Planning a summer vacation for the whole family can be tricky. Some years, it can be difficult to choose a destination that will make everyone happy, and arriving there is also often half the battle. There are pros and cons to every method of travel, but it is often cheaper to drive to your destination, which also allows for great sights to see along the way.
With school out for the summer, many families also find it important to select a destination that is educational to keep the younger minds of the family fresh and sharp. These trips can often be some of the most memorable trips, the type that the kids talk about for years to come. It also never hurts to try to have your kids learn something new while having fun at the same time. Check out our list of suggestions of educational summer family adventures for the whole family to enjoy:
- National Parks
- Appalachian Trail
- Seashores and Lakeshores
National parks are a quintessential part of any “Great American Adventure.” Most are truly world wonders and hold treasures often not found anywhere else. They also showcase different parts of America that add to how special, unique, and diverse the country is. With roaring waterfalls, majestic mountains, caves, and more, there are so many options of parks to visit. Consider giving your kids a few options to choose from so that everyone can help decide which park(s) to visit.
National parks programs for kids (called the Junior Park Ranger program) are an excellent way to learn while also having tons of fun. Rangers are always happy to share their knowledge and host programs, especially for children. They can often point out unique features of the park and intricate details that keep kids enthralled. Walking through nature is great for the entire family and the perfect way to shake the COVID blues that many kids are still be experiencing.
Another perk of visiting national parks is their affordability. With an “America the Beautiful” pass, the one-time annual fee grants you access to every single national park (along with some other state parks) in the United States. Each national park also participates in the passport program, which involves a small book that can be purchased at any park and designates a space for a special stamp from every park and monument in the United States. This is a great and affordable way to allow your kids obtain a souvenir from each park, while saving money for another part of the trip.
When visiting a national park, lodging opportunities can vary greatly depending on your family’s needs. As an RVing company, we can’t stress enough how affordable, comfortable, and fun it is to travel in an RV to a national park. Many parks also offer campgrounds within park boundaries so that visitors can spend more time exploring and less time commuting, while most national parks have plenty of nearby campground options outside the park boundaries, as well. Depending on which you choose, many private campgrounds also have more family-friendly accommodations too, including hookups, laundry facilities, and even some activities for families. Most parks are large enough attractions to have hotel or Airbnb accommodations nearby as well.
U.S. Route 101 is famous for offering breathtaking views up and down the West Coast of the United States. This truly impressive roadway stretches from Southern California (and below!) to almost the top of Washington state. It is certainly not essential to drive the entire route on one trip, as many smaller sections also make for the perfect informative adventure. Here, there are many highlights that will surely pique your kids’ interests, while providing stunning sights for the whole family to enjoy. Consider using an app or website like Trip Wizard to find the perfect pit stops and attractions along the way.
The entire 101 roadway lines the Pacific Ocean. However, the northern region of the ocean is vastly different from the southern region. Southern and central California are both typically considered synonymous with warm weather, good vibes, and surfing, which holds true. Kids that enjoy swimming and playing in the sand will have a great time visiting these beaches and soaking up the sun. The Northern Pacific Ocean is a lot chillier and has lots of rocks and cliffs. That section of ocean is better for observing wildlife and tidepooling, which typically appeal to many kids as well, no matter how old.
Each section of the Pacific also holds different historical significance. The Northern Pacific Ocean offers opportunities to learn about the rich histories of the early Pioneers and Indigenous folks who are native to these areas. There are also two fantastic national parks located along this route (Redwoods National Park in Northern California and Olympic National Park in Washington state).
The Southern portion is, of course, famous for Hollywood history, San Diego, and fantastic little beach towns dotting the coast. There are two national parks along this portion as well: Channel Islands National Park and Pinnacles National Park. If your kids are interested in film, celebrities, or beach adventures, any of these can be great places to visit.
