Whales, Submarines, Rafting & More! The Joys of Learning With Grandkids

I just received my Road Scholar catalog for grandparent trips and that inspired me to share some of my recent grandparent trips with you. I’ve attended three so far and I’m enrolled in the fourth one for summer 2023.

Before I tell you about the trips, you should know that whichever program you choose to go on, one of the benefits is the friendships and camaraderie that happens. Road Scholar organizes the trips by age as well as interest, so the kids have a lot in common. And of course, we grandparents find things that in common in addition to our precious grandchildren. If you’re interested in these trips, look closely at the age range and plan especially for those years when they are 7-12 years old.

Granddaughter at marina

Searching for Whales in Plymouth, Massachusetts

The first trip was with my granddaughter to Plymouth, Mass., where we explored historic Plymouth and Cape Cod. On this trip, I learned how truly special the grandparent programs are. Road Scholar manages in some magical way to make them interesting for the children and also for us older folks. We learned about the history and the natural science of the area in a way that involved the children with hands-on experiences, but interested us too. We especially enjoyed a whale watching trip where the whales were quiet accommodating with many breaches and hops!

Learn more about Discovering Historic Plymouth & Cape Cod With Your Grandchild

whale breaching

Sleeping on a Submarine in Portland, Oregon

My second trip was with my grandson. (Our granddaughter became involved in sports and high school stuff which conflicted with scheduling another trip.) This time, we traveled to Portland, Oregon to sleep on a submarine. It was run by the science museum in Portland and we learned about bridge types. Did you know there are more bridges in Portland than any city except Pittsburgh? We did robotics and made goop and enjoyed lots of science experiments. But the peak experience was getting to stay on the submarine used in the movie The Hunt for Red October. If you’ve never been on a submarine, let me tell you how much room is between the bunks — 12” (or at least it seemed like they were that close!) It made all of us appreciative and thankful for the brave men and women who served in the navy.

Discover Oregon with your grandkids on Portland & Beyond: An Outdoor Adventure With Your Grandchild.

Patti with Grandson

Rafting the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon

My third trip was with my grandson to the Grand Canyon. We stayed at a historic motel on Route 66. We explored a cave, went horseback riding and swam in the Colorado River. During the evenings we had a cook out, watched a movie and other fun things. But the highlight was rafting on the Grand Canyon. We started with about 10 really big rapids and at our lunch stop all of the kids and two grandparents (me and a grandfather) hiked to a hidden waterfall in a cavern in the canyon. It was a strenuous hike, but I was so glad I did it. The trip ended with a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. This kind of sharing has made my grandson and I so close. We both like adventures and learning and seeing new places.

Learn more about Red Rocks & Rafting: Sedona & Grand Canyon With Your Grandchild.

Patti with Grandson in front of waterfall

Looking Forward to Kansas

My grandson and I will take our next trip to Kansas this summer — we’re doing an aviation and space exploration adventure. I would never have picked Kansas for a vacation, but on our first grandparent trip, one of the grandmothers who had 15 grandkids and had taken each of them on a Road Scholar trip said her favorite was the Kansas trip. So based on that recommendation, we’re going! I can’t wait.

Learn more about STEM Kansas: Aviation & Space Exploration With Your Grandchild.


Patti Phelps is a retired teacher, administrator and fundraiser who has worn many hats through her career. After raising her family in Colorado, she moved to North Carolina with her husband after retirement so they could pursue their love for sailing.