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Trip List by NatParkTraveler

US National Parks in One Childhood

24 Dec 2006  We live in Austin, TX. After much difficulty, we had our daughter. Knowing many friends that now had almost grown children, I learned a lot from them. I knew that I only had a certain number of years to enjoy my daughter before she moves into adulthood. I decided to wait until she was six to begin our real travel adventures. However, we did several car trips to visit my husband's family in Colorado. My daughter knows how to entertain herself for fourteen hours. We now have many fun things we do on trips. She does watch DVDs, but we limit the time. Also, during the early years, we would take side trips in Colorado. We always visited museums and natural places. There are so many great children's museums everywhere. Even if you don't think they are great, a young child will. As a result, my daughter is interested in everything and loves animals and nature. She is a great traveler and a wonderful travel companion. Of course, that just makes us want to take her more places!
4.5 of 5 stars based on 16 votes

We are now four years into our discovery of our wonderful National Parks in the US. Along with these, we are discovering cities, towns, and regions of the US.

  • 1. Grand Teton National Park
    Grand Teton, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

    One of the most beautiful and wonderful places we have been. One of the reasons is because it is not very crowded.
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    We camped in a Pop-Up tent camper in the Colter Bay Campground. This campground had fairly large secluded sites with your average fire pit and picnic table. Firewood was sold at the campground. There were hiking trails immediately nearby. The restrooms were very clean and convenient. There are also cabins in this area. Jenny Lake campground is beautiful, but only takes tents.
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    This was my daughter's first Junior Ranger Patch and the curriculum was one of the best we have yet to enjoy. It took us to two Ranger talks - one at the Indian Museum, which was wonderful then and has since been renovated and one on the deck of Jackson Lake Lodge in the evening. At Jackson Lake Lodge, we looked through binoculars and had much time for questions for the Ranger. This was a come and go type of Ranger talk. We visited Menor's Ferry area, which we really enjoyed since we always love the history of an area. The shop was open and that was fun.
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    On my husband's birthday, we all went into Jackson to play. This is highly recommended. We are from an area that almost never sees snow and when we do, it does not stay on the ground. So, we thoroughly enjoyed the Snow King Alpine Slide and Scenic Chairlift. Three years later, my daughter wrote about the chairlift in one of her fourth grade writing assignments. You never know what impresses!
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    We have traveled to many parks by now and this is still a favorite. This had been a return trip for me. I had camped there in 1986 and knew that I wanted to spend more time there this round. It is usually after the chaos of Yellowstone that people go here. We went here first this time so my daughter could learn the basics of camping and National Parks - such as visitor centers and Junior Ranger Patches. You really do learn a system that helps you in other parks. I can't say enough about the beauty and simplicity of this park. You'll just have to go!

  • 2. Yellowstone National Park
    Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

