Vacations are about relaxing and getting away from the everyday grind to spend more time with the family, but there's no reason that you can't add some learning opportunities that the whole family will enjoy. These educational attractions are not only fun and memorable but provide some great opportunities to expand your mind!
The Northeast Region of the United States is home to some of the most historically fascinating cities in the entire country. Head out to this region and visit some of the attractions on our list of 50 Top Educational Attractions in the Northeast.
Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site
New Harbor, ME
The Colonial Pemaquid is a historical landmark located between Saint John's Bay and Pemaquid River in Maine. It offers an extensive archaeological excavation site with artifacts from the 17th and 18th century. There is a museum on site that contains information on the history of the area as well as displays of the historical items discovered in the area. Both kids and adults will learn about what life was like in the 17th and 18th centuries as well as gain an insight into the archaeological dig that unearthed these unique artifacts.
Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Observatory
This well-preserved military base was the site of numerous skirmishes and disputes between the United States and British-controlled Canada and the nearby Penobscot Narrows Observatory offers a breathtaking and unrivaled view of the surrounding area. Visitors can learn more about Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Observatory with a self-guided tour of the area or a trip to the top of the observation tower.
Eartha is the largest rotating globe in the world. This three-dimensional model is located in the lobby of DeLorme and features three different levels for viewing the continents and features of the planet. Eartha has received several awards including the famous Guinness book of records as the largest rotating globe on Earth. Visitors can experience the spectacular nature of the accurately-scaled globe which is tilted at 23.5 axes. It's an ideal educational attraction for those interested in geography or learning more about our wondrous planet.
Farnsworth Art Museum
The arts are something that everyone should learn to enjoy, and the Farnsworth Art Museum is a great choice to introduce children to a variety of works from famous American artists. The museum takes a full up 20,000 square feet and has total collection exceeding 15,000 works. The museum's largest collection is by sculptor Louise Nevelson but also works by other artists including Andrew, N.C. and Jamie Wyeth are also featured. Visitors will be able to tour the museum at their own pace, view the artwork from various eras and perhaps even gain some historical perspectives.
South Berwick, ME
This historic landmark features a beautiful 19th century house and picturesque grounds. The Hamilton House itself was built in 1785 and was originally the home of Elizabeth Tyson. The grounds have been restored and turned into a beautiful museum where families can get a glimpse into what life was like in the early 19th century or tour the spectacular gardens.
National 9/11 Memorial
New York City, NY
Easily one of the greatest tragedies of our times, the 9/11 attack effected millions of Americans. Children and adults will be able to learn more about this tragedy at the 9/11 Memorial in New York and pay their respects to the victims of this event. The museum on site features information and exhibits related to the destruction of the World Trade Center, as well as two memorial pools which hold the names and stories of those who died in the worst terrorist attack America has ever seen.
United Nations Headquarters
New York City, NY
The United Nations Center in New York City is an attractive site for anyone interested in learning more about how the United Nations functions. The center features information, briefings, and exhibits that reveal the history and duties of the UN, which effects not only the United States, but countries around the world as well. The visitor center of the UN also has a memorial site for victims of slavery and transatlantic slave and tours are carried out daily to provide more information about how the UN has influenced and changed the world since its inception. Visitors can also visit the renovated UN General Assembly Hall which hosts world's leaders. Visitors can walk the same hallways as some of the most powerful people in the world at the UN HQ.
New York City, NY
One of the most popular attractions in Maine, Ellis Island is the famous gateway to America and is extremely important in the founding of the melting pot society. Ellis Island is home to the Ellis Museum which details relevant information about the island and the immigrants who passed through its gates. Visitors can view thousands of artifacts and hear the oral history of when the island was in operation. There are also various historical displays and temporarily exhibits which change frequently. This site is well worth visiting for anyone interested in New York and American history.
