You know how it goes, you become a parent and all of a sudden people start asking you when you will take your kids to Disney…
Don’t get me wrong, we have taken our kids to Disney (thrice!), Disney water parks, and even a three day Disney Cruise. Though normally this is not our kind of vacation, few things in life beat seeing your kids as happy (plus admit it, definitely grows on you, even as a grinchy adult you can’t help but have a great time riding those rides and some amazing Epcot food!).
That said, we are “been there done that, time for something new” when it comes to Disney and believe there are many other magical places and unique experiences outside Disney that can be just as incredible for your family at this age and expand your child’s imagination in ways you don’t even anticipate.
Below is a list of some alternatives we have explored (either already done or contemplating doing soon), with two kids under 8, that have been great, hopefully they inspire you to think creatively too!
Outside of Disney, there is also Legoland, which we enjoyed with the sweet spot (at least for my boys) for kids 6-8, but not much older. We also visited Sea World, and were surprised to find that our favorite experience there was something called Pets Ahoy. Check out the description here.
I actually got teary at the Kennedy Space Center. Don’t miss it! (though to be fair, 8 year old was way more into it than 6 year old, so you know your kids best or wait a few years).
Water parks are always a hit, my kids could live at the Great Wolf Lodge and we recently discovered a close-ish amusement park, Carowinds, that also has a water park within it, check around your area see if there are a few good options!
All about the water
I don’t know about you but my 6 year old is the happiest ever just hanging out at the pool. Any pool. Since this discovery we have looked for neighborhood pools that you can take kids for the weekends, or rent Airbnb places or hotels with the pool as a highlight. This is also why all inclusive resorts are such a hit – we are partial to Hyatt Ziva properties (Hyatt Zilara are the adult version fyi for when you can’t take it anymore ;)). We recently visited one in Puerto Vallarta. This was such a highlight (Cabo is on my list, too)!
A day at the lazy river pool at the Ritz in Orlando, which connects to the Marriott next door – is a great option for your Marriott points! Check out if there are properties near you that have cool pools and just make it a nice long weekend of relaxation. Bonus points if they have a kid center and a spa!
We have also rented a cabin at a nearby lake and went kayaking. So peaceful and fun, finishing the day with a firepit and memories to share, inclusive of the obligatory tantrum (that does not stay away from vacation sadly, but at least you have a nicer view ;)).
And of course, a beach day, anywhere. Always a great time! When does building castles and burying people get old? That’s right, never.
If money is not a problem, check this Beaches Resort out in Turks and Caicos….
Do not underestimate the fun that can be had in Children Museums and Aquariums in many major cities. Charlotte has the Discovery Place, Atlanta and Charleston have aquarium and Children’s Museums (here, here, here and here) that are great for half a day or more and your kids won’t want to leave. I am not sure I would take my kids to the kid museums after age 8 or so, but the aquariums are good for more years to come.
Don’t be intimidated by alternative places for your kids to learn like the incredible Patriot’s Point in Charleston. My kids were fascinated and started asking a ton of interesting questions after that visit – plus, did you know you can camp at Patriot’s Point with a group of kids?! Looks cool.
Oh and I know you want them off those computers and video games but…what if you can level the playing field and take them on YOUR court and beat them? Check out this living Pinball Museum in Asheville!
We are very big on giving our kids as many experiences as we can. We have done a lot of fund things like indoor skydiving, archery, camping, sleeping on a yatch, etc. I have started a travel and experience bucket list for the same which you can see here for some ideas that I hope will inspire you.
As your kids get a little older, sit with them and write your own bucket list together. First my kids did not know what to say and one suggested Disney (of course). Then after we took them to a few experiences, they have started to proactively ask for new things.
My 8 year old recently came home with a brochure for classes on hand-gliding for kids a few hours away from our city. The other one wants us to buy an RV and travel all over the country based on our experience staying here (yay, I would love that!) while we homeschool them (never mind, I have no patience lol).
I was a proud mom to see their transformation on how they are starting to ask for experiences vs things more and more, and look at possibilities!
Staycation: Time with you
I left the best for last. Sometimes, especially if you are working parents, we forget how little time we are actually spend with our kids and how at the end of the day, what they value most is our time with them, being present.
We recently started adding staycations, in which we take a random day off during their school break, take them to the library to pick some books or rent movies, make some popcorn or s’mores and just watch movies together or put a tent inside the house or the backyard, or build a fort and just talk, read books and plan our next adventure….
I found a lot of cool things on Airbnb – like a tree house we are staying at soon and a yacht to rent while in Charleston. Poke around in there and see if you find anything exciting!
Pinterest of course, there is no shortage of ideas, the problem is staying focused with so many great things in there.
Ask for recommendations from your friends (facebook has that feature now) and colleagues. I have gotten the best ideas from people at work that I had barely talked to before.
Groupon app – I recently discovered some unexpectedly cool things in here so check it for your local city (whenever you are traveling too) and see what you get. Who knows, you may find yourself in a scavenger hunt to learn about a city’s history or doing some crazy climbing experience that you did not know you could do!
The August 21st eclipse! Make sure you have the appropriate eye wear that is certified and be ready for once in a lifetime experience!
As my kids get older, we will start adding to our list of unique things to do for kids that age. I would love to hear any suggestions that you may have along the way!
Hope this has inspired you and your family to dare to dream together and build your list, turn it into a plan and go make some great memories!
No day but today!
What fun things have you done with kids in this age range or have on your bucket list?