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    Huntsville,

    Alabama

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    Huntsville is a city in the Appalachian region of northern Alabama and is the county seat of Madison County. The city also extends west into neighboring Limestone County and south into Morgan County.It was founded in 1805 and became an incorporated town in 1811. The city grew across nearby hills north of the Tennessee River, adding textile mills, then munitions factories, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command nearby at the Redstone Arsenal. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Huntsville to its "America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2010" list.The city's population is 215,006 as of the 2020 census, making it Alabama's most populous city. Huntsville is the largest city in the five-county Huntsville-Decatur-Albertville, AL Combined Statistical Area. The Huntsville metropolitan area's population was 492,000 as of 2020, making it the second most populous metropolitan area in the state after the Birmingham metropolitan area. The Huntsville metro's population reached 462,693 by 2018.
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    Family

    5 Perfect Fall Trips for Families

    School may be in session but getting away for a short trip in the fall is a great way to ease out of summer living. And whether it’s a day trip or a quick weekend, there’s something to make everyone in the family happy. Here are six trips to consider which will enrich everyone’s body, soul and mind. Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, VA This living museum will engage kids and adults in the history of America in the 18th century. The historic area, which is a reconstruction of the city as capital of Colonial Virginia, includes hundreds of recreated buildings and structures, as well as three main thoroughfares – all of which are peopled with talented docents and translators who interact with guests to tell a more convincing story. See the tools and techniques of 18th century trades, discover pre-Revolutionary military sites and weapons, including the newly opened Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop Public Armory, peruse the British grandeur of Governor’s Palace, and explore the African American Experience, which provides a truthful, historical interpretation of slavery – a painful yet fully American experience. Planning on staying? There are six hotels within the Historic Area, including 26 Colonial Houses which can be booked overnight. US Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL Known as “Rocket City,” Huntsville is ground zero for the development of the NASA space shuttle rockets – so it’s no surprise the US Space & Rocket Center is the perfect place to investigate and learn about all aspects of the past and future of the American space program. In addition to the a full-stack Space Shuttle with two solid rocket boosters and external tank, and an authentic, impressive Saturn V rocket with hands-on exploration, other exhibits include the Spacedown IMAX Theater, a Moon Shot simulator, a G-Force Accelerator and a Mars Climbing Wall. If you’re looking for something even more interactive, you might want to book Family Space Camp, for kids between 7 and 18. Here you’ll launch simulated missions to the International Space Station, train to be an astronaut on a gravity chair and make and launch your own rocket. Great Sand Dunes, CO America's national parks are diverse and majestic, offering families a peek into the awesome splendor of this considerable country. And though sites like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite are popular tourist sites, we are partial to the Great Sand Dunes at the base of Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains. At 8200 feet elevation, these 30 miles of dunes can reach up to 750ft high. Hiking is the best way to appreciate this extraordinary, natural sandbox, and a two-hour walk also lets you explore the stunning Medano Creek, where you can splash around in a little water with your beach. Get your kicks sand sledding and sand boarding down the dunes, cardboard and snow sleds don’t work on dry sand, so you’ll have to stop and rent a board near the park entrance. Camping is allowed to help you experience the beauty of the park at night, and there are also cabins, a motel, a lodge and a ranch if you want something a little more comfortable. Dinosaur Trail, MT Find your very own prehistoric insect captured in amber at Montana’s Dinosaur Trail. This sprawling experience covers 14 locations around the entire state, which is home to some of the most important paleontological discoveries ever made. The exhibits along the trail range from the first baby dinosaur bones at Two Medicine Dinosaur Center to the best preserved “mummy” of a dinosaur ever found at Great Plains Dinosaur Museum. Want to get your hands dirty? Paleontology field dig opportunities are available at three different facilities. Be sure to pick up the Prehistoric Passport, a simple guide to the museums and communities along the way, where you’ll find history, facts and space to collect a stamp at each dino facility – which you can then trade in for prizes. TreEscape Aerial Adventure Park, Vernon, NJ Mountain Creek, best known for its namesake ski resort and water park, has a new park on the block. The TreEscape Aerial Adventure Park, located on the grounds of the Great Gorge Golf Course, is a heady combination of elevated ropes courses, connected wooden climbing platforms, obstacles and screaming ziplines – all in a green, eco-friendly environment. A six-hour window will allow you to finish the entire course, though it’s not a prerequisite, and a shuttle will follow historical logging, mining and horseback riding rails to deposit you at the park. A separate park is available for kids aged 4 to 6 and allows the younger set a chance to try out about 20 different climbing elements. Older folk can also come back when the sun goes down for night climbing on Saturday evenings. If you want to try out some of the resort’s other activities, overnight accommodations can be booked at The Appalachian resort at the base of Vernon Peak mountain or the Crystal Springs Resort – both which offer amenities like dining, pools and a spa.

