Keeping the kids busy during the "outside months" as I call them, I'm sure, can be challenging. Especially if you're on a budget.
As it turns out, there are programs that encourage families to visit national parks by offering passes for free. Specifically, I'm talking about Every Kid Outdoors. Every Kid Outdoors focuses on 4th graders and their families. Aside from natural sites, they also offer free passes for historical sites, too.
How It Works
If you're a parent, simply go to Every Kid Outdoors' official website. You can either acquire the pass yourself or, if you want to have your 4th grader be a part of the process, there's a very quick "diary" they can fill out.
Basically, it goes through 3 prompts to spark the imagination. Like,
Dear Diary, today I decided to (option 1) time travel! It was so cool to see (option 3) dinosaur tracks. I can't wait to discover more historic places with my pass!
And then, you simply print your pass.
Per pass, it allows all children under 16 to enter for free (if the place you're visiting charges an entrance fee) and up to three adults. The pass does not cover things like parking fees, camping, and boats. As well, if the place you're visiting is privately operated, they may not accept the pass. It's always good to double-check ahead of time.
For educators, they offer passes along with activity guides and interactive lesson plans. See more here.
Where Can I Use This Pass in Michigan?
You can search all sites that accept these passes on Every Kid Outdoors' website. Focusing on parks, for example, there are 6 in the state of Michigan that are said to accept these passes:
1. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Located in Munising, Pictured Rocks is an often recommended spot for people to visit. In total, passes to this park are around $10 with annual passes being offered for $20. However, they do accept the Every Kid Outdoors pass for entry. Read more here.
2. River Raisin National Battlefield Park
This park serves as a reminder of the January 1813 battles of the War of 1812 that occurred in SE Michigan. The battle's victory resulted in the rallying cry of "Remember the Raisin" which apparently sparked support for the war. Read more here.
3. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Another park on the list of "must visit" in Michigan is Sleeping Bear Dunes. This park boasts clear inland lakes, forested areas, and bluffs that reach heights of 450 feet. Find more information here.
4. Keweenaw National Historic Park
Known for their copper mines, Keweenaw has a rich history that has left marks that are visible to this day. They offer over 21 diverse sites that show off the cultural heritage and what's left of the copper mines. Read more here.
5. North Country National Scenic Trail
This trail is the longest in the National Trail System. It stretches over 4,800 miles across eight states including Michigan. Read more about the North Country National Scenic Trail in Michigan here.
6. Isle Royale National Park
Located on an island in Lake Superior, Isla Royale National Park offers scenery far from civilization. However, please note that the park is closed annually from 11/1 through 4/15 for many reasons but, from a purely non-scientific or official point of view the reason is probably because IT'S COLD.
Additionally, there are several days throughout the year where national parks welcome visitors for free regardless of age. You can see the full list of dates here.