    This was our second National Park which we visited directly after Grand Teton. We had reservations at Bridge Bay Campground. Definitely make reservations or you will be in overflow, which is just a bunch of campsites out together!!!! The campsites are smallish, but clean and nice. I did not feel like I was in the next campsite. There was some privacy. The restrooms are well maintained. I had stayed at Bridge Bay before in 1986 (before the fire). This was still a nice campground that was close to many places. Firewood is sold at the Ranger Station. They are very nice and helpful there. I was worried that the big fire had lessened the animal population in the campgrounds because I did not see any signs of life during the day. That night, Shawn and I lay in the bed in the tent camper with the screen open and out came all the animals. When I visited before I would sit still and the animals would come out. From now on, this is a tradition for us to view the animals like this. Of course, Shawn is older now and she understands sitting still and viewing animals.
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    You will be driving here so plan efficiently. Hopefully, there will be a shuttle system soon. Grand Canyon was a dream due to this. We were there for three days. Since I had been here before I knew what I wanted my daughter to see. For a young child, it is best to keep the sight seeing to the basics and have some down time to walk around the campground and sing campfire songs, etc.
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    The Junior Ranger Curriculum was wonderful here also. She had choices for many different pages. They were so creative and I even understood more than I had before. The explanation of a caldera was excellent. There was also a part where she had to choose several things to do such as act like a leaf. For a six year old, she enjoyed this so much. Whoever wrote this knows children and their ages and likes. I have not seen this at all parks. This curriculum would relate to many ages, but it is hard to relate to a six year old. This was excellent. Our Ranger talk was a children's talk at Old Faithful. It was about animals and was excellent and at 10 in the morning, which is a great time for young kids.
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    The first day we arrived, we visited the mud pots near Hayden Valley. These are near our campground and are a great welcome to the area. We brought mentholatum to put under our noses because I remember the awful smell. This helped. Of course, the bison lying near the mud pots was the main attraction. My daughter fell in love with the bison and began counting them until she could not count any higher. We went to Fishing Bridge area to buy supplies. It has almost everything.
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    The next morning, we headed for Old Faithful. My daughter had been reading about this and was very excited. This is where we had the ranger talk and we took the walk to see other geysers. Morning Glory is great and a must see. However, this is a fairly long walk and it got a little warm. Our daughter got very tired. There are many geysers. Old Faithful really is amazing. People come from all over the world to see it. Once you are there, you are mesmerized by it. It is completely natural and that is quite amazing. On the way home, we saw the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which is beautiful and a must see.
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    For our next day, we headed out to the Mammoth area. To my disappointment, Minerva terrace was inactive. This had been an attraction forever and was beautiful. A shift caused it to stop and others to begin. Canary Spring was beautiful and worth seeing. We then headed to Mammoth to see the area. Shawn got her second Junior Ranger Patch there and we had a picnic lunch on the lawn.
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    Before heading on this trip, we read "Trumpet of the Swan". We wanted so much to find a Trumpeter Swan like Louis. We packed up and headed out. Then, at Swan Lake of all places, we saw swans. We ran with our binoculars and there was a mother trumpeter with her babies. We had found Louis! This was spectacular for us. We had really grown close to trumpeter swans by reading the book. Thanks E.B. White! This is a great book. My daughter was singing taps to the babies, which was Louis' song.
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    Yellowstone is a must see! If you see no other attraction in the US, you have to see this. Your American culture is incomplete without it. Yellowstone is "the" family vacation spot. The geology is incredible and the animal life is amazing. This is a one of a kind place. There are great lodges and campgrounds, but make a reservation!

  • 3. Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site
    Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site, La Junta, Colorado

    This is a true western fort. It was rebuilt and is complete. Every room is completely decorated - even the billiards room. The Rangers who worked there were cooking posole, running the blacksmith shop, making things in the woodshop area and really knew their stuff. I feel that I have really been in a western fort from one hundred years ago. This really appealed to our second grade daughter and she has this etched in her memory. The Junior Ranger Booklet was really fun! We took a really great tour and were allowed to just wander around.
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    This is an amazing place pretty much in the middle of nowhere - unless you live in southeastern Colorado. If you are anywhere near here, I highly recommend this - especially for kids, but my 80 year old mother-in-law loved it also.

  • 4. Grand Canyon National Park
    Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

    This was our second trip. Our daughter, Shawn, was seven and in second grade. This was during March (Spring Break). My Mom, Shawn, and I flew into Las Vegas because we were also going to Death Valley NP.
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    We stayed at the South Rim at Yavapai Lodge East. We booked late so had few choices. However, I ended up loving the location. Yavapai is within walking distance of Market Plaza. We had a room on the second floor in the pines. There was so much room for our daughter to run around. There are many wonderful places near the rim, but they are crowded. I felt like at Yavapai East, Shawn could run around (not near the rim) and play. It was not hard to watch her. I felt a little nervous near the rim with her being so active at this age. The shuttle picked us up in front of our rooms and was very convenient. I did not care for the cafeteria and ended up loving the Maswik for breakfast. There were more options and the workers were more friendly. Our room was large and had an incredible view of the forest.
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    On the first day, we drove out to Desert View. For our Junior Ranger Patch, we went to a Ranger Guided Tour of the Tusayan Ruin and Museum. This was so wonderful. Our six year old daughter loved it. I have since recommended it to other families with children and they too have loved it. We went to the Watchtower and loved the view.
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    It was a good thing we went to Desert View the first day. During the night, it snowed. Our little central Texan daughter was so excited when she awoke to find snow all over the ground. Now, I was really glad we were at Yavapai where there was lots of area to play. She made so many snowmen and we had snowball fights. And thank goodness for the shuttle. The roads were closed to cars. Besides, I was afraid to drive in the heavy snow.
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    That day, we headed out west to Hermit's Rest. We stopped at so many beautiful places made more beautiful by the snow. Hermit's Rest had a fire going and hot chocolate ready for us. The man who worked there made us so comfortable and we hung our gloves by the fire. My daughter's were completely wet by this point. As part of the Junior Ranger booklet, we were to sit quietly for 10 minutes and she was to draw or write. We went down the Hermit trail and found a nice place to sit. In minutes, we watched a snowstorm approaching from the northeast. It was incredible to watch. My daughter patiently drew and wrote. It was one of the nicest experiences I have ever had. What a wonderful page to add in the Junior Ranger booklet. This may have been the highlight for me!
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    There were always elks playing in the morning on the way to breakfast at Maswik. That was so fun to see.
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    Grand Canyon is a must see as well! It has recently been named the 8th modern wonder of the world. We did not do any major hiking. We just enjoyed the beauty and history of it and had a wonderful time. However, there are so many options here for anyone! Make your reservations early!

