For a unique family vacation you can cool off at Water Country USA and Busch Gardens, two theme parks located just minutes from Colonial Williamsburg.
This summer, skip the long lines and high prices at Disney and set off on a unique family adventure. From history buffs to thrill seekers, these five under-the-radar destinations are both family-friendly and affordable:
Too Much Tech’ Family: Amish Country
Why go: Can’t get the kids away from their phones, laptops or video games? It’s time to unplug! Take a trip Pennsylvania Dutch Country and reconnect with the simple life.
What to do:The Pennsylvania Amish of Lancaster County are America’s oldest Amish settlement. Leave the car behind and explore the countryside with an old-fashioned horse and buggy ride. Visit the Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, the largest living history farm and village in the country.
Where to stay:Keep it simple with a local bed-and-breakfast—instead of waking up to an alarm clock, you’ll arise to a roaster’s crow.
For Thrill Seekers: The Dells
Why go: Pack the swimsuits and prepare to get wet: Wisconsin Dells is packed with water parks, water sports and family-friendly resorts. Cool off from the heat and let the kids run wild. A weekend at the Dells is like visiting Disney World, but without the crazy price tag.
What to do: Splash around at the waterparks, zip line over treetops, spend an afternoon jet skiing, and put your fear of heights to the test on a stomach-dropping rollercoaster. There’s plenty of adults-only fun, too; don’t forget to book Mom an afternoon spa treatment and schedule Dad’s tee time.
Where to stay: Take advantage of the many summer package specials to book a long weekend at a family-friendly resort.
For Outdoor Adventurers: The Great Smoky Mountains
Why go: Summer is peak travel season for the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone, causing lodging rates to skyrocket and campgrounds to fill months in advance. Skip the crowds and enjoy a relaxing retreat in the Great Smoky Mountains. Your family can camp and hike to your heart’s content without crowds blocking your view.
What to do: Discover 500,000 acres of Appalachian wilderness that’s home to 800 miles of hiking trails, hundreds of campsites and outdoor adventure activities like horseback riding, miniature golf and go-karting. When the kids are ready for a break from hiking, head to Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s eponymous theme park.
Where to stay: Start your adventure in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, home to affordable hotels, lodges and campgrounds with easy access to the mountains.
For History Buffs: Colonial Williamsburg
Why go: Watch history come alive at Colonial Williamsburg as the townspeople, shopkeepers and local political figures play a role in our nation’s birth.
What to do: Don your tricorn hat, ride through the colonial city in a carriage and play colonial games at the Benjamin Powell House. Go undercover as a revolutionary agent with the interactive game RevQuest, decipher secret enemy messages and help save America from the British! Need a break from the history lessons? Cool off at Water Country USA and Busch Gardens, two theme parks located just minutes from Colonial Williamsburg.
Where to stay: From quaint bed-and-breakfasts to affordable motels, families are spoiled for choice in Colonial Williamsburg. Check online for inclusive hotel packages that combine lodging with family admission tickets.
For UFO Fans: Roswell, New Mexico
Why Go: In July 1947, something unexpected landed outside Roswell, New Mexico, during a thunderstorm. Was it just a weather balloon—or was it actually a flying saucer? Decide for yourself with a visit to America’s UFO capital.
What to do: Start your trip at ground zero: the Roswell UFO museum. Learn about the Roswell Incident, read the news articles and see the artifacts up close. Take a Roswell UFO tour and visit over 20 sights connected with the mysterious incident.
Where to stay: From campgrounds to dude ranches, families can easily find a “great place to crash” in Roswell.
About the Author:
Timothy Moyer is from Kansas originally, but he came to the Southwest to study landscape design and raise a family.