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

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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!

Northern States National Parks Bucket List

Northern States National Parks Bucket List

Preview: A Northern States National Parks Bucket List for families. Join guest writers as we travel around the states of Alaska, Michigan, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming to national and state parks!

I am so excited about this group of national and state parks to share with you! Truly I have no doubt it will spark a bit of wanderlust. When I was a kid, we went to parks in Alaska, and I will never forget the time we spent there with family.  

Now join our tour around the United States in Explorer Momma’s Operation U.S. Parks, Every Kid in a Park. This is number three in a series of five posts featuring guest writers who plug their favorite parks and give tips and stories about the area. I hope to encourage you and your family to get out, wander, and experience our magnificent national and state parks.

So, moving northward, let’s continue our journey and add to your own Northern States National Parks bucket list!

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

Northern States National Parks for family adventures! Add to your national and state parks bucket list and visit the wildlife in Katmai National Park, Alaska, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, and more! #yellowstonetravel #katmainationalpark

Northern States National Parks

Katmai National Park, Alaska

There are some places so worth going to that getting there is half the adventure. Katmai National Park is one of those places. To get to this over 6,000 square miles of Alaskan wilderness, you must first take a flight to King Salmon. Then, from there you’ll hire a charter flight to take you to the park. The number one reason to visit this park is to see grizzly bears in the wild. 

Each summer the bears congregate at the Brooks River Falls where the migrating salmon jump UP the falls. Visitors have their own bear-viewing platform to watch all the bears’ activities. From that point, you can see the older, wiser bears who can open their mouths and magically a salmon jumps right. Also, don’t forget, there are the younger, less-experienced bears who try and try and try again just to catch a couple of salmon per day.

Katmai National Park, Northern States National Parks, Alaska #katmainationalpark #familytravel

Due to the sheer number of bears in the park (estimates are around 2200), visitors must immediately take bear training when they arrive in Brooks Camp. Bear safety is a must when people are camping among North America’s largest predator.

Katmai National Park is one of the most beautiful and unique northern states parks to visit. Definitely, it’s a journey to get there, but boy is it worth it.

By Corinne from Reflections Enroute

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Before my husband and I were married he mentioned many times how he’d like to take me to Rapid City, South Dakota. I remember being confused because I had no clue what South Dakota had to offer. Surely there were many more exotic places to explore in this world than South Dakota?

However, we took our family there on our long term RV trip across the country. We couldn’t believe we hadn’t made it sooner. Truly, the beauty of the Badlands National Park is breathtaking. The vast amount of buffalo at Custer State Park is enough to leave you speechless. Also, the amount of unique and fun family-friendly activities in the Black Hills will keep you busy and entertained for days. And of course, the majesty and iconic Mount Rushmore is a must for every family visiting the United States. 

Mount Rushmore with kids, Badlands, South Dakota #mountrushmore #badlandsnationalpark

There are so many historic and interesting things for families to do and see in this area. To begin, I had no clue how much we would love it. We started off with a 5-day reservation at a campground and kept extending it until we were there for two weeks. Even then we didn’t see it all and are already planning to come back.

Rapid City, South Dakota is a great choice for families looking for educational fun, history and natural beauty. Read more about the Badlands here: 10 reasons why South Dakota should be on your family’s bucket list.

By Hilarye at Dotting the Map

Wyoming: Northern States National Parks for Families

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park combines the otherworldliness of geothermal activity and the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Then add to that the magic of the biggest wild animals in America. You won’t be disappointed!

Both planned stops and impromptu wildlife sightings make up the bulk of activities for most tourists. In addition, there are boardwalks for accessing the geysers, hot springs, thermal pools, and waterfalls. Also, there are trails leading into the backcountry. 

Both kids and adults alike will love the variety and frequency of things to see. First to plan your trip, know it’s generally a maximum of 20 minutes between interest points. You’ll find distinctive viewpoints, mud pots, geysers, waterfall hikes, and visitor centers. If you pair that with bear, moose, elk, wolf, bison, and eagle sightings, you’ll find every day is almost always action packed!

Yellowstone National Park, mud pot view #yellowstonenationalpark #familytravel

Know before you go:

  • Yellowstone is so big, it’s hard to see all the unique features in less than two full days.
  • The ranger talks and visitor centers are free and hugely valuable.
  • Accommodations include camping opportunities and hotels.
  • Also, the park is much easier to visit in the summer when roads are open to the public. In winter, much of the park is closed to vehicle access, requiring snow coach tours or snowmobile rentals. 
  • Plan to live without phone service. Signals are hard to come by given the terrain and remoteness.
  • Problems with the amazing wild animals or geyser injuries in the park generally are caused by tourists illegally approaching. Be safe!

Fun fact: Yellowstone is so-called for the yellow-ish volcanic material – rhyolite. It can be found throughout the caldera, which is a large volcanic crater. Did you know Yellowstone is a volcano so enormous you can’t even see it?

By Jema from Half the Clothes

Yellowstone National Park in Winter

One of my favorite National Park experiences is spending a few winter days at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. In summer, the park is packed with visitors. Often, you are shoulder to shoulder trying to watch the famous geyser erupt. Winter brings tranquility and space to Wonderland.

We like to stay at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge in winter. The roads are closed except to over-snow vehicles, so we ride in on a snow coach. The lodge is warm and inviting. A fireplace is ablaze in the lobby, and visitors read books, play board games, and discuss their day exploring. Also, the kids really love the ice skating rink just outside.

The dining room serves gourmet-casual food with an emphasis on local (well, as local as you can get in the middle of winter in Yellowstone). We love grabbing a hot drink from the bar to sip in the lobby before dinner.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming #yellowstonetrips #yellowstoneinwinter

The Best Part of Yellowstone in Winter

The best part is getting out on cross-country skis or snowshoes. My family likes the zippy ski tour down Spring Creek and walking around the Upper Geyser Basin. In winter, you can watch Old Faithful erupt without anyone else around.

