Squeeze a semester’s worth of world history into a bit more than a week.
U.S.-Israeli relations may be a bit frosty at the moment, but everything else in Israel’s capital—from its revamped museums and new hotels to its tech-bolstered economy—is sizzling hot. This summer, the newly expanded Israel Museum (english.imjnet.org.il), home of the Dead Sea Scrolls, will unveil a pair of site-specific works by superstar sculptors Anish Kapoor and Olafur Eliasson—the latter responsible for a 50-foot series of Technicolor swooshes. Outside is a sprawling 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem in 66 A.D.—the year of the Second Temple’s destruction—complete with Temple Mount, Wailing Wall, and Herod’s palace. On a 62-acre hillside in the city center, the Jerusalem Zoo (jerusalemzoo.org.il) teems with lions, Nile crocodiles, and Arabian oryx. There’s an easy-to-follow walking trail for wildlife close-ups or a train ride if little legs are getting tired. Cool off underground on an expertly guided trek through the excavated Hezekiah Tunnels (cityofdavid.co.il), which carried water to the city in biblical times. Back on street level, stop for coffee and cake at Roladin (972-2-623-1553) or treats at Candyland (972-2-623-2039), both highlights of the new Alrov Mamilla Avenue, a family-packed pedestrian mall linking the Old City with downtown. At its endpoint, the new, 194-room Mamilla Hotel (from $275; mamilla hotel.com) has a lower-level pool for toddlers and tykes only.
OR: Chase Moby Dick in a zodiac, then search the tundra for caribou.
A parade of humpback, finback, and blue whales migrate from the North Atlantic in May, and Quebec’s Charlevoix region, just 90 miles north of Quebec City, is the best place to wave them on. Observe the leviathans aboard inflatable zodiacs with Groupe Dufour (from $169; dufour.ca/en) or inside kayaks with Mer et Monde (from $110; mer-et-monde .qc.ca). Spend another day biking on Isle-aux-Coudres in the Saint Lawrence River, where there are sixteen miles of flat roads bypassing wildflower fields and empty beaches (day rentals from $24; charlevoix.qc.ca/velocoudres). Hike the tundra at Parc National des Grands-Jardins, where you can see a meteorite crater and, with luck, the resident caribou herd. Recover at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu (from $159; fairmont.com/richelieu) in La Malbaie, which has two outdoor pools and a kids’ club to give parents some alone time.
Learn the truth about Bigfoot (maybe) and the right way to eat lobster.
Not that you’d ever mistake Portland for Brooklyn—not with that gorgeous, rugged scenery—but the Maine town’s population of scruffy artists, young families, and ardent locavores seems awfully familiar. After taking in downtown’s must-stops—there’s a great children’s museum (kitetails.com) next door to the Portland Museum of Art (portlandmuseum.org)—meander down Congress Street to see the acrylic-and-pastel Johnny Cash portraits at Space Gallery (space538.org) and the oddball Bigfoot exhibit at the just-opened International Cryptozoology Museum (cryptozoologymuseum.com). Join the toddlers devouring Belgian fries at Duckfat (duckfat.com) and families sharing plates of Maine-crabmeat linguine at the Corner Room (the frontroomrestaurant.com). Just outside the city is LL Bean’s flagship store, loaded with discounted kids’ clothes and camping gear (llbean.com/freeport). At the store’s Outdoor Discovery School, book an overnight family kayak-and-camping trip (from $299) to the Casco Bay islands or beginner’s fly-fishing lessons (from $20). Crash on the coast at the recently renovated Inn by the Sea (from $199; innbythesea.com), which has a cool monarch-butterfly garden and, after Memorial Day, can arrange visits to a working lobster boat. Kids haul in the day’s catch, and the inn’s chef cooks it up for dinner.
OR: Rotate between jellyfish, zip lines, farm work, and BBQ.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
South Carolina’s oceanside resort area is rolling out something besides golf courses (which now number 100) this year. A mini-boom of kid-friendly attractions includes a “Lethal Weapons” exhibit at Ripley’s Aquarium (ripleysaquarium.com), where kids can see a poisonous Portuguese man-of-war at a safe remove. There’s an elevated rope course and some scary-fast zip lines at the Radical Ropes Adventure Park, opening in June. The new L.W. Paul Living History Farm (horrycountymuseum.org) lets kids play farmer family on a seventeen-acre estate evoking local life (lots of soap-making and cow milking) circa 1900. Stay at the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes (from $169; granddunes.com), with its outdoor pools and oversize rooms. Barbecue pork and hush puppies galore are just down the road at Little Pigs (843-692-9774).
Walton, New York
Feed the livestock at a camping-without-roughing-it farm-stay.
Take sheepshearing workshops, gather eggs from heirloom chickens, and milk a big, brown-eyed Jersey named Sierra alongside the young farming couple Dan and Kate Marsiglio and their two kids at Delaware County’s Stony Creek Farm (stonycreekfarm.org). It’s one of the first U.S. farms to host the Feather Down farm tents (from $219, sleeps six; featherdown.com), a “plushrustic” farm-stay concept importedfrom the Netherlands last year. Each of the farm’s six handsome, hardwood-floored tents comes equipped with a cast-iron wood stove, bathroom, and rustic farmhouse furniture like gas lanterns, enamel camp cookware, and a cold hutch for perishables—though no electricity; everything is lit by candles. Think of it as a locavore safari, where you’ll drift to sleep beside a gently babbling brook and gather provisions at a 24-hour “honesty shop” stocked with organic kale and beets grown on the premises, not to mention jars of honey-sweetened apple butter, double-maple yogurt, and bone-in Slope Farms beef rib steaks. Ask the Marsiglios for recommendations on where to hike or swim nearby; you’ll have ample opportunities to earn those cream-topped bottles of milk.
OR: Give your water babies a first lesson in marine conservation.
Greenport, New York
On your way to Greenport, stop off at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research (riverheadfoundation.org) for a two-hour seal cruise to Hempstead Bay (through mid-April). A $30 adoption program helps cover food and rehabilitation costs to stranded animals like Nutmeg, a green sea turtle, and a frisky harbor seal named Dimples. The Greenport Glory (greenportlaunch.com), a 30-foot electric fantail, launches two-hour kids’ cruises on mornings in summer. While they coast along the Peconic Bay, kids will learn how to monitor marine ecosystems, or just sketch them in colored pencil. Bunk down at one of a dozen saltbox cottages set on 36 oceanfront acres at the Silver Sands (cottages from $400 for three nights; silversands-motel.com), where a new DIY oyster-shucking program teaches youngsters how to crack open as many briny Pipe’s Cove bivalves ($1 per oyster) as their stomachs, and your wallet, can handle.