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The 10 Best Zoos in the US

By Amy Lynch
February 19, 2022
Lion Pride At Lincoln Park Zoo
Jim Roberts | Dreamstime.com
Get in touch with your inner animal at these top zoos in North America.

There are plenty of fun, interesting ways to walk on the wild side all across North America, but these destination zoos lead the pack by offering some of the most memorable visitor experiences rooted in animal encounters, community outreach, conservation efforts, unique programming and special events.

Lincoln Park Zoo

The 35-acre Lincoln Park Zoo was founded in 1868 on Chicago’s north side, making it one of the oldest in the country. Movie buffs might remember the Lester E. Fisher Great Ape House from its appearance in the 1999 film Return to Me; although the habitat has since transformed into the $26 million Regenstein Center for African Apes, the mighty gorillas are still a major draw. There’s also an amazing conservatory on site to check out. Best of all, the zoo stays open 365 days a year, and while you may have to pay for parking, admission is always free.

San Diego Zoo

Long respected for its conservation initiatives, the Balboa Park-based San Diego Zoo houses more than 3,700 animals across 650 different species, many rare or endangered. The property is massive and navigation can be a little overwhelming; double-decker bus tours make it easier to get the lay of the land. A few of the most popular animal attractions include the Australian Outback koalas, the 2.5-acre elephant habitat and the penguin-populated Africa Rocks exhibit. Hearts broke when the zoo’s beloved giant pandas were returned to their Chinese homeland in spring 2019. However, the adorable red pandas are still around to admire.

Cincinnati Zoo

Fiona - Courtesy of the Cincinnati Zoo

Paired with a world-class botanical garden, the Cincinnati Zoo has been delighting Midwestern youngsters and their families since 1875 when it opened under the direction of the Zoological Society of Cincinnati. A pioneer in successful breeding efforts, the facility launched the Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife in 1986 to help propagate and preserve globally endangered species. Amid the lovingly tended collection of animal exhibits, visitors tend to gravitate toward the cheetah run, the meerkats and the lions, but the world-famous Fiona — a charming young hippo born in early 2017 — is the biggest animal celebrity in residence.

Bronx Zoo

A much-loved New York City fixture since 1899 and the largest city zoo in the US, the Bronx Zoo gives guests a glimpse into the world-wide animal kingdom within the beating heart of the urban jungle. With more than 260 forested acres to explore and 6,000 animals from aardvarks to zebras, this expansive attraction merits at least a full day to truly appreciate. Expect to do a lot of walking; you can always hop on the Wild Asia monorail or the seasonal Dinosaur Safari for a quick breather. The facility is also notable for having opened the very first veterinarian-staffed animal hospital back in 1916.

Henry Doorly Zoo

Home to the largest indoor desert habitat in the world, the Henry Doorly Zoo’s soaring glazed geodesic Desert Dome has come to be one of the most recognizable landmarks in Nebraska. Inside, a 55-foot tall central “mountain” divides the landscape into distinctive Namib, Australian and Sonoran habitats; nocturnal creatures make their home in the Kingdoms of the Night exhibits on the lower level. Elsewhere on the property, immersive Asian Highlands, Alaskan Glacier Bay and African Grasslands exhibits transport visitors around the world without ever leaving Omaha. The stunning Scott Aquarium facility showcases sea turtles, sharks and other marine life.

Indianapolis Zoo

Mila - Courtesy of the Indianapolis Zoo - Erik Markov

Arranged in five distinctive biome areas, the Indianapolis Zoo delivers a comprehensive visitor experience for animal lovers of all ilks. The organization partners with global researchers to promote animal conservation and education, acknowledging the work of worthy recipients with the coveted Indianapolis Prize awarded annually. The ethereal Dolphin Pavilion often doubles as an event space (guests can even arrange in-water adventures to swim along), and the Simon Skojdt International Orangutan Center furthers efforts to study and support these majestic animals in the wild. Access to the lovely White River Gardens is included in the price of admission.

