on February 23, 2016
As the nation’s largest concessioner in national parks, Xanterra Parks & Resorts is enthusiastically supporting the initiative launched by the National Park Foundation and the White House called “Every Kid in the Park” which allows fourth-grade students across the country free access to national parks throughout the 2015-2016 school year.
We’ve compiled a list of fun activities at each of our National Parks to make your family trip, that much more enjoyable.
Zion National Park
Rent a bike.
Zion Lodge offers bike rentals for exploring the park. Bicycles are permitted on designated paved roads and the Pa’rus Trail, a scenic off-road multi-use trail.
Take a private, narrated tram ride
Explore the Temple of Sinawava and snap a selfie at the Great White Throne. Only authorized vehicles are permitted on this stretch of road.
Hike to Emerald Pools.
One of the most popular hiking trails in the park, the Emerald Pools trail features waterfalls, pools and numerous monoliths.
“Kids love to ride bikes or take a tram ride with their parents,” said Daisy Hobbs, general manager of Zion Lodge. “Don’t be surprised when they bring up that trip through Zion Canyon whenever you take a ride through the neighborhood at home.”
Yellowstone National Park
Become a Junior Ranger
The Junior Ranger program introduces children to the park and asks them to help preserve it for the future. The process starts at any park visitor center with a $3 Junior Ranger book that kids complete as they learn about the park. After answering various questions, participants are awarded an official Yellowstone Junior Ranger patch.
Check out the visitor centers
Specifically, the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center which opened in 2010 features exhibits on Yellowstone’s thermal features such as geysers, hot springs, mudpots and fumaroles. Children flock to the Young Scientist exhibit room to check out a geyser model and hands-on exhibits. The Canyon Visitor Education Center focuses on volcanoes and features other interactive exhibits that kids love.
Take a stagecoach or horseback ride
Roosevelt Lodge offers both throughout the day, and many families opt for the Old West Dinner Cookout accessible by riding on a covered wagon or by saddling up a horse. In addition to an authentic Western dinner, folks enjoy western songs performed by a singing cowboy.
“Above all, appreciate the park and try to mix up the activities,” said Jim McCaleb, general manager of Yellowstone National Park Lodges. “When my kids were young we always used to compare notes after a vacation, and it was great the way everyone had their own perspective and memory of the trip.”
Mount Rushmore National Monument
Walk the half-mile Presidential Trail
See unique views of the carving. Visit the Youth Exploration Area on the trail (in season).
Become a Junior Ranger.
Young visitors learn about Mount Rushmore and the natural resources through the Junior Ranger Program.
Let Your Inner Sculptor Shine
Feel what is was like to help carve the memorial by setting off a simulated dynamite explosion in the visitor center museum.
Try America’s oldest ice cream recipe
Stop by Carver’s Cafe where we’ve replicated President Thomas Jefferson’s original ice cream recipe. Share a picture of you and your loved ones with #jeffersonicecream and you’ll see it on our website!
“Take the time to enjoy the majesty of the memorial. Pictures do not convey the grandeur of the carving or the ideals that it stands for,” said Marty LaMontagne, manager for Xanterra at Mount Rushmore. “A visit to Mount Rushmore can be a truly inspiring experience”.
Glacier National Park Lodges
Take a tour in a historic Red Bus
These historic touring vehicles were first used in the park in the 1930s. Carry on a tradition that has been shared for over a century.
See the park from a boat
The park offers boat tours in four locations – St. Mary Lake, Lake McDonald, Many Glacier and Two Medicine Lake.
Take a hike
The park features more than 700 miles of trails including many short hikes that are perfect for a partial-day excursion.
“And make sure you simply have fun,” said Marc Ducharme, general manager of Glacier National Park Lodges. “Everybody remembers the vacation differently, and it is always a blast to compare notes when you get home.”
Death Valley National Park
Take a guided trail ride
Along the valley floor and into the foothills of the Funeral Mountains for great views of the valley below.
Go for a swim
Enjoy one of the spring-fed pools at the Inn at Furnace Creek or Ranch at Furnace Creek.
Practice identifying constellations.
Death Valley National Park is the largest Dark Sky National Park in the country, and the resort has minimized exterior lighting to maximize stargazing opportunities.
And make sure you simply have fun,” said Dominie Lenz, general manager of Furnace Creek Resort. “Everybody remembers the vacation differently, and it is always a blast to compare notes when you get home.”
Crater Lake National Park
See the lake
From a variety of vantage points families can stop and marvel at the intense blue waters of Crater Lake. Formed after the massive eruption of Mt. Mazama roughly 7,400 years ago, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States at 1,943 feet in depth and is the ninth deepest lake in the world.
Explore Wizard Island
Every day from late June through mid-September boats take families to Wizard Island where they can swim, fish or explore the volcanic terrain at their own pace.
Come play in the snow
An average winter at Crater Lake will see 533 inches (44 feet) of snowfall, with the all-time record being 879 inches (73 feet). This means there is frequently snow inside the park well into August. Snowshoes are available for families to explore the trails and hills around Rim Village.
“Crater Lake National Park features history, wildlife, plant life and one of the world’s finest examples of a dormant volcano,” said Mike Keller, general manager of Crater Lake Lodge. “And don’t be surprised when you get home to hear things about the park that you didn’t notice, but your kids certainly did.”
Above all else, let your 4th grader take the lead.
Everybody should have a chance to be in charge for part of a vacation. Pick a day for each kid in the group to have a chance to choose a sight, activity or hike.
Families with a fourth grader who wish to delve deeper into the magic of a park via a fully guided experience should consider a tour with Xanterra’s Austin Adventures . In 2016, Austin Adventures is waiving trip fees for all fourth graders traveling on any National Park adventure with them (some conditions apply). A leader in multisport vacations, Austin Adventures’ homegrown guides have been leading small groups of intrepid travelers through America’s parklands for decades revealing both the iconic and often-missed wonders.
For more information about Austin Adventures national park tours, go to www.austinadventures.com/find-your-park/.