How to get a FREE US National Parks pass

How to get a FREE US National Parks pass

There’s something magical about being a kid in a national park. Everything is new and wondrous and makes an imprint in your mind that will last a lifetime. Did you know that every single fourth grader in the United States can get a FREE Every Kid in a Park Pass? Yes, a free US National Parks pass. It’s good for the entire family for the whole year and gets you into not just National Parks but all federal lands and waters. How cool is that?! My daughter’s in fourth grade this year and has so inspired our year we’ve titled “Operation US National Parks for Families”.

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

Impact of US National Parks on kids

I grew up in Colorado and feel as though Rocky Mountain National Park is my own backyard and safe haven or escape. It is and will always be near and dear to my heart, but another national park also made a huge impact and imprint on my childhood. When I was a kid, my grandparents lived in Homer, Alaska. We were fortunate enough to be able to travel up there to visit them a couple of times and also experience the magic that is the Kenai Fjords National Park.

Kenai Fjords National Park, glacier calving

I remember being entranced by the glacier and the huge variety of wildlife I saw in one relatively small area. We took a tour on a little tour boat, and I think my hands were on the bars at the very front with the wind blowing in my face the entire time. I leaned over to see porpoises jump next to us as we sailed along, whales breach and wave their tales in hello, colorful puffins in the rocky cliffs, the bark of sea lions lounging on rocks, a moose on the hill, and SO much more. In a time way before the Wild Kratts entered our lives this was a miracle for me to see. AND it was live and in person, real and in the wild to my mind. It was not a zoo.

Kenai Fjords National Park, sea lions

What is Operation US National Parks for Families?

Operation US National Parks for Families is a series of blog posts to be featured throughout the  2018-2019 Every Kid in a Park Pass year. The goal of this series is to inspire families to visit national parks together and provide them with ideas for amazing activities in each park they can do as a family.

Who will be featured in Operation National Parks

To begin, Operation US National Parks for Families will feature some of our own fabulous past experiences at national parks. In addition, throughout the year I’ll be highlighting our CURRENT travels to different parks and federal lands. Then as an even bigger BONUS I’ll be highlighting the experiences of other families all over the country! I’m so excited about this aspect of the series so we can provide a broader picture of family experiences with different opinions, likes, dislikes, and interests!

Operation US National Parks for Families. Join our family and more as we travel the United States together. Learn how to get your free US National Parks pass! #travelwithkids #usnationalparks #everykidinapark #explorermomma

Get your FREE US National Parks Pass and join us! 

Would you like to join us for Operation US National Parks for Families Journey? We’d love to have you! Sign up for our newsletter to receive weekly updates on where we’re exploring! Will it be the caves in Carlsbad, New Mexico? Maybe, you’ll get to see and read about an adventure to the giant redwoods and sequoias of Sequoia National Park! Perhaps, if you’re really lucky, we’ll journey to Watkins Glen National Park in New York for scenery and kid-friendly hikes that could be straight out of a Tolkien book. So get your cloaks, backpacks, tents, elf-ears, or whatever you’d like to prepare and join our EPIC National Parks journey today!

How to sign up for your Every Kid in a Park Pass

How do you get your free US National Parks Pass? It is so super simple. All you do is go to the official US Government website here. Explore the website or just click on “Get Your Pass”. As I’m writing this they’ve recently updated the site for the 2018 to 2019 school year. Your fourth grader answers a few questions to make a diary entry to begin to figure out how they’d like to use their new pass. It’s super-easy and a fun activity.

free US National Parks pass, Hand on mouse

Once you sign up and complete the diary on the website, there will be a ticket to print out. Now, you can use it as your yearly pass, or you can take it to your first park or water area, show a ranger, and obtain a wallet-sized card for the year. Did I mention it’s FREE? What an awesome deal to bring families together in nature!

Congratulations! Free US National Parks pass

The next step is to take the family on hundreds of adventures until the card expires August 31, 2019 (or the current school year). Do you know what? If you miss something or don’t have time, little brother can get his own pass in the next year or two. Then you get to plan for that national park year as well!

How to use your free US National Parks Pass

If you’re going to use it you’ve got to plan your first trip! Are you going to camp in the woods? Do you want to see protected animals and wildlife? Maybe you’d just like to find your nearest park to start! Before you go read the official rules here. Then, just present your ticket as you enter the park! The park ranger will trade your printed paper copy of the ticket for an official Every Kid in a Park card, and your fourth grader will sign it. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Every Kid in a park pass, free US National Parks pass

There are sooo many opportunities for exploration and fun with this pass! Literally, you’ve got hundreds of places to visit near or far, it’s up to you.

Plan your trip with Operation US National Parks for Families

Now, I challenge you! Get out and explore! Follow along with our blog series and gain inspiration. Yes, I formally invite you to travel along with us virtually on our Operation US National Parks for Families journey. You can create your own adventures, the sky’s the limit! It’s such fun to plan destinations as a family and give every member a say. Can you tell I’m excited!?

Lily Ridge Trail with free US National Parks pass

Carlsbad Caverns National Park for Families

10 Musts for visiting Carlsbad Caverns with kids

Let’s travel with our free U.S. National Parks pass!

I am so thrilled to explore our US National and State parks all over the country! My family and I will be planning and writing about our own trips using the Every Kid in a Park Pass. Also, we’ll all have the opportunity to travel virtually all over the country with other National Park loving families. Truly, I cannot wait to see the beauty of our parks and hear about the super-awesome and life-changing family experiences only nature can inspire and bring together.

My friends, I hope you follow along with us on this magnificent journey to explore our US National Parks!

I’d love to see your own adventures! Tag me in your National and State Park travel pics on Instagram @explorermomma.

Explore a National Park today!

Pin this article to save and share!

