Best Middle Grade Books to Inspire Wanderlust

Best Middle Grade Books to Inspire Wanderlust

Stories inspire travel like nothing else! Middle grade books and YA books to inspire wanderlust in kids and us all! A chapter book list for kids who travel.

My entire life, I’ve been proud to be a book nerd. I was the kid who read a book on the bus, was intent on winning the school book challenges, and sighed with contentment when I finished my work and was allowed to read during class. Stories of the lives of others, especially in exotic settings, give you a connection to a place.

Can a book connection inspire the love of travel?

For example, in high school, I remember reading E.M. Forster’s, A Room With a View. Lucy, Mr. Beebe, Mrs. Honeycut, George, and all the characters seemed to pull me to Florence, Italy. From that moment on, I became determined to have my own room with a view of the River Arno and my own adventures in Florence.

And do you know what? I did. And it was amazing.

Also, I loved finding the different places in Florence mentioned in the book.

Now you think. What books have inspired you to travel or think about travel? Here’s a list of middle grade books and YA books to inspire wanderlust in kids and young adults. Also, they’re great to read when the family travels around the world.

Just want the list of books?

Scroll to the end of the blog post for the full list of books. They are books either set in other countries or perhaps the author lived in that area of the world. I’ll be adding to the list as we discover more so send me your recommendations in the comments below!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Stories inspire travel in us all! A list of middle grade books and YA books great to spark wanderlust in kids and teens. #middlegradebooks #wanderlustinkids #booklist

Photo credit: Houses of Parliament, London, The Wanderlust Crew

Books inspire travel to:

1. London and the English Countryside

The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

 

The War That Saved My Life and its sequel The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley are both fantastic books for middle readers. The books take place during World War II. They are about a little girl named Ada who struggles with a disability but is able to overcome the odds through the kindness of others and her own strength.

The books take place in London and the English countryside. It’s heartbreaking and educational to read about the events of WWII that took place in this area and especially to read about how they affected the children of the time. There are many WWII sites you can visit in London and in the countryside even today.

From the Wanderlust Crew

2. Greece

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

by Rick Riordan

My son set his heart on visiting Greece after reading Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Twelve-year-old Percy’s normal life in New York is thrown into chaos when he is attacked by a maths teacher who turns out to be a terrifying Fury. Then he’s pursued by a Minotaur, and on top of it all, his mother disappears.

In the safety of Camp Half-Blood – home to the children of ancient Greek gods – Percy discovers he is a son of Poseidon. Along with his friends, Grover – a satyr, and Annabeth – a daughter of Athena, Percy begins a quest to recover Zeus’s stolen lightning bolts.

“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.”

Although the book is set in the US, the theme is ancient Greek mythology. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and its sequels sparked my son’s interest in ancient Greek gods and the stories associated with them. This includes an interest in Greek architecture and landmarks.

When Percy first sees Camp Half-Blood – located on Long Island – he is astounded to see Greek architecture featuring white marble columns including an amphitheater and an arena. The Greek mountain, Mount Olympus was thought to be home of the gods. During his quest, Percy learns that Mount Olympus, the home of the gods, is now accessible from the 600th floor of the Empire State building!

The Percy Jackson series is the perfect middle grade book series to inspire wanderlust to Greece. #booklist #middlegradebooks

Places to visit from the book

My son was intrigued by a discussion between Annabeth and Percy as they stood below the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Annabeth reveals she plans to visit the Parthenon in Athens in Greece and is inspired to be an architect by her heritage. My son has the same goal as Annabeth to visit the Parthenon and also to see the amazing Temple of Poseidon outside Athens. The Percy Jackson books are a great inspiration to travel and explore ancient history!

From Reading Inspiration

3. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The Diary of Anne Frank (The Diary of a Young Girl)

by Anne Frank

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.

This quote from Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl captures the true resilience of the human spirit. This harrowing true story is about Anne Frank; a 13-year-old girl who is forced into hiding with her family during the Nazi regime. Translated into 70 languages, The Diary of Anne Frank is a must-read for all young adults; it depicts the transition from childhood to maturity in an eloquently relatable way.

Amsterdam is the lively capital city of the Netherlands and is a very family-friendly place to visit. Explore the city by boat along the canals, try on traditional wooden clogs, and sample some delicious Dutch waffles, stroopwafels. All these bustling activities are directly contrasted against the small attic in the city center where Anne and her family were forced into hiding.

Visit Amsterdam, the Netherlands #booklist #middlegradebooks #bestchapterbooks

An afternoon spent paying tribute to the Franks, and all those who lost their lives in the Holocaust is not to be missed when visiting Amsterdam. To visit the secret annex teaches young adults about Nazi Germany and the horrors that unfolded during World War II. It is a humbling experience for people of all ages – and to paraphrase Anne – it reminds us that even when the going gets tough, there’s still so much beauty in the world.

Full ticket information & opening hours for the Anne Frank museum can be found here.

From Becular Writes Stuff

4. Concord, Massachusetts

Whispering Graves

by Brenda Felber

Whispering Graves is about a girl named Lillia who can see and talk to ghosts. She goes to Massachusetts with her brother Charlie and her great aunt, Nora. There, Lillia meets a girl named Jo, and they try to solve the mystery of the Peabody house by listening to the whispers from the graves at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

This is a great book to read while you explore Concord, Massachusetts. The characters visit the Concord Museum, which has one of the lanterns Paul Revere used to signal the revolutionists. Maybe you remember his famous line, “One if by land, two if by sea.” The Redcoats are coming!

Also, the characters visited an ice cream place for breakfast called Bedford Farms Ice Cream, where you can still visit today. For fans of the classic book Little Women, visit Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote the beautiful story. Of course, also be sure to explore Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where many famous authors are buried.

Speaking of authors, nearby is also the famous Walden Pond. First, sit by the water. Clear your head and think only of the necessities and how to be minimalistic living by the pond like Thoreau. Then pull out your copy of Walden, and read a few lines.

From a book-loving 10-year-old.

5. Egypt

The Elfin Pyramid

by Penny Fernandes

Do you think that the pyramids of Egypt were built by man? Baah! It was the magic of elves that brought about these wonders. You probably don’t know we exist – that’s exactly the way we want it. Times have changed and our magic has begun to ebb away. The only hope for Elfin survival lies in a forgotten region of modern Egypt. Sobek, Horus and I have no choice but to hurl through the desert, find a stolen pearl and bring its magic back home. The sands of time aren’t in our favor and, in a world full of deception, we are forced to face our worst fears. This is our story…

Citadel, Egypt, middle grade books to inspire wanderlust #egyptbooks #booklists #kidsread

One of the most enchanting, mind-boggling places I have ever visited is Egypt. With two trips to the country and almost two months spent in Cairo, I found that the history and the culture called out to the creative side in me. It wasn’t a surprise that I landed up putting my pen to the paper and writing The Elfin Pyramid.

Set in modern-day Egypt, the book mingles the past and the present as a group of elves race against time to find a stolen pearl and get back to their pyramid in time to save it. Things, however, were not meant to be easy and they find themselves facing numerous hurdles along the way.

The Elfin Pyramid inspires a person to look beyond just the external structure of the Pyramids of Egypt. It helps a person’s imagination take shape while simultaneously understanding a lot of the ancient Egyptian history (which is really cool!). I really fell in love with the country and I think I will go back someday soon as there is still so much that I haven’t seen.

From Globe Trove

6. London, UK

A Bear Called Paddington

by Michael Bond

The story of Paddington Bear begins on Paddington station in London, when the Brown family of 32 Windsor Gardens, come across the young bear waiting at the station. He’s carrying just a suitcase, an old bush hat and a sign around his neck from his beloved Aunt Lucy in Peru (‘please look after this bear’). The Browns adopt Paddington and he quickly becomes the center of life in their household. Paddington has an uncanny knack of causing uproar wherever he goes, due to his propensity for unwittingly causing misunderstanding – but always with the best of intentions.

Paddington exposes the quirks of British culture in a humorous and innocent way that also involves many London landmarks.

London, Paddington Bear, Middle grade books to inspire travel #paddingtonbear #middlegradebooks #booklist

There’s the obvious Paddington station reference (and there’s a statue there today), as well as hilarious stories of Paddington bringing the escalators on the London Underground to a halt as he tries to understand British escalator etiquette. Then there are trips to the department store for Christmas shopping – in Paddington, the store is called Crumbolds and Ferns, and it always reminds me of our Liberties or John Lewis department stores. One of my favorite episodes is in Paddington Races Ahead, when Paddington tries to board a London bus using a pair of fresh oysters – rather than an Oyster Card.

Throughout all the stories we learn of Paddington’s love of a marmalade sandwich (marmalade being a peculiarly British kind of jam!) as well as sticky buns and tea.  He is a very British bear!

From Epic Road Rides

7. Yellowstone National Park, the USA

The Mystery at Yellowstone National Park

by Carole Marsh

There are a lot of great books for kids, tweens, and teens to read before or during a trip to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The Mystery in Yellowstone National Park is one of our favorites. The book is a fun read about two kids and their grandparents who snowmobile into Yellowstone. It’s part of the Real Kids Real Places series. In addition to exploring real places in Yellowstone during the winter, the family encounters a mystery they have to solve. Each chapter ends with a cliffhanger to keep the reader on the edge of their seat (or snowmobile!).

