6 Free Days at National Parks in 2024 + 3 Tips On Visiting With Kids

Fee-Free Entrance Dates in 2024: Coming Soon - First Day of National Park Week on June 19

By Macaroni KID Conejo Valley - Malibu - Calabasas April 28, 2024

Did you know our National Parks are offering six "fee-free entrance days" this year? Each of our national parks is a national treasure, and can be a great experience for families and kids of all ages. National parks offer a unique way to connect with nature and learn about our country. There are 63 national parks and more than 400 total locations under the National Park Service umbrella.

Wondering when is an excellent time to plan a trip to one of these parks? - A fee-free day of course! In past years there have been five fee-free days, but this year the National Park Service has added Juneteenth, which means there are six free-days in 2024. On these fee-free days, around 100 national parks and park sites that usually charge entrance fees waive them. These fees usually range from $5 to $35.

The next upcoming fee-free day is the First Day of National Park Week - June 19, 2024

The Digital Artist | Canva
Bryce Canyon National Park

 The 2024 fee-free days at national parks are:

Plan ahead and take advantage of these fee-free days.

  • January 15: Martin Luther King Jr. Day  
  • April 20:  First Day of  National Park Week  
  • June 19:  Juneteenth
  • August 4:  Great American Outdoors Day  
  • September 28:  National Public Lands Day  
  • November 11:  Veterans Day 

The fee waiver for the fee-free days applies only to National Park Service entrance fees and does not cover amenity or user fees for camping, boat launches, transportation, special tours, or other activities.

Josh Tons via Canva

My family and I love exploring national parks each summer. We pick a state and then visit as many of them as possible. These amazing parks are truly our nation's treasure and can be enjoyed by families of all ages. I can think of no better way to be out in nature and learn about our country at the same time.

~ Jenny Steadman

3 Practical tips for visiting national parks with kids

As a frequent visitor to national parks throughout the country, here are my top three tips for visiting with kids.

1. Plan ahead

  • Check the weather. Many national parks take you way above or below! sea level. This makes for drastic weather changes. Make sure you know what the typical weather is when you are going and check the updated forecast. Understanding the weather during your visit can help you pack appropriately. You can find weather updates on the National Park Service website
  • Take a look at the National Park System website to explore general information, maps, and details on facilities like restrooms and parking. Starting your day at a visitor center can be helpful; many have informative exhibits and movies that can enhance your park experience. My elementary-aged kids enjoy the landscape more when they understand the history behind it. 
  • Be sure to find out dates at times when the visitor center opens

Zoe Murphy, Yellowstone National Park | Macaroni KID

2. Gather information on-site before heading out

  • Talk to a ranger, every visitor center has a ranger on staff to answer any questions you may have as well as maps and informational papers and they can point you in the direction of the best hikes and views for your family's needs.
  • Always pick up a paper map. Do "not" depend on GPS navigation or cell service to guide you through a park, the may be unreliable in most areas. 
  • Ask for a Junior Ranger packet. Every national park has a Junior Ranger program. It offers booklets with fun activities for kids and can keep them engaged and learning during the visit. Kids can turn in completed booklets to become official Junior Rangers, a fun way for kids to feel especially connected to a park!

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3. Take a hike!

Exploring a national park on foot is a great way to experience it fully. Most parks offer various trails, from short walks to day-long hikes. Trails are usually rated by difficulty, so you can choose one suitable for your family. As your kids grow, you can tackle longer hikes. As our kids have gotten older, we’ve been able to add in two or three mile hikes, on top of the many half-mile loops they loved as youngsters. 

Here's what we bring for a day in the park:

  • Water: Stay hydrated - no matter the season! Make sure you have plenty of water - there are often refill stations throughout a park, but make a note of where they are on your map, especially in the hotter months. We are big fans of hydration packs you can wear on your back.
  • Snacks and a meal: If you're going to be moving, you're going to get hungry! Many parks offer picnic areas with tables, restrooms, trash receptacles, and food storage from animals. You never know what perfect spot you'll find to picnic. 
  • Garbage bag: Whatever you take into the park, plan to take out with you. While some parks have waste receptacles for garbage, they aren’t all over the place. We often take a small bag with us for trash, just in case. Remember, national parks need to protect the landscape and wildlife, be prepared to leave "nothing" behind.
  • Layers: Whether you are in the mountains, the desert, the forest, or the Midwest, national parks can have drastically different temperatures throughout the day - be prepared.
  • Sun protection: You can still get sunburned in the winter and even on a snow-covered mountain. Protective clothing, sun shirts, sunglasses, and hats work best to help protect your skin and eyes - consider bringing sunscreen too. 
  • Good shoes: Even level hiking paths can have uneven rocks and fallen trees. Make sure you have sturdy shoes with good support for walking - if you have hiking boot even better!
  • Bug spray: Be prepared - you' never know when you'll need it! 
  • Full Tank of Gas or Full Charge: If you’re planning on spending all day in a larger, more remote park, make sure you have a full tank of gas or if you have an electric vehicle make sure it's fully charged. You do not want to get stranded in the middle of a park. Depending on where you are, there may be no cell service either. 

Visiting national parks is a fantastic way to appreciate our nation's natural wonders. With a little planning, and by taking your kids' abilities and interests into account, you can make a trip to a national park a vacation your kids will always remember.

Take advantage of a fee-free day at a national park in 2024 and make some family memories!

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Everglades National Park

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