Operation US National Parks for Families. Join our family and more as we travel the United States together. Learn how to get your free US National Parks pass! #travelwithkids #usnationalparks #everykidinapark #explorermomma     Did you know you can get a FREE US National Parks pass? Find out how and join our family travel adventure around the United States. #operationnationalparks #everykidinapark #familytravel #ustravel #explorermomma

Thanks all and HAPPY TRAVELS!

Epic Colorado Family Vacations

Epic Colorado Family Vacations

What’s your family tourist destination this summer? Can I suggest several Colorado family vacations? I’m a little biased, but I really think Colorado is the perfect state for family vacations. If you’re a nature person or not, kids THRIVE when they’re outside and near a stream or in the mountains. Whether it’s hiking, fishing, kayaking, riding whitewater rapids, camping, or reading a book by the mountain lake, it’s an ideal spot for kids’ activities and empowerment.

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

Colorado family vacations pin

This summer we’re all about exploring and appreciating our own backyard. By that, I mean a good time to appreciate all the awesome travel destinations nearby our home in northern Colorado! We’ll be heading to Grand Lake for a few days, be doing some camping in various locations, getting the kids out to summer camp with their peers, and doing day trips to Denver. Of course, we have some more travel lined up, but that’s another post. We can’t wait!

Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to start my list of EPIC Colorado family vacations close to home. My own hometown, in fact, Greeley, Colorado. If you haven’t, dive into my blog post linked below, and if you have, still read all about it. With an insider’s perspective, you’re sure to find something new and fun to explore!

Simply EPIC Colorado Family Vacations

Things to do in Greeley, Colorado

Recently, I was given the opportunity to collaborate with a fellow blogger and guest post on her website A Book Lover’s Adventures. Do you know what I was asked to do? Write a blog post for tourists from an insider’s view of my own hometown. How many of you think about your hometown as a travel destination? To be honest, I certainly hadn’t much. I LOVE my hometown and am proud of it, but it’s always been Denver or the nearby Rocky Mountains that seem to be the more natural tourist draw. If you have the chance to come through I know you’ll love it too.

Click over to A Book Lover’s Adventures to read all about awesome things to do in Greeley, Colorado.

Centennial Village, Greeley, Colorado

Things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado

Have you been to Breckenridge, Colorado? When you hear the name, what do you think? If you think skiing you’re right on. However, did you know Breckenridge is one of those amazing mountain towns with a TON of stuff to do for families in any season? I have to say I think summer’s my favorite season in Breckenridge. The old town’s fabulous, and did you know they hold an excellent summer music festival? Are you at all into concerts every night with beautiful mountain scenery? It’s the place for you!

We were there most recently in spring at the end of the ski season with a good dose of spring snow. To learn more things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids, see the blog post here.

Breckenridge snowboards with slope in background

Things to do in Grand Lake, Colorado

Grand Lake, Colorado. Sigh. This is one of my favorite places on earth, and I’ve been nearly every summer since I was about six years old! There are many places I might tire of going that often, but not Grand Lake. For us as a family, it’s the perfect place to relax, be in nature, and enjoy the small mountain town and its residents. Kids can build castles on the beach, swim, fish, make s’mores, play on the playground, hike, marvel at the moose walking by the cabin, and just be a kid in the Rocky Mountains. As a mom, this is an incredibly relaxing trip because the kids are so easily occupied, and I can enjoy my morning coffee staring out over the lake with Mount Baldy (Mount Craig) looking down!

Learn more and read the blog post here!

Colorado family vacations, Grand Lake, Old Baldy

Things to do in Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park, Colorado is another amazing Colorado destination for families. I have SO many memories from my own childhood and now with my own kids in this popular town. If you want to shop, play miniature golf, head out to the local YMCA, and so much more all in a spectacular Rocky Mountain paradise, you need to head here.

We LOVE to get out and hike so click here to see the Best Estes Park hikes for kids.

Half the fun of travel is eating, right? Click here to learn more about Estes Park restaurants with character.

View of Estes Park, Colorado

Things to do in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter

If you love Estes Park, no doubt the family with also fall in love with Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll find wildlife such as elk, coyotes, or bighorn sheep in any season, and it’s a great place to camp in one of the park campgrounds. We love it any time of year but especially in winter when the crowds are down slightly and you have time to explore.

Read all about what there is to do with kids in Rocky Mountain National Park in winter here.

Rocky Mountain National Park in winter elk

 

Planning a trip to New Mexico?

Check out the family-friendly, beautiful Ruidoso, New Mexico!

Ski Apache view, Ruidoso, New Mexico

Things to do in Denver, Colorado

If you fly into Colorado or most of the time even drive, you’ll probably head through our beautiful capital, Denver, Colorado. Denver has SO many amazing things to do with kids like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Children’s Museum, the Botanic Gardens, the Butterfly Pavilion, and more! We make day trips fairly often as a family and are so lucky to be nearby to take advantage of all the interactive educational opportunities for kids. Denver is always a great base for a Colorado vacation or a vacation itself.

Things to do in Denver, Aquarium entrance

If you’re heading to Denver check out my articles on:

The PERFECT Denver Zoo trip and

The AMAZING Denver Downtown Aquarium

Visit Santa’s Workshop

Is Christmas the favorite holiday at your house? Well, you will want to make the day trip from Colorado Springs to North Pole, Colorado. Santa’s Workshop is a theme park set in the mountains where it’s always Christmastime and full of fun! Don’t expect a modern day Disney World or Six Flags, this is a place built in the 60’s, and it truly feels like a nostalgic step back in time. Be a kid again. There are SO many rides for the young and old; it’s a great day out.

Click here to see more and get my tips for visiting Santa’s Workshop

Santa's Workshop Colorado elves

Family camping tips and free printable packing checklist

Near all of these scenic family travel destinations, there are opportunities for camping. If you have an RV or love tent camping, you’ll find the perfect spot. So pull out those sleeping bags and hiking gear and let’s get ready for summer!

