Branson, Missouri, located in southern Missouri in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, has become more and more well known as a popular family playground. Long thought of as just a country music capitol, there are so many other fun things to do on a vacation here.
Along the Taneycomo lakefront in downtown Branson, is Branson Landing, where you can stroll a 1.5 mile boardwalk full of free fun attractions to enjoy. In its town square, street entertainers and musicians, along with a pirate-themed play structure, Adventure Cove, will keep the kids happy. But the star attraction is the Fountain Show, a fire and water spectacle with lights, 120 foot geysers with fire cannons blasting, all choreographed to music. With shows starting at noon daily on the hour and two special shows starting at 7 PM, it is not to be missed.
Fire & Water 2 Old Town Branson, MO — Photo courtesy of finchlake2000
If you and your family are in Tucson, Arizona in April, be sure to take the kids to see the Aerospace and Arizona Days 2012 air show at Davis-Monthan AFB April 14-15. Admission is free and gates open at 8 AM. There is nothing more thrilling than seeing the famous Thunderbirds perform their aerial maneuvers. Also there for viewing is what those in the Air Force call the "Bone Yard," a resting place for all former military aircraft, such as Reagan's Air Force One jet.
If you need to beat the heat, for a nominal fee and well worth it (Adults $8, Children $3), check out the International Wildlife Museum, just 10 miles outside of town. With over 400 animals (some exhibits 100 years old), kids will love getting up close to these taxidermied species (touching is encouraged). Free natural history films are shown in the Wildlife Theatre.
Watching the Thunderbirds at the air show — Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. is the world's largest museum and research complex. With 19 museums, galleries, outdoor museums including gardens and home to the National Zoo, it would take weeks to see it all. One museum your family is sure to enjoy is the National Air and Space Museum. Your young Amelia Earharts and Charles Lindberghs will be fascinated with seeing the space shuttle "Enterprise" up close, the Wright Brothers' first airplane and even the "Spirit of St. Louis" itself. Admission is free!
National Air and Space Museum - Washington, D.C. — Photo courtesy of inazakira
Saturday Market is one of Portland, Oregon's best weekend activities for families of all ages and combinations. Despite its name, Saturday Market is open both Saturdays and Sunday. Though it's an open air market, much of it is sheltered by the Burnside Bridge and a structure in Waterfront Park. As such, Saturday Market is still a viable destination even on rainy days. Though The Market offers a lot of tempting reasons to spend money, it's a great place even for those on the tightest budgets. All of the venders sell their own crafts which are great to see, even if you're not shopping. In the summer, a fountain offers kids of all ages a way to beat the heat, and there is always free live music. Bustling with activity, Saturday Market is Portland's best spot for people watching. The Market is open every Saturday, 10am-4:30 pm and Sunday, 11 am-4pm March through December.
International Food Is Affordable at Saturday Market — Photo courtesy of Jason E Kaplan
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Nothing says "vacation" like a beach and kids love the freedom a beach provides. Stake your spot on Fort Lauderdale's beautiful beaches, and make sure you've picked up a few pails and shovels at a dollar store. These are important tools for sand castle architecture! Take a photo of your kids' castle when it's finished: their accomplishment can hold a proud spot on the refrigerator during the months until your next trip to the beach.
Sand castles bring joy to kids — Photo courtesy of Michael Newton