From the Snow Lodge, you can take a snow coach to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and ski or snowshoe along its edge. Seeing the partially frozen Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River is magical, and watching otters slide through the snow into the river above the falls, brings a smile to your face.

There is something about being in a warm cozy lodge after a day in the snow that feels like an iconic winter experience. Even though our kids were young when we went, they remember it fondly and long to go back.

By Melynda from Yellowstone Trips

Grand Teton National Park

Hidden below America’s first National Park, Yellowstone, is Grand Teton National Park. A place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. A place to breathe.

I passed through the Grand Tetons on my way from Yellowstone the first time, and I immediately knew someday I would return. For me, it was love at first sight. I loved it there so much that I will head back next year. I plan to explore more of the area, the trails, and to find those secret places the mountains always whisper about.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming #grandtetonnationalpark #familytravel

While Yellowstone is definitely amazing in its own way, I felt that the Grand Tetons offered a little more peace and quiet. And fewer people as well. You might not be completely alone here, but who cares? You’ve got fantastic views over the mountains, beautiful lakes to watch the sunrise over, and miles and miles of hiking trails to explore. And if that’s not enough to convince you to visit, there are also plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Oh, and did I mention there are gorgeous waterfalls as well?

I actually fell so much in love with this place I’ll be returning with my family next summer. It may not be the ideal time to visit if you’re looking for peace and quiet. However, I’ll be alongside family I’m sure it’s going to be a fantastic trip.

I just know I would’ve just loved to visit this place when I was younger! Why? Because it’s heaven for kids with endless nature to explore.

By Helena from Darling, Let’s Be Adventurers

Interested in more National Parks?

What’s on your national and state parks bucket list in Utah and Colorado?

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado #trailridgeroad #rockymountainnational park


Northern State Parks

Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan

Of all the amazing family-friendly stops in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, my family’s favorite destination is Tahquamenon Falls State Park. We love it so much that we convinced our entire extended family (three generations – 8 adults and 11 children) to go there with us last summer. Everyone agrees it was great fun.

Upon arrival, we immediately headed to the Upper Falls overlooks. Big and powerful, the Tahquamenon Upper Falls are a thrilling sight to behold. Also, this waterfall is especially family-friendly because most of its overlooks feature paved trails that are easily accessible for strollers and wheelchairs.

Tahquamenon Upper Falls, MinivanAdventures, Michigan #TahquamenonFallsStatePark #familytravel

After viewing the Upper Falls, we drove down to the parking area near the Lower Falls. We walked the trail for a short distance to take in the view of the considerably smaller Lower Falls. There are boats available for rent if you want a closer look at these falls. We did not take any boats out as we had several small children (including toddlers and a baby) in our group.

Instead, we wandered a little further along the trail where we joined several other families wading in the shallow river water. The children and the adults had a blast playing in the water and stacking rocks.


Bring water shoes for protection from the river’s rocky bottom.

Our entire group left with fond memories of Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The children frequently ask when we will go back there, and the adults think it would be fun to return as well.

By April from Minivan Adventures

Mahoney State Park, Nebraska

Situated in the heart of the US, along the I-80 Interstate, many road-trippers pass through Nebraska without a second glance. However, by doing so, they are missing out on so many great stops, one of them being Mahoney State Park. It is one of the top 100 US State Parks. 

One of the things that makes Mahoney so fantastic is its never-ending list of things to do. First, horseback riding, ceramic making, toboggan sledding or snowshoeing in the winter. Next, you can try sleeping in teepees, miles of hiking trails, and more. Moreover, this means there is something for everyone. Also, you can spend days upon days at Mahoney State Park and still not have done everything there is to do! 

Mahoney State Park, Nebraska #familytravel #nebraskaactivities Mahoney State Park, photo credit to Nebraska Tourism

Kids love Mahoney for its gigantic indoor play zone and its AMAZING water park. Fabulously, it’s complete with wave pool and dump buckets. Also, adults can’t get enough of things like the high ropes and zip-line course, 40+ foot rock climbing wall, and nearby vineyards.

So don’t just cruise past what you thought was nothing but boring cornfields on your next cross-country road trip. Don’t forget to check out Mahoney State Park and Nebraska’s other great activities for a fun stop.

By LeAnna from Well Traveled Nebraskan

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Northern States National Parks amaze and delight kids and adults alike. Family travel to Yellowstone, Katmai National Park, and more! #familytravel #usparks

Operation U.S. Parks

So this week we’ve ventured up to some of the Northern regions of the United States. What do you think? I am so ready to plan a family trip to Alaska to see all the wildlife, the glaciers, and do some hiking! My son absolutely obsesses on puffins, sea lions, whales, and bears and cannot wait to see them in the wild for himself.

Also, we’re planning trips to Yellowstone and the Badlands this summer and fall, and I’m so excited to experience those places as a family!

What’s next on your bucket list?

Check out more articles on U.S. parks:

Have you been to any of these Northern States National Parks? What about Northern State Parks?

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

Utah and Colorado National Parks Bucket List

Utah and Colorado National Parks Bucket List

Preview: A Utah and Colorado National Parks Bucket List for families. Join guest writers as we travel around these mountain states to national and state parks!

What’s your reason to visit a national or state park? Why do we go to these parks? Is it the magnificence, the feeling of heaven on earth, the challenge, or the varying landscapes?

We are planning family trips for this summer and so I asked travel bloggers from all over to share their experiences in state and national parks. You may find your reasons to travel to one of the parks from their answers!

The national parks bucket lists will be published in a series of 5. I hope you enjoyed last week’s California National Parks Bucket List! Have you been to many of the California parks?

But now, without further ado, let’s continue our journey and add to your Utah and Colorado National Parks bucket list!

