On your next student tour, cultivate your group’s sense of childlike wonder at amusement parks and other kid-friendly destinations. Many of these destinations offer discounted group pricing, give students the chance to perform or see live shows, and allow kids to burn off some energy at an exciting range of attractions like water parks and roller coasters. Plus, school trips to amusement parks, water parks, zoos, aquariums, a local fair, or other entertainment centers is a great way for kids to socialize in a new environment. Students can bond with their classmates in new ways, develop social skills, and make happy memories together.
Many of these attractions also offer student-oriented educational programs that cover topics like zoology careers, wildlife habitats, and behind-the-scenes tours. Not to mention, a school trip to a theme park or outdoor attraction is a quintessential experience for many kids. Students practice independence by wandering around the area, indulge in treats, and get an adrenaline rush from roller coasters, slides, and other activities. Balance out your next educational tour with a fun trip to these amusement parks and attractions across the United States.
Calling all animal lovers! Get ready to kick off your day at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a 45-minute guided tour of several exciting areas. Get a personalized tour from a Zoo Educator who can focus your tour to include various animal topics. Boulder Ridge Wild Animals Park in Alto, Michigan, is also the perfect place for a school field trip. Student groups can visit the petting zoo, parakeet aviary, and reptile house, or participate in a structured educational tour of the zoo.
Beat the springtime heat at Midwestern water and amusement parks. The Wisconsin Dells, aka “the Waterpark Capital of the World,” is one of the top kid-friendly attractions in the region. Experience waterslides, roller coasters, go-kart tracks, wave pools, and so much more at Mount Olympus Water & Theme Park, Kalahari Resorts & Conventions, and Noah’s Ark. Even if your student group has been to the Dells before, there’s always something new to explore. For example, the area’s newest theme park and water park, Land of Natura, opens this year. Beyond the water parks, students will have a blast riding on the area’s go-karts and jet boats; taking in the Dells’ natural beauty on a ropes course or zip line tour; or romping around on trampolines.
At Michigan’s Adventure and WildWater Adventure, get double the fun for one price. Students can enjoy over 60 rides, slides, and kid-friendly attractions at Michigan’s Adventure, then splash around in the Funnel of Fear or wave pools at WildWater Adventure. Make the day extra special for students with Michigan’s Adventure’s unique Performance in the Park opportunity. Your school’s band, orchestra, or choir can perform for guests before or after—taking advantage of all the fun attractions available.
Farther south in Sandusky, Ohio, Cedar Point is home to amusement parks that boast over 65 amazing rides, live shows, and signature summer events that are sure to delight students of all ages. Cool off next door at the Cedar Point Shores Waterpark. Showcase students’ talents to an audience of park guests and then refuel with the park’s all-inclusive catering services. Meanwhile, Kings Island in Cincinnati, Ohio, is an amusement and water park that offers some of the best rides and live entertainment. Plus, no visit is ever the same thanks to the park’s immersive seasonal experiences like Grand Carnivale in the summer and WinterFest during the holidays. Also in the Great Lakes region, Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois, has more than 50 acres of parks, restaurants, and attractions. Students can ride the iconic Centennial Wheel or take their pick of Pier Park’s variety of rides, games, and amusements.
Minnesota’s Mall of America in Bloomington is much more than a mall. With 520 retail stores, over 60 restaurants, and one-of-a-kind attractions, it’s also a world-class amusement park and entertainment center. Students can see their favorite cartoon characters splashed across fun rides and games at the Nickelodeon Universe theme park and marvel at marine animals in the SEA LIFE Aquarium. If your student group wouldbe better partaking in a more structured activity, go on the Official Behind the Scenes Tour, which includes a 90-minute walking tour led by a Mall of America expert.
Other than amusement parks, the Northeast offers many kid-friendly attractions. Students can gain a new point-of-view at observation desks across the Northeast. At the View Boston observation deck, take in breathtaking views from 52 floors above the streets of Boston, Massachusetts. Students can find interactive exhibits on history, immigration, and engineering, or they can simply enjoy taking in Boston’s famous landmarks from the outdoor Cloud Terrace.