St Louis Zoo

One of several appealing attractions that populate Forest Park, the city’s verdant crown jewel, the free-to-visit St Louis Zoo receives approximately 3 million visitors each year. A leader in animal management, conservation and awareness with assistance from the Saint Louis Zoo Wildcare Institute, this friendly Midwestern facility houses and cares for more than 17,000 resident mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and insects on site. The zoo originated during the 1904 World’s Fair, taking shape around the original Flight Cage that still stands as part of the Cypress Swamp exhibit in the Historic Hill section.

Woodland Park Zoo

This Seattle-based organization enlightens visitors as to the vital roles conservation and sustainability play (particularly in the Pacific Northwest region) through field projects and interactive exhibits spanning 70 developed acres. Bioclimate zones range from tropical rainforest and Australasian to temperate forest and African savanna habitats, housing more than 1,100 animals across 300 species. African Lions and Malayan Tigers and Brown Bears — oh my! Don’t miss the Assam Rhino Reserve, a partnership project with the International Rhino Foundation that raises funds to protect these threatened animals from illegal poaching.

Detroit Zoo

Courtesy of the Detroit Zoo - Jennie Miller

With sections that showcase African forest and grasslands dwellers; Arctic animals; and American, Asian and Australian-hailing creatures, the 125-acre Detroit Zoo offers plenty of incentives to visit. The state-of-the-art Polk Penguin Conservation Center has reopen after a major renovation, visitors are able to observe the antics of 75 resident penguins in a spectacular 25 foot-deep, 326,000-gallon aquatic facility. You can also enjoy the butterfly garden, the bird enclosures and a diverse variety of other animal exhibits.

Sedgwick County Zoo

Wildlife park meets mainstream animal attraction at this award-winning Wichita zoo, where guests can watch elephants splash, play and eat in the third largest dedicated habitat in the country. Spend some time in the Downing Gorilla Forest, then marvel at the big cats in the immersive Slawson Family Tiger Trek. Animals are grouped according to geographical origin, making it easy to beeline directly to African, Asian, North American or tropical settings. A leisurely wander through the impressive aviary caps off the adventure in fine feathered form.

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5 Reasons you should add Martha's Vineyard to your bucket list

