How Faith-Based Vacations Nourish Body and Soul
Summer vacations — local, across the United States, and beyond — provide opportunities for families to unwind and disconnect. But some holidays also give people the opportunity to deepen their religious faith and nurture their spiritual life while getting away from it all. From pilgrimages to service vacations and every type of trip in between, there are faith-related vacations to suit every spiritual practice, family, and financial situation.
It goes without saying that families of all faiths can find spiritual refreshment in many national parks, such as Yosemite and Yellowstone, and green, quiet, and majestic places like Muir Woods in the Bay Area and desert landscapes. more austere but striking like Zion. and Bryce Parks. The local beaches and sandy, rocky and often majestic coastline of San Diego in Canada offer retreats from the everyday. Many naturally beautiful areas exist both locally and throughout the state, offering family activities like hiking, fishing, and camping, as well as spiritual renewal in nature.
For a more exotic vacation, Muslim families might consider heading to the Maldives, made up of around 1,190 islands in the Indian Ocean with palm-tree beaches and pure white sand. Islam is the islands’ official state religion, and families can enjoy halal vacations to suit nearly any travel budget that include snorkeling, diving, swimming, and sun.
Another sunny destination for Muslim families abroad is Malaysia, where Muslims make up 60% of the population. Malay, Indian and Chinese residents contribute to the gastronomic, cultural and tourism melting pot of a country voted one of the best Muslim tourist destinations in a report published by MasterCard and Islamic travel specialist CrescentRating.
Catholic families looking for pilgrimages can book with Catholiccruisesandtours.com, which offers cruise packages to the Holy Land, Fatima, Lourdes and Italy, as well as tours of the Camino de Santiago. Dynamic Catholic also offers several pilgrimages, including those to Medjugorje and Poland, among others.
Other vacations offer unique family volunteer experiences in the United States or abroad. At Bethlehem Farm in Talcott, W.Va., for example, families spend the week serving in the local community, learning about sustainable living, and praying thoughtfully.
Organizations like globalvolunteers.org and Caritas Internationalis offer overseas volunteer opportunities, while Habitat for Humanity offers local services.
Discover Corps offers service vacations in Galapagos, where families help out at a turtle sanctuary; Costa Rica, where they can help endangered sea turtles; and Kenya, where they can lend a hand to conservationists searching for lions, cheetahs and elephants.
Here in California, the 21 missions form a continuous line from San Diego to Sonoma, with some missions little more than ruins and others largely restored. The California Mission Walk is an 800-mile route that roughly follows El Camino Real, the trail that once connected statewide missions. On 206tours.com you can find guided pilgrimage tours to the missions.
For families wishing to travel outside the United States, Globusfaith.com offers a number of religious holidays, including pilgrimages to Germany, France, Spain and Portugal, Italy and the Holy Land.
Art and architecture
At least two US museums showcase Muslim culture, and the Smithsonian lists notable Muslim artifacts.
Muslim families might consider a visit to the International Museum of Muslim Cultures in Jackson, Miss; the American Islamic Heritage Museum in Washington, DC; or the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a Smithsonian museum that has a number of sections featuring Muslim artifacts and African Muslims in early America.
Islamic art is exhibited in art museums across America, including the Yarrow Mamout collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery; the collection of Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; and the Islamic Art Collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Historical places and events
This summer, Oberammergau Passion Play in Germany will be played like every 10 years. Since 1634, hundreds of thousands of people have flocked to Oberammergau to see the most famous Passion play in the world; several companies offer tours to see more than 2,000 people take to the open-air stage.
In the United States, historic Philadelphia offers Jewish families the opportunity to connect with our country’s rich history by visiting the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the constitution were signed, as well as the colonial-era roots of Congregation Mikveh Israel, the city’s first Jewish congregation founded in 1745.
In fact, large immigrant populations from Russia settled in the city’s Jewish quarter, now Society Hill and Queen Village. Families can also take advantage of Philadelphia’s many art museums, performance halls, ballet and opera companies, and renowned restaurants.
Jewish families can also consider visiting Denver, with a rich Old West history, a one-mile elevation and more than 100 parks. Colorado’s Jewish history began when migrants arrived in the state in 1859 seeking religious freedom and economic opportunity. Today, there are more than 10 synagogues in Denver, in addition to numerous kosher restaurants and stores.
Christian shrines and monuments
Christian families have several great vacation spots to choose from in the United States, including The Ark Encounter in Williamstown, Ky., the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., and Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida.
The Ark Encounter features a life-size Noah’s Ark, built to dimensions given in the Bible, measuring 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high. Exhibits inside the Ark Encounter show what life was like for Noah and his family. The Christian theme park also includes a zoo, zip lines, fine dining and more.
Another Christian family vacation spot is the Creation Museum, a sister location to the nearby Ark Encounter. The Bible-themed museum allows visitors to venture into biblical history as well as visit the botanical gardens, a planetarium, a zoo, and a zipline course.
The Holy Land Experience in Orlando describes itself as “a living Bible museum and park that brings the world of the Bible to life.” It includes exhibitions, shows and mini golf, rock climbing and other activities for children.
Catholic shrines and monuments
Just north of San Diego in Orange County, two newly created landmarks beckon families, especially Catholics, to visit: The Sanctuary of Our Lady of La Vang – on the grounds of the Cathedral of Christ at the headquarters of the Diocese of Orange in Garden Grove – is dedicated to an apparition dear to the hearts of Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans. And St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado Canyon is an impressive working abbey showcasing original artwork in a sprawling complex designed to both mimic European cathedrals and blend into the rustic hills east of Orange. .
A number of Catholic vacation spots attract families from across the United States. Catholic-link.org offers a guide to 11 of the best US destinations for Catholic families, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, DC, and the National Shrine’s Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, also in the national capital. Other sites of interest are the National Center for Padre Pio in Barto, Penn., and the National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods in Gaylord, Michigan, where you can see a cross 28 feet tall and weighing seven tons. .
At the Sisters of Providence Motherhouse in St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, there is a shrine dedicated to recent Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, who founded the sisters, and opportunities for guided tours and self-guided spiritual retreats and Taizé prayers.
Wherever families choose to visit for summer vacation, there’s a local church, synagogue, or mosque nearby to explore.
Douglas is a freelance writer.