We all know Earth Day is Thursday, but did you know it's also National Park Week? I have to admit I had no idea. Brimful Curiosities clued me in along with the fact that it's Turn Off the TV Week (but we're just going to pretend we didn't hear that part).
Along with a love of books, I want my girls to develop a love for nature, beauty, and adventure. As a child, I often went hiking with my family in several of our national and state parks. I have sweet memories of enjoying God's amazing creation with my parents and sisters, and I desire a similar experience for my own children. We often visit a nearby state park for short hikes with the girls and can't wait to take them to some of our favorite national parks.
Right now the National Park Foundation is offering a free download of Parks For Play: 35 National Park Adventures for Kids of All Ages. The pdf is gorgeous and features fun things to do at parks all over the United States. If you haven't yet planned your summer vacation, this is the perfect resource for exploring new destinations.
Our favorite National Park - and vacation destination - is the Rocky Mountain National Park (top right picture). Estes Park, CO has ample affordable accommodations and is a darling place for children. There are a number of easy hikes with gorgeous views that even small children will enjoy. There is also a fantastic YMCA family camp in Estes Park with a full children's program for kids 3 and older.
Our other favorite is a little closer to home: Shenandoah National Park. My husband and I went to school just outside the entrance and spent many weekends hiking its trails. It is particularly splendid in Autumn when the leaves have turned and the mountainsides are flush with color.
This summer I'm hoping to discover a new favorite: Acadia National Park. I desperately need a vacation with my husband away from my children, and I think this park looks like just the place. If only I can figure out an affordable way to get to Maine!
If you do visit a national park, check to see if they have a Junior Ranger program. Each park is different, but in general you receive a booklet with activities. When your child has completed the booklet, they can turn it in for a Junior Ranger badge. They also have online games available. And of course be sure to check out the children's book selections at the visitors centers!
So what's your favorite national park? Please tell me - where have I not gone and what am I missing?!? (Books and crafts suggestions will resume tomorrow, I promise. :)