Choose the perfect national park for your family vacation

There are many decisions that go into determining the destination of holidays. When it involves more than just you, your friend or another important person, it looks more complicated. Small and even family vacations should not make you drink or pull all of your hair. Here are just a few tips to help make your choice less stressful.

The first thing that makes it easier for you to ask yourself is what you and the people you are going to do with it? Are you a completely outdoor person, subtle indoor types, or a mixture? Are all of you athletic or in good condition? Do you like hot weather, light or cold seasons? Is sightseeing something you want on your agenda or are you a precision targeted type of activity? Do you enjoy "roughness" or want more comfort? Do you like camping, fishing, backpacking, hiking, rock climbing, horse riding, bird watching, wildlife viewing, history, learning how some unique configurations in the gardens were present, diving, swimming, diving, sailing, boating or canoeing Rafting in white water, photography, fishing, or just strolling around beautiful places?

The next thing to consider is how much you have to spend and how much time you will spend. There are so many parks and national attractions relatively close to people that getting there is not expensive. The cost of some exciting Alaskan wildlife can be quite expensive, but if you have the money and enjoy the great outdoors, you are definitely worth going for an amazing experience that you won't forget soon.

However, it remains only to choose your destination. Keep in mind that almost any area has inexpensive travel options and moves from there to more expensive options. Also, just because you are going to a national park, does not mean that you have "rough". There are plenty of options for hiking, climbing, fishing, water sports, etc., which does not involve sitting beside campfire and enjoying the great outdoors if that is not your style.

Camping is thought to be the cheapest type of vacation after an initial investment in camping supplies. This may be a nifty sum, but remember, equipment usually lasts for a few years. It is generally true that camping fees in the parks are cheaper than the standard hotel room. And if you have an RV, you can camp in real comfort. Most of the camps are in great surroundings and give you easy access to the landmarks of the park. There are very few parks that do not contain some type of camp. Also, when camping, you usually cook your own food that saves you money as well. And no, you don't have to eat hot dogs all week long unless this is what you love!

Now, if you live in the Midwest region, there are plenty of parking options within driving distances that do not take more than twelve hours or less, depending on where you live. Of course, you can always choose to travel anywhere, but some parks are a bit far from the nearest airport. Driving allows you the luxury of taking everything you think you need for a comfortable stay.

My best choice in the Midwest is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is one of the best comprehensive parks for the family. It is located in the states of Tennessee and North Carolina. You can choose to peel it on the Appalachian Boardwalk, camp at camp or in a sophisticated wilderness, or stay anywhere from luxury suites to cheap budget hotels in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN. Speaking of Pigeon Forge, you have Dollywood and all the countless attractions that it offers in the area. On the North Carolina side, you have more campgrounds, a city of Cherokee that has many souvenirs and Indian museums, white water boats and aviation fishing (the last two are already served in both states). The mountains are extremely beautiful and made for great photos. Please search for Great Smoky Mountain web page for more details.

Another great option is the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and State Park. They also have camping and wildlife viewing, especially bird watching. The unique coastline allows for beach walks or swimming in Lake Michigan. They even have areas for you to bring your horses and rides. For those of you who enjoy sightseeing and history, watch the Five World's 39 Fair Houses from 1933 or attend the Gathering At Calumic in early May, as Indians in East Woodland Indians, Western Great Lakes, and Voyageurs are rejuvenated in modern life along Calumet River lives from 1730-1830.

If you enjoy boating, there are many places in Midwest, but the two northern locations are Voyageurs National Park and Isle Royale National Park. Tours in Minnesota and Royal Island are off the northern coast of Michigan in Lake Superior. Both offer great wildlife adventures as well as kayaking, kayaking, canoeing and fishing opportunities. Voyageurs is a water park which means you have to ride a boat to the actual park, but it's a short trip. There are places to camp or stay in that will help prepare you, letting you stroll through the waterways and find those great fishing spots. Isle Royale is a long boat trip or a short trip from Blessing Blues. It contains camping in the wild only, but also has a hostel for those who just enjoy hiking a day and some rest. There are kayaks, fishing, backpacks and wildlife, with the longest research program studying wolves, moose, diving, and shipwrecks. It is truly a unique ecosystem to monitor.

The western United States has much to offer in national parks. The most famous is Yellowstone where you will see Old Faithful and lots of geothermal marvel and one of the few places in 48 less to observe grizzly bears close-up. You'll also see roaming bison very soon so be careful. It is located on the borders of Wyoming and Montana. There are many farms and hostels to stay in or you can camp in the park. There is also a major fly fishing, canoeing, and back climbing. Another peggy is the Grand Canyon National Park. This is located in the state of Arizona, again at the border of Arizona and Nevada, but also close to the southern Utah border. It is part of the Grand Staircase, a massive hierarchy of sedimentary rocks that extends south from the Bryce Canyon National Park, past the Zion National Park (Utah) and ends at the Grand Canyon. There are camping, backpacking, hiking a day, rafting in white water, and plenty of photography opportunities.

Other major parks (although they are all excellent places to visit) are in the West, Yosemite, Channel Island, Roodwood, Arches, Olympic, Grand Teton, Canyonlands, Rocky Mountain, Black Canyon of Junction, Mesa Verde, Cutter Lake, Mount Rainier, Sequoia. All these activities are widespread to suit the needs and desires of vacationers. Please see the individual garden pages for more information on each of these wonderful parks.

The Eastern United States also offers great vacation options. The Acadia National Park in Maine has an unprecedented view of the northern ocean and climbing slopes that you will not find in other parks. There is also fishing, exploring the island, hiking and pretty gardens to look at. Down the east side is Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. The Appalachian Trail stretches across the park for 101 miles, providing you with many hiking and backpacking options. There is also camping, fishing, bird watching and horse riding.

In Florida, you'll find three national parks and one reserve with the most famous Everglades. Everglades is much more then what I saw on TV. The wildlife is extraordinary and makes it easy to get some great animal and bird shots. There is also camping in the wild, (watch out for crocodiles!) Rowing, fishing, boating, hiking, rare, as well as beautiful plants. Big Cypress National Reserve is right by Everglades and they are very similar, but they also provide cypress platforms, mangrove forests and endangered species of wildlife like wild falcon and Florida tiger. Activities include fishing, biking, canoeing, hiking and hunting. Biscayne National Park is outside the eastern tip of South Florida. As the world's third longest reef channel, there are snorkeling, diving trips, sailing, swimming, fishing, boating and kayaking, making it a popular national park holiday for family vacations or spring break crowds seeking adventure outdoors. Dry Tortugas National Park is a unique park that preserves the Jefferson Fortress that was built during the Civil War and has not yet been completed, nesting bats and sea turtles. You will be able to enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, lighthouses, ship visits, hiking, beach camping, boating, scuba diving, bird watching and underwater photography of some of the best coral reef areas and marine life in southern Florida.

Once again, I'd like to emphasize that this was just an overview of some of the wonderful parks that can be seen in our national park system. I encourage you to search our website,, and read some garden pages for the areas you are interested in visiting to find the perfect place for you to enjoy a wonderful vacation full of memories and great photos. Much research has already been done for you, so enjoy diving! With national parks, your choices are truly endless.

Corey Marx