    Budget Travel Lists

    8 Best Day Trips From Nashville

    The cities and towns that are just an easy drive from Nashville (between a half-hour and three hours) are full of natural and historical wonders that are ripe for a quick adventure. Whether you find yourself sampling some Tennessee whiskey from a powerhouse distillery or exploring the mysterious depths of an underground sea, here are eight of our favorite day-trip destinations. All of these locations can be reached in three hours or less from Nashville via car. Just be sure to check their websites and/or call ahead of time for any weather-related closures. 1. Brush up on your Civil War history in Franklin Drive time: 22 miles south of Nashville; 30-minute drive What to do: Franklin has come a long way since its days as a Confederate stronghold and site of one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles (The Battle of Franklin). Today, the small town manages to preserve its historic past while stepping into its new role as a welcoming, suburban city brimming with quaint, locally owned shops and lively eateries. Start off by exploring three of Franklin’s most important Civil War sites – the Carnton Plantation, the Lotz House and the Carter House – through a local tour operator or venture out on your own on a self-guided tour. Later, head to downtown Franklin’s charming Main Street for boutique shopping and delectable Southern eats at Gray’s on Mainbefore capping off the day with a bottle of honeysuckle wine at the nearby Arrington Vineyards. 2. Drink some Tennessee whiskey in Lynchburg Drive time: 75 miles south of Nashville; one-hour and 40-minute drive What to do: Jack Daniels is practically synonymous with Tennessee whiskey, making Lynchburg – the home of Jack Daniels Distillery – a veritable mecca for fans of this storied brown spirit. Interestingly, the distillery is located in a dry county, but you can still sample whiskey drawn from individual barrels during one of their informative distillery tours. The town of Lynchburg itself is also worth exploring. If wine is more your speed, pop into the Lynchburg Winery before indulging in a slice of rich Southern gastronomic history at Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House Restaurant. If souvenir shopping is on the list, the surrounding shops are stocked with a delightful assortment of handmade crafts. 3. Go whitewater kayaking at Rock Island State Park Drive time: 87 miles east of Nashville; one-hour and 40-minute drive What to do: Within Rock Island State Park’s 883 acres, you’ll find a day full of nature excursions that cater to both laid-back explorers and adrenaline junkies alike. The park is both majestically craggy and verdant, boasting a 30-foot horseshoe waterfall that once powered the 19th-century cotton textile mill located above it. You can opt to hike past this powerful water feature on one of nine trails located below the dam, or, if you’re experienced with a kayak, you can take to the rushing stream and paddle your way downstream. Fishing, swimming and birding are also popular options here, with osprey, belted kingfishers and great blue herons in the area. 4. Visit an underground national park in Cave City, Kentucky Drive time: 93 miles northeast of Nashville; one-hour and 30-minute drive What to do: With its underground rivers, glittering crystals, jagged stalagmites and rare wildlife, Mammoth Cave National Park provides shelter for some of the most unusual ecosystems in the world. But the 400-mile surveyed passageways also have their fair share of fascinating tales to tell – including the cave’s turn as a tuberculosis hospital and the prehistoric mummies that inhabited its depths. You can spend a day learning about this U.S. national park through cave tours and experiences that range from an hour-and-a-half to six hours. After you’ve peeked at the blind beetles and eyeless fish inside the cave complex, go topside for an afternoon of hiking, fishing and ziplining through 53,000 acres of lush forest. 5. Explore space travel and breweries in Huntsville, Alabama Drive time: 110 miles south of Nashville; one-hour and 53-minute drive What to do: Home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsvilleis quite literally a town full of rocket scientists. As such, space-themed adventures are the order of the day, and there’s no better spot to explore the skies than at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The Smithsonian-affiliated museum contains the world’s largest collection of space artifacts, including rocket and shuttle components. Both kids and adults alike will get a kick out of a walk-through replica of the International Space Station and the resident G-Force simulator. Huntsville has also come into its own as an arts and culture hub. Case in point: Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment, the nation’s largest privately owned arts facility. Inside this former cotton mill, you can watch artists at work from over 148 studios, dip into one of the six galleries or watch a performance in the facility’s theater. After an afternoon of the arts, wind down with a beer inside one of Huntsville’s many up-and-coming breweries, like the Salty Nut Brewery, Yellowhammer Brewing and Straight to Ale. Certain areas around town are designated open container, making it easy to continue exploring Huntsville with a to-go cup in hand. 6. Ride the rail up to Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga Drive time: 134 miles southeast of Nashville; two-hour and 10-minute drive What to do: Six miles from downtown Chattanooga lies a nature-based triple threat: Ruby Falls, Rock City and the Inline Railway. It’s an all-day, all-ages adventure based in Lookout Mountain, a mountain ridge running through Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. Start with a guided cave tour or a 700-foot zipline adventure through Ruby Falls, home of the world’s largest underground waterfall, before strolling through the diverse flora and fauna of the Rock City Gardens. Wrap up your day with a mile-high ride on the Incline Railway, one of the world’s steepest passenger railways. At the top: a bird’s eye from the Lookout Mountain observation deck. 7. Navigate the Lost Sea in Sweetwater Drive time: 170 miles east of Nashville; two-hour and 53-minute drive What to do: Tennessee may be land-locked, but that doesn’t stop the state from boasting its very own sea. Designated a registered natural landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior and listed as ‘America’s largest underground lake’ by Guinness World Book of Records, the Lost Sea is a massive body of water located in a historic cave system known as the Craighead Caverns. The true size of this body of water is unknown, but you can glide across its four-acre surface and catch a glimpse of the crystal formations and colossal rainbow trout that inhabit the caverns on one of the daily boat tours offered. Nearby, Sweetwater’s revitalized Main Street offers a bake shop full of indulgent Southern sweets, galleries and plenty of antique shopping. 8. Tour Elvis Presley’s stomping grounds in Memphis Drive time: 215 miles west of Nashville; three-hour drive What to do: Clocking in at just over 200 miles, the drive from Nashville to Memphis stretches the definition of a day trip, but if you’re a devotee of ‘The King’, you know that it’s all about taking care of business… in a flash. And there’s no other place that brings the legacy of Elvis to life quite like the kitschy and wonderfully bizarre Graceland. The full Elvis Experience tour takes about three hours, which still leaves you time to fill up on some that transcendent low-and-slow Memphis pulled pork at Central BBQ before heading back to Music City. Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with Lonely Planet’s weekly newsletter.

