Any parent, in the back of his or her head, is counting down the days.
Only a couple weeks until the last day of the school year (it's Wednesday, June 6, in the Salt Lake City School District). Only a couple of weeks until your little bundles of preciousness are out of school and itching to spend every waking hour glued to their video-game controller, as all of that hard-learned information they gathered in school drips out of their heads like drool out of a couch potato's mouth.
What's a parent to do to tear a child away from the PlayStation, get them out of the house, let them do something fun, and slip something educational under the radar? Take a tip from the teachers, and plan a field trip.
There are lessons to be had in biology, zoology, archaeology, botany, geology, aeronautics and history all in settings that will yield plenty of fun for children, or at very least a healthy walk.
Here are some suggestions for where to take the kids this summer for a daytime field trip (addresses and website URLs included, so you can note hours and ticket prices):
Tracy Aviary • The venerable bird refuge (founded in 1938) opened its gorgeous new visitor's center last December, with an observation deck from which you can see all the enclosures. Keepers give daily talks at 11 a.m.; a bird-identification class takes place on the fourth Saturday of every month in the summer, at 12:30 p.m. (Liberty Park, Salt Lake City; enter the park at 600 East and 900 South;
Discovery Gateway • True story: Walking through The Gateway (where the Tribune's offices are located) recently, I encountered some conventioneers who were puzzling over how a LifeFlight helicopter had landed in such tight quarters, and I had to tell them it was an interactive museum exhibit and the 'copter never takes off. Kids can still pretend, though, which is why the exhibits in DG are so cool. The museum also offers weekly arts and science programs. (444 W. 100 South, Salt Lake City; discoverygateway.org)
The Leonardo • Explore the intersection art, technology and science, with loads of interactive exhibits with standouts being the walkable Google map and the media studio. (209 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City; theleonardo.org)
Utah's Hogle Zoo • The zoo's newest permanent exhibit Rocky Shores, a habitat for polar bears, seals, sea lions and otters opens June 1. The zoo will mark "Don't Fry Day" (to raise awareness of skin-cancer prevention) today, and World Oceans Day on June 8. (2600 Sunnyside Avenue, Salt Lake City; hoglezoo.org)
Natural History Museum of Utah • The new Rio Tinto Center, perched on an overlook above the Salt Lake Valley, is an astonishingly cool place just to sight-see. Then there are the massive exhibits of dinosaur skeletons and prehistoric peoples, as well as interactive exhibits ranging from the Great Salt Lake flood plain to urban planning for the next century. (301 Wakara Way, University of Utah, Salt Lake City; nhmu.utah.edu)
Red Butte Garden • In summer, we culture types tend to think of Red Butte just for its concert series. But the grounds are particularly beautiful and quite colorful in the summertime. Monday Family Nights offer music and a picnic setting, June 4-18 and July 9-23. (300 Wakara Way, University of Utah, Salt Lake City; redbuttegarden.org)
Thanksgiving Point •Take your pick from the sprawling grounds of this Lehi destination: the Museum of Ancient Life (aka the "dinosaur museum"), the Farm Country dairy demos, or the massive gardens. Or, if you're done with being educated for a day, go see a movie at the recently expanded Megaplex theater. (3003 N. Thanksgiving Way, Lehi; http://www.thanksgivingpoint.org)
Kennecott Visitors Center • It's more than just looking at a really big hole. The newly opened visitors center at the Bingham Canyon Mine includes hands-on exhibits, as well as a look at the in-pit crusher which turns tons of copper into lumps the size of soccer balls. A bonus: The website is offering coupons for free admission. ( 12800 S. State Highway 111, Bingham Canyon; http://www.kennecott.com)
Hill Aerospace Museum • More than 90 military aircraft, missiles and other aerospace vehicles, plus ordnance and munitions, are on display at this museum, on the grounds of Hill Air Force Base. It's also home to the Utah Aviation Hall of Fame. (7961 Wardleigh Road, Building 1955, Hill Air Force Base, about five miles south of Ogden; http://www.hill.af.mil/library/museum)
Golden Spike National Historic Site • A must for any train buff: The actual spot where the Transcontinental Railroad joined east and west, the spot where the Golden Spike was driven at Promontory, west of Brigham City. That moment is re-enacted on Saturdays and holidays now through Columbus Day, and replicas of the original locomotives the Jupiter and the No. 119 also give steam demonstrations. (State Highway 83, 32 miles west of Brigham City; http://www.nps.gov/gosp)
Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at http://www.sltrib.com/blogs/moviecricket. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/themoviecricket.