Fall Weekend Getaways Your Kids Will Love, Too

By Yahoo Travel
September 22, 2015
Courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

This article was written by Hallie Lavine and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.

Now that school’s back in session you can breathe a sigh of relief—and contemplate how to keep the rug rats entertained over long weekends and mini breaks. We’re here to help. These are 10 awesome autumn excursions guaranteed to be educational and fun (for the whole family!).

Historical Boston

Even if your kid detests history class, he or she will be enthralled by the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile, red brick road that takes you past historic churches, burial grounds, and even Paul Revere’s house so you can learn the story of the American Revolution and beyond. You can explore on your own, or you can take a 90 minute tour led by 18th century costumed guides. (For the easily bored, there’s a Pirates and Patriots version and also a Pub Crawl version.) Tickets are just $12 for adults, $6.50 for children. Once that’s over, it’s a quick walk to the Boston Tea Party Museum, a floating museum that has live actors and interactive exhibits (including allowing your little ones to toss tea into the harbor). Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for children. If your kids are yearning for more historical re-enactments, drive an hour out of the city for an overnight getaway at Sturbridge Village, an 1830s New England living history museum. Tickets are $24 for adults, $10 for kids. Otherwise, consider the whale watch at the New England Aquarium. You’ll have to shell out a tad more dough at $49 for adults, $33 for children ages 3-11. Or check out the many interactive exhibits at the Boston Children’s Museum. It’s $16 for all ages. 

Related: Get Your Kids Ready for School: Amazing Educational Trips

Family space camp

Does your little guy pretend to be Buzz Lightyear? Consider booking the whole family at U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. You’ll go on simulated mission training and operations, learn how rockets are constructed, and get a crash course in on-site space history. One highlight: the 1/6th gravity chair, which simulates walking on the Moon, and the Manned Maneuvering Unit, which simulates astronaut spacewalks outside the shuttle. The jaunt will cost you $449 per person for three days, $499 per person for four days, with meals and lodging included.

Colonial Williamsburg

There’s no shortage of educational opportunities at this living history museum and historic district, which includes Revolutionary War reenactments, hands on opportunities at brick-making and digging for artifacts, and even dressing up as soldiers or undercover Colonial spies. You can easily spend two days here, then head over to historic Jamestown, which recreates life in the 1607 settlement, or visit one of the three plantations. Seven-day ticket pass for all is $89 for adults and $41 for kids. Balance it out with a day at nearby theme park Busch Gardens, where your littles can participate in the Animal Ambassador program and learn about the lives of critters ranging from eagles to wolves and foxes.  

Sleepover at the Smithsonian

Bring your sleeping bag and flashlight and head over to one of three Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian museums—American History Museum, National History Museum, or the National Portrait Gallery—for an evening of entertainment that includes a nocturnal tour, craft activities, and various educational games. At night’s end, you “camp out” in the museum. The cost? $135 per person for kids ages 8-12. The next day, check out the National Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the National Zoo, where you can say hi to three world famous pandas and stop by the Kid’s Farm, where children can groom donkeys, goats, alpacas, and hogs.

Related: Tuck in Your Favorite Animals at These Zoo Sleepovers

Digging for dinosaur bones

The casino capital of the world also gives a great glimpse of what life was like when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The Las Vegas Natural History Museum boasts a prehistoric life gallery of critters who once roamed the Nevada deserts, including a 35-foot-long Tyrannosaurus Rex that lowers its head and roars, a Triceratops, Ankylosaur, and the giant marine reptile, ichthyosaur. The Nevada state museum offers a Dino summer special through September 20, which features an animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, a Jurassic Park-style jeep journey through a virtual dinosaur world, and the opportunity to dig up life-sized dinosaur bones. Then hop in a car and drive either to Red Rock Canyon for a hike to check out fossilized Dinosaur tracks, or to Tule Springs to see Ice Age fossil beds—both are less than 20 miles away. Finish up with a visit to the Historical Techatticup Mine, the oldest, richest and most famous gold mine in Southern Nevada and a 45 minute drive from Vegas. ($12.50 for adults, $7.50 for kids.)