  • 5. Death Valley National Park
    Death Valley National Park, California

    Who goes to Death Valley NP? Well, I wanted to show my daughter what a desert was. This was the second part of our Grand Canyon Spring Break Trip. Our daughter was seven and in second grade. We discussed the desert and about how this is the hottest place in the US. Well, the spring we visited it was making the news for the most rain ever and so many wildflowers. There went that lesson.
    Luckily, I had made reservations. For one of the least visited parks, it was filled to capacity due to the wildflowers. It was suddenly very popular. My daughter was frightened by the name, but it turned out to be a great memory.
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    This is a huge park with long driving distances so plan well.
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    We drove into the park through the east entrance through Shoshone. We were driving from Grand Canyon. The Joshua Trees were amazing. We stopped to take pictures of them. They are so surreal. The Mojave is an interesting desert. We stopped at the Greek restaurant in Baker. It was incredible and some of the best fruit ever. What a treat! And we had to see the thermometer!
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    We passed Furnace Creek for our lodgings at Stovepipe Wells Village. We are more of the non-resort at National Parks type. I loved Stovepipe Wells. You can get a room with drinkable water inside, but it will cost you. Others share water between the rooms. There is a huge pool and large sand dunes close by. At Stovepipe Wells, you really feel the desert. Of course, it was spring and not too hot at this time. The season here is not in the summer! The restaurant had a wonderful breakfast and we got coffee at the lobby each morning.
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    Here's the problem. They lost our reservation. They ended up giving us a room with a lot of trouble. Each time I walked into the office, I heard them telling another person that he or she must have not made a reservation. I really wrote them up badly for this.
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    We visited Furnace Creek and enjoyed it. We also took a tour of Scotty's castle. That was wonderful and interesting. And we loved playing in the sand dunes. My daughter learned a lot for her fourth Junior Ranger Patch. Our favorites were the Devil's Golf Course and the Crater.
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    Since we have returned, my daughter has learned about Death Valley in school and has been the only child who has visited. She really learned a lot about the desert (despite the wildflowers). In fact, she has a bit of a positive view of the desert. I would recommend this park as an aside to one of the other nearby parks. If you are showing your child all our wonderful parks, you can't leave this one out!

  • 6. Isle Royale National Park
    Rock Harbor Lodge, Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

