Pop quiz: How many national park sites are there in the United States?
The answer, friends, is an extraordinary 400 (that’s way more than the 59 national parks you may know a thing or two about) – and five of these destinations are right here in New Jersey. Through Every Kid in a Park, a national-funded government initiative, your fourth grader (and their guests, hi mom and dad!) has a free, all-access pass to explore all of America’s federal lands and waters – which spans millions of acres. From Puerto Rico to Maine and Virginia to the Hawaiian Islands, the sky’s the limit. But before you spread your wings, we’ll show you how to kick-start your adventure in your very own backyard in New Jersey.
How will your fourth grader benefit from Every Kid in a Park?
Children ages 9-11 are at a unique developmental stage in their learning where they begin to understand how the world around them works in more concrete ways. At this stage, they are receptive to new ideas and most likely to hold positive attitudes towards nature and the environment – which is why Every Kid in a Park aims to captivate this audience by providing them an opportunity to visit and enjoy their federal lands and waters by the time he or she is 11 years old. The ultimate reward? Inspiring stewardship of these outdoor spaces for future generations.
How Every Kid in a Park Works
- Get your free fourth-grade pass here. The pass is valid starting every September 1 to August 31 of the following year, and grants free admission to your fourth grader and up to three accompanying adults. You need to print your pass and bring it with you when you visit; electronic copies not accepted. Your paper pass may be exchanged for a limited-edition, plastic pass at certain federal lands and water sites.
- Plan your trip here. Do you want to see protected animals or visit the woods? Go to a park or take a monument tour?
- Hit the road. Leave only your footsteps, take initiative to pick up litter, don’t disturb animals or habitats, and leave the park better than you found it!
Five Awesome National Parks and Wildlife Refuges in New Jersey
No matter where you live in the United States, there’s a site within two hours of your home – that’s what the folks at Every Kid in a Park say, so we did some truth-digging and found five home-grown destinations that accept Every Kid in a Park passes:
- Morristown National Historical Park (Morristown, NJ)
Despite limited resources, Morristown served as quarters for the Continental Army on two occasions; the winter of 1777 and again during the Hard Winter of 1779.
- Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park (Paterson, NJ)
Paterson Great Falls, America’s first planned industrial city, offers historic mills and tours as well as stories of Alexander Hamilton.
- Thomas Edison National Historical Park (West Orange, NJ)
Thomas Edison National Historical Park features America’s greatest inventor’s home and laboratory in original condition.
- Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Galloway, NJ)
The Edwin B. Forsythe refuge protects more than 47,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats which is actively managed for migratory birds.
- Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge (Sussex, NJ)
The Wallkill refuge conserves the biological diversity of the Wallkill Valley by protecting and managing land, with a special emphasis on forest-dwelling and grassland birds, migrating waterfowl, wintering raptors, and endangered species.
To adventure beyond New Jersey, find any park here. Ditch the iPads, shift your kids’ attention from screens to scenery, and get outdoors! With all the natural treasures our country has to offer, whether it is a backyard city park or a national forest, seashore, or marine sanctuary, which will you and your family choose to explore first?