Yosemite NP - California — Photo courtesy of abmaac
Yosemite National Park
Sometimes known as John Muir's park, this famous Yosemite ambassador had it right when he said, "One day's exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books." There is no better thing to do for your child than to expose them to the beauties of nature, such as the miraculous Yosemite.
During the California Gold Rush in the 1800's, the Indians here (thought to be the Yosemite, which is how the area was christened), hit the nail on the head with their name for the breathtaking valley, "Ahwannee," meaning "place of a gaping mouth."
Pack your binoculars and plenty of photo memory cards, for that is just what your dropping jaw will do when coming to Yosemite, which became the third official National Park in 1890. Covering over 1,200 square miles, most people don't know that the popular Yosemite Valley, containing the most famous landmarks makes up only 5% of the park, the rest being wilderness.
One can view the famous photographer Ansel Adam's prints at the Valley Vistor Center in Yosemite Village, a great place to start from, to get a feel for how much ground you'll want to cover. There are film presentations and exhibits to guide you. Most people will tell you that the must sees are the spectacular water falls, such as Bridal Veil Falls and the the highest one on the continent, Yosemite Falls at 2,425 feet. It is possible to hike to the base of this wonder and feel its power. Also, a drive to Glacier Point to soak in the whole valley and the Sierra Navada Mountain Range has to be on your list.
After arriving at Yosemite (Fresno is the closest airport), free bus tours are the preferred way for seeing the sites, including the tall granite monolith, El Capitan, carved by a 100 million old glacier. Half Dome is another incredible piece of 4, 733 foot granite, where if you look close enough, you will see climbers making their ascent, taking days to do so, sleeping in slings along this vertical wall.
Mirror Lake is just that, a piece of liquid glass, reflecting beautiful mountain views, a photographer's dream. With 3 miles of trail around it, many people enjoy hiking here, to soak it all in. Merced River offers relaxing rafting or tubing for a fun way to spend the day. Horse stables or rental bikes are available, with more than 8 miles of bike paths to see Yosemite.
The Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Park — Photo courtesy of The Ahwahnee Hotel
Many different lodgings are available from roughing it in tents at Curry Village to staying at the historic Wawona Hotel or the 5 star Ahwahnee Hotel, complete with kid programs for Junior Rangers or Little cubs. Daily entertainment is provided at the Amphitheatre, including sing a longs, scavenger hunts and an Evenings Program.
When a park ranger was once asked, if you only had one day to see Yosemite, what would you do, he replied, "I would weep." Experience the grandeur of Yosemite for an unforgettable family vacation.