    The URL is about our trip - see NatPark Traveler.
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    This was our second summer trip (our third trip). Our daughter had just turned eight and had finished second grade. Her paternal grandmother was originally from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and we wanted to take her to see it. My husband and I had been in 1990. We took a train from Austin to Chicago. This was a big part of our adventure. We booked a sleeper car with two beds and a bathroom. It was called deluxe, but was about like a small camper. However, it was really fun. It took us one and one/half days to get to Chicago. All our meals and water were included and there was plenty to do with a seven year old. We would explore the train, then come back to the room and read or play games, then explore more. The sleep was not great, but it was adequate. The experience was wonderful. I reserved it in October for a July trip!
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    We rented a car in Chicago and visited my husband's family. From there, we drove to Houghton, Michigan. This is the largest city in the UP. This is a city rich with Cornish and Finnish heritage. It is a portage in the Upper Peninsula. We stayed at the Best Western and thoroughly enjoyed it. One of the visitor centers for Isle Royale NP is right behind it. We saw the ship head for Isle Royale.
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    One of the best things we discovered while we were there was visited the Quincy Mine which is part of the Keweenaw National Historic Park. You actually go into the copper mine. This is a great tour.
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    We chose to go to Copper Harbor, a great town to visit, to catch the ferry. This ferry is nicknamed the barf barge for a good reason. We hit a bad day. Luckily I had done my research and we had our patches from our doctor already in place and I had given our daughter motion sickness meds. I was actually able to drink coffee while bags were being passed out in abundance. My husband felt a little badly, but realized that if he went outside to the middle of the boat, he felt better. Our daughter promptly fell asleep and awoke right before we landed ashore. We found out later that our trip was extra rocky and our trip back to shore was easy.
    Coming to shore was beautiful. I stood with my daughter and watched the islands come into view. She had never been on a ship so this was a new experience.
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    Isle Royale has no cars on it. It is an amazing place to visit. It is only open four months per year. Many visitors come to backpack and rough it here. We opted for a cabin - see my review. It sort of had that National Park feeling of protectiveness, but the animals were very tame. They were fairly stuck on this island and were used to people. If you really want to see a moose or a fox, this is the place to go. You will see them and they will just stand there and keep doing what they are doing. We took a canoe, which came with the cabin, to another island across Tobin Harbor. You can take boat tours. We took several hikes. The wildflowers were just blooming in July. The radio stations are Canadian and many are French. We used our heater while our friends back home were in a heat wave.
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    Our daughter became a Junior Ranger here. There were so few people staying in the cabins that we got to recognize them. We attended a really fun Ranger talk with Ranger Anna and learned about the area.
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    Supplies are an issue. You have to bring most with you. We brought a spare suitcase for this. There is a small store that sells the basics. There is also a restaurant. We did not eat there since we cooked in our room, but I hear it was good.
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    I'd have to say that this is one of my favorite places I have ever been. Most people outside of the area do not know that it exists. It is a true natural getaway with a protected feeling of being in a US National Park. While we canoed and took walks, we did not feel compelled to constantly look at sights with our seven year old. For one thing, you did not have to look far to see wildlife or plants or water, and for another, there was no "natural wonder" to see such as Old Faithful. There was no driving and everything was convenient. Apparently, if you are a roughing it type of person, this is one of the great places to go with kids or without to backpack. I highly recommend this park - especially if you live far away from it. It is worth the trip to see this entire area of our country and this very special place!

  • 7. Big Bend National Park
    Big Bend National Park, Texas

    From one end of the US the the other. After almost being in Canada, our next trip at Spring Break, was to our great Texas National Park. You can see Mexico from this park! Almost everyone in Texas and nearby New Mexico visits this wonderful park at least once in their lives. It is almost a pilgimmage and it was time to take our third grade daughter to this wild area of Texas.
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    This is an area of Texas that is fairly unsettled and wild - pretty much the stereotype! (Austin is the hill country and green and very settled.) Big Bend NP is a very large park and there is a lot of driving here. It is also very hot in the summer so we chose Spring Break (March) to be there - along with many other Texans. In fact, we even ran into people we know 8 hours from home.
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    We rented a Pop-Up Tent camper at Camper Clinic and a truck to pull it at Longhorn Rentals. We stocked the camper and left to drive the very long drive to far west Texas. We had booked a place at Chisos Basin. During Spring Break, you have to book a campsite. There is a requirement on length of trailer getting into the basin and I had to take that into account when renting our setup.
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    The campgrounds are not private at all. There are no trees there, but excellent facitilies in the way of restrooms and water. There are campsites that are more private than others though and reserving them early helps. There are 60 sites and 26 of them are reservable.
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    I have to say that the place is run very smoothly by the managers who come by and check on everyone. I have never seen this at another campsite. The great things about this campground are 1. the view is spectacular especially the sunset at the "Window View" 2. there is a lodge and amphitheater nearby 3. there are many hiking trails that leave from the campground and 4. there are wandering javelinas that go through the park. This was the highlight of my daughter's trip. She even bought "Javier" the Javelina at the shop. We loved watching them wander. Their vision is very limited so they don't know you are there until you are very close. They are adorable - in a very odd way. The lack of trees and privacy pays off by the fact that this is the only campground I have let my daughter ride her bike around because I can see her. For her, this was a big plus! There are other campgrounds, but this is the best setting and I knew I wanted to be here.
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    I have been to Big Bend many times - once as a child and several times as a young adult. I have camped in more undeveloped sites which was incredible. Showing my daughter the area was wonderful!
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    We drove to the Castolon area and visited the store and the area. Shawn received her Junior Ranger Patch here at the visitor center. The booklet deals a lot with the animals and plants of this area. We really got to where we could tell the plants apart. They are very interesting and unusual. The booklet also dealt with the Chihuahuan desert life.
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    We went to Santa Elena Canyon and that was beautiful and was the first time our daughter had seen Mexico. We saw the Rio Grande. We then took the Maverick Road. It was very rough. Even though the sites were great, it was a little rough. We did get to see a Jacal, which is sort of a long house (or really almost a hut) made from local plants. Someone had really lived here. This was very interesting.
    We drove into Terlingua and ate at Los Paisanos. This was a simple, but very good Mexican restaurant.
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    Big Bend NP is a really great experience! It is the wild west and a taste of Mexico. It seems wild while still feeling the safety of a National Park experience. It is hard for me to comment on how I would feel if I were from a different region of the US. If you are from the North or East and long to experience the Texas experience, this is truly it! Your scenery is like every movie you have seen. You will leave this place knowing an ocotillo from a sotol and feeling close to javelinas!