There’s truly something for everyone on Martha’s Vineyard, whether you’re in town for a family vacation, planning a romantic getaway with your loved one, or seeing the world solo. Once you arrive on the Island, either by taking The Steamship Authority (SSA) ferry from Woods Hole in Falmouth or by air into Martha’s Vineyard Airport, you’ll find plenty of beaches, lighthouses, museums, restaurants, bars, and historical attractions to keep any traveler busy. Best of all, you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money to have a great trip, thanks to an abundance of alternative accommodations like campgrounds, hostels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and lots of free and affordable things to do. Here are five reasons why Martha’s Vineyard definitely deserves a spot on your travel bucket list. There’s plenty to see and do outdoors From beautiful beaches and scenic hiking trails to fishing, golf, yoga, and wildlife-viewing, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities in Martha’s Vineyard. Start by visiting two of the Island’s most popular outdoor hangouts: Menemsha Public Beach in Chilmark, a great spot for families to spend a day on the water, and Aquinnah Cliffs, home to hiking trails and views of the unique red and orange clay cliffside and Aquinnah Lighthouse. For a memorable outdoor yoga experience, head to Island Alpaca Company of Martha’s Vineyard in Oak Bluffs, where you can get your stretch on alongside these fascinating creatures in the middle of their pasture. Animal lovers should also visit Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown for the chance to learn more about the Island’s unique habitats and try your hand at birding. Golf enthusiasts can hit the links at public or semi-private courses on the Island, including Mink Meadows Golf Club in Vineyard Haven, Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs, or Royal and Ancient Chappaquiddick Links in Edgartown. Those who enjoy fishing can get local tips from tackle shops or hire fishing charters and try catching bluefish, tuna, sea bass, fluke, and squid. The island has a fascinating history To fully understand the history of the Island, start with a trip to the Aquinnah Circle Cultural District, home to the stunning Aquinnah Cliffs, Aquinnah lighthouse, and Aquinnah Cultural Center, where you can learn all about Martha’s Vineyard’s original inhabitants, the Wampanoag, and visit shops owned by local Indigenous people. For a look at the Island’s diverse heritage and maritime background, visit the Martha’s Vineyard Museum in Vineyard Haven to see stories of the many cultures and people who have come to call the area home, learn how lighthouses helped through the ages, and explore the Thomas Cooke House, formerly the home of Martha’s Vineyard’s earliest attorneys during the 18th century. The Museum also happens to be the steward of the Edgartown and East Chop Lighthouses, which are also worth checking out, as is the Aquinnah Lighthouse, formerly known as Gay Head Light. History buffs should also make time for a historical walking tour through Edgartown, run by the Vineyard Preservation Trust, which takes guests past the Vincent House (built in 1672), the Village Green, the John Coffin House, the Old Whaling Church, and the Dr. Daniel Fisher House & Gardens, among other historic sites throughout the area. Keep an eye out for famous people and places Not only is Martha’s Vineyard home to the world’s oldest operating platform carousel—The Flying Horses Carousel, built in 1876 and entertaining guests at its current location in Oak Bluffs since 1884—it’s also been known to appear in movies and TV shows from time to time. Fans of the Jaws film franchise will recognize “Amity Island” as none other than Martha’s Vineyard, with famous scenes filmed along Vineyard Haven Harbor, Cow Bay Beach in Edgartown, East Chop, Menemsha, Harbor, Gay Head Light in Aquinnah. Perhaps the most popular filming location is the American Legion Memorial Bridge, now known simply as “Jaws Bridge,” which is now a popular spot for another reason among visitors and locals: jumping off the bridge into the water 12–15 feet below. In the film, it’s where the shark famously swims into Sengekontacket Pond and goes after another innocent beachgoer. Martha’s Vineyard has also appeared in a number of movies (Sabrina, Stuck on You, Jumping the Broom, and Chappaquiddick, among others) as well as TV shows like Our Kind of People and The Vineyard. It’s also known as being a bit of a celebrity stomping ground, with big names like James Taylor, Carly Simon, David Letterman, Spike Lee, and former President Barack Obama all owning homes here, and a flurry of celebs including Larry David, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Murray, who vacation on the Island in summer. You never know who you’ll spot here, so keep your eyes peeled—but remain respectful. Enjoy locally sourced dining and vintage shopping If you’ve worked up an appetite after a long day of sightseeing, there’s a Martha’s Vineyard restaurant with your name on it. Whether you’re craving ocean-to-table seafood, farm-to-table favorites, a good old fashioned clambake, or a chill night at a neighborhood pub. Open seasonally during the summer, Chilmark Tavern, Beach Plum, and The Sweet Life café (open year round) are popular among visitors, residents, and celebrities alike. Looking for something lighter? In West Tisbury, pick up picnic-perfect fruit, veggies, meat, cheese, and snacks from the Farmer’s Market, held on Wednesday and Saturday from mid-June to late-October. When it comes to retail therapy, antiques and vintage pieces are the way to go. Start by scouring the Oak Bluffs Open Market, a vintage flea market meets crafts fair meets farmer’s market held on Sunday from late-May to mid-October, and the Chilmark Flea Market, the oldest outdoor flea market in Martha’s Vineyard, open Wednesday and Saturday from the mid-June to mid-September. Otherwise, stick to locally-owned boutiques for all your shopping needs, including popular brands like Vineyard Vines, Menemsha Blues, and The Black Dog, which all got their start here on the Island. Accommodations options are abundant The beauty of Martha’s Vineyard is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a memorable vacation. Families can save money by making it a camping adventure at Martha’s Vineyard Family Campground, which has plenty of room for tents and RVs, rustic cabins you can rent, and amenities like picnic tables, laundry areas, a recreation hall, showers, bathrooms, a playground, and a general store. Rates range from $59 to $195 a night depending on which kind of space you want to rent (tent and RV sites or one- and two-bedroom cabins) and when (it’s only open seasonally from late May to late-October). Travelers of all types should consider staying at HI Martha’s Vineyard Hostel in West Tisbury, which offers seasonal accommodation from May to October. Rates start at $38 a night for dorm-style rooms with bunk beds or $99 a night for private rooms, and all stays include perks like complimentary Wi-Fi, continental breakfast, easy access to public transportation via VTA bus, fully-stocked shared kitchen space, and a sand volleyball court to play in.Otherwise, you can find a variety of accommodations options ranging from fancy splurge-worthy hotels to homey inns and bed and breakfasts all throughout the Island. Vacation home rentals are also quite popular so check online marketplaces and local real estate companies, too. Rates are typically lower during the winter, spring, and fall seasons, so you might also luck out with an off-season deal if you’re not visiting during the summer months. CARD WIDGET HERE