Yellowstone National Park in winter, USA, middle grade books to inspire wanderlust #yellowstonenationalpark #booklist #wanderlust

Marsh uses her two grandkids, her husband, and herself as the main characters as they explore real places and have fictional adventures. Marsh wrote the book after a trip to Yellowstone with her two grandkids. They explore the hot springs, geysers (including Old Faithful), mud pots, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone for which the park is famous.

From Yellowstone Trips

8. Italy

Love & Gelato

by Jenna Evans Welch

Love & Gelato, Italy, YA books to inspire wanderlust #yabooks #booklist #bookstoread

Lina is sixteen with a dying mother and all her mother wants her to do is go to Italy to get to know her father.  Of course, being sixteen, that’s the last thing she wants to do, but she goes anyways.  Once she arrives, she is given a journal her mother wrote when she lived in Italy.  Lina and her charming new friend Ren follow her mother’s footsteps around Tuscany and Florence on their own adventure learning about her parents and herself.

The book is set in the Tuscan countryside but includes frequent trips to nearby Florence. Make a trip to the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio with frequent stops to enjoy gelato. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the squares and walk around the streets and alleys. Explore the Tuscan countryside and take the train down to Naples for an afternoon and enjoy some pizza. Follow along on Lina’s journey through her mother’s journal.

From Red Around the World

 

9. Oxford, England

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll

Oxford is a literary treasure trove, and many authors lived and studied here including Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Lewis Carroll. It was actually in Oxford that Lewis Carroll met a real-life Alice who inspired the beloved children’s character Alice in Wonderland. Alice famously follows a white rabbit down a rabbit hole and ends up in a weird and wonderful world where she makes many friends and enemies.

Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) was both a student and tutor at Christ Church in Oxford. Here, he met Alice Liddell, the daughter of the Dean. Several years later, Dodgson and the Liddell family were out on a boating trip and Dodgson created a story for the children as they rowed along. Alice asked him to write it down for her and, voila, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was born!

Alice in Wonderland in Oxford, middle grade books to inspire wanderlust #oxford #booklist #familytravel

Where to visit in Oxford

There are many Alice in Wonderland inspired places to visit in Oxford and you should start your tour at Christ Church. In the infamous “Harry Potter” dining hall here, you will find firedogs on either side of the fireplace with incredibly long necks. These inspired the events in the story where Alice ends up growing really tall with a super long neck! If you’ve got a keen eye you’ll also notice that there’s a tiny Alice and White Rabbit painted in one of the panels of stained glass.

Further afield in Oxford, you can visit Alice’s Shop, a shop wholly dedicated to Alice in Wonderland souvenirs. There’s also a rare specimen of the Oxford Dodo in Oxford University’s Natural History Museum, which is sadly now extinct. There is a painting of a Dodo in the museum which is thought to have inspired the Dodo in the story. This museum is wonderful for children and you could spend the whole afternoon here. If you’re feeling peckish at the end of your tour, head to Cafe Loco where the whole family can enjoy an Alice in Wonderland inspired afternoon tea.

Find out more about Alice in Wonderland in Oxford.

From What’s Hot?

10. Namibia, Africa

Tippi My Book of Africa

by Tippi Degré

When I asked my children which book had made them want to visit different places, they didn’t have to think long before they agreed “Tippi.”

Tippi is an extraordinary book, by an extraordinary girl. Written in the voice of 10-year-old Tippi. It’s the story of her life so far. She was born in Namibia, the daughter of French photographers. Her parents are documenting African meerkats..

Tippi believes that she can speak animal language. And when you read the book you can believe it too. The book brings out the magic of her friendship with the wild animals of Africa including a  28-year-old elephant and a jaguar.

It’s full of warm pictures showing little Tippi with her animal friends. This book and its pictures project Africa and Namibia through the eyes of an extraordinary child.

First I read it to them, and now they re-read it themselves.  Whenever they do so I hear the same question, “Mummy, when can we go to Africa?”

From The Travelling Twins

11. Kauai, Hawaii, USA

Aloha, Kanani

by Lisa Yee

Aloha, Kanani is from the American Girl series, and Hawaiian native Kanani was their first Girl of the Year. The story introduces middle grade readers to Kanani’s unique world in Hawaii through both a cultural and geographic lens.

Readers meet Kanani’s many “aunties” in the small town of Waipuna and learn about the slower pace of life than mainland USA. Also, they get to see Kanani and her friends spend their time helping their families or enjoying the natural wonders of Kauai’s north shore. But there’s a big shakeup in Kanani’s world when her cousin arrives from New York with a very different perspective and her own emotional challenges. 

From The Family Voyage

Oahu, Hawaii, Middle grade books to inspire travel #booklist #middlegradebooks

12. Prince Edward Island, Canada

Anne of Green Gables

by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables is about a little red-headed orphan girl named Anne who goes to live with Matthew and Marilla on Prince Edward Island. They want a boy orphan to help Matthew. However, there’s a mixup, and they end up with Anne instead.

After many misadventures and mishaps, they end up keeping her. The joyful Anne goes on many adventures with her best friend, Diana Barry. We love the drama and optimism of Anne’s character. For example, one day she’s in the “depths of despair”, the next she is blissfully happy.

Prince Edward Island, Anne of Green Gables #middlegradebooks #anneofgreengables

Anne lives in Green Gables, which was inspired by the Green Gables Heritage Place in Cavendish on Prince Edward Island. It’s visited by tourists throughout the year and a great place to reenact your favorite scenes from the book series.

Also, get tickets to see Anne of Green Gables, the Musical at the live theater at the Charlottetown Festival. In addition, today the Anne of Green Gables Museum and the L. M. Montgomery Birthplace are sites not to be missed.

Don’t forget to take a stroll along the beach and seek out some of the many lighthouses. Prince Edward Island is a beautiful place on its own but has more meaning when you read about Anne’s life there. Around every bend in the road, there are things to see to spark a connection to a scene or character for a true Anne fan.

From a 10-year-old Anne fan.

More books to inspire wanderlust:

Or to read when you visit these places! This is a list in progress, and I will update periodically.

 

  1. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo – France/Europe
  2. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – France
  3. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy – France
  4. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein – England/France
  5. The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – England
  6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – UK
  7. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond – London, England
  8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – Oxford, England
  9. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – Oxford, England
  10. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – Oxford, England
  11. The Ravenmaster’s Secret by Elvira Woodruff – London
  12. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming – UK/Germany/Europe
  13. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  14. Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch – Italy
  15. A Room With A View by E.M. Forster – Florence, Italy
  16. The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly – Poland
  17. The Good Master by Kate Seredy – Hungary
  18. Percy Jackson Book 1: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan – Greece
  19. The Moon-Spinners by Mary Stewart – Greece
  20. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park – Korea
  21. Tales of a Korean Grandmother by Frances Carpenter – Korea
  22. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – South Africa
  23. Tippi My Book of Africa by Tippi Degre – Namibia, Africa
  24. The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder – Egypt
  25. The Elfin Pyramid by Penny Fernandes – Egypt
  26. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster – India
  27. White Fang by Jack London – Alaska, USA
  28. Alamo All-Stars (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #6) by Nathan Hale – Texas, USA
  29. Book Scavenger (The Book Scavenger Series) by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman – San Francisco, CA USA
  30. Aloha, Kanani by Lisa Yee – Hawaii, USA
  31. Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool – Appalachian Trail, USA
  32. Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk – Massachusetts, USA
  33. The Mystery at Yellowstone National Park by Carole Marsh – Yellowstone National Park, USA
  34. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery – Prince Edward Island, Canada
  35. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare – Barbados/Connecticut, USA
  36. Whispering Graves by Brenda Felber – Concord, Massachusetts, USA
  37. Heidi by Johanna Spyri – Switzerland
  38. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lyn – China
  39. The Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark – Peru

What other middle-grade books inspire wanderlust? What about YA (young adult) books?

Can you think of another middle grade or YA book in an amazing setting? I’ve always wanted to visit the Greek islands dotted with windmills thanks to Mary Stewart’s The MoonspinnersDefinitely, it’s on my bucket list.

I would love to add to this list so if you have an awesome book that’s a source of wanderlust for you, please let me know! Put it in the comments below, and I’ll review it to read myself and add to the blog post.

Thanks for reading! Happy travels!

Want more book suggestions?

Pondering what books to read next? Get new books categories with the #40nextbooks challenge and see what I'm reading for each. #booklist #bookstoread

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The best middle grade books to inspire wanderlust and exploration. Middle grade and YA booklist for kids, teens, and family travel. #familytravel #kidsbooklist #bookstoread

1 Day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary

1 Day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary

Are you planning to visit Mesa Verde National Park or short on time and considering it? Don’t miss this national wonder and immaculate preservation of American history! Follow this family-friendly 1 day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary and love every minute of your self-guided tour.

Mesa Verde National Park was founded in 1906 to preserve the archeological culture and legacy of the Ancestral Pueblo people. I’ve heard many Europeans speak about their medieval castles and state Americans have nothing to compare. Not true!

The Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings are true castles, not built on a solid hilltop but dug out and built inside the sides of a cliff! In fact, the two cowboys that found it and brought it to the attention Wetherill family called it “a magnificent city”. Can you imagine? Two cowboys, minding their own business herding cattle and discover a gigantic cliff dwelling!

