by JG Walker
(Read in the Digital Issue HERE)
As a parent, your summer vacation with the kids may have been a trip to “the beach” or the trek down to DisneyWorld. Your kids may do the same with their children. But as a grandparent, your time with the youngsters is even more precious and you want every travel experience that you share with them to be special. So take them on a “Grand Vacation” to a destination that offers everyone the chance to learn something new about history or nature—and have a whole lot of fun doing it.
Colonial Williamsburg is a national treasure and a living museum of American history. But this is no “stay-behind-the-ropes” tour: visitors here can observe up close and even participate in the everyday activities of 18th-century Virginians.
At the Colonial Gardens, kids can learn about traditional horticulture, then pitch in with planting and harvesting. The blacksmiths, brick makers, tailors and dozens of other craftsmen demonstrate their skills and you might be asked to serve on the jury for an authentic courtroom reenactment. Join in a revolutionary public demonstration or sing along with street entertainers in period dress. Powell House visitors engage household activities and play games from the 18th century, while the new RevQuest program lets kids begin their “spy adventure” online at home before continuing the mission with clues to follow in Williamsburg. And that’s just a sampling of the unique experiences that will capture the imagination of every youngster at heart.
Colonial Williamsburg also operates an adjacent resort with six hotels, a golf club and tons of family-friendly options. From the period-themed luxury rooms to flexible multi-bedroom suites, accommodations are offered in a range of budget options. Check out the “Kids Stay, Play and Eat FREE!” package available through August 28. For more about this season’s attractions and special events, go to ColonialWilliamsburg.com.
But you don’t have to stay in Colonial Williamsburg to enjoy this historically fun area. Single- and multi-day passes can be purchased separately and the Williamsburg area offers overnight stays at national-chain hotels, charming bed-and-breakfast inns and the full-service Kingsmill Resort. Additional local attractions include the huge European-style theme park at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA, Virginia’s largest water-fun playground. Optional day trips include nearby historic sites at Jamestown, home of the area’s first European settlers and the legend of Pocahontas, and Yorktown, where Lord Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington to end the American Revolution.
PATRIOTS POINT/SOUTH CAROLINA
Patriots Point is located just across the harbor from the historic City of Charleston and has become South Carolina’s most popular heritage attraction. Bring the grandkids for a hands-on romp at this one-of-a-kind maritime museum and you’ll see why.
The USS Yorktown aircraft carrier is the Patriots Point centerpiece, where you and the grandkids can tour the decks and explore the decommissioned ship’s inner labyrinth. The same is true on the USS Laffey destroyer and the USS Clagamore submarine. The site also features more than 20 military aircraft, as well as classes and interactive programs on history, aviation, astronomy, oceanography and more. The Medal of Honor Museum on board the Yorktown will soon be moving to a larger land-based facility, joining the Vietnam-era supply base and the Cold War Memorial among Patriots Point’s unique offerings. You can even arrange group camping aboard ship for an experience that’s as real as it gets without going to sea. Find out more and start planning your trip at PatriotsPoint.org.
The adjacent Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina offers nautical-themed accommodations and there’s even a nice public golf course on the site. Patriots Point is also an embarkation point for ferry rides to Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Nearby Fort Moultrie is another historic site to explore, as are the antebellum garden estates mansions along the Ashley River and the historic mansions and colorful markets of downtown Charleston. Name-brand hotel rooms are available throughout the region or you can rent a beach house or oceanfront Wild Dunes Resort condo on the Isle of Palms. And be sure to treat your family to a fresh-off-the-boat seafood feast at one of the fine Shem Creek restaurants.
ZION NATIONAL PARK/UTAH
The American West is home to spectacular destinations like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, but for scenic wonder and outdoor adventures to delight kids of all ages, Zion National Park in southern Utah is second to none.
The mountainsides and canyons in the 230-square-mile Zion National Park have been sculpted over the eons to reveal multi-colored cliffs, natural arches and monuments in stone. Imagine sharing a guided horseback tour with the grandkids through nature’s rock cathedrals or a ranger-led hike into one of the park’s unique hidden ecosystems. The full-day trek on the Zion Narrows Trail along the Virgin River is an awesome adventure that will inspire members of every generation. And because Zion is part of the national park system, there’s a Junior Park Ranger program that introduces youngsters to the basics of environmental management, plus daily programs and evening presentations that focus on topics like the area’s wildlife, geology and human history.
The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway can be enjoyed from the comfort of your vehicle and the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive offers free shuttles that take you to nine remote locations where you can hike or bike trail loops that range from easy to challenging. There are three campgrounds in the park or you can reserve rooms, suites or cabins at the Zion Lodge. Go to nps.gov/zion for more information.
Several full-service campgrounds are located near the park, as are a variety of other accommodations hosts that include Western-style bed-and-breakfast inns, frontier-themed lodges and ranch resorts. Most of the larger facilities have swimming pools and other recreational amenities. They’ll also arrange horseback, rafting and ATV excursions for your whole gang.
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