Check out my family camping tips and free printable packing checklist here!

Campsite sunrise view, feature

Are you convinced? Go Colorado family vacations

I hope you plan several perfect Colorado family vacations or camping trips! The sun will lift your mood, the mountains will call, the trees will rustle, and if you’re like me, you’ll be in your happy place. I think it’s so important to teach kids to appreciate nature and take care of it for the future. Also, they will see the joys of an active outdoor lifestyle and have the chance to embrace it for themselves.

Now, I have to admit I haven’t covered nearly enough of the state and need to remedy that. Where else are your favorite Colorado family travel destinations?

Tell me in the comments, where shall we adventure next?

Things To Do In Breckenridge, Colorado With Kids

Things To Do In Breckenridge, Colorado With Kids

Are you planning a mountain vacation? Do you need things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids? There’s always skiing, but what else is there to do in winter or even summer? We’ve got you covered! Recently we had the opportunity to visit Breckenridge for a long weekend and had a blast with the kids.

This page contains affiliate links.

This past weekend we got a deal on a hotel and decided it would be a fun weekend to explore Breckenridge but not make it a ski weekend. We wanted to relax, hang out as a family, and have fun! There are not a lot of places in the world with a better view than Breckenridge so my arm doesn’t need a lot of twisting to head on up there.

As a kid, I remember heading up to Breckenridge usually in the summer. My favorite thing to do was to ride the alpine slide, or sleds on rails, down the ski slopes. Most of the ski areas around have one as a part of their summer activities to draw in tourists.

Another thing I’ve always loved about the town is that there’s ALWAYS some festival or event going on. The Breckenridge Music Festival is fabulous if you are at all interested in orchestral music. One year, I think I was a freshman in high school, I attended a weeklong music camp and focused on flute and piano all day. Every evening of the camp we attended the nightly music festival performance, and I was in heaven.

Things to do in Breckenridge, CO with kids

8 things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids

This last time we were in Breckenridge, it was the end of the ski season. Still a good snow, but at the very end before it starts to turn to mud. Since we weren’t determined to ski the whole time we were able to find quite a few great activities to do as a family. If you head up I hope you try some of these things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado too!

1. Breckenridge Gondola

First of all, the Gondola. The Gondola is a great thing to do with kids once or more a day because hey, it’s FREE!! During the ski season, it runs from 9 am to 6 pm seven days a week. You can ride from the base parking all the way up with stops at Shock Hill, Peak 7, and Peak 8. It’s great even if you’re not skiing to go up to the top to eat, explore and see the views, check out the new hotels, or to take it up to go snowshoeing.

Eight people can fit in the enclosed gondola cars, and I found everyone in our cars always eager to encourage each other and share their experience so far in town. A lot of the people we ran into were escaping offices in Denver for the weekend and just could not quit smiling they were so happy to be up in the mountains. The Breckenridge Gondola is one of many awesome things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids.

Breckenridge gondola winter view

2. High Line Railroad Park and Playground

189 Boreas Pass Road, Breckenridge

Do you have a Thomas the Tank Engine obsessed child in your household? While my son is not quite so into it as he once was, this High Line Railroad Park was a HUGE hit. On display, just outside in the park, you’ll find Engine No. 9, one of the few remaining narrow gauge engines that once braved the precarious mountain passes. Think Skarloey and Peter Sam. As a bonus, it’s even fitted with a huge snowplow just like Thomas is always grumbling about. If that means nothing to you just move on, but it’s a fun tie-in for young kids! 😉

Breckenridge narrow gauge steam engine

You’ll also find a caboose and various other cars and memorabilia around. It’s so much fun to see the engine detail up close and to try to figure out how it all works. We actually easily explored the area with snow on the ground, and it was a much-needed play time for my kids. The playground next to the trains was a lot of fun, a good way to get in some more exercise and laughter.

3. Stephen C. West Ice Arena

If your kids want to try out some ice skating, head over to the Steven C. West Ice Arena. It’s right next to the High Line Railroad Park and has a ton of fun options for everyone. They’re open seven days a week, but I would call (970-547-9974) or check the website beforehand to verify the daily schedule. However, there are choice activities for the entire family. Join the free skate indoors or outdoors. Maybe you’re into figure skating or want to try your hand at curling! They have something for you!

Ice arena & railroad park, Breckenridge

Love Colorado mountain towns?

Read all about the perfect family-friendly mountain getaway in Grand Lake, Colorado!

Grand Lake, Colorado best of 2017

4. Carter Park Sled Hill

300 S. High Street, Breckenridge

Are you still looking for things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids? I hope so because this is a good one! We got an insider tip from a woman working at our hotel about this great sledding hill just over at Carter Park. We brought a sled with us, but the hotel also had stacks of them you could borrow while you were there.

Things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado sledding

Many locals use this hill for a fun afternoon of sledding. However, on the day we went out there, the sledding hill had only two other families out there with us. I was shocked because it was one of the busiest, craziest days of the ski season, and the ski slopes were more than a little packed.

Plan to get your exercise because yes, you have to walk back up the hill. It didn’t seem to bother the kids too much, and in fact, they wanted to stay on there into the evening! Unfortunately, my husband wore out pulling the child up the hill in one of the sleds, but while they did that I got to admire the magnificent view. This is a place to see. Have fun!

5. Ready Paint Fire

Okay, switching gears here. Do you like to paint? Make pottery? Fire things in kilns? Well then! Take a rest from all the outdoor activities and check out Ready Paint Fire. Have you always wanted to make a mosaic or fuse glass together as abstract art?

This place is awesome! Truly, it’s a place to be enjoyed by the entire family ages 3-80. Plan to spend a couple of hours and make a piece of art and share fun and laughter with the family. It’s a very different activity and one the kids can really get into.

