5 Reasons to Celebrate the National Park Centennial

Can you believe that the National Parks turned 100 this year?  How crazy amazing that we even have these places of such unspoiled America to enjoy?  So, I know what you are thinking… “oh boy, Jamie, another post about National Parks?”  My answer is YES!  Since it is officially National Parks Week in America, I need to share some major things about the parks that you may or may not know.


Balancing at Yosemite National Park at 3 years old.

Celebrate the National Park’s Birthday with FREE ENTRANCE!


Evie’s hike to the waterfalls at Olympic National Park.

August 25th-28th is actually FREE for anyone who wants to go.  There’s actually a couple of free days for the NPS throughout the year but this weekend is special for the 2016 Centennial.  The fee waiver includes entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.


Fourth graders get in FREE at any park for the year!

This is true.  Barack Obama had created the Every Kid in a Park program that offers any fourth grader access to any of the over 400 National Parks!  Kids aren’t just exposed to all the good stuff that outdoor play in nature brings, but learn about the conservation of resources and history which is super important as well.  As Obama said, “Because no matter who you are, or where you live, our parks, our monuments, our lands, our waters- these places are your birthright as Americans.”IMG_0671


With an actual “Rosie” at the Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park


Kids learn so much out in nature!


Finding ladybugs at Point Reyes National Seashore

The fact that they can run, jump, climb, and hang without any restrictions is a major thing, Evie developed some pretty big motor skills being outside.  With outside activities burning the most calories, this is really that first step in taking measures against he epidemic of childhood obesity.  These motor skills in early development have been shown to help later skills like math, reading, science, and cognitive thinking.  There’s a social aspect and even a child’s creativity that is activated in outdoor play; making up games, risk management, playing with others, communication skills, making the rules, and understanding why the rules are important.  Even just in the admiration of nature, kids learn a lot.  They use all of their senses to figure out the world around them, and can get a sense of the fragility of it all.


With over 400 parks, there’s a lot to see!

The Optimal U.S. National Park Centennial Road Trip

I have been to 25 of the 47 top picks for this road trip map of National Parks made by the road tripping optimizer, Randy Olsen.  Seriously, my love of National Parks is only rivaled by my love of pinning more things to various Google Map travel plans, so this was so satisfying to see.  One day I will make my own variation of this trip, based on parks that I still need to check out and ones that I would love to return to and introduce to Evie… one day….


Taking a short break from the hike at Pinnacles National Park


Get a yearly pass and save on some of the entrance fees!


Tiny Evie among the giants trees in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington.

I know I’ve mentioned it in a couple previous posts, but I would highly recommend purchasing a National Parks Annual Pass.  The pass itself costs $80, and this gives you unlimited park access (which some parks can charge up to $30 for this), one car entering (this can be anything up to $20 per vehicle), covers 4 people (for those parks that charge per person), and can even discount camping costs at some parks.  Some parks are free, so I would consider where you are and where you plan to go before purchasing.  There are 124 national parks that normally charge an entrance fee.  We go once a year to Yosemite National Park, which is $30 per vehicle to enter.  California actually has lots of National Parks that we’ve visited this year, like Pinnacles and Point Reyes, so it works out in our favor that we have the pass.  We’ve also gotten discounts on some camping like in Olympic National Park, which I believe only charged us half price for the nightly fees.


yosemite at 2 years old

Family picture at Yosemite National Park.

Seriously, if you haven’t been to a park this year, try to make this weekend your exception.  They have been carefully selected, cautiously maintained, and are seriously out there only for your enjoyment.  If you work in front of a screen all week, you will thank me for the much needed time away from the wi-fi chains that weigh us down.  Sometimes it really just takes an afternoon of being completely disconnected to make us feel like we are human again.


Yosemite trunk

Evie’s at Yosemite National Park at 2 years old.  Featured image: Evie’s first snowman at Yosemite.

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