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Visit the American cliff castles for yourself with a 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary. Pressed for time? Follow the map and advice for a fun-filled educational day you won't want to miss. Family vacation or a day trip from Durango, Colorado. #familytravel #mesaverde

Now, to be fair, the Utes knew about the structures before this. However, the cowboys made their “discovery” famous and got more people involved in the excavation and preservation.

In fact, in Mesa Verde National Park, you will see not only cliff dwellings but a progression of homes and religious buildings. The Puebloans lived here for more than 600 years, from around A.D. 600 to around 1300. Take that European castles! (Don’t worry, I love you too!)

Mesa Verde National Park Quick Information

Mesa Verde is one of 4 national parks in the U.S. state of Colorado. They also include Rocky Mountain National Park, the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Location: In the southwestern corner of Colorado, easily accessible from Cortez or Durango, Colorado.

Elevation: 7,000 – 8,500 feet

Safety: The park has rugged terrain with steep cliff dropoffs, deep canyons, and some narrow trails. Stay on the prepared trails and monitor children.

Park Entrance Fees: There is an entrance fee to enter the park, and I suggest you check their website for current rates. If you have a fourth grader traveling with you, find out how to get a free U.S. national parks pass here!

Mesa Verde Tours:

If you visit during summer months, the park is more crowded, but you also have the opportunity to join a group tour. If you have the time and are physically able to walk for a couple of hours and climb ladders, I highly recommend the park-run tours of Cliff Palace and the other dwellings.

Be sure to reserve your spot beforehand or check in immediately at the Visitor’s Center to find out what’s available during your visit. They are various lengths and different levels of difficulty.

The self-guided 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary below is kid-friendly and accessible for wheelchairs. The stops and short hikes I’ve recommended are mostly paved pathways or wide well-maintained paths.

Where to stay in Mesa Verde:

Camping: Stay in one of the brilliant campsites in the national park at Morefield Campground.

Airbnb: As a family, we love to book places using Airbnb! I like to have more room, a different experience, and our own kitchen to prepare meals. Check for options in and around Durango, Colorado.

When using Airbnb, I always advise you to choose a place with plenty of good ratings. It’s nice to read a few of the past reviews to get a feel for the place. Also, it will help you be able to tell if it’s a good fit for your family.

Coupon BONUS! To get $40 off an Airbnb home booking of $75 or more or $15 off an experience of $50 or more, click on my link here!

Hotels: My kids like to stay in hotels for the exciting experiences of a free morning breakfast buffet and a swimming pool! I always look for hotels with a good swimming pool.

Mesa Verde Map

While you probably won’t be able to see the detail on this map, it will give you an idea of the locations I suggest to visit. Be sure to pick up your own map on your way into the park when you pay the entrance fee and mark it up to your heart’s content.

1 day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary, National Parks map #mesaverde #familytravel

Now, shall we begin the self-guided essential 1-day tour? Yes, please!

1 Day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary

The following plan is meant to be a self-guided tour. It consists of easy, quick stops along the way for families with young kids or those who don’t wish to go on a long hike. Use this as a guide but make it your own day trip. Grab a Mesa Verde map, and if there’s something you want to see along the way I don’t specify, by all means, explore!

1. Mesa Verde National Park Visitor and Research Center

When you enter the park, do take the time to stop in at the visitor’s center. There’s an interesting exhibit, and the rangers are knowledgeable and ready to help. Ask what to do in the current weather conditions, if any trails or sites are closed, that sort of thing.

a. Purchase tour tickets

Here you will purchase any tour tickets you wish to go on run by Mesa Verde National Park. Purchase tickets or find out more information on the guided tours if you have the time and wish to tour the Cliff House or other dwellings. Most take at least a couple of hours so keep that in mind.

b. Sign up for the Mesa Verde Junior Ranger program

I absolutely LOVE the Junior Ranger program, and it’s a perfect fit for kids wanting to learn more about the park. My daughter is a huge fan, completes EVERY activity in EVERY book and is determined to collect as many badges from U.S. national parks as possible.

My son, on the other hand, is not quite as eager but has participated in the program, and we’ve had fun with it together. It also helps keep the adults in the group on their toes and on the lookout for interesting facts.

Find a ranger and ask to sign any kids with you up for the program. They’ll have to fill out a booklet of activities and when complete they’ll be sworn in as a Junior Ranger. They get an official certificate in a small ceremony and a badge. Awesome!

c. Gift shop souvenirs

If you or the family want to stock up on souvenirs to remember the trip, this is the place to do it! Truly, they do have a good variety of books, postcards, posters, and kid collectibles. My daughter selected an adult coloring book of all the national parks with some colored pencils, and the 6-year-old found a stuffed peregrine falcon he couldn’t live without.

d. Facilities

Last, but not least, this is a good place to use the bathrooms before you set off on your adventure. There are restrooms at some of the stops but not all so I like to avoid as many panicked emergencies as possible.

2. Mancos Valley Overlook

On to stop number 2! After the visitor’s center is about 4 miles to the Mancos Valley Overlook. This is a quick stop, but one not to miss! Get out of your vehicle and walk down to take in the views. This is also right next to the Morefield Campground if you happen to be camping there.

There are some tables if you’d like to have a picnic or a snack or simply get that photo op.

Mancos Valley Overlook, enjoying the view of Mesa Verde National Park #mesaverde #familytravel

3. Montezuma Valley Overlook

This is another great point to see some different views of the park. It was a little muddy when we were there, but I made great friends with this tree. We enjoyed the stop.

Tree at Montezuma Valley Overlook, Mesa Verde NP #mesaverde #nationalparktrees

4. Geologic Overlook

Continue to drive until you make it to the Geologic Overlook. In good weather, there are good views and short well-maintained paths. Take a minute to work on the Junior Ranger packets and think about the astounding feats of architecture you’re about to see.

5. Far View Sites

Next, travel down to the Far View Sites, passing the Far View Lodge and Far View area. Do NOT accidentally turn onto the Wetherill Mesa Road. This is a great turn off to visit on the second day in the park but won’t fit into our 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary.

The Far View Sites are surface sites, which simply means they’re above ground and not in the cliff. You can see the Far View House, Pipe Shrine House, Coyote Village, Far View Reservoir, Megalithic House, and Far View Tower. We were told it was one of the most populated areas from A.D. 900 -1300.

Perfect spot on the Mesa Verde map for kids

What do I like about this site? It’s a good, safe place with nice trails, and interesting places to explore for kids. They can run around, act out stories, and let imaginations run wild!

The last time we were there it was under snow so I didn’t get a good picture. Let me know how your kids enjoy it!

6. Cliff Palace Loop (6mi/10km)

The Cliff Palace Loop is one of the two main loops that take you to see the cliff dwellings and mesa sites on the Chapin Mesa. It’s a one-way loop, and I suggest going here first and earlier in the day before the large crowds arrive.

a. Cliff Palace

If you see one thing in Mesa Verde National Park, you will want to see the Cliff Palace. It’s the “enchanted castle” and iconic picture you see in anything referencing Mesa Verde.

Explorer Momma at Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde NP #cliffpalace #mesaverde

Frederick Chapin, the first tourist guided by the Weatherill family to Cliff Palace, was an experienced mountaineer. He visited in 1889 and 1890 and described it in writing like this: “It occupies a great space under a grand oval cliff, appearing like a ruined fortress, with ramparts, bastions, and dismantled towers. The stones in front have broken away; but behind them rise the walls of a second story; and in the rear of these, in under the dark cavern, stands the third tier of masonry. Still farther back in the gloomy recess, little houses rest on upper ledges.”

The pathway down from the parking area is nicely paved and you even pass by a seating area for when the rangers give their guided tours. Once you get down to the viewing area there’s an amazing view of the Cliff Palace and all around the canyon.

Unfortunately, unless you have a ticket to attend one of the guided tours you won’t be able to go down the locked rusted staircase to view the dwelling up close. When traveling with kids and only a day to explore this is no problem. If you have an extra day book one of the tours.

Looking out at Mesa Verde NP, towards Cliff Palace #mesaverde

b. Balcony House

Balcony House can better be seen from the Soda Canyon Overlook trail. If you have tickets to the tour stop here or move on to see it from the trail viewpoint.

Balcony House, Mesa Verde NP

c. Soda Canyon Overlook Trail (1.2mi/1.9km)

The Soda Canyon Overlook Trail is the longest we attempted with my 6-year-old. Moreover, he called it the “really long hike”, and it was a lot of fun. Awesome views abound, but this is one of those places where Mom panic kicks in.

Soda Canyon Overlook Trail, Mesa Verde #familytravel #mesaverde

The trail goes very near the dropoff down into the canyon. Also, the telescope in the picture below is on a large rock sticking out into the canyon. While the places that meet the trail are fenced, off the trail they are not. I would advise kids know to stay on the trail on this one!

Looking though the telescope Mesa Verde NP #mesaverde #familytravel

But wow! What an experience!

7. Spruce Tree Terrace

Spruce Tree Terrace is a little café area where you can stop for lunch or a snack. We didn’t pack a picnic and found it to be a good break between loops. There are various sandwiches, hamburgers, brats, French fries, salads, cookies, and general American-style quick foods. It’s a little higher priced than you’d normally find, but hey, it’s the only thing in the park!

