Virtual Spring Break: Family Travel Ideas – Even When You’re Staying at Home
We may not be traveling anywhere for Spring Break, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use our imaginations and have a virtual travel adventure – with our whole family. What if you could explore a destination from home? What if that inspires you to go visit there for real some day?
Join us for a week of Virtual Spring Break, with Family Travel ideas you can experience from home. Each day, you can plan to “visit” one of the places on this list. We’ve even included some recipe and food suggestions you can have at home that will help make you feel like you’re really there., plus movie and book ideas to help set the mood.
And hopefully one day you can take your family to each of these terrific places and experience it all in person.
Day 1: Washington, D.C.
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Did you hear the bloom news? The National Cherry Blossom Festival (@cherryblossfest) has launched a virtual festival accessible on its website through April 12. You’ll find a video from the National Park Service giving a tour of the blossoms, performances, a kids page and more ??nationalcherryblossomfestivallive.org/ ?: @julitmart #MyDCcool
Our Nation’s capitol is a wonderful place to travel as a family. There are so many places to explore, starting with the Smithsonian Museum, of course.
The National Museum of Natural History has many virtual tours of both their permanent collections and special exhibits. It’s super fun technology, letting you “drop in” to the galleries and virtually look around. Our family has always loved seeing the animal dioramas and learning about the natural world. This means we can do it, even from home. (Gotta love the T. Rex.)
But there’s more to the Smithsonian: The Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is always fun to visit – and the Garden virtual tour means we can see all the beautiful art without wilting in the DC humidity. Bonus!
The Smithsonian also just released millions of images into the public domain, so dig in and look for the perfect one (or 300).
The National Zoo is part of the Smithsonian, and they have some terrific webcams running, so you can check in on the animals from home, like the Naked Mole Rat webcam. We watched a couple fight over a green pepper slice one day. There’s also a webcam for the Giant Pandas, the Lions, and the Elephants.
The National Air and Space Museum is a must-see museum, and luckily they have virtual tours, too.
For places like the National Mall and all the wonderful Memorials, there’s a great website where you can see a 360-degree tour of each of them, plus other places, like the Capitol.
Something you might have experienced over Spring Break in Washington, D.C., is the world-famous Cherry Blossom Festival, which is now offering a virtual experience, with photos, videos and interactive fun.
The International Spy Museum is a super fun place to take kids – and they have virtual field trips, a podcast, and a youtube channel so you can experience it at home.
You can even tour the White House – with the Obamas.
What to Eat in Washington, D.C.
Granted, we can’t have all of this food delivered here, but we can dream about eating this food – at these great places – the next time we get to visit there, and in the meantime we can recreate some of it at home.
Ben’s Chili Bowl is a DC institution, we’re told, and this image from their Instagram shows us why. It’s called a Chili-Smothered Half-Smoke and until we get there, we are planning to make chili dogs at home (maybe with Farmer John’s Dodger Dogs).
Mumbo Sauce (aka Mambo Sauce) is a DC-specific sauce that comes from Chinese restaurants, but can apparently be used as a dipping sauce on French Fries, egg rolls, fried chicken, pulled pork, or even hard boiled eggs. Epicurious has a very easy recipe for Mumbo sauce if you want to try it.
There are a large number of Salvadoran immigrants in DC, making pupusas a signature food. Luckily for us in Los Angeles, we can get pupusas delivered from many Salvadoran restaurants via services like Grubhub or Doordash. There’s also this fun recipe for making pupusas at home on Tasty.
Technically, Maryland is the State that’s known for blue crabs, but it’s right next door to DC, so we’re going to say that when you go to DC, you ought to be sure to have crabs. Harbor House Crabs even ships them, so you technically could have them during Virtual Spring Break.
Washington DC Cocktail
The signature cocktail here is a Rickey, often made with Gin, and here’s a fun recipe.
Books About Washington, D.C.
Here’s a list of books for kids and adults you can read and learn about our Nation’s Capitol.
– House Mouse, Senate Mouse by Peter Barnes (Amazon affiliate link)
– The President’s House by Margaret Truman
– Awesome Adventures at the Smithsonian by Emily Korrell
– The Kids’ Guide to Washington DC
– Kid Presidents by David Stabler
– White House Kids by Jay Rhatigan
– This is Washington, D.C. by Miroslav Sasek
– History Lover’s Guide to Washington, D.C. by Allison Fortier
Movies About or Set In Washington, D.C.