Sponsored by Martha's Vineyard

Join Budget Travel as we begin our new series Discover USA. Discover USA explores states, counties, cities, and everything in between. Each week we will explore a new US destination to help you find things to do, itinerary ideas, and plan where to go next. This week, we invite you to Discover what the State of Mississippi has to offer. The "Magnolia state" is widely known for its BBQ, magnolias, catfish, bluegrass music, and southern charm. Explore the Outdoors Image courtesy visitmississippi.org In Mississippi, visitors will find no shortage of outdoor recreational opportunities. From breathtaking views at Gulf Coast beaches, towering forests, rivers and lakes and more, all offer exhilarating and adventurous experiences. Parks: An abundance of festivals, historic sites and outdoor recreation events make Mississippi’s system of national, state and local parks a welcoming, family-oriented vacation destination. Throughout the state, travelers will find many opportunities for camping, hiking, equestrian activities, wildlife viewing and much more. Many of Mississippi’s state parks provide modern amenities for visitors to enjoy, including boating areas, fishing spots, hiking trails, disc goal courses, beaches, playgrounds and picnic areas. Cycling: Mississippi has a wondrous wealth of paved and unpaved bike trails. But one of the greatest joys of biking in Mississippi is the opportunity to experience history, in addition to the scenic vistas, off-road detours and colorful scenery that are found along the journey. The Natchez Trace, which stretches from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee is unlike any other scenic route in the country, thanks to its historic sites and numerous markers that tell the story of the Trace's 10,000-year history. Waterways: The rivers and streams in Mississippi offer some of the most fun and most scenic outdoor adventures in the state. Adventure out on the Mississippi River with Quapaw Canoe Company, or paddle Black Creek, Mississippi’s only designated National Wild and Scenic waterway. Further South, the Gulf Coast region offers multiple opportunities for waterway adventures. There are currently seven Blueways, or water trails, that have been mapped out for recreational canoers and kayakers including the Pascagoula River Blueway, the largest free flowing waterway in the lower 48 states. The mild climate in Mississippi means the state’s waterways are ripe for fishing year-round. With 119 public lakes open and ready for action, a great day of fishing is never far away. Some of the most popular places to fish in Mississippi include: Grenada LakeArkabutla LakeEnid LakeHernando DeSoto River Park There are also plenty of opportunities to go fishing on the Gulf Coast, with options ranging from night fishing on the shore to a deep-sea, multi-day charter. Arts and Culture One of the most notable aspects of Mississippi is the rich culture that’s saturated the land for generations. Mississippi has played an integral part in shaping the history of America, as well as several artistic and cultural movements that people across the country enjoy today. The Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson is Mississippi’s largest art museum that has over 4,000 works, including the world’s largest collection by and relating to Mississippians and their diverse heritage. Many works can be seen in the permanent collection, New Symphony of Time. The Art Garden offers Wi-Fi and al fresco dining and hosts outdoor events. Since 1979, the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale has been working to conserve Mississippi’s blues legacy. As the state’s oldest music museum, this Clarksdale arts center has interpreted and cultivated an understanding of this native Mississippi art form for decades. Exhibits include collections of artifacts, memorabilia, instruments and more from some of the state’s most prolific blues musicians, like B.B. King and Muddy Waters. History and Civil Rights Image courtesy visitmississippi.org The new, interactive Mississippi Civil Rights Museum also in Jackson explores the true stories of the Civil Rights movement, and shows how those events shaped a state and changed the world. After taking in the fascinating exhibits at the museum, visitors can venture to some of the 25 sites on the Mississippi Freedom Trail to experience history at the source. Deeply intertwined in the fabric of Mississippi’s past are the legends of the blues and country music that defined the genres forever. The Mississippi Blues Trail showcases the powerful influence of Mississippi’s Black musicians on an unforgettable journey through blues history. The trail showcases the people and places that shaped the genre through notable markers, influential locations, and museums. Culinary For foodies looking for an inexpensive way to enjoy the very best BBQ on a budget-friendly getaway, the state of Mississippi is the perfect destination. A few of the many notable BBQ restaurants to visit around the state include Corky’s Ribs & BBQ in Olive Branch, The Shed BBQ in Ocean Springs and One & Only BBQ in Southhaven. Image courtesy visitmississippi.org Stop along a few locations on the Hot Tamale Trail, located throughout the Mississippi Delta region. Today, the Hot Tamale Trail in the Mississippi Delta not only celebrates the history hot tamales share with our state, but it also enables visitors and locals alike to find eateries providing them on their menus. Throughout the region, no two hot tamale recipes are alike, and along the Hot Tamale Trail, you can find variations that feature pork, beef, or turkey, corn flour instead of corn meal, and toppings like chili and cheese. See below for a few culinary focused events in Mississippi: March 19, 2022 Shaggy’s Rez Fest – Crawfish & Country Music Festival (Brandon) March 25-26, 2002 The South MS Boucherie BBQ Festival & Competition (Tylertown) April 20-24, 2022 29th Annual Crawfish Music Festival (Biloxi) April 23, 2022 18th Annual Mudbug Bash (Hernando) Other Notable Attractions: Hattiesburg Zoo (Hattiesburg)Mississippi Aquarium (Gulfport)GolfCasinos CARD WIDGET HERE

