Taking small children on a vacation can be challenging. It requires a lot of planning and packing, and the constant queries of “Are we there yet?” can be exasperating. On the other hand, small children aren’t as cynical or invested in being “cool” as teenagers are. They aren’t likely to dismiss something as corny or boring.
Parents therefore have a chance to appeal to their children’s sense of wonder by taking them to places that will spark their imaginations, curiosity and joy of travel. Consider the following educational places to bring your kids to.
1. Dinosaur Land
Kids love dinosaurs, so a dinosaur exhibit should definitely be on your list of possible destinations. Scientists found thousands of fossilized dinosaurs in Utah back in 1909, so the federal government declared the area a protected national treasure.
Since then, Dinosaur Land has become home to museums, hiking trails, campgrounds and other attractions. The Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum boasts life-size replicas of various dinosaurs. A “Find the Fossils” exhibit challenges visitors to distinguish fossils from ordinary rocks.
2. San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo, which is a little over 100 years old, is one of the first zoos to have developed “cageless” exhibits. It boasts over 4,000 animals, including such favorites as pandas, lions and elephants. A brand-new exhibit called Africa Rocks showcases six different habitats in Africa.
Another fairly new exhibit is the Outback that features Australian animals like wallabies, koalas, Tasmanian devils and kookaburras. The Skyfari is an aerial tram that extends from one end of the Zoo to the other. Also their 4-D theaters show 3-D versions of animal-themed movies like “Rio.”
3. Creative Discovery Museum
The Creative Discovery Museum is a children’s museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It contains exhibits dedicated to natural history, arts and music. One area, the Little Yellow House, is designed for children under four years old. The exhibits are largely hand-on; the Arts Alley Visual Arts, for example, lets young visitors draw self-portraits, direct a movie, or make clay sculptures.
In the RiverPlay exhibit, visitors learn about rivers while aboard a boat. Café Dino-Mite provides snacks and meals made with healthy ingredients. The museum shop sells a variety of educational toys and books. The Creative Discovery Museum is within walking distance of other attractions like an I-MAX theater and an aquarium.
4. Yellowstone National Park
Established in 1872, Yellowstone is the oldest national park in the world. While it is famous for its geysers and hot springs, it is also home to over 400 species of wild animals native to the area including bears, wolves and elk. Children can fill out booklets that help them learn about the park and its natural history to become Junior Rangers or Young Scientists.
Yellowstone also boasts 12 campsites and 52 picnic areas, and there are a variety of tours, including some tailored for children. There are also lakes where families may go boating or fishing, and over 1,000 miles of hiking trails.
5. Mystic Seaport: Museum of America and the Sea
Mystic, Connecticut was once New England’s shipbuilding capital. It is now home to the largest maritime museum in the United States. The exhibits include a collection of historic boats and ships and an authentic 19th Century village that features a light house, drug store and chapel.
Visitors can explore some of the ships, including the “Charles W. Morgan,” the last surviving wooden whaleship in the world. Mystic Seaport also has a planetarium that explains how sailors used stars for navigation.
There are many possibilities for an educational family trip. Choosing the right one is largely a question of considering the child’s age and interests.