May 30, 2013
Airplane tickets (or gasoline), tickets into the Parks, the hotel room, 3 square meals a day, souvenirs….the list of opportunities to spend your money at Disney World is endless. Did you know there are a myriad of FREE fun options as Disney, as well? As you plan your magical vacation, be sure to include these activities on your itinerary.
- From the Disney Resorts Contemporary, Polynesian or Grand Floridian, or within Magic Kingdom or Epcot, catch and ride the Monorail. There are three lines; choose the inner rail for a view of the Magic Kingdom and beautiful resorts. This is a great way to cool down, take in the view, or acclimate to the Park layout.
- Boat rides are free within the parks. Ride from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney and back via the Sassagoula. Enjoy the breeze around Crescent Lake (outside the parks) for an overview of Epcot, Boardwalk, various Disney Resorts, and Hollywood Studios. If you are visiting during the hottest months, consider taking these rides in the evening.
- Enjoy free samples from Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop in Downtown Disney; you don’t need to make a purchase in order to indulge.
- Stop at one of 11 Kidcot stations in EPCOT. Kids can draw, rest, see Cast Members and make special crafts. A few dollars will get you an upgrade with more features, but the basics are free.
- Stop in and visit the resorts while riding the monorails, taking the ferry, or parking at the resort for three hours free of charge (get a permit at the gate.) All-Star or Pop Century have great photo taking opportunities for the family (how about a family photo in front of a 35 foot tall Buzz Lightyear or a 25 foot tall Woody?) Table Service Meals and Counter Service Restaurants are located within various resorts; it is a way to experience a “change of scenery” during mealtime. If you have a few bucks to spend, many resorts also offer activities like surrey rides or carriage outings.
- If you are staying at any Disney resort then you can embark on a free tour of Yacht Club, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Grand Floridian or Wilderness Lodge. Call ahead for reservations. These Deluxe resorts are outfitted as lavishly as the Parks themselves; you won’t want to miss them.
- Bring your swimsuit to the Parks and play in the water! Hollywood Studios has a 52-foot leaking water hose, Animal Kingdom has a small fountain area near Kali River Rapids, and Epcot has two interactive fountains (one near Test Track and another near Future World) as well as leapfrog fountains near Imagination! pavilion. Magic Kingdom has splash play for the little ones at Casey Jr. Splash ‘n’ Soak, the tiki statues near Jungle Cruise, and Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride. Finally, Downtown Disney has interactive fountains and more water fun at The World of Disney Store.
- On the Disney Boardwalk you can watch the street performers and listen to various bands performing. You can also see the Ferry Boats cruise back and forth.
- Any Resort guest is welcome to join the campfire program at Fort Wilderness. Meet near the Meadow Trading Post every evening around 7pm in the fall and 8pm in the warmer months. The kids will enjoy a sing-a-long and campfire roast; you can purchase food (including s’mores kits) at the Chuckwagon, or save and bring your own. Chip and Dale sign autographs and then a Disney movie plays on an oversized screen to round out the fun. There is some seating or you can bring your own blankets. If you prefer the beach to the forest then opt for the s’mores and movie through Beach Club or Grand Floridian.
- Take a break from the Parks and head 20 minutes south of the city to The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness System. This Everglades ecosystem is open weekdays, 9am – 5pm. You can hike the 2.5-mile trail, and see animals like bald eagles and gopher tortoise in their natural habitats. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.
- While you are out of the Park, take a drive to Celebration, Florida, about 10 minutes from Disney World. This community was planned and built by Disney (sold in 2004), and reminiscent of a scene from The Truman Show. Market Street schedules a host of family-friendly activities each month, or you can leisurely stroll the area’s boutiques and specialty shops. Venturing along the suggested walking tour path will ensure you see the most notable aspects of the town, including the oversize wicker chairs calling your name at the Bohemian Hotel Celebration. Providing another opportunity to save on lunch, pack a cooler and blanket, and head to the Interactive Fountain for a picnic and water play.
Do you have additional ideas for FREE FUN while at Walt Disney World? Share them with us here or join the conversation on Facebook.
