Every day should be an Earth Day celebration. Here are some special ways we can honor our beautiful planet. Take part!
Enjoy a Farm Stay.
Get close to the land by planning a farm stay. You’ll wake to a rooster call or the sounds of other barnyard animals welcoming in the day. Share in the chores or simply observe a lifestyle that is likely quite different from your own. Enjoy farm fresh eggs for breakfast before pitching in to help with the day’s chores. Depending on the farm you choose, you can relax on a hammock, go for a horseback ride, pick berries, fish the local stream or read a book under a shade tree. Animals and activities vary by farm.
National Kids to Parks Day.
Join your children in a grassroots movement to celebrate our country’s local, state and national parks. Grown-ups are encouraged to take their children and grandchildren to one of thousands of treasured parks across the country. Kids can tweet about their participation or send photos that will be posted on a national map. Check the site for park activities and other family-friendly suggestions. Contact: www.BuddyBison.org.; www.ParkTrust.org.
Be an Eco-traveler.
Costa Rica was an early leader in the ecotourism movement. Visit Lapa Rios Ecolodge on the country’s Osa Peninsula, for an intense wildlife and biologically diverse experience. Choose to embark on this Tropical Adventure and you’ll find your family on the “Twigs, Pigs and Garbage Sustainability Tour”, joining wild cat researchers in their efforts to conserve jaguar and pumas and exploring nearby tide pools.
Contact: 800- 345-4453; www.Wildland.com; www.laparios.com.
Aldo Leopold Nature Center. Monona, Wisconsin.
Visit the nature center inspired by Wisconsin naturalist and author Aldo Leopold for outdoor activities designed with the busy family in mind. Explore walking trails supported by season specific backpacks, offering exploration guides and an activity kit. Visit the Leopold Interpretive Trail and the special “touch table” that encourages young children to get a feel for nature items like feathers, bones, fur and rocks. Ask about spring break and summer camp programs just for kids.
Contact: (608) 221-0404; www.naturenet.com/alnc/dropinprogs.htm
Take a Road Trip.
A concept often parodied on television and in the movies, the family road trip continues to be a source of fun and happy memories for clans across the country. Play games, sing songs, tell stories along the way. Access the American Automobile Association’s plentiful and user-friendly information on road conditions, weather, deals, discounts, and gas prices. They can also help with roadside assistance, travel planning and maps.
Contact: 1 (800) 332-6119; www.AAA.com.
Make your way to the Mountains.
Fill your lungs with pine scented air. Raft the rivers, wonder at the wild life or travel by horseback into the backcountry. A visit to a mountain destination like Jackson, WY will offer you and your family the best of the great outdoors paired with a glimpse into our western heritage. Take in the rodeo, a cowboy cookout, visit the hot springs and the Grand Teton National Park. Contact: 1 (888) 838-6606; www.jacksonholewy.com.
Head to the Beach.
You may have a family favorite or build sand castles on the beach closest to home. However, if you are looking for a new sandy spot, consider the list created by coastal expert Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, Director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research. For the last 20 years, “Dr. Beach” has used 50 criteria, including water, sand quality, safety and environmental management, to rank seaside playgrounds. The top 10 include beaches in New York, Florida, California, Hawaii and North Carolina. Contact: www.DrBeach.org.
Relax at the lake.
With more than 1,000 miles of shoreline, Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks is a family favorite. In addition to boating, swimming, fishing and a wide range of water sports, generations of lake lovers enjoy hiking in the nearby state park, biking, mini-golf and water parks as well as access to plenty of restaurants, music and other kid-friendly attractions.
Contact: 1 (800) 386-5253; www.funlake.com.
Visit a National Park.
Celebrate our freedom and the beauty of our land within one of our 392 national parks. With so many historical and natural wonders to discover, consider heading to the National Park Service’s web pages, specifically designed to help regular and first time visitors plan a meaningful trip. There you research park activities as well as camping, back country, lodging and educational options. Across America each day there are special events, institute and field schools as well as volunteer opportunities. Check for fee free days and Junior Ranger programs for the kids.
Get Sporting at the Wintergreen Resort. Wintergreen, VA.
Parents can join their kids for group golf lessons and then head to the course to refine their skills. This is a family-friendly resort on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers up a range of easily accessible sporting options. With 45 holes of championship golf as a cornerstone, families can enjoy a holiday that includes a children’s program at The Treehouse, hiking, fly-fishing and an award-winning tennis program.
Contact: 800-926-3723; www.wintergreenresort.com
For some, venturing off the road most traveled doesn’t come easy. Here are several programs designed to help you get where you and your family really want to go: beyond the beaten path.
Lodging and Learning Programs
This is your chance to journey into the wild. But you won’t have to go it alone!
The Yellowstone Association, the official educational partner of the National Park Service founded in 1933 to foster the public’s understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of Yellowstone National Park and its surrounding ecosystem, provides programs almost year-round that enable parents and children to delve deeper into this amazing natural environment.
During the winter, small groups head out with guides, on foot, skis, snowcat or snowmobiles. They’ll learn more about the first national park in the United States and the wildlife that lives within the park's boundaries.
You can choose to head out at sunrise to catch the wolves in action or observe the bison warming themselves near the spouting geysers. Another program takes visitors on cross country skis deep into the interior of the park for a glimpse of reclusive wildlife and vistas seen by few. Yet another group sets off into the Northern Range, where the bears are most plentiful.
Each evening, adventurers return to the hotel or lodge and can participate in spirited educational sessions led by the Park Service before a welcoming soak in the hot tub.
During the spring, summer and fall, additional four- to six-day programs highlight the best each season brings forth.
Choose the Trails Through Yellowstone program and hike throughout the park with an expert guide who will provide insight into the habitat and teach explorers how to travel safely in grizzly country.