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Taking the Kids: Visiting Acadia National Park in Maine

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Got early birds in your gang? Even if you don't, bragging rights should get them out of bed one morning in Northern Maine to see the sunrise in Acadia National Park, the eastern most point in the United States, from Cadillac Mountain, the highest point within 25 miles of the Atlantic coast. Many people like to hike or bike up to the top, especially to see the sunrise. The hike is 3.5 miles, but the mountain is just 1,529 feet high -- a lot lower than the Rockies!

At night, you've got to check out the stars. Three towns -- Bar Harbor, Tremont and Mount Desert -- near the park have passed lighting ordinances to make sure you can best see the amazing night skies, and every year in September there is an Acadia Night Sky Festival.

Welcome to the only national park in the northeastern United States. Last year, when the park celebrated its centennial, it had its busiest year in 27 years, with a record 3.3 million visitors, according to published reports. Typically, the park gets a little more than 2 million visitors a year, most in summer.

Whether you are seeking an end of summer getaway, have kids not yet in school or want to relax after packing up your last child for college, consider Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, the picturesque town just outside the park. (No mosquitos in fall, less humidity and lesser crowds! For snow lovers, Acadia can also be a good bet for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.)

I've spent a lot of time this summer working on my next Kid's Guide -- this one to Maine -- and I'm looking forward to a return trip to Acadia.

When you first arrive at the park, stop in at the park headquarters, or one of the visitor centers to see what ranger-led activities are being offered. (If you have kids with you, pick up the junior ranger booklets that help them better see the park through age-appropriate activities and challenges. There are also a lot of online and app options to enhance your visit:

 

-- The National Park Service website for kids called WebRangers offers games and activities and the chance to share pictures, earn rewards and more.

-- Acadia Quest is a series of outdoor experiences through which families or friends create a team and complete activities in categories of explore, learn, and protect.

-- The free app Audubon guide to birds. There are more than 300 bird species in and around Acadia National Park. Have a contest to see who in the family can identify the most birds!

-- Use your GPS to participate in the EarthCache program that will take you all over the park to discover some of the park's significant geological resources.

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