"Mom, you can't trick us-we know you can't drive a house!" my children told me. The more I explained about our RV vacation, the less my kids believed me. They thought the part where the dinner table changed into a bed was either the biggest whopper of all or proof that Mommy had magical powers. In the parking lot at the start of our trip I felt no supernatural talents as I stared in fear at our home on wheels away from home: a rented Winnebago measuring 32 feet-much longer than my living room. But after an hour-long training session, we were on our own. The next day we negotiated the spectacular curves of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. The grown-ups sat in the Barcalounger-type reclinable front seats watching through the four-foot-tall windshield as turkey vultures circled above the tree-covered mountainsides. Sky, clouds, birds, blooming dogwood trees, green valleys, more mountains, large iced drinks in cup holders, two kids buckled in at their own table with toys and a view: "Mom," they announced, "this is the life." Our plan was to travel across Virginia comparing private, public, franchise, and nonfranchise types of campgrounds. Of course, our vehicle itself provided amenities and entertainment. We had a week's worth of groceries and our own electricity and water. We were protected from the bad weather that ruins many a camping vacation and shielded from the wild behavior of vehicle-bound children that ruins many a road trip. (When we reached orange alert levels we-gasp!-popped a movie in the DVD player.) These comforts gave us more time to experience the places we visited. And at all the campgrounds, whether rustic or developed, my kids did not want to leave. Not your average bear Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts. These popular campsites, the first type we visited, are filled with families seeking man-made, outdoor fun. RV site prices are usually on the higher end, at some 70 Jellystone Parks across the U.S. and Canada. All of them promise easy-to-RV level sites, where you can pull through to park and quickly hook up water/electric/sewage lines; clean rest rooms and laundry facilities; a pool; a video theater and game rooms; a well-stocked convenience store; and, most important, entertainment. Although the particulars vary, every Jellystone Park offers activities of some kind-theme weeks or weekends, hayrides, arts and crafts, ice cream socials-and equipment like fully loaded playgrounds, sports courts, and bounce houses. Schedules of events are listed on their site; some activities may cost extra. Jellystone park waterslide - Courtesy of Jellystone Park We stayed at a Jellystone Park in Luray, Virginia. The campground was as RV-friendly as expected. It took us about 10 minutes-in the dark, no less-to park, make the RV level, and connect to the hookups for our very first time. In the morning my kids took one look at the 400-foot water slide and the playground with eight slides and dressed themselves at warp speed. The camp-type activities, such as Yogi's birthday week, are in full swing in summer. In the spring and fall, theme weekends ("Junior Ranger: Bugs!") are scheduled. Parental advisory: If you go to the giftie-filled camp store with your kids, expect to endure a heavy round of begging. Uncle Sam, you, and a view National Park campgrounds (reserve by searching nps.gov). Outdoors enthusiasts can stay in the scenery at many National Park campgrounds. Recreation.gov handles some parks; private concessions manage reservations for others. Some parks only permit camping on a first come, first served basis-get there early! The National Park Web site gives reservations details and tells which parks offer full hookups and which offer no facilities and less-than-RV-friendly warnings, like "RV sites may not be level." On average camping usually costs less than $50, (not including park admission) but really varies by park and season. We left Yogi's Jellystone for Shenandoah, a real national park, where the amenities are mostly those provided by Mother Nature. The campsites at the edge of the quiet Big Meadows campground provide a high-altitude sleeping spot overlooking a beautiful series of valleys and mountains. RV sites (some pull-throughs) with picnic tables and fire grates cost $30. There are no hookups, but there are stations to fill up your water tank and dump that