These movies will help you get in the mood to travel to DC, whether virtually or in real life. (You’ll need to decide if these films are appropriate for your family.)
– All the President’s Men
– The Post
– The American President
– Seven Days in May
– Head of State
– National Treasure: Book of Secrets
– Absolute Power
– Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
– No Way Out
Day 2: Hawaii
The 50th State is a tropical paradise – and you don’t even need a passport to visit. We are big fans of Hawaii as a family travel destination because it has so much to offer: whether your family is adventurous or likes to hang out on the beach or by a pool. Hawaii has it all.
Hawaii, The Big Island
The Big Island of Hawaii had a spectacular and devastating volcanic eruption take place in 2018, leaving Volcanoes National park a very changed place. Here’s a link to a few webcams aimed at the volcano. And this video below gives an amazing overview of what happened – and is a great Earth Science lesson, too.
Here’s a great article about traveling to Hawaii with kids on Ciao Bambino.
Punalu’u, the Black Sand Beach is a super fun place to visit because you might see turtles. Plus you’ll be on one of the most famous beaches in Hawaii.
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Punalu’u beach is the most famous black sand beach of Hawaii. Two reasons for the popularity of this beach are  ?? the gorgeous black sand beach and  ? the fact that you can often see endangered Hawksbill turtles and green turtles basking in the sun on the beach. Just 35 minutes south of Volcano and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Punalu’u is easily accessible black sand beach on the Big Island. It is a great place to go for a quick swim, snorkel, a (short) coastal hike, ? camping (permit needed), or *just* to stop for a ? picnic while driving between Kona and Hilo over the southern route. . ? Fun fact: the sand at the beach is made of small pitch-black fragments of lava ??. Try picking up a handful when you are at the beach to see if you can still recognize some of the larger parts as coming from an old lava flow! . ? The beach itself is lined by rows of coconut palms. The shade under the palms is a good place to hang out because the black sand can get very hot in the sunlight. . ? And what about the turtles? The turtles basking in the sun are Hawaiian green sea turtles (Honu). You can sometimes also encounter the more rare Hawksbill Turtle (Honu’ea) in the water but not basking on the beach. . ?? Fun turtle trivia: sea turtles almost never bask on the beach. Several species of green sea turtles do this but only at a few locations worldwide. Hawaii is one of those! . ? Believe it or not, there is more cool stuff to know about Punalu’u. Go to our website (link in bio) to learn more about the swimming and snorkeling at this beach, how to behave around turtles, and to see more pictures of course! #punaluu #punaluubeach #Hawaii #blacksandbeach #lovebigisland #bigislandhawaii #hawaiianseaturtle #adventure #luckywelivehawaii #aloha #donttouchtheturtle #paradisefound #hawaiilife #beachlover #beachvibes #tropics #aloha #hawaiistagram
Maui is amazing, and seeing the sunrise at Haleakala crater is one of those bucket-list things to do in your lifetime. In the meantime, you can check out the webcam in the link. And here’s a quick video showing one of the most beautiful beaches on Maui: Big Beach Makena. Just imagine sitting there and relaxing… ah.
If relaxing is not your style, what about windsurfing? There are beaches on Maui that are world-renowned as the best places for this challenging sport.
Or what about exploring the reef surrounding the Molokini crater? I want to go right now.
And you can’t miss the drive to Hana, with the chance to pose for a photo in front of a waterfall. This tour website has a gallery of photos showing how spectacular it is.
Hanalei Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and here’s a webcam to prove it. You can also visit Waimea Canyon via this video from Hawaii State Parks.
Diamond Head is an iconic symbol of Hawaii, and here’s a terrific video someone made of hiking the trail, so you can pretend you got all your steps in.
The North Shore is famous for surfing beaches, and this video of Pipeline is terrific.
Some Hawaiian foods have become ubiquitous here on the Mainland, and we’re lucky in Los Angeles to be able to get really good Hawaiian food at many places.
Rutt’s Hawaiian Cafe is delivering and has orders to go. You can get a Loco-moco, a bowl of saimin, or a Royale and satisfy those cravings.
Poke began in Hawaii as a much simpler dish than it has become these days, and you can get it delivered from plenty of places here in Los Angeles (try Doordash). Or consider getting some fish and making it yourself at home with this recipe from Hawaii magazine.
