Summer is basically here and it's time to get up, get out, and explore with your kids. Whether you want to take in a new city, hike our nation's parks, or visit a museum your kids will never forget, there's no better time than now to get up and go. Here are our five must-have adventures for the whole family this summer.
Become a Junior Park Ranger
Most of our national parks, monuments, and historic sites offer a Junior Ranger program, enabling kids to learn about these sites while completing a series of educational and observational activities. Upon completion, children recite the oath and receive an official badge or patch from a ranger. Some parks, like Badlands National Park in South Dakota, even have a Junior Paleontologist program. Meanwhile, certain states, like Georgia and Maryland, also offer Junior Ranger programs in their state parks.
Go on a Scavenger Hunt
For a fun way to explore a new city with kids, try a scavenger hunt. Watson Adventures coordinates themed scavenger hunts in museums and neighborhoods across the country, as does Urban Quest, which offers self-paced family scavenger hunts that end at a local restaurant. Stray Boots recently launched apps with scavenger hunt-like trivia challenges for more than a dozen cities, including Boston, Miami, and San Diego.
Visit an Odd-Ball Museum or Factory
Surprise your kids with a museum visit they'll never forget. The National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin, for example, has more than 5,500 jars of mustard that make up The Great Wall of Mustard. Or, milk a mechanical cow and enjoy all the free ice cream samples you can eat at the Turkey Hill Experience in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Interesting museums and factory tours lurk around every corner, so find one close to you to give your kids a far-from-everyday family outing. Other favorites include the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota and, of course, Ben & Jerry's Factory tour in Vermont.
Get Picking at a Fruit Festival
Summer is ripe (pun intended) with fruit festivals with lots of favorites, like cherries, peaches, and blueberries, in season. Grab a basket and hit the fields to fill up on pie-filling favorites. Many festivals also have hay rides, bike rodeos, and concerts. At the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan, you can even participate in a cherry pit spitting contest. If you go to the Hopkins Raspberry Festival in Minnesota, don't forget to hunt for the golden raspberry.
Take a Nature Hike
Grab your backpacks and hike a park trail to a waterfall or lake. Caves and hollowed out trees are also particularly fun to discover. Make sure to bring water and protein-rich snacks to keep energy levels high. Wear shoes you don't mind getting muddy and gauge the fatigue factor to make sure your kids aren't already over-tired by the time you reach a turn-around point on your hike. Download the free AllTrails app to find local trails for hiking and biking.
Photo credits: Glacier National Park via Shutterstock; NYCs Highline via Shutterstock; Ben & Jerry's Factory courtesy of Flickr/rasdourian; Michigan cherries via Shutterstock; Family hiking via Shutterstock