American Museum of Natural History
New York City, NY
The American Museum of Natural History is one of the world's most prominent museums and was founded in 1869. The museum features several rotating and traveling exhibits covering all kinds of topics from biology to wildlife, various cultures and more. The museum contains an IMAX theater, a butterfly conservatory, the second-largest dinosaur collection and an aquatic display. No matter your age, there's something for everyone to learn, see and explore at this museum.
New York City, NY
The Hayden Planetarium is part of the American Museum of Natural History, mentioned above. Located in Central Park, the museum is open every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The planetarium itself focuses on space, but the crowning jewel of this fantastic educational attraction is The Space Theater, which offers a stunning 3D show about the planets and space, narrated by various celebrities.
Biomes Marine Biology Center
North Kingstown, RI
Filled with brightly-colored tropical fish and exciting exhibits, the Biomes Marine Center is a private marine educational facility in New England. It offers interactive marine biology programs for its visitors and specializes in teaching children and adults about the life of marine animals living in the Atlantic Ocean and Narraganset Bay. The center features tons of hands-on activities that children will love as well as demonstrations. This center has the largest exhibit of marine life in New England.
Audubon Society Environmental Education Center
This natural history museum and educational center features an aquarium and exhibits where visitors can learn about the wildlife in New England. The Audubon Society Environmental Education Center offers family-friendly learning programs, guided tours, interactive exhibits for smaller children, and nature walks through its winding trails. The center's goal is to help foster an appreciation and understanding of the ecosystem and the animals that call it home. This is definitely a fantastic learning experience for children of all ages.
Museum of Natural History and Planetarium
The Museum of Natural History and Planetarium in Providence is a massive museum which is home to more than 250,000 artifacts ranging from preserved plants, rocks, mammals, minerals, photographs and various other exhibits. Displays are regularly changed out, so visitors can always expect to see something new. The museum also features a planetarium where children can learn about space and the other planets in our solar system. There are also free earth science educational programs and workshops available.
Providence Children's Museum
The Providence Children's Museum is dedicated to providing a fun and interactive environment for children to learn and play. With various exhibits, kids ages 1 - 11 years can learn about the world around them and engage in various exhibits including bridge-building, water and tunnel exploration and a historical time-traveling adventure to learn more about Rhode Island history.
Museum of Work and Culture
Children will be able to explore the culture and lives and the people who called Rhode Island home throughout the ages in this interactive museum. From the textile industry to modern factories, families will be able to learn more about how people worked, the culture and even history of the area at the of Work and Culture. Exhibits change throughout the year, so repeat visitors are sure to have something new to see every time.
The Wetlands Institute
Stone Harbor, NJ
From educational programs throughout the year to a salt marsh trail and wetland conservation areas, the Wetlands Institute is a great choice for families looking to learn more about the world around them. Kids will enjoy burning off some energy on the many trails and exploring the area, and parents will be able to find some great educational gifts in the shop on the premises.
Thomas Edison National Historical Park
West Orange, NJ
The Thomas Edison National Historic Park features several buildings which were owned by Thomas Edison, including a laboratory where many technologies were invented. Visitors can tour the museum on site and see one of the largest collections of Thomas Edison works and artifacts, and learn how this great man changed the world with his inventions. The park actually includes three separate buildings which feature different exhibits, so make sure to leave plenty of time to explore!
Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum
Rio Grande, NJ
Originally a training facility for the World War II bombers, the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum offers a wide collection of artifacts and information about the history of aviation in the war. The museum offers programs that are designed to educate the visitors about the mechanics and the history of the famous American bomber during the WWII and the site has many other attractions like the famous concrete ship that sunk near Cape May.
Liberty Science Center
Jersey City, NJ
This 300,000 square foot building is dedicated to educating and entertaining families with exhibits that change out frequently, a live animal collection, giant aquarium filled with marine life and the nation's largest IMAX dome theater. There are dozens of hands-on exhibits including a hurricane-force wind simulator and plenty of educational demonstrations and events throughout the year. No matter your age, there is something to learn at the Liberty Science Center.
