When you consider the wonderful and vast array of learning opportunities in the world for our children, travel stands out as a teacher like no other. Educational family travel has the ability to breathe life into learning, expand our minds, and fuel our passions.
The possibilities of educational family travel experiences in the U.S. and Central America are endless and can also seem overwhelming, so we’ve put together a list of ideas for 10 incredible educational family adventures. And if you can’t easily travel to any of these destinations – take the same learning concept from our examples and apply that to a city that’s closer to home or even in your own hometown.
10. Vernal, Utah: The Land of Dinosaurs
Dinosaurland is the area around the Dinosaur National Monument and just a few hours drive from Salt Lake City, UT. I feel like every child goes through a dinosaur phase and with great reason – it’s amazing to think about these huge animals that once roamed the planet. In Dinosaur land, you can explore many areas such as the Quarry Visitor Center and Quarry Exhibit Hall where you can view real dinosaur bones. Also, since this area has such beautiful terrain, it’s a great place to get out and hike to search for exposed fossils in the surrounding rocks. Family travel blogger, No Back Home recommends the Desert Voices Trail. It consists of geology and ecology signs written and drawn by children and for children. Distance: 1.5 miles.
*Need a shorter hike for smaller kids: try the Box Canyon Trail that is 1/2 mile level walk into a shady box canyon.
*Another great resource for planning a dinosaur themed educational trip to this area: The Uintah County Visitor’s Site
9. San Diego, California: Animals Galore
There are lots of great places to study and learn about different animals and their habitats around the country! San Diego has two great places that help showcase animals that you might not find living in the woods behind your house. In 2015, Trip Advisor deemed the San Diego Zoo as the number one zoo in the world. Traveling to China might not be in the budget, but you can learn about and visit the giant pandas. Visiting them will teach your children about these beautiful, shy creatures and the country and habitat they live in.
San Diego Safari Park will take you around the world to Africa. Here you and your children can witness animals in their natural habitat where zebras, giraffes and rhinos hang out at the watering hole together. Want to add adventure to your learning? Take the Flightline Safari!
8. Washington D.C.: Our Country’s History
Where better to learn about the history of our great country than in our Nation’s Capital! Families can visit the Supreme Court, the White House, visit war monuments and stand where great speeches were made – plus, there are over 70 museums – many free – to learn all about our country, leaders, and culture. To help guide an educational visit to Washington D.C., we love this post by Keryn from Walking on Travels.
7. A Volunteer Vacation: Service Learning Through Educational Family Travel
Kindness starts in each of our homes. However, teaching our kids about giving back to the community and the world we live in is something that is taught and modeled. Why not get the entire family involved and have a destination volunteer vacation? There are organizations that offer family volunteer vacations right here in the United States. Check out this article that provides organizations to further research to determine if they are a fit for your family.
6. Nashville: Music
Do you have a music-lover in your crew? Nashville – otherwise known as Music City – is a wonderful destination for kids and families – and there are plenty of opportunities to add some educational music history, and experiences! From the Grand Ole Opry to The Country Music Hall of Fame – from the historic Ryman Auditorium to songwriters night at The Bluebird Cafe – Nashville is like no other and is a fabulous family-friendly city where you can teach kids and have tons of fun too! We love Sarah’s post at TheWanderingRumpus.com for 10 kid-friendly places to hear music in Nashville.
5. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: Erosion and Invasive Species
About 5.5 hours north of Chicago lies Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a 35 mile stretch of amazing scenery on the coastline of Lake Michigan. There are a lot of great outdoor adventures to be had here as a family, but it’s also a wonderful teaching opportunity to learn about erosion through the giant sand dunes and the invasive species that have ended up in Lake Michigan.
4. Panama: Educational Family Travel to Learn Spanish
Consider taking your family on a Spanish learning trip. Deb from The Family Backpack talks about her experience with her two daughters.
“Studying in a Spanish-speaking country is SO much better than studying at home. From a language perspective, you are surrounded by Spanish and get to instantly use what you learn. You quickly develop an ear for the language, passively absorbing vocabulary and phrases as you go about your day. Being forced to conjugate that verb in order to eat at a restaurant is a huge motivator, and your skills develop so much faster with the constant ability to practice.”
You can read more about Deb’s experiece and her review of Habla Ya in Boquete, Panama on The Family Backpack.
3. A National Park: Junior Ranger Program
Our National Parks are pretty awesome and we are so lucky to have the Junior Ranger program providing instant learning for kids at any National Park. Are you aware that kids in 4th Grade get a FREE park pass? Yes, you heard right. The pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults for FREE! We just had to say that word FREE one more time as it sounds so good. Homeschoolers are included, and you can learn more on Every Kid In A Park’s website. Want to introduce the kids to the parks before traveling? Check out the WebRanger program and the National Park Service’s teacher page.
2. Monterey, CA: Oceans
Since the oceans cover more than 70% of the earth’s surface, it seems fitting that oceanography should make our list. One of our favorite places to learn about our oceans is the Monterey Aquarium. Plan on spending an entire day here as there are lots of hands on opportunities and things to watch every day – such as the otter feeding. After you’ve gotten your fill at the aquarium you can get out on a local beach in this coastal town and experience the ocean first hand as a family.
Find a great teaching guide designed by the Monterey Aquarium at this link.
1. New York City: The Melting Pot
As most people will tell you there is no city like New York City in the U.S. NYC has it ALL. The City has an abundance of opportunities to teach your children about cultures from all over the world. You can start at the Statue of Liberty and end in Little Italy. Food is another excellent way to teach your kids about countries and cultures, and you can eat from anywhere around the globe while you’re in NYC. We have curated the best of the posts on New York to make it less overwhelming when planning a trip here.
Our Guest Author:
A Travel Pro’s Top Educational Family Adventures is brought to you by the creator of The Family Backpack, Andrea Khan
She says, “I first ventured out of the country to France in high school and I have been traveling ever since. Now with a husband and three school-aged kids, I have 31 countries and 30-plus states under my belt. I still have a lot of the planet to explore and adventures to experience – and I can’t wait to do so with my family!
While planning our family vacations over the last decade, I combed through hundreds of family travel blogs. I found myself wishing there was one place – one site – that was easy to search and contained the best of these posts. And so I created one, The Family Backpack.”
Visit The Family Backpack to help plan your next adventure or educational family travel with your kiddos!