Find Lesli on Google+
May 27, 2013
photo from palebear via Flickr CCL
Souvenir: a French word for memory. We bring an object home from vacation so that we don’t forget the great time we had while traveling. From the looks of many vacation hot spots, it is easy to forget that the point is not to consume, but to remember. When gazing at your trinkets collected from various adventures, you want to remember the happy moments you shared with your family, not the gut-wrenching knot in your belly that comes from spending too much money. Below are a series of ideas for you and the kids that will preserve your memories and won’t break the bank.
Lapel Pins and Badges
This happens to be my personal favorite. My son collects a lapel pin from every place we visit – the space museum, an historic pirate vessel, the nature center, etc. He puts them on his backpack and proudly shows them off to friends and family who visit. Badges are a little cheaper, but as Lori Brown, owner of Expedition Mom, points out, they require the extra step of being sewn or ironed onto clothing or backpacks, and they do not transfer as effortlessly as pins. As kids grow, they will need a new backpack or vest; promoting a pin to the new attire is a breeze.
Pressed pennies are a popular souvenir choice. Kids love manhandling the press machine crank, and parents love the 51 cent price tag. Pressed penny books are available at various souvenir shops for holding your precious pennies, but why invest the money only to have them hidden in a drawer. You can glue magnets to the backs and hang your pressed possessions on the fridge, or drill small holes in the tops for a necklace or bracelet. According to On The Go With Amy, using pre-1982 pennies, which contain more copper, will hold their new shape better.
Rocks and Sand
The ultimate budget souvenir is the one that cost nothing: sand or rocks from the land you visit. Quarry Orchard describes a souvenir project that is fun and easy for the family – collect a large rock from your vacation destination and use a permanent marker to note the place and year. Also consider collecting sand and displaying it in a small glass jar or vile with a pretty tag describing its origin.
Other Keepsake Collectibles
Other affordable souvenir collectibles include cups or mugs commemorating your stop. One mom collects a Starbucks mug from every vacation destination. Mini snow globes depicting the city you visit are fun memorabilia for children. Christmas ornaments appear year-round in souvenir shops; they allow you to reminisce with the family each season as you decorate the tree. Cookbooks make fun collectibles, especially in foreign countries or if you visit the restaurant of the author. Finally, one mom I know collects playing cards from each place she visits. Her goal is to collect cards from 52 different locations so that they can be organized into a deck that features a single card for each vacation spot.
See our Souvenir Pinterest Board for more ideas. If you haven’t already, join the conversation on Facebook; we’d love to hear about your souvenir collection!
Find Lesli on Google+
May 25, 2013
Identifying leaves on a nature scavenger hunt for the Georgia Junior Ranger program.
The Junior Ranger Program. Really, does it get much better than fun, free (mostly) and educational?
This program, hosted by a series of national and state parks, is an exciting way for your kids to learn the environmental and historical aspects of your region. If you are anything like me, you have seen posts about the Junior Ranger Program on various blogs. I’ve seen friends write about it on Facebook, too. But only a few weeks ago did I stop g l a n c i n g over these references; I finally clicked a link and did the research. Gold Mine! We’ve heard from moms that they want something exciting for the summer that will keep their kid’s minds active, but that won’t break the bank; the Junior Ranger Program is the answer.
In a nutshell, the Junior Ranger Program encourages kids to perform activities ranging from outdoor scavenger hunts to scramble word-finds, from volunteering to bird-watching, and much more. Once prospective Jr. Rangers complete a set number of experiences at home and within a park setting, then they share their findings with a Park Ranger in order to receive a badge, patch, or certificate (depending on the program and location.) The program is usually available via the park’s website, and is self-directed. This means you and your kids set the pace, select the activities and manage your own goals.
The program originated with the National Parks Service. Almost National Parks, National Monuments, and National Historical Sites have their own, specific program. For example, if you live in Arizona then you may enjoy the program for Petrified Forest National Park, and if you are traveling to DC then consider the program for the National Mall.
Most states also have a Junior Ranger Program for the state parks system, such as our program in Georgia. Other states such as North Carolina have a state program, but also have additional programs for specific state parks like Weymouth Woods – Sandhills Nature Preserve. You can also find specialty programs at the national and state level. For example, Georgia offers the Junior War Historian Program; the National Parks System also offers Junior Paleontologist and Night Explorers programs.