Tip: Check the local guidebooks found at most hotels for coupons because there is a studio fee along with different costs depending on what you want to do!

Breckenridge Rail Road Park view

6. Breckenridge Recreation Center

If the kids get sick of the hotel pool or yours doesn’t have one, you need to visit the Breckenridge Recreation Center. After all the fun in the snow switch to warm and water! What kid (or dad) doesn’t like an excellent water slide? It’s obviously perfect in summer too.

If swimming’s not your thing, they also have an indoor rock-climbing wall, gymnasium, racquetball court, indoor track, and aerobic/dance studios. I even heard mention of fencing classes. Check out their website for complete information here. Tempting!

7. Hiking, snowshoeing, and bike trails

Breckenridge is well-known for being great for bike-riding. There are paved trails through town and well-maintained trails all around the area. My family loves to snowshoe, and so in winter, many of the bike trails double as awesome snowshoe hikes. It depends on the age of your kids, but even a short walk or hike can be memorable for them up in the beauty of the mountains. My son tends to remember it for making him TIRED, but you know, it’s good for them! Am I right?!

Breckenridge bicycle path with snow

Just next to the gondola you’ll find one of the paved bike trails, and you can easily get a map of those online, from a local store, or your hotel. For some snowshoe trail options, click here. I remember when I was younger and came up with a good friend of mine, we brought our bikes. Her dad loaded all the bikes and drove us to the top of one of the slopes, and we got to ride our bikes downhill all the way back to town. I thought it was such a good idea, thus avoiding the difficult uphill climb!

8. Dog Sledding or Snowmobiling

When you were young did you read Jack London and imagine you were going to be in that great sled dog race the Iditarod? Scott O’Dell, Jack London, and several other authors I read gave great accounts of the preparation and entire Iditarod experience, and at about age 10 I was determined to participate.


While unfortunately, that dream didn’t come true, did you know there are places where you can at least go dog sledding? Oh, yes, my friend. You too can mush the dogs and pose for an action photo of you seriously fighting the cold and bonding with your trusted sled dogs.

At Good Times Adventures you can take the whole family dog sledding or snowmobiling. This is one of my favorite things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado. For more information see here!

BONUS!

2 Below Zero

I know I said 8, but here’s another possible awesome thing to do in Breckenridge, Colorado with kids! If you head on over to 2 Below Zero you will have an amazing sleigh ride or chuckwagon ride (depends on the season) with a chuckwagon dinner, musical and/or comedy entertainment and fun! The winter sleigh ride is about 2 hours and 15 minutes or so and includes a sleigh ride, dinner, and musical entertainment. My family LOVES these kinds of places, and it’s so awesome to make an event out of your location, its cultural history, and FOOD! 

Breckenridge sunny day, snowy mountain

What other things to do in Breckenridge, Colorado will you try out?

I absolutely LOVE being in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Moreover, the more you get kids out in nature the better I tend to think. Teach them an appreciation of nature, a love of exercise and the outdoors, and they have an outlet for life. So many problems can be solved with a good hike and time to think.

Where are your favorite family vacation destinations to get the family outside and moving?

Family Camping Checklist And Must Haves

Family Camping Checklist And Must Haves

Now is the perfect time to be talking about family camping preparations because hey it’s just decided to start SNOWING! Do you know what? I’ll let you in on a little secret. Go ahead and go through your family camping checklist. There’s never a bad time to plan for a camping trip, and I’m in Colorado so since it’s 25 degrees Farenheit right now, tomorrow it should be 74 again, right? Because that’s what happens here!

This post contains affiliate links which means I make a very small percentage if you click through and purchase something. All opinions are strictly my own!

Family camping checklist, campfire pin

Let me first tell you what can happen on a badly planned family camping trip. Last summer we decided on a whim to grab that camping site that had just been released on the website in Rocky Mountain National Park at the Moraine Park Campground. What luck! That place is crazy busy in the summer and we hadn’t booked ours months in advance. We threw the tent, some food, and the kids in the car and set off to enjoy the mountains.

The BAD Camping Experience

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my Rocky Mountains, but what ensued was NOT a pleasurable experience. I did NOT use a family camping checklist. Our campsite was in the middle of a group of sites in the large campground, although at first, we didn’t think it was too close to others. We got our tent up and sent the kids to look for pinecones and bugs. Unfortunately, there’s not a river or lake or a lot to do at that campsite, and we were sort of pinned in. We’d forgotten our normal card games and had to drive out of the campground to do much hiking or other activity.

That night the ground was hard, the hole in our camping mattress painfully evident. Not that we could sleep anyway because it was so cold one of the people at the next campsite turned their car on and ran the heater ALL NIGHT. YES!! All night the hum of the car and the burr of it when the heater came back on caused none of us to get much sleep. By morning we were so tired, grouchy, and picking at one another that we picked up things and went home. It was not like a bear attacked our food and destroyed our campsite, it was just NOT the ideal family camping trip in nature.

SO what did that teach us? PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!! With kids, my sanity revolves around checklists and planning and preparing for every eventuality. Of course, so many people’s personalities are different, but even a little planning can’t hurt!

Prep the kids and test your gear with a trial run

Rocky Mountain National Park tree view

What do you mean by a trial run you may be thinking!? I mean exactly that. If you haven’t used your camping gear for a while, pull it all out and build up a grand event for the kids to CAMP IN THE BACKYARD!! Ooh! Try out some of your favorite or new camping recipes modified for your kitchen, but take it outdoors to eat in camping chairs by the tent. Test out your headlamps, flashlights, even the camp stove if you use one. Also, I like to shake out the tent and sleeping bags to air them a bit and make sure they’ve all been cleaned since the downpour and mud slosh of the last trip!

