Updated 3/2020, originally written in 2013.
Tell any child that you are taking them on an educational family vacation, and you are likely to hear groans and complaints. But, if you instead tell them all about your plans to visit the space museum, meet with Native Americans, or complete a spy mission, they’ll be thrilled. There’s so much rich history in the United States, and there are numerous destinations where kids and adults get immersed in history and actually learn – without even realizing that they are learning!
These destinations also offer lots of other attractions too – so the learning can be just part of your vacation if you choose. Perhaps you may want to just visit one educational attraction, and then spend the rest of your time doing other things.
This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us, and all opinions are my own. We have visited some of these attractions at no cost for purposes of review.
Visit These Places That Teach Your Kids About History
Start out where the Pilgrims landed, right at Plymouth Rock, then head down the road to Plimoth Plantation. Kids can learn all about the history of the very first Thanksgiving from the role-playing pilgrims and the modern-day Native Americans people.
Plymouth can usually be visited in a day, then travel about an hour to Boston, where a walk on the Freedom Trail on a nice day can be educational and fun, especially if you book a walking tour with a costumed guide.
Side trips to Salem and Sturbridge Village are just a short drive away from Boston too. We especially love Salem which is not only rich in history but also located on the beautiful waterfront.
Colonial America comes to life in Williamsburg, where your family will meet colonial children, members of the militia, royalty, slaves, and more. During select times, you can also sign up online to participate in RevQuest, which is included with the cost of admission.
Retrieve your orders at the visitors’ center, and then you can go undercover as a spy to help solve the mission. Kids have a great time keeping secrets from the residents of Colonial Williamsburg as they seek out clues.
Adjacent to Colonial Williamsburg is Merchants Square, a shopping area with small shops, chain stores, and restaurants. I really enjoyed my trip there and would recommend stopping by (although it’s not a historic attraction).
Warm sun, blue water, fabulous resorts, and rich history – America’s Fiftieth State has it all. Pearl Harbor on Oahu, the only naval base in the United States to be designated a National Historic Landmark, is the best place stateside to learn about the United States’ entrance into World War II.
Families can also visit the Battleship Missouri Memorial, where General Macarthur accepted the Japanese surrender, ending World War II. Check out the war exhibits showcasing three wars while you are there.
One of the most popular Hawaiian hotels for families is located on Oahu. Aulani is a resort owned and operated by Disney, and it’s a magical destination for families.
Our nation’s capital is rich with history, but for an educational experience that your kids won’t know is educational, head to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. See an IMAX Movie or a planetarium show, participate in free interactive discovery stations, or even take a free docent tour.
For an additional fee, you can take a ride on a flight simulator. The best thing about all of this hands-on fun is that kids learn all about the history of space and flight.
During your trip to DC, you should also consider traveling the short distance to Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington. Purchase a timed ticket in advance to save time.
Much of the historical and educational activities in Washington DC are free. However, for some activities, you’ll want to contact your US Representative well in advance. You can see more things to do in Washington DC with kids here.
We all know that we should “Remember the Alamo!” but few Americans know much about the Texas Revolution and the battle that took place there. On your San Antonio Texas vacation, visit this 4.2-acre complex where admission is free, and learn about Davy Crockett and the siege of the Alamo. The famed River Walk and Sea World San Antonio aren’t far away, making this a great vacation spot.
New York City
There’s so much to do in the “city that never sleeps”, including many attractions where families can learn more about history. These include the Statue of Liberty, the Tenement Museum, Ellis Island, and the One World Observatory/911 Museum Memorial.
For Statue of Liberty tickets, you’ll want to purchase your official tickets from Statue Cruises as early as possible if you want pedestal or crown tickets. For other attractions, you may consider purchasing through CityPASS, which offers discounted passes with tickets to popular attractions.
What are your favorite attractions that teach kids history?