I have not found a directory of all the state programs; I would recommend Googling your state park system and the term “Junior Ranger.” In addition to the program booklet, you may also find newsletters, Junior Ranger Camps (usually these require a fee), Junior Ranger family outings, and more.
Tips for starting the program
Each program indicates a recommended age; most fall between 5 and 12 years old. There are a handful of programs for kids as young as 2 yrs and as old as 17 yrs. I encourage you to look through the program contents rather than settle on the recommended age. I almost did not start the program with my son this year. The recommended level 1 age for Georgia is 6 yrs. However, after reviewing the material, I would say he could have started at 3 yrs; at almost 5 yrs we are working on Level 2. Keep in mind that each program is different. This is just another perk to being self-directed. You know your child best – when to start him, how much to expect, and how quickly you want to progress through the program.
If you are already an outdoor family like we are, you might find that your child could easily “check off” each activity and turn it in overnight. Rather than doing this, use it as an opportunity to experience activities again with a new and fresh perspective. We go hiking several times a month, but when the hiking activity came about in the program we didn’t automatically mark it completed. We scouted a new hiking location and contentiously, with our new “Junior Ranger eyes”, trekked the forest floor. We learned new things and experienced a staple activity from a new angle.
Read the fine print; each program is different. Most programs are free, but some may require a small fee – usually less than $5. A park may provide different programs for different age groups or have the same program for everyone but require more of the older children. Various programs offer a badge by mailing in your activity book; others require a Park Ranger to evaluate your child performing some activities in order to receive a patch or pin. Even if you have completed a program in one park, be sure to read the details about a program in another park.
If you are wondering where to start, I recommend beginning with your state’s Junior Ranger Program (if you have one.) It is usually a more general program, not created for a specific location. This allows you and your children to get your feet wet in the program, while providing more freedom and flexibility with regard to where you complete the activities. With that one completed, your kids will feel confident about exploring site-specific programs.
If you are looking for free (or nearly free) ways to practice math, science, art, history, and more this summer – all in the guise of fun – then check out the Junior Ranger Programs in your area. When you do, let us know! We’d love to highlight your Junior Rangers on Homeschool.com.
We’ve added more ideas about the Junior Ranger Program on Pinterest.
Also, join the conversation on Facebook.
Find Lesli on Google+
May 23, 2013
When Bev sent me her story of visiting the resting place of Dama de Cao, I was immediately moved. This story had to be shared; I hope you feel the same way. As a perpetual traveler, she offers an eye into places we may never go. I like to call this Arm Chair Travel. Educational, fun, captivating….all from the comfort of home. Stay tuned for more photo essays from Bev in the coming months. — Lesli
In the morning, greeted by our cheerful, friendly driver, my friends and I set off on tour again! We drove one and a half hours north, passing through acres of sugar cane farms and finally leading us out of the desert. Suddenly, in the middle of nowhere, we reached our destination. The El Bruco archaeological site – an ancient pyramid monument of the Moche civilization.
First we visited the museo, a fabulous modern building. The displays were wonderful and the presentations were interesting and informative.
1500 years before South America had its first female head of state, the Dama de Cao (or Señora de Cao) governed from this pyramid. Over the last six years, her story has spread far and wide, a replica of her mummy has toured the world, and NatGeo ran a widely-publicized documentary about her. This lovely museo seems a fitting resting place for Dama de Cao, located at the base of her pyramid.
A short trek from the mueso is the pyramid complex……
The Moche always built their pyramids with mud bricks, and when the El Niño rains came in the late sixth century (and again many times after that), the buildings melted away. Today, they look more like half-washed-away sandcastles or dirt mounds than the towering palaces they once were.
However, this process of destruction yielded a surprising result. As the top layers of the pyramids washed down onto the lower levels, they sealed them in, protecting them from the elements. Today we see only the lower levels of El Bruco…but what an amazing sight….
As we stood atop the Huaca Cao Viejo it is difficult to envision this was once a grand city. Today there is just desert and sugar cane fields….
