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5 Convenient Family Travel Locales

Fun in Baltimore, Dutch Country, the Poconos, the Catskills and DC

Baltimore's Inner Harbor

Baltimore's Inner Harbor

Looking for a quick getaway that you and your kids will love? On less than a tank of gas, you can find lots of places to delight the family on a day trip or an overnight stay.

Here are five easy-to-reach destinations, with kid-friendly attractions at each one. Be the first on your block to visit our Hidden Gems!
 

Baltimore, MD

Head down I-95 to visit Baltimore, a vibrant city known for its historic harbor and white marble steps. www.baltimore.org

Fort McHenry Visit Fort McHenry, the brick fort that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen The Star Spangled Banner. www.baltimore.org/arts-and-culture/fort-mchenry

Take a walk down memory lane from the late 1700s to present day at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum where pop culture comes to life for children of all ages. Revisit favorite characters from Spiderman to Barbie as they evolved from the familiar icons of yesterday to the heroes of today. www.geppismuseum.com

Experience Baltimore’s free annual festivals: Artscape, America’s largest arts festival, July 16-18, www.artscape.org and the Baltimore Book Festival, Sept. 24-26. www.baltimorebookfestival.com

The National Aquarium in Baltimore features stunning exhibits and more than 11,000 aquatic animals. Check out the lauded new addition — 4D Immersion Theatre. www.aqua.org

The Seadog III Hidden Gem! Experience the thrill speedboat tours at the Inner Har­bor onboard the Sea­dog III. Sightseeing and speedboat tours leave from the Inner Harbor, past Fort McHenry and out to the Key Bridge and back. www.seadogcruises.com/Baltimore/home

 

Amish Village Pennsylvania Dutch Country

In the heart of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, delve into Amish culture, sample chocolate and become a scientist. www.padutchcountry.com

Visit the Amish Village in Strasburg to explore the history and modern customs of the quaint community in a village setting, complete with one-room schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and livestock. www.theamishvillage.net

Explore the delicious sights, sounds, smells and eats of the Central Market, America’s oldest operating farmer’s dating back to the 1730s in downtown Lancaster. www.centralmarketlancaster.com

Many parents know about Dutch Wonderland and Hersheypark, but did you know that ZooAmerica in Hershey is celebrating its 100th birthday this year? Check out The Ranger Scratch Kids Club and centennial celebration events. www.zooamerica.com
 

Enjoy a 45-minute ride on the Strasburg Rail Road, America’s oldest short-line railroad circa 1832. Across the road is the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, an incredible collection of historic locomotives and vintage railroad cars. Extra-value combo tickets are available for the two properties. www.strasburgrailroad.com and www.rrmuseumpa.org

Hidden Gem! Make science fun at the Lancaster Science Factory. Through exhibits, work stations, and mini-labs, children can experiment and create as they learn the principles of science in engineering and technology. www.lancastersciencefactory.org

Pocono Mountains, PA

The Poconos region is home to rolling mountain terrain, breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls and thriving woodlands. Family fare includes a bustling animal park, waterpark, and a candy and pretzel making factory. www.800poconos.com

See candy being made daily at Callies Candy Kitchen & Pretzel Factory in Mountainhome. You can also learn to make your own pretzels! www.calliescandy.com

Claws-n-Paws Enjoy the Wildlife Adventures Show at Claws-n-Paws Wild Animal Park, a zoo nestled in the woods at Lake Ariel with more than 120 species of wild animals. www.clawsnpaws.com

Situated in the pristine Northeast Pocono Mountains lake region, Woodloch Resort in Hawley is like a cruise on land. All-inclusive packages include numerous family-oriented activities, entertainment and amenities. www.woodloch.com

Pharaoh's Phortress Find affordable family fun ($8 per person) at the Wayne County Fair in Honesdale. Enjoy live monster truck show, thrill shows, truck, tractor and horse pulls, fireworks, livestock and exhibits. Aug. 7-15. www.waynecountyfair.com

Hidden Gem! Be sure to try out the recently opened Pharaoh’s Phortress Family Play Structure at Camelbeach Waterpark in Tannersville. It has eight waterslides, a four-story-high tipping bucket, fountains and spray guns. The park features 22 rides and a wave pool. www.camelbeach.com

Ulster County, NY

Situated in the Mid-Hudson Valley region, about 90 miles north of New York City off I-87, Ulster County’s most famous town is Woodstock. It is also home to the Catskill Park and Reserve. To limit your drive time, consider staying in one of the region’s southern towns, such as New Paltz, or at the family-friendly Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland. www.ulstercountyalive.com

Take a ride on the Catskill Mountain Railroad. Trains depart from Empire State Railway Museum in Phoenicia for the most scenic railroad this side of the Rocky Mountain Golden Nugget Pass. www.catskillmtrailroad.com

Visit Forsyth Nature Center, an interpretive nature center located in the heart of uptown Kingston. Enjoy 15 animal exhibits, five gardens and fun environmental and nature-based programs. www.forsythnaturecenter.org

Pet a pig at one of two animal sanctuaries that take in abandoned, abused and discarded animals. Visit Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties or Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in Willow. www.casanctuary.org and www.woodstocksanctuary.org

Enjoy activities for the whole family at Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland. Horseback riding is geared to riders of all ages and levels. There’s much more to do, though, at this all-inclusive resort, from nightly entertainment to water sports. www.rockinghorseranch.com

Ice Caves at Sam's Point Hidden Gem! Hike to the Ice Caves at Sam’s Point Preserve, 5,000-acres in the northern Shawangunk Mountains. Trails lead to Sam’s Point, Verkeerderkill Falls, the Ice Caves, High Point and Indian Rock. www.nature.org/samspoint (Click here for guidelines and directions.)

 

Washington, DC

“Detective James McDevitt” leads a Lincoln Assassination Conspiracy tour.The nation’s capital offers enjoyable, educational experiences for the whole family. www.washington.org

Channel your inner detective at the CSI Experience in the National Museum of Crime & Punishment. Learn how to solve crime through the use of forensic science technology such as blood analysis, fingerprinting, and dental and facial reconstruction. www.crimemuseum.org

Join a walking tour reenactment of detective James McDevitt’s 1865 investigation into the Lincoln assassination conspiracy, beginning at Ford’s Theatre. Wear comfortable shoes for this 1.4-mile, 8-stop experience. Be sure to check out Lincoln’s Waffle Shop across the street for a down-home, reasonably priced breakfast. www.fordstheatre.org

If you are a fan of The DaVinci Code or other Dan Brown books, you don’t want to miss the The Lost Symbol Tour. Take a look at the secret side of the nation’s capital. www.washington.org/visiting/experience-dc/the-lost-symbol

Curtiss Jenny in America by Air exhibit Play pilot in a mock cockpit at America by Air, an exhibit on permanent display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Or check out other great exhibits including an early Wright Bros. craft, an Apollo space module and a lunar rover. www.nasm.si.edu

Hidden Gem! A hands-on space for families in the renovated National Museum of American History, Spark!Lab shows the real story behind an inventor’s work and lets kids be a part of the process. www.americanhistory.si.edu

Terri Akman is a local freelance writer.

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