Often overlooked, National Parks are an amazing way to spend a vacation. Full of wildlife and being one with the outdoors, your kids will love the opportunity to get messy with nature, get their energy out with outdoorsy fun, and spend some quality time with the family. Bring out your child’s adventurous side with the many activities these kid-friendly parks have to offer.
1) Grand Teton National Park – For a true “wow” factor this is the place to visit. Spectacular scenes of mountains, wildflower meadows, and rushing whitewater streams will leave you with a jaw-dropping view of nature. The hikes range from easy to difficult, so you can pick and choose based on the age of your kids. There is an extremely interactive visitor center to start with and plenty of activities to do and wildlife to see.
2) Voyageurs National Park – Love water? Then go here. This beautiful park in Minnesota has a dominating presence of lakes perfect for swimming, boating, fishing, and other waterway activities. Rent a houseboat and stay on the water! Paddle in a birchbark canoe and see if you have what it takes to be a real voyageur. Make sure you a get a fisherman guide to show you the ropes of catching walleye, smallmouth bass, and northern pike.
3) Yosemite National Park – Known for its breathtaking views of waterfalls, be prepared to hike a bit if you visit this park (there are stroller-friendly paths!). Then, plan a visit to the Giant Sequoia grove and have your kiddos try to wrap their arms around these giant trees. Explore paths that lead to wildflower meadows and maybe even be lucky enough to watch a meteor shower at night. This popular park will leave a lasting memory on you and your family.
4) Rocky Mountain National Park – Visit this park if you’re a family that loves being on the go. It would take weeks to complete all of the activities this park has to offer – hiking, whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, and snowshoeing just to name a few. Then, when you have had your fill of adventure, you can pack a picnic to watch wildlife, join a cowboy sing-along or take a nature class from an expert. For the tourist in you, you can also visit museums, take tours, go shopping in town, or even relax at a spa.
5) Lassen Volcanic National Park – 2015 will be the best year to visit this gem. It marks the 100th anniversary of the 1915 eruption. There will be special park and community events to commemorate the event. If your kids are into astronomy and stargazing, this is the place to go. The park offers a Starry Night ranger-led program where you can explore the incredible night sky and see close-up views of stars and constellations. Another highlight to mention are the remarkable hydrothermal features of the park that are a result of the volcanic activity.
6) Everglades National Park – This park is unique and special; it provides the habitat for rare and endangered species like the American crocodile, manatee, and the Florida panther. These wetlands are excellent for bird watching, boating, camping and canoeing. If you are feeling adventurous try some geocaching where you go on a treasure-like hunt for items people have left. If you’re feeling really brave try slough slogging where you get your feet wet with some off-trail hiking.
7) Big Bend National Park – Is your kid a fan of geology? The rivers here carve canyons out of ancient limestone. You can also see fossils of pterosaur and fault lines. Make sure you take a bird list with you on your hiking adventures because you could find more than 450 different species!
8) Denali National Park – See some of Alaska’s most famous sights here – Mt. McKinley, glacial rivers, tundra, tons of wildlife (moose, caribou, grizzly bears) and more. Taking kids hiking here will be easy with the hop-on, hop-off Park shuttle; it will transfer you to different areas of the park. You can also tour the kennel of the Iditarod Musher.
9) Great Basin National Park – This park operates a program specifically designed for kids of all ages where they can learn about the park’s trees, flowers, and insects. Check out the Lehnman Caves where guides can lead you through limestone caverns.
10) Glacier National Park – This somewhat hidden treasure won’t be around forever. The glaciers that have passed through and are still here, melting, have left the most beautiful scenery. This park is perfect for families who love hiking, camping and seeing wildlife. The tales from local Native Americans are fascinating. You can discover an outdoor paradise of tranquility, and outdoor activities like boating, fishing, and cross country skiing that will leave you breathless.
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