Dama de Cao was discovered by an archaeological team in 2006, in a tomb high inside of the pyramid in an elaborately-painted burial chamber. The researchers and the world were shocked at finding the remains of the ruler of this grand pyramid and city belonged to a woman……yeah, go “girl power”!!!!…
El Brujo dates as far back as the year 100 BC, and these ruins clearly show the remains of a large, stepped pyramid, a spacious central court, mural ornamentation and clay plaster with detailed polychrome relief work…..
The temple wall on Cao Viejo soars five stories above the main ceremonial plaza, where animal and human sacrifices were performed. The 1700-year old murals, still plainly visible, portray vanquished soldiers being led to the spot where their blood would be offered to the gods!!
It was incredibly hot in the desert but as we left the ruins there was a nice breeze from the ocean. Returning to the present day, we drove to El Bruco village (35 minutes away, population 500), we stopped at the charming Plaza de Armas, dominated on one side by a glorious colourful church….
Now lunchtime, we ate at the town’s only restaurant. I have to say there was excellent food and cheap, too……We enjoyed one of my favorite Peruvian meats, grilled Cuy. My poor friends were squirming!!!…..as translated….Cuy is guinea pig!!!….(they don’t eat much Cuy in South Peru, but they eat Alpacha which they don’t eat in the north!)
We then drove on to Huanchaco beach for the afternoon….. up next are the famous Tortora reed fishing boats….
hasta mañana, B xx
About the Author
Bev Campbell resides…..well, where???!!!, my home is New Zealand….but i have been absent for a while, just over 2 years now in fact, as i’ve been traveling the World constantly. Asia, USA, South America, Latin America, Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Baltic’s, you name it!….. i even got up to Iceland and Far North Lapland. With previous extensive travel and the last 2 years non-stop, i’ve now visited 85 countries. The best of my travels…..meeting people, being privileged to share in their lives, to experience and appreciate new cultures, you’re never to old to learn.
May 18, 2013
Photo via Flickr/roanokecollage/CCL
International travel provides opportunities for incredible learning experiences.
Through travel we learn about other cultures, lifestyles, languages, unique and beautiful geography, history, politics and current events, art and more. Because of this, international travel isn’t just for adults – our kids benefit as well!
There are numerous options for families when it comes to traveling and homeschooling overseas.
- Live…learn…travel overseas together as a family. This includes military families, expatriates, and adventurous homeschoolers. Click on the following for oodles of information and inspiration –
From Our Readers
A number of Homeschool.com readers wrote in about their personal travel experiences and a few of those comments follow:
“We lived in Germany for one year, in 2004. Our children were 5 & 7 years old. We became official residents and actually received permission to homeschool while we were there, which is unheard of in Germany. They prosecute many homeschool families, extensively. We did carry that letter around with us everywhere just in case we got stopped and questioned, which never happened.
We used the K12 curriculum, and I shared the scope and sequence with the government so they would understand what we were doing. We were very open with them about our academics as well as our plans for being in their country. They were very receptive. We had also talked to the legal group who supports/protects homeschoolers in that country so we knew what kind of language to use (and not to use) when talking to government officials about our educational choice.
As for travel, in Germany, they workers received 5 to 6 weeks of vacation per year. We used it all! We loved to jump in the car (train or plane) and tour various countries on long weekends. We always had a GPS in the car so we got get distracted but always find our way home. Our goal was to expose our children to as many different cultures and see many of the places they have (and will) study. Each city was a treasure hunt to see what we have studied as well as all the cool places we didn’t even know existed, and taste all the various foods. We lived life to the fullest and loved it.
As with homeschooling here, we did it when we could where we could, to keep their academics familiar (a home base), but they learned so much by traveling. They are very comfortable with all kinds of modes of transportation and are always excited to visit new places and see what makes them special. One of the biggest lessons they learned, was that, deep down, people are people and all have feelings, needs, and dreams. The special part is that every culture adds its own spice to each person.”
Peggy writes ,
“My son and I traveled to England and France in May of 2010 with a friend and her daughter. Our friends from the UK have a holiday house in the south of France that they invited us to stay in for 5 1/2 weeks. We flew into London had spent several days there. Hotels are fine for short stays which we did in London and Paris, but a house, apartment or gite are better alternatives. You can have down time, meals at home and get to know the neighbors this way. By the time we left the little village of Trebe were we stayed, we felt like we were one of the locals.
