Is there anything more fun than a birthday party? Possibly, but still, birthdays are fun and this summer the National Park Service turns 100 years old.  To celebrate this benchmark anniversary, the National Park Service is offering free entry into the parks for all kids who are completing 4th grade this past year and their families. Who doesn’t love free? Follow this link to read more about the program.

With 400 National Parks to choose from, this might be a great year for a family road trip.

When my husband and I were raising our kids, most of our summer vacation time was spent visiting grandparents but every few years we managed to squeeze in a road trip to some pretty amazing places, almost always including a National Park.

We’ve watched Old Faithful erupt, seen (and smelled) the mud volcanoes, and encountered wildlife at Yellowstone.

Old Faithful - Yellowstone

Old Faithful – Yellowstone National Park

We’ve hiked to beautiful outlooks and been the pace car at Zion National Park while my husband slowly made his way along the mountainous roads. (Pray you won’t have to follow him!) And, we’ve left our video camera at the top of Glacier Point while we were busy looking at the half dome in Yosemite.

Half Dome - Yosemite

Half Dome – Yosemite National Park

Every single park we’ve visited has been beautiful and my only regret is that we didn’t stay longer. (Well, that and losing the video camera.)

If you make it to Utah you’ve hit the treasure trove of National Parks. In addition to Zion National Park, Utah is home to Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks, each beautiful in it’s own way. Seeing all of those spots could make for an entire vacation.

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National Park

Arches National Park

Arches National Park

And while you’re in the area, you might as well drive over to the Grand Canyon. It’s only a half-day’s drive away.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park

Does your family love hiking? The Appalachian Trail transverses fourteen states between Maine and Georgia covering 2,190 miles. Unless it’s all you plan to do this summer I suggest you not try to hike it all at one time.

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

There are plenty of lodging options in and near all the National Parks. Whether you like to sleep in a tent, camper, lodge, or hotel, you have plenty of options. Though your vacation obviously won’t be free, it can be done rather inexpensively or with great extravagance. The important thing is to make memories and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.  

Starting in September, the National Parks “Every Kid in a Park” program will be offered to students entering 4th grade in the fall. I’ve met some homeschool families who have been able to spend a year driving around the country visiting all of the state parks. I’m not sure how they make a living, but doesn’t that sound like a fun plan?

The United States is an amazingly diverse and beautiful country. Get out there and celebrate 100 years of National Parks. You’ll probably want to bring your own cake and party hats.  

To be clear, I have received no compensation from the National Park Service for this article. I just happen to be a fan of beauty. None of the photos used were taken by me. They are all stock photos found on or