If you live close by or are organized to get a good picnic together before going I highly recommend that also and taking advantage of one of the many picnic areas.

In summer, needless to say, it is very HOT. Be sure to bring enough water, sun hats, non-toxic sunscreen, etc. to keep you hydrated and safe.

8. Spruce Tree House

Safety concerns with falling rocks have closed the Spruce Tree House for tours for the foreseeable future. However, you can still get a good view of it from the overlooks near the museum. This is the third largest cliff dwelling and hopefully will be open again soon! It’s one of the easiest to get down to and has paved paths for strollers and wheelchairs.

9. Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum

If you have the time or just want to breeze through, the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum is worth a stop. Some people will really want to examine the dioramas illustrating Ancestral Pueblo life. My children did not, but we’d also been on a lot of stops!

In addition to the dioramas, there are exhibits of prehistoric artifacts, a chronology of Ancestral Pueblo culture, and other displays.

If the family needs a rest, there’s also a 25-minute informational video on the park that runs on the half-hour. In summer months, I would imagine it would be a welcome break in the air conditioning! Check it out.

10. Mesa Top Loop (6mi/10km)

Now, head over to the second loop on the map, the Mesa Top Loop. It’s good to start this one after a good lunch and everyone’s revived and excited to see more! There’s a lot more to see on our 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary than just Cliff Palace (although it IS pretty impressive on its own!).

a. Pit house

Be sure to stop at the Pit House. This is the earliest evidence of people living in the area from about A.D. 550 to 600. They build shallow pits in the ground and covered them with pole and mud roofs and wall. In fact, the entrance would have been through the roof!

The Pit House you will see at the site is one of the best preserved anywhere with features common on all pit houses. There’s a large space used as a living room with a fire pit in the middle. Then to the side, adjoining the living room is an antechamber where they think firewood and food were stored. All the family would sleep on the floor around the fire, grandparents, parents, kids.

How would you like that? Pick up the Mesa Top flyer at the entrance for more information.

b. Square Tower House

I have to say Square Tower House is my second favorite cliff dwelling in the park, after Cliff Palace. Take a short paved trail down to the viewpoint area. The four-story tower looming over the rest of the buildings is quite impressive. The tower boasts window, flooring, doorways, and even a reed mat, feathered cloth, and a humanlike figurine were found inside.

Square Tower, Mesa Verde National Park #mesaverde #familytravel

Evidently, the residents of the 80 original rooms in this dwelling came and went using hand-and-toe holds dug out of the cliff walls. Yes, they had to climb in and out! People lived here toward the end of building in Mesa Verde, from A.D. 1200 to 1300.

c. Sun Point View

Sun Point View is a good place to stop to view many dwellings at one time. Here you will see a dozen different cliff dwellings in alcoves in the Cliff and Fewkes Canyons. Take the kids out, stretch your legs, and see how many you can spot!

d. Sun Temple

The Sun Temple is a fascinating place to explore and let the kids run around to see what they can see. Moreover, it’s another place where you can get up close and personal with one of the structures. Peek through the windows and discuss why they might have created four-foot-thick walls.

Looking through the Sun Temple window, Mesa Verde #mesaverde #familyadventure

What would they have used this D-shaped structure for? There are signs it was left unfinished, without a roof, according to the experts. But, a point of interest is the natural rock basin in the southwestern corner possibly served as a “solar marker”. Also, people from the surrounding areas could have attended ceremonies in the temple.

Sun Temple, Mesa Verde NP

11. Return to the Visitor’s Center

The Sun Temple is the last stop on the Mesa Top Loop. From there, if you have any time left explore away. If not, head back to the Visitor’s Center before it closes. When we were there it closed at 4:30, but times do vary depending on the season.

In addition, the kids can complete the Junior Ranger program with a ranger and get their certificates. The packets can be mailed in, but they love that sense of accomplishment to finish in a day. Have I mentioned we LOVE the Junior Ranger program?!

Grab the last minute souvenirs, and you’re done for the day! I hope you enjoyed this 1 day Mesa Verde map itinerary. Let me know in the comments below if it’s useful to you!

Ready to visit more National Parks?

Check out Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico!

10 Musts for visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park with kids


1 Day Mesa Verde Map Itinerary

To be fair, this is a lot to pack into one day at Mesa Verde National Park. However, if you do only have the day you’re going to want to see as much as possible! It’s a fascinating place to discover hands-on about the ancestral Puebloan people. Forget reading about it in books, go out and explore!

The kids will love this National Park, and I have a feeling it’s a trip they will remember for a long time! Happy travels!

Lauren

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Only have a day in Mesa Verde National Park? This is the perfect family one day Mesa Verde map itinerary with the best places to be sure to see. From Cliff Palace to the Sun Temple, it's a must-see national park. #mesaverde #familytravel #usnationalparks

Hotel Booking Options:



Booking.com

More information on U.S. National Parks:

  1. State and National Parks Family Bucket List
  2. Northern States National Parks Bucket List
  3. Utah and Colorado National Parks Bucket List
  4. California National Parks Bucket List
  5. How to Get a Free National Parks Pass
  6. Carlsbad Caverns with Kids: 10 Musts for an Amazing Visit
  7. Secrets of Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter

Georgian Food: Eggplant With Walnuts

Georgian Food: Eggplant With Walnuts

Fabulous flavors come together with fenugreek, garlic, and walnuts in this naturally low carb, gluten-free traditional Georgian dish. Out of all Georgian food, Georgian eggplant with walnuts, or badrijani nigvzit, is a definitely a staple at any Georgian dinner party!

My husband just got back from visiting family for Orthodox Easter in Georgia (the country not the state). Georgians take great pride in hospitality and welcoming guests into their homes and do a fabulous job of it. Much emphasis is placed on the Georgian supra, or dinner party, where plates of traditional foods are stacked one on top of the other.

Georgians give toasts to God, peace, the guests, the children, Georgia, your country, and many others. While I love the Georgian cheese bread (khachapuri), desserts, and meats, one of my favorite keto-friendly side dishes is badrijani nigvzit.

Georgian eggplant with walnuts. I love Georgian food!

Okay, I admit when I first tried it, I was not used to eggplant. Actually, I had to work up my courage to taste and then enjoy it. To an American palate, it’s not a regular dish but once you do the flavors are oh so good! There’s a reason it’s on a plate at nearly every Georgian table on special occasions.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. 

Georgian eggplant with walnuts is a fabulous keto side dish that's a staple for any Georgian dinner. Low carb and gluten-free, full of flavor! #ketosides #georgianrecipes

In a hurry?

While I think you’ll love my super helpful tips and fun stories, I also realize we are sometimes pressed for time and just need a good recipe! Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the printable recipe or PIN it here for later!

When I was alone, I lived on eggplant, the stove top cook’s strongest ally…. 

Laurie Colwin

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant

What Georgian food will you find at a traditional dinner supra?

Like I said, my husband just returned from Georgia, and after Easter Georgian households celebrate and tend to eat a lot! They take great joy when friends, neighbors, and family come over to share a meal. The food and wine are traditional, abundant, and accompanied by music and laughter!

Georgian supra table with low carb Georgian eggplant with walnuts #georgiansupra

Before Orthodox Easter, or აღდგომა aghdgoma, religious Georgians fast from animal products, eat little, and are almost vegan for a time. Therefore, when it’s time to say, “Christ is risen!” a celebration and feast for days begin. 

Plate upon plates are stacked on top of each other, filled with amazing dishes. Guests are encouraged to eat and drink as much as possible and have a good time. Guitars are brought out for singing and dance.

It’s also a fun time to prepare food with the family! Generally, the women bake sweet and savory breads, prepare salads, and make sure there are enough different kinds of meat and side dishes. There’s wine, coffee, and dessert, and people can sit at the table all day.

What about it? Shall we make one of those side dishes?

To make Georgian food: eggplant with walnuts you’ll need : 

Georgian foods: eggplant with walnuts is a staple for any Georgian dinner. Fenugreek, garlic, and walnuts make this a delicious low carb side dish. #lowcarbrecipes #georgianrecipes

How to select an eggplant

When I first started to make this dish when I returned to the United States, I bought normal bulb eggplant. Unfortunately, the finished recipe did not taste or look like I remembered. The problem with the big eggplant is that it is slightly more bitter and eggplanty, and not the right size for folding like the eggplant used in Georgia.

I looked around at local grocery stores and finally found what I was looking for. In Georgia, they use a long thin eggplant. Therefore, the closest I have found to the same variety is called a Chinese eggplant in most stores.

Two Chinese eggplants on a pan

I’ve found it most often at my local Sprout’s farmer’s market, and you may also have more luck at smaller natural produce or farmer’s market-type locations.

I’m even planning to grow it this year in my garden!

How to make fried Georgian eggplant with walnuts

To begin, gather all the ingredients and supplies together. Second, slice the Chinese eggplants lengthwise to about 1/3 of an inch thick. I like to use a mandolin slicer for this process but a regular knife works if you prefer.

Slicing the Chinese eggplant

Now we’re going to let the eggplant “weep” and get as much of the bitter flavor out as we can. Lay the eggplant out on towels and salt it liberally. Next, leave it there untouched for about half an hour and turn it over and salt the other side. Then let it sit another half hour or so.