My son, Luke and his friend Annika were 12 at the time which is a good age for travel. Their curriculum throughout the year included medieval studies so this was easy. They had also studied ancient Egypt and Rome as well as Luke being interested in World War II.
We also arranged for a Michelin trained chef to come to the house we were staying at in France. The experience was incredible for the children and us alike. He took us to the market and then showed us how to prepare a simple French meal. The children were included in every step of the way. We made sure that everything we did was tween friendly.”
International travel – a great gift you can give your children! After all, traveling is your time to “explore together and grow together.”
A special thank you to the author, Ann Simpson, who is our Regional Advertising Manager and Homeschool.com Blog Writer. She compiled this information from our readers.
Download a PDF of this article here.
May 16, 2013
Out of the nine days my parents and I spent in Britain, the day we explored London was one of my favorites.
That morning, we took the train from Milton Keynes, where we were staying with friends, into London, and then went on the underground to Camden Station. Both stations were really full. It was a good thing the local friend who came with us was tall, otherwise we would have lost him!
We went out one of the exits and took a right. After a few minutes we realized we were in the Camden Market. There were stalls and shops of colorful bags and mugs, souvenirs as well as clothing and unique crafts lining the street.
All around London the number of different languages we heard was amazing. After that day, I wasn’t surprised to read that out of all the cities in the world, the one with the most languages spoken is London.
The directions we were using didn’t look like they were leading us to the London Zoo. We stopped at the bridge over Regent’s Canal and watched the boats moored to the side of the murky but charming waterway, while our friend messed around on his phone trying to find where we should go. It turned out we had accidentally exited from the wrong side of the station!
We walked back to where we had started, went through the other exit and finally came to the zoo.
The London Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the world.
The zebras were especially woolly. Their coats were shaggy and longer than usual to accommodate the cool British weather.
There was a building with ‘nightlife’, creatures like bats and armadillos. There were exhibits like in a reptile house, only faintly back-lit in the dark so we could see them. It was really cool.
Out of all the exhibits, though, the okapi, an animal that looks like a mix between a deer and a zebra but is neither, was my favorite. Her coat looked so velvety! She just stood there, nibbling a branch.
The penguin’s building was being remodeled, so they were put in with the other birds in the aviary. It was amusing seeing the arctic creatures amongst tropical fowl (and the occasional local specimen, which I imagine got in through the holes in the netting).
By the time we finished in the aviary, the sky was starting to drip. Out of all the days we spent in Britain, that was the only day it rained, which is very unusual. Britain is known for its precipitation.
After we had walked around the zoo for about five hours, we finally ran out of steam. I got two ‘souvenir holes’ in the socks I wore that day.
We exited the zoo and walked a block north to Primrose Hill. It’s a tall, gently sloping grassy hill with round, leafy trees along the paths up it. It’s a nice break from the grayish buildings around it, although London was surprisingly green for a big city.
Once we got to the top, we rested on some benches and gazed south. We saw the London skyline along the Thames: Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye and a dozen others, all tiny grey figures, just recognizable in the faintly dimming evening light.
We took the underground back to Euston Station and stopped there. It was ‘peak time’, or rush hour, so we couldn’t use our non-peak-time tickets for the train back to Milton Keynes yet.
To fill time, we decided to go out for dinner.
We walked through a part of town our friend knew. We went down an avenue of Indian restaurants, and had dinner in one of them. The others enjoyed their meals, but I ordered a ‘masala’, or ‘spicy’ dosa, which was a little too hot for me.
After our meal, we took the train to Milton Keynes.
We were all really tired when we got back, but it was worth it.
The day we went to London was one of the most fun, tiring days I’ve ever had. I’d love to go back there and see more of the amazing things the city has to offer.
About the Author
Heather Mathis is 13 and lives in Woodstock. She has been homeschooled all her life. She likes figure skating and writing fantasy stories, and has a business hand sewing one-of-a-kind sock dolls.
Are you a homeschooler, too? Send us an article about your favorite adventure and we could feature it in
‘A Homeschooler’s Perpective’
May 14, 2013
Aspiring astronauts will enjoy these opportunities to learn about shuttles, rockets, astronauts, and more. Should your summer travels take you to one of these states, consider a summer space exploration. It’s guaranteed science fun.
U.S. Space and Rocket Center (Huntsville) – Learn about space travel in this hands-on museum featuring a simulator and rocket park, and over 1500 space artifacts. See a planetarium or an IMAX show. Space Camp and Space Academy programs available.
California Science Center – See the Space Shuttle Endeavour, retired in the same state it was constructed. Learn about its last mission, and see an IMAX movie.
Kennedy Space Center (Titusville) – Plan to spend the entire day at this complex – the grounds of the first human space launch in the US. Take the bus tour, lunch with an astronaut, hop aboard a shuttle simulator, tour the rocket garden and much more.
Henry Crown Space Center at Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago) – See the Aurora 7, take a simulated space shuttle ride, watch an IMAX movie, and more
Kansas Cosmosphere and Discovery Center (Hutchinson) – Compare over 25 different spacesuits and several space craft. See a moon rock, a lunar module, and catch a show in the planetarium or theater.
Infinity Science Center (Louis) – Take a bus tour of the exhibits, learn about the solar system in the Science on a Sphere Theater, enjoy hands on exhibits, and learn about space technology that has affected our everyday life.
The New Mexico Museum of Space History (Almogordo) – See space paraphernalia, watch a planetarium and an IMAX show, and examine artifacts in the International Space Hall of Fame
Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum (Wapakoneta) – See Neil Armstrong’s Gemini 8, as well as his spacesuits and other memorabilia
Space Center Houston (Houston) – Fill your day with this museum that pays homage to the team and equipment that brought back the legendary Apollo 13. Take a tram tour to view mission control and astronaut training facilities, watch an IMAX movie and see exhibits. There is even a special space play area for younger kids.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – Explore the largest collection of space memorabilia. It includes Gemini 4, used by Ed White- the first American to walk in space, Apollo 11, and Friendship 7, the first piloted spacecraft to orbit Earth.
- Learn more about the future of space travel from Suitcases and Sippy Cups
- Considering the existence of life on other planets? Read about Albany Kid‘s adventure along Extraterrestrial Highway to Area 51 in Nevada.
- Explore a French Space Center with Laugh-Quotes.com
- Understand one student’s perspective on why recent NASA cuts were not the right decision, from Wandering Educators.
- Keep abreast of the latest space news, and enjoy an almanac and other tools and tips for your budding astronomer at Sky & Telescope.
- Learn about astronauts, the solar system, and our universe from this official NASA site, StarChild. Parents will appreciate two levels of information; one of young space explorers and a second for older kids. Teens over 14 yrs will like NASA’s Imagine the Universe.
- Play and learn with space games and educational activities for multiple levels with NASA Kids’ Club.
- Get up close with each of the planets at Welcome to the Planets™ and learn more about the spacecraft that study each planet.
See our Pinterest board - Space Encounters – featuring crafts, experiments and more about space, space exploration, the moon and planets, and other “out of this world” science topics.
If you haven’t already done so, join the conversation on Facebook!
Find Lesli on Google+
May 8, 2013
Do you have a travel story to tell? A fun family vacation…an educational trip….a field trip with the kids….a cross country road adventure? We want to hear from you! Please review our submission guidelines and send us your ideas and articles!
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Are you vacationing in a new location this summer? This list challenges you to think beyond the typical tourist attractions and experience a new city like a local. While you’re at it, why not use this as a checklist for exploring your own piece of the country — the city YOU call home.
