Summer Guide: Where To Take The Kids
Ready to create smiles the size of the Grand Canyon? Summer is about fun, sun and definitely about the smile factor. We even have some options that will force a smile out of that moody teenager. Create memories with the kids this summer. There is so much out there to do!
Dollywood’s Splash Countryis a great place to start your summer vacation with the kids. Dolly Parton has created the most family-friendly experience at all her surrounding properties and this extreme water park is no exception. Book yourself a reasonably-priced waterside retreat and there is no reason to leave all day. Stay at nearby DreamMore Resort and hit up the neighboring amusement park that offers so much more than just rides - Dollywood. The Massanutten Amusement Parkand Resort in Virginia offers water fun outdoors and indoors. Toddlers can safely play on the splash pad while Dad flows down the lazy river. Schlitterbahn Waterparkin New Braunfels, Texas, was voted “World’s Best Water Park” by Amusement Today, and features water rides and slides for all ages. You can relax in heated pools, float down man-made rivers, zip down twisting flumes or slides that are several stories high.
Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta- This is the nation's largest aquarium with over ten million gallons of fresh and saltwater holding some fascinating aquatic life - and no, you cannot take home the cute otters. Catch a few shows and interactive animal encounters. Get the kids excited to go and explore the live webcams feeds on their website; spy on the unsuspecting penguins, beluga whales, jellyfish...and yes, those adorable otters!
Dinosaur Valley State Park, Texas- If your kids love dinosaurs, they can see where they once roamed at Dinosaur Valley State Park. You can find dinosaur tracks in the riverbed, watch wildlife that still roams the area, or go geocaching in this park near Fort Worth, Texas.
Capt. Jack's Pirate Ship Adventures, Virginia Beach- Jump aboard the Lost Pearl and set sail for adventures on the high seas in search of treasure! Capt. Jack's Pirate Ship Adventures offers an oceanfront adventure cruise aboard a 65-foot ship. There is face painting, a pirate lesson, games, singing, dancing, and lots of other fun. Keep an eye open for dolphins and other wildlife along the way. Cool down at the end with a water gun battle with Blackbeard.
Williamsburg, Virginia- Rent a costume for the small folk and blend into 18th century Colonial Williamsburg, then check out Revolutionary City, a place for children to interact with various characters in an informal, intimate setting. Williamsburg is a destination that your kids will remember for a lifetime.
Children’s Museum of Houston, Texas- This elaborate children's museum will having you feel as if you are stepping into another world. Kidtropolis is a huge pretend city where kids run the show. It is complete with its own city hall, bank, news center, vet's office and more, and was designed to help kids understand occupations and economics. Budding inventors create their own gadgets and gizmos in the Invention Convention. The under-three set can play in a padded area or roll around in a ball pit.
U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Alabama- Huntsville is the home to the largest space museum in the world. A visit is a must for those curious kids, but they also offer the coolest summer camp. Imagine sending young Olivia to Space Camp where she can train like an astronaut in a program that simulates rocket launches and missions into space. Older too-cool kids (15-18 years old) can learn real-world STEM principles as they fly pilot simulations and tackle the rope course or SCUBA dive in the underwater astronaut training area. Seriously cool parenting points for this one.
Cherokee Ruby Mine, North Carolina
At the Cherokee Ruby Mine in Franklin, you are provided with a seat cushion and a screen box and shown samples of rough gemstones. Then you proceed to the flume line, where you fill your screen box and begin sluicing, searching for rubies, sapphires, garnets and moonstones. This is a friendly, family-owned operation whose website lists “Mom” on a list of “Our Gems.” Awe, shucks!
Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
Everyone, including the kids, will love arriving on this island only accessible by ferry or private boat. This small fishing village offers 16 miles of pristine, undeveloped beaches protected by the National Park Service offer a peaceful escape to families willing to make the trip. Explore the tree-lined streets and 1880s architecture of Ocracoke Village and the Ocracoke Lighthouse, which is one of the oldest lighthouses still in use in the U.S.