As a popular route for tourists, there are many hotel accommodations along rout 101. From big name hotels, to quaint seaside motels, you’ll have many options to choose from. Airbnbs are also popular but fill up quickly. RVing this route can be a fantastic option, especially for families. Not only do most drivable RVs contain a bathroom, but most also have a fridge and many places for kids to sit, take in the sights, or rest. Not to mention, your pets can come along with you as well for a full family adventure. An RV can offer just the ticket to kick your road trip up a notch and make everyone a little more comfortable and happy.
Museums are such a broad category for eductional activities, but finding a good one is half the adventure. There are museums to suit any hobby or interest. Depending on how large your family is, consider finding a museum or gallery that overlaps with your childrens’ interests. There are children’s museums that focus on space, science, art, dinosaurs, building, and more. Many of these museums are hands-on and encourage kids to touch exhibits as they learn. It can be great to teach kids about taking turns by allowing parents to also experience a museum or gallery of their choice. There are typically children’s and family-friendly museums located in every large city in the United States.
Harvest Hosts partners with many automobile, airplane, military, historical, and art museums that are always family-friendly. The best part about staying at a Harvest Hosts location in an RV is that it can provide safe overnight accommodations in exchange for admission or donation to the museum. Often, Harvest Hosts locations that are museums are smaller organizations but include tours from the owners.
For those wanting to try an East Coast adventure, consider driving the Appalachian Trail. While the mountain range technically starts in Canada, the entire united States portion of the trail spans from Maine to Georgia, with an option to add on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Depending on how much time you have for the trip, or how far you want to travel, this can be a flexible drive.
The Appalachian Mountains are an impressive chain that weaves in and out of thirteen states and hundreds of little towns and stops. The drivable trail is similar in beauty to the walking trail and is a lot easier to accomplish with children, of course! Similar to the California 101 road trip, consider using an app or website like Trip Wizard to find the perfect pit stops and attractions. There is so much history in these areas, especially for those interested in the Civil War or early American settlers.
The Appalachian Mountains are a very large range and have many tight turns. If you choose to traverse this roadway in an RV, it may be better to rent a shorter RV to make some of the mountain curves, inclines, and declines easier to handle. A towable RV, like a trailer or fifth wheel, can be a great option, offering flexibility while driving with the added benefit of having plenty of space when you set up camp. There may be less options for hotels and Airbnb accommodations on this journey, but they certainly exist. Some smaller Appalachian towns have tiny motels or B&Bs for rent, as well as various RV park accommodations throughout.
Our last idea for an educational summer family trip takes us to national seashores and lakeshores. These are protected coastal areas that are reminiscent of national parks. These places were each established to protect plants, animals, and other biodiversities that exist in each specific area. Throughout the United States, there are ten national seashores and three national lakeshores.
All of the designated lakeshores are located on Lakes Michigan and Superior. This can make these areas more accessible to visit for Midwesterners. All of the lakeshores provide unique recreational opportunities, such as climbing ice caves, scuba diving shipwrecks, exploring islands, and more.
The national seashores of America provide access to unique coastal locations throughout the entire country. National seashores can be found in Maryland, Virginia, Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Georgia, New York, Mississippi, Texas, and California. If your hometown is further from the Midwest, then the national seashores may be more accessible to you.
National seashores and lakeshores are covered under the “America the Beautiful Pass” mentioned above. For one annual fee, you can gain access to over 2,000 locations across the United States. National seashores and lakeshores don’t typically offer RV accommodations like many national parks do. However, there are usually nearby RV parks, hotels, and more for rent.
As schools start to let out for the year, many parents are racking their brains for ideas to keep everyone entertained this summer. Family adventures don’t necessarily need to consist of giant road trips, as day trips and staycations can offer fun learning opportunities as well. Consider checking out what’s located nearby so that you and your family can keep their brains and bodies moving this summer. We hope our list can help you plan the ultimate educational summer trip, allowing you and your family to make memories that will last a lifetime.
Where are you taking your kids this summer? What has been your favorite family vacation to date? Tell us all about your adventures and plans in the comments below!
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