Best Family Trips To Book In 2019?
Visit A National Park!
Family vacations are a time to have fun and connect with each other. What better place to seek adventure, serenity, and connection than at one (or two or more) of America’s national parks?! After all, national parks are generally affordable and conveniently located in 26 of the 50 states. National parks allow families to participate in unique, life-changing, and memory-making experiences. Furthermore, they provide opportunities for learning about nature and conservation and promote health and wellness. But most importantly, America’s national parks are simply breathtaking.
In 2019, check out one of these national parks listed by region:
TEXAS–The limestone canyons and cactus blooms of Big Bend National Park are beautiful and quintessentially Texan. Take the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to the Chisos Basin. With gorgeous views of the Chihuahuan Desert, it is a must see as you proceed to the Rio Grande Valley. One of the most scenic spots in the park is Santa Elena Canyon. A short walk on the Window View Trail will give you a great view of the mountains, as well. Day hikes are a must do for visitors, and the Fossil Discovery Exhibit is sure to please the kiddos. No trip to Big Bend would be complete without stopping in nearby Marfa to see the Marfa Lights. Cities close to Big Bend are Alpine, Marfa, and Marathon. Also in Texas: Guadalupe Mountains National Park
FLORIDA–The vast wetlands of Everglades National Park is home to exciting wildlife such as the manatee, American crocodile, and the Florida panther. Plan to go during the dry season from November to March when wildlife is at its best. Visiting during the wet season might limit your access to native species and activities. Opportunities to camp and explore the park by boat and/or tram abound. Cities close to the Everglades include Miami, Naples, and the Florida Keys. Also in Florida: Biscayne National Park and Dry Tortugas National Park
NORTH CAROLINA AND TENNESSEE–Activities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park range from strenuous hikes to quiet sunsets. With well over 10 million visitors a year, there are many opportunities for bicycling, camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. Sweeping landscapes and inviting waterfalls are sure to delight all visitors. Downtown Gatlinburg is a bustling beauty all on its own, and don’t forget to check out Dollywood in nearby Pigeon Forge!
VIRGINIA–Escape to flowing waterfalls and spectacular views at Shenandoah National Park. Camp, hike, and/or picnic among the deer, birds, and the serene woodlands that make up 200,000 acres of protected land. There are over 500 miles of trails to explore in winter, spring, summer, or fall. Coupled with a stay in nearby Washington, D.C., this is a trip your family is sure to remember for years to come!
MONTANA–Glacier National Park is the perfect place for adventure-seeking families wishing to have fun and connect with each another. Visitors can hike and bike the 734 miles of trails, fish or boat the pristine waters of Lake McDonald or Saint Mary Lake, camp the gorgeous back-country, ski cross-country, photograph majestic vistas, learn about the park on naturalist-led boat, bus, hike, horseback, and raft tours, and meander the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Nearby cities include Whitefish and Kalispell.
UTAH–Utah’s first national park, Zion National Park, is home to unique plants and animals, as well as sandstone cliffs in various shades of whites, pinks, and reds. Visitors to the park can backpack, rock climb, camp, hike among the canyons, and do guided kayaking and rafting tours of the Sevier River. Bicycle and motorcycle tours are also available, as are shuttle services and painting workshops. Families may delight in opportunities for fishing and horseback riding. Nearby cities include Springdale and Hurricane. Also in Utah: Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Capitol Reef National Park
WASHINGTON–With over a million acres of land and wide ranges of precipitation and elevation, family fun in Olympic National Park is as diverse as its offerings of mountains, rain forests, and coastline. Visitors to the park can camp its 16 campgrounds, boat and fish its numerous rivers, lakes, and coasts, hike its many trails, and explore its night sky. Wildlife viewing and tidepooling allow visitors to get a feel for the area’s diversity. Cities nearby Olympic include Forks, Hoodsport, Neah Bay, Port Angeles, Port Townsend, and Seattle. Also in Washington: Mount Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park
IDAHO, MONTANA, AND WYOMING–Heralded as the world’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park has colorful hot springs and geysers. Mountains, forests, and lakes provide the backdrop for various types of wildlife. Camp one of its 12 campgrounds. Take a strenuous day hike or a short stroll along 1,000 miles of trails, participate in painting and photography tours, fish and/or boat most lakes, and explore the area on by foot, bike, snowmobile or snowcoach, and/or horseback. Skiing and snowshoeing are available during winter months. Nearby cities include Gardiner, MT; Cody, WY, West Yellowstone, MT; Island Park, ID; Cooke City, MT; or Jackson Hole, WY.
