Taking advantage of free time for the family is sometimes just a matter of choosing from all of the many different options. Part one of the Geeky Parent Guide’s Summer Series highlighted some TV and movies binge-worthy enough for a variety of different ages. Today, let’s take a trip around the United States to find theme parks and museums that might provide a perfect opportunity to burn off some of that end-of-the-school-year energy.
The entire list is separated by four regions (via U.S. Census Bureau), so feel free to jump down to your closest region.
Please Touch Me Museum
4231 Avenue of the Republic
Philadelphia, PA 19131
Storyland – an exhibit designed for you to step into the world of favorite stories, such as If You Give A Mouse A Cookie and The Snowy Day, is available from June 3 through September 10. After this session, it will turn into Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: A Grr-iffic Exhibit.
The Liberty Arm and Torch exhibit is a replicate of the Statue of Liberty’s arm and torch, made from toys and other random objects. Other permanent exhibits include exploring “science, nature, and weather” in the River Adventures, learning about “healthy eating, recycling, and sustainability” at the Please Touch Garden, taking a ride on a refurbished carousel from 1908, and many more attractions.
4000 Dorney Park Road
Allentown, PA 18104
Do your kids love all things extinct? Your family can truly experience Dinosaurs Alive! This is where you can see life-sized dinosaurs that are “scientifically accurate,” and catch a glimpse at what it’s like to be a dinosaur with “scenes based on real fossil evidence.” Guests even have an opportunity to control some of them!
What would be the best thing to do after seeing dinosaurs? How about checking out Planet Snoopy where it has 16 rides listed? This section of Dorney Park is designed for kids with “PEANUTS-themed rides and attractions,” such as a Ferris wheel ride, moon bounce, mini-NASCAR track ride, and a hot air balloon race that reaches 40 feet in the air.
If you’re looking for a thrill ride, Steel Force sets the stage – “longest steel roller coaster on the East Coast and is the ninth longest steel coaster in the world.” It will explode to 75 mph, with its largest drop coming at 205 feet. If you prefer your thrills on the ground, with your feet firmly planted, you’ll have an opportunity with the new Cirque Imagine performance with high-flying stunts opening this June.
Lake Compounce Family Theme Park
186 Enterprise Drive
Bristol, CT 06010
“It is the oldest, continuously-operating amusement park in North America.” Going through many changes since its inception, Lake Compounce has transformed into a place that offers over 40 roller coasters and classic rides, including being voted “the #1 wooden coaster in the world 4 years in a row!”
This park celebrates several special events over the summer. Some of them include its first ever talent show, Good Grade Days where a good report card gives you a discount, Autism Awareness Day, Pina Colada Day, and Hero Appreciation Day, which allows firefighters, police officers, EMTs, and dispatchers into the park for free when a family member buys a ticket.
Bear Creek Campground is located on the property and provides plenty of ways to stay overnight: tent and RV sites, tipis, huts, and cabins. For those that stay on site, transportation to and from the theme park is available.
2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
If you’re not afraid of heights, the “Drop Line is a 200-foot tall free-fall experience.” Perhaps you and your family are interested in a different kind of sightseeing; soar through the air on four different zip-line stations of SkyZip, each varying in length and giving a unique perspective of the surrounding region.
For something closer to the ground, Dollywood Express takes you on a steam engine journey around the Great Smoky Mountains. If you decide you want to see more, head to the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary – “the country’s largest presentation of non-releasable bald eagles”
You can also watch master craftsman transform iron into art, create knives, and “work with hand-tooled leather;” other specialties include wood carving, candle making, pottery, and watching or helping to create hand blown glass objects.
LEGOLAND Florida Resort
One LEGOLAND Way
Winter Haven, FL 33884
Looking for a fun road trip? There is an interactive GPS game, Quest to LEGOLAND, available for download that includes more than enough games and trivia to fill your travel time. Once you reach the resort, the hotel provides over 150 themed rooms and a ton of amenities during your visit. Your stay includes, but not limited to, a “Treasure Hunt in every room, complete with LEGO prizes,” nightly building competitions, and the opportunity to improve your skills during “Master Model Builder Sessions.” Did I mention there’s a free buffet for breakfast? If you want a beachier stay, Beach Retreat has “83 beach-themed bungalows…each with whimsical LEGO décor inside and out.”
For other activities, there is a “water-ski live-action show” on Pirates’ Cove. If pirates aren’t enough, fight spooky creatures on a journey to find lost treasure. When you need a moment to breathe, and take in the sights, move over to the historic gardens established over 75 years ago, or explore a different kind of wonder with the Star Wars franchise and life-size models of iconic characters.
1 Cedar Point Drive
Sandusky, OH 44870
Calling all thrill seekers! Cedar Point is home to “the tallest, fastest, longest dive coaster in the world.” Should I continue or are you ready to book your vacation right now?