The eggplant should “weep”, and the bitter liquid seeps out. Now rinse off the liquid and salt and pat them dry.

Next, get out a skillet or frying pan, and heat the oil over medium heat. Now fry the eggplant slices in batches for about 2 minutes on each side. When they’ve slightly browned, remove them to a dish and cover.

How to make the filling

Next, for the filling, take out a food processor (or pestle and mortar) and place in it all the rest of the ingredients: the walnuts, water, garlic, coriander, vinegar, salt, pepper, and fenugreek (or Georgian utskho suneli and kviteli qvaveli if you have it).

Process it all on high for forty seconds or so then unplug and spoon down the sides with a spatula. Continue to process it on high until everything’s thoroughly combined in a rough paste.

Tip: Refrigerate the filling for 2 hours or overnight, as the flavors need time to set and blend together. If the garlic tastes a little strong, the next day it shouldn’t (so says the garlic-lover).

Georgian foods: eggplant with walnuts, garlic, and fenugreek. A fabulous low carb traditional side dish. #ketosides #georgianfoods

Allergy tip: Can I tell you a little secret? Most of the time I actually substitute blanched almonds in this dish instead of walnuts. Why? Well, I love walnuts, but another in the household has a severe allergy to walnuts but not almonds. If you need to work with an allergy, try other nuts or even seeds that aren’t a problem.

How to fill the eggplant

First, take one strip of the eggplant and spread about a tablespoon of filling on half of it. Second, fold the strip in half evenly like a book with the filling in the middle.

Georgian eggplant with walnuts on a plate, badrijani nigvzit #georgianfoods #lowcarbsides

Lastly, arrange them on a plate or serving platter and garnish with some chopped cilantro and pomegranate seeds if they’re in season! The Georgian foods look an array of colors during the summer.

Lately, I’ve not been able to get pomegranates but love that little tang the seeds bring and aesthetically for the beautiful color! Soon, soon my pretties!

Bite of Georgian foods: eggplant with walnuts #georgianfood

Georgian food and traditional recipes

Over the next few months, I’ll be featuring different traditional Georgian recipes. Some are already gluten-free and low carb like this staple side dish, Georgian eggplant with walnuts. Others, like khinkali, or meat dumplings are not, but I’ll share recipes for the traditional way to make them and a gluten-free option!

So if you’ve been to Georgia or just like to try another culture’s classic dishes, I hope you follow along on my Georgian food journey. Until next time! Nakh vam dis!

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Georgian eggplant with walnuts, badrijani nigvzit. A fabulous low carb, gluten-free Georgian food. A keto side dish with garlic, walnuts, and spices. #georgianfood #lowcarbsides

Tag me in your recipe pics on Instagram @explorermomma.

If you LOVE this recipe please consider giving it a five-star rating in the review area below!

Searching for more low carb sides?

Easy low carb grilled garlic parmesan zucchini, circle pin

Want to learn more about the country of Georgia?

Check out these other articles on Georgia:

  1. Georgian Language Phrases for Travelers
  2. Unforgettable Things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia
  3. How to Make Traditional Georgian Bread
  4. Top 10 Things to do in Batumi, Georgia with kids!
  5. Tbilisi, Georgia: Doors and Windows


Printable Recipe

Georgian Eggplant with Walnuts

Fabulous flavors come together with fenugreek, garlic, and walnuts in this naturally low carb traditional Georgian dish. One of my favorite Georgian foods, Georgian eggplant with walnuts, or badrijani nigvzit, is a staple at any Georgian dinner party.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine: Georgian, Gluten-Free, Keto, Low Carb
Keyword: Badrijani, Georgian, Georgian Eggplant with Walnuts
Servings: 18
Calories: 78kcal
Author: Explorer Momma

Ingredients

  • 3 medium-sized Chinese eggplant
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp ground fenugreek (Georgian utskhro suneli)
  • 1 tsp ground corriander
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • cilantro to garnish
  • pomegranate seeds to garnish

Instructions

  • Slice the Chinese eggplant lengthwise to about 1/3 of an inch thick. Use a mandolin slicer or regular knife.
  • Lay the eggplant out on towels and salt it liberally. Leave it for half an hour and turn it over and salt the other side. It should "weep" and the bitter liquid seeps out. Rinse and pat dry.
  • Heat the oil over medium heat and fry the eggplant slices in batches about 2 minutes on each side. Remove to a dish and cover.
  • For the filling, take out a food processor (or pestle and mortar) and place in it all the rest of the ingredients except the cilantro and pomegranate seeds for garnish. Process on high for forty seconds or so then unplug and push down the sides with a spatula. Continue to process on high until thoroughly combined in a rough paste.
  • Refrigerate the filling for 2 hours or overnight, as the flavors need time to set and blend together. 
  • Take one strip of the eggplant at a time and fill each with about a tablespoon of filling, folding the strip evenly like a book with the filling in the middle.
  • Garnish with roughly chopped cilantro and pomegranate seeds. Serve at room temperature.

Notes

Nutrition Facts

Servings 18.0
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 78
 
Total Fat 7 g  
Saturated Fat 1 g  
Monounsaturated Fat 3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg  
Sodium 33 mg  
Potassium 158 mg  
Total Carbohydrate 4 g  
Dietary Fiber 2 g  
Sugars 2 g  
Protein 1 g
*Nutrition Facts per MyFitnessPal.com. For most accurate facts, calculate your own with the exact ingredients you use in the recipe.

Nutrition Disclaimer

Please be aware I am not a medical specialist or nutritional professional. On this blog, I share recipes and what works for me. Please do not take anything on this blog as medical advice and always consult with your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program. I use MyFitnessPal.com to calculate nutrition facts as a courtesy to my readers, and I remove erythritol from the final carb count and net carb count because does not affect my own blood glucose levels.
 
 
This is as accurate as possible, but it’s best to independently calculate nutritional information on your own with the specific ingredients you use. I expressly disclaim any and all liability of any kind with respect to any act or omission wholly or in part in reliance on anything contained in this website.

Top Things to do in Abilene TX

Top Things to do in Abilene TX

Things to do in Abilene TX Table of Contents

AT A GLANCE | TRIP PLANNING | THINGS TO DO | WHERE TO EAT | WHERE TO STAY | MY ABILENE STORY

At a Glance

Home to three universities, a rich downtown cultural center, and a wealth of kids activities, Abilene, Texas has something for everyone. Whether you want to return to visit friends and family, revisit the nostalgia of university years, or learn about its cultural heritage, Abilene will always have a special place in my heart. After both traveling to and living in Abilene and attending Abilene Christian University, I’ve put together this travel guide, highlighting the best of what you can see and do in this west Texas town.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Abilene, Texas Quick Information

  • Location: Abilene is a former frontier settlement, located in the state of Texas in Taylor and Jones Counties.
  • Population: 117,063 as of the 2010 census. Reported to be 121,885 in 2017.
  • Elevation: 1,719 feet
  • Currency: U.S. Dollar.
  • Electricity Socket: 220V AC electricity.

Safety: Generally speaking, Abilene is a safe place to visit. I advise all normal precautions taken when visiting a city in the United States.

Language: English is primary, also Spanish.

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There are so many fun things to do in Abilene TX with kids and families. Great for family travel, it's fun to visit friends, family, and your alma mater. #acuwildcats #abilenetx

Festivals and Celebrations: 

While I usually prefer to visit places during low tourist seasons, it’s always a goal to attend certain celebrations and festivals I’d like to experience, especially those my children would enjoy.

1. Children’s Art and Literary Festival

Abilene was recently named the Storybook Capital of America. Therefore, for children, I highly recommend visiting during the CALF or Children’s Art and Literacy Festival in early June. Every year a featured author/illustrator gives talks, reads books, and is honored. There are fun children’s art and book inspired activities throughout.

Anne of Green Gables quote, Storybook capital Abilene TX #calf #abilenetx

2. West Texas Fair and Rodeo

The West Texas Fair & Rodeo is normally held at the beginning of September. You’re sure to find the usual variety of fried fair foods like corn dogs, pork chops on sticks, funnel cakes, and if you’re lucky maybe even a fried Snickers bar. There’s usually a colorful carnival with rides for everyone to enjoy. Or if you’re me, watch others enjoy!
 
Also, you’ll get to see a tractor pull, PRCA Rodeo, and a barn full of some of the best livestock from across Texas. In true fair and rodeo fashion, there are musicians, concerts, entertainment and so much more!

3. Rattlesnake Roundup

Another local event on the opposite end of the spectrum is popular among locals and university students alike. Students love to tell stories back home about experiences at the yearly Rattlesnake Roundup in nearby Sweetwater, Texas. It happens every March with a parade and carnival, chili cookout, guided hunts (eek?), and a beard contest.

Sweetwater Texas Rattlesnake Roundup #rattlesnakes #texastourism

4. Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit

Being a Colorado girl, I always recommend a visit to Buffalo Gap when in West Texas. When I attended Abilene Christian University, it was my escape to the “mountains” or at least it had more of that feel. Buffalo Gap is about 20 miles southwest of Abilene and holds events such as the Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit in April.

