As families continue to take advantage of virtual and home schooling options, more and more are also hitting the road.
This fall, families can plan an “experiential learning” road trip or long weekend by selecting a city like Indianapolis or Omaha and taking in a variety sites that range from a science center or museum to a living history site or state capital.
A convenient and easy way for families to operate a “mobile classroom” is to travel by RV. Fleetwood RV is one of the most-established brands in the motorhome industry and is known for its quality, innovative features, and family-friendly design options. One of Fleetwood’s most popular models, the Bounder®, is celebrating its 35th anniversary and has the distinction of being one of the best-selling motorhomes ever.
Please note: each museum or site has been researched but be sure to call ahead to confirm hours of operation, advance ticketing requirements, and other relevant details.
Photo Caption: The Fleetwood Bounder is one of the best-selling motorhomes ever and an ideal way to travel the United States in a “mobile classroom.”
Destination images, as well as interior images of the Fleetwood Bounder, are available via this Google Drive link.
Founded in 1805 and located in the Tennessee River valley, Huntsville is Alabama’s second biggest city and is known as “The Rocket City” for its close association with U.S. space missions.
U.S. Space & Rocket Center
For a STEM lesson, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is a must. The center is a Smithsonian Affiliate and the Official Visitor Center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Explore the outer limits of space, the rockets that propel humans into space, and the space agency that gets them there. Visit the International Space Station (ISS) exhibit to see NASA’s Payload Operations Integration Center where scientists and engineers on Earth manage the complex science experiments astronauts conduct on the ISS. Take a closer look at drones and explore their use over time and the role they play now and in the future. The center is also home to a National Historic Landmark – an authentic Saturn V rocket, one of only three in the world.
U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum
After learning about American innovation in space, visit the U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum to see America’s military engineering and technology on land, sea, and in the air. The museum is one of the premier military museums in the world with artifacts and military equipment that range from the American Revolutionary War to present day. Military pieces include a: Kiowa OH58 helicopter, a type of copter that’s been used by the U.S. Army since 1969; Stuart Light Tank manufactured by Cadillac Motor Car Division of General Motors; and Patrol Boat Riverine (PBR) used extensively during the Vietnam War.
Huntsville Botanical Garden
For outdoor education, there’s the 112-acre Huntsville Botanical Garden, which is open year round. A series of trails introduces families to a diverse ecosystem of meadows, upland and bottomland forest, and wetlands. The garden is also home to the country’s largest open-air butterfly house. To see other winged creatures, including local and migrating birds, take the Lewis Birding Trail. The garden is actually noted as a birding hot spot in eBird, a global birding data project conducted by Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
RVers can stay at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center RV Park – right next to the Rocket Center museums and planetarium.
A visit to Indy includes four different in-person “learning” attractions that cover everything from dinosaurs to the Civil War to Native American art.
Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
China’s Terra Cotta Warriors, an Egyptian pharaoh’s ornate tomb, and Captain Kidd’s shipwreck are just some of the world-wide sites families can experience at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis – the largest children’s museum in the United States. It’s easy to spend an entire day in the interactive learning environment exploring world cultures, physical and natural sciences, health, fitness, and more.
Other highlights include an exhibit on modern life in Greece, the Cretaceous Period when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and the “Power of Children” which features Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges, and Ryan White. Frank wrote The Diary of a Young Girl that documents her life in hiding from 1942 to 1944 during World War II. Bridges was one of the first children to attend a desegregated school during the 1960s Civil Rights movement, and White became a poster child for HIV/AIDS in the U.S. after contracting AIDS from a blood transfusion in 1984.
Step back in time with a visit to Conner Prairie, a Smithsonian Affiliate outdoor museum just outside of Indianapolis that transports families to the early days of Indiana. 1836 Prairie Town immerses visitors in the daily life of a 19th-century village. Children can study in a one-room school house, learn about the chores young ones were responsible for, and watch blacksmiths, carpenters, and potters make items essential to the townspeople. Cross a covered bridge to 1863 Civil War Journey and enter the southern Indiana town of Dupont shortly after it was raided by Confederate General John Hunt Morgan. Learn whether Indiana was on the Confederate or Yankee side of the Civil War, meet local residents in dressed in traditional garb, gather supplies for the Soldier’s Aid Society, and participate in military drills.
