Educational Family Vacations
Educational Family Vacations
Dorothy Jordon (Family Travel Expert) gives expert video advice on: Will my kids be bored on an educational vacation?; What are some popular museums my family should visit while on vacation? and more...
Will my kids be bored on an educational vacation?
We can make different venues more interesting for kids. As an example, we always used to go into the gift shop first when we went to a museum, and we'd have each of the kids buy five postcards. Then, in the museum, we would search for the artwork that was in their postcards. We didn't always find it - sometimes we found other things, but we were able to say to them, for example, "What did you like about this picture?" You learn a lot about what your kids aesthetics are because maybe they like the color, maybe they like the composition, maybe they like the animal. You don't really know, but you can learn from that. We also once had our kids take tape recorders, and instead of bothering other people, they kept busy by describing what they saw. We call them our sight-seeing tapes. And years later, you listen to them and you just giggle, because they're just so funny - the voices are different, and they're talking to each other at the same time that they're talking into their tapes. There are ways you make it interesting. If all you really want to do is go to the museum exhibit that you're in town for, and it's one of the reasons you chose this vacation venue, then you should call the museum and find out if they have a childrens education class going on. Put them in the class, go and see the museum on your own for two hours. They're still in the museum, and you're still in the museum. There are so many things that you can do to make it interesting.
What are some popular museums my family should visit while on vacation?
There's the Exploratorium in San Francisco; the Museum of Natural History here in New York, and the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, which is the only museum in the country that was designed for kids under the age of 6. The Exporatorium is probably the country's first science museum, but everything that you can touch, it's an incredible, incredible space. In fact, science museums in general are great because children and adults learn side by side. Very often, our kids even know more than we do. There are just so many incredible museums, they're not the dry-as-dust museums that we might remember that we went on our class trips on. They are different; they've changed. They've changed with the times, they've changed with the curators becoming parents. The Getty, which is definitely one of the world class museums that's absolutely astounding, have a childrens playroom. You go into the room, and can try on different era dresses and things that are actually found in some of the paintings or items that are there. They also have a treasure hunt kit available in Spanish and in English. You take this little lunch - it looks like a lunch box, and it has little cards in it. It reads Did you find this painting?, and it'll be a picture of a painting of a boy and a dog and will say What is the dog doing? Why do you think the dog is important in the picture? It will get you to start thinking about the painting. And not just the child - it gets the parents thinking about the painting again. It makes you interact with your child in a situation where they could just say I don't want to do this any more, let's leave.
What are some popular zoos my family should visit while on vacation?
The zoos are great places - I love zoos. Here in New York we have The Bronx Zoo, which is simply fabulous. The Central Park Zoo is also pretty amazing, if you haven't been to the new one. For a park zoo, it's terrific. Speaking of park zoos, one of the best zoos I've been to is a place called the Lowry Park Zoo, which is in Tampa - it was just fantastic. We got to feed the giraffes, all of these things you don't necessarily find at a lot of zoos. If you want to see the pandas, you should head to San Diego and go to the San Diego Zoo. For wildlife viewing in San Diego, I think the San Diego Wildlife Zoo is just awesome. As is Busch Gardens. Busch Gardens has put together so many interactive things. You can go out on a ride and see the animals. You also get to feed the giraffes, and see how they take care of the animals, and watch them working with the hippos. It is awesome because you are so incredibly close. You can see the difference between going to a wild animal park like the one in San Diego, which is different than going to a theme park like Busch Gardens. There's a big difference. I think kids even notice it. I went to the zoo in Mexico City a couple of weeks ago, which is free. The aviary was unbelievable. The kids were looking up and waving to the birds. Just amazing.
What are some popular Children's theatres my family should visit while on vacation?
There's terrific childrens theatres, not just here in New York. There's Theatreworks here in New York, and Birmingham Childrens Theatre in Alabama is also terrific. There are some really wonderful childrens theatres out there. One of the best ways to find out about what is going on, especially in a city theatre, is to find out if there's a parenting newspaper or a parenting magazine, which are given out very often in shops where parents would shop, so you could go there, or to a family restaurant. Or, go online. Urban Baby started movie theatres for parents to take babies to, where they actually had a showing, so if your baby cried, there were 40 other babies there, so they were also with the showing. It wasn't a problem. And there is also gocitykids.com - it's chock-full of information. In fact, you may use that in part to plan part of your vacation, not just for childrens theatre, but for lots of things that you might do in a city. It's not just stuff for kids to do, it's stuff for families to do.
What are some popular historical sites my family should visit while on vacation?
The most interesting family site, and the one that is most developed for tourists and for families, is Colonial Williamsburg, which is a wonderful experience. They've done all these programs now that kids can get involved with, and do things the way they did them way back in the 1700s. They didn't have such sophisticated kids programs when we went, but we did go at night to hear them firing the rifles; it's incredibly interesting, and fun! We played with toys that the kids played with way back when, and we helped do some crops - we did some hoeing in the garden to get some crops going. So that is really wonderful. The other place that I absolutely loved was Jamestown, which is just having its 400th anniversary this year, in fact maybe even this week. You can walk around and see some of the structures of what's left of them, and there are local Native Americans there. You can also go to a powwow - there are powwows all over the country. There are some in Massachusetts, and there's some in Arizona. If you decide what you want to do, let's say that you're into exploring some of the Native American culture, just google it. I've never had a problem finding things like that. Let's say that you're a Civil War person - that's another. There are all different types of places to go for Civil War places, especially here in the East. But what about the West? People discover the West, and there are lots of places that you can go. Perhaps the important thing is making sure that your kids have an understanding of it before you go. It's similar to when we went to that Custer battlefield. Before, my kids wanted to go there because they read the story of it, and it appealed to them. If you read to your children about the destination where you're going, and about some of the historical things that happened there, that makes it appealing. Otherwise you're getting dry as dust history. My parents took us to Fort Ticonderoga when I was a kid - boring. I took my kids - loved it! It has to do with communicating with your kids, talking to them, going someplace you like. Let's say that you don't like historical sites, then you wouldn't take your kids there. Sometimes the entire destination is historic. Take the city of Boston - you have the Boston Tea Party, you have Paul Revere's ride, you have the historical walk - the entire city has history surrounding it, so it just imbues you and your family.