The Luau is the classic Hawaiian food feast, and while we’re not sure who’s delivering that these days, or whether you want to actually have one at home right now, we can tell you that Kalua Pig is a truly delicious food that can be prepared at home almost anytime. In fact, the taste is suspiciously similar to Carnitas, which you can have delivered from many local restaurants right now (in a taco or burrito) – or you can make it at home in a slow cooker really simply. Here’s the Nom Nom Paleo recipe for Kalua Pig. And here’s a recipe for Carnitas from Mexico in My Kitchen.
Of course we know you want to eat Spam Musubi right about now. Who doesn’t? Another food to get you in the mood for a trip to Hawaii that you can 100% make at home or have delivered.
It may not be actually authentic, but somehow when you think of Hawaii, you think of a Mai Tai.
Books About or Set in Hawaii
Enjoy these books of fiction and some non-fiction.
– The Descendants, by Kaui Hart Hemmings
– Mark Twain’s Letters from Hawaii by Mark Twain
– High Tide in Hawaii (Magic Treehouse)
– Micro, by Michael Crichton
– Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
– From Here to Eternity by James Jones
– Shoal of Time by Gavan Davis
– Folks you Meet in Longs and Other Stories by Lee Cataluna
– Spooky Stuffs: Hawaiian Ghost Stories by Eric Knudsen + illustarted by Guy Buffet
– Pua Pua Lena Lena by Guy and Pam Buffet
– Kama Pua’a by Guy and Pam Buffet
– Kahal by Guy and Pam Buffet
And Honolulu Magazine has a great list with more ideas.
Movies About or Set In Hawaii
These movies will totally put you in the mood for your trip to Hawaii, just be sure to use parental guidance before streaming.
– The Descendants
– Lilo and Stitch
– Soul Surfer
– Blue Hawaii
– All the Jurrassic Park movies (filmed in Hawaii, not set there)
– A Very Brady Sequel
– Forgetting Sarah Marshall
– Blue Crush
– Pearl Harbor
– Tora! Tora! Tora!
– From Here to Eternity
– Gidget Goes Hawaiian
– 5 Summer Stories
Day 3: Paris
Paris is the City of Lights, and a magical place we should all be so lucky to visit one day. The history, the museums, the food! We’ve put together some fun things to do, see and eat while you virtually visit Paris.
The first thing you’ll need to do is visit the Louvre Museum, and here’s their virtual tours. And here’s a video that takes you through the museum, with a stop by the Mona Lisa.
Once you’ve had a chance to see the Louvre, you’ll want to explore more of the city, and this Virtual Tour of Paris even has a French soundtrack.
The Eiffel Tower is on everyone’s bucket list when visiting Paris, so we were delighted to find this webcam.
The Palace of Versailles is a short virtual trip from Paris, so let’s take their virtual tour as well. And here’s a great video about its history.
To help set the scene, We3Travel has a great section on traveling to France in general and Paris in specific.
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Last night’s sunset sure did put a beautiful capstone on a fun week in France. We had a fun time exploring Languedoc. This region is just west of Provence in the south of France, but so much cheaper and more laid back. 75 percent of visitors are French, yet we were made to feel comfortable and welcome. The region is still relatively undiscovered and this means fewer crowds and very affordable accommodations. It isn’t easy to ship wine home so drink it while you are there! There are many excellent bottles under 10 Euro. Stay tuned for more details on the blog and podcast. #chateaulescarrasses #languedoc #france?? #southoffrance #france_holidays #frenchchateau #chateaulife #winetasting? #romanticgetaways
One must have Croissants and Baguettes when in France, and of course nothing will compare to eating them while you’re actually there, but until that time, check out these absolutely delicious frozen croissants that Trader Joe’s sells. You just pop them in the oven straight from the freezer – could be simpler. And baguettes can be had from either Trader Joe’s or Costco, so we’re covered there, too.
Crepes are another wonderful food to get you in the mood, and what’s great about them is they can be either sweet or savory, and this recipe from Delish is nice and simple. Yum!
For France, we are going to recommend drinking wine, but it shouldn’t be California wine if you can help it. Try to find a Grenache from the Cotes du Rhone, a Bordeaux, or Beajolais.
Movies Set in France
Here’s a list of great movies set in France.
– Julie and Julia
– An American in Paris
– Midnight in Paris
– Funny Face
– Moulin Rouge
– The 400 Blows
– The daVinci Code
– The Hunchback of Notre Dame
– Phantom of the Opera
– The Aristocats
Books About or Set in Paris
Look for these books to help you get in the Parisian mood.