- Ride coasters at an Amusement Park
- Observe the local fish at the Aquarium
- Stretch as tall as a tree at the Arboretum
- Ponder paintings at an Art Museum
- Cheer with the home team at the Ball Park
- Get your feet wet at the Beach
- Strut your stuff on the Boardwalk
- Stop and smell the roses at the Botanical Garden
- Cross, and re-cross, a landmark Bridge
- Gaze at the stars while Camping Out
- Turn round and round on a Carousel
- Light a candle at the Cathedral
- Expand your imagination at a Children’s Museum
- Feast like a king at a Dinner Theater
- Interact with the animals in a new Ecosystem
- Push some buttons on a Factory Tour
- Taste new flavors at the Farmer’s Market
- Celebrate at a Festival
- Hook your own dinner while Fishing
- Study new food while Foraging
- Exercise your direction while Geocaching
- Tee up at a Golf Course
- Walk the distance on a Hiking Trail
- Research a new Historical Site
- Step back in time at a History Museum
- Sample local flavors at the Ice Cream Store
- Paddle like you mean it on a Kayak
- Photo bomb a Landmark
- Take in the Local Cuisine
- Memorialize a Monument
- Screen a flick at a Movie Theater
- Dance a jig at a Music Venue
- Spy on animals at a Nature Center
- Collect photos on a Nature Walk
- Explore an eccentric Neighborhood
- Scan the sky in an Observatory
- Shake your body at an Outdoor Concert
- Get a little dirty at a Petting Zoo
- Lay out a blanket for a Picnic
- Climb and swing at a Playground
- Meet new friends at a Puppet Theater
- Putter about at a Putt Putt Course
- Unscramble the clues in a Scavenger Hunt
- Explore at a Science Museum
- Applaud the local car at a Speedway
- Chat with a ranger at a State Park
- Explore a new culture at a Temple
- Meet new characters at a Theme Park
- Take a trip to a Transportation Museum
- Site-see from the window of a Trolley
- Cool down in the breeze of a Waterfall
- Get wet at a Water Park
- Explore a Wharf
- Discover something new at a Yard Sale
- Talk to the animals at the Zoo
Do you have other ideas for exploring new cities? We would love to hear them!
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Catching a fish in the nearby lake….walking the forest to find the waterfall….roasting marshmallow and telling ghost stories over a roaring fire….these moments bear camping memories that last well into adulthood. Camping is an experience that includes the entire family and works for all ages. If you are a novice to the sport, consider taking a new adventure this summer. Use our six tips to help you in your planning.
- Do it together. Get your kids involved in the planning; use this as an educational tool. Let them help you research the best places to camp. Make a list of each person’s top activity, and find a location that matches your needs. Have kids plan the meals and participate in preparing them. Camping takes more planning than the average hotel over-nighter, so involve the kids in the process to ease the stress on you and build ownership and investment on their part.
- Activity planning. Sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows is fun, but after several hours even the most patient of kids is itching for more. Plan several outdoor adventures together. Is there a waterfall nearby that you can hike to? Are their geocache’s in the area that you can scout out together? Bring a kite, a Frisbee, a fishing pole and tackle. Throw the football, search out bugs with a microscope, or do a nature scavenger hunt together. Bring your bikes or inline skates. Jump in the lake or find your favorite constellations. Having a list of potential activities beforehand will minimize the risk of the dreaded phrase: I’m bored. Put more on your list than you think you can accomplish, and pack any essentials necessary for your activities.
- Beginner’s programs. If you are new to camping, consider a new camper’s program like Texas Outdoor Family or First Time Camper in Georgia. For a nominal fee, state parks loan camping equipment and teach basic techniques such as camp setup and cooking. Park rangers make themselves available to answer questions and challenge your summer learners in the art of the outdoors.
- Food prep. Save time and headache at the campsite by preparing your meals before leaving. Count eggs, bacon and sausage for each morning meal; wrap ground beef and vegetables in tinfoil for each person’s evening feast. Consider sandwiches for lunches. If you need a break from the cooking and cleaning, you will find that many campsites have deals with local pizza delivery services, too.
- Dry run. You might be an experienced camper, but if the kids haven’t yet had the pleasure then they could benefit from a trial camping experience in the yard. A dry run close to home base helps you better prepare for the nuances of camping with kids. It gives you an opportunity to work out any issues you may have with your camping gear – especially if it hasn’t been used in a while. If both you and the kids know what to expect, then anxieties can be left at home when you venture out on your first wilderness outing.
- Attitude is everything. As with any adventure, Mom and Dad set the tone with their attitude. Your mood is contagious. Setting up camp can be chaotic and pitching a tent can be frustrating, but don’t forget to laugh. Remember that this is an opportunity to teach your kids about more than camping; it’s a chance to really connect with them. Enjoy the journey, which begins during planning, continues into camp setup, includes watching the stars together, and finally encompasses cleaning up, packing and heading home. Your positive attitude during this camping trip will ensure success in the next one, as well.
Tell us about your best (and worst) camping experiences. We’d love to hear them!
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