The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016, and everyone can take part in the celebration! This is a great opportunity to visit a new place or an old favorite. Plan your visit and enjoy our country’s history and nature. Here are 10 unique ideas to help enhance your families experience at the national parks and most are FREE.
1. The Visitors Center. My favorite place to start is at the visitors center. I can pick up a local paper, learn about animals and ecosystems, speak with a naturalist or ranger, and find out more about programs and environmental education opportunities.
2. Let your cell phone become an Audio Tour Guide. Kids love electronics, especially cell phones. Check out the Just Ahead app which offers a great way to learn about points of interest and delve more into the parks history to enhance your touring experience through your cell phone.
3. Geocaching. One of my favorite thing to do anywhere in the world! Geocaching is a fun adventure where you seek out treasures that have been hidden in the parks. Or, try EarthCaching, which is like geocaching only it involves finding caches that the earth has created.
4. Mail a Postcard. In this day of high tech, I think it's great for kids to realize the fun of actually going to the mailbox and finding a letter from someone. Even better, did you know that postcards can be mailed from inside a National Park and can have a special postmark too? Buy a post card at the gift shop and mail it in their post box.
5. Art for Parks Backpacks. Backpacks filled with art supplies such as watercolors, pastels, a Plaster of Paris kit for paw print impressions, study guides, and journal entires from previous artists. Backpacks can be checked out for free from many of the national parks visitor centers.
6. Nocturnal Programs & Full Moon Ranger Hike. Looking upon a starry night sky is a moving experience and several national parks offer excellent stargazing programs. Some parks even have dark sky festivals and hands-on activities to enjoy the natural darkness. In addition, several national parks offer full moon ranger hikes. These popular nocturnal adventures are a fun way to explore the parks and wildlife.
7. Take a Ranger-Led Tour. Find out more about ranger-led activities at the visitors center, local paper, or park website. Enjoy everything from day hikes and historic lessons. Bring water, sturdy shoes, sunscreen, and get ready to learn the ins and outs of the park.
8. Photography Walk. Kids can take part in a free camera walk to get tips and advice on taking pictures of the scenery and wildlife. Enjoy this hands-on workshop that will help kids take better photos and see the park in new ways.
9. Adventure & Excitement. Go horseback riding, take part in a triathlon, snowshoeing, dog sledding, kayaking, rock climbing, spelunking, tide pooling, and more! There's so much to explore. Every park has its own unique activity depending on the season and terrain.
10. Earn a Jr. Ranger Badge. This is an activity based program offers young visitors the opportunity to join the National Park Service "family" as Junior Rangers. Interested youth complete a series of activities during a park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and Junior Ranger certificate.
What is your favorite activity to do in the National Parks?