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National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide U.S.A.: The Most Amazing Sights, Scenes, And Cool Activities From Coast To Coast!

Author : National Geographic Kids
Published : 2012-03-13

You have your own well-thumbed guide to the national parks (hopefully America's National Parks For Dummies or National Parks With Kids), but what about something for your kids to read as you travel across the National Park System?

National Geographic attempts to cover that base with its Kids National Parks Guide USA: The Most Amazing Sights, Scenes, And Cool Activities From Coast To Coast. Unfortunately, while this softcover book is a good start to entertain and inform youngsters ages 7 and older, it offers some curious items and worriesome omissions.

For instance, why put a picture of the presidents from Mount Rushmore National Memorial on the cover, and yet mention the site only in passing?

And why plug the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is a privately run operation outside the National Park System? Or mention commercially run waterslides or railroads or gold panning 30 miles from the nearest park or miniature golf courses?

Are there not enough interesting sites and activities within the parks to keep kids interested and thrilled?

Personally, I would have added a chapter on Mammoth Cave National Park, where youngsters can get dirty (something they seem to like to do) while learning a bit about caving on Trog tours, rather than the one on Hot Springs National Park that directs kids to a theme park. Instead of pitching paragliding at Grand Teton National Park, why not mention the climbing schools that can lead kids to the top of the Grand itself? And why cite climbing "the famous nose of El Capitan" in Yosemite National Park, something 99.9 percent of parents almost certainly will not let their 7-year-olds attempt, but not mention hiking to the top of Half Dome, something much more realistic for a youngster to accomplish?

This book does offer youngsters an overview of a handful of parks, and tosses in bite-sized blurbs touching on wildlife to be seen, safety tips, checklists of activities to consider, hikes suitable for kids, and some interpretive programs worth exploring.

But the author's frequent mentions of out-of-park, commercial activities is disappointing in light of all the fascinating and fun activities that can be had inside the parks.

For instance, replace the water parks beyond park boundaries with tubing, canoeing, or kayaking within parks (to be fair, she does mention a few river trips in some parks). Dump the miniature golf courses and replace them with wildlife bingo. Interested in a waterslide for your kids? Take them down the wave trains that roil through Cataract Canyon in Canyonlands National Park.

Toss the visit to the wildlife game farms outside of parks and instead focus on where you can see truly wild animals inside the parks. Instead of pointing kids (and their parents) to the history on display at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center (a great facility, by the way) to the east of Yellowstone National Park in Cody, Wyoming, why not mention the Museum of the National Park Ranger inside the park at Norris and perhaps plant the seed for a future career?

Kids and national parks go hand-in-hand. And there's certainly enough within a park's boundaries to entice, entertain, and educate youngsters without having to misdirect them away from the parks.


Are you saying not to bother buying NG Kids for the NP's?? I do not want to think theme parks when taking the grandkids to Yellowstone or other NP's...... or does it have some redeeming qualities?

Why plug Crazy Horse?

because it is a far more impressive effort/accomplishment done with private money and effort rather than the public dole.

Cici, I was disappointed with this book in light of National Geographic's typical productions. Frankly, my book, National Parks With Kids (which might be out of print), was much more detailed in the parks and how to enjoy them with kids.

EC, I'll go halfway with you. Crazy Horse has great potential, a great story behind it, but likely will never be completed. It's been 65 years since Korczak Ziolkowsk started it, and since his death things seem to have slowed down.

And some might view it as a money trap. Currently it costs $10 per person (above 6 years old) or $27 per carload to get into the museums (which are pretty interesting), and then another $4 per person to take a bus ride to the bottom of the mountain where the memorial is/was being carved out. Getting to the top costs even more.

In short, it's a bold concept that seems to have stalled.

But beyond that, there's enough inside the National Park System to write an entire kids book on. And if you're writing a kids book on national parks, I think the content should be about national parks, not outside commercial interests.


Rushmore was one of the most disappointing Park experiences I ever had. The Park was free but the parking was almost as much as the admission to Crazy Horse. Once in, the supporting facilities (museum) was paultry compared to the massive offerings of indian art and artifacts at Crazy Horse. Of all the folks I know that have visited both, the hands down winner was CH.

the Rushmore stonework was impressive, but what a single family has done so far at CH without a federal dollar was far more impressive whether it ever gets completed or not.

As to inclusion in the book, I believe most any guide book includes nearby points of interest so I dont see anything inappropriate at all.

EC, you won't get any argument from me on Rushmore.

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