Another thing that I love about a backyard campout is that it’s a great trial run for the kids! If you have young ones who’ve never camped before it can be scary. In the backyard, it still can be but with easy access to the house. Once the tent and set up is more familiar to a child, they will be more comfortable with it in a foreign setting, your desired campground. Baby steps, right?

Family camping checklist picture, campsite

Reserve your campsite in advance

If you are headed to a national park or a popular campground, be sure to book your campsite online in ADVANCE. The Rocky Mountain National Park campgrounds open up reservations six months in advance, and if you’re planning to go there I suggest you book it as soon as you can.

First, choose your campground. What activities are there around for the kids to do? Do you want to be by a good fishing spot, a lake or a river? Do you want to be close to accessible hikes or areas for wildlife viewing? Or do you just want a space to hang out, play cards, talk, and hang out around a campfire? Some campgrounds even have games like horseshoes, putt-putt, and other things children like to do. Do you need electricity and a bathroom? Decide, what is it you want out of the campsite area?

Second, study the campground map and look at the campsite pictures if there are any. Are you a family that likes to be in the middle of things among a lot of people at a party or more separated with space and a good view? Book your campsite accordingly! If you’ve never been there, consult someone who has or Google reviews for the specific campground. Another thing, be sure the review is recent so you know there hasn’t been a fire or attack of pine beetles or something to drastically change the area!

Third, book your campsite on-line! Find the website for the campground you’ve chosen and get your reservation booked!!

Love to go hiking with your kids?

Check out these awesome Estes Park, Colorado hikes for kids and family!

Estes Park hikes for kids, mountain with golden aspens

Camping Gear

When you’re looking at gear for a camping trip a lot of it depends on the length of time you’re going to be camping and what exactly you’re wanting to do. I’ve admitted I’m no longer a hardcore, a week at a time camper with kids, but I do like a two-night trip. When you do your trial run fun backyard campout you can determine what gear you still may need to get. I would really LOVE to have this entire awesome new tent setup from Cinch!, with solar charging hookups and super easy setup and takedown. However, for our short-term camping, our old tent will probably do just fine! What kind of tent’s on your family camping checklist?

Cinch!

I highly recommend downloading my family camping checklist. You can write all over it, add things, and cross things off as you need. As a mom going in a million directions I know I need something written down clearly defining the next step. Truly, I’ve learned because I’ve had too many experiences where I’ve said oh, I’ll remember that! And then, of course, I don’t, and it gets left in the storage area in the basement.


Sign up for Explorer Momma’s newsletter and as a bonus download this amazing family camping checklist today!

Family camping checklist preview

Family Camping Food

Food! There are so many fun camping recipes on Pinterest I encourage you to find a few new ones to please the family. As a kid, I still remember how much fun it was to wrap my packet of food up in foil and throw it in the fire to cook. How in the world did the adults let me do that?! As a strict rule follower, it was a great release and rebellion for me without really rebelling. Of course, there’s always a traditional s’more to be had as well!

If you are wanting to cook with a campfire or just sit around one, always check for fire restrictions or bans at your campsite before you go!

With food, plan out your days. What will you eat for each meal? What are your snacks? Will it spoil or need to be kept iced? There are a lot of things to think about with food, and my preferred short trips make it a lot easier than a couple week campout, although that is totally doable also.

Another thing to think about is how you can keep your food away from the wildlife in the area. Can you contain it at night so the bears don’t sniff out your camp? (Often there’s a locked “bear box” assigned to campsites to keep food if that’s a problem in the area). Maybe you can tie all the food in a bag up in a tree or in your car? Although, I’ve heard of bears getting into cars as well! Talk to the ranger or campsite director about best practices in regard to food storage.

PLEASE! When you plan out your food, remember you also have to cart out all your trash or find an appropriate receptacle for it!! Leave nature and your campsite as it was when you found it!

Tent camping in the Rocky Mountains

Things to do while camping

I mentioned this briefly before, but think about what things you want to do with the kids or friends while you’re there. Find out what’s available and what will work for you all to do. Add the necessary items to your family camping checklist.

  1. Where are the best nearest hikes?
  2. Can you fish in the area? Who all needs a fishing license?
  3. Can you boat or kayak?
  4. Bring card games to play during a downpour in your tent!
  5. Frisbee, baseball, soccer, or other sports
  6. Plan a nature scavenger hunt for the kids.
  7. Give the kids an old camera and tell them to take pictures of as many different: leaves, pine cones, bugs, birds, animals, or whatever’s around, they can. My son LOVES this and can do it for hours.
  8. Create a nature journal. This is more my daughter’s style. She loves to draw and write about the things she sees. I don’t like to give it too many rules so she can be creative, but you can give suggestions. Why don’t you draw all the flowers, butterflies, or animals you find? Can you imagine a story about that tree and write it out?

Family camping trip, kids hiking

What’s left on your family camping checklist?

Family camping and camping on your own or with friends are two ENTIRELY different animals. I used to love to pack in all my gear and tent on my back 5 miles or more to the backcountry campsite where there wouldn’t be anyone else around. Peaceful. Quiet. Serene.

Add young kids to that equation, and you are headed for a disaster of high magnitude!! Now, as a family, our ideal camping experience is 2 nights at a campground site. In addition, this site is close enough to walk back to the car, but separated enough from the other campsites so you still feel the peace of the great outdoors.

You can have an amazing experience, but it does take some patience and planning. And flexibility, which is what I always have to work on!! I hope you printed your family camping checklist and will use it this summer!

Get your family outside and run! Soak in the sun and stare at the stars. Give it a chance, and planned properly with a family camping checklist, you will LOVE your time and memories made.

Now here’s a question for you! Where are some of your favorite family camping spots all over the world?