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

Utah and Colorado National Parks bucket list | Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, and more! #utahnationalparks #coloradonationalparks

Utah National Parks for families

Bryce Canyon National Park 

Bryce Canyon National Park is one of the most unique and memorable parks we explored in the U.S. on our West Coast road trip.

Technically not a Canyon, the landscape is surreal. Millions of years of erosion through the valley have created pillars called hoodoos, and are scattered over a large area. You can admire the hoodoos from the canyon rim, or take a hike down to the valley floor where the hoodoos tower above you.

Bryce Canyon is great with kids as it is quite small. The park can easily be visited in one day and many of the hiking trails are not too challenging. We took the Navajo Loop Trail starting from Wall Street and also covered the Queens Garden Loop Trail in the valley.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, hoodoos #brycecanyonnationalpark #utahnationalparks

The kids loved walking through the hoodoos, looking for shapes in the towering pillars of sandstone and playing hide and seek amongst the spires.

Our best tip is to visit the park at sunrise or sunset when the colors are simply magnificent. If you have time, sign up for a ranger talk on the trail. They are engaging sessions, and our kids learned a lot from about the landscape and the animals that call the park home. The area around Bryce Canyon is said to be one of the darkest locations in the US. That makes it also the perfect spot for a little star gazing.

By Rachel from Adventure and Sunshine

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is centered around a large canyon. However, unlike most canyons which you see from above, the main accessible part of the park is along the canyon floor. The park is car-free. Instead, there are frequent free shuttle buses that run the length of this part of the park, making it easy to travel, and keeping the park free of traffic.

There are plenty of places to stay in nearby Springdale, but if you want to stay in the park, the lodge is half way along the canyon. At the lodge, you’ll find a restaurant and cafe as well as an enormous cottonwood tree that is lovely to relax under in the summer.

Zion National Park, Utah #utahnationalparks #zionnationalpark

There are plenty of hikes, including The Narrows – a spectacular hike through a narrow slot canyon in a river. Younger kids can do the river walk to the start of this hike easily. You’ll also find plenty of slot canyons that are perfect for canyoneering (rappelling down a series of extremely narrow canyons) – not for little kids, but perfect for adults or even adventurous teenagers.

Also, there are shorter, easier hikes, such as the short half-mile hike to Weeping Rock (a dripping ‘waterfall’ over a rocky outcrop) and a one-mile hike to Canyon Overlook for breathtaking views of the canyon below.

Zion really does have something for everyone of all ages, levels of fitness, and adventurous spirit.

By James from Travel Collecting

Arches National Park

Arches National Park was one of my favourite national parks to visit in the USA. If you have 2 days you should be able to see everything in the park. There are a lot of short hikes that you can do which is ideal if you are going with children.

Just off the main road through the park, there’s a nice little hike of 0.3 miles is to see Balanced Rock which stands at 39 metres tall. More difficult, Delicate Arch was one of my favourite hikes and is a 3-mile hike. Actually, it is quite a strenuous hike as it’s mainly up a steep rock face on the way there. However, it’s well worth it once you get there. It is possible to do with children, but you will need to keep a close eye on them as there are sharp drops in places.

Arches National Park, Utah #archesnationalpark #utahnationalparks

Devil’s Garden trailhead has a lot of different options for hikes with many more arches you can see. Some are very easy walks and some are longer and more difficult. This is a great area to explore though as there is so much to see. Unfortunately, it does mean it is one of the busiest in the park. My favourites to see are Landscape Arch, Partition Arch, and Double O Arch.

If you are in Utah you need to make the time to have a couple of days or at least a day to visit this park.

By Clare from I Live 4 Travel 

Interested in California State and National Parks?

Yosemite National Park, California National Parks Bucket List #familytravel #everykidinapark


(Pssst!! Add all of these to your Utah and Colorado national parks bucket list today!)

Colorado National Parks for Families

The Great Sand Dunes National Park

The Great Sand Dunes National Park is one of the most unique National Parks in the United States. Containing the tallest sand dunes in North America, the dunes stretch across about 30 miles of land. One would think the dunes were close to the ocean, but no, the dunes are actually located in Colorado, at the edge of the San Luis Valley and Sangre De Cristo mountain range.

The dunes can be spotted from miles away, and the closer you drive to them the bigger and bigger they appear. A favorite way to explore the dunes is to rent sand sleds or sandboards and climb to the top for an awesome view and then an even better ride. Families with children can choose to surf down smaller dunes rather than the very large ones.

Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado #greatsanddunesnationalpark #coloradonationalparks

Another way to explore the dunes is to drive the rugged Medano Pass, a 22-mile sand road that requires a 4 wheel drive vehicle to go on. Don’t have a 4 wheel drive vehicle? You can actually rent fat tire bikes that are the only type of bike allowed pass the no point of return on Medano Pass.

If you don’t feel as adventurous, simply taking a hike to the foot of the dunes at sunset is a magical experience. The dunes light up in a soft ray of orange light and are beautiful to photograph at this time.

By Jess at Unearth the Voyage

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park, just west of Estes Park, Colorado, is my happy place. It feels like a second home to me, always welcoming and awe-inspiring. There are so many different places to explore and fabulous hiking options for families.

In this magnificent park, you’ll find views of majestic mountains, valleys, and snakelike rivers, as well as a variety of wildlife and plants. There are mountain-sides with pine and aspen trees, mountain flowers like the Rocky Mountain columbine, and even the grass of the tundra up on top of Trail Ridge Road.

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado #trailridgeroad #rockymountainnational park

If you want a day to impress the kids in the park definitely drive up Trail Ridge Road. A highway to the sky, Trail Ridge Road is the 48-mile portion of U.S. 34 between Estes Park and Grand Lake, Colorado. To me, this is one of the most beautiful stretches of road and mountains you will ever see. At the top point, 12,183 feet in elevation, the wind whips and even in summer cars drive by walls of snow.