Abilene Trip Planning

Transportation: 

There are several modes of transportation for getting in, out, and around in Abilene.

Road near Abilene TX #texas #familytravel

By car

The easiest by far, especially when traveling as a family, is to drive in and use your own vehicle or rent a vehicle on arrival.

By air

You can fly into the Abilene Regional Airport, usually by changing planes at DFW, the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

By bus

The Greyhound bus system stops in Abilene and is a viable transportation option. For more information click here.

In and around town there is also a reliable bus system, although to be honest, with my kids I like to rely on my own vehicle unless I’m not at all pressed for time. If interested, check out the city bus map and more information here.

When to visit Abilene

While you can visit Abilene, Texas all year round, sometimes it’s smart to dodge the heat of the summer months. I specifically avoid July and August, especially if your plans involve being outside!

The best times to go to Abilene, in my opinion, are September – November or March – May. I would make an exception and go in June for the Children’s Art and Literacy Festival.

Armadillo near Buffalo Gap Texas #texasarmadillo

 

Rough Budget

As in most places, you can travel around for as cheap or as expensive as you want. Unless you stay with friends or family, accommodations, food, and activities are usually the largest expenses. Food can be cheap or expensive depending on the restaurant to grocery store frequented.

Here is a rough cost for basic commodities:

Accommodation

Budget: $35-55 (in home Airbnb or private hotel room)
Mid-Range: $110
Splurge: $200++

Try Airbnb! Use my Airbnb link here and get $40 off a home booking of $75 or more and $15 off an experience of $50 or more!

Food

(Typical Meal For One)

Fast food: $6-12
Restaurant: $10-25
Very nice restaurant: $20++

Transportation

Local bus: $free (preschoolers) – $1.50. Check their website here for current prices.
Air: $ varies, depends when you book, where traveling, etc. ~ $400
Rental vehicle: $ varies per day and size

What to Pack for Traveling West Texas

My best advice for what to pack for Abilene is to bring layers. I tend to think it’s always hot, but don’t forget when you go into a building the air conditioning is often quite strong. I almost always have a sweater with me for outside in winter and for inside and that air conditioning in spring, summer, and fall.

What to pack also depends on the occasion. Whenever traveling I always focus on comfortable shoes I can walk good distances in. Depending on the functions, it’s smart to bring sandals, excursion/tennis shoes, and dress shoes.

Fun things to do in Abilene TX with kids

As I mentioned, Abilene has a little bit of everything for everyone. Despite being in the windy center of Texas, there is still a vibrant cultural scene and family community often unexpected by visitors. Here are a few of the best places/things to do in Abilene TX with kids.

1. Visit the Grace Museum

The Grace Museum holds great memories for me of swing dances and art shows from my university days. Now, I also see it as a perfect outing with kids. Is it too hot or bad weather? Bring the kids to the Grace to explore and take in some art yourself.

Playing Things to do in Abilene TX The Grace Museum #abilenetx #familytravel

2. Go on a College Campus Tour of Abilene Christian University

Oh, ACU. There are three universities in Abilene (McMurry, Hardin Simmons, and Abilene Christian). I’ve been somewhat connected to ACU all my life as both my grandparents attended Abilene Christian College. It’s where my parents met, and then I went to school there.

Jacob's ladder, Abilene TX ACU #acu #familytravel

Jacob’s Dream by Jack Maxwell, Abilene Christian University

It’s always fun to take a tour of a university, especially if there’s a bit of nostalgia attached. Or maybe you have an interested high schooler beginning to look at colleges. Look into their website here to see what’s offered and get connected. Don’t miss out on ACU!

ACU stadium, Abilene TX #acuwildcats #familytravel

Check out my picture in Florence, Italy around 1999 on the timeline in the Hunter Welcome Center in the study abroad section! I haven’t changed at all. 😉

The funny thing is I still have and sometimes wear that black coat. It has a smooth black rock in the pocket I picked up at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland that semester. I like to hold onto it when I walk down the street and plan future trips to Ireland!

Lauren on the wall of the Hunter Welcome Center at ACU #acu #acustudyabroad

3. Get Lost in the History of Frontier Texas! Museum

Are you interested in history? Do the western settlements, cowboys, Commanches, or guns of the West hold a special fascination to you?

Frontier Texas! is the perfect place for kids to learn about life on the frontier, enjoy interactive displays, and attend the period theater performance.

Another plus for it is that it’s also a visitor’s center and has a ton of information on all the old forts of the area. Explore and enjoy!

4. Catch a Movie at the Historic Paramount Theater

Restored in 1986, the fabulous Paramount Theater is a great way to relax and enjoy the old opulence of the building while taking in a film. I used to love to go to movies here and watch the puffy white clouds painted on the blue sky ceiling.

The Paramount Theater, Abilene TX #abilenetx #familytravel

It’s the perfect outing for both kids and adults. Find tickets and movie information on their website here.

5. Explore the Abilene Zoo

Next, let’s take a tour of the Abilene Zoo. This place is just the right size for a day or afternoon outing. It’s one of my own kids’ favorite things to do in Abilene TX. It also reminds me of a special memory when I was a kid and my always thoughtful and smiling Uncle Steve brought me here.

Kids look at flamingos at the Abilene Zoo #abilenezoo #familytravel

It’s changed since then, and you’re no longer allowed to feed the giraffes the same animal crackers I munched on. Never fear! The dedicated zookeepers and volunteers help you to feed the giraffes much healthier lettuce leaves.

What a fun chance to see their giant tongues come out and watch the kids look at them eye to eye and giggle with delight. The Abilene Zoo is larger than you’d expect and well-maintained. It’s definitely a must-see with a group of kids!

Feeding the giraffe at the Abilene Zoo #abilenezoo #abilenetravel

6. Go on a Walking Tour of Downtown Abilene

While you’re at the Grace Museum or near the Paramount Theater, pull up this awesome historic walking tour of downtown Abilene put together by the Abilene Tourist Bureau. I love to wander around downtown Abilene and this is the perfect companion to orient you. It explains a bit about the area, what the buildings are, and some history.

I know not everyone gets as excited as I do about walking tours and histories. However, this one is neatly done, readily available, and free! Why not?

I’m always the one reading aloud to the group from the student travel book or Rick Steve’s travel guides until I’m told that’s enough history. Enough history!? Never. I will bring my Baedaker.

7. National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature

As I mentioned before, Abilene is the storybook capital of America. They hold the annual festival, but also most anytime you can visit the physical building that is the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. Check their website to be sure they’re open before you visit.

They hold family art activities on Saturdays, art adventures for preschoolers, and fun exhibitions on kids books, the authors and illustrators. It’s such an asset to area and fun to visit, especially for young kids.

Horton Hears a Who Abilene TX

8. Adventure to Fort Phantom Hill

Are you ready for an adventure? Plan an outing to Fort Phantom Hill. The fort was occupied by the U.S. Army from 1851 until 1854 and not long after that many of the structures burnt in a fire.

There is still much to see and learn. Today Fort Phantom Hill is one of the 8 forts and the Mexican Presidio on the Texas Forts Trail. Learn about the forts, let the kids run, and get some good photo ops among the buildings, cactus, and mesquite trees.

9. Attend a Musical Performance

Abilene is well-known for its love of music. The universities take great pride in their music programs, and it’s always fun to see an Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra or Children’s Theater performance.

My daughter especially loves live theater or a musical performance. When she was little she used to stand on a little wooden drum and direct the Lawrence Welk Band on TV and other orchestras. Music is so important to everyone, but especially children. Let them play those instruments and take it all in. Musical options in Abilene are the perfect way to do that.

10. Play at the Park

Sometimes the simple thing is the best! Take those kids to a park to run and play! There are quite a few nice public parks in Abilene. If it’s going to be warm, go early in the morning, bring the spray bottles and some water balloons and have a blast!

Will Hair Park – North Abilene

Red Bud Park – Southwest Abilene

Oscar Rose Park – West Central Abilene

Where to Eat in Abilene Texas

West Texas is home to some of the best steak and BBQ in the country. This area features a bold cuisine whether it be Tex-Mex, BBQ, or traditional American. Almost always you will find a variety of meats, with a side of ranch.

It’s perfectly fabulous for this carnivore, but for you vegetarians, there are also a good variety of salads, with a side of ranch!

Here are a few restaurants you might try during your visit:

Hickory Street Cafe – This is one of my favorite girls’ lunch out places. Get the chicken salad with grapes and cashews with a side of zucchini bread for me!

Belle’s Chicken Dinner House

The Beehive – West Texas Steakhouse

Lytle Land and Cattle – West Texas Steakhouse

Joe Allen’s Pit Bar B Que

Cypress Street Station

For a quick bite:

Rosa’s Cafe and Tortilla Factory

Heff’s Burgers

Where to Stay in Abilene TX

To be honest, we generally stay with family or friends when in Abilene. However, there are quite a few other options depending on the part of town you’d like to focus on.

1. Hotels:

When traveling with my kids I always look for a hotel with a pool and a good free hot breakfast! Score if you can find one with a waffle maker in the shape of Texas!


Booking.com

2. Bed and Breakfast-Type Options:

Sayles Ranch Guesthouses

Cedar Cottage Bed & Breakfast

3. Airbnb:

As a family, we love to book places using Airbnb! I like to have more room, a different experience, and our own kitchen to prepare meals.

