When on vacation, there are plenty of opportunities to make the most meager of attractions into a learning experience. However, if you're on the hunt for a trip that masks learning in excitement, education in adventure, then you've come to the right place. Here are a few that we found to meet those requirements as the Best Educational Trips for Kids.
The Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks are, of course, at the top of the list to visit with your kids. The natural wonders of both are too fantastic to miss and should be seen first by young eyes. Adventures riding donkeys to the base of the Grand Canyon can be treacherous and frightening but enlightening as you take in the enormity of the space. Yellowstone, as well, is an amazing sight to behold with over 10,000 geothermal features and over 300 geysers including Old Faithful. Take a tour or teach your kids about the earth's crust and how volcanoes work as you explore the park's wildlife.
The seemingly barren landscape of the Dakotas may be off-putting at first but it is a hidden treasure trove of scientific research, experiences, and more. The Black Hills and Badlands are home to a plethora of wildlife experiences including the Fur-Ever Wild reserve where you can play with rescued grey wolf puppies or Bear Country USA, a drive-through zoo where you can observe bears, mountain lions, wolves and more from the safety of your car. If your children are interested in dinosaurs, South Dakota is also home to the Dinosaur Park and the Mammoth
Site, an active paleontological dig site with the highest concentration of mammoth remains in the world. Both sites are open year-round to curious visitors.
Like dinosaurs, space is a natural fascination for children young and old. It only makes sense for those with the inclination to visit the best space centers in the country, Kennedy Space Center near Orlando, Florida, and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, part of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Both are open for tours, lectures, exhibits, and displays, with interactive hands-on activities for kids with an added interest. Space & Rocket Center is home to one of the largest collections of rockets and space memorabilia in the world as well as the famous Space Camp. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. is also a fabulous destination as it holds the largest collection of artifacts from the Apollo space missions including the Apollo 11 command module.
Home to over 3,700 rare and endangered species, the San Diego Zoo is a world-class interactive wildlife park for animals. From Amur leopards, Chinese alligators, and the ever-favorite African animals to endangered species such as giant pandas, Malayan tigers, and the Mang Mountain Viper, the San Diego Zoo has an impressive collection of wildlife. Not only does this zoo have an amazing array of animals, they also have dozens of activities and programs for children and adults. Sign up for early mornings with the pandas, have breakfast with the koalas, or take a private VIP tour of the park and even see off-exhibit areas.
A family trip to our nation's capital should be on the top of everyone's list. There is so much a family can do in this city that qualifies as educational including walking tours of the national monuments, memorials, and parks or visits to the dozens of museums. The city itself is historical and filled with statues and plaques commemorating a moment in history. Start your trip at the National Mall to see the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and Capitol Hill surrounded by the Smithsonian museums. Check out Ford's Theatre and the Petersen House while you're in town and then head over to the Natural History Museum to see an amazing collection of prehistoric creatures and dinosaur skeletons.
This living history exhibit is a first class example of an educational adventure. The 301-acre area is a revived piece of colonial history with restored, rebuilt, and refurbished buildings furnished to look as it did in the 17th and 18th centuries. Trained storytellers and experts dress as colonists to correctly tell the story of their lives, from the normal everyday people to notable names like Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, and Samuel Adams. This full immersion experience includes indoor museums, "listen in" activities where you can eavesdrop on historic conversations between revolutionaries, learn how to make butter, and experience real life as it was over 200 years ago.
Ushering in over 25 million individuals during its heyday, Ellis Island was the gateway to the American Dream. Take a tour or self-guided your children through the busiest immigration portal in the country. Visitors are given the rare opportunity of experiencing the immigration process as their ancestors had by going through checkpoints, baggage holds, and more. Look through the exhibits with thousands of artifacts, personal stories, audio narratives, and interviews with people who walked those halls as new Americans. Families may even search for the names of their ancestors at the Family History Center.
There are literally thousands of destinations, attractions, and tours families can take in the U.S. that would prove to be amazing educational trips for kids. However, these are among the best for the whole family with incredible side-trip opportunities if you so choose. Mask learning on an adventure and you won't be able to tear your kids away. Have fun and remember, travel in itself is an educational adventure in more ways than one.