My family is fortunate to live in close proximity to two National Parks, and not very far from several others. National Parks are a wonderful resource for parents looking for a way to entertain and create memories with their children. If you’re looking ahead to spring, or even planning future summer vacations, consider a trip to a National Park. You won’t regret it.
Here are five reasons my family loves to visit these national treasures:
It fosters a love of the outdoors and nature
When my boys are at each other’s throats, and it’s starting to feel like the WWE in our living room, that’s a sign that they need some time outside. An amazing thing happens when my kids play outdoors. Their mood improves, they get exercise, and they tend to behave much better once we return home.
Taking children to National Parks instills an appreciation for nature and the outdoors. It is hard not to be impressed at the beauty that surrounds you in these sacred places. If you expose kids at a young age, it’s more likely they will continue to enjoy being outdoors throughout their lives.
They’re a lot more cost efficient than theme parks
You can purchase a pass that will get you and your entire family into every National Park for an entire year for 80 dollars. You can’t even get one child into Disneyland for one day at that price. National parks also offer several “free admission” days throughout the year. We’ve visited parks on these days and have been surprised that more people don’t take advantage of this opportunity.
If you happen to be lucky enough to have a child attending fourth grade, the “Every Kid in a Park” program allows any fourth grader (and everyone else in the vehicle!) free entrance into any National Park.
There’s something for everyone
There are 58 National Parks in the U.S. Each is unique and majestic in its own way. With so many choices, you’re bound to find a part that will have something to offer every member of your family.
I have one son who loves to hike. He always complains when a hike is over. I don’t know if any hike could ever be long enough for him. My middle child has a different view. When he was young and we took him on one of his first hikes, he said, “I don’t want to just walk, and walk, and walk!” He does, however, enjoy spotting wildlife, skipping rocks, and climbing whatever he can. He also has a fascination with buses and was thrilled to ride one of the shuttles provided at Zion National Park.
Many parks also offer Junior Ranger programs, geological scavenger hunts, “Wildlife Olympics,” tours, and many learning opportunities for children.
It teaches the importance of conservation and preserving public lands
“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.” – Theodore Roosevelt
We must all do our part to teach our children the importance of preserving these beautiful places and ensuring that all are allowed to enjoy them in perpetuity. We are raising the next generation, and exposing them to the beauty of our National Parks is a good way to ensure that they will want to protect them.
You can make memories while escaping distractions
Something amazing happens when we leave familiar surroundings and venture into the wild. Time seems to slow down when we’re no longer bombarded by our daily distractions and can focus on what’s really important. Visiting a National Park is a great way for a family to spend time together free from the stimuli that normally surrounds us.
Most of my favorite memories of childhood were of time spent with family – and it was usually outdoors. I’m grateful that my parents allowed me to experience the beauty of so many National Parks and am hoping to offer my children the same.