When using Airbnb, I always advise you to choose a place with plenty of good ratings. It’s nice to read a few of the past reviews to get a feel for the place. Also, it will help you be able to tell if it’s a good fit for your family.

If you’d like to get $40 off an Airbnb home booking of $75 or more or $15 off an experience of $50 or more, click on my link here!

Ruidoso, New Mexico is a great destination for families!

Get ideas on things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids. Such an awesome fun family vacation!

Top 10 Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids, fun activities and more! #familytravel #ruidoso

Return to Abilene, Texas – My Abilene Story

I have many fond memories of Abilene. First, when I was younger we visited family there. We laughed, played cards, ate a lot, and had a fabulous time together.

Then later in my life, I attended Abilene Christian University as did my parents and grandparents before me!

Now, I return every year or so to see family and relive some of those treasured moments of the past. I’m thinking about it, even more, today because my parents are there this week for a church reunion/anniversary party.

Sometimes my thoughts wander to the question, will my own kids attend ACU? Will the prefer somewhere closer to home? Or farther? I’m not yet sure how I feel about it. There are so many factors that play into a university decision! It’s completely up to them, scholarships, and their plans for the future. Thank goodness we have a while, although I know the time goes quick as a blink.

I hope you enjoy your trip to Abilene.

Pin this article for later here!

Top things to do in Abilene TX for families and kids. Where to eat, where to stay, and more! Perfect for family travel. #abilenetx #familytravel

Kids Travel Journal

Kids Travel Journal

A kids travel journal is the ultimate fun and memorable activity on a family vacation! You know all that time in the car or on the airplane? Use it wisely and have your kids reflect on what they’ve seen, eaten, and experienced!

Do your kids love to look back at old photos? What about old school papers and accomplishments?

Both of my kids do, especially my daughter. She is my child who likes to write stories, make lists, and have written and physical souvenirs of past adventures. If you’ve followed this blog at all you may have seen or downloaded the original kids travel journal I created for her.

While we still LOVE it, and it’s been great for past travels and adventures, the child is ready for something new.

That’s why I put together this new journal. Next week we’re heading off on a Spring Break road trip, and it requires something new and fresh for her to put her mind to!

In a hurry?

Scroll to get the travel journal bonus! Or PIN it for later here!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

A kids travel journal is the perfect road trip or air travel activity! Give the kids something to do as they travel, make memories, and reflect on new experiences. #kidstravel #traveljournal

 

The journey, not the arrival matters.

T.S. Eliot

Poet

What’s new in this kids travel journal?

First of all, I looked at quite a few ideas from my kids and others who’d used our original journal before. How could we make it better, more user-friendly, and still super-fun and engaging for kids?

One of the first things I did was change the size of the journal. Instead of a full page, I changed it to a half-sheet printout.

Why do you ask? Well, the half-sheet size is easier to travel with. It will fit in all sizes of bags, purses, backpacks, as a bookmark in a book, you name it.

It makes it easier to pull out and write/draw on any place you go whether it be in a car, a museum, or when you sit down to rest during a hike.

Record and reflect on family vacations with this printable kids travel journal. Fun and easy to take on the go, it's perfect for road trips, air travel, or any kids' outing! #kidstraveljournal #travelprintable

Another thing that’s changed is the amount of color vs. white space.

This journal has some pictures and color, but not as much as the last one. It was done on purpose so it’s easier to print out either in black and white, full color, or grayscale, depending on your preference. This also lets the child doodle in the edges and put in their own colors.

In addition, I’ve added some more prompts to spark kids imaginations.

For example, there’s a page for the day with the weather, how I feel, and other things listed. But then there are also pages on what I ate today, where I’m sleeping, who I saw, etc.

Depending on the kid, you may want to use all the pages or just a few and make more copies based on the length of the trip.

Filling out the kids travel journal. #kidstravel #printables

List of travel journal activity pages

  • Cover Page: My Travel Journal
  • Name and contact page with space to draw a self-portrait
  • Where in the world are you going? A world map to record where you travel.
  • Where in the USA are you going? A map of the USA to record where you travel.
  • The daily page includes:
    • Today’s Date:
    • I felt
    • The weather was:
    • I learned:
    • I met:
    • Three things I did today:
    • Today I traveled by:
  • What I ate
  • Written prompts: Three words to describe today, I miss…, I tried something new today!, I felt…
  • Out my window is a place to draw what they’ve seen out their window today!
  • Tonight we are staying… (where, and place to draw it)
  • Written prompts 2: The best thing about today was…, my least favorite thing was…, three words to describe this city/town are…, three questions I have are…
  • Today I learned a new word! This page includes a word bubble with an area to draw and a field to describe what it means.
  • Today I saw this! Includes a space to draw/color and descriptive words.
  • Here is a portrait of a person I saw today.
  • Today I saw this animal.
  • Trip Reflection page

Pages of the kids travel journal with a pen. #kidstraveljournal #kidsactivities

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Author, The Lord of the Rings


New Kids Travel Journal Bonus

Sign up for Explorer Momma’s newsletter and get the NEW Kids Travel Journal as a bonus! If you’re already on our list, awesome! You can still download the journal!

Preview of the new kids travel journal #kidstravel #kidstraveljournal

How to download the kids travel journal

First, enter your first name and email in the field below. Second, open up your email, and in a few minutes or less you should receive an email. Click on the button in the email to confirm your subscription to the Explorer Momma newsletter and your bonus kids travel journal should then download to your computer.

It’s that simple! Print out the entire thing or pick and choose the pages your child would most enjoy!

What do you think of the journal?

So far the journal has met approval with my own kids. We’ll be giving it the full road trip test next week, and I can’t wait to see how it goes!

After this one, as my daughter gets older we may turn to a basic blank journal with a few travel quotes here and there.

However, for now, when they’re in elementary school, this style of a journal is still appealing. It also makes kids think a bit about their travels. Who they’ve seen, what they’ve done, cultural differences, etc.

Do please let me know if you use it with the kids in your life! I hope it’s useful, and let me know if you have any suggestions to make it even better!

PIN it here for later:

An easy to use kids travel journal is perfect for any family vacation! Whether the kids are on a road trip, airplane, or train it makes a memorable travel diary. #traveljournal #kidstraveljournal

 

More kids travel activities:

  1. The Ultimate Road Trip Activities for Kids
  2. Kids Airplane Activities: Airplane BINGO
  3. 8 Ways to Survive a Long Layover with Kids
  4. The Complete Kids Carry-On Packing List

Kids Travel Journal

The Perfect Road Trip or Air Travel Activity!
Click here to check our the Original Travel Journal Printable

State and National Parks Family Bucket List

State and National Parks Family Bucket List

Preview: A State and National Parks Family Bucket List. Join guest writers as we travel around the southern and eastern areas of the United States to national and state parks!

Are you ready to add to your family bucket list? There are so many amazing natural wonders around the United States. Sometimes we overlook the opportunities for family adventures as they seem they’re in our own backyards! What kid doesn’t like to seek out mountains, streams, and wildlife? Embrace it and do some family bonding at the same time.

So onward! Let’s continue our tour around the United States in Explorer Momma’s Operation U.S. Parks, Every Kid in a Park. This is the fourth series featuring guest writers who plug their favorite parks and give tips and stories about the area. The goal is to encourage you and your family to get out, wander, hike, and appreciate these amazing destinations.

Let’s get started. We’ll continue our journey and add to your own state and national parks family bucket list!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

State and National Parks Family Bucket List, the Great Smoky Mountains to Big Bend National Park in Texas. Family adventures perfect for your next park destination! #familytravel #familyadventuretravel

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah National Park is located within driving distance of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and North Carolina, making is the perfect National park for families living or visiting the East Coast. Our family are frequent visitors of Shenandoah National Park because it offers something for everyone. With three entrances (North, Middle, South) it is easy to access the 105 miles skyline drive that covers the length of the park.

We love Shenandoah National park because it features a variety of trails for all activity levels and interests. Before we had children, we would hike for miles to find hidden waterfalls and vistas overlooking the valley. Now that we have a toddler, we are still able to find shorter hikes to search for unique bugs and beautiful flowers. Shenandoah even has a handicapped accessible trail for everyone to enjoy the great outdoors. Want to linger longer? Make a reservation for their campsite, complete with a general store. Or if you’d prefer to stay in a hotel or cabin, check their website for a list of accommodations. 

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, for family travel and fun! #shenandoahnationalpark #familytravel

Park Tips

If it’s your first visit to the park, I highly recommend stopping at one of their visitor’s centers to get a detailed park map or pick up one of their $2 map booklets that feature titles such as “kid-friendly hikes” or “peaks and vistas”. We’ve used these little booklets over and over. The visitor’s centers also have interactive exhibits about animals you may encounter in the park, helping to bring nature closer to families.

Be sure to visit the park at different times of the year, Fall is certainly a favorite with the changing Fall foliage. Want to read more about where we like to go in the park? Head over to our family friendly travel blog, Pack More Into Life.

By Chelsea from Pack More Into Life

 

Chimney Rock State Park, North Carolina

Chimney Rock State Park is the perfect area for a family to explore. Be prepared to give your legs a workout but it will all be worth it.