See New York City’s famous skyline and attractions like the Statue of Liberty from the One World Observatory. The SkyPod elevator takes visitors to the top of the One World Trade Center for a unique vantage point unlike any other in the city. Schools, camps, and other youth organizations receive special discounts. Also in New York City, the Edge Observation Deck is the highest sky deck in the entire Western Hemisphere. The Edge is conveniently located in Hudson Yards and soars 100 stories above ground level, offering a perfect photo op of the Hudson River.
Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is one of the Northeast’s most unique attractions. What was once used a leisure space for employees of Milton S. Hershey’s chocolate factory is now a 121-acre park open to the public and full of roller coasters, a water park, a zoo, and lots of chocolate. School groups receive discounted ticket rates and discounted dining options.
Zoo Atlanta has a variety of student-friendly programming, including interactive giraffe feedings and educational wildlife presentations. Schedule a Wild Walk for students, where Zoo Educators share fun facts and interesting stories about what it’s really like to care for these creatures. Tours are available for student groups, homeschoolers, and Scouts. Only 10 minutes from the zoo, the laser-projection attraction, Illuminarium, allows students to explore space through images from the James Webb Space Telescope or interact with exotic African animals in their natural habitats.
Wow students with even more wildlife at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston. Students can wander halls of aquariums that illustrate the biodiversity of America’s many habitats and their residents. Learn about bald eagles, river otters, alligators, and different species of fish. Students can learn about the important and complex process of sea turtle rehabilitation at the Sea Turtle Care Center. Also in South Carolina, Myrtle Beach is brimming with youth-friendly amusement parks and attractions. Students can play mini golf, visit the South Carolina Hall of Fame, ride the towering SkyWheel Myrtle Beach, or meander Broadway at the Beach, South Carolina’s largest entertainment complex. This 350-acre property includes restaurants, shops, a zip line, the Pavilion Park Fun Park, and WonderWorks, an interactive museum with exhibits related to space discovery, extreme weather, and the science of light and sound.
Enjoy world-class entertainment with live shows and animal insider tours at Busch Gardens, an animal theme park in Tampa Bay, Florida. A trip here is just as educational as it is entertaining. Busch Gardens educators help students navigate the park’s immersive ecosystems, facilitate an animal encounter, explain the important of zoological careers, and guide students through eco-challenge activities. In nearby Kissimmee, Florida, Boggy Creek Airboat Rides provides students with many ways to appreciate the uniqueness of the state’s wildlife and its relationship to humans. Take an airboat tour through the Everglades, see alligators bask in the sun, walk through Lily’s Butterfly Garden to encounter 15 native butterfly species, or view a replica of a Native American village. Contact the group department to arrange a focused educational experience.
No visit to Seattle, Washington, is complete without a trip to the Space Needle. Experience awesome views of the Seattle skyline from the top of the 605-foot spire at the Seattle Center. Look down—if you dare—to see the world’s first and only revolving glass floor. School admission rates are offered on weekdays during the school year, and it is recommended that planners make reservations at least two weeks prior to bringing a group to the Space Needle.
Down in Texas, Aquatica San Antonio has plenty of water slides, wave pools, and lazy rivers, but it’s definitely not your average water park. Sting Ray Falls is the park’s signature attraction, where students can take four-seat rafts into an underwater grotto and come “face-to-fin” with stingrays and tropical fish. Students can visit KeRe Reef for more encounters with colorful fish and stingrays.
Breathe in the salty sea air at Santa Monica Pier, a large pier at the foot of Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica, California, with many activities for youth groups to explore. Ride the Santa Monica Pier Carousel, the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel, or the 55-foot West Coaster roller coaster at Pacific Park. Engage in some friendly competition at Playland Arcade, which has over 200 classic and modern games. Students who are feeling brave can take a two-hour Flying Trapeze class or the one-hour Aerial Silks class and learn to soar above the pier.
For more California coastal fun, head to Pier 39 in San Francisco to meet the world-famous sea lions. Discover 20,000 native sea creatures at Aquarium of the Bay or get out on the water and meet them in the wild. There are several companies that offer boat tours of the Bay, where students might catch a glimpse of pelicans, dolphins, and whales, as well as cruise under the Golden Gate Bridge. Pier 39 also boasts plenty of virtual reality attractions, rides, escape rooms, and an arcade to amuse students.
Main Image: Mt. Olympus at Wisconsin Dells; Credit: Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau