Alison Rudo grew up in Philadelphia and remembers many class trips to historic sites around the city.
"It was like going back in time," recalls the Elkridge mother of two. "Instead of just reading about Ben Franklin, you're actually walking the same streets he walked and you could see the Liberty Bell right in front of you."
Earlier this year Rudo took her 11-year-old daughter, Emily, to Philadelphia and got to relive many of those memories.
"It was so cool to be able to see the wonder in her eyes and watch as she really connected with every place we went," she says, adding, "The rangers really know how to explain things to kids, so it gets them excited."
If you are considering a quick family getaway, here are five spots within driving distance of Baltimore with enough activities for kids to keep the whole family busy for 48 hours.
If your children get excited about American history and culture, but you're looking for a change from the wealth of exhibits in our own backyard in Washington, D.C., head north on I-95 for a weekend in Philadelphia.
Once you arrive, begin your visit where our nation began — at Independence National Historic Park. You'll want to visit hot spots like the Liberty Bell Center and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed, but this 55-acre park also features lesser-known sites that might offer a more personal connection for your child. For example, kids can get the real dirt on the city's hidden past at the Independence Archeology Lab, which is dedicated to processing and preserving materials recovered during excavations. Just remember that many sites require timed entry tickets, which can all be purchased at the Independence Visitor Center.
There's plenty to do away from the historic area as well. For aspiring sailors, the Independence Seaport Museum will fill an afternoon with artifacts and tales of Philadelphia's maritime past. Current exhibits include "What Floats Your Boat," which explains how boats float and includes hands-on activities that explain displacement and bouyancy.
For more hands-on exploration, don't miss the Franklin Institute, where exhibits include interactive programs like making paper out of pulp from recycled office paper and live science shows on topics like what makes fireworks shimmer.
Children ages 7 and younger will enjoy the Please Touch Museum, where they learn through play. Young visitors can "drive" a city bus, join a jungle jam session playing instruments made of natural materials and explore distant planets as an astronaut on an interactive Blue Screen.
After dark, older children might enjoy a 90-minute ghost tour of Philadelphia. If not, burn off some end-of-the day energy at the Blue Cross RiverRink at Penn's Landing and skate with a spectacular view of the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
If you still haven't been able to put away last summer's bathing suits, consider a weekend at Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Va. It's always 84 degrees there, with more than 79,000 square feet of soaking fun for everyone from tiny tots to teenage thrill-seekers.
Elementary-age kids will love exploring Fort Mackenzie, a four-story interactive tree house with a suspension bridge, and a "treetop" slide. For the brave, Alberta Falls is a four-story-high slide that twists and turns before dumping riders into a plunge pool. Teens will enjoy knee boarding on the Wolf Wipeout wave simulator. Little ones won't be overwhelmed in the Cub Paw Pool, where the water is only 18 inches high and there is a gradual entrance. They can also play water basketball or dodge floor geysers in Raccoon Lagoon.
There's plenty of fun out of the water as well. Schedule an ice-cream themed mani-pedi at Scoops Spa, or enjoy a round of miniature golf. Find your favorite games in the arcade, plan a family tournament in the bowling alley or test your mystery-solving skills with MagiQuest, a live-action adventure that will have your family searching the lodge for clues on how to befriend a pixie, learn from an ancient wizard and ultimately outwit a dragon. Every evening ends with a bedtime story in the lobby.
A three-hour drive southwest lands you right in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, where the Massanutten Resort has something for every member of a family that loves winter sports.
Winter fun gears up here in mid-November with skiing, snowboarding, tubing and skiblading. For skiers, trails range from 685 feet long to 4,100 feet. Fourteen trails are lit at night, and there's also a 900-foot-long hill for snow tubing. Beginners can sign up for skiing and snowboarding instructional packages that include equipment rentals, classes, lunch and an eight-hour slope ticket. The minimum age is 4 for skiing and 7 for snowboarding.
Ice skaters can take advantage of a 4,250-square-foot facility accommodating up to 132 skaters at a time.
For indoor playtime, check out the 42,000-square-foot water park with special areas for every age and ability. Little guests can enjoy slides and swings in the Frog Pond, where the water never reaches above a foot, while older ones will enjoy the indoor rapids, which start 40 feet up and include 250 feet of drops and turns.
Most people associate Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland's Garrett County with boating, swimming and fishing. But the off-season is a great time to get away for a peaceful weekend of family bonding in a lakefront hotel suite or one of the many rustic cabins for rent.
Covering nearly 4,000 acres and providing 65 miles of shoreline, Deep Creek is the largest freshwater lake in Maryland. It's surrounded by state parks, making it the perfect location for hiking. Blaze your own trail or contact Adventure Sports Center International for a custom-guided hike ranging from two hours to half a day through the 550-acre Fork Run Recreation Area.
If you're interested in seeing the highest waterfall in Maryland — the 53-foot Muddy Creek Falls — All Earth Eco Tours can get you there. Another popular spot for little ones is the Bears Den, an unusual rock formation with lots of passageways and crawl spaces to explore.
For a different perspective of the terrain, sign up for a trail ride at Circle R Ranch. Beginners are welcome and you'll be assigned your own trail guide.
If you love speed but prefer to remain closer to the ground, try an afternoon of dogsledding with Husky Power Dogsledding. No snow? No problem for these teams of Alaskan and Siberian huskies, who are also trained to pull dogsleds on wheels.
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is located about three hours away in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. This 2,000-acre resort has everything from snow sports to a wild animal nursery to a 1,000-foot-long zip line.
The resort's adventure center features outdoor activities for every age. Older kids can soar above trees at 60 mph on the Fatbird Flyer — one of the longest zip lines in Pennsylvania, while younger ones can experience a 120-foot zip line that's part of the Little Tykes Ropes Course. There's also a shooting academy, a climbing wall and paint ball, weather permitting.
Animal lovers will enjoy the Wildlife Academy, home of an Equestrian Center and animal habitats for everything from black bears and zebra to tigers and wolves. Learn more about animals and their habitats at a daily show, or climb aboard the Animal Express Train and tour the resort's wildlife enclosures.
Kids ages 4 and older can participate in themed activities every day at the Kidz Klub, with guided indoor and outdoor activities focused on things like the Olympics, science, the beach and the great outdoors.