Take your time and get out of the car to enjoy the scenic views or take one of the short hikes. The Alpine Visitors Center is almost at the top on the Grand Lake side and worth a stop if nothing else but for the photo op.

Personally, when traveling the road I’ve seen moose, elk, deer, coyotes, bighorn sheep, marmots, chipmunks, and all sorts of birds. If your kids keep a written or art journal be sure to encourage them to track all the wildlife they see!

For more information on Rocky Mountain National Park and the area check out these articles:

I may be a little biased as I grew up in the area, but there is no place on earth like Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s perfect for families, adventurers, and wanderers.

By Lauren from Explorer Momma

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Utah and Colorado National Parks | Family Adventure Travel bucket list. Zion National Park to Rocky Mountain National Park and more! #rockymountainnationalpark #familytravel

Operation U.S. Parks

Are you ready for a family education? Teach your kids to respect and honor nature. Visit the parks, hike, camp, and enjoy the outdoors! It’s so much more powerful to have a hands-on experience to demonstrate why we must protect them and the wildlife in them. Truly, as a kid, these are things you’ll never forget, not only the time in these amazing places but the fun as a family.

Are you enjoying our journey around the country to the U.S. Parks? Have you added to your Utah and Colorado National Parks bucket list? Maybe it will give you and yours some inspiration to get out and plan your own trips! Good luck!

Have you been to any of these Utah or Colorado National Parks? What about any other State Parks?

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


Check out more articles on U.S. parks:

California National Parks Bucket List

California National Parks Bucket List

Preview: A California National Parks Bucket List for families. Join guest writers as we travel around the state of California to national and state parks!

This year my daughter is in the fourth grade, and eligible for the Every Kid in a Park pass. What this means is she gets her own national parks pass that will let our entire family into all national parks all year for free! Your child does have to be a U.S. resident to qualify, so click here to see my blog post on how to get your own free pass!

We’re in the process of planning trips for this summer so I asked travel bloggers from all over to share their experiences in U.S. state and national parks. I got many fabulous responses and will share them with you by region of the United States.

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

California National Parks Bucket List | Tips for family travel to Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Redwood National Park, and more. #nationalparks #familytravel

So, without further ado, let’s begin our journey and add to your own

California national parks bucket list!

Yay! Let’s go!

Joshua Tree National Park

One of our favorite national parks to visit as a family is the unusual and beautiful Joshua Tree National Park. It’s located in Southern California, on the way between Los Angeles and Arizona. Joshua Tree is often described as ‘otherworldly’ and indeed, it is different from anything we had ever seen before.

The park lies where the Mojave and the Colorado deserts meet. Indeed, its landscape is made of barren land dominated by large boulders which erosion has carved into unusual shapes. The park takes its name from the ‘Joshua trees’, yucca plants stretching their spiky arms towards the sky, typical of this area.

Joshua Tree in Joshua Tree National Park, California #joshuatree #exploremore

You can visit Joshua Tree at any time of the year. The spring is the most popular time as it is when the desert flowers blossom. However, we went there in the summer and it was still easy to enjoy its stillness and beauty. 

If visiting in the hot season, be aware that this is an unforgiving, desert landscape and some caution is required. Suitable clothing, shoes, and sunscreen are a must as well as protection from the sun and water.

The park is easy to enjoy with kids as several of its hikes are short and some even stroller friendly. The most popular hikes with kids are the walk in the Cholla cactus garden and the loop around Skull Rock.

The park is served by 3 visitor centers, one at each entrance. I highly recommend a stop there as they rangers can give advice on how to visit safely no matter the season.

By Marta, Learning Escapes


Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the most unique and yet least visited National Parks in California. The park is famous for having every type of volcano represented in the park from shield, composite, cinder cone, to plug dome. The volcanic landscape allows visitors to explore beautiful and interesting rock formations, sulfur pools, boiling mud pots, and volcanic cones.

Lassan Volcanic National Park, California National Parks Bucket List #usnationalparks #familytravel

One of my favorite experiences in the park was getting to climb up the sides of a cinder cone. It was around sunset, and I got to see the light highlighting various spots of the volcanic ash.

The park is a great learning experience, especially for those interesting in viewing the violent and beautiful sides of nature.

By Anwar, Beyond My Front Door 


Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park in California is an amazing destination for outdoor, family adventures. This national park is a part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and it’s named for its beautiful Sequoia trees.

The General Sherman Tree is the largest tree in the world (based on its volume) and is a must-see! The giant sequoia forest is beautiful, so plan for at least one full day to explore the trees alone. The paths through the forest are all stroller accessible.

In addition to enjoying the sequoia trees, you will want to go to the underground Crystal Cave to explore cool streams and rocks. Walk around Crescent Meadow Trail and enjoy the beautiful meadow flowers, and if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of a bear (I have seen several bears in the meadow over the years!).

Sequoia National Park, California National Parks Bucket List #sequoianationalpark #familytravel

Sequoia National Park Family Travel Tips

Hike to the top of Moro Rock for a magnificent view of the park from above. It is a steep climb and therefore not the best for small children on their own two feet. Babies in carriers and older children who don’t have a fear of heights will do just fine, but leave the stroller behind!

If your family enjoys camping, the Lodgepole Campground is our family’s personal favorite. It is located in Lodgepole Village, which has a small market, restaurant, and showers. Campsites are available 6 months in advance, and they go almost immediately, so be sure to plan ahead to avoid missing out!

The park’s shuttle system runs often, is family-friendly, and is the easiest way to explore multiple destinations within the park. During holiday weekends and peak season, it can be difficult to find parking, so I highly recommend considering the shuttle.

Sequoia National Park is a stunning destination, and it definitely deserves a spot on your family’s bucket list.

By Leah, An Adventure is Calling


DL Bliss State Park

DL Bliss State Park is home to gorgeous Emerald Bay in South Lake Tahoe, California. The picturesque bay is the spot of many iconic photos of the region.

