When many people think about summer vacation as a kid, they think of expensive trips to Disneyland and Disney World, chock full of character breakfasts and expensive souvenirs. While I definitely want to take Mason to Disney some day, I’m guessing our future summer getaways will be much more in line with those like I had as a kid. Here are my favorite summer getaways:
1) The Zoo (It was the Milwaukee Zoo for me but you can definitely insert any quality zoo in place of this – you don’t have to travel to Milwaukee to find a good zoo!) Every summer when I was growing up, we’d visit the zoo and I’d look forward to it all year. From watching the monkeys and rhinos to hoping that my mom would spring for the 50 cents it cost to get a plastic animal or a flat penny on the way out, I loved every moment of the zoo! We’d arrive in the morning, do lunch there, and go non-stop until everyone was sunburned and exhausted. The funniest part of these vacations is we have hundreds of identical pictures where absolutely nothing has changed except us kids “Here we are in front of the rhinos in 1989… And in 1991… Here are those rhinos in 1992…” Anyway, zoos are an awesome place to learn about hundreds of animals, get a good amount of exercise, and spend quality family time. They’re a must have for any summer!
2) Backyard tent camping – I know, this isn’t much of a “getaway” but to a younger kid, it’s SO MUCH FUN! My brother and I spent countless nights in the backyard under the stars in our tent. We felt so grown up being “all by ourselves” and listening to all the different sounds of the nighttime (and the early morning) definitely exposed us to new things we never would have known about from the safety of our bedrooms. When we were a bit older, tent camping became popular for sleepovers. Far enough from parents to gossip and feel all grown up, but close enough so if we needed to use the bathroom or have them pop some popcorn LOL I’m already wondering how soon I can have a sleepover with Mason in the back yard!
3) Noah’s Ark / Wisconsin Dells – Nothing screams an awesome getaway like Wisconsin Dells. Waterslides, the Lazy River, more waterslides, picnic areas, more waterslides, it’s SO much fun!! Even when I barely knew how to swim, I still had a lot of fun at Noah’s Ark. This is a great park for the whole family because there is something for everyone – my dad had no interest in any of the slides so he spent the day in the Lazy River. My mom spent her day in the wave pool, and my brother and I did it all. They even have areas and attractions for littler kids and several “family” style water rides, so it’s just as easy to do stuff together as it is to partake in the individual slides. We only went a few times, but were always talking about going again as soon as we drove out of the parking lot!
4) Attractions Made By Nature – For our family, it was waterfalls. For your family, it might be the Grand Canyon. But seriously, any summer getaway that can combine nature’s beauty and a bit of adventure brought on by something as simple as walking trails is a great getaway for kids. One location we would always visit every summer was Cascade Falls and I can’t wait to take Mason there. From counting each and every one of the 113 steps down to the path to the waterfalls to the daring of each other to run behind the falls to the occasional sight of skinny dippers, whenever we would head to Cascade Falls, it was like a new adventure all over again. One year, I collected several bottles of sand smooth and white enough to be on a fine Florida beach, but in the middle of the woods under some pine trees. Pretty sure that 20+ years later, it’s still on the shelf at my parents house! Waterfalls, glacier parks, canyons, kettles, springs, whatever it may be near you are a great way to get kid’s excited about nature and teach a little bit of history of the area at the same time!
5) A cherished sporting event that your kid’s aren’t normally allowed at – take them at least once a summer! Maybe you have season tickets to the Falcons or you play in a softball league. Your kids notice that you disappear every week all season long and even if they’re not huge fans of the sport themselves, they feel left out. For me, this sport was racing. Every Saturday night, my dad went to the (stock car) races. Every year, for the 4th of July Fireworks display, I’d get to go along. Not only was it super exciting to feel included in my Dad’s special thing, we made a special afternoon of getting ready (making sure we were dressed appropriately, having a fun supper, etc) and then he’d patiently answer my hundreds of questions on “What’s going on now?” “What does that flag mean?” “Are those cars going to crash?!” Even though I was always super excited to be there, I was also on my best behavior since I knew this was a big thing and my dad didn’t need to bring me. The fireworks, while definitely the highlight of the night, barely outshined the fact that I was having such a great time with my dad. I think every kid needs to be included in on something special that they normally JUST see the adults doing once a summer or so – it’s a great way to bond and make your kid feel like a million bucks. And, I’m guessing my mom was just as grateful to have at least one Saturday night every summer off….
So there you have it – this list probably sounds foolish to those of you grew up going to the Grand Canyon followed by Greece followed by camping in the Ozarks every summer, but it’s proof that a lifetime full of fun childhood memories can be created without plane tickets or expensive hotel bills. Sometimes, the best summer getaways are just outside your back door. At least they were for me… and I’m hoping Mason will feel the same way!
I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, for a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.