    Adventure

    Explore the U.S. Space Program: 8 Places to Celebrate the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

    This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and what better way to pay tribute to the U.S. space program than by planning an epic adventure? From informative exhibits and spacecraft on display to activities that bring visitors closer to the stars, here are eight destinations across America that offer an out-of-this-world experience. 1. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex: Merritt Island, Florida (Thomaskelley/Dreamstime) Spread out along Florida’s Space Coast, the Kennedy complex (kennedyspacecenter.com) is organized into mission zones, with attractions and tours arranged in chronological order. The Heroes and Legends exhibit honors pioneers in space exploration, while another tour gets up close and personal with the space shuttle Atlantis. Nearby, the American Space Museum and Walk of Fame in downtown Titusville is staffed by former space-center employees and has exhibit halls dedicated to the Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo missions. At Port Canaveral, wander the Exploration Tower’s seven-story museum, then head up to the observation deck for a bird’s-eye view of the Cape’s launch pads and the entire port. Cap off the day at the Cove’s restaurant row for an alfresco meal at casual spots like the Grills Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar or FishLips Waterfront Bar and Grill. 2. Space Center Houston: Houston (Bambi L. Dingman/Dreamstime) Playing an iconic role in NASA history since 1961—who could forget Apollo 13's ominous message, “Houston, we have a problem”?—this Texas metropolis has more than earned its Space City moniker. The Space Center Houston (spacecenter.org) serves as both visitors’ center for the NASA Johnson Space Center and home to a massive collection of moon rocks and multi-flown aircraft in various galleries. Take a NASA tram tour of the JSC, then step inside a replica of the shuttle Independence, which is mounted on the NASA 905 shuttle aircraft. Visit the Starship Gallery to see the Skylab training module and the command module of Apollo 17, plus a fragment from its 1979 Earth reentry and JFK’s “We choose to go to the moon” speech podium. Across the main plaza at the Astronaut Gallery, scope out the space suits worn Wally Schirra and Kathryn Sullivan plus Sally Ride’s shuttle coveralls, then check out the Houston Museum of Natural Science for some stargazing at the George Observatory. Back on earth, Houston also has the Downtown Aquarium, the zoo, and the Museum of Fine Arts, and plenty of prime foodie options too. Try Truth BBQ’s 18-hour smoked brisket and the venison sausage spiked with black pepper and garlic at the Pit Room, or split a few things at Nancy’s Hustle, a modern bistro and bar with a plate-sharing theme. 3. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum: New York (Tomasz Wozniak/Dreamstime) On the western edge of Manhattan's Hell’s Kitchen, docked at Pier 86, this aircraft carrier turned museum (intrepidmuseum.org) not only has an incredible aircraft collection representing all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, but it also holds the Enterprise, the prototype NASA orbiter that paved the way for the space shuttle program. At the Space Shuttle Pavilion, immersive exhibit zones with films, audio, artifacts, and photos tell the story of its legacy. Once you’ve had all the space you can handle, head four blocks south to Lucky Strike for some friendly competition over bowling and billiards. Add on six more blocks, and you’ll arrive at Hudson Yards, a high-end restaurant and retail enclave with an eye-catching, ticketed-entry spiral staircase called the Vessel. For even more meal choices, Gotham West Market has a small mix of artisanal food stalls, and Hell’s Kitchen’s Ninth Avenue is lined with dining options. 4. Arecibo Observatory: Arecibo, Puerto Rico (Ivan Kokoulin/Dreamstime) A facility of the National Science Foundation, Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory (naic.edu/ao) is the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, covering an area of about 20 acres. Self-tour the Science and Visitor Center or opt for the VIP version to see the 1,000 feet reflector up close from a vehicle; you can also take in the astronomy exhibits and check out the observation deck. Outside of the observatory, the Arecibo Lighthouse and Historical Park journeys through five eras of Puerto Rican history, and also has a mini-zoo, restaurant, and play area for the youngest aspiring astronauts. Other must-see