The parking lot fills up quickly so arrive early in the morning!

Many visitors photograph the view from the upper lookout each day. However, only those willing to hike down to the shoreline get to enjoy all that the area has to offer. The hike is .8 miles each way on a wide paved path, but it is quite steep.

Our kids basically ran down the hill; the walk up was much slower (and hotter!), but they all made it and were so proud. We saw younger children riding back up on their parents’ shoulders, so be prepared!

DL Bliss State Park, California National Parks Bucket List #californiastateparks #dlblissstatepark

Because the path is paved, it is easily accessible for strollers as well. Down at the shoreline are restrooms, kayak rentals, swimming, guided tours of the Vikingsholm Mansion, and a small gift shop with drinks and ice cream. The tour is not stroller friendly, but it is short and doable for children of all ages. Our daughter was in awe of the historical interior design, and it was a highlight of her day.

Our children loved playing in the shallow water on the water’s edge. Also, just a few minutes beyond the mansion is an easy detour hike. It brings you to Eagle Falls which is a peaceful photo spot and a wonderful bonus.

When in Lake Tahoe, DL Bliss State Park is not to be missed!

By Sierra, Free to Travel Mama

Interested in other State and National Parks?

You do not want to miss Carlsbad Caverns National Park! Get great tips for visiting the caverns with kids.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, formations #carlsbadcavernsnationalpark #familytravel

(Pssst!! Add all of these to your California national parks bucket list today!)

King’s Canyon National Park

Part of the charm of King’s Canyon National Park is the variety of ever-shifting landscapes throughout this beautiful place.  From towering granite walls, to open vistas, to groves of giant sequoias, each new landscape is surprising and delightful.

One of the most well-known features of King’s Canyon is the General Grant sequoia tree—the second largest tree in the world.  This tree is an icon as both the official US National Christmas Tree and a living monument to veterans.

Kings Canyon National Park, California National Parks Bucket List #nationalparks #californiabucketlist

But besides groves of living sequoias, King’s Canyon also contains groves that are monuments to fallen giant sequoias from the days of logging.  The Big Stump Trail hosts the most famous stump—the Mark Twain Tree. A ladder stands against the remains of this tree so visitors can climb on top of the stump and gain a new perspective of the size of these sequoias. Kids and adults alike will love to experience the size of this fallen giant in a tactile way. They will also love attempting to count the tree rings to find its age!

Towards the backcountry of King’s Canyon, there are hikes for all ages and skill levels. From very short hikes like Roaring River Falls, longer hikes like the one to Mist Falls, to hiking overnight, there is something here for everyone. Inevitably, each hike reveals another facet of this park’s beauty. The waterfalls are particularly gorgeous and worth the journey to see them.

Whether you visit for a short or a long time, King’s Canyon National Park will leave you fascinated by its diversity of nature and the range of things to do and see!

By Abi, Happy Go Abi


Yosemite National Park

There are so many amazing national parks to visit in the US. Yosemite however, is a great option for those who aren’t very outdoorsy, or have younger children with them. But it does cater to the adventure junkies too. 

Yosemite is one of the most popular national parks on the list. And after even just one afternoon there – you will want to return a million times over. The thing I love about Yosemite is that it is full of amazing scenic views but also some hidden gems worth detouring for.

Tip: Bear in mind that even as late as June, parts of the park may be closed following the winter season. We had a 4-hour detour because a major road was closed. But it was so worth the wait.

Yosemite National Park, California National Parks Bucket List #yosemitenationalpark #familytravel

When it comes to ultimate views, you really can’t go past Taft Point at sunset without stopping. It’s recently made the news for both positive and negative reasons. One couple had a photograph taken of their marriage proposal by chance, and the photographer managed to track them down. However, one couple also fell from Taft Point, assumed, when taking a selfie together.

Therefore, always remember to err on the side of caution and be careful around cliff edges and lookout points. It can be dangerous if you aren’t paying attention.

Other highlights for your California national parks bucket list

Other highlights include Half Dome (for rock climbing), Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls and El Capitan. There are heaps more, but if I listed everything we would be here all day! 

A real highlight that many don’t know about is Bridgeport. We stayed at an RV park there and rented an anchored RV for the night. At sunrise, we woke up in darkness to enjoy the views from the natural hot spring rock pools at the Travertine Hot Springs. This is evidently a real local haunt as we only saw one other person there. Little kids would absolutely love it!

Yosemite is truly amazing. I need to go back to see more, just like everyone who visits and immediately falls in love with it too. 

By Toni, Enchanted Serendipity


Redwood National Park

Home to the tallest trees on earth, Redwood National Park is the most magical of national parks and in 2018 was 50 years old!

It was the discovery of the world’s tallest tree that led to the creation of Redwood National Park in 1968. While the tallest tree lost its title to another, the current record holder is in the vicinity. There are 40 miles of rugged coastline to explore, and you’ll find 45% of the remaining coastal redwoods here.

Redwood National Park, giant Redwoods #redwoodnationalpark #gianttrees

The biggest tree you’ll see here is Big Tree, which has a circumference of 68 feet and is estimated to be 1500 years old.

The Shrine Drive-Thru Tree is the focal point for many visitors, myself included. There are in fact THREE drive through trees on the Redwood Coast. It’s a great sight for all ages and of course fun to drive through too!

For me, though, the unique and best thing about Redwood National Park is simply being able to walk through the woods and stare in wonder at the giant trees, protected for future generations.

By Sarah, A Social Nomad 

Redwood National Park, line of cars #californianationalparks #bucketlist

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California National Parks Bucket List | Tips for amazing family travel to the Redwoods, Yosemite, and more! #californianationalparks #familytravel

Operation U.S. Parks

Does your family love to visit U.S. National and State Parks? This is such a beautiful country, and visiting parks, hiking, camping, and just being outdoors can be a huge education for kids. They need to see their beauty and learn hands-on why we must protect them and the wildlife in them.

