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Every former United States President has taken time off to unload and refresh before jumping into a good ole’ game of “The Buck Stops Here.” My little homeschooling family and I recently returned from an expedition across the states stopping at some of our former Presidents’ most hidden gems.
Lessons in history should not be limited to memorizing states, capitals, and the names of former U.S. Presidents. Instead, you can transform your kid’s history lessons into mini-vacation opportunities.
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Take an Edu-Vacation
As a homeschooling father of two young and very active boys, I am a firm believer that education is like fine art – its value and appreciation increases with exposure and maturity. Having the freedom to pursue each of my son’s passions individually has allowed my family to explore education from various perspectives, making our relationship collectively stronger.
Here are 5 retreats and vacation homes of former United States Presidents to explore and draw history away from the textbooks.
Discover Colorado’s Slopes Like President Gerald Ford
Begin your presidential edu-vacation outdoors to learn about our 38th President. If your kids knew that former U.S. President Gerald Ford was an outdoor enthusiast who is in the Colorado Snowsports Museum Hall of Fame, don’t you think they would be excited to learn more about him than if they had only read dry text that outlined the details of the Watergate Scandal?
The white stripe on the Colorado state flag represents the snow-capped mountains of the Rockies and its slopes have been calling snow enthusiasts to their peaks since 1880. President Ford and his wife Betty fell in love with the developing (at-the-time) ski town of Vail, and the love was mutual.
The great thing about this special Colorado valley is that there is always something to do, no matter the season. So whether you and your family would like to hit the same slopes that Jerry did on Vail’s mountains and at Beaver Creek, or enjoy some summer entertainment at the Gerald R Ford Amphitheater, you are bound to have some fun.
Don’t Miss! Three Fun Days In Vail With Adventurous Kids
The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is the world’s highest botanical garden. Your kids will enjoy the hands-on children’s garden where they can throw on some gloves, grab some tools and get gardening. The garden also hosts daily scavenger hunts and other family-guided activities.
Thanks to Ford’s presidency and his entourage of high-celebrity politicians, the town of Vail became a prominent place in Colorado and the United States. The cobblestone streets of Vail’s villages will transport your family to a little piece of heaven between the mountains – and your kids will find plenty of information out about friend and local legend, President Ford.
For more information about all there is to do and family attractions available, please visit the official Vail, Colorado website.
Where To Stay In Vail
The ski-to-door Christiania Lodge offers a perfect mix of charm and relaxation with amenities for everyone to enjoy including a fitness center, outdoor heated pool, and ski storage. Also, the Sonnenalp offers families unparalleled Swiss Alp luxury. There’s a fireplace warmed game room filled with couches and the occasional live guitarist crooning folksy ballads while mom and dad sip on a glass of wine and the kids enjoy their hot chocolate. A local ski shop offers valet service.
Say Aloha To President Barack Obama in Honolulu
Our nation’s 44th President is one that no one is ever going to forget. Former President Barack Obama was born and spent the majority of his boyhood in Hawaii on the island of Honolulu.
Hawaiian culture is much more than pineapple-topped pizzas, welcome leis, and ukulele serenades – but all that is great too. My young boys appreciated the warm welcome and kindhearted spirit of Hawaiian natives. And, I should add, nowhere else have I had the opportunity to meet people with such a reverence for mother nature. Along with your adventures, you could bring along a kid-friendly copy of Barack Obama’s biography and periodically reference his diverse upbringing while jumping from one activity to the next.
The boys also loved the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument’s Discovery Center. Before we arrived, my wife and I chose several educational resources offered by the center to prep our kids for an unforgettable learning vacation about the culture and history of the Hawaiian Islands.
Barack Obama is credited for expanding the marine monument to just shy of 600,000 square miles of land and water. Conservation and climate change was one of our former president’s passions and these topics are excellent conversation starters to have with kids – and you can tailor these subjects to any age group.
We spent endless hours immersing ourselves in the rich heritage of Hawaiian culture at both the Bishop Museum and the Obama Hawaiian Africana Museum. The latter is specifically devoted to enriching the community with the contributions that people of African descent have had upon the island group. Currently, the non-profit organization is raising awareness and calling for donations to purchase and preserve Obama’s childhood home.
Where To Stay In Honolulu
The Queen Kapiolani Hotel offers majestic views of the iconic Diamond Head, is adjacent to a national park, and is just steps away from Waikiki Beach. Remember to ask the receptionist about surf demonstrations at Hans Hedemann Surf School and cash in on some discounted tickets for the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium.
Keep It Peachy With President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Head on over to Georgia – the state renowned for more than four dozen species of mouth-watering peaches, and former President Franklin D. Roosevelt retreat. Our family trip to Warm Springs began with my youngest urging me to pull over to the side of the highway to descend upon the first peach stand we saw after crossing the Florida-Georgia line.
The next couple hours were spent scarfing down peach after peach and wiping away the stickiness from possibly every inch of our car. Upon arrival, we began our exploration of the Warm Springs area with a visit to Roosevelt’s Little White House.
President Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921. In his search for a cure for his infantile paralysis, Roosevelt turned to the area’s spring waters, rumored to bring about miracles.
The Georgia States Park Division has put together a great list of educational resources to engage little ones even before your trip’s planned departure. Since my oldest (4) was just at the age where we could sit down for a few minutes of a planned activity, we had a lot of learning giggles as we filled out the activity booklet offered online.