 Family camping checklist preview1

The Ultimate Road Trip Activities For Kids

The Ultimate Road Trip Activities For Kids

Are you planning a road trip for spring break or summer? We’re planning for a LOT of time in the car this spring break, and I’m already searching for tips and ideas to pass the time for the kids. I’d like to help you out too so I’m sharing what I think are the ultimate road trip activities for kids.

When I was young, we moved across the country a couple times for my dad’s job. The first of those moves was when I was in fourth grade, and we moved from Colorado to Illinois, which was completely across the world as far as I was concerned. I still remember being heartbroken at having to leave my best friend, school, and everything that I knew. Now I look back, and I think it probably was good for me to experience a new place and get out of my comfort zone a bit.

This page contains affiliate links.

Pin it here!

Ultimate road trip activities for kids

Road trip activities for kids

My best friend and her parents were always very creative, and before we left to drive cross-country they gave me a mysterious bag. Inside was a bunch of wrapped items as well as a set of directions about where in the trip I could un-wrap each one. It was a sad goodbye but the activity bag was fascinating!

Kids love little gifts, activities, and knick-knacks. While I don’t remember exactly what was in the packages, I do remember how excited I was to get to each place to open the package. “Only 10 miles to Lincoln!!! We can make it!”

It passed the time and made me look forward to seeing new towns along the way. Also, I got to know the road atlas maps really well so it was a great geography lesson. Do any of you remember having the good old State Farm Road Atlas? We ALWAYS had one in our car.

Since then, I’ve made several such bags for friends going on long drives and for road trips with kids. Depending on who it’s for, I’ve included games, CDs for a specific place on the drive, a Rubik’s cube, books, a journal, history of places along the way, and lots of other fun items. Kids absolutely love it.

How to make your own road trip bag

If you’d like to combine a bunch of awesome road trip activities for kids into one, you’ll want to make your own road trip bag or tote for the journey.

First of all, map out your trip, which you’ll check into anyway.

Second, select cities or towns along the way about an hour apart, or 60-80 miles works well. Fill out the free printable you can download below with your list of cities or towns in the order of your trip (or just use your own piece of paper).

Third, the cities or towns you selected will be where the kids get to open their wrapped items. Count up how many gifts/activities you will need and obtain that many items to wrap. You can see my examples below. Also, if you have more than one child I find it best to make each kid their own bag to avoid squabbling.

Fourth, wrap the items and number them from one to however many cities you’ve chosen as destination gift opening spots. I usually just write the number on the package, but you can make a fancy tag if you like.

Fifth, place a filled out copy of your free printable ultimate road trip activities for kids in each child’s bag and load it in the car. Make sure that place is easily accessible during the trip.

Sixth, when you get to each city written down on the paper, the kids get to open their package with the corresponding number. Yes! Joy! Finally! Ahh! Love!

Voila! With so many road trip activities for kids to anticipate and the trip will go by like the snap of your fingers. Well, maybe not quite that fast, but close. It may sound like a lot, but it really doesn’t take that long to put together. If you use items from dollar store type places, it’s not going to break the bank either and will be worth every penny for everyone’s happy sanity during the drive.

What do you need?

To begin, you’ll want to gather all the supplies you’ll need to complete your awesome road trip activities for kids. 

Road Atlas

I like to include a map or road atlas showing our entire journey that’s not on a screen. When there are wrapped surprises at stake kids get to know the route really well. Also, they can page through and look at the different states or countries and plan out their own trips. As my favorite heroine says, “There’s so much more scope for the imagination!”

 

Dollar store prizes

I find the dollar-type store and the Target $1 section to be awesome areas to find fun items to unwrap. It’s best to get something that’s a puzzle, game, or something meaningful to you both to occupy them as long as possible. Kids think these are fabulous especially when they’re wrapped up and they anticipate opening them. In addition, they have to stare at the packages in the car, and you will get squeals of joy when it’s time to open them up! You may never again see someone so excited to get to Dumas, Texas (no offense intended to our Dumas friends!).

Wrapping materials

When you create your road trip bag, you plan to have an item to open about 60-80 miles or so. This averages out to about one item to open for every hour you’re on the road. Therefore you’ll be needing some fun wrapping paper or even newspaper comics. You’ll also need scissors and tape.

 

Activities and Games

Coloring Books

Sometimes it’s fun to include a task or a game with the wrapped prize or gift. For example, you could put a sticky note on the coloring book that says, “Color three different pages in the coloring book before you can open your next destination package.”

Activity books

My daughter absolutely loves activity books and games like Mad Libs. They’re great for in the car because we all contribute words and get to laugh hysterically when the story’s read.

 

 

 These National Geographic sticker activity books are a big hit with my son. He’s majorly into dinosaurs, science, space, and all that fun stuff. So, of course, you know best what will amuse your child. Find the perfect activity book for them.

Auto Bingo

On family road trips as a kid, I always played Auto, Interstate, Car Bingo or whatever you would like to call it. This is a fun surprise to wrap up that will take some time to play.

 

Rubik’s Cube

It’s always fun to throw in a Rubik’s Cube as one of the items especially if the kids haven’t seen one before or at least not in a long time.

 

 

Travel Scavenger Hunt Card Game

I tend to DIY a lot of scavenger hunt type activities for my kids as we travel, but when in a hurry this is a great option. This scavenger hunt game has kids searching all over for things like license plates, stop signs, a red car, etc. To check it out on Amazon click here.

 

Free kids' travel journal printableKids’ Travel Journal

Whenever we go on vacation I also love for my kids to keep a travel journal. You can use just a blank notebook or journal or take advantage of my free printable. To read about it and download, click here.

Games are road trip activities for kids and the whole family

The ABC Game

In the car, one of our most popular games to play is the ABC game. To make it an item in your road trip tote bag you can write it on a sticky note and stick it to a rock or put it in a small box. Then wrap it up and you all have to play when it’s destination is reached!