If your family is craving some time in nature, like we were, you can hike directly from the parking lot up the Four Seasons Trail. Head to the Hickory Nut Falls, which are an impressive 404 feet tall. After taking time to marvel at the falls, you can walk back along the Hickory Nut Falls trail to a very long set of stairs up to the main entrance.

Don’t worry, if this doesn’t sound like your kind of fun, you can take a shuttle from the parking lot up here. Our kids seemed up for climbing the stairs, so after a lunch stop, we just kept climbing right up to the Pulpit Rock and Chimney Rock viewpoints. The trail sign says this was 500 steps, but it actually didn’t feel like that much… There is an elevator option too. Either way, the view of the Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure are worth every step!

Chimney Rock State Park, North Carolina is the perfect adventure with kids! Hiking and family fun. Add it to your family bucket list today! #exploremore #familyadventure

There is the possibility to climb even further, but our kids were more interested in exploring the bat cave. From there we took the shuttle bus back to the parking lot to give us all a little break. Once at the parking lot, we took time to stop at the Animal Discovery Den and hike around the Great Woodland Adventure trail (an interpretive trail for kids). The kids loved this part of the day. We especially loved that this outing gave us an opportunity to hike with our kids and included some fun things for them!

Other close parks to visit

I also have some great tips for visiting nearby Shenandoah National Park at our family travel blog, Family Can Travel.

By Celine from Family Can Travel

 

Great Smoky Mountain National Park, North Carolina, Tennessee

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park was visited by more than 11 million people in 2017. You can bet many of those were families! Our family has been visiting the Smoky Mountains since before I could walk, and I’ve continued that tradition with my own kids. While I was a child my family enjoyed visiting the Smoky Mountain gateway towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. However, my husband and I now prefer hiking in the Smokies.

There are hiking trails suitable for families with kids of all ages including those in strollers. We recently enjoyed a great hike on the Middle Prong trail which served as a logging camp in the 1900s for the community of Tremont. The trail has numerous climbing and exploring side adventures, a gradual elevation gain of only 275 feet, and is wide with lots of room for kids to spread out.

There are three cascading waterfalls to enjoy along the way. The entire trail is probably too long for kids, but it’s a great place to explore for an hour or so and then head back

If you love wildlife, Cades Cove is a must, but be sure to take a lunch because the 11-mile loop auto trail gets backed up and wait times can be quite long. We also recommend viewing the Elk in the Cataloochee area on the southeastern section of the park.

There are so many opportunities for family fun in the Smokies, you are sure to have a great family adventure when you visit.

By Amanda from VeraVise Outdoor Living

 

Watkins Glen State Park, New York

While the Finger Lakes region may be known for its wine, it’s also an amazing area for family adventures. One destination that’s not to be missed is Watkins Glen. This adorable little town is also home to Watkins Glen State Park.

Watkins Glen State Park, Cavern Cascade, New York #iloveny #familytravel

No matter your age, you’ll fall in love with the beautifully picturesque trails and incredible waterfalls that call the park home. With over 700 acres of land, the highlight is the almost 400ft deep gorge. Carved by glaciers thousands of years ago, it’s home to 19 beautiful waterfalls. The trails can be tricky, but it is definitely worth a visit. Since you can see a waterfall from the entrance, you can truly spend as little or as much time as you like here! I suggest at least a couple of hours to see a few of the waterfalls, especially the Cavern Cascade where you can feel the water as it rushes into the gorge!

For families, the best time to visit would be in the summer. This is when all of their facilities are open, including their campgrounds as well as their swimming pool. You can also take advantage of their daily shuttle service from the end of June until Labor Day which will definitely help keep any little legs well rested! To reward the little ones (and big kids, of course) on completing such a great adventure, there’s an amazing ice cream shop just down the road. A delicious way to end the trek!

By Lindsay from I’ve Been Bit!

Ready to visit more national parks?

What’s on your national and state parks bucket list in our northern states?

Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine, Florida

Anastasia State Park in Northern Florida is 1,600 acres of fun! With 139 campsites, bike trails, three playgrounds, fishing, boating, hiking trails, geocaching, wildlife viewing, an amphitheater for events, shelling and the beach there is plenty to keep a family busy. Especially given that it is so close to the oldest occupied city in America — historic St. Augustine!

Anastasia State Park Beach, St. Augustine, Florida #exploreflorida #floridastateparks

You can’t see the beach from the main road or parking lot. It’s like a secret waiting to be discovered. However, if you walk along the raised wooden trail (to protect the dunes) you’ll find the most amazing of beaches.

While you are visiting, go on a kayaking excursion or SUP of the Salt Run estuarine tidal marsh like we did. There you’ll see lots of wildlife including osprey, eagles, turtles and possibly a dolphin or two!  Don’t worry if you don’t have your gear, there are rentals available.

By Mary from Calculated Traveller

 

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend National Park is located in West Texas, right where the Rio Grande bends deeply to the south before Texas meets New Mexico (hence the name).

Despite being born and raised in Texas, it wasn’t until recently that I finally made it to this isolated park. We visited in the heart of summer, which concerned me (how smart can it be to drive into the desert in August?). But Big Bend is special, it’s the only park that houses an entire mountain range within its borders. The Chisos Mountains rise up from the Chihuahua Desert and are filled with hiking trails of different lengths and difficulties. 

Big Bend National Park, Texas #familytravel #familyadventure

While there are miles of trails in the desert and along the Rio Grande, we decided to save those for cooler months. We spent our three days in the mountains. We hiked the popular Lost Mine Trail and the massively long and strenuous Southern Rim Trail.

Big Bend for families

Big Bend is a family-friendly national park, in fact, plenty of friends of mine came here every summer on their family vacations. We even met a troop of boy scouts hanging out at the top of Lost Mine Trail. There are campsites for the adventurous traveler or family, and a lodge in the mountains for those (like myself) that prefer a mattress and indoor plumbing.

Whether you come alone, with a partner or a family, Big Bend is worth every ounce of effort required to get to in the isolated West Texas desert.

By Erin from Sol Salute

 

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert were a natural choice for us when visiting the USA with our kids. We traveled Route 66, and the road passes right through the park! 

We’d never visited a National Park before and this was a great introduction for us. We’re not big hikers at all, and although the park does have some hiking trails it wasn’t necessary for us to go on them to have a really good day there. 

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona old car #petrifiedforestnationalpark #familiesexplore

There’s a road that goes around the park with spots to park up in, take pictures and learn about what’s there. We went with teens but it would be great to visit with younger kids who might not walk far. We loved the fabulous scenery around with gorgeous hills and vistas with all sorts of colors peeping through. Therefore, for me, it would be worth it to visit for that alone. 

There’s so much more to see in the Petrified Forest. We loved the history with an old building that dates to when Route 66 was built and was originally built with petrified wood! There’s also an old rusty car which sits next to an older section of the road. It’s great for photos but also for the kids to poke around in and explore.

Finally, towards the end of the trail is another visitor center and lots of big bits of petrified wood around to see and learn about. We collected some worksheets about them and qualified to become junior rangers too – a highlight for us all!

By Kirsty from Lost In Landmarks

 

Wupatki National Monument, Arizona

Wupatki National Monument is a huge 56 square mile site in Arizona. It protects numerous ancient pueblo and dwelling ruins. The largest pueblo in the area – and the most impressive – is the ruins of Wupatki Pueblo.

Meaning ‘tall house’ in Hopi language, Wupatki is three stories tall. It has 100 rooms and housed around 100 people at its peak in the late 12th Century. It is thought to have been the largest and richest pueblo in the region. Built from flat Moenkopi sandstone, the deep red rock structure is striking against a pure blue Arizona sky. The walls are held together by mortar and are in remarkably good condition.

 Wupatki State Park colors, Arizona #familytravel #operationusparks

The site is compact and only takes a couple of hours to fully explore so it is an ideal stop for families. It is not an over visited site and we arrived on a particularly quiet day which allowed us to enjoy the serene environment. It is also one of those parks where you are allowed to get up close to the ruins; a must for inquisitive children. 

Visitors are provided with an information booklet to read on a trail that winds around the historical site, explaining at various significant points how the pueblos were built and how the people lived, farmed and traded – in what seems an inhospitable environment! It is a fascinating place.

Our children joined the Junior Ranger program here, had a full oath ceremony, and were fully engaged throughout our visit by their excellent Junior Ranger activity booklet. Don’t miss the blowhole, a geological fissure in the ground blasting hot air into your face. We had not encountered one before. The kids loved it! 

By Sinead from Map Made Memories

Pin this post to save for later here!:

State and National Parks Family Bucket List | Fabulous family adventure destinations like Great Smoky National Park, Watkins Glen State Park, and  the Petrified Forest National Park. #familytravel #usnationalparks

Operation U.S. Parks

It is so awesome to be able to travel with all of these guest writers to the state and national parks all over the United States. I love to hear stories and plan out where I think my family would like to travel. Oh, wanderlust! Where are you planning to travel to next as a family? Have you seen the studies on how children remember their family vacations and how they bring the family closer together? Right, let’s plan a trip! 

What’s next on your bucket list?

Check out more articles on U.S. parks:

Will you add any of these to your own State and National Parks Family Bucket List? Or maybe you’ve been to some of them already?

Tag me in your pics on Instagram @explorermomma. I’d love to see them!

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