The Paterson Museum was founded in 1925 and features a wide range of exhibits on varying topics from archaeology, history, science and invention. Visitors can learn about the history of the New Jersey area and see a number of interesting local artifacts. Some of the major attractions is the extensive medicine collection, which features artifacts that date back to the 1900s, and the several retired locomotives on site. This museum is a great choice for gaining a smattering of knowledge on many different topics.
Robert Frost Farm State Historic Site
The Robert Frost State Historic Site was the original home of Robert Frost, one of the most highly acclaimed poets in the nation. Visitors can learn about the life and poetry of this great American writer. Tours are available and the grounds feature numerous trails to explore. There are also occasional poetry readings and other events at the site.
Strawbery Banke Museum
It's easy to find historical museums and sites which offer views into the major events throughout history, but there are only a few sites that show what everyday life was like through the years. Saved from an urban renewal project in the 1950s, the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth features collections of clothing, tools and buildings built from 1695 through 1954. This village offers visitors a fascinating look into what life was like and features various events and demonstrations throughout the year. There are hands-on activities and foods available, and extensive grounds to explore, making this an excellent educational family activity for all ages
Canterbury Shaker Village
See a reconstructed and restored replica of a late 18th century Shaker village at the Canterbury Shaker Village. This historical site and museum features 25 restored original buildings, four reconstructed buildings and nearly 700 acres of gardens, trails, forests and land to explore. Visitors can try an authentic Shaker lunch and view artifacts from the community and era. There are demonstrations, workshops and various events throughout the year and plenty of things to do and see at this educational historical location.
Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site
For a taste of history and art at the same time, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is well worth a visit. This home was once the residence of one of America's greatest artists, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and features more than 100 of his pieces scattered throughout the property. From his expressive sculptures to the gold coins that greatly influenced the look of American coins today, this great artist made quite the impact on our culture. Visitors can explore the nature trails, visit the home, take a sculpture class and enjoy the various events including occasional concerts held at the site.
New Castle, NH
Also known as Fort William and Mary, this historical site was used by the British to defend the colonies prior to the American Revolution, and it was designed to protect the harbor at Portsmouth. Fort Constitution played a part in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and visitors can tour both the fort and the connecting lighthouse. The site also has excellent locations for a picnic and offers plenty of opportunity for exploration.
Montshire Museum of Science
The Montshire Museum of Science features a variety of indoor and outdoor exhibits for its visitors. This science museum includes a science park that covers more than 110 acres. There is a wide range of exhibits—more than 140, to be exact—covering everything from astronomy to natural history and even bug exhibits. The museum has numerous programs which change throughout the year, and speakers from various institutions come to the museums to give lectures on specialized topics.
Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home
Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home is the historic residence of Robert Todd Lincoln, the only of President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln's children to live to adulthood. This expansive home is open to the public for self-guided tours of the 8,000 square foot home which features artifacts owned by the Lincoln family. The home also includes an observatory, carriage barn, 24 rooms and more than 12 miles of scenic walking trails. The house provides a great historical insight into the Lincoln family and the times.
The Plymouth Notch Historic District
Most of the Plymouth Notch Historic District is actually included as part of the Calvin Coolidge Homestead District, which features information about the 30th President of the United States. The village contains various period buildings including a restaurant, a one-room school house, a general store and operative cheese factory. There are numerous artifacts to see and history to uncover, and visitors will learn more about not only the time but life of former president Calvin Coolidge.
ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center
The ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center has numerous educational attractions for all ages and teaches children and adults about the world around them. The center is designed to educate people about various topics including ecology, culture, history and the Lake Champlain ecosystem and area. There are numerous exhibits, demonstrations and shows that change throughout the day, all designed to help children learn more about the world around them. There are live animals and hands-on interactive exhibits to explore, and kids of all ages will be entertained at this fantastic educational center.