I hope you’re enjoying our journey around the country to the U.S. Parks. Have you added to your California National Parks bucket list? Maybe it will give you and yours some inspiration to get out and plan your own visit! Happy Travels!

Check out more articles on U.S. parks:

10 Musts for Visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Epic Things to Do at Niagara Falls with Kids

Secrets of Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter

Visit the Corning Museum of Glass with kids

Visit the Corning Museum of Glass with kids

Preview: How to and why you should visit the Corning Museum of Glass with kids. Corning, New York is in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York State and the Museum of Glass is a must-visit.

Kids love to create, to make art, and figure out how things work. You may think oh! The Corning Museum of Glass, eek! That sounds dangerous just thinking about my kids in that place. Not so! I’m going to tell you why this is an awesome outing and truly memorable experience for kids and the entire family.

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

Visit the Corning Museum of Glass with kids. One of our favorite things to do in Corning, New York. #familytravel #cmog

Where is Corning, New York?

First things first. Where is Corning, New York? Well, Corning is an amazing town located in the Finger Lakes Wine Country of New York State, just 10 minutes from the Elmira, New York airport. It’s about 250 miles from New York City but only about 100 miles from Rochester, New York.

Therefore, you have many options when it comes to transportation in and around the area. If you arrive by plane, any of the nearby airports make sense, Elmira, Rochester, Buffalo. Once the plane has landed, we really like to have the freedom to explore the entire area and so a rental car is the best bet for our family. That way we can get to every little pumpkin farm, waterfall hike, and art show in the area as well as to the further afield destinations like Niagara Falls and New York City! Then make your way back to the Corning Museum of Glass with kids. There are also Greyhound buses in the area and Lyft and Uber drivers when you need them.

What is the Corning Museum of Glass?

Have you heard of Corningware? Pyrex? Yes, these famous traditional dishes found in so many houses today all came from Corning, New York. But is glass just about dishes? By no means!

The Corning Museum of Glass is dedicated to telling the story of that amazing material: glass. Nearly 50,000 objects are displayed in the galleries, with historical pieces dating back to the Pharaohs to the modern glass art of today. Interactive displays and the innovation lab make it the perfect place for kids to learn about art and science and how the two intertwine in glass.

Corning Museum of Glass, New York. #iloveny #familymuseums

Top things to do at the Corning Museum of Glass with kids

Make your own glass art

Kids’ favorite thing to do at the Corning Museum of Glass is to make a piece of their own glass art. As I said before, kids love to create! They love to see the magic of glass blowing, fusing, cutting, and they are shocked when they get to form their own glass masterpiece. The Corning Museum of Glass is so awesome because they have so many classes and options to make glass art creation available to all ages.

You can sign up to make a seasonal piece of glass, such as a fall pumpkin or winter Christmas tree! There are also options to make picture frames, glass ornaments, bead making, and so much more. I recently got to make my own glass flower with the help of one of the museum’s well-trained glass blowers, and was so excited about it I felt like a kid myself.

Lauren makes a glass flower at Corning Museum of Glass #myflxtbex #glassart

First, I had to decide what I wanted to make. Second, I picked the colors I wanted in my flower. Then I got to work! Word of warning, the fire is hot! I didn’t get near it or actually heat the glass, but I did wear protective eyewear and gloves to use the tongs and bars to shape the glass.

Do you know what? My flower is not perfect, but what an experience to actually feel the hot glass pulled and shaped with my tongs, by my own hand! I loved it, and I LOVE my piece of art, my glass flower.

Glass etching project

Each class or project has an age requirement to it for obvious safety reasons, but there are fun projects for almost any age. Another project available for all ages is to sandblast a drinking glass. To complete this project you are given a drinking glass. Kids and adults alike pull out the artist inside to create a design on the glass using stickers. Once the stickers are exactly as you want them, a museum helper will take you to the machine to sandblast the glass. Tiny scratches create a white snow all over the parts not covered in stickers. You remove the stickers and voila! Your creation is complete and ready for display!

Glass dinosaur etching. Make your own glass project at the Corning Museum of Glass, New York. #familytravel #cmog

Check out the current classes and make your own glass projects here!

Glass demos

Kids can’t do everything by any means, so that is why the glass demos are a big hit as well. One of the coolest, how do things work demos loved by aspiring 6-year-old engineers is the glass breaking demonstration. In the innovation lab, questions like: How does glass break? How can we make it stronger? and Why does glass break differently in your car than the windows or glass dropped at home?

In the Windows Gallery of the Glass Innovation Center, you can actually meet some of the inventors who create better-performing glass for space shuttles and all the screens we watch and touch every day.

What else can you see demoed? Go to a glassblowing session and see a piece of art formed.  Watch a flameworking demo or see how optics are made. It’s fascinating.

Corning Museum of Glass upper level #cmog #corningny

Explore the Corning Museum of Glass with kids

Where is the best place to go at the Corning Museum of Glass with kids? It depends on the child! What are they interested in? I would invite you to wander the galleries, find the glass of ancient Egypt, see the glass fruit larger than a toddler, and wander the Vessels Gallery of light bulbs, orbs, and glass containers of all kinds. It really is a magical eye-opening experience they will remember.

Make a glass pumpkin at CMOG #corningny #glasspumpkin

My favorite area of the Corning Museum of Glass

I’m not usually one to go for the contemporary. Actually, I’m always more of a let’s look back at history to see what’s been done hundreds and hundreds of years before type of gal. Which is why I was so shocked to find the Contemporary Art and Design wing was my favorite area of the museum. The white space around each piece of art, the lines and curves, they all calmed me and made me want to spend more time just breathing in the beauty and calm.

