Pick Your Park
Have fun choosing your campground; each one delivers a unique experience.
This is where to head for mega-size adventure (nps.gov has links to all 392 National Parks). You'll find jaw-on-the-floor natural wonders, whether it's glaciers in Montana, geysers at Yellowstone, or dinosaur fossils in Texas. And newbies to the camping scene shouldn't worry; if you think you'll need help, just call about the park's specific family offerings. Shenandoah National Park, in Luray, Virginia, for example, has family-oriented seminars conducted by rangers. And be sure to stop by the visitor center and sign kids up for the Junior Ranger program available at many parks (ages 3 and up). They'll be psyched to sport the badges they earn for learning about wildlife, plants, geology, and history through workbooks and instructor-led activities.
State Parks and Public Campgrounds
If visiting a National Park is too much of a trek, there are areas all around the country that rival the big guys in scenery and offerings. Your family can take a wagon ride at Nebraska's Fort Robinson State Park, in Crawford, or view loggerhead turtles on a ranger-led walk at Sebastian Inlet State Park, in Melbourne Beach, Florida. State Parks tend to be less crowded, and they may have more amenities. Plus, you'll often have access to lakes with beaches and lifeguards, as well as hiking trails and wide grassy areas for games and sports. Go to stateparks.com to find one in your area.
Consider yourself more of a five-star than an under-the-stars sort of family? Then you'll appreciate the conveniences that private grounds offer, such as a general store, kiddie pools, and fully equipped lodges in lieu of tents. Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, where Chip 'n Dale make nightly appearances at the campfire for sing-alongs, is sure to top your tot's wish list. And guests at KOA campgrounds can enjoy petting zoos, outdoor movies, ice-cream socials, and even spas (for Mom!). With private sites scattered all around the country, there's probably one closer to home than you think. Check out gocampingamerica.com for listings.