The United States is full of incredibly beautiful public lands that are there for everyone to enjoy. It is also incredibly important to preserve these lands! This school year, 4th graders and members of their families are invited to visit federal lands and waters for free! This privilege also includes home-schooled and free-choice learners and members of their families.You can download your free voucher at everykidinapark.gov, and that voucher can be exchanged for a more durable pass at certain federal lands or water sites. You can plan your trip at recreation.gov.
There are amazing federal land and water sites throughout the United States. In planning our family outing, we decided to visit a national park. We went to the Every Kid in a Park website where my daughter, Emma, a 4th grader, completed an online activity which then generated a voucher that we printed and were able to use for our trip!
Visiting Muir Woods National Monument
Muir Woods National Monument is just over an hour from our house. I had been meaning to visit for ages, but the beauty of this voucher or pass is that it motivates you to get out and actually GO places! My daughter Emma was super excited to take advantage of this special fourth grader privilege, and she made sure that Mike and I were up bright and early, along with Johnny, Lily, and Anna. Two of Mike’s uncles heard we were planning the trip and arranged to meet us there. We arrived right at 8am, and the Park was already bustling. We had to park in the overflow area!
National parks are the perfect place to escape from life’s busyness and focus on the beauty of our world and the things that matter most. Muir Woods is full of stunning trees and landscapes.
The surrounding scenery really captured my children’s imagination! They took off and ran – literally for miles! Anna couldn’t quite keep up, so the three older kids ran ahead with Mike’s uncle.
I don’t think I have ever seen my kids happier than they were in Muir Woods. I wish we could just move there, but it is pretty amazing to be able to visit!
Our time in this national park really sparked my children’s imaginations. It looks a lot like the Ewok village portion of the Star Wars movies, and they loved that! Contrary to popular belief, the movie was not filmed here, but the kids still found Darth Vader in the bark of this tree. Can you spot him?
Redwood trees are amazing because they grow for hundreds and hundreds of years! Look at all the history you can find in a single tree:
The text is a little hard to read in my small photo, so here you go:
- 909 A.D. Tree is born
- 1100 Building of cliff dwellings begins, Mesa Verde
- 1325 Aztecs begin construction of Tenochtitlan, Mexico
- 1492 Columbus sails to America
- 1607 Jamestown, VA established by English colonists
- 1776 Declaration of Independence
- 1849 California gold rush
- 1908 Muir Woods National Monument established
- 1930 Tree falls
Isn’t that an amazing life for a tree? I think redwood trees capture our imagination because they stand tall through everything that happens in the world around them. All of America’s open public lands are an important part of American heritage and history.
Children need nature! Head over to everykidinapark.gov and start planning your first trip at recreation.gov! This voucher or pass is good for all federal lands and waters, not only those run by the National Park Service! Here are some other federal sites to go to and ones that I would love to take my kids to this school year:
- Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary – This is the second largest marine sanctuary and largest marine sanctuary protected area in the continental United States.
- Colusa National Wildlife Refuge – A great location to enjoy bird watching, photography, and hiking.
- Lake Tahoe Basin – The largest alpine or highest altitude lake in North America located along the border between California and Nevada. We have driven past this lake, but have never stopped to visit. Time to change that!
- Klamath National Forest – Recreation, recreation, recreation including fishing, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding.
Do you have a favorite site that I should take my kids to next?
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of National Parks Service/University of Maryland. The opinions and text are all mine.