other tank. Generators can only be used until 8 p.m. After that, for hot running water you can use the bathhouse with its coin-operated showers. We headed out to the Appalachian Trail and ate ice cream, fresh pineapple, and strawberries-a picnic made possible with the help of an RV kitchen. Shenandoah National Park Follow the yellow-signed road KOA or Kampgrounds of America. Bright-yellow signs with a tent logo lead the way to more than 500 franchises of KOA in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Vacationing families come, snowbird retirees come, overnight visitors en route to other destinations come-millions of campers a year stay at a KOA. Most sites cost $40 to $80. Visitors know that certain facilities are standard: clean rest rooms and laundry rooms, full hookup pull-through sites, an inviting pool, playground, game room, and a fully stocked store. Entertainment, however, varies with the individual KOA's location. Some franchise owners offer pancake breakfasts, river tubing, 25-person hot tubs, rental cars, and wireless Internet connections; some offer quiet country settings. We stayed at the Charlottesville KOA, which has a peaceful, woodsy setting with hiking trails, a fishing pond, and all the KOA offerings. The friendly owners have preserved the traditional sleeping-in-the-woods experience. Many of the sites, including the one we stayed at, are shaded by trees. In the summer, family movies are shown nightly at a central pavilion, and Saturday night is ice cream social time. The Governors' own State park campgrounds. State parks offer all kinds of inexpensive, unspoiled opportunities that only the locals may know about. You have to research state by state because there are no complete clearinghouses for state parks. Search state park or campground and the name of the state you want to visit. You may even find reservation systems for some states. The site www.reserveamerica.com lists campgrounds in 44 states. There is a may be a charge for reserving through this site. State tourism offices and web sites also provide camping information. I was amazed to find that Virginia State Parks has 23 reservable RV campgrounds. Most offer electric and water hookups, usually $40 to $50 a site, including park admission. We stayed at Chippokes Plantation State Park in the peanut-farm country of Surry. This park was full of surprises-we could tour the plantation's mansion, formal gardens, and agricultural area complete with chickens, cows, and crops. Or we could swim (the pool was huge), hike, fish, or look for marine fossils on the beach. In the campground, the host helped us back into our site. We had hookups for water and 30-amp (one appliance at a time) electricity. We felt like we had the woods to ourselves. We roasted marshmallows way past bedtime and were able to wash off all the stickiness. For our next day's adventure, we drove onto the Pocahontas, a free ferry, to cross the river into Jamestown and Williamsburg. My husband and I argued over who could drive onto the ferry. (I won.) Chippokes Plantation State Park - Credit: IStock - Douglas Rissing Stop at Mom-and-Pop's Local, independent campgrounds. An independently owned campground might be located just where you want to stay. It might be cheaper than a franchised campground. It might have all the amenities you want-or, it might not. Sites like Hipcamp and RVshare have RV campground searched that you can use. Our final campground, Aquia Pines Camp Resort in Stafford, a privately owned, nonfranchise operation, was actually the most high tech of all. Free WiFi, there was a well-stocked store, pool, game room, and an elaborate playground. After we ate our Indian dinner, we sat outside, faintly hearing one neighbor's birthday party and another's reggae, and enjoyed the campfire we made in a big, old washtub. When we switched vehicles for the trip home, our car crammed with all the goods so neatly stowed in our RV, my kids started asking, "Are we there yet?" My husband and I laughed-we hadn't heard that once on our RV vacation. Content Presented by RVshare, the world’s first and largest peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace with more than 100,000 RVs to rent nationwide. RVshare brings RV renters and RV owners together by providing the safest and most secure platform for booking an RV rental. Find the Perfect RV Rental at RVshare

