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“Where was the favorite place you visited?”

It’s everyone’s first question when talking about our epic adventure around the USA. It’s almost an impossible question to answer as there are so many wonderful parts of our country.

Here is our family top 10 adventures, listed in no particular order. Be sure you click on the highlighted city name if you want to read the blog post from the actual time we were in that area.

JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING

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The past couple of weeks have definitely felt like winter in the south as we traveled through Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Brrr! I’m not going to complain though because we could most certainly be stuck in northern New York right now. Those poor people! But, that’s why we went through that area in August and not November.

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When we planned our route to Arkansas, we decided to go through Hot Springs and check out the National Park. This urban park is like no other that we’ve experienced in the National Park Service system. It is comprised of a series of old-time American spas lined up along what is called Bathhouse Row. You really have to see it, to believe it.

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The Fordyce Bath House is where the Visitor Center is housed and it is just gorgeous. You can take a self guided tour inside to see what an old time american fancy spa used to be like. The kids can also earn a junior ranger badge here and it’s a good way for them to learn the history behind these spas.

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Outside the Visitor Center you can feel the scalding hot thermal mineral waters!

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We were bummed that there is no actual pool that we could sit in outside, like the other hot springs that we’d visited in Montana and Idaho. In order to experience the waters, you have to go to one of two spas that are still in operation. The Buckstaff Bathhouse has been in continuous operation since 1912 and remains the only bathhouse providing the traditional bathing experience in Hot Springs National Park.

The minimum age is only 10 to soak in a thermal water tub here. The downside is that it costs $33 and our kids weren’t too keen on the idea of relaxing in a private room by themselves! We weren’t keen on the idea of paying for them to do it either!

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You must be 14 years of age to go to Quapaw, which excluded our family. Of course if the kids weren’t with us, we would’ve probably checked both of these out. So sorry, I can’t report on what they’re like inside! They are all beautiful from the outside though I know!

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There are several nice trails above Bathhouse Row. The Grand Promenade is really pretty and it’s fun just to wander around the town. Cute shops and restaurants line the other side of the Row as well. We loved the feel of the town even if we didn’t get to go to the spa!

We loved watching the locals show up to these public fountains with all of their huge water jugs to fill. Nobody is buying bottled water around these parts! We took the few items we had in the RV to fill up with the spring water and we were laughing the whole time because we really looked ridiculous with our Tupperware and Aladdin pitchers as well as our tea kettle. But we had a good time and we wanted to grab what water we could while we were there too!

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Our home base was the Hot Springs National Park KOA and we couldn’t have been happier! We hadn’t been to a KOA since we were in Florida, so it was nice to be back to the yellow sign we know and love! This KOA was just a few miles from downtown and the National Park/Bathhouse Row.

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Our spot by the pond was just perfect. I loved that the Arkansas trees still had color, despite the cooler temperatures.

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Tortillas proved to be good bait for Kade and Aidan at this pond, as they were able to fish right outside our front door once again! Thanks to the friendly staff and owners of the Hot Springs KOA for hosting our family for our Arkansas stay!

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New Orleans, Louisiana is one place that had been on my bucket list for a while. I was so excited to finally get here to check out the Crescent City. New Orleans isn’t necessarily known as a family spot, but I beg to differ.

Here are 9 ways to enjoy NOLA with kids in tow!

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1. Hang out in Jackson Square

This popular square is a perfect starting point. There is so much to see in just this little area. You can also take a carriage ride tour from here around the French Quarter. Be sure to go into the St. Louis Cathedral. Not only is the architecture gorgeous but this is the oldest cathedral in the United States still in use.

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Musicians, street performers, and other local artists surround this beautiful square. Make sure to have plenty of low bills on hand to tip these fun entertainers!

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2. Beignets at Cafe Du Monde

Grab a table on the busy patio at this iconic spot and indulge in the city’s infamous French donuts. They come in orders of 3 for under $3. Be sure to indulge in a Cafe au lait or Coffee and Chickory as well. Yes, we made our way here a couple of times.

