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Taking the Kids: Bragging rights from Acadia National Park

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Want vacation bragging rights? You just have to get up really early at Acadia National Parkon Maine’s Mount Desert Island and get to the top of Cadillac Mountain to see the sunrise. What's the big deal? You'll be at the spot where, in this country, the sun rises first.

You can drive to the top or hike but be forewarned it is a steep climb. And in case you are wondering, Cadillac Mountain was named for Antoine de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, a French explorer, who founded a settlement near Detroit. The car was also named for him.

No worries if you can't make the sunrise. Drive up for sunset or enjoy one of the many other hikes in the park or go tide-pooling at the beach (Otter Point is a particularly good place to see sea cucumbers, sea starts and more at low tide). You can also climb a mountain or three (the Grandgent Trail connects the peaks of Parkman, Gilmore and Sargent, among 26 mountains in the parks), bike ride on the famous gravel Carriage Roads (45 miles within the park), canoe on a lake and bird-watch -- there are more than 335 species in Acadia.

"I've seen 10 different species of birds in the park. My favorite is the chickadee," said Zoey, 11, from Somesville, Maine. She's one of the many kids who offered tips for visiting kids in my “Kid’s Guide to Maine” and the just released “Kid’s Guide to Acadia National Park.”

There's even the chance for a geocaching adventure that will steer you to some of the park's most significant sites. And like at other national parks, there is the Junior Ranger program (join at a visitors' center) and plenty of ranger-led programs.

"Acadia is one of the world's most beautiful places!" offered Cecelia, 10, who lives in Bar Harbor, the gateway to Acadia and tourist-central in the summer with road trippers and cruise ships stopping here.

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"Hiking is the best here because you get to see stuff you've never seen," said Carter, 10. That's high praise from a boy who lives in Bar Harbor and hikes here all the time.

That's not a reason to skip Bar Harbor, though, not when you can go whale-watching, adopt a whale at Bar Harbor's College of the Atlantic, see lobster hatchings and tidal creatures at the Mount Desert Oceanarium, go out on a lobster boat, shop till you drop or, of course, eat lobster.

"Your life isn't complete if you don't eat a lobster here," said James, 11, from Ellsworth.

"Bar Harbor is known for having some of the best lobsters in the world caught straight from the bay," said Jacob, 12, who lives in Bar Harbor.

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