In every part of the country, there are weekend get away destinations that you can aim for in order to drive and enjoy a short time away. Kids love to see and do something new, especially if they are prepared in some way ahead of time. Anticipation is part of the fun. So is information. So make your plans, fill up the tank, and off you go.

The Beach Weekend.

Happy Family Walking on the BeachThere is sure to be a beach not far from you, whether it is the traditional ocean beach or a beach at the lake, river, springs, or stream. Chances are there is a beach within 20 miles of your home. You may have been there before, or this may be a first for your kids. Take a picnic, plenty of extra water, sunscreen, sand toys, Frisbee, and other fun beach toys. Build in some time to swim, some time to walk, some time to play, and some time to relax. Many beaches have boardwalks and many have some of the best older amusement parks in the nation, so vary the beach time with other fun times.

The Mountain Weekend.

New Mexico MountainsHike some trials! Is there a place where kids can scramble over the rocks? Is there a tower to climb? A fort to play in? A wildflower walk to enjoy when the flowers are in bloom. In the east it may be the Trillium and out in the southwest it may be when the desert is in bloom. Gage the hike to the ages of your kids and you may end up at hidden waterfalls or in a glade of centuries old trees. Be sure to have the bug spray and take the appropriate precautions if you are hiking in places where there are large carnivorous animals.

The Historic Site Weekend.

Fort PulaskiWho says history is boring? Not kids! They love to discover what happened long ago. Especially if you tell and show them with a sense of wonder. Take them to someplace like the freedom trail in Boston, the liberty bell in Philadelphia, colonial Williamsburg, the old fort at St Augustine, Old Town San Diego. The list goes on and on. History does not have to be all that old either: Kids love the Space Center (Kennedy or Houston), and the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola. History is great when you can ride it, like the Strasburg Railroad, the cog railway up Pike’s Peak, the cable cars in San Francisco, the canal boats in upstate New York, the gondola up Sandia Peak. Kids on the go are kids who learn as they grow.

The Big City Weekend.

Michigan Avenue ChicagoEven if you commute into the city every weekday, what is familiar to you may be completely unfamiliar to your kids, and if you do not, if you live in suburbia or in the country, then a weekend in the city is a vacation of amazing new wonders. Pick any city that appeals to you, and chances are they have more kid-oriented activities than you can do in a month. So your weekend will be more than amply rewarded. Every large city has a children’s museum. Look for the place where you can get up high and see the whole town. If there is a form of transportation that your kids have not done yet, be sure to do it, from carriage rides, to subways to trolleys. See a show; eat somewhere quaint, or exotic or just plain wacky. Make the whole town your playground.

The Down Country Weekend.

Horseback Riding at Grand TetonsIf you have never been to a farm or a ranch, try it on your kid friendly weekend. Make a dude ranch, b and b on a farmstead or similar your base of operations. Ride a horse, milk a cow, pet a goat, pan for gold, go down in a cave, walk a corn maze, pick some fruit in season and then take it home and make something delicious. These days there are probably zip lines for them to enjoy too.

The Fair and Show Weekend.

Swings at the FairHave you been to your state’s State Fair? Plan your long weekend so you can go and enjoy it. Most of them have more things to see and do than you can accomplish in a weekend, with best in show animals, old time amusement rides, miniature train and doll house displays, fine and lively arts, carnival type games, and fun foods like cotton candy and funnel cakes. If you are a kid, what could be better! Or go to the Apple Festival, Corn Festival, Strawberry Festival, the Antique Car Show, the Boat Show, and the Dog Show. You may find that your kids discover a lifelong interest, or vocation, on the fun weekend you have planned for them.

This is just the tip of the iceberg – you could start a weekend getaway goal of seeing “all the caves we can” or riding “all the antique roller coasters we can”, and make it an ongoing theme. You may want to make some kinds of folders with games and information that relate to where you are going and what you plan to do—kind of like a passport that gets stamped as things happen. Don’t forget to allow time to rest and relax, and to savor what you are seeing as you drive the nation.