spots include Cueva Ventana, which overlooks Rio Grande de Arecibo Valley and offers guided tours that touch on the cave’s ecosystem; Cueva del Indio, featuring impressive cliffs, petroglyphs, and a naturally formed rock bridge; and Arecibo’s La Poza del Obispo, a remote but popular beach spot. 5. U.S. Space & Rocket Center: Huntsville, Alabama (Leonardospencer/Dreamstime) Huntsville is true to its nickname, Rocket City, not least because the museum at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (rocketcenter.com) displays one of only three authentic Saturn V moon rockets in the world. Catch an astronomy show at the INTUITIVE Planetarium, take on the challenge of a Mars climbing wall, and experience a motion-based flight simulation on the HyperShip. You can also tour the Redstone Arsenal—home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center—by bus. And aim for the stars with hands-on astronaut training at Space Camp (spacecamp.com), the center’s anchor program. Back on earth, the Huntsville Botanical Garden houses an aquatic garden, herb garden, children’s garden, and an education center with amphibians and reptiles along with an open-air butterfly house. For dinner, opt for Cotton Row Restaurant, an upscale surf-and-turf establishment, or try Humphrey's Bar & Grill for traditional bar food. Thirsty for more? The city’s brewing scene is pouring over with Salty Nut Brewery, Straight to Ale, and Yellowhammer Brewery. 6. National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution: Washington (Zhi Qi/Dreamstime) Centrally located on the National Mall, D.C.’s Air and Space Museum (airandspace.si.edu) takes flight with 22 exhibition galleries covering aviation, spaceflight, astronomy, and planetary science. In 2022, the museum will add to its roster with Destination Moon, which chronicles the race to the lunar landing. Craving more time with the cosmos? Take in a planetarium show or catch a movie on the museum’s five-story IMAX screen. Outside, the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory offers a closer look at the sun, planets, and double stars. A short walk or a free Southwest shuttle-bus ride will get you to the Wharf, a new and evolving entertainment destination on the Potomac River, and you'll also want to stop by the Washington National Cathedral to view the Space Window, a stained-glass symbol of our connection to the stars. Pro tip: To see the Discovery space shuttle, head across the river to the the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the museum's companion facility, located 30 minutes away in Chantilly, Virginia. 7. Great Lakes Science Center: Cleveland (Daniel Hancock/Dreamstime) Home to the NASA Glenn Visitor Center, one of 11 in the United States, the Great Lakes Science Center (greatscience.com) goes in depth on how astronauts eat, sleep, and learn via its Living in Space exhibit. Peek inside the real-life 1973 Skylab 3 Apollo Command Module and go on a multi-media trip through significant moments in space history, take your photo in a spacesuit and see a moon rock along with artifacts from John Glenn’s February 20, 1962, Friendship 7 mission. (Later, you can experience another kind of rock at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame). The accomplishments of female scientists and astronauts take the spotlight at the International Women’s Air & Space Museum at Burke Lakefront Airport, an essential stop. For refreshments, the Terrestrial Brewing Company has stellar suds and food trucks. 8. Museum of Science and Industry: Chicago (Cmlndm/Dreamstime) From Sputnik to SpaceX, the Windy City’s Museum of Science and Industry (msichicago.org) goes into orbit with visual and virtual presentations on space. Its Henry Crown Space Center's Space Is the Place exhibit honors stories of exploration through artifacts and interactives: Hear tales recounting the missions that brought us to the moon, see the actual Apollo 8 module and the Aurora 7 capsule, and try a docking simulation in the walk-in mockup of the International Space Station. For an additional ticket fee, you can step into the role of an astronaut working outside the International Space Station via a VR Spacewalk ride. Near the museum, Hyde Park has lunch spots such as Jolly Pumpkin, a pizzeria and brewery; Medici on 57th,, with yummy Angus burgers, milkshakes, and baked croissants and pastries; and Piccolo Mondo, a white-tablecloth Italian eatery. Further north, near the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium is all about astronomy. For travel inspiration, know-how, deals, and more, sign up for Budget Travel's free e-newsletter.

    Family

    What's Your All-Time Favorite Family Vacation?

    Fun family getaways were the theme for our May/June digital issue of Budget Travel magazine (now available on BudgetTravel.com, in the Apple App Store, on Google Play, and for Nook and Kindle). To get into the spirit of things, we asked several of our staff members to share their favorite places for family vacations—here's what they said: "Learning to ski at Keystone Resort in Colorado!" —Robert Firpo-Cappiello, Editor in Chief "A family trip to Southern California when I was 11. We had a great time visiting Disneyland, Santa Monica Pier, Hollywood, and taking on all the big roller coasters at Knott's Berry Farm." —Kaeli Conforti, Digital Editor "My favorite family vacation was traveling with my mom, dad, and uncle to visit our Italian cousins in Southern Italy!" —Jennifer O'Brien, Marketing Manager "Cape Cod beaches and candy shops!" —Amy Lundeen, Photo Director "I'd love to spend a week at a ski resort with my family, preferably one in Utah!" —Whitney Tressel, Photo Editor "Summer trips to a tiny bungalow in upstate New York." —Ruthie Kaposi, Digital Project Manager "A tropical resort with water sports like kayaking and sailing onsite (like Montego Bay, Jamaica); it's safe, there's alcohol, and there are things to do for all ages." —Chad Harter, Lead Developer "We love getting away to our family summer 'camp' in the Southern Adirondacks of New York State. Nothing like a cool mountain lake, a kayak, a bit of fishing, and some singing around the campfire. Cannot wait!" —Maureen Kelley Stewart, Advertising Account Manager "We went to the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and then went to Cape Canaveral, Florida, and watched a shuttle launch before relaxing in Daytona Beach for a week." —Michelle Craig, Digital Ad Sales Planning Manager "St. Michaels, Maryland, on the Eastern Shore in July, for great crab eating, tall ships, and historic sights." —Elaine Alimonti, President, Publisher "The white, sandy beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama." —Dustin Gontarski, Compass Marketing "South Padre Island, Texas: family-friendly for kids from 1 to 101. We go with up to 30 family members every year." —Jo Neese, Neese & Lee Media "North Shore on the island of Oahu in Hawaii." —Lola Cohen, Advertising Sales Manager "Rome! With all that history, it awes at any age!" —Jeff Greif, Advertising Sales Manager Now it's your turn: what was your all-time favorite family vacation? Do you have a top spot you take the family every year? Tell us all about it below!

    Family

    Fall Weekend Getaways Your Kids Will Love, Too

    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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