Having grown up in Pennsylvania and so close to dozens of amazing National Parks, we have been going to them since before the kids were born. Now that there are little humans we are in charge of keeping alive, we value going to the parks and learning alongside them even more. We love being outside and the fact that anywhere you go on a vacation, there is always one to check out. The National Parks Service touts that no matter where you are, there is always at least 1 National Park within a 2 hours distance from you.
Most parks aren’t that expensive to get into, but I get that going to a few throughout the summer can add up after a while. Well…good news, there are a few ways that you may be able to get free admission to them!
Yes, your Fourth Grader is actually good for something!! That 9 or 10 year old that acts like a teenager, forgets underwear half the time and is starting to realize that school is actually for learning, that 4th grader. There is a yearly program, put on called Every Kid Outdoors where 4th graders can take a simple quiz online and gets a print out you take to a National Park for your Free Pass for the entire family! They chose this age because they said this is when kids are starting to learn about the world around them and are open to new ideas. Visit their website www.everykidoutdoors.gov to get more info and to get yours for this year.
America the Beautiful Pass
Any current military member can get a pass to go to the National Parks every year with the America the Beautiful program. The first time we found out about this we were just outside of Charleston and ready to spend $20/$30 to go into the one fort and they got us our card right there. It is only good for the year so you do have to get a new one every year, but they can do it at any place you pay to enter so it is very convenient. All you have to do is show your military ID or paperwork and you are good to go! Between this and the Blue Star program in the summer for museums, there is not enough time to get to all the free things you can do!
Don’t worry if you don’t qualify for either of these either, there are still other cost effective passes available. An Annual pass is just $80 and if you are a senior citizen, you can score a LIFETIME annual pass for just $80. What better way to spend retirement?
Looking for some good options? Some of our favorite National Parks with the kids are:
Indiana Dunes in Chesterton, IN
Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas in St. Augustine, FL
Gettysburg – PA
Harper’s Ferry – WV
Historic Jamestowne – VA
Antietam Battlefield – MD
Now that I can travel a little more freely, we are hoping to hit up a lot more this summer and take full advantage of our free passes. You might not think your kids are “into that kind of thing”, but most have great interactive characters and crafts for the kids as well as food and treats from particular time periods you can try as well. The earlier you get them excited about learning, the better off they will be. It’s ok that my daughter thinks of St. Augustine as the place that we got the really good popsicles, because she remembers other things too and wants to go back.
Where is your favorite National Park?