The One Thing You Should Do Every Time You Visit A National Park

The one thing my family and I do every time we visit a national park: We pick up and complete a fact- and fun-filled Junior Ranger book, pledge to make the world a little better place, and pocket a patch and collection-worthy certificate to remember the visit.

Here’s what I’ve learned when discovering you are never too old to learn, Junior Ranger-style:

CRATER LAKE NATIONAL PARK (PHOTO CREDIT: MATTHEW CONNOLLY / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM)

You Will Feel Like A Kid Again

It is fair to tackle the age question first. True, the National Park Service describes its Junior Ranger program as geared toward young people ages 5 to 13. It also says people of all ages can participate. Just a few years ago, a 103-year-old woman made news as the oldest-known Junior Ranger. Filling out Junior Ranger activity books you request at each visitor center can be a great individual or intergenerational-family activity using everyone’s strengths — from nature lovers and word-searchers to history buffs and sharp-eyed scavenger hunters. If you are determined to try something more adult-focused, there are also a few sites that offer special Senior Ranger booklets.

The National Park Service Office of Communications recommends you check in with a park ranger at the visitor center for each park you plan to visit to confirm how the program works there. Doing this ahead of time can help you know what to expect. For example, Yellowstone National Park charges $5 for its booklet.

Pro Tip: If possible, print booklets available online ahead of your visit. Here is an example from Channel Islands National Park. This allows you to avoid lines at often-crowded visitor centers, start learning about the park ahead of your visit, and focus more on the park when you arrive. 

You Will Give Yourself A Conversation Starter

The Junior Ranger Program gives you an excuse to ask the burning questions you have about a park. NPS park rangers check over and sign your activity book and administer the Junior Ranger oath required to receive your badge. This helps you grab one-on-one time to talk with the experts about what you have seen. This is where we learned about the history (and necessity) of fire to sequoia trees at Sequoia National Park in California, and where we came to understand how glaciers changed the landscape at Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska.

You Will Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone 

My family has now visited 44 of the 63 national parks and dozens more national park sites, and Junior Ranger-inspired activities have led to some of our favorite (and free!) experiences. Often these take you to places in the park you would otherwise not see or open you to perspectives you may not otherwise hear.

Written by EMILY SCHMIDT for Travel Awaits©

Source: The One Thing You Should Do Every Time You Visit A National Park – TravelAwaits

52 Mini Vacations That Won’t Break the Bank

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Asheville, North Carolina

Why you’ll love it: The entry point to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a funky mix of breweries (the most per capita in the United States), great food, arts (the River Arts District is a fun and free way to spend a day), history (the Biltmore Estate), free-spirited hippie culture, and spectacular nature. For the latter, plan a picnic hike to the Craggy Mountains, stop to smell the berry bushes, and take in the exceptional panoramic views of the Craggy Pinnacle Trail. Asheville also makes a good jumping-off point for a Tail of the Dragon road trip.

Budget tip: Live music fills the streets of Asheville; you can listen to everything from old-time mountain music to new alternative rock just by dropping something in the tip jar. Kids will love the free Friday drum circles in Pritchard Parkwhere they can bang a drum and dance along (the festivities get rolling around 6 p.m.).

Where to stay: The Holiday Inn Asheville-Biltmore East feels more like a mountain lodge than a chain property, but it still has all the hallmarks that make Holiday Inn appealing, including a great pool and affordable deals, including kids 18 and under stay for free in their parent’s room, and up to four kids 11 and under eat free any time of the day at the on-site restaurant.

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Sedona, Arizona

Why you’ll love it: Mother Nature went into hyperdrive in this breathtaking corner of Arizona; Sedona is surrounded by 1.8 million acres of national forest, four wilderness areas, and six state parks. Everywhere you look are the stunning peaks and spires of red rocks and sandstone outcroppings. Nature-lovers can hike and bike along hundreds of miles of free trials, and at night the stars put on a spectacular show, no ticket required.

Budget tip: Sedona is less than a two-hour drive (100 miles) from the Grand Canyon, making it an easy day trip or a pit stop on an Arizona road trip without the added expense of spending the night at pricey accommodations near the national park.

Where to stay: Plan an Arizona stay-cation at the luxurious Enchantment Resort located in the heart of Sedona surrounded by the towering red rock walls of Boynton Canyon. The resort offers more than 100 activities every week, plus pools, tennis, hiking, biking, and a kids club, along with spacious suites big enough to spread out in style.

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Claremont, California

Why you’ll love it: A perfect getaway from Los Angeles, it’s just 35 miles east, but completely without all the traffic that plagues the city. Claremont Village is home to over 150 shops and restaurants (don’t miss the I Like Pie Bakeshop or the frozen treats at 21 Choices) and where you’ll want to spend your evening. The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology and the Folk Music Center are local favorites to visit, keep an eye on the schedule for the latter for live concerts that will hopefully be back soon.

Budget tip: The five-mile Claremont Wilderness Trail in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains attracts hikers from all over the area and is a great way to work up an appetite for all the Village treats.

Where to stay: The Doubletree Claremont has lots of budget-pleasing amenities, including warm chocolate chip cookies when you check-in and a huge outdoor pool; doubles start at less than $200 a night in summer.

View all 52 mini-vacation places by clicking on the link below.

Article by Melissa Klurman for Reader’s Digest©

Source: 52 Mini Vacations That Won’t Break the Bank (msn.com)