It’s back to school time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take the kids on one last trip before they hit the books again. Instead of lying on the beach or going to ride the roller coasters at Six Flags, how about a trip that’s both fun and educational? It will help their young minds get ready to hit the books after a relaxing summer. Here are nine cool places that will bring out their curious side again. Who knows? You might just learn a little something, too.
Get your lance ready! (Photo: Chuck DuFour/Historic Jamestown/Facebook)
Historic Jamestown, Jamestown, Va.
Colonial Williamsburg might be the bigger draw, but if you want authenticity rather than just costume drama, head over to the site of Jamestown, one of the earliest European colonies in North America. It is also where the famed story of John Smith and Pocahontas began. It features a wide selection of authentic artifacts, and recovery efforts are still ongoing. When they look out over the water and learn what it was like for those early colonists, your kids will appreciate the hardships that it took to build this nation.
Related: How to Travel With Kids for Free
You’ll spend a day, but you’ll be talking about it for months. (Photo: USS Alabama)
USS Alabama, Mobile, Ala.
You can take the kids on a self-guided tour of the USS Alabama, nestled in Mobile Bay, and teach them about World War II in a grand way. The battleship is wide open, and roaming freely is encouraged, from walking a deck with a beautiful view of the bay to actually sitting in its massive gun turrets. Informative displays explain the ship’s history, but the openness of the experience may be it’s biggest draw. The ship is 680 feet from stem to stern, which is about half the height of the Empire State Building. There’s a surrounding park with other military equipment and an Aircraft Pavilion.
Where else can you pretend to be a news anchor? (Photo: Newseum/Facebook)
Newseum, Washington, D.C.
There are scores of museums in the nation’s capital, but in this digital age, why not teach your children the history of journalism as it used to be? The Newseum famously features the front pages of newspapers worldwide on a daily basis, and it also has exhibits on publications as diverse as the old polemics of the Revolution and the “yellow journalism” of the William Randolph Hearst era. There’s an exhibit on the history of the First Amendment. And the museum’s terrace overlooks Pennsylvania Avenue, one of the most famous streets in America.
The entire city of Philadelphia makes for a great weekend trip. You can learn with a side of cheesesteak. (Photo: Facebook/National Constitution Center)
National Constitution Center, Philadelphia
The National Constitution Center is a great place to learn about the U.S. Constitution and help your kids ace history class. One of its main attractions in a 360-degree theatrical performance highlighting the history of the United States, from the American Revolution to present day. In Signer’s Hall, you’ll feel like you’re back in 1787 for the signing of the Constitution as you walk alongside life-size statues of the founding fathers. The center also offers helpful lesson plans on its website.
This is a vacation everyone will enjoy. (Photo: Reinhard Link/Flickr)
Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, Fla.
You can learn what it’s like to be a dolphin trainer at the Dolphin Research Center’s “Ultimate Trainer for a Day” program, which includes swimming with these magnificent mammals. The center, located in the Florida Keys, also offers several educational seminars and workshops for all ages through its DolphinLab programs. Learn about conservation and marine wildlife, including manatees and sea lions, and meet the center’s newest addition, a dolphin born in February named Cacica.
This place rocks. Literally. (Photo: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame/Facebook)
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland
You’ve been listening to Taylor Swift and One Direction all summer. Now take the kids to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum and teach them about the classic rock you grew up on. There’s a Beatles exhibit, a collection of portraits of major rock stars from legendary photographer Herb Ritts, and a special display on the story of Paul Simon’s life. After your kids ask you who Paul Simon is, take them over to the “Roots of Rock and Roll” exhibit and teach them about blues, gospel, country, folk, bluegrass, and R&B music.
It is definitely time to channel your inner space nerd. (Photo: NASA Space Center/Facebook)
Space Center, Houston
The Space Center in Houston is the Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center and is a great way to get your kids excited about math, science, technology, and engineering. The center offers day camp programs, and its current educational focus is called “The Next Giant Leap,” featuring NASA’s newest quest to journey to Mars. If you go on a Friday, you can meet an astronaut.
If only all our classes were this fun. (Photo: Facebook/Treetop Quest)
Treetop Quest, Buford, Ga.
What’s educational about going ziplining through trees, you ask? Besides the exhilarating experience of conquering your fears at Treetop Quest, your children can explore the Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center, where the zipline is located, and learn about nature and environmental preservation. There’s an obstacle course that features quizzes along the way. And the center has a physics program that lets kids learn about the science behind how the obstacle course and ziplines were set up.
Getting a little colonial. (Photo: Facebook/Saunder Village)
Sauder Village, Archbold, Ohio
Sauder Village will give you the perfect excuse to get your kids off their iPhones and video games. They’ll be forced to step back in time when kids would play outside, without the luxury of technology. The village offers a look at what life was like in the 19th century and early 20th century in rural America. The historic village can open up discussions not just about history, but economics, too, as kids learn how goods were bought and used in those times.
Let’s travel back in time. (Photo: Kristen/Flickr)
La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, Los Angeles
Bring out the inner Indiana Jones in your kids and visit the La Brea Tar Pits. They’ll get to see over 1 million Ice Age fossils from 650 species, including a smilodon — an extinct saber-toothed cat. Learn how paleontologists conduct their excavations and watch first-hand the work they’re doing in the Fossil Labs. There’s a 3D film that teaches about the Ice Age and how the animals got trapped in the tar, and there’s a live action show that features a life-size saber-toothed cat puppet.
Check out our original adventure travel series A Broad Abroad.