Related: Dino Digs, Museums, and More: 10 Places to Get Your Paleo On

Maritime adventures

Head straight to sea with tickets to San Diego’s USS Midway Museum ($20 adults, $10 kids), a floating city that allows you to walk in the footsteps of 225,000 Midway sailors who served our country. Highlights include over 60 interactive exhibits, like playing on flight simulators and climbing aboard aircraft. Then head on over to the Maritime Museum ($16 adults, $8 children) which includes kid-friendly, seafaring-inspired exhibits. It has one of the world’s biggest collection of historic ships, including the world’s oldest active ship the Star of India, as well as educational excursions such as whale watching. Other non-nautical city highlights: animatronic dinosaurs at TheNAT San Diego Natural History Museum, hands-on science exhibits at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, and the San Diego Air & Space Museum, where kids can dress up as astronauts.

Connor Prairie

This interactive history park in Indiana ($16 adults, $11 kids) is a recreated 19th-century village on 200 acres. Among its highlights: an autumn headless Horseman ride, Civil War re-enactments, classes in blacksmithing, hearth cooking, and an “Indian camp” where you can recreate living like as Native Americas did 200 years ago. Once you’ve had your fill, drive to the Indiana Transportation Museum and take a spin on one of the vintage railroad trains, or the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis.

Corning Museum of Glass

A perfect East Coast weekend getaway, this museum, located in Corning, New York, in the Finger Lake region upstate, allows your kids to explore 3,500 years of glassmaking history while watching glass come to life during hot-glass demos. They’ll then make their own glass creations from ornaments to night lights. Cost: $18 for kids and adults. Afterwards, since you’re right in the neighborhood, you can pop into the Norman Rockwell Museum, or, if your kids are tuckered out, wake them back up with an invigorating hike on the Haunted History Trail or an apple-tasting tour.

Fun with sea turtles

Nesting season for sea turtles in Florida is May through October, so if you’re planning a trip to the Sunshine State this fall, your kids will love some close-up encounters with these critters. The Little Loggerhead Package at Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa includes a visit to see the sea turtles at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, while adventurous kids over age 10 can search for turtles and other marine life with the Beginners Dive Package. Acqualina Resort and Spa in Miami offers Acquamarine, a complimentary, marine biology-inspired program for kids which also includes a sea-turtle-based outreach program during the summer and early fall. But if you’re planning a Florida trip after sea turtle season, don’t fret: Acqualina offers its sea learning program all year round, while other hotels such as the Ritz Carlton in Naples has a Nature’s Wonders camp, led by a professional conservationist and featuring 11 aquariums with sharks, crabs, turtles, and eels, as well as a kid-sized lab with microscopes for budding marine biologists. All these programs are stimulating enough that you won’t feel guilty about taking some alone time to lounge poolside.

Safari at Grand Teton National Park

You don’t have to schlep your entire crew to Africa to give your kids the educational experience of a safari. Instead, book a morning or all-day trip through the nonprofit Wildlife Expeditions in Jackson, Wyoming, which offers an introduction to the wildlife of Grand Teton National Park, part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Trained biologists will point out the best viewing spots for Park critters such as elk, moose, big horn sheep, bison, mule deer, foxes, and eagles (You may even be able to see wolves hunting during the winter months!) and give your kids a crash course in ecology and animal behavior. Then, explore on your own with your kids through the park’s Junior Ranger program, where you learn about the natural world of the park on an easy 2-mile hike with a ranger. Resorts like Hotel Terra also offer in-house naturalists who can also organize smaller wildlife safaris or take your family on a nighttime stargazing tour.

