Family Travel Five: Opportunities to explore
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Family Travel Five: Opportunities to explore


    An old NASA logo hangs on a wall at the Heroes & Legends exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Travel provides opportunities to learn new skills and explore the world beyond our own boundaries. Here are five ideas to consider.

1. Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral, Fla.

As NASA prepares for a 60th birthday celebration, it’s a good time to visit this multifaceted destination to learn about the past, present and future of interplanetary space travel. Further, with more than 40 rocket launches expected in the months ahead, you and your family could have an up-close view of the excitement. Spend a day or longer at the visitor complex to meet the Astronaut of the Day, tour launch pads and learn what it means to train for a mission in space. Check out the world’s largest collections of spacecraft, vehicles and artifacts and ponder what it might be like to travel into the unknown.


2. Kartchner Caverns
Benson, Ariz.

In 1974, two University of Arizona students and amateur cavers spotted a narrow crack in the bottom of a sinkhole. They followed the unusually moist air and discovered more than two miles of unspoiled cave passages. The caverns, carved from limestone, were not opened to the public until 1999 and are now part of the Arizona State Park system. Visit this living or “wet” cave, and you will be in awe of the stalactites, stalagmites, cave bacon and small white helectites. Many of the resident minerals, you will learn, are not found in any other cave in the world. Among the cave’s highlights, a 22-foot-long “soda straw” stalactite, reported to be the second longest in the world.


3. Historic Philadelphia

Meet “Betsy Ross,” American flag maker and weaver of a significant piece of our country’s history in her authentic 18th century home. Interactive, family-friendly programming, including kids audio tours, makes it possible for visitors to learn more about the Revolutionary War and her role as businesswoman, wife, mother and revolutionary. An evening tour of Independence Hall, as it might have appeared in 1776, offers families the chance to enjoy a Colonial-style dinner and to eavesdrop on the most pressing debate of the era.


4. Great Wolf Lodge
Grand Mound, Wash.

Guests of Great Wolf Lodge Grand Mound, best known for their indoor water park, can team up with Oliver the Raccoon at Oliver’s Mining Co. to explore a mysterious mine shaft and discover hidden gemstones. After learning about how a mine works, kids head to the sluice to uncover hidden gems in the pay dirt. Young explorers can take home their treasures in a keepsake collection bag, complete with a gemstone identification card, personalized labels and a special mining hat.


5. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
Collinsville, Ill.

During the Mississippian period (800-1400) as many as 20,000 people may have lived in what is now considered the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of the Mexican border. Located just across the Mississippi River and 15 minutes from what is now St. Louis, the historical center offers guided and self-guided tours and an interpretive center for children. Among the significant features is the 100-foot-high Monks Mound, considered the largest prehistoric earthwork in the Americas. A 5.4-mile nature and culture hike is also possible. A guide booklet, available in the museum shop, helps families understand the culture of the Mississippians, where archaeology has taken place, and the use of various plants for food, medicine, dyes and fibers, as they explore the more remote regions of the historic site.


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