5 Unexpected Stateside Family Vacation Destinations

There is a time and a place for that big vacation every family dreams about—especially if your kids have already imbibed in the magic Kool-Aid of the Mouse. But parents looking for something a bit more unexpected, closer to home, and maybe not such a money pit, should read on…

Discover Innovation in Detroit, Michigan

You probably never imagined taking your kids to Detroit, unless you were teaching a lesson in failed economic policies or fire safety. Inspiring your kids to invent, innovate, and think differently in nearby suburban Dearborn probably wasn’t on your list – until now!

Appreciate the creativity and genius of everyday Americans at the Henry Ford Museum. Exhibits and activities focus on imagination and invention, using everyday objects that turned into extraordinary innovations as a jumping-off point. Take a time machine to Greenfield Village and visit some of the greatest moments in American history with authentic structures, costumed actors, and a veritable village of the past. Tour the Ford Rouge Factory to learn about manufacturing and see where the Ford F-150 is assembled.

Relax on the Beaches of Jekyll Island, Georgia

Looking for a trip to the shore while the kids are shouting “MORE!”? Jekyll Island, a marine enclave on the Atlantic between Savannah and Jacksonville, provides both. Kids who love the water and everything in it will be in their own wonderland while parents can take the time to unwind.

Touch sea critters at the 4-H Tidelands Nature Center and view different types of turtles, fish, and seashells. Continue your education at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, or skip out onto the water for dolphin sightings, kayaking, or paddle-boarding. Younger kids might prefer the enclosed pastures of the island’s water park, Summer Waves. Athletic parents can dash through the Turtle Crawl Triathlon in May.

Explore the Wild West in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Don’t be discouraged by sold-out campsites in Yellowstone or Yosemite. Head to the heart of the Rockies, where you can uncover the history of the American West.

For older kids who love hiking, rock climbing, and biking – all available at the Garden of the Gods – try something new by going underground for a little family-friendly spelunking at Cave of the Winds. Add in some mystery to your cave-dwelling when you check out the Ghost Town Museum, and then discover gold in a mine shaft 1,000 feet deep. (Don’t worry, the kids each get a few flecks of gold to take home.)

Back on the surface of the earth, take a day trip aboard the old west era Cubres and Toltec railroad, and step into the twentieth century at the Solos Airplane Restaurant, inside a 1953 air force tanker.

Live a Legend in Beaufort, North Carolina

Williamsburg may be the gold standard for teaching your children about Colonial history, but making a trek down the coast to Beaufort offers its own historical treasures. Visit original structures like the courthouse, jail, apothecary, and even a cemetery dating back to the 1700’s with the Beaufort Historical Site to see what life was like for early settlers.

Far and away the most exciting historic landmark in Beaufort still lies underneath the waters of the Beaufort Inlet. It is the wreckage of Queen Anne’s Revenge, the ship that the infamous pirate Blackbeard used to plunder the town, as well as many others, during his reign along the south Atlantic coast. View some booty from the ship at the North Carolina Maritime Museum and don an eye patch for your own pirate-ship experience.

Make Animal Friends in Monterey, California

Driving along the California coastline between those two great Sans – Diego, and Francisco – with their respectively famous animal life, your family may just find its new favorite creatures in Monterey.

Dive in to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where sea life comes ashore with a variety of shows, tours, and exhibitions. The aquarium’s conservation efforts focus on sustainability and ocean health by keeping wildlife in the wild, as well as responsibly maintaining their faux-sea environment. Back on dry land, the unconventional Monterey Zoo is made up of animals orphaned after their film and television careers. These retired professionals are humanely kept in a safari-like park where guests can visit and enjoy them.

Back at the ubiquitous California beach, take the kids whale-watching or escape to nearby Santa Cruz Boardwalk for a seaside amusement park escape.

Are you looking for an unexpected, local family vacation? Which destinations are you considering?

Tags : travel   detroit   michigan   jekyll island   georgia   colorado springs   colorado   beaufort   north carolina   monterey   california   

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