Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Park It--Summer Activities at State and National Parks

Whether you are six or 46 (or 23 like me!), I'm sure you have a soft spot for a good park. The merry go round, swings, and slides can make a child or an adult alike go weak at the knees!

Summer Park Activity
The girls swinging away at one the many parks we have been to!
During the summer when I was home from college, I would babysit two little girls who lived a town over.  The sun would always taunt us to come out and play, but there is only so much tag a girl can play!  I tried to brainstorm different ideas of where to take the girls without having to:
  1. Pack them up in the car, and;
  2. Spend a ton of money 
One day while towing them around town in their red wagon, I remembered there was a huge park down the road.  Oh, did I make a b-line for it!

Parks are awesome.  Whether you go to a community park, amusement park, state park or national park, they are fun places to go with little cost or no cost.  My motto is "If it's free, it's for me!"  I am also known to settle for almost free, too!

Typically community, town, and city parks are almost always free of cost and are extremely family-friendly.  Pack up a picnic basket full of goodies and maybe even some watermelon (check out some scrumptious watermelon recipes on our Pinterest)!  You can take advantage of the basketball and tennis courts most parks offer or even bring the bathing suits to go swimming in the pool.

If you want to put some amusement in your summer, many theme parks offer discounted rates for large groups.  They also offer season passes, one fixed price to visit as many times as you want during the season, which is great if your family goes often.  Also, keep an eye out for discount coupons.  Hershey Park, which is about an hour and a half drive from our corporate office, puts discount coupons on the back of Coke cans.  Once you're done drinking your Coke, take your can to the park and receive a discount on the price of your admission. (And they recycle the can for you!)


Parks - Know Where to Go

State parks are great because there are so many to choose from per state.  With so many choices, odds are there is one close enough to avoid the infamous, "ARE WE THERE YET" from the backseat.

park activities park recreation
Ohiopyle State Park in PA (iStock photos)
Niagara Falls State Park - I'm sure you've heard of Niagara Falls, but did you know that it's a state park, too?  Neither did I!  It's actually America's oldest state park. This park does have an admission fee for visitors, but it offers a Discovery Pass, which can help you save up to 35% on your visit.  There are many different activities at the park to give you a bang for your buck.  If you want an even bigger bang, beginning at 10 p.m. from late May to early September, every Friday, Sunday and on certain holidays the park puts on a spectacular fireworks show.

If you're not sure which of the many state parks to visit, you can visit America's State Parks and use the Find a Park Tool to find one that speaks to you.

National Parks 

With 397 national parks in the U.S. there are many gold mines of fun to uncover.  For money saving ideas - choose from one of the 264 that are FREE! The other 133 charge entrance fees.  Fun abounds with camping, hiking, canoeing, and more!

During spring, summer, and autumn at many of the parks, there are numerous programs offered for children which allow them to explore, discover, and learn about the park they are visiting.  If you think that's cool, kids between the ages of 5 -12 can become a junior ranger!  It's no wonder so many people visit American National Parks each year!  Two parks that stand out:

  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Named America's most visited national park, more than nine million visitors a year flock to this free park every year.  It extends from Tennessee to North Carolina with a diverse pallet of flora and fauna bustling in between.  Known for the blue haze that hangs over the mountains, this park is also known as the "wildflower" national park because plants bloom year-round. It also takes pride in the hundreds of miles of hiking and horse trails, as well as waterfalls that jut from almost every river and stream.
  • Wrangell- St. Elias National Park and Preserve - Grab your walking shoes! This free park in Alaska is the largest in the United States totaling 13.2 million acres which is bigger than Switzerland.  If you are thinking 13.2 million acres is a little much, start your visit off with a guided tour or a thrilling mountain bike ride on Alaska's wild terrain.

Want to visit a national park that's not free? Below is a list of dates when the admission fee is waived (2012):

  • January 14-16 - Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend
  • April 21-29 - National Park Week
  • June 9 - Get Outdoors Day
  • September 29 - National Public Lands Day
  • November 10-12 - Veterans Day

If you're not sure about which national park to go to, find a park by name, location, activity, or topic through the National Park Service.  Plan on going to any of these national parks or another cool park?  Take us with you!  We understand if you don't have room for ALL of us.  At the very least, you can comment or post a picture on our Facebook wall to let us know how fun it was! Or friend us on Foursquare and let us know where you are!

Krysta W.

1 comment:

  1. I miss the public chairs and tables under those outdoor umbrellas for the parks back in the day. They are life savers during the summer.

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