“Are we there yet?”
“There is nothing to do here.”
“When. Can. We. Go. Back. HOME?!”
These nagging comments from the back seat of a car or even in the middle of a crowded tourist attraction can put a major downer on a family vacation. When the kids aren’t happy, the adults aren’t happy (or desperately seeking the nearest happy hour).
Adults can try so hard to include educational elements into a summer vacation. But sometimes the choices of learning activities on the road, might not motivate kids to participate. Do you ever feel like swimming pools, water parks, and amusement parks are the three things your kids want to do at all times on vacation?
Luckily, there are so many creative and out of the box ways to add educational learning to your summer vacation. Hopefully, this list can help you choose a stand-out activity that the whole family enjoys, and that your children will connect with. Guaranteed, the first day back at school, your kids will be asked to write: “How did you spend your summer vacation”. Their new teacher will be impressed with a memoir about sleeping underneath dinosaur bones at the Smithsonian, or a moment of silence reflecting on a Pearl Harbor Tour.
Here are seven vacation destinations that offer excellent choices for an educational summer trip for kids (that adults will enjoy too!).
Washington, D.C. is a mecca of educational activities for kids of all ages. From museums to monuments, to government, you won’t run out of ways for your kids to continue learning while on vacation – many of which offer free admission (and delicious cafe food options). Here are three places to check out:
Spend the Night at the Smithsonian Museum
Just like the movie, Night at the Museum, minus the talking historical figures and come-to-life critters, you and your family can roll out your sleeping bags beneath a 50-foot whale, under a space shuttle, or inside the home of the Star-Spangled Banner. The American History Museum, Natural History Museum, or the Air and Space Museum are all yours during a night of fun that features tours, games, crafts, and more.
Get the kids excited about mass media and news around the world with a visit to the Newseum. Kids will have fun learning about media coverage in a hands-on way with tons of interactive displays and multimedia exhibits.
International Spy Museum
With interactive exhibits, real confiscated spy artifacts, and constant spy-knowledge checks, the International Spy Museum is non-stop fun and education for kids and adults alike.
Where to Stay: The District by Hilton Club
If you plan on vacationing a bit longer, consider road tripping south to visit Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg. This add-on is especially beneficial if your student will be studying this time in history come the new school year. After all, the very educational (and fun) Colonial experiences, treat your kids to the nearby Busch Gardens. Bonus: this amusement park even sneaks in an educational element, the Roller Coaster Insider Program. Roller coaster fanatics can see the signature steel coasters from a unique vantage point that most can only dream about.
Where to Stay: Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Williamsburg
San Diego, CA
San Diego is always one of the top summer vacation destinations, due to the comfortable weather, beaches, and family-friendly things to do.
Family Glamping at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
The San Diego Zoo is world famous, but further north the San Diego Zoo Safari Park offers the ultimate family activity this summer. Pack your “trunk” and spend the night under the stars listening to the sounds of the wildlife that surrounds you. All sleepovers include camp activities, an after-hours look at the wildlife, guided walks, a campfire program, dinner, evening snack, and breakfast the following morning.
Legoland may be an amusement park, but it’s also an inspiring site for future engineers and architects. In between the different ‘lands’ with themed rides, you will find play spaces with thousands of Legos to build and create with.
Where to Stay: Hilton Grand Vacations Club at MarBrisa
We don’t need to go into detail to the reasons why Hawaii is an ultimate family getaway. Besides water activities, waterfall hikes, and cooling off with a Matsumoto shave ice or two, Oahu offers families wonderful ways to learn history and island culture.
Pearl Harbor Tour
Some may worry that Pearl Harbor will be boring for their children or its historic significance will be lost on them, but visiting Pearl Harbor with kids can actually be educational and memorable. You can always prepare ahead of time by reading a children’s book about Pearl Harbor and talk together about what they will see.
Polynesian Cultural Center
Travel through time and space as you experience thousands of years of culture from six different island nations. Examples of activities include playing ancient games, dancing with grace, learning how to fish without a net, and sampling poi.
Where to Stay: Five Hilton Grand Vacations Clubs to choose from
New York City
While New York City is a playground for adults, the island and its boroughs offer so many choices for kid-friendly fun.
The American Museum of Natural History
A favorite with visitors of all ages, this museum has a little bit of everything. From colossal dinosaurs and giant whales, all the way down to tiny flowers and gemstones, you’ll find the whole range of the natural world on display.
Storytime at the MET
To really live like a local Manhattanite, stop into the Metropolitan Museum of Art for their free storytime for kids. It’s a special experience to listen to a picture book, with local city kids, adjacent to some of the most famous art in the world.
The Cloisters Museum
The sister museum of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this institution showcases the art, architecture, and culture of medieval Europe. Kids will learn all about the mythology and history of the famous unicorn tapestries, the culture of knighthood, and even the way castles and cloisters where built in the middle ages.
Where to Stay: Three HGV New York City properties
Yes, yes, we know you are probably here to visit the Mouse, or even Harry Potter and his mates from Hogwarts, but Orlando has so many other gems to visit with the whole family.
Kennedy Space Center
This is one of the premier institutions in the country where visitors can learn all about the science and history of space flight around the world. With interactive presentations, real space artifacts, and even an entire Space Shuttle Complex, you’ll learn so much about our galaxy and beyond.
This place is a fantastic way to trick your kids into thinking they’re just playing around. They’ll learn about the laws of physics, how weather patterns form, how sound waves function, and more in the many diverse and hands-on exhibits at Wonderworks.
Where to Stay: Four Orlando HGV properties
Wassaw Island, Georgia
If you have teenagers and are looking for a summer vacation to get away from the Snapchatting, Instagramming, and all things mobile device, the Caretta Research Project is a special way to connect with nature (and with each other). Groups of eco-volunteers ages 15 and up can have the thrill of helping a threatened species: loggerhead sea turtles. Join others from all over the world on the beaches of Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge, near Savannah, Georgia to help staff biologists monitor egg-laying and hatching activity, and to collect data on the loggerhead sea turtles.
Where to Stay: Hilton Garden Inn Savannah Historic District
Remember to visit Partner Perks to get a Go City card for your destination. This will save you money on admission, and the time you didn’t need to spend waiting in line on vacation. No one likes waiting in line with a toddler!