Each of our national parks is a national treasure, and can be a great experience for families of all ages. National parks offer a unique way to connect with nature and learn about our country.
There are 63 national parks and more than 400 total locations under the National Park Service umbrella. One excellent time to plan a visit to one of these spaces? A fee-free day. There are typically five, but this year the National Park Service has added Juneteenth, which means there are six free days in 2024. On these fee-free days, around 100 national parks and park sites that usually charge entrance fees waive them. These fees usually range from $5 to $35.
The 2024 fee-free days at national parks are:
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
First Day of National Park Week
Great American Outdoors Day
National Public Lands Day
The fee waiver for the fee-free days applies only to National Park Service entrance fees and does not cover amenity or user fees for camping, boat launches, transportation, special tours, or other activities.
The Digital Artist | CanvaBryce Canyon National Park
Practical tips for visiting national parks with kids
1. Plan ahead
Check the weather before you go, as national parks can have varying elevations and climates. Understanding the typical weather during your visit can help you pack appropriately. You can find weather updates on the National Park Service website. Additionally, explore the website for general information, maps, and details on facilities like restrooms and parking. Starting your day at a visitor center can be helpful; many have informative exhibits and movies that can enhance your park experience.
2. Gather information on-site
Talk to a ranger at the visitor center. They can provide maps and answer your questions. Always have a paper map with you, as GPS and cell service may be unreliable in some areas. Look into the Junior Ranger program, which is available at every national park. It offers booklets with fun activities for kids and can keep them engaged and learning during the visit. Kids can turn in completed booklets to become official Junior Rangers, a fun way for kids to feel especially connected to a park!
Kraynova | PexelsEverglades National Park
3. Take a hike
Exploring a national park on foot is a great way to experience it fully. Most parks offer various trails, from short walks to day-long hikes. Trails are usually rated by difficulty, so you can choose one suitable for your family. As your kids grow, you can tackle longer hikes. Here's what to pack for a day in the park:
- Water: Stay hydrated and know the locations of refill stations.
- Snacks or a meal: Picnic areas are often available, so bring some food.
- Garbage bag: Pack out your trash; not all parks have ample garbage bins.
- Layers: Be ready for changing temperatures.
- Sun protection: Protect against sunburn.
- Good shoes: Wear supportive footwear.
- Bug spray: Be prepared for bugs.
- Gas: Ensure you have enough for remote areas with no cell service.
Visiting national parks is a fantastic way to appreciate our natural wonders. Take advantage of a fee-free day at a national park in 2024 and make some family memories!