Use a junior navigator on road trips – Traveling with kids tip

The front passenger is always the navigator when I’m traveling with my family or a group. However, I discovered that you can turn your children into junior navigators while helping them learn geography at the same time. It helps eliminate them from asking, “Are we there yet?”

Just ask them to look for a specific landmark or road sign. It will keep them interested in the travel and less likely to be bored along the way, because they’re actively doing something. In short, it keeps their interest in traveling while having fun — and learning about the country!

Busch Garden Williamsburg give-a-ways: Season pass included!

One wonderful detail about summer travel is that it can spill over into autumn and beyond–particularly if it comes in amusement park entertainment.

In the spirit of the summer is not over yet, and when it is, don’t stop the fun, Gadling has paired up with Busch Gardens Williamsburg for some give-away action. Williamsburg, Virginia, known for its colonial past, is steeped in American history.

Pairing a visit to Colonial Williamsburg with a visit to Busch Gardens Williamsburg (and Water Country USA) adds amusement park excitement and a step into Europe to an American history lesson.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg, with its European inspired theme, boasts rides such as: Escape from Pompeii–a water ride, Griffon, a roller coaster that has a 90 degrees, straight down drop, and The Curse of DarKastle, a haunted house. Rides are set in settings reminiscent of European countries. The photo is from Da Vinci’s Garden of Inventors.

Along with rides, there are animal attractions like Eagle’s Ridge, a sanctuary for injured eagles, and Jack Hanna’s Wild Reserve, a section where exotic and endangered animal exhibits highlight the importance of habitat preservation.

For people who aren’t particularly fond of rides–and those who are, there are shows to enjoy. Emerald Beat, an Irish step-dancing performance, is one of them.

Because Busch Gardens’ season extends past Halloween, certain events reflect the time of year as well. On two September weekends, Bud & BBQ “celebrates great food, great beer and great music.”

For Halloween, there’s Howl-O-Scream. It begins in September and runs through the last weekend in October.

So, dear Gadling readers, what can you win? There are four different prizes.

  • Prize 1 – Season Pass Voucher to Busch Gardens which also gets you into Water Country USA, the water park that is part of the Busch Gardens family– a $154.95 value and a Busch Garden’s T-shirt (T-shirt value, $10)
  • Prize 2- Season Pass and a Busch Gardens visor (visor value, $5)
  • Prize 3- Exxon Mobile Gas Card for $25 and a Busch Gardens T-shirt
  • Prize 4–Exxon Mobile Gas Card for $25 and a Busch Gardens visor

To enter, leave a comment below telling us why you need a longer summer vacation and what you’d do with the time.

  • The comment must be left before Friday, August 15, 2008 at 1 PM Eastern Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Winners will be selected in a random drawing.
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older.

See the complete rules here.

Good luck!!

Largest indoor train display in the world at new train lovers’ attraction

Train-love runs deep in Ohio, there are scenic railroads, train stores, train societies, clubs of train watchers and old railroad station restaurants. Here is another example.

Friday, August 1 was the grand opening of EnterTRAINment Junction, a train attraction that is being billed as “the only train-themed family entertainment center in the world.” Located 30 miles north of Cincinnati, not far from Kings Island amusement park, makes this a place to pair with other family fun type ventures.

Geared to folks of all ages, EnterTRAINment Junction, boasts five separate sections. One of them houses the largest indoor train display in the world. What makes it the largest? There are 90 different trains that run on several different tracks through a variety of scenes and at various heights. Remember that’s just one section.

Another section houses the American Railroading Museum. Here, the history of railroading in the United States is traced.

Specifically designed to grab kids’ attention, the section Imagination Junction has interactive displays to keep kids busy and teach them about trains in the process.

Seasonal Junction, also interactive, is geared for both adults and children. This is a walk through type experience that will change throughout the year.

The last section is the Train Expo where train enthusiasts can show off their stuff and gather more information. Rotating trains exhibits, a library and artifacts are part of the offerings.

As mega attractions go, the cost for admission is not bad. Right now, everyone can get in for $9.95, except kids under 3 are free.

Oklahoma is O-K

L-A-H-O-M-A , Oklahoma! Yow!

The fact that the song Oklahoma is playing in my head at this moment is John Ur’s fault. Of course, I do still know a song medley of the musical by heart thanks to high school choir days, but over at Intelligent Travel, John Ur’s mention of the lyrics to “Oklahoma” in his post about movies filmed in this state, put me in a red gingham dress and cowboy boots looking for a surrey with fringe on the top.

When I read Ur’s post, I flashed back to my own Oklahoma experience sitting in the audience of an outdoor production of “Oklahoma!” This outdoor theater in Tulsa uses real horses and wagon and a building was set on fire. At least that’s what I remember. Discoveryland’s season runs June 6–August 16, so you still have time to plan your trip here.

This is a professional production with crowd pleasing appeal. It’s also kid-friendly. I only went to the main production, but you can add a western-style dinner and before show entertainment.

Tom Sawyer Days: Hannibal, Missouri

When I got out of the Peace Corps, a friend and I traveled across the U.S. mostly by bus. This was a grand plan to avoid getting a job for four months and to take the time to see parts of the country we hadn’t seen before. It worked beautifully and that was the best summer ever. My most favorite place we visited was the place she wanted to go to the least.

“HANNIBAL, CANNIBAL! Why DO YOU WANT TO GO TO HANNIBAL, MISSOURI?!” was her reaction when I told her the very one thing I thought we should not miss on our journey from the East Coast to the West Coast.

I was stubborn and turned to the pages in Lets Go USA to show her the wonders. “Tom Sawyer Days, that’s why. This is small town America at its finest,” I said, hoping I was right and wouldn’t regret my determination.

Hannibal is the town that inspired Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) to write the books Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. What more reason is there than that when it comes to rediscovering an important part of Americana?

Still grousing a bit, my friend finally went along with my plan to buy a bus ticket to Hannibal from Des Moines, Iowa and from there we could buy a ticket to St. Louis for our continued trip westward. Hannibal was everything I imagined and even more charming than I expected. We splurged and stayed in a Bed & Breakfast, and spent the 4th of July going to the town parade, grabbing whatever candy was thrown our way, went to the free ice-cream social in the city park (We were the only ones there I think who were under retirement age), toured Mark Twain’s Boyhood Home and Museum, took The Mark Twain Riverboat trip on the Mississippi River and went to the family barbeque of the couple who owned the B&B. It could not have been a finer time. As for my friend, she was happy that I won the arguement.

Tom Sawyer Days,” July 3-July 7, is going on its 57th year of celebrating Mark Twain and what might be called, good clean, family fun. There is a variety of entertainment options throughout the week. There was a lot we missed.