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Best-Kept Secrets of Disney

If you weren't a believer in the magic of Walt Disney before, these obscure Disney World attractions and deals might change your mind. First: Yes, there is free stuff to be had at Disney World, and we'll tell you where to get it. Second: Adults, there is a particularly dirty joke to behold...provided you seek it out. We spoke with longtime theme park journalist and Disney fanatic Susan Veness, whose book The Hidden Magic of Disney World was just updated with the newest secrets about the park. It's full of intriguing trivia—for example, what might look like a tree stump or a rock in Animal Kingdom really holds food or air conditioning to encourage the animals to come out of hiding so guests can see them—but more importantly for Budget Travelers, if there's anyone who can tell you what's worth your time and money, it's Veness. Read on for hush-hush must-do's, must-sees, and insider tips on how to save cash while maximizing fun. 1. The number-one little-known way to save money at Disney is through "cards": the Annual Pass and two other under-the-radar memberships. Repeat Disney visitors in particular will love this hint: To reap the benefits of the Annual Pass ($697), only one person in your family needs to actually have one. It's good for a year of unlimited, same-day access to the four Disney World parks and free parking, and in turn, it unlocks a domino effect of resort discounts and shopping and dining deals. "It's all about the cards," Veness says. "Annual Passholders also qualify for the Tables in Wonderland card [$100], which offers great savings on dining, including alcohol. The Landry's Select Club card [one-time membership fee of $25, offset by a $25 Welcome Rewards credit] is perfect for all guests dining at Landry's restaurants, including Yak & Yeti, Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex Cafe, and several offsite locations within the chain. You can even use it at Landry's restaurants back home."  2. Freebie alert! For a giant, wallet-friendly lunch, plus a free dessert, head to Downtown Disney.  Our favorite ways to save on food at Disney are strategies that Veness likes too: "Guests can save significantly at any dining location by paying attention to portion sizes," she says. "Most locations, especially full-service restaurants, have portions large enough that even two adults can share. Counter service locations won’t card you if you order a kids' meal." But the real way to cash in is at the Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney/Disney Springs. They have "enormous sandwiches at modest prices [from $6]," she says. "Then pop into Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop for a free sample of chocolate for dessert." 3. Three cool Disney "secrets" in particular appeal to three different age groups, sardonic teenagers included. Little kids, especially, dig the interactive movie tie-ins, Veness says: "Youngsters love to find the key under the mat at Muppet*Vision 3-D and have the dog sniff their hand when they stick it up his nose in the Honey, I Shrunk The Kids Movie Set Adventure." Older children and teens' minds are blown when they stand at the exact center of the Temple of Heaven in Epcot's China pavilion and speak. "The temple is acoustically perfect, and it's eerie to hear their own voice coming directly back into their ears so that they hear their voice as others hear it," she says.  Twists on history and nostalgia tend to be big hits with adults. "When they realize what looks like a swastika in the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is really a Balkan Cross with a Nazi flag background, they really appreciate the Imagineers' ability to 'trick the eye' with something more politically correct than the authentic item would be," she says. 4. Beauty and the Beast's Belle has a tawdry literary secret. Venture into Belle's village in New Fantasyland for a spicy surprise. "Belle has left a book—The Dream of a Woman, by Remy de Gourmont—on the table in Maurice's cottage," Veness says. "De Gourmont's works are not exactly known for being G-rated." Indeed. We at BT—or, rather, I, the writer of this feature, was so intrigued about the subject matter that I dug up a 1927 critique of the book in the Saturday Review: "[T]he sensual content, which is high in 'The Dream of a Woman,' often saves [de Gourmont's] non-critical books from dullness. There is a fashionable suggestion of perversion in the friendship of his two heroines, which is carried beyond the stage of suggestion in the affair of Claude and the model. It is possible that Remy de Gourmont's book, unimportant as it is, may enjoy some slight vogue because of its purely fleshly element." Worth noting: Belle reads the book in the animated movie too. Scandal! However, it's a 1917 paper I found about de Gourmont, "Ideals in Modern French Literature," by Katherine Lee, published in the journal Library, that might make the most sense about why Disney animators and Disney World Imagineers put "The Dream of a Woman" on brainy, independent Belle's reading list: "Remy de Gourmont thought that each man should have his own personal vision of the world. His point of view in regard to human happiness is perhaps best brought out in his novels, which, it must be confessed, are more of the head than the heart. 'Le songe d'une femme,' a series of letters between various sorts of lovers, has an intellectual rather than a sentimental interest." 5. Keep your eyes peeled at Animal Kingdom to see something truly weird in the shrubbery. If you go out of your way to see one thing at Disney, Veness says, head to Animal Kingdom. "Strange and obscure" is how Veness describes DiVine, a stilt-walker covered in greenery: "Look carefully—or watch for a crowd with a perplexed look on their faces. She blends into the foliage, but when she moves, she's an incredible sight." Another Animal Kingdom favorite: Gi-Tar Dan. "His ability to add guests' names to popular Disney songs makes him a big favorite with people lucky enough to come across him." 6. While you're planning and saving for Disney, remember these two mantras: Villas are your friend, and it's OK to chop your itinerary in half. Vacation villas, like those on Airbnb and HomeAway, are ideal for families of five or more, or if you're traveling with friends or extended family, Veness says. "Very often these are less expensive per night, with the major benefits of multiple bedrooms, your own pool, a full kitchen that saves on dining out, several bathrooms, and the ability to get out of the hustle-bustle of the main tourist area and decompress for a while."  Time crunches are a buzzkill, so list what you'd like to do at Disney, then edit, edit, edit: "Be realistic about the tickets you need and the experiences you'll add to your vacation, especially if you plan to do more than just the Disney parks," Veness says. "Many paid-for experiences, such as the Frozen Summer Fun premium package, can be pieced together for next to nothing, and the overall experience is just as good, even without the roped-off viewing area. It's easy to get carried away with all the extras and try to cram everything in, but remember: You'll be back!"

