“In traveling, a man must carry knowledge with him if he would bring home knowledge.” ~Samuel Johnson
Have you ever gone on an educational field trip? What is your favorite field trip memory? Where would you like to go in the future? It’s fun researching different places and deciding which ones to visit. Field trips are open to a world of possibilities. Some can be found in nature and some are man-made.
Examples of field trip destinations include: museums and zoos, historical and archeological points of interest, store and factory tours, parks and monuments, theatrical and symphonic performances, architectural wonders, spectacular natural features, wilderness areas, and many more. A field trip may be undertaken to view a single exhibit, or to explore a whole city that has a unique character or history.
The following list contains some of the best field trip destinations in the U.S. There are so many great places to choose from, obviously other people will come up with different lists. I tried to pick a variety of areas around the country that pack in lots of educational value and that would be memorable family vacations as well.
Washington, D.C. – The District of Columbia is America’s capital city and headquarters for the U.S. federal government. It is also home to some of the best museums and libraries in the world. Many famous historical buildings and other landmarks – such as the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution, White House, Capitol, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Washington Memorial – are all located here.
Massachusetts – This state has many historical sites from the early days of the Pilgrims through the American Revolution. Visit Plymouth Rock, Plimoth Plantation, battlefields, forts, lighthouses, the Old North Church, Old Sturbridge Village, and more. There are famous ships to visit, too, such as the Mayflower II and Old Ironsides.
Pennsylvania – Independence Hall in Philadelphia was where the Continental Congress met, the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the U.S. Constitution was drawn up. From 1790-1800, the city served as the nation’s first capital. The Liberty Bell stands in the Liberty Bell Pavilion. Across town at the Franklin Institute, you can see Ben Franklin’s inventions and personal memorabilia, along with lots of interactive exhibits that bring the mysteries of science to life. In the south central part of the state is Gettysburg National Military Park, memorializing the battleground that was the turning point of the Civil War and where President Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address. In between is Hershey, home to the world’s largest chocolate factory.
Virginia – This state is famous for its many historical monuments, battlefields, forts, and colonial homes. Major landmarks include Mount Vernon (George Washington’s home), Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s home), restored Colonial Williamsburg, the Yorktown battlefield, and Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America.
Cape Canaveral, FL – See the enormous Vehicle Assembly Building, get a behind-the-scenes look at working space flight facilities, experience the blast of an imitation countdown and launch, walk through a full-size Space Shuttle replica and ISS module, view rockets and space equipment from all eras of space exploration including a Saturn V and a Gemini capsule. Amazingly, all of this is adjacent to a 140,000-acre wildlife refuge which is an important wintering area for migratory birds.
San Diego, CA – If you like trains, planes, cars, dinosaurs, mummies, science, history, art, sports, theatre, plants or animals, you will want to visit Balboa Park, America’s largest urban cultural park. It contains 15 museums, 85 performing arts and international culture organizations, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. At San Diego Harbor, you can tour the USS Midway aircraft carrier and see one of the finest collections of historic ships in the world, including the world’s oldest active ship Star of India, and a B-39 Soviet attack submarine.
Monterey Bay Aquarium, CA – This is one of the largest aquariums in the world, combining innovative exhibits, public education, and scientific research. About 15 minutes away is the Butterfly Grove, where thousands of migrating Monarchs alight in a small grove of eucalyptus trees every October and stay through March.
Bodie State Historic Park, CA – This is a real preserved ghost town, not a tourist attraction. It is situated near Mono Lake, an ancient salt lake featuring spectacular calcium-carbonate formations. The visitor center here is extremely informative.
Dinosaur National Monument –There have been more fossilized remains of dinosaur bones, skulls, and skeletons discovered here on the border of Utah and Colorado than anywhere else in the world.
Mesa Verde – This archeological site is one of the most notable and best preserved, giving visitors an opportunity to explore cliff dwellings built by the ancient Anasazi and peek into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people.
Yellowstone National Park – In the northwest corner of Wyoming and spreading into Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone was the first and largest park of its kind in the world. It contains geysers, hot springs, bubbling mud pots, fossil forests, canyons and waterfalls.
Mount St. Helens – Mount St. Helens in southwestern Washington state is North America’s most famous volcano. The Forest Service provides an easy step-by-step online registration for field trips to Mount St. Helens with suggested itineraries, projects and activities. They include everything you need for learning about the volcano and having fun at the same time. (See: www.fs.fed.us/gpnf/mshnvm/education/teachers-corner )
Carlsbad Caverns – These caves in New Mexico are outstanding not only for their enormous size but also for the profusion, diversity and beauty of their rock and mineral formations.
Centennial Park (Nashville, TN) – This is the location of the world’s only full-scale replica of the Parthenon Temple and 42-foot “Athena” statue from ancient Greece. It’s an impressive monument of classical architecture that also houses the city’s art museum.
AAA Explore America: Tours of Discovery Through Our Magnificent Country, by Richard Marshall, et al. (This 320-page book contains a lifetime of field trips for the whole family. Explore the history, culture, scenery and wildlife of the USA from world-famous tourist sites to little-known spots on back roads.)