  • 8. Guadalupe Mountains National Park
    Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

    This was our second stop on our Big Bend trip with our third grade daughter during Spring Break. We were in a rented pop-up tent camper and it hit 19 degrees the first night we were here. The wind was amazing. We had bought a propane heater and it helped a little. Now, this is a wild park. Most people come here to backpack and climb.
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    Okay, the camping. Well, so far this is the worst campsite I have seen. The camper area was truly a parking lot. The tent camping area was nearby and a little better, but not much. However, we got there early enough to get a site on the outside of the parking lot so we had a beautiful view. Some "campsites" are in the middle of the parking lot - no kidding! There are no reservations here. You just fill out forms and put them in slots. The first day and night it was much too windy to even enjoy our picnic table. However, the restrooms were clean and there was even a dishwashing area. Many scouts visit here.
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    Okay, here is my daughter's point of view. We were parked right next to a girl the same age and they played and she rode her bike in the parking lot. I could see her so she rode around when no one was driving around. She thought it was really fun. One night we were there, one of the Horse Rangers had to go to the top of the mountain to rescue someone who got dehydrated. The entire parking lot, I mean campground, bonded together to watch. This was unique!
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    The park itself is amazing. El Capitan is beautiful. As usual, we took our middle of the night trip to the restroom. The parking lot made this easy. As I looked back, El Capitan was glowing - a truly amazing experience. We visited Frijole Ranch there and really enjoyed that. The Butterfield Stage Hike was interesting. We also went to McKittrick Canyon and hiked the small loop. That was really nice and we all enjoyed it. It is a really beautiful view and not too difficult.
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    The visitor center is really nice and warm. The film is interesting. The Junior Ranger booklet is very good and we really enjoyed this one! There is no camp store so bring everything you need!!
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    Guadalupe Mountains NP is really gorgeous with plenty to see. If you are a backpacker, this is a great place. Don't go there just to camp. If you are in the area, definitely go by this beautiful place and visit. It is worth a side trip.

  • 9. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
    Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

    This was our third stop on our Spring Break of Third Grade trip. Carlsbad Caverns is known to almost everyone in the west. My husband and I have been here many times through several stages of our lives. We also visited together in the early 1990s. This is a truly great cave experience. It has stalagtites and stalagmites and all the cute names for formations.
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    As usual, we checked out the Junior Ranger booklet. This was a very good one and of course a very good subject. We decided to book one of the extra tours. My husband and I had done the basic tour many times. I had booked the King's Palace tour online before we left home. There are several tours to choose from. This tour was 1 1/2 hrs and although it had some stairs, it was not too much to handle. I like the scheduled tours because they are not very crowded and my daughter can ask questions. The King's Palace tour was really good. I highly recommend it. I am sure the others are good also.
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    Carlsbad is a great cave experience. It is never boring or disappointing. Every child needs a really great cave experience like this one!

  • 10. White Sands National Monument
    White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo, New Mexico

    Our fourth stop on our spring break tour for our third grader was this fun place. Out of all our trip memories of my youth, this one really stands out. This is just miles and miles of gypsum that has turned into sand. We already had a saucer from a trip there when Shawn was 3. It just needing waxing. Going up is hard; going down is a blast. We got there before the visitor center opened and headed for the "Heart of the Sands" for sledding. What fun! This is the best sledding sand ever.
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    We then went to the boardwalk and walked it before the visitor center opened. There were tracks in the sand. We could follow them so easily and it was really fun for us. Then, we went to the visitor center and got the Junior Ranger Booklet. It was really great. Scientifically, this is a very interesting place also. It is very unique.
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    I knew better than to check out of our Alamogordo hotel. This time, we went back and showered. If you have a good time here, you will be sandy!
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    This place is a must for kids. It is very unusual and fun. If you are planning on heading anywhere through this area, it is worth the extra time it takes to go here. There is camping here and some very cool stargazing ranger talks. We did not do them, but I'd like to if we pass through again.