FamilyTheme Parks

Hogwarts Comes to Hollywood

The words "press conference" don't exactly send a chill of anticipation up our spines most of the time, but today's announcement by Universal Studios Hollywood is the exception: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a 3D-HD experience that will be the centerpiece of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter opening in California next spring. The new Wizarding World, essentially a theme-park "land" of its own, is of course modeled after the popular attractions at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Japan, but the president of Universal Studios Hollywood, Larry Kurzweil, promises a "new, compelling experience" that will be the "next chapter" for the franchise. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey will take visitors soaring over Hogwarts, a Quidditch match, a dragon's attack, and a Whomping Willow. The ride will blend robotics, filmed action sequences, and special effects. Guests will don Quidditch-inspired 3D goggles before being swept along an elevated track. The new Wizarding World will also boast a family coaster, "Flight of the Hippogriff," and an array of Potter-themed refreshments at Three Broomsticks, Hog's Head pub, and Magic Neep and Butterbeer carts. WE WANT TO KNOW: Have you visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando? Are you looking forward to checking out its Los Angeles cousin next year?

FamilyTheme Parks

Meet The Fastest Roller Coasters in the U.S.

This article was written by Nicole Rupersburg and originally appeared on Fox News Travel. There’s nothing more American than a ride on a roller coaster, and the U.S. has some of the best in the world. American engineers are constantly designing more interactive and hair-raising experiences: The Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey offers the world’s highest and biggest drop, and Full Throttle at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California has the world’s biggest loop. But it's no secret that Americans have a need for speed, and that's as evident in our roller coasters as it is anywhere else. Strap yourself in and secure all loose items: These are the 10 fastest roller coasters in the U.S.  10. Xcelerator, 82 mph Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, Calif. With a 1950s Grease and greaser theme, Xcelerator looks way more innocent than it is. Using a hydraulic launch to rocket you from zero to 82 mph in 2.3 seconds, this rockin' coaster shoots you straight into the air and back down again at a 90-degree angle for one minute and two whole seconds of pure adrenaline. 9. Goliath, 85 mph Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, Calif. This hypercoaster features a 255-foot drop into an underground tunnel, which you will take at 85 mph, followed by another drop of 185 feet. During this 3-minute ride through ancient ruins, you'll experience weightlessness as well as a g-force of 4.5 g. The ride is closed while awaiting a new lift chain, but you can keep yourself occupied until it reopens with the new Twisted Colossus wood-steel hybrid coaster opening this spring. 8. Phantom's Revenge, 85 mph Kennywood, West Mifflin, Pa. This modest amusement park in Pittsburgh's burbs has a wicked surprise in store for you: Phantom's Revenge, a 1-minute and 45-second ride that features a 232-foot drop and a top speed of 85 mph. It might be "America's Favorite Traditional Amusement Park" since 1898, but Kennywood is definitely keeping up with the times. 