Maybe your family needs to take a break from the whirlwind of work, school projects and extra-curricular activities. Or maybe your budget just won't allow for a lengthy family trip this year. You can still get away from it all with an inexpensive weekend getaway. Pick a family-friendly destination within driving distance of your town to save on airfare; if you can get there on one tank of gas, even better.
With its mid-Atlantic location, Washington, DC is a short drive from many East Coast cities and towns. Although you may think that a weekend in the city will break your budget, that doesn't have to be the case when it comes to our nation's capital. Many of DC's attractions are free, including the National Zoo, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and Smithsonian Museums. Even the youngest children will love the insect zoo and discovery rooms at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, while older children will get a thrill from the exhibits at the National Air and Space Museum. If your child has been studying American History in school, head to the National Archives to view the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence.
Many of Washington, D.C.'s hotels offer lower rates on weekends, but for even bigger savings, head to the nearby suburbs in Northern Virginia, where you can find family-friendly suites, free breakfast, free parking and easy access to the region's Metro transportation system.
National Archives and Records Administration 700 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, DC 20408 866-272-6272 archives.gov
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
Even during the cold Wisconsin winter, your family can spend the weekend "surfing" at the Kalahari Resort, the state's largest indoor water park. This African-themed resort's indoor water activities offer something for kids of all ages, including a lazy river, wave pool, surfing pool and water roller-coaster. An additional indoor theme park features a six-story Ferris wheel, carousel, ropes course, climbing wall, laser tag, mini golf, bowling and arcade games. If you head to the resort during the summer, your family can also take advantage of the outdoor water park.
The Kalahari Resort is ideal for a cheap weekend getaway for families because room rates include admission to the water park. Family suites have kitchens, allowing you to save on restaurant costs. In addition, the resort offers family getaway packages throughout the year that include admission to the theme park and water park, free breakfast, dinner credits and a free in-room movie.
Kalahari Resorts 1305 Kalahari Drive Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965 877-525-2427 kalahariresorts.com
Families with younger children can enjoy a cheap weekend getaway in Columbia, California, one of the state's preserved "gold rush" towns, located 140 miles east of San Francisco near Yosemite National Park. Seemingly "frozen" in the 1800s, the town's activities include panning for gold, riding in a 100-year old stagecoach and interacting with local merchants dressed in period costumes. Continue the fun with a trip to the local ice cream parlour and candy store. Low cost campgrounds and budget motels provide play areas for children and barbecue facilities to save money on dining costs.
Hidden Treasure Gold Mine P.O. Box 28 Columbia, CA 95310 209-533-3105 columbiacalifornia.com
Quartz Mountain Stage Line P.O. Box 1182 Jamestown, CA 95327 209-588-0808 qmcarriage.com