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3. Eat more beignets at Cafe Beignet

We decided to become beignet connoisseurs during our three days here.  Unfortunately, the day we were here was freezing and rainy, so we didn’t get the live music that normally would accompany your experience here but a few of us did rate these beignets higher than Cafe Du Monde. You try them and let us know what you think!

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4. Eat Debris Poboys, Gumbo and Jambalaya at Mother’s on Poydras

 It does seem like all we did while visiting New Orleans was eat! There are so many great restaurants and new dishes to try here that you just can’t help yourself. We loved this local eatery for an authentic Creole lunch.

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5. Enjoy a night at Rock’n’Bowl

This was my favorite thing that we did while visiting New Orleans. We listened to some live Zydeco music as we bowled. Rock’n’Bowl was such a unique place and so much fun! We wanted to find a family friendly spot to listen to some local music and this was just perfect. Admission was $10 per person.

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The fun energy here helped my bowling for sure as I was victorious in our family’s game. It is $24 to rent the lane for up to 6 bowlers for the hour. Shoe rental is just $1.

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6. New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park

Who knew this little National Park was tucked in the French Market? Be sure to visit it and have the kids earn a junior ranger badge while learning about the history of Jazz music in NOLA. Then you can continue to shop at all the booths in the French Market.

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7. Louis Armstrong Park/Congo Square

While on the subject of Jazz music, make sure to take a stroll through this park which is on the edge of the French Quarter in the Tremé neighborhood. The beautiful park is dedicated to one of the City’s most celebrated native sons and to the tradition of jazz in the City. It is also very close to the Basin Street Station Visitor Center, which you will want to hit as well.

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This poor area suffered so much devastation at the hands of Hurricane Katrina that it’s no wonder they celebrate the end of hurricane season with concerts and other festivities. They were just setting up for this one in Armstrong Park as we were getting ready to leave.

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8. Ride a historic streetcar

Riding one of the streetcars here is a unique and inexpensive way to get around certain areas of New Orleans. We took the St. Charles green streetcar out to see the Garden District, Uptown and the Tulane University campus. It is only $3 for an all-day pass to hop on and off the cars.

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9. If you’re brave, stroll Bourbon Street

We had been warned to stay off this famous street with the kids. There isn’t any point in purposely waltzing the children along Bourbon Street to witness insanity. We did have to walk along there to go to Cafe Beignet but it was very tame in the morning rain, so there was no action that day thank goodness.

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BUT, we were walking from Armstrong Park to Jackson Square on our last morning and happened to cross Bourbon Street. This was our view at 9 am. At least it provided us with some last minute laughs. I guess it wouldn’t be New Orleans without a little crazy.

What are your New Orleans family favorites?

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Labor Day is behind us which means summer fun is over for most as kids have gone back to school across the country. Everyone that is but crazy families like ours who are choosing to roadschool. Campgrounds are much quieter and tourist crowds are minimal during the weekdays so September is the perfect time to be camping and traveling out east!

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Here in rural Pennsylvania we are getting the best of both worlds. A city experience combined with downtime at the quiet campground. This Philadelphia-Westchester KOA is a 50 minute drive into the big city. It is far from even a grocery store or even a highway.

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The kids working on their National Park Service Junior Ranger books outside Independence Hall.

I love visiting all of the major cities in our country. I am fueled by the energy of a big city! Philadelphia is an absolute historical gem. I would wander around here every day easily, if we were staying closer. We chose to hang out at the campground for our second day in the area and I’m really glad we did.

Sometimes we can get caught up in trying to fit in all of the historical sites or touring around and not take the time to just relax and be at the campground itself. I have to say, that downtime doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not used to taking time to just hang out and chill.

This trip is teaching me how important it is that we take time out to relax along our journey. The kids would never leave the campgrounds if we left it up to them! I’m so happy that this beautiful KOA afforded us opportunity for quiet time in the outdoors or we would’ve missed out on these moments…

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A quiet picnic lunch by Brandywine Creek.

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Fishing and renting canoes…

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Time for our son to inflate his raft that he bought in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and take it for a cruise along the Brandywine!

Sometimes I get nervous about not having the kids in school or on their sports teams and I wonder if we’re doing the right thing. Then we have days like this and I am reminded that this is quality of life and I am so grateful that we are doing this family trip together!

