Jun 042012

In celebration of National Get Outdoors Day on June 9th, the National Park Service is waiving entrance fees at the 133 national parks that charge an admission fee.  Access is always free at the other 264 national parks that never have entrance fees.  All told, there are  397 National Parks so chances are there is one nearby that offers just the right set of outdoor options for your family.

Yellowstone Beaver Pond

Take a lunch to eat along the way on the Yellowstone Beaver Pond Loop Trail

The goal of this 5th annual National Get Outdoors Day is to encourage healthy, active outdoor fun across the country.  Federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and the recreation industry are offering opportunities for American families to experience traditional and non-traditional types of outdoor activities.  They particularly want to encourage  first-time visitors to public lands and help reconnect youth to the great outdoors.  So tell the tweens and teens to leave the iPhones at home (or at least turn them off when in the park).

Sandy Hook Gateway National Seashore

View of Sandy Hook Gateway National Seashore from Twin Lights

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know we are big fans of the national parks and forests.   For those families looking for a daytrip in the urban Northeast, consider visiting the Boston Harbor Islands, the Cape Cod National Seashore or the Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey.  In New Hampshire, the White Mountain National Forest and 6,000 ft Mount Washington are always great outdoors destinations.

View from the summit of Mount Washington

View from the summit of Mount Washington

If your family is interested in combining history with getting outdoors consider destinations such as the  Civil War battleground at as Gettysburg or Revolutionary War era locations such as Yorktown. Want to get closer to nature on the East Coast?  The Everglades in Florida are short drive from Miami.   North Carolina’s Pisgah Forest, near Asheville, will be offering a number of special activities on June 9th including fly fishing, canoes, kayaks, archery, and mountian biking.  As an added bonus, stop at the nearby Dupont State Recreational Forest where the Hunger Games were filmed.

The DuPont State Recreational Forest in Brevard, North Carolina was the filming location for many of the arena scenes in the Hunger Games movie

The DuPont State Recreational Forest in Brevard, North Carolina was the filming location for many of the arena scenes in the Hunger Games movie

Further west, we never get tired of Yellowstone, Zion National Park, and Bryce Canyon.  In California the redwoods of the Muir Woods are a short trip north of San Francisco while the beautiful desert rocks and eerie trees of Joshua Tree National Park are just a couple of hours drive from Los Angeles and San Diego. And, of course, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is spectacular if you have more than a day.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Ocean Entry Plume

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Ocean Entry Plume

Every state has its gems so get out a map and plan a daytrip or longer adventure.  Many parks will offer special activities on June 9th.  For example Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis is anticipating a big crowd for its “Get Outdoors under the Gateway Arch.” Activities will include a boot camp, yoga, Pilates, tai chi, fishing, gardening, bike rides, and walking tours.

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Washington expects several thousand people to take part in a full day of events featuring archery, disc golf, a flash mob, an obstacle course, soccer, parachute games, exercise classes, cooking demonstrations and other activities.  A list of other sites hosting National Get Outdoors Day activities can be found at the National Get Outdoors Day location page.

If you already have plans for June 9th, remember that the National Parks Service has more free entrance days planned on September 29 (to recognize National Public Lands Day) and November 10, 11 and 12 (in celebration of Veteran’s Day weekend).   And of course, the rest of the year, national park admission fees are probably the best vacation bargin in the country.  Most parks that have an admission fee of $25 or less per car per day with weekly single park discounts available.

If you are planning a trip that includes multiple national parks, an $80 annual pass  provides entrance to all national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and many other Federal lands – more than 2,000 in all.  So, there is no excuse – get outdoors!

Hunger Games photo courtesy  VisitNC.com

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