Do you know what the deepest lake, the highest waterfall and the longest cave system in the US have in common? They are all found in a National Park (Crater Lake, Yosemite and Mammoth Cave, respectively). It is fun to dream of exotic foreign countries when planning a summer vacation, but there is a lifetime's worth of wonder to be found within our own National Park system. While not every park is set up for a family trip, many of them have specific programs geared towards children of all ages.
Two publishers of travel books, Fodor's and Frommer's, have compiled a list of the top parks for kids. While Fodor's only chooses five and doesn't pick anything east of the Mississippi, it does give detailed descriptions of why they believe their choices are family friendly. Frommer's chooses fifteen parks, and while light on specifics, it at least spreads the wealth by choosing some parks on the east coast. Wherever you go, look for the very popular Junior Ranger Program, which includes activities such as guided hikes, animal tracking and star-gazing.
There is also a free National Parks Journal, courtesy of the National Park Conservation Association, full of puzzles, pictures for coloring and pages to record park adventures. With so many parks to choose from and so much emphasis put on educating and entertaining kids, the options for fun are endless. Happy Trails!