Sometimes a long vacation isn’t possible but there are still loads of ways to have fun as a family, all in one day. With the school year almost upon us, now’s the time to take advantage of the days that are left, pile in the car and go day-tripping!
Here are 20 suggestions for fun family days out, compiled by Jaime Morrison Curtis in an article for babble.com.
1. Roller Rink
Get nostalgic with a trip to the roller rink. Whether you like traditional four-wheel skates or cutting-edge inline ones, skating is great exercise for the whole family, especially on a rainy day.
2. Cave exploring
No one knows the exact number of caves in America, but Tennessee alone has over 9,500. Most caves form in karst—an area of land usually made up of limestone or dolomite rock containing sinkholes and underground streams. Remember the raincoats and flashlights!
3. Bounce House
Let your kids bounce away their energy with a trip to an indoor play area. Most have ball pits, climbing structures, see saws, slides, air hockey, bouncing balls, a sand box and small trampolines.
Delve into the wonders of the Earth’s underwater world as your kids learn about aquatic species (sea lions, penguins, whales, sharks, dolphins and more), coral reefs, underwater habitats and the importance of preserving sea life.
Education can be fun, especially when you choose a hands-on museum which encourages touching, exploring and discovering. Hundreds of cities across the country have children’s museums which specialize in stimulating kids’ imaginations and curiosity.
6. Water park
What could be more fun than spending a sultry summer afternoon splashing around in fountains, waterfalls and slippery slides? Slather on the sunscreen and beat the heat while having a blast.
7. Theme park
If you limit yourselves to one particular area and try not to pack too much in, theme parks are a terrific way to spend a day. Try something you’ve never done before, such as a newly-opened ride or exhibit or a different type of food.
8. Apple picking
A crisp autumn day spent picking healthy, delicious apples (and eating many on the spot!) is a great day out. Many orchards also have farm stands selling apple cider, pies, jams and jellies, fresh produce, cider doughnuts…even Halloween pumpkins.
9. Local farm
Foster a love of animals, horticulture and the changing of the seasons by spending a day on a farm. Kids can learn about the care and feeding of animals, crop tending, farm chores, milking…maybe even see a calf born!
10. Whale watching
For a different way to spend a day, book a tour and go whale watching. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn about these magnificent creatures of the deep, such as feeding habits and migration patterns. From Humpbacks and Killer Whales to Orcas and Belugas, whales never cease to fascinate.
Sand, surf, sun…let’s go! Building sandcastles, body surfing, burying each other in sand, boogie boarding or just listening to the waves—the beach can’t be beat.
A visit to your local zoo is a great way to learn about animals from all corners of the world. Ones that present species in their natural habitats are especially worth a visit. Most zoos have excellent children’s educational programs, possibly inspiring future zoologists and conservationists.
Whether it’s the 2200-mile Appalachian Trail that calls you or simply a local meandering trail, hiking is a fun family activity that gets you out in the fresh air, experiencing the beauty of nature. Hikes that yield spectacular views of mountain ranges, valleys, waterfalls or lakes are especially memorable.
Start working on your stories of “the one that got away” while enjoying a day trying to reel in some big ones. As well as getting everyone outdoors together, fishing teaches kids patience, diligence and an understanding of the food chain. Hopefully they’re biting!
15. Ghost town
If you’re lucky enough to live near a ghost town, or are traveling near one, stop in! Predominantly in the western states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, California, Oregon, Montana, Arizona, Nevada and Idaho, these abandoned towns contain fascinating histories, artifacts, architecture…and mystery.
16. Train ride
All aboard! What kid doesn’t love a train, or what adult for that matter. Seek out a scenic train trip up into the mountains or along the sea, if possible.
17. Butterfly garden
Experience the wonder of butterflies and other backyard bugs in a butterfly conservatory. Your kids will love getting up close and personal with Monarchs, Zebra Swallowtail and other winged beauties as they witness the dramatic transformation of metamorphosis.
18. Miniature golf
A spirited round of putt-putt is a great way to be together as a family while doing something fun, relatively inexpensive and worry-free. Break up into teams for friendly competitions, then go out for ice cream!
19. Historic home
Our nation is full of intriguing historic homes well worth a day’s visit, such as Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Charlottesville, VA; The Breakers, Newport, RI; or Biltmore House, Asheville, NC. Find one near you, visit and dream!
Saddle up, pardner! If you’ve never taken your kids to a dude ranch, now’s the time. A day of trail riding, followed by a cookout around the campfire just can’t be beat. Choose a ranch with a reliable safety record; trustworthy recommendations are best.