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A Day At The Museum: How To Rediscover Your Hometown With Your Kids This Summer

Updated on December 1, 2014

A Family Stay-cation

With gas prices still beyond ridiculous and the economy not quite on the path to recovery, the average family may find themselves hurting for ideas on how to spend their summer vacation. We've all heard about stay-cations, where families cut costs by creating fun ways to spend their summer vacation at home. Many times in the hussle bussle of day-to-day living, we miss what's happening in our own hometown. It could be a new park, a new movie theatre, or even a museum that's been there for years, but maybe deserves another look. You and your family could uncover a hidden treasure just a short drive from your house!

Finding Hidden Museums To Visit

Just about every city has a couple of well-known museums that appear in the news quite frequently and are pretty much a household name within the city. However, in a lot of cities and towns, there are many hidden treasures that would make great day trips for the family. Finding these little gems is the challenge. You can go the old-fashioned route and look them up in the Yellow Pages in the telephone book under "Museums" or you can go on a more in-depth search by searching for them on the Internet. You might be amazed to see what your city offers that you never even knew existed. The great thing about many of these lesser known museums is that their admission in many cases is lower or even free...and free is good when it comes to entertaining children for the summer, right?

For instance, does your town have a university or college? If so, it could possibly house an art and science museum. As part of the university program, there may be free tours for kids with educational materials included. Is your city or town one rich with history or perhaps the site of a notable event in history? Chances are there is a museum dedicated to that event. Artifacts such as uniforms, weaponry, or period clothing can be fascinating to children. Does your hometown have a historic foundation that offers tours of homes? They may offer a children's program offering historic crafts like candle making or basketry.

McKissick Museum of Arts and Sciences in Columbia, South Carolina


Exploring Art Museums With Children

Many art museums offer summer programs for children exploring different art media. The trouble with most of these programs is they can be very cost prohibitive. However, there's nothing keeping you from doing your own art program with your kids using the art museum as a jumping off point. Before you visit the museum, create a scavenger hunt card or form where the children must locate either artwork by a particular artist, from a certain time period, or using a particular art medium. This makes the visit much more fun for the children and for you. For follow-up activities at home, you could have them create an artwork at home in the style of their favorite one at the museum.


Explore History In Cemeteries

It's hard to imagine to some people that a cemetery would be anyplace you would enjoy taking your children, but cemeteries truly are rich in history and are museums in themselves. Although cemetery visits are not really appropriate for young children, for older children they can be quite fascinating, particularly if you allow the children to do tombstone rubbings. Check first with the individual cemetery to see if they allow tombstone rubbings and if there are particular materials they prohibit from use. Some cemeteries actually offer costumed walking tours for small groups, showcasing the most interesting and historical sections. Before you take your children to a cemetery for a tour, you really need to discuss with them how to behave respectfully while visiting. You might want to talk with them about not walking on graves, being careful in how they touch anything, and remembering that even though headstones and monuments look like fun places to climb, it's really disrespectful to do so. Cemeteries can be a great way to study art, genealogy, or even to spark discussions about the difficulty of life in early days.

Cemeteries Are Great Outdoor Museums


A Summer At The Museum

There's no reason why your family have to succumb to a summer worth of video games, hanging out every day in front of the television, and general "When does school start again?" boredom. With a little research and planning on your part, your family can have a "stay-cation" that won't break your budget and will help your children appreciate and enjoy the city where they live. Who knows, they may end up scoring higher on those beginning of school standardized tests instead of lower, due to the time they spent with you exploring those hidden treasures, your city museums.


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    • DIYweddingplanner profile image

      DIYweddingplanner 6 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Thanks, Cara. The best thing is that they usuallyhave free or very low priced admissions and can be just as fun to visit as the bigger museums.

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 6 years ago from Michigan

      Agreed, local museums are a gem that people often forget about. Great ideas!