Perfect National Park Vacations for Families

Date:   April 27, 2001
Contact:   Andrea Keller, 202-454-3332

Perfect National Park Vacations for Families

Washington, D.C. - This year, take the family on an adventure to see ancient Indian ruins, active volcanoes, Civil War battlefields, or even underground caves. America's 385 national park units offer families with young children a wide variety of activities, many for free. The National Parks Conservation Association has assembled the following list of some family-friendly parks (be sure to call ahead for program times and additional visitor information):

1. Yosemite National Park (California: 209-372-0200)
Hop aboard a shuttle bus or hike through this beautiful park in early summer to explore lakes and waterfalls, mountains, giant sequoias, and granite domes. In addition, the park hosts twilight walks and evening campfire programs appropriate for families.

2. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii: 808-985-6000)
Aloha! Kids will marvel at this park's active volcanoes. Families can hike through a rain forest trail, look into a live volcano, or visit the Volcano Art Center (808-967-8222) to enjoy a summer musical or traditional hula performances.

3. Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota: 605-574-2523)
Who wouldn't want their face on a mountain? Kids can join Mount Rushmore's Junior Ranger or Rushmore Rangers programs and participate in afternoon children's programs. Nearby, families can pan for gold, ride a vintage steam train, visit a woolly mammoth dig, or watch a Wild West shoot-out-recreated on summer nights (

4. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming: 307-344-7381)
In addition to viewing the park's famous geysers and wildlife, families can hike, bicycle, fish, go horseback riding or boating, take a ride in a stagecoach, participate in a family campfire program, or join an environmental education program for children.

5. Everglades National Park (Florida: 305-242-7700)
South Florida's unique ecosystem makes for an exciting trip to Everglades National Park-just bring the bug spray for summer trips. Kids will love looking for wildlife hidden among the grasses, trees, and lakes. Be sure to check the visitor centers for scheduled family programs like "Glades Glimpse" which gives an interactive introduction to the local environment.

6. Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee: 865-436-1200)
This popular park offers a variety of opportunities for families to learn about local history. Kids will love the hayrides in Cades Cove and watching millers at work. The park also hosts special slide shows, guided walks, and Southern Appalachian storytelling during the summer.

7. Dinosaur National Monument (Colorado: 970-374-3000)
What kid isn't fascinated with dinosaurs? Visit the Dinosaur Quarry to see bones and dinosaur replicas. Kids can even watch people working on fossils in the paleontology laboratory. Other park activities include guided walks and campground talks. Families with more time should take a trip down the river or tour the Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery (435-789-4481), about 50 miles north of the quarry. Nearby, kids will discover 1,000-year-old petroglyphs, waterfalls, and the Labyrinths-a small maze of sandstone canyons and alcoves.

8. Cape Cod National Seashore (Massachusetts: 508-349-3785)
This 43,000-acre park includes miles of pristine beaches and dozens of deep freshwater ponds-perfect for families who enjoy swimming, fishing, horseback riding, bicycling, and exploring. Don't miss the park's lighthouses and the historic home of a whaling captain (it may be haunted!). Special summertime activities include ranger-guided canoe tours and surfcasting demonstrations.

9. Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky: 270-758-2251)
This is the longest recorded cave system in the world, with more than 360 miles explored and mapped. Kids will enjoy Mammoth Cave's "Trog Tour," a trip for young people, ages 8 - 12, into hidden parts of the cave-sans parents! Other park programs encourage families to put on hard hats and discovering caving together.

10. Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site (Montana: 406-846-3388)
Headquarters of one of the largest cattle ranches in the 19th century, this 1,500-acre park is a working ranch-complete with livestock and real cowboys! Families can take a ranger-led tour of the former residences and buildings dating back to 1860. During the summer, kids may encounter costumed park rangers at the bunkhouse, blacksmith shop, and chuckwagon, interpreting daily life during different periods in the ranch's history.

For information about NPCA's guided park tours call 800-NAT-PARK or visit for tour itineraries and travel information.

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