Not Too Late for Family Travel Summer Vacation Plans

The 4th of July has now passed, and you STILL don’t have plans for your family’s summer vacation?  Never fear, it’s not too late.  In fact, mid-July through Labor Day, you can find some great events and even some special deals such as the New York State Fair, free dining in Orlando, San Antonio KidCation, and California Wine Month.  Continue reading for some ideas of activities and deals for those last-minute family travel summer vacations.

Summer Vacation Ideas


There’s a special underwater art exhibit off the Gulf Coast of Fort Myers and Sanibel Island.  That’s right, underwater.  The USS Mohawk CGC, is a World War II ship involved in 14 attacks against German U-boats and rescued approximately 300 torpedoed ship survivors.  The Mohawk was sunk 28 miles off the coast of Sanibel Island to become a living reef.  This June, Austrian photographer Andreas Franke installed 12 images inside the ship to become an underwater gallery called The Sinking World.  The special exhibit is on display until September 15, 2013.  The images are meant to interpret the life of the sailors aboard the Mohawk with superimposed images of models in period clothing on original photography.

The Sinking World

The Sinking World - Andreas Franke photographer -


It may be sweltering and Hurricane season, but that doesn’t mean the theme park capital of the world is shut down.  In fact, mid-August through September is “Deal Season” with all three major theme parks around Orlando, Florida offering some sort of Free Dining Deal to lure you in.  SeaWorld Orlando offers FREE all day dining with the purchase of a vacation package.  Universal Orlando Resort has 2 days of FREE dining with a 4-night vacation package, and Walt Disney World offers a FREE dining package for most of the month of September.  In addition to the theme parks, Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month is September 1-30 with area restaurants (not in the theme parks) offering three-course prix fixe dinners for $33.  Plus, participating restaurants will donate one dollar of each Magical Dining Month dinner to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida (last year over $67K was donated to charity).

New York

More than 300 of New York City’s restaurants will offer three-course dining deals July 22 – August 16 for NYC Restaurant Week.  The dining event, under the banner “Summer’s Biggest Week,” offers New Yorkers and visitors 20-plus days of dining deals from July 22 to August 16, Mondays through Fridays, with Saturdays excluded and Sundays optional.  Guests can enjoy three-course prix-fixe lunches for $25 and three-course prix-fixe dinners for $38 (excluding beverages, gratuities and taxes).  Diners can begin to make reservations at more than 300 participating restaurants starting Monday, July 8.

Our state fair is a great state fair!  No really, it’s in the name.  The New York State Fair is officially “The Fair: The Great New York State Fair,” and it runs August 22 – September 2 in Syracuse, NY.  The New York State was the first held in the country, and dates back to 1841.  It includes carnival rides, fair food, and livestock, but there are also headliner concerts of prominent national acts as well as free concerts of up and coming performers and classic acts.

2012 New York State Fair

The Buffalo/Niagara region continues to celebrate the bicentennial of the War of 1812 with a series of events including a re-enactment of the capture of Old Fort Niagara by British Forces at Fort Niagara State Park from August 31-September 1.  The War of 1812 Encampment is complete with battle demonstrations and living history programs throughout the day and a Saturday night battle.  Slightly later in September, a Parade of Tall Ships is scheduled for September 12 – 17.


Not to be out done by NYC, Los Angeles has a restaurant week of its own.  July 15-26, dineLA Restaurant Week highlights the entire city as a premier dining destination, and showcases all the diversity of culinary experiences LA has to offer.  Locals and visitors have the opportunity to enjoy a selection of specially priced prix fixe lunch and dinner menus from some of LA’s best restaurants.

Los Angeles Sunset Blvd Dining

Photo by Michele and Tom Grimm © 2013 LA Tourism & Convention Board.


Kids who love astronomy would like this stargazing festival that’s free August 9-11 in Northern California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Lassen is one of the last sanctuaries of natural darkness.  The Lassen Dark Sky Festival event includes ranger-led programs, NASA demonstrations and talks, ranger-led hikes, and special junior ranger astronomy programs.

Disney fans should check out the ultimate Disney fan gathering the D23 Expo August 9-11 at the Anaheim Convention Center just across the street from the Disneyland Resort.  The D23 Expo gathers all aspects of the Disney Company from theme parks, to movies, to television all under one roof with celebrity meet and greets, performances, and panel discussions with Walt Disney Imagineers.

September is also California Wine Month, so events, tours and special tastings abound statewide.  Dozens of wineries in vineyards across California host special events and experiences celebrating the contributions of the state’s growers and vintners.


The State Fair of Texas may not be until the end of September, but you can play in Fair Park all summer with Summer Adventures in Fair Park.  This new entertainment facility is designed for families with children ages 5-13, and attractions include the new “Top O’ Texas” observation tower ride, which stands 500 feet tall and can accommodate up to 100 riders at a time.

Summer Adventures in Fair Park

Summer Adventures in Fair Park - Presented by the State Fair of Texas


Finally, the first ever KidCation Week will be held in San Antonio, Texas August 12 – 18, turning the city into a playground for kids and families.  KidCation Week provides families a chance to closeout summer with one last jam-packed adventure, and the final weekend also corresponds with the start of San Antonio’s Culinaria Restaurant Week August 17 – 24.  During Culinaria, more than 20 chefs and restaurants will offer prix fixe menus for lunch ($15) and dinner ($35).

So what are you doing this summer?  Leave a comment below and share your ideas.  For even more summer vacation ideas, check out this round up by Eileen Ogintz’s on  For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.