To play is fairly simple, but it takes a little time and is fun. The players take turns stating three things starting with the letter they get on their turn. First, you say your name. Then, you say where you’re from. Lastly, you say what you are taking. All of these need to start with the letter of your turn.

So for example, I say: My name is Amy. I’m going to Antarctica, and I’m taking apples. You go clockwise around the car, and the next person says: My name is Bertha. I’m going to Bermuda, and I’m taking belly button lint. Go through the entire alphabet that way. Silly items are always popular so have fun with it!

I Spy

This is another easy fun game to play to pass time. First, someone is named the spy. That person says, “I spy with my little eye something red!”

Then you go around the car giving everyone a chance to guess what that red thing is. Whoever guesses correctly get to be the next spy. We usually limit the things you can spy to inside the car because half the time you pass by them before someone guesses if they’re outside.

The License Plate Game

This is a good game for a little bit older kids. My 9-year-old loves it until we get to the middle of nowhere and don’t see cars from other states. First, have the child list all 50 states on a piece of paper. It’s good for them. Once that’s done, every time someone sees a different state’s license plate you put a checkmark by it. This can last throughout the entire trip, but there’s something extremely satisfying about checking off all 50.

Who else love books?!

A couple of books to read are fun to throw in the road trip tote bag. They are simple educational road trip activities for kids. If you can find a good book associated with your destination, even better!

Alligators and Crocodiles

by Laura Marsh

Are you going to Florida? Learn all about Florida animals like Alligators and Crocodiles!

 

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare

The Witch of Blackbird Pond is a Newberry Award Winner, and one of my favorite books! Learn about colonial Connecticut and some interesting history of the area. Also, it has great characters and a storyline you won’t want to put down.

Alamo All-Stars (Hazardous Tales #6)

by Nathan Hale

My daughter loves Nathan Hale’s graphic novel series, Hazardous Tales. She’s been reading Alamo All-Stars of late. Can you guess where we might be going soon?

Sign up for Explorer Momma’s newsletter and download the printable to use with road trip activities for kids as a bonus!

Road trip bag free printable preview

 

Are you traveling by airplane?

Give our kids’ free printable Airplane BINGO a try! Print it out and you’re good to go with an extra activity for the flight.

Airplane BINGO, kids airplane activities preview

So what are your road trip activities for kids?

We love a good road trip as a family. So many funny memories are made, and you want everyone in the best mood possible. These road trip activities for kids have worked for us. I hope you take some time to prep your own road trip tote bag! Let me know how it goes.

Now, what else do you do to occupy kids on the road? I’m always on the look-out for suggestions!

Top 10 Things To Do In Ruidoso, New Mexico With Kids

Top 10 Things To Do In Ruidoso, New Mexico With Kids

Picture your favorite Western movie. Do you see wide open spaces, dusty ground with cactus and yucca plants as far as the eye can see? But wait! What’s that in the distance? Is it a plateau, a mountain? Imagine the scene as Billy the Kid and his crew come at you in a cloud of dust. As they get closer you can make out figures on horseback in cowboy hats racing to guide the stampede of cattle. The rustlers just made off with the cattle from a nearby ranch, will get rid of them for a price, and for good measure may even rob a train in the evening. Who knows? Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids.

What I know is that the scenery as you near Ruidoso, New Mexico inspires all my stereotypical western stories to come to life. Moreover, it’s truly another world you step into, at least another culture, as we travel from northern Colorado to mid-southern New Mexico. The area around Ruidoso may be the dry, cracked Western scene; however, go up the mountain and into Ruidoso, and you’ll find a charming mountain town perfect for family vacations.

But what are the top things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids? What is it that draws us so often away from our beautiful Colorado mountains? To be perfectly honest, my grandparents lived there long ago, and now it’s where we meet up with our relatives from Texas for fun and family. We LOVE it.

So be inspired! Go pull up that western soundtracks playlist on Spotify, and plan your family vacation today.

This page contains affiliate links.

Top 10 things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico pin

1. Book a cabin with plenty of outdoor space to play

If at all possible I highly recommend booking a cabin or house with plenty of outdoor space for the kids to play. It’s true we usually go as a large group and so enjoy a larger area, but there are smaller cabins choices available too. Then, with your own cabin, you have a kitchen to do more of your own meal prep, and more space for the family to rest and relax. We loved our space this last summer with a fabulous outdoor seating area complete with grill and hot tub, our own little golf green, horseshoes and much more!

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico cabin Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico cabin yard

Website options for cabin rentals:

1. Airbnb – We’ve had good experiences with Airbnb in the past. My advice is to make sure you look for places with plenty of good reviews and use your best judgment. If you are new to Airbnb you can use my link here to sign up and get $40 off your first booking. Click here for the link to sign up.

2. VRBO – Click here for their website.

3. Ruidoso Reservations by Condotel – Click here to see the cabin availability on their site.

A lot of these cabins are available on multiple sights so you can do some searching to get the best deal.

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico horseshoes

2. Inn of the Mountain Gods

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, IMG buildingThe Inn of the Mountains Gods is owned by the Mescalero Apache Tribe and boasts beautiful scenery, fabulous rooms, food, and a casino. It’s located a little over seven miles from Ruidoso and will take you about 20 minutes by car.

For kids, we like to make a day excursion out of it. First, we drive out to the hotel and look around the inside for a bit. When we’re ready we head down to the buffet and enjoy the variety and quantity of the breakfast or lunch buffet. After that, once sufficiently stuffed, we either continue to look around the inside of the hotel or wander down to the lake for the kids to play or walk around it on the convenient pathways.

What kid doesn’t love a walk around the lake with frequent stops to look for fish, study the plants, or throw rocks and twigs in the lake? You probably won’t make it all the way around, but it’s fun to explore!

