Disclosure: A big thank you for the guest post and a big welcome to the guest writer! Scroll down for bio.
School is out for the summer and that means a lot of downtime for the children. Ten plus weeks without the routine and structure of the academic calendar can lead to a lot of stress and mischievousness for both students and parents alike, who are anxious about finding enough activities to keep everyone occupied and entertained and satisfied
Or even worse: Families may just succumb to the technology trap in which summertime equals increased screen time for the kiddos.
Don’t get me wrong, I love technology as much as the next person (I mean, where would we be without backup cameras in our vehicles? Am I right?). And I praise the efficiency, freedom, and creativity that the proper use of technology has injected into our everyday lives.
That said, with an extended hiatus from traditional education in the classroom arrives, the default for our young people shouldn’t be to affix their faces in front of Fortnite and Facebook.
A large chunk of their two and a half months of “free time” should be spent outdoors, engaging in fun activities and making connections and memories with their friends and families.
To help you decide where to begin your road trip to outdoor adventure, we have compiled a list of some of the top outdoor destinations for you and your family to explore and enjoy together.
Poconos Mountains - Pennsylvania
Whether it’s hiking the mountains, fishing in the lakes, going whitewater rafting in the rivers, or biking through the myriad of trails, the Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvania offer a variety of exciting and breathtaking expeditions in which to participate.
Recommended Attraction: Skytop Lodge. Treetop obstacle courses complete with multiple ziplines. Enough said.
Gauley River - West Virginia
East of the Colorado River, there is no other whitewater rafting experience that can compare to the rafting trips on the Gauley River and New River in West Virginia. Not a fan of the water? No worries. Gauley River also offers opportunities for mountain biking, fishing, and hiking.
Recommended Attraction: Gauley River Mystery Tours. Get a guided tour of West Virginia’s best-kept secrets.
Adirondacks - New York
There is an endless number of things to do in the Adirondacks Mountains. Enjoy a boat tour, then swim in a lake, then tour one of many wineries and vineyards and breweries, follow that up with a Wild Walk across the 115-acre Wild Center, and end your trip with a night of camping on one of the many grandiose campgrounds.
Recommended Attraction: High Peak Mountain Guides. A rock-climbers paradise with options for experienced and novice climbers.
Acadia National Park - Maine
Explore over 150 miles of hiking trails or traverse one of 16 stone bridges when you visit this beautiful national park. The entertainment opportunities also include hunting, fishing, biking, and tidepooling.
Recommended Attraction: Sieur de Monts Spring. Nirvana for birdwatchers.
Family Nature Camp - Maine
Family Nature Camp will engage your entire family in a week of fun and adventure. Attendees of the Family Nature Camp get to stay on College of the Atlantic’s oceanfront campus in Bar Harbor, ME and enjoy a week of outdoors adventure specially curated by the experts from the College of the Atlantic.
Recommended Attraction: Cadillac Mountain. Get a breathtaking view of the sunset from this majestic mountaintop.
Big Sur - California
You can go camping on the beach or in the woods or take a stroll through indoor and outdoor art galleries or observe the natural beauty of the plants and wildlife like the wildflowers, the California sea otters, and the California condors.
Recommended Attraction: Ventana Wildlife Society. Take the two-hour viewing tour of the California condor. You will not regret it.
Out ‘n’ About Treehouse Treesort - Oregon
This homegrown and family-run business is 36 private acres of outdoor entertainment and adventures, not just a treehouse funhouse. There is a seemingly endless amount of ziplines as well as a giant Tarzan Swing for the bravest adventurers to partake. For those who are more faint of heart, you can participate in other fun activities such as horseback riding, swimming, volleyball, arts and crafts, and horseshoes.
Recommended Attraction: Disc Golf at Vertical Horizons Treehouse Paradise. I dare you and your children to not enjoy hours of frisbee-flinging fun.
Smoky Mountains - North Carolina and Tennessee
America’s most visited national park holds that distinction for good reason: there is a diversity of natural beauty and excitement to enjoy on your journey through the southern corner of the Appalachian Mountains. Snap pictures of black bears and wildflowers, take a kid-friendly hike on the Kephart Prong Trail, digest the refreshing mists and rushing sounds of the numerous waterfalls, or enjoy an afternoon of fishing in the creek.
Recommended Attraction: Dollywood. If your family MUST do one day at an amusement park, Dollywood is the best possible destination, with a mix of fun rides, dinner shows, and log cabins.
Glacier National Park - Montana
Glacier National Park is blessed with robust mountains, pristine lakes, lush forests, and 700 miles of hiking trails. In addition to being a national park, the Montana destination is an international peace park, a biosphere reserve, and a world heritage site.
Recommended Attraction: Native America Speaks. From traditional dancing to songs and poetry, seize the opportunity to get a firsthand education from local Native American leaders and musicians who will explain the connection between the Indigenous Peoples and the natural resources in Glacier National Park.
Chugach State Park – Alaska
Located in Anchorage, the Chugach Mountains serve as the ultimate playground for outdoor aficionados. The 9,000 square miles of landscape within Chugach State Park and Chugach National Forest are host to a plethora of open-air fun like riding ATVs, hunting, fishing, kayaking, berry picking, and sightseeing for wildlife.
Recommended Attraction: Portage Valley. Get gorgeous glimpses of Portage Glacier, the crown jewel in a treasure chest of alpine glaciers. Portage Valley also affords you access to the Trail of Blue Ice, a five-mile trail that connects many of the nearby glaciers and campgrounds.
Las Cruces - New Mexico
Whether you want to hike a mountain, play a round of golf, or race down a sand dune, Las Cruces, New Mexico has it all.
Recommended Attraction: Corralitos Ranch Trail Rides. Get a guided tour on horseback through historical landmarks, rolling hills, dusty canyons, and abandoned buildings.
Many of the aforementioned destinations are outright national parks or closely affiliated/partially attached to a national park. Every national park has a Junior Ranger Program, which is an exciting and interactive way for children to make memories and personal connections while also engaging in learning. While in pursuit of earning their badges, your kids will learn about park features and the local history firsthand from expert rangers. They’ll have numerous opportunities to observe nature, study plants and wildlife, and document their findings in workbooks. Once they complete the requisite activities, they will receive their badges. The Junior Ranger Program is a phenomenal way for parents to keep their children engaged, entertained, and educated in the great outdoors.
Each national park requires its own entrance fee, but if you have a child in the fourth grade, he or she can enter for free. The fourth-grade pass is valid from September 1 through August 31.
I understand the fascination of teens sharing on Instagram and Snapchat, and I also have participated in some gaming all-nighters, vacillating from a Nintendo console to a Sony one to a Microsoft console. So, I am not anti-technology or opposed to limited screen time.
However, with so many wonderful outdoor options for kids to explore, we should encourage them to limit their time sending emojis and making memes in favor of surveying the planet and making memories.
Schimri Yoyo is a writer for autoinsurance.org and a financial advisor with active life and health insurance licenses. Born in Haiti. Reared in Brockton, MA. Matured in Philadelphia. Schimri is a proud graduate of Arcadia University, having earned both a Masters in Special Education and an MFA in Creative Writing from the castle-riddled campus in Glenside, PA. By personality and by profession, Schimri is an educator and a storyteller who is eager to assist individuals and families to craft and complete their own financial success stories.