Benjamin Harris Presidential Site
For history-loving families who want more, tour the 10,000-square-foot family home of President Benjamin Harrison – our country’s 23rd U.S. President (1889-1893) and Indiana’s only President. Built in 1875, the Benjamin Harris Presidential Site home is beautifully furnished with many of Harrison’s paintings, furniture, and political memorabilia.
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
Finally, round out an educational visit to Indy with art. The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art tells the stories of the peoples of North America through art. The Eiteljorg exhibits outstanding Western art and Native American art and cultural objects, and its contemporary Native American art collection has been ranked among the best in the world. The museum’s collection includes artists such as T.C. Cannon, N. C. Wyeth, Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, Allan Houser, Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, and Kay WalkingStick.
RVers can stay overnight at the Indianapolis KOA.
While Springfield is the capital of Illinois, it was also President Abraham Lincoln’s home from 1837 – 1861 so there are a number of Lincoln sites in and nearby the city. Other learning sites of interest include a historic walking tour that traces the 1908 Race Riot in Springfield and one of the largest personal residences designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library
The impact President Abraham Lincoln had on the United States can’t be overstated. Most notably, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free the country’s slaves and led the U.S. through the Civil War. Visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library for a better understanding of the country’s 16th president, his life, and the challenges he faced. The museum delivers a unique experience that combines high-tech exhibits, interactive displays, and multi-media programs. Its galleries include lifelike wax figures of Lincoln and his family, a replica of the sparse log cabin he grew up in as a young boy in the backwoods of Kentucky, and a reproduction of the White House in 1861. Two special effects theaters feature holographic historical ghosts and a Civil War battlefield that comes to life with cannon fire and smoke.
Illinois State Capital Building & 1908 Race Riot Walking Tour
Just a 15-minute walk from the Presidential Museum is the Illinois State Capital where the first legislative session was held in 1877. While interior tours aren’t currently available, the surrounding grounds are open. The stately building, where laws take shape, is topped with a magnificent 405-foot dome.
Springfield also offers a free, self-guided 1908 Race Riot Walking Tour. The tour marks the riot that began on August 14, 1908, when racial tensions turned to mob violence. Within two days, seven people were dead, 40 homes ruined, and 24 businesses destroyed.
New Salem Historic Site
To learn more about Lincoln’s years before he was president, visit the New Salem State Historic Site, which is approximately 20 miles from Springfield. The site is a reconstruction of the village where Lincoln spent six years during his early adulthood. Twelve log houses, ten workshops, stores, mills, and a school where church services have been reproduced and furnished as they might have been in the 1830s. During his time in New Salem, Lincoln supported himself by splitting logs, clerking in a story, and serving as postmaster and deputy surveyor. He was eventually elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1834 and again in 1836.
Dana Thomas House
While it may not initially seem like a site of interest, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Dana Thomas House intrigues young and old with its 35 rooms, three main levels, 16 varying levels, “non-traditional” design, and interesting technological advances for the time. It’s also an easy introduction to the influential American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The home was completed in 1904 in Wright’s signature Prairie style and has 12,000-square-feet of living space. Its technological advances include a door bell enunciator (visit to find out what this is), intercom system, control box in the master bedroom to turn on lights in different rooms of the house, and a walk-in safe in the basement for jewelry and other important items.
RVers can stay overnight at the Double J Campground.
Located on the west bank of the Missouri River, Omaha is steeped in history. In 1804, it was a stop on the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Decades later, it was nicknamed the “Gateway to the West” thanks to a Missouri River crossing that pioneers used as they headed West to the Oregon and Mormon Trails. Today, families can learn about its history at a number of sites.
Omaha Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Visitor Center
Visit the free Omaha Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Visitor Center, talk with Park Rangers to learn more about Lewis and Clark history, and walk through the Interpretive Garden that features panels on the expedition, local wildlife, and native plants.
Pioneer Courage Park and Mormon Trail Center
To see an actual wagon train, visit one of the largest sculpture parks of its kind. The free Pioneer Courage Park in downtown Omaha features a series of larger-than-life bronze and stainless steel outdoor sculptures that share the story and struggles of a pioneer wagon train as it heads West. See wagons loaded with supplies and pulled by horses and oxen. Notice the weary men, women, and children who typically walked alongside the wagons and the hardship of pushing a stuck wagon out of the mud.
