Visiting the U.S. National Parks with your Family
What is your favorite U.S. National Park? Which one would your children say is their personal preference? How familiar are you with the vast number of choices available within the grandeur of our national treasures?
A simple suggestion is to get the laptop, google U.S. National Park Service websites and maps (try National Geographic) and sit down as a family to identify what you wish to see firsthand and what will be most notable for your personal likes and tastes.
Sure, you know about the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone and they might be among your first considerations. But, you may choose less well-known Delaware Water Gap or Crater Lake in Oregon (one of my personal favorites). What’s cool is that there are more places to select from than there are number of states to visit; in fact, there are 58 (some say 59) U.S. National Parks and a whopping 405 recreational areas within them.
The time is ripe to pique interest among our newest generation of Americans so that they fall in love with the parks and gain a sense of patriotism and pride — which will influence them to secure the protection and preservation of our parks system for their children, and so on and so on. Invigoration and excitement about our beautiful national landscape will not only get our children outside and away from the television set, computers, and video games but will benefit the future of our precious natural areas.
Last year, the U.S. National Parks system entertained a record-breaking number of visitors— hundreds of millions, in fact— with its mindboggling beauty, including gurgling geysers, pounding waterfalls, rugged rock formations, sandy seashores and historic sites. Thankfully, the parks, of such natural significance, are largely protected by the government against development, and are visited by millions upon millions of tourists every year. Sadly, though, Congressional budgets are weak despite the fact that visitation numbers are super strong.
So, to promote the importance of infrastructure maintenance and park sustainability as well as excite the next generation to covet the park system, a joint push by The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation is underway, with a new campaign, “Find Your Park.” The effort ties in with the birth of the park system’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2016 — educating and encouraging families to “connect with their favorite parks and public lands.”
Former First Lady Laura Bush, and First Lady Michelle Obama are co-chairing the endeavor, which launched in March, with the goal of familiarizing families with the uniqueness of our parks, conveying stories behind the nation’s magnificent park system and enticing visitors to go out to enjoy them, one park at a time. “From Acadia National Park on the East Coast, to Yosemite on the West; from Glacier National Park in the North, to Big Bend in the South; I’ve collected national parks like stamps. I’ve even lived in a national park, the White House,” said former first lady Laura Bush.
First Lady Michelle Obama stated, “I am thrilled to be serving as the honorary co-chair of the National Parks Centennial Celebration with First Lady Laura Bush. Since the launch of Let’s Move! Outside in 2010, the National Park Foundation has been encouraging kids and families to get active, get outside, and take advantage of America’s great outdoors,” she said in a statement from the U.S. National Parks. “I look forward to…encouraging people across the country to ‘Find Your Park’.”
Find Your Park engages young Americans and entices them to share their very own unique Find Your Park experiences in an interactive gallery at www.findyourpark.com. Also, FindYourPark.com offers in-park and digital activities. And celebrities such as Bill Nye “The Science Guy” are sharing their own personal and inspirational outdoor experiences on the Find Your Park blog. Ultimately, the campaign strives to get everyone out and about to enjoy Mother Nature.
In a nutshell, Find Your Park will help you get acquainted with the specifics about the park system in three categories: natural, historical and cultural. The categories make narrowing down interests from the monster list less daunting. After all, with hundreds of places to choose from, doing a little research upfront will serve your family well. See www.nationalparks.gov/findapark for more information. Also, to find parks within each of the 50 states, visit www.listofusnationalparks.com/national-parks-list-by-state. In addition to searching by location, parks can be categorized and searched by size, popularity or elevation, for example.
To pique your children’s curiosity about America’s amazing parks, watch this short teaser video: