When summer comes to an end and the kids are back in school, there are still ways to get away — and enhance their education (and yours), too. Why not show them what they’re learning in school? Teach the kids something new with these educational, yet fun options.
1. Living History Destinations
Immerse your family into a historical past with a visit to living history museums. These special museums and tours feature costumed actors portraying life in a another time period, providing demonstrations of cooking, farming, household life and more. One of the most popular living history museums is Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, with other favorites scattered around the country including Plimouth Planation in Massachusetts, Old World Wisconsin, Lincoln Log Cabin Site in Illinois, Heritage Square Museum in California and basically the entire town of Gettysburg!
2. National Parks
State and national parks also offer fantastic teaching opportunities, with special programs to acquaint kids with the environment and wildlife. Some parks have museums on-property, and many offer Junior Ranger and other kids’ programs specifically designed to engage children. Georgia State Parks, for example, feature a number of historic homes and plantations, including the Jarrell Plantation Historic Site near Macon and the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site in the North Georgia Mountains.
Related: 10 Best National Parks for Families
3. History Tours
Your children may enjoy field trips to local historic sites, but travel further afield so they can see sites in neighboring states. Some of the best places to visit include Boston’s Freedom Trail, New York City’s National September 11 Memorial and Museum, Cape Canaveral, Florida’s Space Centers and Gettysburg in eastern Pennsylvania. However, every state has attractions focusing on their history and a visit to state capitals in nearby states can make for educational destinations.
Historic homes and sites are also good day-trip sites. For example, along the Hudson River in New York, historic homes available for tours include Vanderbilt’s Mansion, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Hyde Park and Washington Irving’s Sunnyside.
Related: 15 Best Historic U.S. Sites for Kids
If you’re looking for something to do on a weekend afternoon, skip the Chuck E. Cheese visit and take the kids to a local museum. Many museums have special family programs to enhance the experience, such as the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, which offers a special Family Tour on Sundays, and the Dallas Museum of Art, which features Arturo Family Gallery Guides. Science centers, such as the Adventure Science Center in Nashville, are also a great option. And don’t forget about hall of fames, such as the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville and College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, as they provide a glimpse into our nation’s music and sports history.
Related: 12 Best Museums for Teens
5. Overnight Programs
Many museums and zoos offer special overnight programs that provide a unique and exclusive nighttime package for kids. These programs take place all night with special exhibit tours, hands-on programs, indoor camping and breakfast the following morning. You’ll find programs at zoos like the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., Zoo Atlanta and the Philadelphia Zoo, as well as at museums, including Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center, Chicago’s Field Museum, and New York’s American Museum of Natural History, where kids can experience the real “Night at the Museum” in person.
Related: 13 Best Nights at the Museums
6. “Classroom” Hotels
A number of hotels offer programs to teach guests about the surrounding destination, the culture and the environment, not to mention arts and crafts and cooking opportunities. Many Ritz-Carlton Hotels offer Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment, which teaches all ages about life in the oceans through exciting programs. Another great offering is Westin Resorts’ Cookery, developed in conjunction with SuperChefs; here, family can take special cooking classes.
Additionally, some hotels are historical sites in and of themselves; these include The Greenbrier in Virginia, which was a Cold War bunker for Washington, D.C. dignitaries and today, a tour of the massive bunker is available.
Related: Best Historic Hotels in the U.S.