With Summer just around the corner, we’ve gathered 5 unique vacation destinations that are both fun and educational for the family.
1. Yellowstone National Park
So I have to admit, I have a real soft spot for this place. When I was about 11 years old, my family decided to take a road trip from LA to Yellowstone and the memories will forever be ingrained in my mind. I could hardly wrap my mind around the Old Faithful Geyser. How could this natural phenomenon know to erupt every 35-90 minutes? It’s like it was born for show business. Why do I feel like Walt Disney had something to do with this?
Being a city girl, I truly believe it’s vital to a child’s growth to be exposed to nature. The epic size of Yellowstone and its gorgeous conifer trees can really show your little ones what mother earth has to offer. This is by far the most beneficial aspect of visiting the park. You are surrounded by beauty, peace and wildlife, and it’s an excellent opportunity for your kids to learn about nature, our environment, and the many animals that depend on its existence.
2. San Diego
If you’re looking for a no-brainer, San Diego is a great place to take the little ones. There’s really something for everyone here, and I feel like it’s often overlooked as a California destination. San Francisco and Los Angeles can often overshadow this little town that could. But it’s hard to argue with a place that offers a world-renowned zoo, a safari park where the animals roam free, a marine park, great surfing for both beginners and experts, and a bay populated with historic navy ships. Did I mention there’s something here for everyone? And just like Los Angeles, the weather is almost always agreeable. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, Legoland is only a half hour drive from the city.
I realize this is a serious parental challenge, but Joy Cho over at ohjoy actually makes this endeavor look doable and fun. I’ve experienced Paris as a young lady (that’s right, I said lady!) in my mid-20s, and I feel like experiencing it with the kids would open up a totally different side to the City of Love. Plus, your family photos will look absolutely amazing. Surprisingly, there is an endless list of activities for the kids. Sure, there’s the obvious Eiffel Tower, which may be best experienced from below rather than trucking the kids through a long line and being trapped up there with an afternoon tantrum. But Paris has so much to offer the kids.
The Tuileries Garden has a great playground for the kids while you enjoy the historic scenery. During the summer, the garden features a carnival with a gorgeous ferris wheel and plenty of games and rides to entertain your tykes. This is just one example of the many public parks that Paris has to offer that have multiple activities to entice the kids. You’ll also find carousels all over the city. My favorite one is located at the Sacred Heart Bascilica of Montmarte (Sacre-Couer). And don’t be afraid to explore the city by boat or spend a little time in a museum. You never know if your little one will be the next Renoir and is simply in need of just the right inspiration.
Of course, I have to mention...Disneyland Paris is a 35-minute train ride from the city center. So there’s always that back up plan. Lastly, don’t forget to experience the food. If there’s one thing that the entire family will enjoy, it’s the most delicious and delectable pastries you will ever experience. Hands down.
4. Minnesota State Fair
This is a great way to end a summer vacation, as the festivities begin every year a week and a half before Labor Day. One of the biggest in the country, the Minnesota State Fair combines everything a family could hope for in a vacation. The Midway features rides and games for all ages. The Grandstand hosts concerts for you and your teenagers. There are also plenty of educational exhibits about farm life which include a milking contest and a birthing center. You can actually witness the miracle of life: the birth of a little calf. And peppered all over the fair are lots of food. Deep fried food. Deep fried Snickers to be exact. My only advice is to remember to pace yourself because you will want to try everything.
The Twin Cities has tons to offer on top of the fair. They’ve got fantastic museums and the second largest mall in the US: Mall of America. The Mall of America features an amusement park and a water park, along with hundreds of stores. Minnesota is also the land of 10,000 lakes, many of which are within a short driving distance from the city. So after you’ve OD’d on the deep fried grub, you can work it off with a swim in the lake or a little hike in the woods.
5. Historical Road Trip - Philiadelphia, Washington, DC and Gettysburg
This trip is best appreciated when the kids are a little bit older and will take some planning, but I assure you it is well worth it. I took this trip with my family right before I started high school, and again this stands out as one of our best vacations. It was a great way to reinforce everything I was learning in school, and reinforce why my parents decided to emigrate to the United States. It would be impossible to experience everything a trip like this has to offer, but there are a few definites.
While in Philadelphia you’ll want to hit the Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the National Constitution Center. Just a half hour from the city, you won’t want to miss the Valley Forge Historical Park where George Washington and his troops sought refuge for the winter during the Revolution. It goes without saying that you’ll want to try as many Philly cheesesteak sandwiches as your stomach can handle.
In just a 2 hour drive, your next stop is Gettysburg. Brave the crowds during the fourth of July because the Civil War reenactments will truly immerse you in this historical experience. Even if you forego the reenactments, Gettysburg offers multiple types of tours to learn about the role this city played in US history from buses and bikes to carriages and horses. There are an endless list of museums as well for every history buff in the family.
Finally, after an hour and a half drive, Washington, DC will solidify this historical American journey. A tour of the White House, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial are staples to any DC trip. Be sure not to forget seeing the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights at the National Archives, where you can even research your family's immigration records.
A trip like this is sure to teach the kids how America was built and to appreciate its future and their place in it.
If you’re worried about traveling with the little ones, I’ve gathered a couple of helpful links from the Small Things Blog and Oh Joy.