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How great that we were in Philadelphia for the 227th anniversary of the United States Constitution! It was one of those perfect days when road schooling rocked. The beautiful National Constitution Center offered free admission today so we took a train in from our KOA into the city to be a part of the celebration.

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Citizens of the United States have celebrated Independence Day and Presidents’ Day since the 1870s. In 2005, the nation began to celebrate Constitution Day also know as Citizenship Day. Constitution Day honors the day 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the United States Constitution. This historic date was September 17, 1787 and we were here in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to see the exact room where it took place.

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Philadelphia is an amazing city with such a past that has been wonderfully preserved for all of us.

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So proud to be an American and so grateful for our Constitution that affords us so much!

Three months on the road. Wow. Can you even believe it? We are too far from home to even call it quits even if we wanted to! There was a point where it would still cross my mind that we could run if we wanted. We could cut straight down from South Dakota and high tail it home no problem. But, now we are in Rhode Island with 24 states and 6,000 plus miles traveled behind us. And the best part is that we’re having the time of our lives! My goal now is to post on here more frequently and to get caught up with timely posts.

Last week was very trying I have to say. Everyone said it was a part of the adventure and most of the time I believed that. I returned from the funeral to my family and an electrically dead RV. I told you I was afraid to leave my family. I felt it. As frustrating as this past week has been, I wouldn’t trade going to see Mary and her family for anything. Not even with my family injuring Ally B while I was gone.

Now we can’t be certain that anything would’ve gone differently if I were there, but I find it ironic that this happened when I wasn’t. As the family prepared our motorhome to leave Lake Placid in upstate New York, while I was on an Amtrak headed back to them, something happened to the electrical system. We could still drive her, but it would be impossible to live in it as nothing electrical worked. The Lake Placid KOA General Managers, Chip and Julie, were amazingly accommodating and we are forever grateful. They put us up in a nice cabin for that unexpected extra night there. It was fate that we had gotten stuck in their campground because they really helped diffuse everything with their kindness and wisdom. I can’t wait to make it back to their beautiful campground one day, as I didn’t get to experience anything of Lake Placid.

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In the morning we headed off to get our motorhome fixed at a shop in New Hampshire. They asked us to write nicely about them, so I won’t even go there.

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This is how we lived for almost a week. In and out of the car, hotels and cabins. We managed to pretty much stick to our original travel itinerary of visiting Vermont and Old Orchard, Maine. We just now had to do it by car. By the time Ally B was fixed and we got on the road to Rhode Island though, I’d grown exhausted of hauling things in and out of different places. I realized that I’d slept in 8 different spots in 9 nights.

I also learned a big lesson in packing a motorhome. Don’t pack anything of importance or that you might need regularly in drawers on your RV slides. I wasn’t able to get to my iPad, camera or my underwear because we couldn’t get the slides popped out with the electrical issues! Here’s what we did while we were nomads this past week. Remember I only had my iPhone to work with too…

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We took the ferry from New York across to Vermont on Lake Champlain. Can you see us on this thing? I still can’t believe that a big rig like that can go on a ferry across the water? It was gorgeous out and lots of fun to do this too!

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 In Vermont, on our way to Quechee, the Gateway to New England!

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I enjoyed seeing all of the different covered bridges that this area in the upper valley of central Vermont is known for. The kids loved jumping from the rocks underneath the Quechee Bridge one afternoon. We noticed people doing this from the outdoor patio at Simon Pearce, so the kids had to try it. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Simon Pearce and watched the glass blowers working their craft before and after our meal!

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At Sugarbush Farm, we had fun taste testing all different cheeses and four grades of maple syrup! Of course we left with many in  hand as well. This is a beautiful family farm and a fun place to learn how syrup is made from start to finish.

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There is also a cute petting zoo where you can buy 50 cent feed for the animals. Mine still love doing this at their age even. I think it took them back to their farm experience in Montana!

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Fly Fishing for the first time…..

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We only had one guy catch a rainbow trout with a little help from our guide, Peter.