– A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
– The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
– Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
– Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
– Rick Steves’ Pocket Paris
Day 4: Rome
Rome is an amazing city to visit. So much to see and do, and eat! When in Rome, a visit to the Vatican Museum is practically required, and what luck: they have a virtual tour!
You should also visit the Colosseum while you’re there.
How about trying out Gladiator School when you’re there?
And you have to visit the Trevi Fountain and toss in a coin for good luck.
This category is kind of too easy, since we probably all eat a lot of Italian food in normal life, but let’s press on, shall we? Here are some of our favorite Italian recipes – that we can enjoy here and now.
Marcella Hazan wrote some definitive books on Italian cooking, and her recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara is quite legendary. The beauty of Carbonara is that it uses ingredients we probably already have around the house: spaghetti, bacon, eggs and parmesan cheese, essentially. Trust us, this is worth all the carbs.
We’re not going to get into a debate about pizza in Italy vs. pizza in America; we’re just going to eat it. Trader Joe’s again comes to the rescue with their pizza dough – and they even have a pizza recipe on their website for how to use it.
Tiramisu, the amazing Italian dessert that was extra popular in the 80s is not only available via delivery here in Los Angeles, but it’s also not difficult to make at home. Also made doubly famous by a scene in Sleepless in Seattle.
To recreate the feeling of being in Italy, we think it’s got to be the Aperol Spritz.
Movies Set in Italy
Here are some great movies set in Rome and Italy.
– Angels and Demons
– The Italian Job
– To Rome with Love
– Roman Holiday
– When in Rome
– National Lampoon’s European Vacation
Books set in or about Rome and Italy
These books will help bring out the Roman in you.
– The Man from Pomegranate Street by Caroline Lawrence
– Rick Steves’ Rome 2020
– Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
– A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
– Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
– The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
– Pizza for the Queen by Nancy Castaldo
Day 5: Visit a Dude Ranch
Visiting a Dude Ranch seems like such a fun vacation to us because it’s so completely different from our normal daily life. You’re out in Nature all day, getting to ride horses and pretend you work on a Ranch, maybe even eating around a chuck wagon. Sounds amazing. Plus, since it’s a Dude Ranch, it’s really more about a luxury experience than a down-and-dirty one, which makes it all that much better.
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For #NationalDayofTheHorse, we’re celebrating a few Ranch favorites: Meet Wrangler, adopted from Life Savers Wild Horse Rescue; Danny Boy, a favorite among children; Major, known for his sweet personality and kind eyes; our big boy Marmaduke, the second biggest horse in our herd coming in at 1,800 pounds; and Ajax, a big hit at our summer Alisal Rodeos! Tell us your favorite horse at The Alisal below. ??
Alisal is a Dude Ranch not far from Los Angeles, but from the looks of these videos, it seems like it’s a world away. Here’s a review on Ciao Bambino. And as a bonus, this one seems to have its own vineyards and plenty of wine in stock.
The Red Horse Mountain Ranch in Idaho offers a different experience, and it sounds terrific, too. Check out their Mega Zip Line.
Dude Ranch Food
Turns out you won’t necessarily eat off the Chuck Wagon at a Dude Ranch, in fact – you may have quite a gourmet experience. But it does seems to be a carnivore’s delight. Look for things like corn pudding and cowboy cookies.
Even though these are clearly luxury experiences with award-winning chefs, we felt that there ought to be a little campfire cooking, like this recipe link and this video.
Dude Ranch Cocktail
This sounds so quintessentially perfect for Happy hour on a Dude Ranch, doesn’t it? The Campfire Smoke, courtesy of the Alisal Ranch. Or there’s always wine.
Books About a Dude Ranch
These books will help you get in the mood for your Dude Ranch experience.
– Dude Ranch by Bonnie Bryant
– Big Sky Country by Linda Lael Miller
– 7th Heaven Dude Ranch by Amanda Christie and Jim Thomas
– The 9th Nugget by Ron Roy
Movies Set on a Dude Ranch
These movies (and shows) are set on Dude Ranches – or involve visiting a Dude Ranch.
– Malcolm in the Middle (later seasons)
– Desert Hearts
– Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
– Tickle Me
– Scooby Do: Shaggy’s Showdown
– Ride ’em Cowboy
– Red River Range
– Never a Dull Moment
– Heart of the Rockies
– Dude Cowboy
– Vacation in Reno
We hope your Spring Break is amazing and that you enjoyed this Virtual Travel itinerary.