Somehow I missed that, back in 2015, the Obama Administration created the Every Kid in a Park initiative allowing free admission to National Parks for fourth-grade students and their families for one year. From talking to friends, I’m not the only one who was unaware of this cool program.
The Every Kid in a Park website, everykidinapark.gov, got us started with enrollment by having my fourth-grader imagine planning a trip using multiple choice questions. Sure, I could technically have just clicked the buttons myself, but the point of the program is create appreciation for our national parks in our country’s youth. The research behind the program identified fourth-graders as the prime age to cultivate this enjoyment.
The first question gave three options for “trip planning”: time travel, swimming and a nature walk. If you’ve read about my family’s waterfall visits in recent months, you won’t be shocked that my child chose hiking. From there, she could select landscapes, flowers or animals as interests, and she chose animals. The quiz ended without providing specifics, and we needed to click some more links for her to really understand. The partner agencies can be found here www.everykidinapark.gov/about.
My first thoughts were of Yellowstone, Yosemite … the big ones I’ve never visited! Unfortunately, when I checked for accommodations around spring break, many desirable places to stay are already booked. And airfare – whew! Pretty steep for a family of five. Luckily, with a middle child who will be in fourth grade in two years, we have plenty of time to save and plan for later. (Sadly, camping and some other fees aren’t included, just park admission.)
In the meantime, I’ve learned about several interesting places we might not otherwise have discovered. While I had to shoot down the idea of Valles Caldera in New Mexico, my daughter found other places closer to home that caught her interest.
The National Park website allows searches by state, and I was surprised to see how many sites exist in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia because in addition to National Parks, the site lists Historic Sites.
“I want to see the castle!” she exclaimed when she saw a photo of Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island, Georgia (Actually, admission to Fort Frederica is free, so you don’t need the pass to check it out.)
Then, the beach at Cumberland Island caught her eye. I recognized both those sites on the Georgia coast could be combined on a road trip to Savannah that includes Fort Pulaski. Our passes are good until Aug. 31. A beach trip to Cumberland Island might be on our summer agenda, although the ferry to the island isn’t included in the pass ($28 for adults, $18 for children). Camping is also an additional charge. Typically, Fort Pulaski and Cumberland Island charge admission of $7 per adult, with free admission for children under 16.
Unfortunately, like Cumberland Island, the Fort Sumter ferry charge is not waived for families.
However, the good news is that I didn’t realize that admission to South Carolina’s National Park, Congaree is another free place to see. What have we been waiting for?