There’s no need to feel guilty about taking your kids out of school for that trip to Mexico — it might actually be making them smarter. A recent survey of 1,500 teachers suggests travel has a “very positive impact on a student’s education and career.” In other words, traveling can help your child progress in the classroom and later on in life.
Specifically, 60 percent of teachers surveyed said travel increases a child’s willingness to know, learn, and explore and over half said it stimulates a child’s intellectual curiosity.
The survey also revealed that the impact of travel reaches beyond academics. Seventy four percent of teachers surveyed believe travel has a very positive impact of students’ personal development. Additionally, a majority of teachers reported that traveling increased a child’s independence, confidence, and self-esteem.
But impactful travel doesn’t have to mean grand, distant locations. A domestic trip where things are outside the norm can stimulate your kid’s learning.
Here are a few family friendly places you can access in the region you live:
Valley of Fire
Nevada’s state park has the most incredible views and a plethora of hikes that are short and easy to trek. Your kiddos will have a blast exploring the red rocks, discovering petroglyphs, and feasting their eyes on gorgeous rock formations.
Pacific Coast Highway
No matter where you live in Far West, you should be able to make a weekend trip to see the ocean. If you have the time, drive along the Pacific Coast highway and hit up treasures like Solvang, Hearst Castle and the Redwood Forest.
There’s a lot of fun to be had in this Northwest town. We think the Pacific Science Center is one of the best in the world, and the Museum of Pop Culture is the best place for a kid dreaming of becoming the next Selena Gomez.
Yellowstone National Park
If you can’t swing a trip to Mars, Yellowstone is the next best thing. At this national park you’ll find easy trails and unearthly hot pots and geysers. Everyone needs to experience this place at least once in their life.
Utah’s National Parks
Utah is home to five national parks — Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands — as well as a plethora of state parks and other natural treasures. Try hunting for dinosaur fossils in Moab, exploring slot canyons in Escalante, or rock climbing in Zion.
Park City, Utah
This mountain town is charming and has a lot to offer. Experience skiing down Utah’s bounteous slopes, spot stars during the Sundance Film Festival, try your hand at the luge at Utah Olympic Park, or just cuddle up in a cozy cabin.
This has got to be one of the coolest spots on our list. This lake surrounded by gorgeous red rocks has so much to explore. We recommend renting a houseboat to take you through this Arizona wonderland. (Bonus points if the houseboat has a slide.)
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is a Texas favorite and with plenty of activities for kids, it’s sure to be your family’s favorite too. Don’t miss the River Walk, a maze of pathways connecting you to store and restaurants along the San Antonio River, the Alamo, and Morgan’s Wonderland — the only amusement park designed for children with special needs.
Taos, New Mexico
Take a tour of the zero waste community where all the houses are made out of recycled materials. (You can even rent one for the night through Airbnb.) While you’re around, check out Taos Pueblo and the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.
Want a vacation that’s out of this world? You and your kiddos can explore life in outer space at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and even attend space camp as a family.
This place is everything you’d want in a Southern town; With gorgeous buildings and greenery, it’s a sight to behold. We recommend exploring Bonaventure Cemetery, taking a ride on the Georgia Queen, strolling through Forsyth Park, and kayaking Savannah’s protected waters.
St. Louis, Missouri
If you haven’t checked out City Museum, it’s time to let your kids discover this children’s museum made out of found objects such as derelict planes and church organ pipes. Beyond that, the science center, theater, art museum and zoo (named best in the country) are all free to the public.
Ditch your car and ride a ferry over to this island where cars are forbidden. Instead of driving, rent one of the 1,500 bikes or take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage to explore Fort Mackinac and Fort Holmes while you munch on fudge from one of the island’s many shops.
Finger Lakes, New York
What kid doesn’t want to spend the night in a forest treehouse? Or go swimming in a waterfall at Watkins Glen State Park? Or spend a day at The Strong National Museum of Play — a museum dedicated entirely to playing?
Exploring the National Mall and the Smithsonian museums are free, so from the Lincoln Memorial to fighter jets to Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, you’ve got a lot to take in. For a unique take on the city, we recommend checking out the International Spy Museum where you and your kids can try your hand at solving a case.
Learn about Salem’s infamous history on the Salem Kids Walking Tour, exploring the Salem Witch Museum, or taking a photo in the stocks. If you’re all witch-ed out, explore the Salem Woods or visit the New England Pirate Museum where you can search caves for hidden treasure.
Providence, Rhode Island
Try to visit Providence in the Fall when you can check out the Scituate Art Festival or the WaterFire lighting along the river. We recommend a Providence Riverboat cruise and discovering great street art in town.