There is still plenty of summer left to enjoy. You can get kids out of the house and keep them busy by making your own backyard a fun-filled oasis for the kids. Besides the usual sprinkler, water balloon fights, and assorted water games, check out these really cool outdoor activities from Buzz Feed. There’s backyard dominoes, lawn twister, bean bag toss, giant bubbles and a do-it-yourself slip and slide.
Many of the activities use things already on hand, so there is no need to invest in new gadgets.
Happy summer fun!
Did you know that in 1984, President Ronald Regan declared July National Ice Cream Month? Sunday, July 16 happens to be National Ice Cream Day. Americans have always loved ice cream, and each part of the US has its own favorite flavor. Here are the top 5 selling flavors nationwide:
1. Mississippi – Chocolate 2. New York – Vanilla 3. Colorado – Mint Chocolate Chip
4. Iowa – Pralines and Cream 5. Texas – OREO Cookies and Cream
Does your state have a favorite flavor?
Now, all that talk of ice cream has made me hungry. I think I’m going to have a bowl of butterscotch almond. With a sprinkling of coconut. On a recent trip to the Union Square Farmer’s Market in Boston i got a taste of STRAWBERRY BASIL. Really yummy! What’s your favorite flavor?
Here’s are instructions on how to make your own ice cream WITHOUT an ice cream maker:
Why not try some ice cream on home-made waffles? Delicious!
Here’s a site that knows how to throw a great ice cream themed get-together!
This is the second of a two-part series focused on 10 of America’s lesser known national parks. The first part was posted June 26.
Outdoor activities ranging from sedate to high adrenalin can be found at America’s National Parks.
Want to go canyoneering? Zion National Park has become one of the premier places in the country to participate in this exciting activity that combines route finding, rappelling, problem solving, swimming, and hiking.
Want to meet a dog sled team? Alaska’s Denali National Park’s kennels are open year-round, hosting the only sled dogs in the country tasked with helping to protect and patrol a national park.
Looking for a “road less traveled” experience? The following five National Park are relatively undiscovered compared to the ones that attract millions of visitors annually.
North Cascades National Park, located about three hours drive from Seattle, offers serious mountaineering. Beat generation author Jack Kerouac captured his impression of the park in the 1958 novel, “The Dharma Bums,” where he wrote, “I went out in my alpine yard and there it was … hundred of miles of pure snow-covered rocks and virgin lakes and high timber.”
The park also offers accessible trails and short, scenic strolls, and steep, grueling hikes. Mammals native to the park include mountain goats and wolverines.
Annual visitors: 20,677
North Cascades National Park, Washington encompasses more than 300 mountain glaciers, 127 alpine lakes and cascading waterfalls. The Ross Lake National Recreation Area is a popular starting point for the 400 miles of trails that meander through the valleys and cut through the mountains with switchbacks and rocky terrain.
Annual visitors: 20,677
More Than Meets the Eye
Nevada’s Great Basin National Park boasts dense forests filled with 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines. Visitors who venture underground at Lehman Caves will find an ornate marble cave filled with stalactites, stalagmites and more than 300 rare shield formations The park’s Great Basin is one of the darker spots in the country at night, making it a place to marvel at the Milky Way and constellations, away from the light pollution encountered by city-dwellers.
Annual visitors: 116,123
At Great Basin National Park in Nevada, rimstone dams cover the cave floor in the Cypress Swamp.
Discovered by Fur Trappers and Gold Miners
Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park comprises 30 lakes and 900 islands that once were traversed by Native Americans, European explorers, fur trappers and gold miners who navigated the U.S.-Canada border in birch-bark canoes. Much of the park can be reached only by water. The Kettle Falls Hotel, built by a timber baron in 1910, is the only lodging within the park.
Annual visitors: 238,313
Keep an Eye Out for Gators
Congaree National Park is in South Carolina, near Charleston and Colombia. Canoeing or kayaking Cedar Creek takes visitors past some of the tallest trees in eastern North America. Along the way, they are likely to see river otters, deer, turtles, wading birds and even an occasional alligator
Annual visitors: 87,513
Before you go to any of the 59 national parks, visit nps.gov to check for any current warnings about conditions at the park, such as trail closings.
If you are planning to travel with children, the following books, suggested for 8 to 12 year olds, may be of interest:
- National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide USA Centennial Edition: The Most Amazing Sights, Scenes, and Cool Activities from Coast to Coast!
- National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas: Maps, Games, Activities, and More for Hours of Backseat Fun Paperback.
Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.
Amusement Parks are often the go-to summer destination for families. While my own taste – and constitution – are aligned with Ferris wheels and things that are high and slow, roller coasters are by far one of the most popular rides. Here are SEVEN of the most unusual ones:
- Lightening Rod at Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, TN: 73 MPH makes it the fastest wooden coaster.
- The New Revolution at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, CA: The first steel coaster to include a major inverting loop, now has a virtual reality experience.
- The Joker at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Vallejo, CA: With three inversions, this Batman themed ride includes loads of out-of-seat airtime.
- Valravn at Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH: One of 18 coasters at the park, this one is the tallest and fastest DIVE coaster. Loads of inversions and loops, so ride it BEFORE you eat lunch.
- The Joker at Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ: With independently spinning seats on the outside of the track, this coaster is like a Ferris wheel gone crazy.
- Mako at Seaworld, Orlando, FL: This hypercoaster is visible on the Orlando skyline and ties the record for Florida’s tallest coaster, as well as its fastest at 73 MPH.
- Cobra’s Curse at Busch Gardens, Tampa, FL: No inversions and a top speed of only 40 MPH, this might be perfect for everyone…including those afraid of the faster coasters. Plus, you get to see live snakes and other animal exhibits while you wait to ride.
May all your coaster rides be thrilling! Which roller coaster is YOUR FAVORITE?
More Americans than ever plan to vacation with their families this summer, according to a recent AAA survey. Many of them are going to America’s national parks. The Great Smoky Mountains expect about 10 million visitors this year, compared to five million each at the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.
Looking for a “road less traveled” experience? Five low profile national parks, based on the number of annual visitors, are listed below.
Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve was created to preserve and protect 8.4 million acres of the diverse Arctic ecosystems of Alaska’s Brooks Range. It serves as the headwaters for six wilderness rivers. There are no facilities, roads or trails. Visitors should come equipped to backpack, hike, camp and cruise the rivers. Transportation in and out of the park, usually by plane, must be pre-arranged.
Annual visitors: 10,047
Sunken Ships: Isle Royale National Park is a remote island in Lake Superior near Michigan’s border with Canada. Cars aren’t allowed in this wilderness of forests, lakes and waterways where moose and wolves roam. There are dive sites where visitors plunge into the lake to explore several shipwrecks. Ferry is the only way to get there and camping reservations are required for visitors who want to spend the night.
Annual visitors: 18,684
Water, Water Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Drink: Dry Tortugas National Park is a cluster of seven islands 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. The “Dry” in its name came from the Spanish explorers who determined the sea water surrounding the islands was not fit to drink. “Tortugas” is the Spanish word for the sea turtles that build their nests in the protected sandy shores. The waters around the islands particularly appeal to snorkelers because their coral reefs teem with interesting marine life.
Annual visitors: 70,862
South of the Equator: National Park of American Samoa, Territory of American Samoa, is 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii. It is America’s only national park south of the equator. Rain forests and extensive coral reefs are its main draw. Visitors should pack snorkel or diving gear; air tanks can be rented. The only land mammals are three types of bats, among them the fruit bats with three-foot wingspans.
Annual visitors: 13,892
Newest National Park: Pinnacles National Park in California was designated the 59th national park in 2013. It dates back millions of years ago, when multiple volcanoes erupted, flowed, and slid to form the land encompassed by this 26,000-acre park. Rock climbers and hikers are drawn to it. Another attraction are the condors. About 30 of them are tagged, but fly freely.
Annual Visitors: 206,533
A sequel to this blog post, scheduled for July 10, will acquaint readers with five more of the less-traveled parks around the country. The U.S. National Parks Service provides extensive information about the 59 parks it operates including trip planning information. https:www.nps.gov
As much as we adults lament the “peskiness” of insects, they are endlessly fascinating creatures and worthy of respect. Without insects, our food supply would be in grave danger. These mysterious creatures are fascinating to children as well.
If you and your children want to learn more about insects, check out some of these INSECT MUSEUMS dedicated to bug fans everywhere. You can make it a stop on your summer vacation.
- Oregon Zoo, Portland: Has an African millipede that’s 9 inches long (HUGE for an insect). http://www.oregonzoo.org
- Los Angeles National History Museum: Insect hynts, puppet walks and cooking demonstrations with bug chefs. Try BUGABOO BROWNIES made from mealworm flour. http://www.nhm.org
- Pacific Science Center, Seattle, Insect Village: Mechanical Insect displays and walking stick bugs among the highlights. http://www.pacificsciencecenter.org
- Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Zoology Dept: Largest collection of Praying Mantises and Dung Beetles. http://www.cmnh.org
- Butterfly House and Insectarium,Texas Discovery Garden, Dallas: Huge variety of tropical and near-tropical butterflies. http://www.texasdiscoverygardens.org
- Fossil Beds National Monumnet, CO: Largest collection of insect fossils in the world. http://www.nps.gov/flfo
- Museum of Life and Science, Durham, NC: Though not an insect, Orb-weaving spiders are the main attraction. http://www.lifeandscience.org
- Insectropis, Toms River, NJ: Interactive exhibits and a place to donate living bugs you don’t want to keep at home. http://www.insectropolis.com
9. Butterfly Wonderland, Scottsdale, AZ: The largest butterfly pavilion in the US. http://www.butterflywonderland.com
10. Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion, Philadelphia, PA: Touch, eat, and learn about our multi-legged friends.
Why not “scratch your itch” and learn more about insects.