7. Titan, 85 mph Six Flags Over Texas, Arlington, TexasNot just a hypercoaster, but a hyper twisted coaster, Titan drops you 255 feet, then twists you through not one but two mind-warping 540-degree spirals, then continues through banked turns at 85 mph on the 5,312-foot track, for a grand total of 3 minutes and 20 seconds. 6. Intimidator 305, 90 mph Kings Dominion, Doswell, Va.We have now crossed the 90 mph threshold with Intimidator 305. This one-ups the ante not by a little, but by a lot: Not only does it reach a top speed of 90 mph, but it also has a 300-foot drop at an 85-degree angle. 5. Millennium Force, 93 mph Cedar Point, Sandusky, OhioThis coaster is so huge, it created a whole new coaster category: the giga-coaster. This 300-foot, 93 mph monster gets you up its first hill quickly with an elevator cable lift system, then drops you down at an 80-degree angle. And that's just the beginning of this 2-minute thrill ride. 4. Fury 325, 95 mph Carowinds, Charlotte, N.C.The brand-new Fury 325 is the world's tallest and fastest giga-coaster. Taller than the Statue of Liberty, this "hornet's nest of rebellion" is 325 feet tall, goes 95 miles per hour and has a staggering length of 6,602 feet. That adds up to a ride time of 3 minutes and 25 seconds. 3. Superman: Escape from Krypton, 100 mph Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, Calif.Maybe not quite faster than a speeding bullet but still pretty damn fast, Superman: Escape from Krypton shoots you from 0 to 100 mph in seven seconds flat, straight up 415 feet in the air at a perfect 90-degree angle—backwards. After experiencing weightlessness for 6.5 seconds, you plummet down at 92 mph. You don't have to be the Man of Steel, but you'll certainly want a stomach of steel for this one. 2. Top Thrill Dragster, 120 mph Cedar Point, Sandusky, OhioGet ready to have your face peeled off and don't forget to re-collect your innards on your way out. Top Thrill Dragster, one of only two strata coasters in the world, features a hydraulic launch that shoots you through the time-space continuum from a dead stop to 120 mph in four seconds, straight up into the sky 420 feet and twisting straight back down again. It will be the worst/best 17 seconds of your life. 1. Kingda Ka, 128 mph Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, N.J.Better bring a change of underwear for this one. Kingda Ka, the other stratacoaster, is the tallest, fastest, most insane roller coaster in North America, as well as the world's tallest and second-fastest. (The 149 mph Formula Rossa in the United Arab Emirates is the world’s champ.) The King, also using a hydraulic launch, shoots riders out at 128 mph in 3.5 seconds to a height of 456 feet at a 90-degree angle, and back down in a 270-degree spiral, followed by a 129-foot camel hump hill, presumably to allow your brain time to register what just happened before you return to the platform. Honorable mention: Goliath, 72 mph Six Flags Great American, Gurnee, Ill.At a top speed of 72 mph, Goliath at Six Flags Great American is no match for the top 10, but it does have the distinction of being the world's tallest, fastest and steepest wooden roller coaster. And that definitely deserves mention. More from Fox News Travel: Children now dictate where they want to go travel All-you-can-fly Surf Air: Is private jet travel finally worth it? Harmful bacteria may be lurking in your single-serve coffee machine Marijuana-infused coffee pods hit store shelves


