5 Fun Local Travel Ideas for Families

By: Kiersten Aschauer

You don't have to drive for hours to get to a great family travel destination.
You don't have to drive for hours to get to a great family travel destination.

Perhaps you are feeling like the weekends have gotten just a little more formulaic than you'd like. Or maybe you just haven't been out taking advantage of your local hidden gems in a while. Whether you're looking for a sort of staycation -- aspects of fun usually enjoyed during a vacation but without leaving home -- or just something out of the realm of your usual weekend plans, HowStuffWorks and TLC believe you shouldn't have to travel far to have fun.

Whatever the reason, why not give some of the following fun spots a try (or, in some cases, a re-visit)?


5: Bloomin', Farmin' Fun

Whatever the time of year it's good to get the family off the couch, out of retail establishments and up close and personal with nature. Here are just a few ideas:

Arboretums and Botanical Gardens: What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon! Most arboretums and botanical gardens are non-profit organizations that both educate you and certainly stimulate the mind and senses. Some, such as the Los Angeles Country Arboretum & Botanic Garden or the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, DC, house endangered or protected species and frequently have special exhibits. Some even have cooking demonstrations, lectures and classes for both adults and children.


Farm It Out: Haven't been to a farm since you were in the 4-H Club? Maybe it's about time to revisit. A visit to a farm is a great way to give kids' perspective on how their food gets from its origins to the kitchen table. Go to a wheat farm to learn more about how those crackers get into your lunchbox or to a dairy farm to see that milk really doesn't magically appear in a carton.

Alternatively, consider taking trips to the local farmer's market. Kids and parents alike can learn more about locally grown vegetables and organic farming - and, in the meantime, save some dough on the week's dinners.

Grocery Stores = Fun Local Spots?

Turn chores like grocery shopping into a scavenger hunt. Parents: Print out a list of items for each kid to (quietly) find. Using a camera phone, have them take a picture of the item and write down the price. This will give them insight as to how the stores stock their shelves with like items, plus give offer perspective on just how much the grocery bill costs!

4: Get Sporty

A little exercise, competition and concentration is good for pretty much everyone. Here are a few sporty ideas that should appeal to most in the family.

Take in a Local Game: You don't need to shell out the big bucks to see a good sporting event. Consider taking in a minor league game. Tickets, hot dogs, soda and popcorn are generally cheaper at these venues, too. Don't forget to book a ballpark tour, too.


Go for a Drive: For an afternoon with a lightweight putter, think about taking the family for a round of mini-golf. For those with Tiger Woods aspirations, consider the driving range or even a trip to the PGA Superstore for a lesson with a real coach.

Need for Speed: There are two ways to satisfy this craving: Either consider the arcade for a virtual race or let the family go the traditional route and go for the bumper cars. (Road rage not required!)

Amuse Me: Of course, you can tackle quite a few of the aforementioned activities with a trip to an amusement park. Skee-ball and carousel rides are great alternatives for those who aren't so keen on roller coasters or water slides.

3: Where the Grass Is Greener

The town green, a city-run grassy area or a National Park: there are more than just trees to behold when you decide to "park it." Here are a few ideas:

Local Festivals: The same sunny spots where you might have picnics with the family may be a hotbed of activity during the warmer months. Check your local paper for arts festivals, musical performances, book sales and other fun (and free!) stuff to do.


Skate Away: That same park that served up ice cream treats on a muggy August day might also host ice skating and winter activities when the temperatures drop. Again: Check those local papers for fun opportunities with the family.

More Bark, Less Trees: While you might opt to spend part of your weekend lounging in the grass, Fido might be wishing you'd take him (and a pocket full of treats) to the local dog park for an hour. The reward: Socialization for your pooch and a pooped pup for you to relax with upon arrival back home.

Forest and the Trees: Americans are lucky to have nearly 400 National Parks System sites throughout the U.S. The mission? "To Preserve, Protect, and share the legacies of this land." To find one near you, visit nps.org.

2: Get Classy

Have fun, slide in some family bonding and learn a new skill? You got it. Here's a few ways to get you started:

Partake in Pottery: Many local craft stores and pottery shops have classes where, in just a few hours, you can create your own masterpiece. Most shops will even fire it for you in their kiln and let you pick it up when it's all finished. (Pssst...: These make great gifts.)


Slide Over Van Gogh: Perhaps a paintbrush is more your medium of choice? Grab the family and hit a drawing or painting class.

Move Those Muscles: You can start with your local YMCA to see what low-cost and free courses might appeal to your family's physical fitness goals. Or seek out schools that offer specific classes: martial arts studios, dance schools, Pilates or yoga studios.

Get Cookin': Family-oriented cooking classes is a new trend - even Emeril Lagasse is jumping on the bandwagon. Check the newspaper for classes at recreation centers, schools and retail cooking stores.

1: Culturally Speaking

It goes without saying that any place that lands in your local guidebook is a great place for exploration. Some will be obvious; others not as much. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking.

Museum Day: Depending on where you live will dictate how far you have to go to visit a museum. New York City residents might never see every museum in their city during their lifetime while those who live in small towns might need to travel a bit out of the way to hit that must-see exhibit. Washington, DC residents have the luxury of having tons of historic relics in their environs - most of them free! Wherever you live, however, a museum trip makes for easy family fun day planning.


Gallery up Your Alley? Art galleries are another nice culturally immersive option for many people. Less traditional spots for exhibits might be at the local library or coffee shop, too.

Some Fauna for Ya: Aquariums and zoos are an obvious hotspot for families - and the coolest part? They really don't get old. In fact, ass kids mature, they develop new and different appreciations for the wildlife, exhibits and even the ability to pick up a new toy from the gift shop!

Historical Landmarks: Even the smallest towns have historical landmarks, which makes for a nice educational day out with the family. Pair this trip with lunch at a favorite restaurant or a picnic in the park.