  • 11. Fort Davis National Historic Site
    Fort Davis National Historic Site, Fort Davis, Texas

    Fort Davis was our last stop on our third grader's trip out to west Texas. We stayed at Davis Mountains State Park, which is an incredible state park, visited the fort, and visited McDonald Observatory!
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    Davis Mountains is one of Texas' best State Parks. Texas really has a great state park system. I have been to many in the country and Texas really maintains ours very well. The restrooms are always nice and have hot water and showers. The campsites are clean and well maintained. This park is very safe and clean.
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    Fort Davis National Historic Site is an amazing fort. It is more of an outpost really, but it is very interesting. Many of the buildings have been rebuilt. The enlisted men's barracks was really interesting. There was also interesting information about Buffalo Soldiers. Children actually lived here with the officers. The Hospital is being rebuilt like it was then and that will be really interesting. The Junior Ranger booklet was like a treasure hunt and was really fun for us. This was our fifth patch in one week and we were relieved to get a fairly easy one! Of course, this made my daughter want to find everything!
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    McDonald Observatory is a must see for anyone! We attended the star party and actually saw Saturn. The presentation is so child friendly and fun. Our whole family enjoyed it immensely.
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    If you are anywhere in the area, visit all these sites and do not miss the Star Party at McDonald Observatory!

  • 12. Rocky Mountain National Park
    Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

    Out of all the places we have visited, our daughter wants to be a National Park Ranger here! She was now 9 and going to fourth grade. Our summer trip this year was actually to follow the Ingalls Family and visit National Parks. After visiting my husband's mother, we began at Rocky Mountain!
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    We rented an RV from Camper Clinic this year. We had never driven one so this was new. I made reservations very early in the year for Moraine campground because I knew this fills up fast.
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    Moraine Campground was great! We had a very large RV so we could only get certain sites and they usually aren't as nice as tent sites. However, we were happy. Ours were against the valley so we had lots of cute visitors. The restrooms are just a port-a- potty, but are clean and private and warm. There is potable water close by each campsite. We had a picnic table and fire grate. Ours was semi-private, but not very. However, it was beautiful. There was firewood for sale close by. The water and sewage experience was not bad. In fact, it was easy and the facilities were great at this campground.
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    The Junior Ranger program was really fun. We attended a night Ranger talk about Mountain lions and that was very good. We walked to it from our campsite. We always enjoy these. This one had many people there. We really did not drive too much at this park, but stayed around Moraine. We visited the museum there, which was great! Shawn and I rode horses into the mountains for the two hour ride, which was enough. It was a wonderful way to see the park.
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    This is a must see park. There is no real "natural wonder", but the whole thing is incredibly beautiful and there is so much wildlife all over!

  • 13. Wind Cave
    Wind Cave National Park, Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota

    This is an incredibly interesting cave. It is different than your average stalagtite cave. We camped here and took a tour.
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    The campsites are very private. There are hardly anyone there. The restrooms were great. My daughter and I rode bikes around and there were rabbits and bison and lots of wildlife everywhere! There was your basic picnic table and fire grate.
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    We were in walking distance of the amphitheatre. My daughter and I walked over there for the evening talk. The ranger had a fire going and we watched a film and then talked. It was a small group and that was nice because Shawn asked lots of questions.
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    The candlelight tour is great. See my review in the URL. It was intimate and excellent and led by a caver.
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    The wildlife combined with the amazing cave makes this a must do if you are in the area. I would work in the candlelight tour if your child is above the age limit.

