Family friendly destinations everyone will love – – even teenagers!
We all look forward to summer vacation and intoning the mantra, “no more lessons, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.” Right? While the prospect of long, lazy days filled with doing plenty of nothing is enticing during the last weeks of school, it doesn’t take long for boredom to set in. Squash the doldrums of your family’s empty routine by checking out these places for exciting summer fun. We’re sure they will provide kids with lots of great things to write about for the September “What I Did Last Summer” essays.
Just under three hours from Washington, DC, Williamsburg is a two-for-one gem that includes both Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens. Take your time exploring the Revolutionary City where you might spot Thomas Jefferson strolling the streets or George Washington on horseback reviewing the troops. Visit the Governor’s Palace and Capitol to learn more about the early history of our country. Get caught up in the excitement of reading the Declaration of Independence, peek over garden walls, and enjoy the action on the streets. At night, take a haunted tour… if you dare. After stepping back in time, take in the rides and attractions of Busch Gardens. At this European-inspired theme park, you can visit Oktoberfest in Germany, take a train trip in Ireland and see the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, but watch out for Mt. Vesuvius in Italy. Test your intestinal fortitude on roller coasters like Alpengeist and Tempesto before cooling off on the water rides. There are kid-friendly rides, lots of live entertainment and acres beau¬tiful gardens. The park is committed to animal conservation and you just might see Big Bird or Elmo from Sesame Street wandering about the paths.
Pack up the swim gear, slip on your flip flops and in 3.5 hours you can be digging your toes into the sand at one of the three beaches that comprise Virginia Beach. Chesapeake Bay Beach has smaller waves suitable for little ones, Sandbridge Beach has the best sunrises perfect for early risers, and Oceanfront Beach has the high energy board¬walk with family-friendly attractions and nostalgic eateries. Head to Atlantic Fun Park, a free-admission carnival along the beach that has kiddie rides, thrill rides and a midway. Don’t miss the Ferris wheel. Away from the beach, the Adventure Park at the Virginia Aquarium will entice thrill seekers ages six and up with multiple zip lines. While at the aquarium check out the live animal habitats and National Geographic 3D movie theater. Enjoy fun and funky exhibits at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). This summer check out the “Turn the Page” exhibit, a retrospec¬tive of the contemporary art magazine Hi-Fructose that includes a public art installation, sculpture, photography and painting. If you like history, book a flight on a vintage World War II plane at the Military Aviation Museum.
An hour away, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, bustling with things to do, is an ideal starting point for visiting the city. Check out the cool interactive exhibits at the Maryland Science Center where you can learn more about the Earth, the human body, space, and even blue crabs. There’s an IMAX Theater, a planetarium and a rooftop observatory. Kids up to age 10 will love the Port Discovery Children’s Museum, especially the three-story KidWorks treehouse that is every child’s dream of a backyard retreat. Don’t miss the National Aquarium where the animal life ranges from seahorses, stingrays, and sharks to turtles, snakes, and sloth. There is exciting history to be discovered at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine and the Maryland Historical Society. If art is not a subject that gets you or your kids excited, you MUST visit the American Visionary Art Museum and see the incredible pieces created by self-taught artists. It’ll change the way you see the subject. More traditional artwork is found at The Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art. For anyone who has studied poetry, visit the Edgar Allen Poe House and Museum before walking to the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground if you want to pay your respects.
A mere two hours from Washington, DC, Delaware is a great destination with beaches, hiking trails, tax-free shopping and lots of history. One of our favorite sites is Fort Delaware where you can experience what life was like during the summer of 1864 when the fort served as a Civil War prison. Bringing the fort to life are costumed interpret¬ers roaming the grounds, working in the blacksmith’s shop, doing the laundry, and firing the cannon. You might assist with the artillery demonstration using live gunpowder. It’s very cool. And loud! If you like gunpowder, visit Hagley Museum and Library where you can see the original black powder mills founded by the du Pont family. Yes, those du Ponts. The family had good taste as exhibited by their many beautiful mansions and glorious gardens that are open to the public: Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library; Nemours Mansion and Garden; Longwood Gardens and Mt. Cuba Center. The Delaware Art Museum has a special Kids’ Corner where you can touch the artwork and create your own. Don’t miss the Crying Giant in the outdoor sculpture garden, and the labyrinth is perfect for quieting unruly beings, whether kids or adults.
Whether you live in the area or are passing through, DC has family-friendly fun for all ages. Visit the memorials along the National Mall and when it gets too warm, step into one of the Smithsonian museums. The National Air and Space Museum has historic airplanes, an Apollo Lunar Module and an IMAX Theater. Check out the size of the dinosaurs and the Hope Diamond at the National Museum of Natural History. Imagine how much butter Julia Child used in her kitchen on display at the National Museum of American History. Head to the National Zoo to see lions, elephants, giant pandas and more. Watch for orangutans traveling overhead via their own transit system, the O Line, and get up close with animals at the Kids’ Farm. Older kids will love the interactive exhibits at the Spy Museum and budding journalists will enjoy those at the Newseum. At Madame Tussauds wax museum, you can pose with Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, George Clooney and all 44 US presidents. Finally, we love the Albert Einstein memorial in front of the National Academy of Sciences building on Constitution Avenue across from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Don’t miss taking a picture of your family sitting in Einstein’s lap. After all, it’s never too early to start thinking about possible Christmas card photos. Say “Cheese!” ORT DELAWARE