According to Education columnist Jay Matthews in The Washington Post, “The field trip, once woven into the American school experience, is in decline.” This is especially troubling because studies have shown that children learn much from field trips that they can’t get from teacher lectures or textbook pages.Lucky for those of us who live in the tri-state area, there are a slew of interesting, kid-friendly destinations in all directions. And this summer, parents can bridge that gap left by schools and take a few day trips that mix a little learning in with the fun.
Go wild at the Nationwide Natural History Museum
Since it opened its’ doors in 1972, The Nationwide Museum of Natural History has become a mainstay for elementary school trips of youngsters from all over the state. But what you might not know is that this little gem is also a member of Association of Science-Technology Centers – a collection of over 250 museums and facilities worldwide. That means that when you join, you get not only a year of fabulous visits to see life sized dinosaurs, an African watering hole, plus birds and shells from around the world, you also get free admission to 250 other locations! From the New Mexico Museum of Space History, to the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, to the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Florida!
Spend a day in New York, New York!
Take the train for worry-free travel and spend an entire day exploring the city that never sleeps. The younger kids will undoubtedly want to visit the infamous Lady Liberty. For older kids and teens, visit the 9/11 Memorial. Or, visit that classic — the Empire State Building. Other NYC ideas include The Metropolitan Museum of Art (remind your kids of the classic tale From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler), The Guggenheim Museum, or a stroll though Central Park (see if they can find the statue memorializing the famous sled dog Balto).
Get smart at the Maryland Science Center
An easy drive from anywhere in New Castle County, the Maryland Science Center is located at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. This mammoth, 170,000 square foot facility is absolutely filled with great hand-on learning experiences. The Center focuses on hands-on, interactive exhibits, cutting-edge computer games, simulations and more to engage and excite your kids about science.
Enjoy the great outdoors at the Tyler Arboretum
Perfect for the outdoor-loving family is a visit to the Tyler Arboretum. 650 acres of horticultural collections, rare plant specimens, ancient trees, historic buildings, and over 20 miles of fantastic hiking trails. The kids will get a kick out of the Butterfly House & Garden, a rare chance to get a close-up look at local butterflies in all their stages. A Household Membership includes Reciprocal Program Privileges through the American Horticultural Society Gardens Reciprocal Admission program to over 100 U.S., Canadian, and overseas gardens!
Revisit history at Valley Forge
Make history come alive at the 3,600-acre Valley Forge National Historical Park. At Valley Forge during the winter encampment of 1777-78, General George Washington faced starvation, sickness, and despair and still forged his Continental Army into a force to be reckoned with. See Washington’s original stone headquarters which have been restored and furnished, or marvel at the reconstructed log huts that housed our brave soldiers. There are also numerous statues and monuments throughout the park including statues of General “Mad Anthony” Wayne, Baron Friedrich von Steuben, and the Monument to Patriots of African Descent. All park facilities at Valley Forge are free.
Enjoy a tour of the capital by foot
Washington, D.C. has so much to see and do that you could spend all summer there and never see it all. But, if you only have one day, try a free walking tour of the city’s spectacular collection of monuments. Tours from DC by Foot include a fast paced and engaging presentation by young and energetic tour guide. Learn Washington’s best kept secrets — from the indestructibility of the President’s car to why French women loved Thomas Jefferson! Tours meet at the NE corner of 15th and Constitution Ave. NW After a tour visit any of the Smithsonian Museums, all free.
Enjoy the beautiful National Aquarium
The National Aquarium, located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is an experience unlike any other. This spectacular aquarium houses approximately 16,500 specimens and more than 660 species of animals! You can watch the rays glide mysteriously, marvel at the colorful rainbow of tropical fish, or examine terrifying jaws and teeth of the many species of sharks (from behind the safety of some thick glass, of course!) Membership to the National Aquarium includes daily admission for one year at both the Baltimore and Washington, DC, locations.
Historic Philadelphia is the birthplace of America!
This summer take advantage of this unique opportunity to teach your children more of their national history in a fun way. Forget the dusty history books. Visit the Liberty Bell (free daily, no tickets necessary), Independence Hall (free daily, although you must register for timed tickets in advance), or The Mint (free). End the day with a leisurely carriage ride throughout the historic district, And don’t forget an authentic Philly soft pretzel!
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