10 Fun National Park Activities for Kids

Sure, you can take your kids hiking, fishing or camping in a national park, but if you really want to wow them, take them on a helicopter ride into the Grand Canyon or go sledding with them down sand dunes at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. Take a look at 10 of the coolest ways kids can explore our national parks this year.

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Deer are among the many animals you can spot in Washington's Olympic National Park. 960 1280

  

Owls may also give you a long look in Olympic National Park. 960 1280

  

Bighorn sheep are among the largest animals in Montana's Glacier National Park. 960 1280

  

Watch out! In Florida's Everglades National Park, the crocodiles have big mouths. 960 1280

  

For elk-watching, you can't go wrong at Glacier, Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park. 960 1280

  

There are many places to see moose. Try Yellowstone, Katmai, King Salmon, Grand Teton, Isle Royale or Denali National Park 960 1280

  

Golden Eagles soar at Olympic National Park. 960 1280

  

Go north to Glacier Bay or Katmai National Park in Alaska for a sea otter fix. 960 1280

  

Grizzly bears and their cubs hang out in Denali, Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks. 960 1280

  

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are the places to go for bison-watching. 960 1280

  

Caribou roam at Katmai and Denali National Parks. 960 1280

  

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Shaky Town

Shaky Town

From the hippie to the dippy, the flamboyant to the clairvoyant, San Francisco has it all. Between its mild weather and steep streets, its residents spend a lot of time getting a workout. The cosmopolitan city is the gateway town to Yosemite, Point Reyes National Seashore, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes Alcatraz, China Beach, Ocean Beach and the Presidio on its roster. Whether you’re into opera, jazz or rock-n-roll, we can assure you that there’s a drum circle forming near you. 960 1280

joe daniel price  

Emerald City

Emerald City

The town that gave us Jimi Hendrix, Gypsy Rose Lee, Starbucks and Microsoft is one cool town, literally. In grungy Seattle, temperatures average 58.8°F per year and it rains more than 150 days annually. That makes for some sweet snow at Mount Rainier and plenty of activities in nearby North Cascades National Park and Olympic National Park. Seattle also boasts the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park and the San Juan Island National Historic Park. Throw in a night out at the Comet or the Crocodile and your friends will be green with envy.  960 1280

  

I’m Going to Jackson

I’m Going to Jackson

Located less than 10 minutes from Grand Teton National Park and about an hour and a half from Yellowstone’s entrance, the town of Jackson Hole has been described as Aspen without the flash – a bold statement considering you can toss a snowball and hit a billionaire. They come for the slopes, the seclusion, the beauty and the home brews. Celebrities like Harrison Ford and Sandra Bullock laid downed permanent roots. 960 1280

  

Way Down South

Way Down South

At the southern-most tip of the U.S. you’ll find the laidback town of Key West. Its highest point sits 18 feet above sea level with Cuba about 100 miles away. Locals enjoy year-round fishing, snorkeling, street festivals and rum tastings. Offbeat activities include bike tours in an above-ground cemetery and the Aqua West Drag Show. Locals recommend spending time on Duval Street and the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square. Key West is also the anchor city for Dry Tortugas National Park, which is only accessible by boat or seaplane. Go there when you’re ready to dry out, so to speak.  960 1280

Raul Rodriguez  

Scruffy City

Scruffy City

Sitting at the foothills of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Knoxville, Tenn., is like the Little Engine That Could. It keeps chugging and chugging, offering more live music, fun outdoor activities and crazy good restaurants. The "Scruffy City," as locals call it, has a respect for historic architecture and continues to protect and preserve areas such as the vibrant downtown. Gone are the days when orange-and-white college football was its best offering; Knoxville has earned its own stripes and colors.  960 1280

Arpad Benedek  

Marfa, Marfa, Marfa

Marfa, Marfa, Marfa

A lot of people think there’s no reason to go anywhere in Texas except maybe Austin, Dallas, San Antonio … let alone West Texas. We’re here to enlighten you: Go to Marfa. You may recognize this sleepy kitschy dust bowl from “No Country for Old Men” or “There Will Be Blood.” It’s got a unique art scene, a film festival, a groovy resort called El Cosmico and less than 2,300 residents. About an hour and a half north of the Big Bend National Park, one of the most remote and overlooked parks on the NPS roster, Marfa is your stop for one last look at civilization. Or how civilization looked about 30 years ago, depending on one’s perspective.  960 1280

  

Band Camp

Band Camp

What was founded as Camp Collins in 1864, Ft. Collins is home to Colorado State University and a burgeoning brewery scene. The college town has since attracted musicians, artists, hucksters, entrepreneurs and ski bums. All enjoy the town’s proximity to the majestic Rocky Mountain National Park and myriad outdoor activities such as mountain biking, hiking and rock climbing as well as music festivals and farmer’s markets.  960 1280

RiverNorth Photography  

Desert Cool

Desert Cool

Considered the gateway town to Joshua Tree National Park, Palm Springs oozes cool. Frank Sinatra put the sleepy desert town on the map and once shared the grooviest pad with Ava Gardner. Hey, you can even rent it should you have the bones, baby. It’s got great thrift store shopping, film festivals, MCM home tours and detox spas. The only thing you’ll want for is more time.  960 1280

  

Ash-Vegas

Ash-Vegas

Located near the Smoky Mountains and at the Blue Ridge foothills, Asheville, N.C. is one of the hippest towns below the Mason-Dixon. The downtown and River Arts districts, outdoor activities and world-class cuisine attract thousands of new and repeat visitors each year. And of course, we’ll always have the Biltmore.  960 1280

  

Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park

Founded in 1890 as one of the first federal parks, Rock Creek is an oasis of natural solace and beauty within our nation's capital, in the northwest part of the district. 960 1280

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Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Less than a hundred miles from the city, visitors can begin their trip to Shenandoah by cruising on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains along Skyline Drive. 960 1280

Jon Bilous / iStock  

Shenandoah's Old Rag Mountain

Shenandoah's Old Rag Mountain

One of the Shenandoah'€™s most popular day hikes is summiting Old Rag Mountain. Old Rag's exposed rocky summit beckons outdoor photography, though some may be more inclined after hiking it to just enjoy the view. 960 1280

Will Hollerith  

Shenandoah for Fall Color

Shenandoah for Fall Color

The best time to visit Shenandoah is during fall when the leaves of the forests turn red, brown and gold. 960 1280

Will Hollerith  

Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay

Traveling through the largest estuary in North America can take visitors through significant cities, colonial towns, farms and fishing villages where they can kayak, fish, sample seafood or simply slow down to take in the scenery. 960 1280

Will Hollerith  

Vital Waters

Vital Waters

Traveling through the largest estuary in North America can take visitors through significant cities, colonial towns, farms and fishing villages where they can kayak, fish, sample seafood or simply slow down to take in the scenery. 960 1280

Will Hollerith  

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

A kayak or canoe is the best way to explore Blackwater's wetlands and to glimpse the bald eagle in its natural habitat. This protected area southeast of D.C. and across the Chesapeake Bay is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 960 1280

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Colonial Parkway

Colonial Parkway

This 23-mile scenic byway connects Jamestowne, Williamsburg and Yorktown, the three points which make up Virginia's Historic Triangle. 960 1280

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George Washington National Forest

George Washington National Forest

Managed by the National Forest Service, this forest and the Jefferson National Forest together form one of the largest stretches of public land in the Eastern U.S. Vast tracts of forested mountain terrain make the trails of this national forest a popular destination for hiking, mountain biking, and especially trail running. 960 1280

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Bass Head Lighthouse

Bass Head Lighthouse

Acadia National Park is the first US National Park built east of the Mississippi River. Bass Harbor Lighthouse (pictured), located on Mount Desert Island, was built in 1858. Head here for a quiet getaway with picturesque views of the Atlantic Ocean. 960 1280

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Acadia's Islands

Acadia's Islands

More than 2 million people visit Acadia National Park each year. According to the US National Park Service, the average visitor spends 3 to 4 days in the area, which allows some time to visit some of the small islands that are also part of majestic national park. 960 1280

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Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain

Travel like the President, and visit Bar Harbor, ME. Put on your best walking shoes, and take a hike up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. 960 1280

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Biking Near Somes Sound

Biking Near Somes Sound

Go biking on a scenic park road by Somes Sound, a body of water that runs deep into Mount Desert Island. The sound almost splits the island in 2, and is often described as the “only fjord on the East Coast.” 960 1280

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Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond

As beautiful as it might seem, outdoor enthusiasts and their pets are not allowed to wade in the clear waters of Jordon Pond. Some types of boating are permitted in the pond, which sits between the Penobscot Mountain and 2 mountains known as the “Bubbles.” 960 1280

Maine Office of Tourism  

Bass Harbor

Bass Harbor

Visit Bass Harbor, ME, a serene fishing village located on the southwest section of Mount Desert Island. And if you’re looking for lobster, you’ve hit a goldmine. This well-protected natural harbor ranks as one of the most lucrative lobster-producing ports in Maine. 960 1280

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Thunder Hole

Thunder Hole

Experience the crack of the waves as they slam into the rocky shores of a small inlet called Thunder Hole. Water is forced out of the end of the inlet -- a small cavern -- which creates a water spout as high as 40 feet and thunderous roar. 960 1280

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Carriage Road Bridges

Carriage Road Bridges

This is just one of Acadia National Park’s Carriage Road stone bridges. Don’t look for any car traffic on these bridges. The 57-mile network are free of motor vehicles, but hikers, bikers, horseback riders, cross-country skiers, and limited snowmobile activities are allowed. The bridges are made from the granite found on Mount Desert Island. 960 1280

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Kayaking on Long Pond

Kayaking on Long Pond

Go kayaking, and enjoy the beautiful scenery along on Long Pond. There are 2 Long Ponds. “Little” Long Pond is located west of the Seal Harbor. This area is located outside of the park, and it is great place for a scenic walk. The larger Long Pond -- sometimes referred to as “Great” Long Pond -- is further west of Somes Sound and Echo Lake. 960 1280

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Acadia's Luxury Homes

Acadia's Luxury Homes

Explore the area near and around Arcadia National Park. Take a short road trip, and gawk at some of the amazing luxury home along the road. 960 1280

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Rocky Cliff Climbing

Rocky Cliff Climbing

Climb to new heights! Visit Acadia National Park for awe-inspiring sea-cliff climbing. Experienced climbers must register in logbooks at Otter Cliffs’ South Wall of the Precipice and Canada Cliffs. Great Head offers some incredible and generally hard climbing over the ocean. But for beginners, we suggest you head to South Bubble. 960 1280

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Sand Beach

Sand Beach

Nestled in a small inlet between the granite mountains and rocky shores of Mount Desert Island, Sandy Beach’s water temperature rarely exceeds 55 degrees in the summer. Visitors can access the beach via the Park Loop Road -- just after the park fee entrance station on the northeastern side of the island. And if you don’t have wheels, the Island Explorer Shuttle Bus has a pickup and drop-off point at the beach, and it stops every half hour during the summer peak season. 960 1280

Maine Office of Tourism  

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