  • 14. Mount Rushmore National Memorial
    Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Keystone, South Dakota

    Okay, everyone has to visit this place! It is in cartoons, puzzles, all over the place. It is a sculpting marvel!
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    We stayed at Custer State Park, which is a fantastic place to stay. I had made reservations there at Stockade Lake North. There are lots of trees there and it can accommodate an RV. This is a huge state park and you could just make a vacation of this place! Of course, we visited Wildlife Loop and saw all the bison and donkeys. The restrooms were okay and there was a park.
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    We went to the night lighting ceremony for Rushmore. It really is great. See my review above in the URL.
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    The next day, we went back and did all the Junior Ranger booklet and visited the attractions. This, of course, is a must see. You will definitely get a Gutzon Borglum question on a trivia game at some point!

  • 15. Badlands National Park
    Badlands National Park, South Dakota

    One of our destinations on our daughter's summer after third grade trip. We chose to stay at Cedar Pass Lodge instead of our RV since the campground was not that nice and it is hot here. I had made reservations.
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    The lodge was a neat little lodge like I stayed in as a kid. There were rabbits all over and they lounged around outside. We really enjoyed them. The kids walk on the formations behind the lodge. The shop and restaurant were great. We had to have the Indian Fry Bread, which was great!
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    The Badlands are the most unusual place I have ever seen. They look like a scene out of Planet of the Apes! They are really strange. Nothing really compares!
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    Prairie Dog Town is a must see. We laughed so hard. They are adorable.
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    We attended a Junior Ranger class, which was okay, but my daughter thought she did not learn as much. They did a craft and played a game, which was fun!
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    Gotta see the Badlands! They are certainly something different! If you think you have seen everything, go here!

  • 16. George Washington Carver National Monument
    George Washington Carver National Monument, Diamond, Missouri

    This is GWC's boyhood home. We watched a film about him. His life is so interesting and he was such an amazing and good person. His contributions and thoughtfulness make him so appealing. This museum really brings him to life!
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    To understand him, you have to see his home and area. He spent so much time just looking at nature. He was all about using what you have wisely and enjoying what nature gives you!
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    The Junior Ranger booklet is wonderful, except they don't have a patch yet - just a badge. I hope they get one soon.
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    There is a science lab to look at. We had fun there and it did point out many of his discoveries. You have to keep in mind that we take so many of his discoveries for granted now - that you can use certain products to make others. He really introduced that concept to many people.
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    GWC has done more for all of us than most scientists have. On a regular basis, we use his knowledge. Why did he do it? Because he was a curious person mainly. And he was very intelligent. He really makes you understand what makes a person accomplish things! Curiousity first.

  • 17. Quebec Winter Adventure
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    When we were reading all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books preparing ourselves for our South Dakota trip, my daughter and I realized that we had no clue what was going on in "The Long Winter". My husband is from Colorado and had some experience with snow. I have been snow skiing and my daughter has seen snow at her Grandma's house. However, we wanted to see a real winter where snow is piled five feet high all winter. I chose Quebec because of the Ice Palace and because of the desire to see the beautiful city within the walls. My husband had been there many years before and really wanted to show us this gorgeous place. No, it is not a National Park, but it does fit in with the experiences I want for our daughter before she leaves home.

  • 18. Oregon Caves National Monument
    Oregon Caves National Monument, Cave Junction, Oregon

    This is a marble cave with a fun history. We stayed two nights. This was a very good experience over all.
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    The road to the caves is very winding, but beautiful. You have to stay in the Chateau. It is a very fun place to be. The lobby is the best I have seen yet. There are so many board games and checkers and chess set up. There were many children hanging out there and my daughter enjoyed herself so much. We took a tour of the chateau and learned about Elizabeth "the ghost" who stayed in room 309. There is a fifties style breakfast lunch/soda shop with great food and amazing malts and shakes. You sit at a counter that is shaped like an M throughout the entire place. The dining room has water running through it. The entire staff was great!!
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    Caution: There is not an elevator.
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    My daughter and I attended the candlelight tour at 6:30 p.m. It was only 45 minutes. This cave does not really compare to Carlsbad or Wind Cave, but is a very basic cave. My daughter loved it though. The interesting thing about it is that it actually has marble in it created through natural processes. Our guide, Ranger Tammy, was wonderful. I actually liked the shorter version, but missed the darkness and the gloves we had in Wind Cave.
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    The grounds are spectacular. Of course, they are in Oregon so why not? There are many hiking trails.
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    The Junior Ranger booklet was pretty good. It had some science, but many crosswords, etc. I do wish the Visitor Center had a film.

  • 19. Redwood National Park
    Redwood National Park, Redwood National Park, California

  • 20. Crater Lake National Park
    Crater Lake National Park, Oregon