Corning Museum of Glass. Modern Art glass display. #cmog #corningnewyork

My “insider” tip for free admission to the Corning Museum of Glass

We have a family membership to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Okay, what does that have to do with the Corning Museum of Glass you may ask! Well, both museums participate in the ASTC Travel Passport Program. Because we are members of a participating science center or museum, we’re eligible for free admission to other centers outside of our area. There are certain parameters, like the museums have to be more than 90 miles away, and I like to double check with the museum beforehand to be sure they still participate.

You can check out the list of science centers and museums that participate here. Whenever we travel, I like to see what museums are on our route take part in the program. It’s always a fun and educational stop, and the kids love it! There are museums all over the United States and the world where your local museum membership will benefit you and save you money.

We love the ASTC Passport Program!

Visit Niagara Falls with kids!

The perfect family vacation is Niagara Falls with kids. State Parks and family travel are the best! #operationusparks #everykidinapark #familytravel #explorermomma

A glass art family tradition

When I was a child, one of my favorite things to do was to visit my grandmother in her stained glass shop. She encouraged me to touch the glass and play with the stained-glass kaleidoscopes she made. She always urged me to embrace my own creativity. We made glass jewelry, ornaments, and had a wonderful time together. Now, my own daughter has been exploring the art of stained glass ornament making with my father. They love to work on projects together and be able to create and have their own grandpa and granddaughter time.

If you’re near Corning, I highly recommend a visit to this amazing museum. Plan to spend some time to wander there, make a glass project, and visit demonstrations. Isn’t it amazing what all this one little material can do?

Have you been to the Corning Museum of Glass with kids or on your own? Tag me in your pics on Instagram @explorermomma.

I’d love to see them!

White circle display, Corning Museum of Glass #cmog #modernart

Owego New York: Top Things To Do

Owego New York: Top Things To Do

Preview: I truly fell in love with the beautiful and historic Tioga County, New York. In this article, you’ll find my favorite things to do in Owego New York.

What are the top places that come to mind when you say, New York? Of course, there’s New York City with Long Island, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and more. All fascinating places with their own cultures within the city in their own right. But what of the rest of the state? If we get out of the big city what do you think of? You might name Niagara Falls, but if you’re not from the area I want to introduce you to one of the friendliest, most beautiful, and definitely historic counties in the state, Tioga County.

Believe me, you will want to visit this hidden gem! Especially if you drink in history like I do, or if you just want to eat and drink well and enjoy yourself, Owego is a fabulous find!

Did you know I walked in the same places as Teddy Roosevelt? Looked at the same beautiful Susquehanna River and walked in and around the same beautiful buildings he did? My inner history nerd jumped up and down with joy the entire time I was there.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored travel post for which I received financial compensation and/or complimentary travel accommodations. All opinions are my own.

Things to do in Owego New York. Reasons to love Tioga County. #experiencetioga #artstrailtioga #15thingsowego #belikebelva #iloveny #myflxtbex #tbex

Where is Owego New York?

Owego New York is a village located in south-central New York, in Tioga County, USA near the border with Pennsylvania. It’s on the edge of the beautiful Finger Lakes region and only about a 45-minute drive from the Elmira/Corning Airport or 3 and a half to 4 hours from New York City. I would suggest getting a rental car to explore the entire area if you don’t drive in yourself, just to make your stay more flexible.


Top things to do in Owego New York

Explorer Momma in Owego New York with Jim and his antique car. #experiencetioga #artstrailtioga #15thingsowego #belikebelva #iloveny #myflxtbex #tbex


1. The Belva Lockwood Inn


Belva Lockwood Inn, as featured on House Hunters. #belikebelva #experiencetioga #15thingsowego #familytravel #explorermomma

Belva Lockwood quote #belikebelva #15thingsowego #explorermommaHave you heard of Belva Lockwood? I, who at times obsess on history and the women’s rights movement, had not. But never fear, let’s remedy that injustice. Belva Lockwood was born on October 24, 1830, neither to wealth or privilege or any real hope of a good education. She persevered against hostility and became the first woman admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court after successfully lobbying to admit women lawyers. She was bold and ran for president, not once but twice, for the Equal Rights Party.

For a time Belva Lockwood ran a school in Owego New York before she moved to Washington D.C. to pursue her political career. That school was at this very property, recently renovated and now being turned into the fabulous Belva Lockwood Inn. Can I tell you a little secret? I got to tour the property and heard the Belva Lockwood story from the owners Ike and Julie Lovelass themselves, recently featured on House Hunters, (another thing I love). Check out that episode here!

Truly, I cannot WAIT for it to be finished later this year so I can come back to stay and do some more exploring. If you want to be among the first to stay at the Belva Lockwood Inn, be sure to take advantage of the $100 voucher for an overnight stay (30% off) you can get it here (as long as it’s offered!).


2. Walking tours – Historic Homes, Evergreen Cemetery, Courthouse Square

Owego New York War Memorial #experiencetioga #owego #warmemorial #explorermomma

There are several walking tours of Owego with brochures available at numerous locations around town. The Tioga County Visitor’s Center is located at 80 North Avenue, Owego, New York and is certain to have them. To begin I’d suggest the Courthouse Square Walking Tour where you’ll learn about the Tioga County Courthouse, the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Veterans Memorial, and more!

When you enter Owego you will also immediately notice the beautiful historic homes along the streets. There is conveniently a cell phone self-guided walking tour of Owego’s Historic Homes! All you have to do is start at the Susquehanna River Bridge and Front Street and dial 607-345-4080. There are also maps and brochures available for this tour. I love learning about the people and the stories behind the old buildings!

If you’re really interested in the people who lived in the area there’s also an Evergreen Cemetery Walking Tour where you’ll learn about characters such as Lyman Park Truman, 1829-1881, the “Millionaire Banker of Owego”. Introduce yourself to naturalist author J. Alden Loring, 1871-1847 who traveled with Teddy Roosevelt on his year-long African safari and Dr. Helen Dean King, 1869-1955 second only to Marie Curie of France in her achievements in genetics and embryology at the turn of the century, one of the few women to hold a professorship in research work.