In any state we visit, getting our hands on an annual Historic Sites Pass or something similar is always a must. In addition, as a military veteran, one benefit my family receives is enjoying free entrance to national parks.
Though you won’t be able to throw on your bathing suit and jump in the pools at this location, after your museum visit, head on over to the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park and have a splash in the lake with your kids.
After exploring the Pine Mountain area, learning about President #32, and getting plenty of outside time, my family concluded our 3-day weekend trip to Georgia with a visit to the Commemorative Air Force Museum.
Where To Stay By Warm Springs
The Mountain Top Inn and Resort is a wonderful place to retreat after a day of adventure, nature, trails, and museums. Situated between Pine Mountain and Warm Springs, you can choose to stay in its main lodge or one of its private cabins with access to a pool, scenic pavilion, barbecue area, and loads of backyard fun.
Fun In The Sun With President Harry S. Truman
Did you know that the only Presidential Museum in the state of Florida is located in Key West, at the former home of President Harry S. Truman? If you really want to blow your kids’ minds, then book the all-new White Glove Tour offered by the Little White House Museum for a once-in-a-lifetime ride in a 1950 Cosmopolitan Lincoln Limousine – one of Truman’s personal fleet.
When we went, this unique opportunity was not yet offered; however, the museum visit was insightful and well laid out with a rich assortment of artifacts from the Truman home. This visit propelled me to discuss my time in the military with my oldest son to help him understand how thankful I am for the lasting impact Truman’s G.I. Bill legislation has had on veterans like myself.
But hey – you are in Key West so now it’s time to enjoy time with your kids and focus on the -vacation portions of your edu-vacation.
Our next stop was dedicated to my wife’s love of gardens with a visit to the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens. What she didn’t know is that this location “has been certified as Haunted with ghosts by numerous paranormal societies, including Messengers Paranormal and CRIPT Seekers.” There are several great tours to explore the other side of the gardens…..
My youngest got his post-presidential energy-boost from the touch tank and all the beautiful exhibits at the Key West Aquarium. Your kids may be excited to learn that they recently acquired a giant isopod, also known as an underwater armadillo.
Before you head away, I’d be selling you short if I did not mention how much fun my kids had on the way to the top of the Key West Lighthouse and splashing through the refreshing fountains at the Truman Waterfront Park.
Where To Stay In Key West
Since you’re only 90 miles away, bring your family to stay at the Havana Cabana to experience your first tastes of Cuban culture. This hotel embraces the cultural and artistic flair of the Cuban people, boasts the biggest pool in Key West, and even offers guests the opportunity to cruise the historic city streets in a classic mid-century Chevy.
These 5 weekend getaways will relax your family and teach everyone about the true stories of the men who became our Presidents.
Giddy Up In President Ronald Reagan’s California
An indescribable feeling overtook former President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy when they first passed through the gates of Rancho del Cielo – the “Ranch in the Sky.” Students and sponsors of the Young America’s Foundation are welcomed to visit the ranch for a first-hand look into the values and vision that inspired Reagan throughout his presidency and life.
Not afraid of getting his hands dirty, Reagan was involved in all the major projects undertaken at the ranch in his iconic cowboy hat and boots. But even if you do not visit the 688-acre ranch itself, your kids will love visiting The Reagan Ranch Center in downtown Santa Barbara and perhaps even the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
If your kids love animals as much as mine do, then a side trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo would be a huge treat after spending a day or two learning about our Hollywood President.
Where To Stay By Santa Barbara
As parents, tour guides, caretakers (and everything else) you totally deserve treating yourselves to the peaceful evenings you can enjoy by choosing to stay at one of Carpinteria’s Beach Cottages, located just fourteen short minutes from downtown Santa Barbara. You and your kids will have access to beach cruisers and boogie boards, a picnic area, fresh fruit, and will be a sure way to experience “vintage California beach living at its finest.”
How To Choose Your Presidential Edu-Vacation
Depending on the age of your kids, any time at a museum should be supplemented with ample time for fun and relaxation. I suggest you and your kids discuss some of the activities I’ve included in the areas surrounding the locations that were once presidential homes, retreats, or vacationing spots. Once you have reached a family decision, then begin planning your trip around time-off and the most suitable season.
Plan Your Budget Accordingly
The admission prices of the various museums and tours vary, some even being affected by demand and season. I suggest you check online for the best prices, available discounts, and don’t forget to use your student, veteran, or other organizational benefits where applicable.
Last thing – make sure you list the side trips you wish to explore and put enough money aside for those special visits. Once you have arrived on location, a last-minute scramble to find things to entertain your kids is a sure way of draining your pockets – trust the experience of a once-naive parent.
Schedule Your Visit Ahead Of Time
Always check the calendar of events for any special notices or spectacles you wouldn’t want to miss.
Keep Museum-Hopping Kid Ready & Friendly
My goal as a parent is to keep a harmonious household. I remember one time at a baroque museum of art and history in southern Italy, I had stopped for quite a few minutes trying to read the excerpt from a archeological exhibit that fascinated me – my caring and history-loving son of four tells me, “Papa, no looking, stopping, or reading- just GO!”
And that is how we do it ladies and gentlemen. So, since then, I have learned how essential preparation is for visiting museums and the like. And don’t get me wrong, wilder things have happened even at the most thrilling of places – kids are just unpredictable but we sure do love ‘em to pieces.
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