Special Report

16 Trips to Take Before the Kids Go Back to School

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Mayan Ruins, Yucatan Peninsula

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula offers a strong element of culture, along with its sand, sun and swimming. The area abounds with pre-Columbian ruins to explore, including a couple that have garnered recognition as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One such ruin, Uxmal, features ceremonial sites that experts have described as among the high points of Mayan art and architecture. Chichén Itzá¡, probably the best known of Yucatan’s ruins, is regarded as one of the new seven wonders of the world. Internationally known for its huge and iconic step pyramid, temple, ball court, and wall of skulls, new discoveries made earlier this year may lead researchers to reconsider earlier beliefs about the ancient complex.

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National Parks

This land is your land, so get the family out to see it in all its splendor in one of our 59 national parks. Expect to encounter crowds at popular destinations such as California’s Yosemite or sprawling Yellowstone, encompassing parts of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. But if it’s solitude you seek, and the chance to unplug and recharge, you have options. There are numerous locales where you can avoid the crowds and encounter spectacular terrain from woodland (Washington’s North Cascades National Park) to desert (Nevada’s Great Basin National Park) to lakefront (Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park). To truly get away from it all, fly into Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve or visit Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park, accessible only by boat or plane. Good luck finding a wi-fi connection!

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Bar Harbor, Maine

It’s hard to beat Bar Harbor for its natural beauty and its freshly caught seafood. But there’s still plenty to do if you’ve had your fill of beach strolls, hikes in Acadia National Park, lobster rolls and blueberry-based desserts like pie or shortcake (as if). Youngsters may enjoy haunted history or ghost tours, fishing camp, and trying their hands at various arts and crafts. Families can also venture out on the water for whale watching, puffin sightings, and visits to nearby islands.

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Travel along the Mississippi River

There are thousands of possible road trips, but few are as intriguing as driving the Great River Road, running from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, passing through 10 states along the way. It’s possible to just jump in the car and drive from end to end in a few days, but where’s the fun in that? Don’t settle for drive-by sightseeing: instead, build your understanding of the varied regions, terrains and cultures along the way. Stop at interpretive centers to learn about the river and the surrounding area. Pursue your interests, or maybe discover new ones, as you catch a ball game in the Twin Cities, go antiquing in Illinois, learn about the Delta Blues in their Mississippi birthplace, or explore Louisiana cuisine — beyond gumbo — in Lafayette. Driving a portion of the Great River Road could become an annual family tradition.

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Amish Country

A visit to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, may have you singing “Give Me the Simple Life.” Some members of the Amish and Mennonite communities in this region live off the grid, generating power with windmills, traveling in horse-drawn carriages, and farming the old-fashioned way, including practices now embraced by hipsters and farm-to-table restaurateurs. Tours of houses, museums, visitors’ centers and mills offer insights to the lifestyle practiced by some members of these religious faiths. Other fun activities families may enjoy include taking a carriage ride or a food tour, visiting amusement parks or antiques shops, or riding a vintage steam train.

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