My parents were great fans of road trips and they always tried to be sure there were opportunities along the way. Once I had a family of my own, I continued to find museums and historic sites to visit during our vacations. Our girls loved to get the auto club books and mark the pages for places they wanted to see. There were usually more chosen than time to visit, but it was a great way to get them involved in our travel planning. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to follow this tradition with our grandson who loves to follow maps and provide directions.
The original sign for Casa Grande
One of our favorite things to incorporate into our trips is a visit to nearby National Parks, Historic Sites, and National Monuments. Their Junior Ranger program is a fantastic way for EJ to have fun and learn about the local area. Our first visit this year was to Casa Grande Ruins National Historic Site. We printed the junior ranger activity book out at the hotel so EJ could work on it during the drive there from our vacation base in Tucson. This worked really well, it kept him occupied plus he was ready to hit the ground running as soon as we got to the park. There was a lot to learn about identifying cacti that grow in the area as well as the history of the ruins.
One of our friendly guides explaining the history of Casa Grande
EJ recording the ruins on our GoPro
I have to say the park rangers and volunteers were fantastic and made receiving the junior ranger badge a special treat. They patiently went through the completed workbook with EJ and complimented his work. They also made sure to choose a spot where photos would include the ruins and did an entire swearing-in ceremony with him. A super memory for the whole family!
Junior Ranger swearing in ceremony
Before heading back to the hotel, we stopped at the large covered picnic area for a late lunch. This area boasts several picnic tables and plenty of space for kids to run around and play. There are also a number of interpretive signs that explain more about the area.
One of the interpretive signs near the picnic area
On our drive back to the hotel, EJ was excited to tell us all about what he had learned. He was quite upset at the thought of early visitors to the site taking ‘souvenirs’ and leaving graffiti on the walls. This lead to a discussion of respecting the special places that we visit and also what kids can do to let others know why this is so important. I love that the National Parks Service includes this type of information at a level that kids can understand and appreciate.
When bedtime rolled around, EJ had already made plans for visiting another park the next day and was looking forward to getting his next activity book started.