Choose Your Family’s Adventure This Summer at America’s National Parks

With so many entertaining options for domestic and international travel these days, why should families choose the national parks for their summer adventures? Here at A Grade Ahead, we believe that America’s national parks have so much to offer to families, not only fantastic natural wonders but also exciting opportunities to explore our nation’s past. From the Lava Beds National Monument in Oregon, which shows the effects of volcanos on the landscape, to the Wright Brothers National Monument in North Carolina, which celebrates American aviation history, the National Parks Service has enrichment for every family!

National Parks Guides

First, the National Park Service has amazing, kid-friendly opportunities, including the Junior Rangers program. This program helps schoolchildren enjoy activity-based learning in almost all the national parks. They participate in a series of activities, interact with the park rangers, and earn badges and certificates. For example, as families tour the Freedom Trail in Boston, kids can complete a booklet in which they explore what “liberty” means, solve riddles about America’s past, and answer questions based on programs offered at the different sites. Once completed, the kids turn in their booklets to receive their badges. This program is available online as well at the Boston National Parks website.

Fourth graders are especially invited to choose their adventures in the national parks with the Every Kid Outdoors program. Initiated by President Obama in 2015, this program offers free admission to the national parks for all fourth graders and their families. To get your pass and plan your trip, go to the Every Kid Outdoors website.

Park Versus Park

With over 400 parks to choose from, families should start their national parks adventure by choosing what they want to experience and learn about as well as where they want to go. Each national park offers a unique opportunity to learn about the natural world and/or American history and culture. For example, if your children are curious about dinosaurs, consider a trip to  Badlands National Park in South Dakota. There, visitors can speak with paleontologists who are actively digging up and studying fossils of all kinds.

You can also answer the age-old question, “would you rather go to the beach or the mountains?” The Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts offers stunning beach vistas as well as opportunities to explore coastal marshes. On the other hand, visit Rocky Mountain National Park to experience the majesty of the Rocky Mountains as you hike from meadows to alpine lakes. If you can’t decide between the two, head to Olympic National Park in western Washington State. At this vast park, you can experience both the beaches of the Pacific Northwest and the peaks of the Cascades Mountain chain.

Learning Opportunities

The National Parks Service provides outstanding resources for exploring America’s challenging history as well. New Philadelphia, Illinois, for example, was the first town laid out and legally registered by an African American specifically for former slaves. Now, the New Philadelphia National Historic Site features an augmented reality walking tour that immerses visitors in the history of the town.

There are national parks in just about every state, so most Americans are just a road trip away from their adventures. A Grade Ahead of Central Ohio is only two hours from Cuyahoga Valley National Park near Cleveland, where you can experience plants and wildlife native to Ohio as you hike along the Cuyahoga River. The park also offers opportunities to learn more about the Ohio & Erie Canal, which connected Lake Erie in the North to the Ohio River in the South and facilitated trade in the region.

If you are interested in going farther afield, there are parks from Alaska to American Samoa as well. Families can see the wonders of glaciers and fjords at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska, an internationally protected area. Alternatively, families can travel to the volcanic islands of the South Pacific at the National Park of American Samoa, where they can experience the rich cultural heritage of the people and stroll along the coral sands beaches.

Plan Your Park Adventure

The National Park Service’s website is the best place to begin your adventure. On their main page, you can search for parks based on where they are or the experiences they offer. Their planning tools will also help you make the most of your visits once you choose where you want to go. The website provides a helpful checklist with all of the important considerations, including a list of the Ten Essentials you should bring with you and tips for exploring the parks and camping with kids.

Keep in mind that planning your adventure is necessary in 2024. As more and more people discover just how amazing America’s landscape and history are, the national parks are filling up. Some of the more popular parks, like Yellowstone National Park, now require reservations, which can be made on Other parks also require permits to enjoy certain activities, like camping or horseback riding.

The national parks provide one-of-a kind adventures for families to learn and grow as they experience American’s marvelous natural wonders and rich heritage.  From mountain tops to historic villages, learning opportunities are only a road trip away. So, choose your family’s adventure this summer in America’s backyard by exploring the national parks.

What do you think? Have you visited any national parks? What fun experiences and memories do you have to share? Do you have any recommendations? We would love to hear from you in the comments!


Author: Susanna Robbins, Teacher and Franchise Assistant at A Grade Ahead


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