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As a former educator, I looked for every possibility to teach my daughter about history, geography, biology, even culture and movies. I found that our 423 American National Parks, are the perfect classrooms for children, no matter what their age. With multiple historical sites and monuments including battlefields, our National Parks can teach families about the beauty of our nation’s diverse geography and ecosystems as well as bring our nation’s stories to life.


As you plan your trip, ask yourself what does your family love? Do they prefer the mountains or the beach? Snorkeling or hiking? Camping or history? Or a combination? No matter what the interest, there is literally a national park for it. But since there are close to 300 million people who visit our parks annually, plan accordingly. Off season trips are better. But if you go in the summer, buy the necessary permits, select your activities, and book your lodging far in advance.


Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone is the world’s First National Park with over 2.2 million acres, larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined. You have Old Faithful, a cone geyser that erupts every 44 minutes to two hours since 2000. You can see buffalo, elk, moose, bears and if you’re lucky, wolves. It has 300 geysers and one of the world’s largest petrified forests. There are over 290 waterfalls with the 308′ Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River as its showpiece.You can ski, hike, and camp in Yellowstone.  Just get those permits early!


Yosemite National Park

This World Heritage Site sits on 1200 square miles in California, surrounded on the southeast by Sierra National Forest and on the northwest by Stanislaus National Forest. It has granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, lakes, mountains, glaciers, and three groves of ancient giant sequoia; the Mariposa Grove, the Tuolumne Grove, and the Merced Grove. El Capitan, a prominent granite cliff that looms over Yosemite Valley, is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the world. Kids, from 4 to 12 years old, can also become junior rangers by completing a self-guided handbook and giving it to a park ranger for their badge. In the winter, you can ski at Badger Pass, one of the oldest ski areas in California and snowshoe to the sequoias.


Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce canyon is located in southwestern Utah and is is known for its multi-colored hoodoos, which are spire-shaped rock formations in its amphitheatre. It has the largest collection in the world and people say that it is more beautiful than the Grand Canyon. With its elevation at 8000 to 9000 feet, it is relatively cool for summer hiking. But if the family is too tired, take one the trail rides or the shuttle that travels throughout the iconic Bryce Amphitheater area of the park from April through mid-October.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

With 14.1 million visitors in 2021, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States. With over 522,000 acres, it has multiple historical structures from early settlers as well as the Appalachian trail going through its center. It offers a variety of activities for the whole family including hiking, fly fishing, horseback riding, and backpacking. The amusement parks, Dollywood and Ober Gatlinburg, also sit near the park’s gateway.


Grand Teton National Park

The southern portion of Grand Teton National Park is almost directly across from Yellowstone.  It has 11 active glaciers, as well as the largest elk herd, the smallest bird (calliope hummingbird) and the largest waterfowl (trumpeter swan) in North America. The park’s lakes offer fishing, boating and other watersports. Just south of the park is the town of Jackson, Wyoming, where you can see the Jackson Hole rodeo every Wednesday and Saturday during the summer.  And don’t forget the Jackson Hole Shootout, held nightly on Town Square. From Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day each year, the streets are cleared at 6 p.m. (except Sundays) to accommodate the Jackson Hole Shootout Gang. It’s the longest-running show of its kind in the country and great fun for the entire family.