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7 best US national parks to take your kids

Trying to plan a family vacation in a national park can feel overwhelming. With 62 official parks in the US and counting, there are simply too many options to go down the list, one-by-one, and tick off the best options for kids. To help narrow it down, here are our top picks for family-friendly trips in some of America’s most treasured national parks. With towering trees, colorful badlands, rocky tide pools, and epic wildlife sightings, there’s something for even the pickiest city kid on this list. Death Valley is a great place for outdoorsy families to find some sun in the winter © Armin Adams / Getty Images Death Valley When to visit: Spring, fall, winter Best for: Hiking, rock scrambling, wild west history, scenic drives, car camping Whenever you read about Death Valley, you’ll often find it described as a park of superlatives. It’s the hottest, driest and lowest place in North America. It’s also the largest national park outside of Alaska by over a million acres, which means it’s a massive desert wonderland for families to explore. Most of the top attractions, though, like Badwater Basin, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Devil’s Golf Course, Zabriskie Point and Artist’s Palette, are only a short hike from the car, and many are stroller-accessible. Furnace Creek is the main hub for lodging and food in Death Valley, with several park campgrounds and hotels like The Inn at Death Valley, The Oasis at Death Valley, and The Ranch at Death Valley, all of which have swimming pools for those scorching shoulder season visits. The best time to go to Death Valley is typically the “off season” for other parks – winter – meaning it’s a wonderful option for outdoorsy families looking to escape the snow and go on a road trip! You might also like: US national parks: how to see the best of 5 epic parks in one day each Sequoia When to visit: Summer, fall Best for: Big trees, hiking, backpacking, car camping Kids will feel like they’ve entered into Jurassic Park when they gaze up, awestruck, at the giant sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park. This park is all about big mountains and forest bathing, and the Parks Service has done an excellent job to making the big trees as easy-to-reach and family-friendly as possible. Take Generals Highway up from Three Rivers, then look for deer and black bears on the accessible Big Trees Trail, which circles Round Meadow. Afterwards, soak up some history and learn about the park’s flora and fauna at the Giant Forest Museum before heading off to see the General Sherman Tree. Looking to take the family on a backpacking trip? Sequoia National Park has several great treks up to stunning vistas with water sources that are under 7 miles each way. There are also seven park campgrounds for those looking to car camp, plus several more in neighboring Kings Canyon. If you’re not into roughing it, The Wuksachi Lodge, located inside the park, is dog friendly and offers a full-service restaurant. For interesting wildlife and beach camping, head to the Everglades © Stefanie Grewel / Getty Images Everglades When to visit: Spring, fall, winter Best for: Wildlife viewing, boat tours, beach camping, car camping Because they’re located on the southernmost tip of Florida, the Everglades stay warm and tropical year-round, making them a prime spot for snowbirds looking to escape the frigid winter up north. Kids will love the guided airboat safaris that help visitors spot native birds and cruise right up to the park’s most notorious resident – the alligator. Stick around after the boat ride to catch a wildlife show, included with your ticket. Everglades National Park offers two drive-in campgrounds for car camping and multiple backcountry tent sites, though families looking for epic beach access, a restaurant, and a pool will want to rent a car and stay in nearby Miami, which is only a one-hour drive from the park. Yellowstone When to visit: Summer, fall Best for: Geyser gazing, wildlife viewing, car camping, hiking Imagine the look on your child’s face the first time they see