Daily Adventure Number 3: Explore a New County, State or National Park
There are national parks in all 50 states, and there are thousands of state and county parks across the country. From national seashores and lakeshores to national historic sites and national monuments, there are also many different types of national parks, and state and county parks are as varied as the locations in which you find them.
Many parks are free to enter, and all but the busiest national parks cost just a few dollars at the most. County, state, and national park passes are available as well, and buying an annual park pass can provide significant savings if you take your family on park adventures on a regular basis. In any case, the experience you will have is well worth the cost of entry, and you probably don’t have to go very far at all to find a park you have never visited.
Where to Go
It is totally up to you. You can find a list of national parks by searching the National Park Service’s website, and many counties and states now have extremely useful websites as well. Do just a little bit of searching, and you are nearly certain to find a park with the specific activities and amenities you have in mind.
What to Bring
A Few Dollars
Some state and national parks have entrance fees, which may be charged per person or per vehicle. You can look up the entrance fee for your chosen park online before you go; but, if you can’t find any information, bring a few dollars just in case.
Sun Screen and Bug Spray
Sunscreen and bug spray are always a good idea when doing activities in nature. If you are picky about ingredients, make sure you read the labels (or do some research online) before trying a new brand.
Water and Snacks (or Lunch)
Bring plenty of healthy snacks to keep your children’s energy levels high. Water (or another healthy and hydrating drink) is a must for any outdoor activity, particularly when it is hot or your children might be playing in the sun. If you will be there (or might be there) all day, pack a lunch that works for everyone.
Toys, Equipment, and Gear
This is entirely optional, and the things you might want to bring will depend heavily on where you are going, when you are going, and what you plan to do while you are there. But, from bikes to skis and from sports balls to camping gear, making sure you pack what you need will ensure that your adventure is as fun (and safe) as possible.
A Map (or App)
You can find park maps lots of places (including online, in many cases), and there are numerous apps that provide maps of hiking and biking trails at county, state, and national parks across the country. It is a good idea to find a map and plan your adventure before you go if possible; but, as discussed in Tip #1 below, you can probably get a map at the park if you need to.
5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Daily Adventure
Tip #1: Visit the Ranger Station When You Get to the Park
Park rangers have lots of information about the best things to do at each park, and they are usually more than happy to share what they know. They can tell you where to park, what to look for, and how long it will take to finish any particular trail. Many ranger stations have free maps as well, and you might even find guides or maps for other parks that you can take with you for your next family adventure.
Tip #2: Go Early if You Can
Finding a parking spot can be a challenge in many of the more-popular parks, especially from the late morning through the early afternoon. So, go early if you can. Go online or call to find out when the park opens, and try to get there within the first hour or so after the gates open. This is not strictly necessary – many parks have plenty of parking and visitors come and go throughout the day – but it is something to keep in mind, particularly if you are planning to go on the weekend.
Tip #3: Review the Park’s List of Amenities
This is another thing you can do before you go, either by going online or reviewing your map (or app). Figuring out in advance if the park has bike trails, kayaks or rowboats for rent, picnic pavilions (for shade) and other amenities can help you get the most out of your visit.
Tip #4: Be Ready to Explore
If you are not used to visiting parks, be ready to explore. Prepare yourself to go slightly out of your comfort zone, and psyche yourself up to go farther than you would normally go. Many of our nation’s parks are huge, and gearing up with a sense of adventure will help your kids get ready to explore as well.
Tip #5: Check the Weather
Finally, as we will recommend for most of our outdoor daily adventures, check the weather before you go. While a slight chance of rain in the forecast should not stop you from going, you will want to know if you need to pack an umbrella just in case.
What You’ll Get Out of It
Our local, state, and national parks are unique treasures that offer an endless list of opportunities for parents and their children to create memories that will last a lifetime. Even if you stay close to home, when you visit a new park you will almost certainly find something that no one in your family has ever seen before. Take the time to feel the sunshine, listen to nature, and witness your children stretch their bounds.