This ornamental farm is designed to teach visitors about agricultural history and foster sustainable farming techniques and practices. An educational site, this working farm spans 1,400 acres and offers walking trails, tours, cheesemaking demonstrations and various other exhibits and events throughout the year. Shelburne Farms is excellent for children and adults who are interested in learning more about farming and the more simple life enjoyed by millions of Americans in the early 19th century to today.
Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
The former home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the renowned author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, is open to the public and designed to help give visitors an insight in the life of the famous author and the impact her important book had on opinions on slavery in the 19th century. Visitors can take a tour of the house and gardens and even visit a gift shop at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. Located near the Mark Twain House, this educational and interesting attraction is the perfect for anyone interested in learning more about slavery, human rights, and how those themes still effect us today.
Mark Twain House and Museum
One of the most well-known and important literary figures in the 19th century, Samuel Clemens wrote dozens of books under the name Mark Twain, and many of those volumes were written inside this very house located in Hartford, Connecticut. The Mark Twain House and Museum boasts 25 rooms and three floors filled with Twain artifacts and memorabilia. A tour of the house and grounds is sure to give anyone a great insight into one of the greatest American writers of the time.
This national historic site is the only national park that is dedicated to American panting. The Weir Farm features not only beautiful scenic natural landscapes, but an art residence program which has featured more than 150 different resident artists. Originally dedicated to the impressionist painter J. Alden Weir, this park offers visitors an insight into American art, workshops to help budding artists recognize their potential and plenty of inspiring landscapes to explore.
Institute for American Indian Studies
The Institute for American Indian Studies celebrates the culture and heritage of the Native Americans who called Connecticut home. The museum features a collection of Native American exhibits with artifacts dating back 10,000 years, an outdoor simulated archaeological dig site for visitors to see and a replica of a 17th century Algonkian Village on the premises. Children will enjoy the discovery room, and all ages will be able to take part in various programs and events held at the center throughout the year.
Nathan Hale Homestead
Home to the famous Revolutionary War patriot Nathan Hale, this homestead has been restored to its former beauty so that visitors can not only learn about this hero, but also get a glimpse into what life was like in the 18th century. Killed by the British as a spy, Hale said the famous quote, "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." An American patriot through and through, by touring the Nathan Hale Homestead, visitors can gain perspective into the era and lives of those who founded the great American nation.
Delaware Museum of Natural History
The Delaware Museum of Natural History was founded in 1972 and is the only natural history museum in the state. With thousands of preserved and stuffed animals on display, visitors can learn more about the animals that live on Earth and those that have already become extinct. The museum has a large dinosaur display, a butterfly garden and plenty of hands-on science activities for children. Throughout the year, various activities and events are held at the museum as well.
Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library
Originally owned by Henry Francis du Pont, Winterthur was opened to the public more than 60 years ago so that the general public could tour the unparalleled collection of decorative arts including nearly 90,000 beautiful objects. The picturesque grounds of Winterthur include a 60 acre naturalistic garden which has been hailed as one of America's best and most beautiful gardens. Visitors will be able to appreciate the art, style and culture of America in this fantastic museum which hosts events and tours throughout the year.
Hagley Museum and Library
The Hagley Museum and Library offers visitors a look at the past, present and future of American business, technology and innovation. Once the site of the gunpowder works founded by the du Pont family, this historical and educational site now is home to the only operating black powder roll mill in the country. Demonstrations and talks are given throughout the day, and children will enjoy the hands-on exhibits showing how machines make life simpler. There are extensive grounds to traverse in this mostly outdoor location, and a large research library on site.
Fort Delaware State Park
Delaware City, DE
The Fort Delaware State Park, which includes a Union fortress and several acres of beautiful land filled with marsh birds, is a veritable store of information on the Civil War. Costumed actors and historians will interact with visitors at the fort and give a look into what the it was like during the bloodiest conflict on American soil. Visitors can view artifacts, learn about the history of the fort, and tour the grounds, which feature many picturesque locations for a picnic or a discussion about Delaware's role in the war.
