Free Adventuring for 4th Graders All Year Long.

Do you know a fourth grader better yet do you live with a fourth grader?  If so then you are in luck. Starting today every fourth grader in the US is eligible for a pass that provides free access to all federally managed lands and waters – including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and marine sanctuaries.

Every Kid in a Park Pass

We come and go, but the land is always here and the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it for a little while. Willa Cather

The new federal initiative with the moniker “Every Kid in a Park” offers the possibilities for ready-made family adventures. The program is expansive, inclusive and I think terrific. No matter where you live in the United States, there’s a site within two hours of your home. Think about stargazing on the rim of the Grand Canyon or hiking to an ancient pueblo at Wupatki National Monument near Flagstaff.

Next year is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service and this program makes it easy to select a park and celebrate with a visit. The pass is valid for the 2015-2016 school year and grants free entry for fourth graders and three accompanying adults (or an entire car for drive-in parks) at more than 2,000 federally-managed sites.

Grant Kohrs Junior Ranger Program

Grant Kohrs National Monument in Montana connects kids with the spirit of the American West.

From Boston and Philadelphia to Yellowstone and Yosemite the possibilities are endless. From hiking within the shadow of Mount Rainier or taking selfies at Mount Rushmore to air-boating in the Everglades or snorkeling within the US Virgin Islands National Marine Sanctuary, the choices for a world-class family adventure are many.

Fourth graders are invited to log onto  and complete an entertaining, educational activity in order to obtain and print their paper pass. The paper version may be exchanged for a more durable one at participating federal locations nationwide.

Pueblo at Wupatki National Monument

The ancient pueblos of Wupatki National Monument are perched between the Painted Desert and Ponderosa highlands of Northern Arizona.

Parents visiting the new website will find additional links for more information on planning trips to nearby public lands and some of the most remarkable places in America. Grant Kohrs National Monument demonstrates the cowboy spirit typical of the American frontier. Think about walking in the cloud forest of El Junque in Puerto Rico or counting roadrunners in Saguaro National Park near Tucson.  Fly a kite on Cape Hatteras in North Carolina or kayak within Acadia National Park in Maine.

So many great ways to celebrate 100 years with or without a fourth grader.

Nancy Nelson-Duac         Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.


Add More Zip To Your Next Family Vacation.

What’s green and screen-free? Ziplining. It’s a way to for families (even those members who are secretly afraid of heights) to zip, soar, jump, glide and feel free as a birds. Zipline adventures add new perspectives, elevated thrills, and “whoa!” moments to any family outing.

Sky Valley Zipline Tours near Boone, North Carolina

At Sky Valley Zipline Tours near Boone, North Carolina the fun for families is in doing it together.

Historically ziplines have been a practical method of transportation for not just people but also supplies. Now ziplines have taken on new importance becoming synonymous with family fun and adventure from Ohio to California and St. Lucia to Maui.

For parents vacationing with “always bored” teens a zipline excursion may just be the answer. The chance to literally fly through the tree tops above boulders, streams, bogs, lakes, canyons, secret caves, and across meadows, traversing bridges, and jumping off rock faces will get the attention of even the most jaded teen. Really, it is all about being able to say “I did it!” which makes all the difference no matter what your age.

The choices are many with more than 700 registered zipline courses on the planet and as one might imagine no two zipline adventures are the same. Location, time of year, weather, time of day and age all make a difference but for families looking to share an adventure any time will be a good time. Doing it together is what matters.

Smoky Mountain Ziplines in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Smoky Mountain Ziplines in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee makes it easy to soar through the treetops with a smile on your face.

At Smoky Mountain Ziplines in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee they are geared to first-timers and assist families who want to zip together. The two most popular routes zip along around 95 feet above the ground at about 20 mph. Tykes ages five to seven years of age may travel the route in tandem with a guide.

Sky Valley Zip Tours near Boone, North Carolina begins each adventure with an off-road ATV ride through creek and up a mountain trail before releasing participants to zip and soar through the tree tops above boulders, streams, secret caves, and across meadows.

The new Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium in Virginia Beach has 13 different elevated trails color coded to indicate degree of difficulty and ziplining night is an option. An additional 40 platforms, crossings, and ziplines scaled down for younger climbers ages five to nine make up the area dubbed The Labyrinth.

My advice for those who usually avoid the thrill of heights but still desire to share the zipline adventure – don’t look down, look out and remember your kids are watching so try to smile.

As always I welcome feedback. Do you have a favorite place for a zipline adventure just Tell Mom.

Nancy Nelson-Duac

Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files.