I’m all about supporting our nation’s National Park Service in any way we can, especially because of the myriad ways they support us right back. So I’m thrilled to share the brilliant initiative to get even more kids to our National Parks and Monuments around the country: Every Kid in a Park.

Created by President Obama to get more children excited about science, nature, and understanding the beauty and history of our nation, the program will grant your family totally free access (yes, free!) to all Federal lands and waters.

Plus, you’ll get a massive discount on Amtrak tickets for kids if you’re training it there.

Related: 22 National Parks family trips all in and around NYC


Ranger Shelton Johnson of Yellowstone on why it’s important to visit parks.

 

The one catch to the program: You have to have a fourth grader. (And yay, I do!)

Have your child read up on all the possibilities, then write out a short adventure diary to access the pass. From there, there are tools to help kids plan the trip themselves so that they can decide what they’re interested in.

The, just easily print your own National Park Service Pass and you’re good!

 

Every Kid in a Park: The National Park Service's free program for 4th graders and their families

Even if you don’t have a fourth grader, check the site for loads of ideas for your next family vacation or weekend jaunt.

You can get up close with protected animals through the National Wildlife Protection System; connect with nature in one of our National Forests or National Parks; or focus on a particular area of interest, like you science buffs who may want to find somewhere to visit during the 2017 Solar Eclipse this coming August.

Or, if you’re a New Yorker and want some ideas close to home, check out my 2015 post about all the extraordinary National Park Service Parks and Monuments in NYC. Turns out there are a full 17 National Parks and Monuments right in New York City — and five additional options just a short drive away.

Since our visit, I haven’t stopped thinking about the remarkable Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which brings our nation’s immigrant experience to life so powerfully and beautifully. You can read about my own kids’ experience there and the tours I’d recommend for families.

Let’s just say I also tipped you all off to the Hamilton Grange National Monument, before Lin Manuel Miranda helped make it one of the hottest tourist destinations in NYC. See the Harlem home where Hamilton lived when he was a bit less young — but still scrappy and hungry.

Related: Cool Camelbak water bottles to help support our National Parks

 

The Hamilton Grange: Part of our National Parks Service

Kids at Hamilton Grange Park via National Park Service

Kids at Hamilton Grange Park

Now of course when we think of our country’s amazing and important National Parks, what tends to come to mind are the geysers of Yellowstone; the spectacular expansiveness of The Grand Canyon; the unlikely natural red rock structures of Arches National Park (shown at very top — it might look familiar to you Westworld fans!); the beauty of the first East Coast’s first National Park, Maine’s Acadia National Park; or the bison, bighorn sheep of Badlands National Park, an account I also enjoy following on Twitter.

I really think that taking advantage of our National Parks with our children is so important, I don’t want to take for granted that we’ll always have the opportunities we do right now.

National Jr Ranger Day at Shenandoah National Park
Jr. National Ranger Day at Shenandoah National Park

Just think: Whether you take a week vacation or just a day trip, you could help raise the next generation of geologists, astronomers, animal conservationists oceanographers, and environmental educators — or hey, just whole lot of people who have a connection to our country’s history and precious natural resources, and a commitment to help preserve them both.

Visit Every Kid in a Park for info about getting free family trips, or more ways to support the National Parks Service visit NPS.gov. And thanks to the other US agency that help make the program possible including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

 

Top Photo: Arches National Park © Jon Armstrong by permission; other photos via the NPS.