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We stayed in a cabin at this beautiful Quechee Holiday KOA. The owners were great in letting us switch from our originally booked RV spot to a deluxe cabin for our stay. Of course it costs double the amount, but it’s worth it.  The cabins are easier for us than a hotel room because there is more space and a full kitchen!

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This serene pond is at the front of the property. The kids loved fishing from here and renting a canoe to paddle too. Notice the leaves changing here already?!

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I love to bake at home and I only buy King Arthur Flour, so I was way excited to visit the King Arthur Bakery and Shop in Norwich, Vermont on our way to Maine. The bakery here was divine! I plan to come back here one day to take some baking classes as well.

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We only had one night to spend in Saco, Maine near Old Orchard Beach, but we loved our time that we did have here!

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Our next stop was Niagara Falls, New York! I hadn’t even looked into what the KOA was like here, as we were only in the area to visit the famous Falls or so I thought! We were all pleasantly surprised at the beauty and amenities of this KOA owned Holiday property! It honestly is one of our favorites of the trip!

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It was a short, easy drive from the campground in Grand Island to Niagara Falls. We had a lot of fun just walking all around and checking out the Falls from all angles. Our highlight was taking the Maid of the Mist boat. I felt like a sardine being stuffed onto that boat, but you still have to do it regardless of not receiving any love on this thing. They just herd as many people on and off the famous boat as they can. But the experience and views are worth it, so you just have to go with it. You are also given the lovely blue poncho to wear and keep after for a souvenir.

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Did you know that Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls — the Horseshoe Falls, the Bridal Veil Falls and the American Falls — that overlap the international borders of Canada and the United States?

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I had brought our passports along on our trip and was patting myself on the back when we decided to go across the Rainbow Bridge into Canada, so that we could see the Falls from their side as well! Here is the Maid of the Mist going into the American Falls. I have to say the Canadian side was beautiful and seemed less cheesy. Darn us Americans! Why do we have to cheese everything up with all of our discounted t-shirt and junk stands?!

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We stayed in Ontario for an expensive, touristy dinner at Edgewaters across the street from here. The views from our patio table were unbeatable though! We also got to see the Falls light up in their rainbow colors once nightfall came. We loved our time in Niagara Falls!

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Our National Parks annual pass is getting a workout on this trip! For a family who only had visited one National Park before this trip (the Grand Canyon), we certainly are making up for lost time now.

We purchased our America the Beautiful annual pass at our inaugural stop at Glen Canyon Dam, near Lake Powell. The $80 we spent for this is the best money we’ve spent on this trip for sure! The pass allows our family access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites. The pass covers entrance and standard fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle, including our big RV. Children age 15 and under are admitted free.

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We’ve already used our pass for entrance into Lake Powell, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Little Bighorn Battlefield, the Badlands and Mammoth Cave!

Another awesome program for families hitting the National Parks is their National Junior Ranger Program. This has been an awesome way for our kids to get involved by participating in the activity based program in each park.

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At the Park’s Visitor Center you pick up the Junior Ranger program workbook. Junior Rangers are typically between the ages of 5-13 and your age will determine how many activities you need to complete in order to earn your Park badge. I wondered if our kids would be too old for this program, but it has proved to be challenging and fun for them actually. It gives them something to look forward to with each park visit. All kids love a collection, so why not start one where they learn along the way and earn something free to take home at the end.

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Kids usually have to attend a park ranger event, take a hike and answer many questions on wildlife and aspects pertaining to each particular place. The great thing about my kids doing it at this age, is that they can do the book by themselves or at least work together, which is really nice!  I think these programs would be pretty tough to do with a 5-7 year old. At the end of each experience, the kids share their answers with a park ranger and are sworn in as Junior Rangers before receiving a badge or patch from that park. So far, they have ten under their belt!

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Getting sworn in by cool Ranger Marc Ankenbauer in West Glacier National Park. Check out his amazing endeavor on www.glacierexplorer.com!

It has been a fun way for the kids to learn things that they never would’ve known before. They now point out sagebrush bushes while hiking and know what the symbols on the National Park Service logo mean. Two months ago none of us could’ve told you that!

