The birds are chirping, the weather’s heating up, and the days on the calendar are turning to dust. For me, this time signals my need to figure out whose boat I’m going to be claiming temporary residency on this summer. For you, however, it might mean you’re starting to wonder how you’ll entertain your out-of-school kids for three straight months. If yours are perpetually bored with the Slip-n-Slide in the backyard, check it: 7 U.S. destinations that’ll knock your kids’ socks off and educate them at the same time. I don’t think you can ask for much more, besides the occasional bit of peace and quiet from endless iCarly reruns.

Ellis Island, New York

I went to Ellis Island when I was 13 on my first and only trip to New York City. It was part of a pretty unbelievable experience that included standing atop the World Trade Center that fell just four months later. With more than a million immigrants passing through between 1892 and 1934, it’s not hard to see why Ellis Island is a perfect attraction for history aficionados. Show your curious-minded little ones around the place that kick-started the American dream for so many people, some of which might be in your family tree!

Grand Canyon, Arizona

I love, love, LOVE the Grand Canyon. Of all the places I’ve seen and natural wonders I’ve experienced, it’s the one place that made me really put things into perspective. I’m truly racking my brain wondering how to explain the grandeur, splay of colors, and vastness of it all, but I really can’t. It’ll blow you away and make you realize life is preeeeeeeetty awesome. Just don’t fall in!

Redwood National Park, California

Since I’m all about seeing places that make me feel really small (like the Grand Canyon), visiting Redwood National Park is vying for a top spot on my list of places to see in the U.S. Take a scenic drive through the mammoth redwoods, then visit the Klamath River Overlook to try and spot migrating gray whales!

Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Parents, know this: There’s at least a 90% chance your kid has seen the Space Camp flyers making a regular appearance in your mailbox, and trust me, they’re dying to go. If Space Camp is a wee bit too pricey, why not grab some tickets and experience Cape Canaveral instead? They’ll get to see the launch and landing facilities, stand next to massive rockets, and even have a little fun on a simulator! Another great place for a science lesson or two!

Niagara Falls, New York

If your family stays clear of Splash Mountain at Disney World for fear of soggy shoes and – my biggest worry – hair that resembles a stray dog in a rainstorm, this might not be for you. But if you’re up for getting soaked and wearing the single most fashionable blue rain poncho on this planet, take a ride on the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. The sheer volume of water will fascinate your kids, and it’s a perfect place for a little science lesson on glaciers.

Shedd Aquarium, Illinois

Chicago’s chock full of culture, historical landmarks, and museums, but it’s the Shedd Aquarium that’s packing in fun to the gills with over 25,000 fish! With just about every species of swimmers under the deep blue sea, it’s a great place to take the tots for a day of fun! Since a place like Shedd Aquarium will really get your kids’ curiosity flowing, you might want to be armed in advance with an answer as to how a whale got through the front door. Pretty mind-boggling if you ask me.  

The Everglades, Florida

Come on, what kid isn’t fascinated by alligators? I’m pretty averse to anything that slithers and makes its home in mud, but there’s just something intriguing about those creepy-eyed creatures. Grab the family and hop on an airboat for a spin through the swampy wetlands, just keep the kids’ hands inside and away from the sharp sets of chompers lurking below! 

While this list is AWESOME and I advise you to keep it in mind as summer break kicks off, it’s just a tiny fraction of all the mind-blowingly beautiful and educational locales across the U.S. that your kids will enjoy. Get planning and brace yourself for a fun-filled summer!

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