Spending time outdoors with the kids gives us the chance to have fun as a family and to be active together. So when we travel, we tend to gravitate toward days spent in the sun, water or forest. We pondered and pored through our recent travels as a family and found our favorite outdoor activities with our kids.
5 Great Outdoor Activities to Do with Your Kids Around the US
From the quiet Quileute River in La Push, Washington, where the Twilight Saga was filmed, to the Intracoastal Waterway of Florida, kayaking with kids is a great idea. Kayaking is the most fun in gorgeous weather, but on a calm, overcast day, you may find a trip out on the water with young kids is easier, particularly when you’re not battling the sun.
Our favorite spots for kayaking with kids around the U.S. include:
Florida State Parks and Reserves – North Florida particularly is perfect year-round, and offers the chance to spot dolphins, manatees and alligators. Tomoka State Park and the GTM Research Reserve (both near Daytona) are two nearly untouched kayaking paradises perfect with kids.
Wisconsin – The city of Madison, Wisconsin, is surrounded by colorful lakes that are home to turtles and frogs. Milwaukee also offers kayaking through downtown via the Milwaukee River.
Central Coast of California – North of Santa Barbara you’ll find countless kayaking opportunities. Morro Bay is perfect for spotting wildlife and picnicking on the sand dunes any time of year. Or check out San Simeon State Park to explore the coves and watch for sea otters.
Washington – The desert lakes of eastern Washington are ideal for morning kayak adventures with kids. Western Washington has ample spring and summer kayaking destinations around the Puget Sound (Seattle) area.
Hiking through Nature
Exploring the scenic route takes us to some remote places, and when we’re traveling the west coast, we are never short on hiking options. Because it requires very little equipment, hiking can be one of the easiest outdoor activities to do with young kids, whether we explore trails out of neighborhoods or through national parks. To ensure hiking is a hit, we look for trails that have interesting pathways or big-ticket sights at the end.
Columbia River Gorge of Oregon – Known for Multnomah Falls, the waterfall area of the gorge is perfect for easy hiking with kids, and the scenic route out of Portland to get there is unforgettably beautiful.
California’s Redwood Coast – Is there anything more epic and magical than the giant forests of Redwoods along the northern California coast? Kids love the mellow trails and looking for gnomes deep in the forest.
Taking part in local festivities is a fantastic way to get a feel for the community you’re traveling through. The U.S. is peppered with wonderful small towns ready to welcome visitors. One of our favorite family travel experiences was getting to be a part of the Fourth of July Monona Community Festival outside of Madison, Wisconsin, featuring the best community fireworks display we’ve ever seen, hands down. Oh, and don’t forget the wide range of Oktoberfests that happen all across the States: polka music at its finest!
Some of our favorite community festivals we’ve done recently around the U.S.:
Chief Seattle Days – Suquamish, Washington, is the burial place of Chief Seattle, for whom our great city is named. With a Pow Wow, canoe races, a parade and a salmon bake, it’s an ideal day trip out of Seattle in August.
Aurora Arts Festival – Celebrating the many cultures that make up the Denver area, this festival – which always takes place at the end of June - is a great opportunity to check out a variety of foods, dancing and everything that makes Colorado unique.
Anacortes Waterfront Festival – We try to attend this every year on the first weekend in June. Located in the Northern Puget Sound area, the Waterfront Festival provides chances for boat building, sailing, car shows and, of course, salmon.
River Rafting and Floating
We know that river rafting isn’t a year-round activity, or something that every family would consider, but spring through fall, there are some breathtaking waterways to explore. Rafting is actually an ideal outdoor activity with young kids because many rivers actually have long, mellow stretches perfect for short float trips. This is what we enjoy most with the kids.
Our family’s absolute favorite rafting adventure was on the Flathead River out of West Glacier Montana. There are many similar rivers to raft, so if you’re seeking a different family float trip, be sure to confirm the water level and size of rapids before bringing kids along.
Every Opportunity to Swim
Since we’re from the Pacific Northwest, we’re not afraid to jump in the water, even on a cloudy day. This means that nearly everywhere we go, we’re going to take advantage of swimming opportunities. From mountain lakes to sugar-sand beaches, we find time with the kids to swim and enjoy the water.
Chances to splash can be found nearly everywhere. Here are some of our favorite spots:
Freshwater Springs of Florida – With more than 700 springs, Florida state and county parks provide consistently warm freshwater springs for swimming in or exploring, which makes them great to enjoy with kids year-round. Our favorites include Blue Spring, Rainbow Springs and Wekiva Springs.
Tropical Beaches – From the Florida coasts, Hawaiian coasts, or even southern California coasts, there are bountiful beaches all around the U.S. with public access and little-to-no stress. Fort Myers Beach, Florida, has been one of our favorite kid-friendly escapes. San Onofre State Beach is an ideal spot for sunshine and watching some great surfing out on the waves.
Northern Beaches and Lakes – The Pacific Northwest and the Northeast have beautiful beaches and mountain lakes, but it’s best to visit for swimming July through September. Kids love them, though, and so do parents! The warmest and prettiest lake we have sought out several times is Lake Cushman, about two hours from Seattle. And for the East Coast adventurers, the shores of Lake Ontario in upstate New York provide sandy beaches and ample public access.
Wherever your travels take you, there are plenty of opportunities for fun and adventurous outdoor activities with young kids. There’s so much to explore, so go drive happy.