the face of a 2,000-pound bison walking alongside the car. That’s the magic of Yellowstone National Park. There’s wildlife galore, ample lodging options, and many top sights require only a short stroll to reach. The multi-use trail that circumnavigates Yellowstone’s infamous Geyser Basin and Old Faithful is fully accessible for those with strollers or mobility issues and is a must see for any first-time visitor. As for lodging, Yellowstone has got you covered. With nine hotel/cabin facilities and twelve campgrounds located inside the park itself, there’s something to suit everyone’s needs. We love the historic Old Faithful Inn, finished in 1904, which features live music, a full-service restaurant, and easy access to the park’s celebrity geysers. You might also like: National Parks: 11 ways to be sustainable in Yellowstone Acadia National Park has a great Jr. Ranger program and plenty of family-friendly hikes © Jerry Monkman / Getty Images Acadia When to visit: Summer, fall Best for: Tide pools, scenic drives, fall foliage, hiking, biking, car camping With one of the most unique Junior Ranger programs in the U.S. park system, Acadia is a fantastic place to bring ocean-loving little ones. Hop onto a ranger-guided boat cruise, search for seals, and touch real sea life brought up from the water below, then head to the Carroll Homestead for pioneer games and an official Junior Ranger booklet and badge. Looking to expend some energy? Acadia also has 125 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of historic carriage roads, suitable for biking or those with strollers. As for accommodations, Acadia offers three NPS campgrounds that book up far in advance during summer months and fall weekends. For hotels, check out nearby Bar Harbor, with options galore, many of which have heated swimming pools and a spa to pamper tired parents. Grand Canyon When to visit: Spring, fall Best for: Scenic drives, hiking, backpacking, car camping The Grand Canyon is one of those once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list family road trips that should be on everyone’s radar. The park features one of the most robust paved trails in the entire park system, the 13-mile accessible South Rim Trail, which is virtually flat and perfect for strollers and kids of all ages. Start at the Bright Angel Lodge and continue onto the interpretive Trail of Time, where children can touch samples of rocks and learn about the unique geology of the area. Families who don’t want to hike out and back can hop onto a shuttle bus at the end of the journey and ride it back to the lodge. Horseback riding and mule tours are also a great way to explore the rich history of the canyon. Though backpacking down to the Colorado River is rated as strenuous and not suitable for small kids, Grand Canyon National Park offers three car-friendly campgrounds, two of which can be reserved in advance. Those looking to splurge on a full-service hotel within the park’s boundaries will want to book early and check out the historic Bright Angel Lodge or the panoramic views at the El Tovar Hotel. You might also like: The Grand Canyon: how to get the most from a short trip Carlsbad Caverns When to visit: Year-round Best for: Caving, bat viewing, short hikes Crawl, hike, and shimmy through spectacular, underground rock cathedrals at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. With cave tours (open to ages 4 and up) spanning anywhere from one to five hours, there’s adventure to suit everyone’s attention span and ability level here. Stick around for sunset for a real treat, though. Every evening during the summer, thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats soar out of the mouth of the cave at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. It’s a breathtaking natural wonder, and a ranger-lead talk helps explain this unique wildlife phenomenon to visitors of all ages. Though only primitive, backcountry camping is available within the park’s boundaries, nearby Carlsbad, New Mexico offers plentiful kid-friendly hotel options, many of which have a pool and free breakfast buffet.

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