium is not to be missed! From the science of cooking, to cow’s eye dissection to the science of skateboards, your kids will be having so much fun they won’t even know they are learning! The Exploratorium has six main galleries, each focused on a different area of exploration, but all featuring interactive exhibits.
Another educational opportunity with major cool factor is a visit to Alcatraz where former prisoners give your kids an audio tour they won’t soon forget. The federal penitentiary is just one part of Alcatraz Island. You’ll also find a close-up look at the site of the first lighthouse and U.S.-built fort on the West Coast, and a lovely natural side including gardens, tide pools, bird colonies and amazing views of the San Francisco Bay.
Traveling with your kids and mixing it up with fun educational stops is one of the best ways to expand their worlds and make the most amazing memories! Share your favorite vacation destinations with us on Facebook.