Air Mobility Command Museum
This military museum is the only museum in the country dedicated to airlifts and air refueling. With more than 30 retired aircraft on display, visitors will be able to learn more about aircraft history and how airlifts operated and helped out during the Vietnam and Korean wars. The Air Mobility Command Museum also features a sizable collection of U.S. Air Force historical artifacts including uniforms and photographs.
Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum
On December 16, 1773, angry colonists dumped more than three hundred crates of tea into the water to send a signal to England. At the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, visitors can take a guided tour of a reconstructed ship and even toss a crate of tea into the harbor themselves. Watch a documentary about the Boston Tea Party, take a tour or explore the interactive exhibits. There is also a tea shop and a gift shop on site.
Old Sturbridge Village
Old Sturbridge Village is an educational and historical site designed to mimic an 1830s village. It features more than 40 buildings on site including schools, churches and trade shops. Visitors can tour a grist mill, see various arts and crafts from the era and enjoy seeing a real working village. There are demonstrations at various times throughout the day and plenty of historical artifacts to see as well. There is also a gift shop and restaurant on site.
Children will have the opportunity to see history come to life at the Plymouth Plantation, which is a fully-functional 17th century village and connected museum which features a wide collection of artifacts and exhibits about the area. In addition to a museum and living village, the plantation site includes several other attractions including the Mayflower II ship, a grist mill, and a Wampanoag home site among others. This educational site is one of the best in the area, and shouldn't be missed.
Paul Revere's House
Formerly home to the Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere, whose midnight ride warned the patriots that the British were coming, this meticulously restored home is a historical treat that shouldn't be missed. Featuring many original pieces owned by the Revere family, the Paul Revere House provides visitors with information about Revere's life and his most famous ride. Self-guided tours are available, and visitors will love being able to experience a little slice of history.
Museum of Science
Located in Boston, the Museum of Science is dedicated to helping people understand the role of science and technology in the lives and histories of the nation. With more than 700 interactive exhibits which change throughout the year, children and adults can take an active role in learning more about the technology that has changed how we live and the science that makes it possible. The museum also features various educational demonstrations and presentations throughout the year on more specialized topics.
Gettysburg National Military Park
near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
This national park spans nearly 6,000 acres and is the location of one of the most important battles in the American Civil War: the Battle of Gettysburg. Visitors to the Gettysburg National Military Park can walk the battlefields, tour a visitor center which has more than 40,000 Civil War artifacts on a rotating display and learn about the history of this important battle. Events are held at the park throughout the year including a special dedication on Memorial Day.
No northeast educational list would be complete without including Independence Hall, the place where the American Declaration of Independence was approved in 1776. This red brick building has served numerous other functions including being the primary meeting place of the Second Continental Congress. The historical significance of this building shouldn't be missed, and tours are offered at various times throughout the day.
The Franklin Institute
Created as an homage to one of the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, the Franklin Institute offers a fantastic learning experience for all ages, with many exhibits geared towards children. As one of the oldest science centers in America, the Franklin Institute has a little something for everyone and provides learning experiences in various topics from history to anatomy, electricity and even astronomy.
National Civil War Museum
The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg is one of the largest museums in the world dedicated to the American Civil War. Visitors can learn about the struggles of both sides and tour more than 24,000 artifacts, manuscripts and documents from this tumultuous time in American History. There are various educational programs available for visitors as well as lectures and events throughout the year.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Home to a diverse collection of exhibits including a permanent dinosaur exhibit, an interactive animal exhibit and various other exhibits, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is ideal for families to spend a day learning about the world around them. This large museum features more than 22 million specimens and has rotating and traveling exhibits throughout the year so there is nearly always something new. The museum also has hands-on exhibits including the Bonehunters Quarry where visitors can dig for fossils.
Have you taken your family to any of these attractions? What was your favorite? Share your thoughts with us in the comments, and don't forget to share this article with your friends and family!