Vacation at Home
By: Hilary Davidson
This summer, maximize your fun quotient by minimizing your travel time! Here are some ideas to keep your children busy and happy right in your own community.
Meet Heroes Up Close
This is a great time to introduce your kids to some local heroes, and firefighters rank high on the list. Your municipal fire departments may offer tours of local firehouses. Policies vary–in large cities you have to book a tour ahead of time, while small communities sometimes allow you to simply drop in. Often kids get a lesson in fire safety as well as the chance to sit in the shiny red engine. Depending on where you live, you could visit a firefighters museum, such as the New York City Fire Museum and the African American Firefighter Museum in Los Angeles. Denver, Toledo, Wichita and Calgary, Alberta, also have firefighter museums.
Visit a Farm
Whether you live in a big city or a small town, you’re probably not too far from a farm or a farmer’s market (for example, Chicago’s Green City Market, New York’s Greenmarket in Union Square; Toronto’s Riverdale Farm; Vancouver’s Granville Island and its special kids’ market). Depending on where you live, your kids could be sampling farm fresh baked goods, petting goats and chicks, or helping to choose what you’re having for dinner that night. Back at home, create a gingerbread farm! Another idea would be to visit a local orchard or fruit farm and let your kids pick some healthy treats for themselves.
Play in the Water
Being out on the water is a great way to celebrate the summer, especially on those days when the temperature soars. There’s lots of leeway here, both in terms of price and adventure level: you could take a afternoon cruise around a lake, paddle kayaks in a river, or hang out on a beach. Ilana Rubel, a mother of three in Boise, Idaho, says her kids avidly look forward to spending time on the water. “We take them tubing on the Boise River in a $20 inflatable boat,” she says. “It’s a huge hit, and it would work for anyone who lives near a river or lake.” For bigger bucks, you and your kids could hit a local water park and splash around all day long. Before you go, talk about water safety.
Be good sports
Visit One of the World’s Best Museums – Online!
When the weather doesn’t cooperate, have a backup plan. One smart one is to let your kids explore the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., without leaving home. The Smithsonian has a great portal for kids: here you’ll find how to play a Viking board game, make panda masks, build your own light bulb, or learn how to read satellite photos like a spy. This site is perfect on its own, or also serves as a good primer before heading to an actual museum.
Take your children to a local botanical garden, or to help them plant some flowers in a container or in your yard. Some kid-friendly picks: sunflowers (big and tall), dusty miller (soft and fuzzy), snapdragons (fun and colorful) and zinnias (bright and hardy). Yummy smelling herbs are fun too.