Plan A Trip

By Corrina Lawson | 05.10.12 6:26 PM


Family vacations can be great—as long as they don’t involve endless lines at a brain-dead amusement park. Good thing there are plenty of less crowded, more enriching alternatives.

Hoover Dam, Border of Arizona and Nevada The famous exterior is striking, but this dam’s insides are where the real magic happens. Check out the 30-foot-diameter pipes that carry 90,000 gallons of water a second to the hydroelectric power plant, then watch 17 generators turn all that rushing water into electricity.

Thomas Edison National Historical Park, West Orange, New Jersey Screw Menlo Park! Edison’s West Orange lab contains the stuff of legends, including a tour intimate enough to put you within inches of the great man’s chair. Don’t miss the Black Maria, a replica of the first movie studio.

Ford Rouge Factory, Dearborn, Michigan US manufacturing may be struggling, but the Ford assembly line still pumps out 350,000 trucks a year. The factory tour will show kids what an industrial-size Erector set can do.

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago Travel back to the golden age of archaeology (i.e., before countries in the Middle East clamped down on such plundering). Treasures include a clay tablet from Mesopotamia and parchment from the Book of the Dead. (Pro tip: Don’t read it out loud. There are mummies nearby.)

Launch Control Center at Delta-01, South Dakota Take an elevator 31 feet above the surface to an original launch control center where Air Force officers worked 24-hour shifts, ready to launch 10 Minuteman missiles. This relic of the Cold War (below) is run by the National Park Service. (Don’t touch the red button.)