For those looking to dive deeper into wagon train history, the Mormon Trail Center features exhibits that tell the story of the Latter-day Saints’ westward migration to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah by wagon, handcart, sailing ship, and train.
Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium
While Omaha’s past is marked by explorers and pioneers, a modern-day attraction has captured its own title. Omaha boasts the world’s largest indoor desert. Among other things, the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium features a 13-story geodesic dome that’s home to the Namib Desert of southern Africa, Red Center of Australia, and Sonoran Desert of the Southwest United States. By spending a day at the Omaha zoo, families can learn about the animals, plants, and insects that inhabit a variety of ecosystems that range from deserts to jungles to polar regions. Other highlights include a 28-acre African grasslands exhibit and the largest aquarium within a zoo.
RVers can stay overnight at the West Omaha KOA.
San Jose, CA
Located in Northern California, San Jose is the largest city in Silicon Valley and is home to tech giants like Paypal, Cisco Systems, and eBay.
The Tech Interactive Center
In the heart of downtown San Jose, The Tech Interactive delivers hands-on activities, experimental labs, and design challenges that encourage families to innovate with creativity, curiosity, and compassion. A sampling of experiences includes the “Body Motion” exhibit that explores how movement and interactions with others affects physical, social, and emotional health. In “Social Robots,” design, build, and program a robot using use sensors, controllers, and actuators. For children 12 and up, check out “Cyber Detectives,” designed to teach tweens about Internet safety. As detectives, tweens complete a training course and then their skills test in their role as a cyber security professional.
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
Learn about the gods, grandeur, and inventions of Ancient Egypt during a visit to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. Historians credit Egyptians with the development of ink, papyrus sheets, written language, metallurgy, the calendar, and eye makeup, just to name few. The museum has the largest collection of authentic Egyptian artifacts on display in Western North America, including human and animal mummies, statues, and replicas of King Tut’s golden sarcophagus and the Rosetta Stone. In addition to the museum, the complex includes an Alchemy Garden, Rosicrucian Labyrinth, and the historic Rosicrucian Planetarium.
An hour from San Jose perched on the summit of Mount Hamilton is the Lick Observatory. Since 1888, the observatory has been on the forefront of astronomical research. During a free tour, learn the brilliant story of its giant telescopes. For example, the Great Lick Refractor was used to discover Jupiter’s fifth moon in 1892 and is the third-largest refracting telescope in the world.
Want to know what Santa Clara County was like during the early 1900s? Find out with a visit to History Park, a mini city in Kelley Park that features more than 30 Old West buildings. This outdoor museum, complete with paved streets, running trolleys, and an old-fashioned ice cream shop, includes original and reproduction homes, businesses, and landmarks. The ice cream shop is a recreation of O’Brien’s Ice Cream Parlor, which was founded in 1878 and was the first place to sell ice cream and soda west of Detroit. Families can explore History Park on their own for free. Otherwise, guided tours that address the historical and architectural background of each building are available on select days and require advance ticketing.
RVers can stay overnight at Coyote Valley RV Resort.
About REV Recreation Group
REV Recreation Group, Inc. (RRG) is a REV Group<® subsidiary and a leading manufacturer of Class A Gas and Diesel recreational vehicle brands. This company has one of the best and longest standing distribution networks in the industry and boasts some of the industry’s most recognized and iconic brand names such as American Coach<®, Fleetwood RV<®, and Holiday Rambler<®. REV Recreation Group is headquartered in Decatur, IN, which is also its principal manufacturing location. In addition, RRG operates two state-of-the-art service and repair centers and a genuine parts online warehouse.
About REV Group, Inc.
REV Group® companies are leading designers and manufacturers of specialty vehicles and related aftermarket parts and services. Our companies serve a diversified customer base, primarily in the United States, through three segments: Fire & Emergency, Commercial, and Recreation. They provide customized vehicle solutions for applications, including essential needs for public services (ambulances, fire apparatus, school buses, and transit buses), commercial infrastructure (terminal trucks and industrial sweepers) and consumer leisure (recreational vehicles). REV’s diverse portfolio is made up of well-established principal vehicle brands, including many of the most recognizable names within their industry. Several of our brands pioneered their specialty vehicle product categories and date back more than 50 years. REV Group trades on the NYSE under the symbol REVG.