A good friend of mine left for Yellowstone today with her family, and I have to admit… I’m REALLY envious. I haven’t been to a national park in years, ever since I visited Big Bend (in West Texas) when I was a little girl. I’ve decided it’s time to start planning a family vacation to a national park. Maybe not right away, but within the next year or two. My husband isn’t a huge fan of the outdoors, so it may just be me and the girls… and the dog! 😉
5 reasons why national parks are perfect for family vacations
America’s national parks are a bargain. Not only are they home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, but visiting them costs next to nothing! A week-long pass to most parks costs $20 for an entire family, and campsites cost about $15 per day. (Or, if camping’s not your thing, you can stay at a reasonably priced hotel nearby.) Still not convinced? The most popular activities — ranger tours, hiking trails, campfire talks — are all free!
Most Americans live within a day’s drive of a national park. From Acadia in Maine, to the Everglades in Florida, to the smorgasbord of national parks in the West, chances are there’s a national park near you. And finding a nearby park has never been easier. Just go to the National Park Service’s “Find A Park” webpage to start planning your next vacation.
3. Physical Activity
Going to the gym is boring. I imagine hiking along the rim of the Grand Canyon or next to a rainbow-filled waterfall in Yosemite could be a breathtaking experience. In fact, given all the outdoor adventures available in national parks— hiking, biking, rafting, rock climbing — it’s hard not to be active on vacation. And the best part: it doesn’t feel like exercise, it feels like fun!
National parks are amazing places to learn about history, science, and nature. It’s one thing to hear about archaeology or biology in a classroom. It’s another to actually experience those things firsthand. Visiting a desert palm oasis once inhabited by the Cahuilla tribe in Joshua Tree or gazing upon a herd of bison in Yellowstone really brings the classroom to life. And who knows? It might just provide the intellectual spark your child needs to get excited about learning.
5. Quality Time … Unplugged
National parks are a great place to ditch your technology, get in touch with nature, and spend some quality time together as a family. And the best part: you don’t have to fight with your kids to turn off their iPhones. Most parks are located in remote areas with poor or spotty cell phone reception. Unplugging has never been easier!
Have you ever been to a national park? Which one?
Vacation tips were provided by James Kaiser, an award-winning travel writer and photographer. He’s written a series of successful national park guidebooks focused on in-depth research, informed nature writing and real life experiences.