Educational summer vacations for kids

SHERYL NANCE-NASH | 4/4/2019, 3:06 p.m.
Now is the time to start planning your summer vacation. Maybe you’ve already done Disney and want a different kind ...

Now is the time to start planning your summer vacation. Maybe you’ve already done Disney and want a different kind of vacation, one with purpose. With a little digging, you can find opportunities that offer fun and an educational experience for the family.

Here are a few ideas.

Oaxaca, Mexico

How about a mother-daughter educational jaunt? Spend six days and five nights on Discover Corps’ women and girl’s empowerment trip exploring Oaxaca with a guide. Meet the local women of the Teotitlán Valley. Mingle over a meal with Zapotec women and girls, learning about how they are supported through microfinance loans. Visit their businesses and lend a hand in a dyeing and weaving workshop, chocolate-making class, as well as taking time to shop for ingredients at the local market for a traditional cooking class with the women. In the village of San Martín Tilcajete take a workshop in making alebrije, or brightly colored imaginary creatures that play an important role in Mexican folklore (and are the inspiration for Pixar’s film “Coco”!). When not interacting with the local women and children of Oaxaca, you’ll visit Monte Albán, a UNESCO-protected archaeological site regarded as the most significant in the Oaxaca Valley. Back in Oaxaca city, also a UNESCO-protected area, explore the gorgeous churches and historic buildings as you walk through the colorful streets. End the journey with a special farewell dinner at Casa Oaxaca, considered by many to be one of the best restaurants in the world.

Global citizen adventure

Send your teenagers off on a do-good mission. CAS Trips hosts summer camps that they call “Global Student Exchange Trips,” where international students from around the world come together to work on making a positive change and implementing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals throughout their itinerary. Creativity, activity and service are essential to the program. Creativity could mean visits to museums, or attending a classical concert, for example. Action might include yoga or an urban treasure hunt, and service cooking for the homeless. Current camp destinations include Prague, Medellin and New York. The company also customizes educational vacations for small groups to destinations like Bhutan, China, Berlin, Krakow, among others.

Lake Champlain, Vermont

Basin Harbor on the shores of Lake Champlain is family-owned and family-focused. No matter the age, there’s something to learn. Basin Harbor’s Kids Camp offers opportunities divided into three age groups (4-5, 6-8, 9-12), featuring wholesome fun that challenges young minds, like STEM projects, as well as sports, games, water fun, arts and crafts. Teens kayak, swim, boat, play field and Wii games. The 18 and up crowd will get an education from tours of the beehives and guided history tours. There are lessons for golf, wake surfing and tennis.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

If you’re looking for a spot to soak up the sun for yourself and give your children something to think about, consider the Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa. You love the location. It sits on a sandy slice of paradise between the Sierra Madre Mountains and Banderas Bay and it’s near downtown too. The Kid’s Club for those 4-12, has staff to teach children about Mexican culture, offering Spanish lessons, barro-clay pottery painting, bilingual folktales and Mexican cooking lessons. The entire family can learn about sea turtles by participating in the conservation program, where you can help release newly hatched turtles into the ocean during nesting season.

Tybee Island, Georgia

This island locale, about 20 miles south of Savannah, is loaded with not only beach fun, but also educational and historical attractions. Take for example the Fort Pulaski National Monument, a well-preserved Civil War fortress that offers tours with soldiers in period dress. There’s also a museum on-site. If you’re feeling feisty climb the 178 steps up the historic Tybee Island Light Station and for awesome views of the island and surrounding area. The Tybee Museum is across the street and you can get your fill of 400 years of island history. Tybee is all about the water. The Marine Science Center offers programming, activities and tours with Tybee marine and wildlife interaction. Children can go on turtle trots, beach walks and eco-walks with marine biologist Joe Richardson. The whole family will enjoy an afternoon of fossil hunting, cast netting, birding, crabbing, light tackle fishing, hiking the barrier islands or salt marsh ecology. You can reserve a nature or fishing tour with Sundial Charters.

Florida Space Coast

July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of U.S. astronauts landing on the moon. What a great time to celebrate space history with a trip to Florida’s Space Coast which spans from Titusville to Palm Bay. You can witness a rocket launch and for more fun, stop by Heroes & Legends at the Kennedy Space Center. Settle yourself into one of the worlds most realistic spaceflight simulators, get up close to Space Shuttle Atlantis and even meet astronauts. Check out the Space Center’s exhibits and perks like eating lunch with an astronaut.

Finger Lakes Region, New York

The Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is 9,000 square miles and includes 11 lakes. The Strong Museum of Play in Rochester is the only museum dedicated to play where the children will not only interact with toys but also learn the history behind popular gems like the Eight Ball and Monopoly. You can hook your children up for a nature encounter and wilderness survival training among the region’s forests through Primitive Pursuits in Ithaca. For a history lesson or two, there’s the New York State Equal Rights Heritage Center in Auburn that pays homage to the state’s history of women’s, civil rights and LGBTQ+ movements. In time for 2020s 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, families can visit Seneca to see the site of the first Women’s Rights Convention of 1848, as well as the National Women’s Hall of Fame, celebrating 50 years of inductees.