20 Unique Family Vacations
Travel spots for the unconventional family by Christina Couch
June 25, 2009
Tired of ho-hum beaches and less-than-thrilling children’s museums? These family-friendly vacation spots are weird, wonderful and anything but ordinary. – Christina Couch
21. Foamhenge, Natural Bridge, Virginia
Our kids may not be able to comprehend the true weirdness of an exact replica of mysterious prehistoric stones made out of foam located in rural Virginia, but they’re sure to have a blast at the site’s annual medieval Enchantment Faire. Kicking off September 6th and 7th, this year’s Enchantment Faire will feature costume fairies, a unicorn-themed ring toss, a sheep-throwing competition (thankfully without live animals) and peddlers hawking medieval wares. Get ready to geek out. Admission is $5.
20. A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village, Salem, Oregon
World’s largest Erector set: check. Dig for prehistoric mammoth bones: check, Step inside a giant animal cell: check. All in a day’s work in A.C. Gilbert’s stranger-than-strange backyard. Half children’s museum, half playground, Discovery Village is home to the country’s only child-sized grocery store, a room dedicated exclusively to bubble-making, and a room that lets kids freeze and manipulate their own shadows. Admission is $5.75.
19. Rockome Gardens, Arcola, Illinois
Why hit the beach this summer when you can play tic-tac-toe with a live chicken? Located approximately three hours south of Chicago in the heart of Amish country, this children’s park and historical re-enactment town features Ben Franklin impersonators, WWII re-enactments (complete with tanks!) and a horse-powered saw mill children can ride. Tickets are $8 for adults, $4 for kids under twelve.
18. Wizard Quest, Wisconsin Dells
Cynical parents who enter these doors may not be able to keep a straight face. Located in a 13,000-square-foot climbable labyrinth (known in the game as the “Quadrasphere”), Wizard Quest is essentially a 4-D computer game that presents children with questions and riddles (spoken from the lips of dragons of course), the correct answers of which release imprisoned wizards . . . naturally. Packed with secret passages, animatronic sorcerers and a mysterious “Gnome Depot” (no idea what happens there), Wizard Quest will be equally enjoyable for kids and snarky adults. Tickets are $13 for adults, $11 for kids.
17. RoboWorld, Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Prepare your human offspring for the robot revolution by showing them the largest permanent robot-themed exhibit in the world. Led by Andy, a socially interactive “Robo-Thespian,” RoboWorld features hockeybots, artificial intelligence bots, lunar rovers, computerized foosball tables, service bots and mechanical men that create art. Kids will have the chance to play b-ball against a robot. Parents will learn how close we are to a machine takeover. Tickets are $14.
16. City Museum, St. Louis
A fantasy come true for adventurous kids, a nightmare for overprotective parents, City Museum is half novelty museum (featuring oddities such as the world’s oldest corn dog and the world’s largest pair of underwear), half dream playground. With hands-on attractions including walls with secret passageways, an indoor skateless skate park where kids swing from ramp to ramp with overhead ropes, an outdoor playground comprised of mesh wire tubes suspended twenty-five feet in the air, and a bar for stressed-out parents, City Museum is both totally awesome and completely terrifying. On weekend nights after ten, City Museum shuts off the lights and hands out flashlights. Kids and adults can climb around suspended cave-like structures in the dark until 1 a.m. Admission is $12, $10 after 5 p.m. on weekends.