There are 17 roller coasters, 18 thrill rides, 19 family rides, 15 kid rids, and all of these rides can be broken down by category, each listed with minimum height requirement and rated thrill level. Coasters go up, down, around, twist, and fly at extreme speeds, while thrill rides change the norm with a gigantic “swing set,” while another creates “maXair” as you sit on the outside of a spinning ring that also swings. Are you excitedly dizzy yet?
Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari
452 E Christmas Blvd
Santa Claus, IN 47579
Have you ever wanted to watch a person do a fire dive? That’s right, someone does a high dive, while on fire, into water. If that’s not thrilling enough, how about five jumpers at the same time at different spots in the pool? Dive! will offer you these opportunities, including an 80-foot jump. The water park also holds a special place in the record books (released last year) with the “World’s Longest Water Coaster,” Mammoth. The other water coaster, Wildebeest, also won “Best Water Park Ride” for last year’s Amusement Today’s 19th Annual Golden Ticket Awards. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari was also awarded the title of “Cleanest Park.”
They also showcase plenty of reasons to stick around for an extended stay. They’re only “three hours from Indianapolis, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Nashville,” and around 30 minutes away from caving and canoeing. They also love telling their guests what’s available for free: sunscreen, parking, wi-fi, and drinks like water, coffee, and Gatorade.
Museum of Science + Industry Chicago
5700 S Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
Do you wish you could fly? One or two people at a time can test flying skills by taking the controls of a historic airplane. Or hop into another simulator, for up to eight people, and take off on an adventure in the early twentieth century or travel through space.
Experience is not required – only your desire to build something from scratch. There are sessions available for the Wanger Family Fab Lab to make your own 3D object or use laser cutters to craft your own design. “Advanced tickets are recommended.” Also, take your pick on more than 20 listed exhibits to view.
The Houston Museum of Natural Science
5555 Hermann Park Dr
Houston, TX 77030
The HMNS offers 15 permanent exhibits, not including their special exhibitions, ranging from halls dedicated to African wildlife, Ancient Egypt, and gems and minerals. You will also have an opportunity to walk through a butterfly habitat during your trip.
What would Houston be without a little space? Would it not be a problem? This museum has a planetarium amazing enough “to train NASA Space Shuttle astronauts in identifying starfields!” If that’s not enough reason to visit, you can stargaze through telescopes at the George Observatory.
3146 Mission Blvd
San Diego, CA 92109
Not only is San Diego a perfect place to visit, the WaveHouse at Belmont Park, located on beautiful Mission Beach, is such a unique break to go with the Flow. You will have the opportunity to catch waves in a controlled environment, and even watching is a fun activity.
If you’d rather stay indoors, you can try Escapology. Two to six players will attempt to solve a mystery in one of three differently themed rooms, each with their own difficulty level, in the hopes of escaping in time.
There are plenty of other chances to get your heart racing; climbing up a 30-foot rock wall, going through a maze of lasers, playing laser tag, or traversing a rope course. On the other hand, having 18 rounds of putt-putt might be the perfect way to start or finish your day. All of this, plus more, including the beach right at their doorstep.
LEGOLAND California Resort
One LEGOLAND Drive
Carlsbad, CA 92008
Staying at the hotel comes with some perks; there’s a heated pool, “Hero Training” through game play, and a chance to retell the classic “Three Little Pigs” in any number of ways – kids even become actors to help the story along. Don’t forget to choose a themed room: “Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure, Friends, and LEGO NINJAGO.”
For those in love with a galaxy far, far away, LEGO STAR WARS Miniland introduces six scenes from Star Wars: The Force Awakens and a “16-foot long Finalizer model made out of 350,000 LEGO bricks.” That doesn’t even include the 1.5 million blocks used to create seven other scenes from the first six movies in the Star Wars series.
After an adventure through space, journey the depths of the SEA LIFE Aquarium. You’ll find a vast array of creatures, and LEGO characters, throughout the waters, including fish resembling “Nemo,” seahorses, and giant Pacific octopus.
Pacific Science Center
200 Second Ave North
Seattle, WA 98109
One of only two locations (with The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia) to display the exhibit, Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor. This is a limited showing from April to September; “an immersive investigation of the science behind priceless artifacts including real figures from the terracotta army and over 100 artifacts illustrating the technological advancements of the Qin Dynasty.”
Don’t forget to catch a show at the Laser Dome too; “the largest and longest operating domed laser theater in the world.” Imagine a brilliant assortment of colors with booming music from favorite artists like the Beatles, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Nirvana.
Also, “Exploration for All: Autism Early Open” provides families accompanying individuals with autism spectrum disorder to a free visit the second Saturday of each month (through December 2017).
Hopefully, some of the few attractions listed here will help guide you toward your family’s summer fun. Did we mention some of your favorites? What other places, hidden gems, or well-known masterpieces, would you mention? Comment below and share what the place is called, where it’s located, and your favorite things to do there.
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Until then, happy parenting and happy geeking.