6 Really Cool Ideas for Active Family Vacations

Active Family VacationHere’s a sobering statistic: The average American child spends only four to seven minutes per day playing outside, and about seven to eight hours in front of an electronic screen (television, computer, video game, smart phone). Little wonder then that more than 12 million American children ages 2 to 17 are obese, triple the number of obese kids 30 years ago.

Scary statistics but they don’t have to describe your family. You can spend really memorable time together, exercise, get fresh air, and have lots of fun by planning an active family vacation. While a week or two won’t make up for the rest of the year, it’s a great time to create active habits that can last all year. Studies show that children who spend time outdoors are better problem solvers and creative thinkers, are less stressed and more compassionate and socially adept, and are physically stronger with healthier hearts and better eyesight than children who stay primarily indoors. Maybe that’s why they call it “the great outdoors!

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Can’t afford a ski resort, a week at a dude ranch, white water rafting down the Colorado? No worries. You can have active fun for less. Here’s how.

Find Nature
Naturefind shows you the best outdoor activities for you and your family whether you’re vacationing in your state, or traveling cross country. You’ll see links to public parks and beaches, the best hiking and biking trails, amusement parks, zoos, and other outdoor fun. Log on and type in the name or zip code of your destination.

Walk Across America
Whether you’re headed to Hartford, Connecticut or Riverside, California or anyplace in between, it’s likely that the American Heart Association has mapped out a great walking trail for you and your kids. You can download an app to your phone, or type in the city name or zip code. Choose among three difficulty levels, walks that range from one mile to more than six, and paths that wind you through a busy downtown, a nature trail, through neighborhoods, or many other locales.

Get Wild
Want to canoe through the Northern forest? Count the number of different birds you can spot in the Mississippi Delta? Horseback ride in the Red Desert? Or whale watch in Puget Sound? The National Wildlife Federation provides information on these and many other adventures in the wilds of the United States at Wild Places.

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Hike History
Hoof it through history. Log onto nonprofit organization American Trails to find out 19 history trails you can take as a family. Relive the civil rights movement by walking the Selma to Montgomery trail in Alabama. Hike the pioneer routes on the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail. Or discover natural America all over again on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

Discover a National Treasure
From the gushing geysers of Yellowstone to the majestic birds of Florida’s Everglades, there are few places that say “America” better than our country’s national parks.  Whether your family likes to hike, bike, fish, animal watch or take nature photographs, there are no better places to spend time in the outdoors with your family. For the full scoop, log onto the website of the National Park Service. Got school-aged kids? Check out the Junior Ranger programs for more ideas on great ways to be active outdoors.

Ride The Rails
You’ve always wanted to take a family biking trip, but you’re afraid of putting your kids in front of cars and trucks? Check out the 20,000-plus miles of former railroad lines turned multi-purpose paved paths that are perfect for car-free biking, roller-blading, walking or jogging, or cross-country skiing at Rails to Trails.

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Laura Flynn McCarthy is a New Hampshire-based writer who specializes in health and parenting topics.


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