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Did you know that June is designated as Great Outdoors Month each year through a Presidential Proclamation that says “Great Outdoors Month is a time for all Americans to share in the natural splendor of which we are all proud inheritors.

Whether camping, fishing, rock climbing, or playing in a neighborhood park, nature offers each of us the opportunity to get active, explore, and strengthen our bonds with family and friends. This month, let us celebrate our natural heritage by experiencing it together.”

On our RV trip around the USA, we did a lot of hiking as a family in America’s National Parks. This month, let’s purposely put the electronic media and gadgets aside and take the time to get out and explore this beautiful country we live in!

7 Benefits of Hiking in the Great Outdoors With Your Kids

1. Gain perseverance

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Hiking around the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon

I am a climb to the top of the mountain kind of girl. In all areas of my life, I like having a specific goal to accomplish, so hiking is the perfect activity for me. What goes up, must come down. You have no choice in this. I love seeing my kids persevere through times when they are weary and think they can’t go on. Hiking is a perfect way to show them they can push through and make it to the top or the end of the trail if they are determined enough!

2.  Builds endurance

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At the top of Weeping Rock in Zion National Park

It’s always motivating to keep going when you are hot, tired or feeling weak when you see little kids and much older adults pushing through on the same hike. If they can do it, you most certainly can! I love the friendliness of fellow hikers greeting and motivating one another while enduring the same trail.

3. Builds an appreciation for our country

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Picnicking on the lawn outside Zion’s Lodge.

I wouldn’t consider myself “outdoorsy” but since moving to Arizona I have grown to love hiking. I have seen majestic views, interesting landscapes, and wildlife that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I didn’t realize how many international tourists come to our country just to see the beauty of our National Parks, that just doesn’t exist anywhere else!

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4. Affordable entertainment for the whole family

After we hiked The Narrows in Zion, our daughter said that must’ve been really expensive! She couldn’t believe that doing such an amazing thing as a family was actually free! (Or just the cost of our National Park Annual Pass of $80). We pack our lunches when we hike too, so we can stop at our convenience and enjoy a little picnic along the way. Entertaining kids during the summertime can be very costly for large families, so spending quality time in our Nation’s parks is a really inexpensive way to have fun quality time together.

5. Builds physical strength

Staying healthy and physically fit should be a priority for every family. No matter where you are, there are always a variety of trails and hikes to choose from depending on what your family is up for. It’s important to keep active as a family and hiking together is a perfect way to stay physically fit. Some days you may feel like doing a leisurely path while other days you may be up for a more strenuous climb. Whatever your abilities, there is a trail for you!

6. Builds knowledge

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A lot of trails have signs telling about the surrounding plants and landscape. National Parks also have visitors centers and museums that you can further learn the history of the area as well. The NPS Junior Ranger program is an excellent way to motivate kids to learn through a workbook that needs to be completed and signed off by a Park Ranger in order to get each park badge. It’s a fun and free thing for the kids to collect.

7. Builds connection

Our family has enjoyed many laughs and conversations together along the trails. Getting out in nature helps you forget about any stress and opens up an opportunity for casually connecting with your loved ones.

Take time this month to get outside and celebrate Great Outdoors Month with your family!

Hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park was our family favorite excursion we did on our RV adventure around the USA.

The river hike exceeded all our expectations and I highly recommend everyone put this on their bucket list if you haven’t yet been to Utah’s First National Park. It was absolutely breathtaking and really a unique experience.

The Narrows Family Hike in Zion National Park

What is The Narrows Hike?

The Virgin River has carved an amazing gorge in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon. The Narrows river hike is definitely an unforgettable experience with its soaring walls, sandstone grottos, and hanging gardens. You access the river hike by taking the Zion National Park shuttle from the Visitor Center to the last stop The Temple of Sinawava. From there you follow the signs for the River Walk and hike one mile down on the paved path until it ends at the Narrows and wade on in!

TIP: We had the kids wear their regular tennis shoes to hike the River Walk and then change into their water shoes once they got there. We just left our tennis shoes and socks up on the banks while we were in the river. The kids were very happy to have dry shoes and socks to put on at the end. Keith and I hadn’t brought a change of footwear and wished we would’ve.

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