3. The Cellar

The Cellar Restaurant Owego NY #myflxtbex #ketorestaurant #experiencetioga #explorermomma

With all that walking you’re going to need some sustenance! I highly recommend the locally owned restaurant, the Cellar on the River. They have their traditional menu items that have been on the menu for 10 years or more, such as the Lobster Thermidor Fondue (please try this as it’s absolutely amazing!). Also, they’re always trying new menu items and actually smoke their own meats and fish for dishes. As you may know, I eat keto, and the Cellar Tap had awesome options like pastrami and swiss with house-made Guinness mustard, salmon lettuce cups with caper cream, smoked tuna salad stuffed tomatoes, and more.

The Cellar Tap is the front seating area with a bar near the street, but there’s more formal dining in the back and beautiful Susquehanna Riverview Dining Room. Who doesn’t want to enjoy their meal with an amazing view of the river? Top it all off with some fresh berries and champagne sabayon and you’ll be one happy traveler.


4. Tioga Arts Council Events – Cloud Croft Studios

Cloud Croft Studios Owego, NY #experiencetioga #cloudcroftstudios #owegoarts #explorermomma

Owego also has an active and impressive creative arts community. The Tioga Arts Council appears to do an amazing job cultivating the local arts and celebrating artists. I was lucky enough to attend an exhibition at the picturesque Cloud Croft Studios, an almost story-book location with a beautifully updated barn and swimming pond, perfect for fishing. I have relatives who are professional artists, and this place and the wonderful people who welcomed me there reminded me of my own family. For a moment, my inner Bob Ross awakened and I longed to paint and return to my father’s old workbench to perfect my stained-glass techniques. Do visit and support any of the local exhibitions.


5. Riverow Bookshop

Riverow Bookshop Owego New York #experiencetioga #ilovebookshops #reading #explorermomma #explorermommatravel

I am a book nerd, lover, obsessor, whatever title you want to place on it. Who doesn’t absolutely love to look through local bookstores? In the Riverow Bookshop you can peruse THREE floors of books and enjoy tea or a glass of wine while you do so. Does that not just sound like heaven? Take an hour or two, or an entire afternoon and just relax and commune with the books, or talk with the store owner and helpers, take your pick.

What trip to New York is complete without a visit to Niagara Falls?

Epic things to do at Niagara Falls with kids #niagarafalls #familytravel #stateparks #explorermomma

6. Take a ride with Jim and go antique shopping

Jim's tour of Owego New York #owegoantiques #earlyowego #iloveny #explorermomma #explorermommatravel

Is antique shopping your thing? I adore antique shopping and can be drawn in for hours looking at items and thinking about their past owners and uses. It can take hours for me to find that perfect souvenir or necessary item for my kitchen, and I drink in every minute of it. When you’re in Owego, be sure to stop in to the Early Owego Antique Center. You’ll find quality antiques and interesting stories about the area. And if you’re really lucky you might talk the owner into showing you his antique car or even giving you a ride around town! Everyone at the store is amazingly friendly and full of pride and stories about historic Owego.


7. Calaboose Grille

Calaboose Grille, Owego New York #15thingsowego #experiencetioga #hauntedhistorytrail #explorermomma #explorermommatravel

Are you looking for a dining experience unlike any other? How would you like to eat in an old jail cell? Why not, I say! The Calaboose Grille is dripping with character and good food. “Calaboose” is evidently an old Cajun slang term for jail, and the restaurant maintains that atmosphere and much of the original architecture with the bars still on the windows and cell outlines, but with a quirky modern twist. In addition, it’s also a stop on the Haunted History Trail of New York State so be sure to ask about the mysterious occurrences like glasses moving around and pictures flying off of walls! Gasp.


8. The Owego Riverwalk

Beautiful Susquehanna River, Owego New York #susquehanna #riverwalk #15thingsowego #explorermomma #explorermommatravel

If you have some extra time during your stay in Tioga County, get out to enjoy nature and get some exercise! The impressive Susquehanna River is a huge part of life in Owego and locals and visitors alike love the beautifully landscaped Owego Riverwalk. Walk from Draper Park to Ahwaga Park, watch for birds along the water, take some photos, or go fishing! I was shown a black and white photo of one of the old-time riverboats that used to travel up and down the river like you’d think of in a Mark Twain book. Truly, I can just imagine it, the circular paddle at the back, maybe a dinner cruise? There may be a business opportunity there!


9. Tioga County History Museum

Tioga History Museum, muskets #tiogahistorymuseum #15thingsowego #experiencetioga #artstrailtioga #explorermomma

The Tioga County Historical Society and Museum was founded in 1914. The museum is located at 100 Front Street in Owego and is open from 10am-4pm Wednesday through Saturday. The museum has a variety of galleries and exhibits, many focused on military history, and there’s an impressive portrait of Abraham Lincoln. One display I found fascinating, was the story of a man who was in attendance at Ford’s Theater the night Lincoln was shot and his experience trying to help the President. His clothes, now on display at the museum, were covered in the President’s blood and are poignant and heartbreaking in bringing this man’s story to life.




Why I love Owego New York

I think what hit me most about this place is its people. The locals here are passionate about their town and the county’s rich history. They have great pride in their local farm produce, foods, and brews, and serve them up well! Also, one of my favorite characteristics of the people I was fortunate to meet here is the connection to the arts and the true beauty of the rolling hills, ponds, trees, and rivers.

I can tell you if this Colorado girl lived closer, there are so many amazing things to do in Owego New York, experiences to enjoy, it might very well be my go-to weekend getaway. I do hope to return!

Have you been to Owego New York or Tioga County? Tag me in your pics on Instagram @explorermomma. I’d love to see them!

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