This summer, many Christian families are making their way to the Ark Encounter which recently opened in Kentucky. In the first week of its opening, the park based on the biblical story of Noah drew in 5,000 visitors per day. It’s becoming a common road trip for Jeeby-loving Americans. A pilgrimage, if you will, that’s leaving a mark on impressionable young minds. Kids are coming away believing this ridiculous story from the Bible is true.
This got me thinking. Is there anything like this for skeptics and atheists? A place where we can take our kids on a road trip that will pique their wonder and curiosity? A sort of pilgrimage of truth, where science is experienced rather than read about? Summer vacations leave lasting memories, so is there a way we can manage them while promoting critical thought?
The great news is that we’re in a much better position than theists in this respect. Not only is every historical site, museum and natural wonder a testament to factual history and the natural world and an adventure in reality, but we also have a ton of destinations across this globe that will truly set your kids' minds in motion.
Here are twelve of the best vacation spots that will promote healthy critical thought and a love for science:
1. Drumheller, Alberta
Nicknamed the Dinosaur Capital of the World, Drumheller boasts multiple attractions that will cement the true history of dinosaurs in your child’s mind. Your kids will enjoy the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology and over forty dinosaur skeletons they have on display. The Museum offers a realistic dig experience, science camp and fossil casting among tons of other science-minded activities. The area surrounding the museum is home to the most abundant source of fossils in North America, and even includes an 86ft tyrannosaurus rex that you can summit to look out over the dinosaur trail.
Not only was the popular kids' film series, Night at the Museum, based on this museum, but it’s also home to a ton of exhibitions that will expand the minds of your children with ease. Check out the Hayden Planetarium, where Neil DeGrasse Tyson serves as the director, and catch a space show, learn about our oceans, our bodies and National parks. Watch 3D films and experience history as close up as you possibly can. You could spend days on end in this museum and still not see everything it has to offer. It’s well worth the trip and your kids are sure to love it.
This is an experience devoted to the exploration of space and the accomplishments mankind has made in the pursuit of it. The shuttle launch experience will never leave your kids minds, ever. You can meet a real astronaut, and wander amongst real rockets in the rocket garden. Catch an unforgettable IMAX film about our Universe, and pay respects to lost astronauts. Your kid will be filled with more awe and wonder than Ken Ham could inspire in a million people.
Here, your kids will be able to experience a real research laboratory and witness real science as it happens. They’ll also be able to explore the history of machines, where we get the energy that powers the machines, as well as learn about space and our oceans and our own humanity through hands-on, interactive exhibitions. Right now, there is a limited-time exhibition exploring video games as well.
Watch a 3D movie about the Galapagos after you explore the evolution exhibit that includes artifacts that once belonged to Charles Darwin himself. Explore the working DNA lab in the DNA Discovery Center, experience ancient Egypt in an Egyptian tomb, learn about dinosaurs, birds and lions and stand next to one of China’s famous terracotta warriors. There are so many exhibits here that you could easily spend an entire weekend exploring this world-class museum. Your kids will absolutely love it.
6. Washington, D.C.
The so-called capital of the free world has enough attractions to pique the scientific mind to fill a month. From the many monuments to American and world history, to the residence of the President of the United States of America, history is easily covered in this city. If you want to explore some serious science, though, head on over to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and gawk at the largest collection of air- and spacecraft on the planet.
Here you can explore an old, underground mine that has been turned into a physics lab. Now operating as a neutrino detector, the lab focuses on looking for disturbances in subatomic particles and searching for dark matter. Visitors can descend into the mine and see the lab for themselves.
8. Osoyoos, British Columbia
This arid wilderness is often referred to as Canada’s only desert, though it is technically not quite. The odd landscape boasts strange mineral lakes that take on odd colours and patterns, such as the quiet and little-known Spotted Lake. You can also stop by the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory and stand in awe amongst an array of radio telescopes.
This scaled model of the San Francisco Bay Area once served as a tool to predict high tides and other marine behaviour. Now, you can visit it to learn about tides and other ocean-based phenomena.
This is where NASA’s greatest hits all went down. You’ll be able to see the old mission control that handled Neil Armstrong landing on the moon and you’ll see the new mission control as well. Catch a science show and view real, used astronauts suits. You can even have lunch with an astronaut. This won’t just entertain your kids, it’ll bring out the space nerd
in you, too.
Even if you go for the robot gallery alone, you won’t be disappointed. This ode to artificial intelligence will blow your mind, and leave your little ones wanting to learn robotics.
This one is perhaps for older kids. Here, you can learn about Oppenheimer and the race to build an atomic bomb. You’ll be able to experience bomb blast simulations and see artifacts from the Manhattan Project. Right now, there’s even an exhibit on Area 51 which will put your kids' critical thought to the test.
What are some of your favourite destinations to explore science? Let me know in the comments!