Big South Fork Scenic Railway, Kentucky
Located in the heart of the Cumberland Plateau in Sterns, the Big South Fork Scenic Railway runs diesel trains into the gorge of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, which is beautiful beyond words. The K&T Special is a three hour, 14-mile round-trip into the Daniel Boone National Forest and you’ll chug past mountain streams as it descends 600 feet into the gorge before stopping at the Blue Heron Coal Mining Camp, and outdoor interpretive site. Your train ticket also gives you admission into the McCreary County Museum.
Ziplining- Enjoy the squeal of your kids and they whoosh across some pretty cool destinations in their own right and only made better with a zipline above it. The Riverbanks Zoo and Gardenin Columbia, South Carolina will have you soaring across seven ziplines where no hand braking is necessary so it is perfect for the kids. Get those kiddos really screaming on the Screamin’ Gator Zipline at Gatorlandin Orlando, Florida. These send riders over both Cuban and Nile crocodile habitats and even over an alligator breeding marsh - the 130 alligators will enjoy watching you from below. The New River Gorge isn’t the only blood-pumping scenery in Lansing, West Virginia. Gravity Zipline Course atAdventures on the Gorgeoffers two 500-foot “warm-up” ziplines to get the feel of the course. The lines only get longer and speedier as guests will master 1,800 feet long ones and be over 200 feet above the ground. The final zipline, AdrenaLine, is 3,150 feet long and two guests can race each other at 60 mph with the proper technique. No worries about hand breaking either because there are several safety measures to slow you down on each line.
More Summer Destinations
Queen Court Inn
St. Simons Island, Georgia
Located in the heart of the Pier Village on St. Simons Island, Queens Court Inn has kept its island charm since it originally opened in 1948. Newly renovated rooms come complete with flat screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and brand new appliances in each kitchen suite. Just steps away from shopping, restaurants, fishing and the beach, Queens Court Inn offers one of the best locations on the island! If you need to cool off, take a dip in the brand new salt-water pool and enjoy the beautiful live oaks surrounding the property.
The Depot & Railroad Museum
The City of Jackson has restored the depot built in 1907, into a museum of local railroad history – a lasting tribute to the impact of railroads on the growth of Jackson and Madison County. The museum’s collection includes photographs, artifacts, and related memorabilia associated train lines that once ran through the depot. Also located on the grounds open for view are a 1947 Dining car and two cabooses. An elaborate scale model railroad, with over 500ft. of track depicts Jackson’s rich railroad history and receives “rave reviews” from visitors.
Fields of the Woods
Murphy, North Carolina
Each year, thousands of people from all walks of life will visit Fields of the Wood. Visitors can find what many have referred to as the “World’s Largest Ten Commandments.” Displayed in stone across the side of a mountain, the letters are five feet high and the display measures 300 ft. Walk up Ten Commandment Mountain via 359 steps, enjoy picnic areas, and maybe hear some live gospel singing. Open daily from dawn to dusk, it is free to everyone and great for families with little ones.
Auburn Museum, Mississippi
Auburn Museum, a National Historic Landmark, has quite a story to tell. It was the first major building in Natchez to follow an actual architectural plan in 1812, and it started a building trend. The story of how it was almost lost to disrepair will shock you. It is now beautifully restored through volunteers of the city. The home’s unsupported spiral staircase is justifiably famous. You will be impressed with the grand home and the passionate tour guides dressed in period clothes.
Auburn Museum & Historic Home 400 Duncan Avenue, Natchez, MS 39120
Gone With the Wind Museum
Step back in time with the sights and sounds of Atlanta during the Civil War and Reconstruction as told through the eyes of Scarlett O’Hara and her dashing romancer, Rhett Butler. The Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum at historic Brumby Hall has been a mainstay in downtown Marietta since 2003 when it opened in the historic Old Thomas Warehouse Building. Peruse rare press and publicity books, costume pieces, film posters, and the original Bengaline honeymoon gown worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara.
The Museum of Aviation
Warner Robins, Georgia
The Museum of Aviation opened to the public in 1984 with 20 aircraft on display in an open field and another 20 were in various stages of restoration. The Museum of Aviation has grown to become the second largest museum in the United States Air Force. The facility includes four large exhibit buildings that house some of the 85 historic U.S. Air Force aircraft, missiles, cockpits, and award-winning exhibits. The museum is a place that honors veterans and the legendary Air Force heritage.