Load up the minivan, pack a picnic and explore the national parks for free family fun for the Centennial weekend in 2016. With a site in every state, most families can find a national park within a few hours of home. Explore a wilderness, learn some history, or take a hike with your family as you get your kids in a park for Free.

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Celebrate the National Park Centennial with your family for FREE! With 412 national park sites across the United States, most families can drive to one in a few hours. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

Starting Thursday, August 25, 2016, through Sunday, August 28, 2016, all 412 national parks across the United States and its territories will be Free. This is great news for families since we all know getting the kids ready for back to school is expensive and Mom is broke.

With special centennial activities and programming at the parks over the long weekend, families can enjoy one last weekend and make this summer one to remember. Check out the individual parks for specific information or the National Park Service site.

Never been to a National Parks Site?

The first stop should be the visitor center where a national parks ranger will answer all your questions, like hiking trails for kids, where to find animals and nearest picnic tables. If the visitor center offers a movie, watch it. Spend a few minutes walking through the interpretive area to learn why this area is significant.


Check to see if the park offers a ranger program, if so, attend it. Remember to grab a map, refill the water bottles, and take the kids by the restrooms before leaving the visitor center.

Hey Moms, ask the Park Ranger for a Junior Ranger booklet, a free educational program (a few parks charge a small fee) that guides families through the park site. It takes an hour or two to complete.

Your kids earn Junior Ranger badges? There's a commemorative wooden badge for the National Park Centennial.

The National Park Service has a special Junior Ranger badge just for the National Park Centennial. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker / National Parks TravelingMom

After completing the booklet, rangers talk with kids to discover what interested them. Then kids have a quick ceremony where they recite an oath to explore, learn and protect the parks. The ranger presents a certificate and a souvenir badge or patch to each kid.

I’ll share a secret, park rangers love kids. Really, they love to share their passion for the national parks with kids. And kids will get the undivided attention of the park ranger as they talk about the tiniest of bugs or the prettiest of wildflowers.

So load up the family and get to the park nearest you. Need help finding a park, check out the Top 10 National Parks for inspiration.