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5 Summer vacations that pack an educational punch

Carolyn Rahaman is a professional SSAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds a Master's degree in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University.

The summer isn't over yet. If you and your student have not experienced a vacation yet, use one of the following suggestions to incorporate an educational destination into your child's summer break.
Photo credit: KidStock/Blend Images/Getty Images

Between applying sunscreen, boarding roller coasters and sampling local delicacies, incorporating educational elements into your family's summer vacation may very well slip your mind. But there are educational opportunities all around you, many of which you can include in your trip without your child complaining. Almost every destination will provide an academic pastime that is also entertaining. Here are five options to consider.

1. National parks

Badlands National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Redwood National and State Parks, Yosemite National Park and Zion National Park are a mere fraction of your options. These are wonderful destinations both for a single day and for an extended vacation. Begin at each park’s visitor center for information on the unique ecology, geology and plant and animal life that characterizes the location. Many also include a wealth of information, including books and pamphlets, on conservation efforts. National parks frequently offer guided tours on foot or horseback, as well as rafting opportunities.

2. Historical cities

Cities, towns and villages are replete with history. When discussing historical cities, individuals often refer to Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., but every location, no matter its size, boasts a history unlike any other place. Investigate the Spanish roots of San Antonio or San Diego on a boat or bus tour. Participate in a haunted walking tour in New Orleans. Opt for one of Chicago's architecture tours. The average city will host a bus tour and perhaps a Segway excursion, and smaller towns and villages have visitor centers, town halls and memorials that are worth checking out. Such tours easily fit within the vacation you have already planned, and they provide your student with a historical context for his or her trip.

3. Museums

Devote an afternoon to a local museum, or transform your visit into a full-day event. Many locations offer several museums, the majority of which can entertain and educate your child. Aquariums, art museums, natural history museums, planetariums, science museums and zoos are excellent choices. The location of your vacation may also include a more unique option, like a museum of baseball, medical science, Native American heritage or rock and roll. It is important to note that small community museums can be treasure troves despite their size.

4. Road trips

Consider detouring from your primary vacation destination to visit an educational landmark. You may not wish to devote an entire week to Colonial Williamsburg, the Kennedy Space Center, the Lincoln Tomb or the Louisiana swamp, but each of these locations are within easy distance of places like Walt Disney World. Set aside a day to embrace more concentrated learning before returning to the hotel pool.

5. Beaches

The beach is an iconic summer destination, as well as a very popular vacation option. Why not inject your trip with a bit of learning? Large beaches provide scuba or snorkel rentals. Glass bottom boats, when available, are a wonderful method to view animals in their natural habitats. Beaches may also offer chances to interact with wildlife like dolphins, stingrays or turtles. If no structured opportunities exist, journey to the library prior to your vacation to research the flora and fauna you may encounter.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit

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