Child’s Play

Constantly asking “why,” “how,” and “what for,” children are by nature inquisitive creatures. For many parents, though, nurturing our kids’ curiosity as energetically as we’d like can be daunting. Thankfully, a handful of expert outfitters has done some of the work for us, creating experiences that will engage minds, open eyes, and raise as many questions as they answer.

Wilderness

Ages 6–9

Southwest Splendors
An eight-day trip with a tour of the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and off-roading in Monument Valley. Stays at resorts and hotels.
Outfitter Adventures by Disney
Parents Yes
Cost* Adults, $2,700; kids under 12, $2,430
Contact 877-728-7282; abd.disney.go.com
*per person, unless otherwise noted

Ages 10–13

Alaska Explorer
Twelve days starting with a ride on the Alaska Railroad, then five days of whale watching and sea kayaking from a research yacht. After a stop in Anchorage, it’s Denali National Park for field hikes plus fishing and relaxing at Camp Denali.
Outfitter Wildland Adventures
Parents Yes
Cost Adults, from $6,300; kids, $4,500–$5,000
Contact 800-345-4453; wildland.com

Ages 14–17

Appalachian Mountains Backpacking, Rock Climbing & Whitewater Canoeing
Teens ages 14 to 16 spend three weeks hiking and canoeing through North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest, focusing on no-impact camping and teamwork.
Outfitter Outward Bound
Parents No
Cost $3,200
Contact 866-467-7651; outwardboundwilderness.org

Discovery

Ages 6–9

Lewis and Clark Canoeing Trip
Traveling in 16-person canoes, groups retrace Lewis and Clark’s journey through the White Cliffs of Montana’s Upper Missouri River, stopping to swim, look at Native American rock art, and camp on the banks.
Outfitter Row Adventures
Parents Yes
Cost Adults, $1,485; kids, $1,250
Contact 800-451-6034; rowadventures.com

Ages 10–13

Children’s Space & Aviation Adventure
This six-day camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, uses real NASA simulators. Lodging is on the center’s campus.
Outfitter A&K Space
Parents No
Cost Kids 10–12, $2,930
Contact 800-554-7016; akspacetravel.com

Ages 14–17

Crow Canyon
In residence at the center’s Colorado campus, teens help archaeologists unearth Anasazi artifacts.
Outfitter Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
Parents No
Cost Three weeks, $3,950; one week, $1,175
Contact 800-422-8975; crowcanyon.org

Active

Ages 6–9

San Juan Islands Family Multisport
Families spend six days cycling, sea kayak-ing, and walking the coastal paths on these islands—home to eagles, harbor seals, and orcas—in Washington’s Puget Sound. Stays at seaside inns.
Outfitter Backroads
Parents Yes
Cost From $2,600 per person
Contact 800-462-2848; backroads.com

Ages 10–13

Heli-Hiking in the Bugaboos
Helicopters ferry families from the chalet-style Bugaboo Lodge to the Canadian backcountry for four days of hiking along glacial lakes.
Outfitter Canadian Mountain Holidays
Parents Yes
Cost Adults, $2,285; kids, $1,710–$2,020
Contact 800-661-0252; canadian mountainholidays.com

Ages 14–17

Paddle Maine
A 15-day excursion of sea kayaking, white-water rafting on the Penobscot River, hiking in Baxter State Park, and sleeping in tents or under the stars.
Outfitter Williwaw Adventures
Parents No
Cost $2,750
Contact 800-585-2523; williwaw adventures.com

Marine

Ages 6–9

Ambassadors of the Environment
Created with Jean-Michel Cousteau, this program at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman teaches kids about reefs, mangroves, and island culture.
Outfitter Ritz-Carlton
Parents Yes
Cost From $65 a day per child; rooms from $700
Contact 345-943-9000; ritzcarlton.com

Ages 10–13

Kids Sea Camp Grand Bahama
At this weeklong program on Grand Bahama Island, children snorkel, scuba dive, and encounter sea life with marine biologists. Accommodations at Pelican Bay at Lucaya.
Outfitter Kids Sea Camp
Parents Yes
Cost From $2,200 for a two- bedroom condo, plus $700–$1,000 per child
Contact 800-934-3483; kidsseacamp.com

Ages 14–17

Vega Voyage
Sailing through the British Virgin Islands’ Sir Francis Drake Channel, groups of up to 12 live aboard 50-foot yachts, learning seamanship, earning PADI open-water scuba diving certification, and spending time water skiing, wakeboarding, and windsurfing.
Outfitter ActionQuest
Parents No
Cost $4,170–$4,970 a session
Contact 800-317-6789; actionquest.com