You’ve been cooped up all winter long with those crazy monkeys you call your children. But the weather is finally warming up and you’re ready to push – I mean accompany – those kids outside for a breath of fresh spring air. Sure, you could plan an elaborate camping trip to a far away mountain or a national park, but let’s be honest–will the adventure really be worth the journey? Your trekking tribe might only hike for a quarter mile before complaining of exhaustion and begging to break into their lunch packs.
The truth is, getting closer to nature doesn’t have to mean going far away from home. You can find plenty of places to explore the great outdoors in your own hometown. Skip the long drive (and the “Are we there yet?” whines) and get our there more quickly and conveniently.
These 5 tips will help you find the best local resources for all-natural fun.
And no matter what you choose, don’t forget to pack snacks and water ahead of time. Land O’Frost Deli Snackers are a delicious grab-and-go option.
Explore Your Neighborhood Parks
You may be thinking that all your neighborhood park has to offer is a collection of slides and swings, more crazy children who aren’t your own and endless fights over the seesaw. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Many local parks have miles of gorgeous tree-lined paved paths or adventurous dirt trails to encourage environmental exploration. Some may have access to creeks, rivers or lakes, expanding the possibilities for adventure.
Check Out a State Park
Likely more accessible than a national park but not quite as close as your go-to neighborhood one, state parks offer the best of both worlds.
Drop in for a day for a short hike or dip in a lake or, if you’re really brave, pack up your troops for a weekend of camping. Rough it by pitching a tent on one of their tent plots, or go “glamping” in a fully stocked cabin. Most state parks also offer nifty rentals like canoes, bikes and fishing gear.
The Big Wide…Backyard
Even if your kids play in their own yard every single day, you might find ways to deepen their connection to nature there. Set off your backyard exploring by hunting for special plants or insects. Who can find the most unique species? Grab a spare notebook to make a cool nature journal to keep track of your backyard wildlife.
You can also take the time to cloud watch or set up a new birdhouse. If you’re feeling ultra-adventurous, a backyard campout can be a lively experience your little explorers will never forget.
Cruise the Countryside
Small local farms are often open to visitors of all ages. Your kiddos will get a kick out of the up close and personal look at the animals. Big kids will have a totally awesome and secretly educational experience having their questions answered by a real farmer.
Do a quick Internet search for a working farm nearby that gives guided tours or has an Open House for the public to get a closer look at the magic behind the food we eat. Or reach out to a local mom’s group for suggestions–one of the members may even be a farmer herself!
Stop and Smell the Roses
Many cities have one or more botanical or walking garden or arboretums that are open to the public. Some of these tree-filled treasures are completely free to visit! You can pick up a handy guide pamphlet on the way in to learn more about the species and care of the plants. Or let your kids run wild and free and explore as they wish. And remember to pack a picnic lunch for a complete mom-win day.