3. Pillow’s Funtrackers, Family Fun Center

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico Funtrackers carFuntrackers is a great place for families to play and have a fun time together. First, you might play a round of miniature golf. Following that, race around the track on the goKarts (there are several tracks depending on ages). Then perhaps you’ll want to cool each other off with a giant splash from the bumper boats and then go get lost in the Mountain Maze.

For weeks after we visited this place my son’s favorite thing to call out was, “Grandpa’s lo-oost!” Yes, Grandpa got a bit mixed up in the maze, which was of endless amusement to the children.

There is just so much to do here you could literally hang out most of the day or until the kids get there fill and wear out. The goKarts were great. Lots of fun for all!

4. Kids Konnection Playground

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico playground

For a morning out to a playground, you won’t want to miss the Kids Konnection Playground (685 Hull Road, Ruidoso). First of all, the equipment is fun and original and actually covers a large space. Also, there are areas for kids 5 and under as well as 6 and up, fabulous!

We also like the fact it’s located right next to a big open grassy field where the kids can run, play soccer, play tag, or just burn off some energy. I’ve also been told there’s a good dog park nearby, and although we haven’t been in need of one, you may!

Ruidoso, New Mexico, best of 2017

 

5. The Hubbard Museum of the American West

26301 Hwy 70 West, Ruidoso Downs, NM

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico Saddle

All right now, tell me. Have you cranked up an American Western film soundtrack yet? You might try , or , my favorite , or if you have Amazon Prime .

Listening to a bit of this will get you in the mood to visit the Hubbard Museum of the American West. This is a fun museum for kids and adults alike, although with kids you may have to move a bit quicker than if you were on your own! Be sure to see the horse statues at the top of the hill.

A tour of this place is sure to bring out your inner cowboy, and if you’re like me you’ll start saying, “I’m your huckleberry” in a southern accent to all friends and family. Or to that random person who meets your eyes in the museum. 😉 Just kidding.

6. Horseback Riding, Grindstone Stables

523 Resort Dr, Ruidoso

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, Horseback riding

It’s inevitable the kids will be dying to go on a horseback ride after a visit to the Hubbard Museum of the American West. Therefore, why not saunter on over to the Grindstone Stables and go on an hour-long guided horseback ride? Or if that’s not your thing, enjoy a carriage ride through mid-town Ruidoso with amazing views of Sierra Blanca in the distance.

 

 

7. Ruidoso Municipal Swimming Pool

515 Sudderth Drive, Ruidoso

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, swimming poolIf it’s hot, and the kids need some exercise, we love to head over to the Ruidoso Municipal Swimming Pool for open swim. Be sure to check their website or give them a call (575-257-2795) to get open swim times before you drive over. The swimming pool is nice, and although definitely not brand new, a lot of fun. As a matter of fact, they have a huge, fabulous slide perfect for kids. While I stayed in the baby pool with my son the last time we were there, my eight-year-old daughter probably went down the thing 15-20 times. It’s a climb to get up to the top of the slide so it’s also great for ensuring an easy bedtime routine in the evening because they’ll be so worn out!

8. Wildlife Photo Scavenger Hunt

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico deer

Ruidoso is a beautiful mountain location with mountain views, a variety of flora, but also wonderful chances to see wildlife. Go on a wildlife photo scavenger hunt with the kids to get pictures of elk, deer, wild horses, hummingbirds, eagles, and so much more. However, I will advise if you happen to run into one of the bears, steer clear!

 

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, Hummingbird

 

 

9. Gondola Ride at Ski Apache

1286 Ski Run Road, Alto, NM

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico, gondola

Is your family ready to see some stunning views? Make the drive to Ski Apache in summer to take the gondola ride to the top of the mountain. You won’t regret it a visit to this magical place, unless perhaps you have a child like mine who claims vertigo and refuses to step on all gondolas, funiculars, etc. But never mind that! Have an amazing ride up the mountain, eat at the snack bar, and enjoy yourself.

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico

 

Ski Apache view

10. Flying J Ranch

6 Flying J Road, 1028 State Hwy 48, Alto, NM

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico Flying JThe first time I visited Flying J Ranch was over 20 years ago (no need to be exact!), and I loved it just as much then as I do now! It’s my favorite attraction in Ruidoso, and kids love it.

Relax and find your inner New Mexico western cowboy, or cowgirl. At Flying J you’ll enter an old west town complete with Sheriff and a live gunfight. The kids can ride ponies, explore teepees, and even rope some cattle. Then the whole family will enjoy a chuck wagon dinner with beef, chicken, beans (of course!), biscuit, applesauce, and my daughter’s favorite spice cake!

After you eat be ready for James and Cindy Hobbs and friends to entertain with the Flying J Western Show. See their website here for more information. “The show is an action-packed show filled with World Champion yodeling, amazing harmonies, fancy fiddling, hilarious comedy, banjo playing and guitar picking! The show at the Flying J Ranch is simply fantastic!”

Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico Flying J, game Things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico horse Ski Apache view

What are your family vacation plans for this summer?

Are you planning to visit Ruidoso this summer? Take advantage of my kid-tested list of top things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids. Then let me know how it works out for you! For us, it’s a family tradition and fabulous time.

Where else are you planning a family trip this summer? Or maybe where did you go recently? Give me your suggestions below!

Looking for an excursion from Ruidoso?

Carlsbad Caverns featureCarlsbad Caverns are a must-see and completely awe-inspiring. It’s such the perfect exploratory experience for kids. We love it!

 

 

Are you planning a fun family vacation to escape from the noise of the everyday? Perfect for family reunions and getaways, check out my top 10 things to do in Ruidoso, New Mexico with kids.

Explorer Momma symbol

Join Our Free Newsletter

Sign up to receive the latest newsletters and updates from Explorer Momma directly to your inbox!

You're in!

Pin It on Pinterest

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close