CALIFORNIA–Known for its countless waterfalls, Yosemite National Park is also home to 1,2000 square miles of valleys, meadows, sequoias, and the vast wilderness of the High Sierra. Hike over 750 miles of trails. Take guided tours of Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows, and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, home of over 500 mature sequoia trees. Explore pioneer history at Wawona. Explore rock formations carved from rivers and glaciers moving over solid granite. Nearby cities include Groveland, Madera County, Merced, Oakdale, and Midpines-El Portal. Also in California: Joshua Tree National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, Channel Islands National Park, Lassen Volcanic National Park, Redwood National Park, Death Valley National Park
COLORADO–Mountain views of Rocky Mountain National Park are nothing short of spectacular, no matter when you visit. Stretching 415 square miles, the park includes hundreds of miles of hiking trails and abundant wildflowers and wildlife in the summer. In the winter, there are many opportunities for seeing elk, mule deer, and moose, cross-country skiing, and sledding Hidden Valley. No skis? No problem! Equipment is available for rent in nearby Estes Park. Take advantage of free shuttle buses. Nearby cities include Estes Park, Grand Lake, and Denver. Also in Colorado: Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Mesa Verde National Park
ALASKA–Wild animals roam six million acres of wild taiga forest, alpine tundra, and snowy mountains in Denali National Park. In February, attend Winterfest, a winter festival celebrating Alaska’s longest season. Participate in ranger-led discovery hikes. Ski, snowshoe or bike along Triple Lakes and Savage Alpine trails. Go mountaineering and explore Savage River. Get hands-on at the Murie Science and Learning Center and visit the sled dog kennels for kid-friendly activities. View the fiery colors of the Aurora Borealis. Free buses run from May 20th to mid-September. Also in Alaska: Glacier Bay National Park, Gates of the Arctic National Park, Katmai National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park, Kobuk Valley National Park, Lake Clark National Park, and Wrangell – St. Elias National Park
ARIZONA–With its 277 river miles and canyons, Grand Canyon National Park is celebrating its centennial year in 2019! Though the North Rim is closed during the winter, the South Rim is open all year. Enjoy back-country hiking and camping at both rims. View the canyons from Hermit Road and Desert View Drive. Go by hike, bike, or horse along the Greenway Trail. Check out the Yavapai Geology Museum and the Tusayan Museum. Along the North Rim, visit Point Imperial and Capre Royal for additional arresting views of the canyons. Opportunities to tour the area by air, mule, bicycle, or bus abound. Also in Arizona: Petrified Forest National Park and Saguaro National Park
HAWAII–Last year’s eruption and flow of Kilauea had all eyes on Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in 2018. Though the eruptions have since ceased, the fascinating volcanoes of Hawaii remain steadfast and alluring. While at the park, visitors can view volcanoes from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, drive the Crater Rim and Chain of Craters Road, day-hike the park, and learn about Hawaiian culture. Also in Hawaii: Haleakala National Park
WYOMING–Explore over 200 miles of wildlife, lakes, and alpine terrain of the Teton Range at Grand Teton National Park. Adventurers might bike from Jackson to South Jenny Lake, hike over 230 miles of trails, climb the Teton Range, or explore the park by cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and ranger-led snowshoe walks. Spectators might float or boat the Snake River or enjoy the serenity of fishing, bird watching, and wildlife viewing of big horn sheep on scenic drives. Nearby cities include Jackson, WY.
SOUTH DAKOTA–Once the home of ancient mammals like the saber-toothed cat, the 244,000-acre stretch of prairie, fossil beds, and awe-inspiring geological deposits that compose Badlands National Park is now the stunning home of bison and bighorn sheep. In addition to hiking its many trails, visitors can camp and explore the area’s back country, drive the Badlands Highways 240, learn something at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, visit the Fossil Prep Lab from June through September, or enjoy stars dappled against the night sky. This year the park will host the 2019 Badlands Astronomy Festival from July 5-7th. Also in South Dakota: Wind Cave National Park
OHIO–With its plethora of forests, hills, farmlands, plants, and wildlife, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a great family vacation destination. Shop indoor farmers’ markets and Hunt House. Hike the park’s 125 miles of trails, and venture to The Winter Sports Center to go skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. In warmer weather, attend summer concerts at the Blossom Music Center, canoe or kayak the Cuyahoga River, and hike or bike the Towpath Trail, the historic route of the Ohio and Erie Canals. The Canal Exploration Center gives visitors a peek into the history of the canal. Nearby cities include Cleveland and Akron.
MAINE–Acadia National Park runs along the rocky coastline of the Atlantic Ocean and is rich in cultural beauty and heritage. Explore the various peaks, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, carriage roads, and stone bridges on foot, bicycle, and boat through mountains, forests, ponds, and marshland. Activities such as bird watching, climbing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, leaf-seeing, skiing, sandcastle building, and snowmobiling are available for small kids and big kids alike! Acadia is located near Bar Harbor for food, shopping, and lodging.
Should you choose to venture to one of America’s magical national parks, it’s important to plan ahead! Don’t forget to check alerts, especially in the winter months when weather conditions and closures might affect your stay. Also, pay attention to permit regulations and vehicle inspections. Use shuttles to get around and reserve campsites early! Want to avoid the crowds? Consider going during off seasons or during the week instead of the weekend.