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5 Unexpectedly Great Kid-Friendly Cities for Inexpensive Weekend Trips

posted: 08/03/15
by: Blythe Copeland

Taking a long weekend away with the family doesn't have to mean breaking the bank on four days in Disney World--you can find just as many memorable museums, restaurants, historical sites, and hands-on adventures in cozier cities around the country. From the Pacific Northwest to the deep South, check out these five destinations the next time you need a change of scenery.

Portland Skyline Along Willamette River

1. Portland, Oregon

This Pacific Northwest respite offers plenty of activities for kids (and adults) of all ages: Visit more than 2,000 animals at the Oregon Zoo; spend the afternoon at the hands-on Oregon Museum of Science and Industry; entertain little ones at the Portland Children's Museum, complete with an indoor treehouse, pet hospital, and grocery store; and explore the playgrounds, forestry center, and world-famous gardens of Washington Park. And for parents who want to check out the city's local brews (or who need a drink after a long day of tourism with toddlers), Travel Portland put together a guide to the most kid-friendly breweries in town.

charlotte north carolina city skyline

2. Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte's mild weather makes it a popular year-round choice for a weekend getaway, and its selection of family-friendly activities means you'll never be at a loss for something to do (even if it does rain). Check out a performance at children's theater ImaginOn or take a walk through the butterfly pavilion at the Charlotte Nature Museum. If you're traveling with older kids, help them burn some energy with whitewater rafting or zip-lining at the U.S. National Whitewater Center or go-karting at The SpeedPark.

san antonio, texas

3. San Antonio, Texas

Most visitors to San Antonio start in the same place--the Alamo and the River Walk--but once you and the family have explored these must-see spots, you have plenty of other destinations to visit. Aspiring astronauts get their space fix at the Scobee Planetarium and Challenger Learning Center, and at the DoSeum children's museum, exhibits include an indoor stream, experiments using light and sound, and the math-based Spy Academy. Outside the city, wannabe cowboys can visit one of the nearby dude ranches for horseback riding, fishing, and other hands-on activities.

savannah, georgia

4. Savannah, Georgia

Start your time in Savannah at Tricenternnial Park, where you can visit the Savannah History Museum, the Savannah Chlldren's Museum, and the Georgia State Railroad Museum. This trio of popular museums offers interactive and historical activities for active kids, history buffs, and railroad fans. Then get an up close look at the region's wildlife with a trip to the Oatland Island Wildlife Center or the Tybee Island Marine Science Center--and make sure you leave time to explore historic Old Fort Jackson or spend a few hours relaxing on the beaches of Tybee Island.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

5. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Lancaster may not be anyone's idea of a big city, but the downtown and surrounding areas are packed with family-friendly must-sees. The Strasburg Rail Road offers a 45-minute trip on a steam train, and the nearby Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania shows off historic locomotives and hands-on activities. Dutch Wonderland amusement park is full of kid-size rides and attractions for little ones, and the Turkey Hill Experience lets you invent your own flavor in the Tasting Lab. Lancaster is also home to one of the world's largest Amish communities, giving you the chance to tour farms and homesteads, ride in a traditional buggy, and shop for handmade crafts and artwork.