Top Family Travel Spots on Maryland's Eastern Shore

I recently wrangled some of the closest people in my life for a travel adventure along Maryland's Eastern Shore. Bringing together multiple generations in today's busy world is a challenge in itself, but add in a group of tech connected, urban worker bees and it gets more complicated. The fact that we were filming the adventure for Budget Travel and the upcoming PBS TV series, Travels with Darley, meant we were bringing along a full film crew, which made for even more challenging scheduling. We pulled it off and loved our time along the Eastern Shore! Our group consisted of my two best friends Ellen Schmidt of Baby Meets City fame (and her daughters, Vivian and Millie ages 3 and 5) and Chad Davis. We all hail from the Washington, DC, and New York City areas, meaning the Eastern Shore was just a train ride and car ride away. To make matters easier, we secured a campsite by the beach for our RV in Assateague State Park, a useful jumping off point to explore nearby Ocean City, Berlin, and, of course, Assateague Island. If you've always wanted to take a road trip adventure and are wondering where to go, keep reading for ten top spots along Maryland's Eastern Shore that are accessible and fun for your family or travel group. Cow to Cone Ice Cream Farm A great family destination, Chesapeake Bay Farms (4111 Whitesburg Road, Pocomoke City) was one of our favorite stops. This pretty, diverse dairy farm produces a multitude of yummy ice cream flavors right on the farm. It takes a little less than 40 minutes to drive from Assateague Island National Seashore to the farm. If took me a bit longer, as I was driving an over 26-foot RV and on vacation... why rush! The farm's donkeys, horses, cows and adorable puppy, keep kids entertained, engaged and enjoying rural life both before and after ice cream. Best of all, the ice cream is delicious, and even better in a homemade waffle cone while rocking on a peaceful front porch. Creative flavors include espresso ice cream with chocolate covered coffee beans, fresh blueberry, strawberry shortcake, princess pink and beyond. Berlin For a small town, Berlin offers a lot to do, especially for families. After walking Main Street, our group enjoyed a lesson in glass blowing at Jeffrey Auxer Designs. Millie made three ornaments, a truly memorable vacation memento. Jeffrey himself gave us glass blowing instruction and tips. He has a lot of experience teaching kids, something you definitely want when you have a child nearing an over 1,000° F furnace! His work is beautiful, so even if you don't take a lesson in glass blowing, his shop is worth a visit. While Ellen and her girls went to the Berlin playground, we adults headed over to Burley Oak Brewery (10016 Old Ocean City Blvd.) for a special tour and tasting with owner and brewer Bryan Brushmiller. Being an entrepreneur and someone who enjoys supporting small businesses, I liked hearing Bryan's story of losing his job and following his passion from brewing in his garage to his beautiful, sustainable brewery. We taste tested the Happy Pale Ale and finished just in time to see how popular Burley Oak is with locals and travelers alike. The place was hopping on Saturday at around noon when we departed for lunch and to taste some of Berlin's sweet side. If you want to sit outside or just enjoy some local farm to table food, try lunch or dinner at Blacksmith Bar & Restaurant (blacksmithberlin.com, 104 Pitts Street). Our group sat outside in the shade enjoying rock fish tacos topped with fresh pico de gallo, homemade hummus and Caesar salad sprinkled with zesty parmesan. Another top lunch pick is Drummer Café at the historic Atlantic Hotel (2 N. Main St., Berlin). The Islander sandwich will definitely keep you full until dinner with its fresh roasted turkey. Seafood lovers may gravitate toward the grilled wild salmon BLT. A must-have dessert when visiting this cool, small town is the peach dumpling, the official dessert of Berlin. The Berlin area was once the home of major peach orchards, and the peach dumpling celebrates this sweet legacy. Stop by Baked Dessert Café (4c Bay Street) to get your fix. After you've done all of that, relax. Berlin may have a lot to do, but one of the best things to do while you're here is kick back and take in the ambience of this cool small town. (Berlin was voted Budget Travel's 2014 Coolest Small Town in America.) The OC (that's Ocean City) Being from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I have a soft spot from boardwalks and know that they can be great excursion for kids. With haunted houses, arcades, amusement park rides, candy galore, and more, what's not for a kid to love! On the Ocean City Boardwalk, stop by Dolle's Candyland (dolles.com, 500 South Atlantic Avenue), a family-owned candy shop that has been making candy for over 100 years. You have to try the saltwater taffy (chew carefully), which comes in surprising flavors including root beer, peanut butter, cinnamon, lime and molasses mint. Kids will love some of the rides along the boardwalk, including a giant Ferris wheel and the carousel at Trimper's Amusement (S. First Street and The Boardwalk), a family-owned boardwalk fixture that has been welcoming riders since 1912. While riding the carousel is mainly an activity for kids, we adults hopped on to "supervise", marveling at the craftsmanship and detail on each of this mounts on this historic merry-go-round. I rode by Millie, who chose a horse. We went around a few times before walking down to stroll along the beach, another must-do when in Ocean City. Assateague Island One of the highlights of my trip to Maryland's Eastern Shore was exploring Assateague Island. This barrier island close to Berlin and Ocean City has stunning beaches, extensive bird watching and awesome wild horse viewing. This is a place where you need to unplug, play in the waves and take a deep breath, something that can be hard to do in our modern, busy world. As Millie and Vivian screamed in delight, running back and forth in the crashing waves under blue skies and beautiful sun, it made me want to take a step back to my own childhood. I remembered how much fun I had growing up at the beach and why these types of memories are so important for all of us to cherish, even in adulthood. We had spent the morning taking a nature hike with National Park ranger Nick Clemons. There are a variety of walking and hiking trails in Assateague Island's National Park. We chose a trail through the marshland, where Nick took us to a "secret" beach and then in search of horses. Some of the better spots to find horses are near the campsites and parking lots where humans make their mark. There are graphic signs in the bathrooms on the island, showcasing the bruises and welts past visitors have garnered after getting too close to the Assateague horses. Rumored to have landed on the island after a shipwreck, these horses are pony-sized, but radiate a toughness often in found horses living on their own in sometimes harsh environments. Having spent many years riding and observing horses, part of my own passion and my job as the host of the Emmy-winning Equitrekking TV show, I would compare the Assateague horses to some of the horses I've observed on Ireland's wild West Coast in Connemara or in the mountains of Wales: hardy, independent, and beautiful. If you visit Assateague Island, consider camping out to get the full experience. You can bring a tent or park an RV at campsites in the State Park, which offers warm showers and some electric hookups, or enjoy more primitive camping on the National Park side, but book early, as these coveted spaces fill up quickly. We built a campfire beside our RV right by the beach on the State Park side, roasted s'mores and watched the sun set and the moon rise on our special family adventure. St Michaels I had heard about St Michaels famous charm long before my visit. This beautiful seaside town makes for a great romantic getaway with or without the kids. Shop for unique, nautical themed gifts for you or your pet in the heart of St Michaels before cracking crabs at The Crab Claw (thecrabclaw.com, 304 Burns Street). This restaurant offers the quintessential Maryland Blue Crab feast right by the water. You can walk right from The Crab Claw into the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (cbmm.org, 213 N Talbot St.), where dedicated master shipwrights, apprentices and volunteers are restoring wooden boats and keeping the history of the Chesapeake Bay and its watermen alive. Admission is free for children under the age of six. Adults pay $15 for a two-day pass. Kids and adults may like climbing to the top of the Hooper Straight Lighthouse for views of the museum campus and St Michaels. Tilghman Island We hadn't originally planned to visit Tilghman Island, but are so glad that we did. After a scheduling change, which frequently happens on film shoots, we drove the short twenty minutes from St Michaels, crossing the Drawbridge over Knapps Narrows that takes you away from cell phone reception and the modern world and onto Tilghman Island. I went into the Tilghman Island Country Store to use their landline to call Captain Wade Murphy Jr. (skipjack.org, 21308 Phillips Road, Tilghman), who has the Rebecca T. Ruark, a stunning skipjack that dates back to 1886 and is listed as a National Historic Landmark. A third-generation waterman, a skipjack ride with Captain Wade is worth the trip to this island. If you don't have time to take a boat ride, just talking with Captain Wade and hearing his stories is worth a trip. We also recommend taking a walk around Dogwood Harbor, where multi-generation waterman still bring in their daily catch and where Captain Wade keeps his skipjack.   Kent Island Kent Island is a place that many people pass over on their way to the Eastern Shore. Located right beside the iconic Bay Bridge, this island is worth a stop, whether you want a break from the drive at one of the island's many waterside restaurants or to take in nature. I decided to do both, riding bikes along the Cross Island Trail and eating lunch at Bridges Restaurant (bridgesrestaurant.net, 321 Wells Cove Rd, Grasonville) by the water. The Cross Island Trail is part of the American Discovery Trail, a coast to coast recreational trial that spans the District of Columbia and 15 states. Passing through marshland, forests and along the former rail bed of the Queen Anne's Railroad, this six mile trail is an interesting and easy ride. If you want to take in views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from a beach, make sure to include the Terrapin Nature Area at the start of the Cross Island bike trial. If you're traveling to Kent Island, go fishing. I went out with Captain Andrew Aus of Maverick Chesapeake Bay Sport Fishing (fishmaverick.com, Tel. 443-988-8020) from the Queen Anne Marina. I've done a fair share of fishing around the world and this was the best, probably because I caught a really big fish. I usually think of fishing as serene, but it was truly exciting and challenging, as I tried to reel in a 40.5 inch, almost-30-lb Rockfish. A professional outfit, Captain Aus and his crew are not messing around on their fishing adventures. They know the Bay well, having grown up there fishing, and will give you the ins and outs of the Bay health, where to find the best fish and an all-around great day on the water. Distances on the Eastern Shore aren't great, but the diversity of scenery and experiences is, making it a great pick for a road trip, especially if you're bringing along the kids. About the author: Darley is the host and producer of Equitrekking, the Emmy-winning PBS TV series, and currently in production on Travels with Darley, coming to PBS and viewable online now in short form on Budget Travel and AOL . Follow her adventures on the road on Twitter @DarleyNewman and Instagram @DarleyNewman.