Tag Archives: family fun

Halloween Haunts

What’s this! Your cheeks sense chill air, crisply scented with leafy decay as a slow creeping sensation causes the hairs on the back of your neck to rise… it’s Halloween!! State parks are the best year-round, but are also the SP🎃🎃KIEST way to get a taste of nature as the days shorten. We thought we’d list prime, kooky ways to get your heart rate up!

Trains and Treats in California

There’s festive fun aplenty to get your autumn on track at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Park goers should prepare themselves for a freight–er.. fright! on the Spookomotive Ride, leaving the station hourly this Saturday and Sunday, the 29th and 30th, from noon to 4 p.m. The 45-minute, 6-mile (round-trip) train ride is $15 for adults, $8 for young people aged 2-17, and free for children two years old and younger. A mad scientist will be on board to startle and delight passengers, as well as to field questions regarding how to reanimate sewn-together people, or use lightning as a renewable energy source for your own secret laboratories!

The theme for the weekend is Witches & Wizards, but if you’ve been waiting for the perfect moment to reveal your zombie train conductor costume with all its bells and whistles (overalls are back in a big way this fall, after all), the CSRM would probably be it. There’s trick-or-treating at the museum on Saturday, Oct. 29th, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with plenty of sweets and knowledge to be had for magic folk and ghost engineers alike.

Chugging right along…

[Image: hiddensandiego.net]

Once called Día de los Muertos, Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, is a pre-Columbian tradition which has its roots in central and southern Mexico. Today, the macabre-yet-bright skeletal imagery and the spirit of venerating deceased loved ones marks a holiday celebrated across cultures here in the United States. [Image: hiddensandiego.net]

If you can’t make the Halloween events at the CSRM and find yourself in southern California, you can check out the Día de los Muertos celebrations at Old Town San Diego SHP. On November 1st and 2nd, there will be historical and modern altars set up around the park to commemorate the inhabitants of Old Town. Visitors can take an altar tour to learn about this tradition, and themselves contribute to the “Tributes & Sentiments” chalk graveyard to remember their own loved ones.

Wicked Woods in New York

A halloween hallow?

Serene or sinister? The more you know, the more your answer will crystalize. [Image: www.pinterest.com]

In keeping with the haunted themes of the season, Green Lakes State Park in Central New York is welcoming one and all to their event, Wicked Woods. On October 29th, from 4 to 8 p.m., admission to the park is free. There will be beachside mini-golf and costumed trick-or-treating, a haunted trail, crafts, a photo booth, and a large bonfire to cap it all off. You can learn more about the event here. As an added bonus, you can work some feel good magic into your eerie festivities by bringing along a non-perishable food item to donate to the local food bank.

Owl-O-Ween in Tennessee

Owls have long been as much a part of Halloween imagery as pumpkins, ghosts or witches. It’s possible this is because of their domination of the nocturnal world, which they survey with their piercing eyes and well-informed demeanor. If you’ve ever taken a break from personifying these mighty nighttime hunters and wondered about the distant hollow hoots one occasionally hears on dusky hikes, Owl-O-Ween at Long Hunter State Park in Hermitage, Tennessee is just the ticket. For $3 per individual, or $5 per family, hikers can explore nature after sundown, while learning about the Barred Owl and its unique night-song from a knowledgeable ranger! October 29th, 7:30-8:30 p.m., guests are encouraged to make a reservation by calling 615-885-2422 or visiting the Long Hunter State Park website, here.

 

Uh oh...

This would look a whole lot more terrifying if you were a field mouse… [Image: www.birdwatchingdaily.com]

Whether you’re looking to take on Halloween fully costumed, or simply enjoy the smells of autumn, there is an inexpensive or free way to satisfy your Halloween cravings at a state park near you. There’s no time like the present to download a Pocket Ranger® mobile app and explore what’s going on!

Every Kid in a Park

Two fourth graders show off their park passes, good for a year and any National Park, monument, forest, or wildlife area in the United States. [Image: www.doi.gov]

Two fourth graders show off their park passes, which are good for a year at any national park, monument, forest, or wildlife area in the United States. [Image: www.doi.gov/]

Last year, President Obama signed an initiative called Every Kid in a Park. The initiative, which took effect in the fall, makes it possible for any fourth grader in the U.S. to receive and use an annual pass from the National Park Service at any of the NPS parks, monuments, waterways, forests, or wildlife refuges. And while the initiative conveniently coincides with the National Park Service’s centennial year, the initiative looks past 2016 as it seeks to help young people develop an understanding of and respect for nature and everything our parks grant us. Its goal is to help preserve the parks’ integrity through future generations.

Some junior-rangers-in-training learn the ropes from a park ranger in Florida. [Image: floridastateparks.org]

Some Junior Rangers-in-training learn the ropes from a park ranger in Florida. [Image: floridastateparks.org/]

Even though the Every Kid in a Park initiative is for fourth graders and their families, there are many ways that kids of all ages can get involved at their nearest state and national parks. Perhaps the coolest among the numerous options (volunteering, anyone?) are the various Junior Ranger programs at state and national parks for kids as young as five and up. The Junior Ranger programs center on instilling general ranger qualities, like knowledge of the natural and human history preserved in our parks or how to experience nature without impacting the animals and plants that live there all the time. There are also more specific Junior Ranger programs that are dependent on the regional history of the parks they focus on. A kid can learn how to be a Junior Archaeologist in the Southeast, a Wilderness Explorer anywhere there’s a national wilderness to explore, or a Night Explorer pretty much anywhere it gets dark enough to see the stars.

you might not get a hat out of your Junior Ranger study, but a park ranger just might tip theirs at you. [Image: www.nps.gov]

You might not get a hat out of your Junior Ranger study, but a park ranger just might tip theirs at you in that slow knowing way. [Image: www.nps.gov/]

According to the NPS, more than 800,000 children have completed their workbooks and become Junior Rangers in just the last year, and every day more kids become familiar with the “Explore, Learn, and Protect!” motto. With these teachings, they learn about the diversity, extremes, and importance of our national lands and waterways as well as our history, environment, anthropology, and ecological impact. It’s great that there’s a program that puts kids in touch with the rich cultural significance of our shared lands and of those that have been here for millennia, whether human or not.

If travel to a national park during this time of year is too much hassle, but you want to get going on your Junior Ranger passport, don’t worry! The NPS offers the WebRanger program with lots of fun interpretive and educational activities to enjoy from your computer, perhaps while you await or plan your next trip to a national or state park. And as always, look to our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps for your next state park adventure!