While sometimes we just enjoy relaxing on the beach during our family vacations, I usually try to incorporate at least some educational experiences on our family vacations. I don’t necessarily make the entire vacation a learning experience, but it’s always nice to have some education while we are on vacation. Here are some places to include educational experiences on your family vacation in the United States. Did I miss your favorite? Leave us a comment.
Disclosure: We experienced some of these attractions during complimentary press trips. Affiliate links are included, which means that we may receive revenue when you click on/purchase through these links.
I visited the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences during a recent press trip, and was so pleased to see that it offers free admission. Kids will love the entire museum, especially the Nature Research Center, because there is so much opportunity for hands-on learning. The museum also offers live demonstrations and classes that are catered to kids. You could definitely spend hours there – with two separate buildings there is so much to explore.
Space lovers will enjoy a visit to the official visitor center for NASA Langley Research Center. The Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton, Virginia features hands-on exhibits, more than 30 historic aircraft, an IMAX theater, and more.
Located about 30 miles away from Washington DC in Virginia, Mount Vernon is definitely worth visiting with kids. There are several different movies about Washington and the Revolutionary War, so it’s a great way to learn about US History. The grounds are also beautiful. Don’t miss the wreath ceremony at Washington’s tomb, where they perform a small ceremony and place a wreath in President Washington and his wife Martha’s tomb. It’s about a half day excursion – purchase tickets in advance if you can, because they do timed admissions when it’s busy.
The Alamo is reportedly the second most popular attraction in Texas, but it’s a great place to learn about history. The Alamo offers free admission, but you can pay extra for an audio tour or a guided walking tour. During our recent San Antonio family vacation, we decided to purchase the audio tour, which was definitely worthwhile. It teaches the history of the Alamo, and does a great job of pointing out all of the interesting aspects of the buildings.
The USS Midway
Kids love learning by exploring, so the USS Midway aircraft carrier in San Diego is a wonderful place to visit with kids. With your admission fee, you’ll get a self-guided audio tour which will take you through the over 60 exhibits in the carrier. There are also 29 restored aircraft, two flight simulators, movies, and more.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
My kids loved the movie “A Dolphin Tale”, so we were knew that we had to make a trip to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium during our recent Tampa family vacation. Clearwater Marine Aquarium focuses on rehabilitation of animals, and offers many interactive and educational shows during the day. We loved our trip there.
North Carolina Zoo
If your kids love animals, the North Carolina Zoo is a great place for a visit. Officially, the largest natural habitat zoo in the US, the North Carolina Zoo is located in Asheboro, NC. Animals at this zoo live in enclosures similar to their natural habitats.
Wondering what life was like back when the pilgrims came to America? Plimoth Plantation, located in Plymouth, MA, is a step back in history to the time when the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. After watching a quick movie, you’ll be able to visit the Wampanoag Village and the 17th-Century English Village. Ticket packages can also be purchased – they include admission to the Grist Mill and Mayflower II.
The world’s largest living history museum – Colonial Williamsburg – is an immersive experience where kids (and adults) get to experience living in an 18th century settlement. Admission tickets include the grounds, buildings, and museums. Questions are encouraged, so you can ask the cast members about their lives in the 18th century and learn about what life was like back then.
The Smithsonian Institute Museums in Washington DC
There are so many fabulous Smithsonian Institute museums in Washington DC that it’s impossible to choose just one. With complimentary admission, you definitely don’t need to. There are eleven Smithsonian museums right on the National Mall in DC (as well as six additional museums and the National Zoo within the larger DC area). Our favorites include the Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum, but if you have the time, it’s definitely worth exploring all of them.
American Museum of Natural History
I loved visiting the American Museum of Natural History when I was a kid, so I couldn’t wait to bring my kids there. This popular museum features self-guided tours (even one based on the Night at the Museum movie series), as well as movies, and 45 exhibit halls. Combo tickets can be purchased if you wish to see the planetarium show and/or one of the movies.
Learn about alligators, birds, and Cajun culture at the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail road. Take a guided tour, or use their app to see it on your own. The trail is located in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Boston’s Freedom Trail
Of course I’m biased, but I think all families should visit Boston’s Freedom Trail at least once. This 2.5-mile-long path passes by many historical spots in Boston. While you can definitely walk the Freedom Trail on your own, you can also pay for a 90 minute walking tour that can help explain the history.
My kids weren’t very excited when I included the Museum of Math (MoMath) on our recent NYC vacation. They expected it to be boring and too educational. However, they were pleasantly surprised with all of the fun ways that the museum incorporates math into interactive exhibits.
Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia
There’s plenty of history to be learned in Philadelphia, and the city’s latest museum is a great place to visit. The Museum of the American Revolution just opened, and features exhibits and films that help you learn about the revolutionary war. The museum offers timed entry tickets to help guests avoid long lines.
Presidential Homes in Charlottesville
Charlottesville, Virginia is home to three different presidential homes (Ash-Lawn Highland, President James Monroe’s former home, Monticello, and President James Madison’s Montpelier) within a short distance. It’s the perfect vacation spot for American history-loving families looking for educational experiences on vacation.