America is a vast, expansive and beautiful country that kids need to know so they can learn to love nature. Due to its size and varying climates, the United States is home to virtually all imaginable ecosystems: wetlands, swamps, deserts, plains, mountainous regions, forests — and even rainforests.
If you’ve decided that it’s time to introduce your kids to nature and all the impressive animals that call it home, consider taking a trip to one of these wildlife nature center locations, perhaps as early as this summer. Remember, it is never too early to do what you can to make sure your kids understand and grow to respect nature when they’re youngsters.
Choose your destinations with care, so that you can minimize your travel impact. Start with parks close to home, then think big with your kids about what they want to see next.
Yellowstone National Park
Located primarily in Wyoming – but also dipping into bits of Idaho and Montana, Yellowstone National Park is one of the more popular parks in the country, attracting upwards of 3 million visitors each year. The 3,500-square-mile park is home to many bison, bears, wolves, moose, lynx, and more. Don’t forget: You’ll also be able to teach your kids what a geyser is! There is even a Young Scientists program that children can take part in. For just $5 they get an activity book that will teach them about the park as well as a certification to be a “Young Scientist” at the park.
You can simply choose to visit the region, or you could choose to visit Everglades National Park, a 1.5-million-acre sanctuary located on the southern tip of Florida. The park, designated in 1934, is home to more than 300 species of fish and 350 species of birds, not to mention crocodiles, manatees, and panthers.
Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center
There are other places besides national parks where you can teach your children about nature. Case in point? The Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center. Located in Pennsylvania, the center takes in more than 1,000 rescue animals each year. With tons of furry and scaly friends as well as a comprehensive education program, this place and others like it, are perfect places to educate your kids.
In northern Maine, there’s an area that’s so populated with moose that they’ve given it the appropriate nickname of Moose Alley. If you’re not trying to bring the little ones into the backcountry just yet, you might want to do some moose watching along Route 16 or Route 201 in Maine. Keep in mind that you’re much more likely to see moose grazing alongside the highway in the warmer months.
Denali National Park
Alaska is the last frontier, as they say. It’s home to eight national parks, and if you want to see wildlife, you’ll probably luck out going to any of them. Denali National Park, however, is particularly known for its wildlife. Should you and your family decide to visit there, chances are you’ll see grizzly bears, black bears, caribou, moose, marmots, beavers, and more. If you keep your eyes peeled, you might even see a wolverine (no, not the Hugh Jackman variety).
Rocky Mountain National Park
This national park is located in the front range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Spanning 265,873 acres, and containing 150 lakes, Rocky Mountain National Park is home to many forms of wildlife and adventures that you can participate in. There is a variety of wildlife that can be observed from a distance, as well as some up-close. Take a fishing trip, or a simple camping trip to experience this park. You can also go horseback riding around the park trails as there are two stables on the land that offer horseback riding each day. Among the mountains, forests. and bodies of water there are plenty of hiking trails to take the kids on as well.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt was undoubtedly one of the most influential people in the fight to protect and preserve nature by creating national forests. It’s no wonder Theodore Roosevelt National Park, located in North Dakota, made it on this list. Bison, elk, and prairie dogs are just some of the many animals that can be seen living happily in the park. Watching them from a distance is exciting for all ages. You can take a canoeing trip on The Little Missouri River that flows throughout the land, watch the many horses, or drive along the 36 mile park road to take in the national parks beauty.
As you can see, these five locales are spread across the entire country. Remember, by no means is the above an all-inclusive list.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter precisely which locations you choose to visit — all that matters is you strive to make sure your kids understand the importance of nature and wildlife.
Feature image courtesy of Julie Falk
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 29, 2015.