5 Uncommon Ideas for a Family Vacation
Looking for new ways to spend time with your family? Pack a sense of adventure, and take a trip that your kids will talk about for years to come. Whether you’re traveling with tots or teens, a small family or a large group, these five out-of-the-box vacation ideas are sure to make memories to last a lifetime — all without emptying your bank account.
Immerse Yourself in History
Forget static museums and boring lectures that leave kids restless and even adults yawning. Instead, transform history into vacation fun for the whole family by dressing up in period garb, recreating historic events and becoming part of notable sites.
Get hands-on in Yorktown, Va., (not far from Colonial Williamsburg ) which recently opened an 80,000-square-foot interactive American Revolution Museum. You can explore a newly restored Continental Army Encampment and a Revolution-era farm where you can try everything from musket drills to traditional farming.
In Boston, don’t simply walk in the steps of the minutemen, participate in the annual Boston Tea Party recreation and get ready to shout “No taxation without representation!” while 220 pounds of tea are flung into the sea. Or visit Quebec City, where you can try out 17th-century costumes and join in the New France Festival that fills the cobblestone streets of the 400-year-old UNESCO World Heritage City.
Combine Volunteering with Vacation
Give back, help out and create lasting memories all while bonding as a family during a volunteer vacation. If your family has teens who are 16 or older, consider building a home for those in need with Habitat for Humanity. With kids 10 and up, balance volunteer activities with a day of traditional theme park fun by serving up ice cream for breakfast at Give Kids the World, a fairy-tale resort for kids with life-threatening illnesses in Orlando.
For other family-friendly Voluntourism ideas, visit TogetherForGood, which maintains a list of 120 vetted opportunities both in the United States and around the world.
Sample a DIY Culinary Lesson
Discovering local cuisine is one of the highlights of travel, but with kids in tow, picking the perfect spot to eat can be tough. Instead, why not plan a do-it-yourself culinary adventure by booking several family cooking lessons in your destination. You’ll sample local dishes, pick up a new skill, and since meals are included in the price, you can relax at lunch time instead of scurrying to find a restaurant your kids will like.
In New York City, nibble your way around Mario Batali’s Eataly, then take a family pasta making class at the Italian foodhall’s La Scuola. In New Orleans, another city synonymous with good food, try picking a classic dish like gumbo to learn to make at a family cooking class. Even wine country in California can have a fun foodie angle for kids; the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone offers demonstration classes every weekend where kids under 12 are free, and parents can sample wines from the extensive cellar.
The Culinary Schools website has listings for cooking schools in every state to help you plan your trip.
Explore Over and Under the Water
Want a watery vacation out of the ordinary? Instead of simply swimming, give SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) a try. Although it may look tricky, new wider boards feel as stable as standing on your dining room table (although try to dissuade the kids from actually practicing in between your place settings). You can rent a board and get a lesson on bodies of water big and small around the country. Then paddle out to see the water from a whole new perspective.
Want to see what lies below the ocean’s surface? Get a front-row seat to view colorful fish and coral with SNUBA, which lets families enjoy SCUBA-like underwater thrills without expensive instruction and gear. With SNUBA, families dive down to see colorful fish and coral while an instructor monitors an oxygen tank floating on a raft; all you need to do is breathe through the provided mask and swim.
Tip: For both watery adventures, bring disposable, waterproof cameras for the kids for a fun photo safari.
Dig for Rare Dinosaur Bones
Combine two great kid favorites — dinosaurs and digging in the dirt — by hunting for fossils on your next vacation.
Several organizations make it easy for families with kids of all sizes to discover ancient bones together: With the highest concentration of fossils in the world, Dinosaur Provincial Park, located in Alberta, Canada, is a natural destination for budding paleontologists. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (the largest museum for kids in the country) leads digs for families at the Ruth Mason Quarry in South Dakota, one of the world’s largest fossil beds of duckbill dinosaurs.