Picking the Perfect National Park for Your Family Vacation

There are so many decisions that go into deciding a vacation destination. When it involves more than just you and your friend or significant other, it seems to get even more complicated. Small, and even family vacations should not drive you to drink or pulling all your hair out. These are just a few tips to help you make your choice a little less stressful.

The first and easiest thing to ask yourself is what you and the people you will be going with like to do? Are you totally outdoor people, strictly indoor types, or a combination? Are all of you athletic or in good shape? Do you like hot weather, mild or cold seasons? Is sightseeing something you would like on your agenda or are you strictly an activity oriented type? Do you enjoy ‘roughing it’ or do you want more comfort? Do you like camping, fishing, backpacking, hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, bird watching, wildlife viewing, history, learning how some of the unique formations in the parks came to be there, snorkeling, swimming, scuba diving, sailing, boating, kayaking, whitewater rafting, photography, hunting, or just lazing around beautiful places?

The next thing to consider is how much do you have to spend and how much time will you have. There are so many national parks and monuments that are relatively close to people that it is not expensive to get yourself there. Some of the exciting wilderness areas in Alaska can be expensive to get to, but if you have the money and enjoy the great outdoors, it is certainly worth going for an incredible experience you won’t soon forget.

That being said, it only remains to pick your destination. Bear in mind, that almost any area has inexpensive travel options and moves up from there to more expensive ones. Also, just because you are going to a national park, does not mean you have to ‘rough it’. There are plenty of options for day hiking, climbing, fishing, water sports, etc. that do not involve sitting by a campfire enjoying the great outdoors if that is just not your style.

Camping is generally believed to be the cheapest type of a vacation after you make the initial investment of camping supplies. This can be a tidy sum, but remember that the equipment usually lasts for quite a few years. It is generally true that camping fees at the parks are cheaper than an average hotel room. And if you own an RV, you can camp in true comfort. Most campgrounds are situated in gorgeous surroundings and allow you easy access to the park’s highlights. There are very few parks that don’t have some kind of campgrounds. Also, when you camp, you usually cook your own food which also saves you money. And no, you do not have to eat hotdogs all week unless that is what you love!

Now, if you live in the Midwest, there are plenty of park options within driving distances that take no more than twelve hours or less, depending where you live. Of course, you can always choose to fly anywhere, but some parks are a little distant from the nearest airport. Driving allows you the luxury of taking along everything you think you need for a comfortable stay.

My favorite pick for the Midwest is Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is hands down one of the best all-around parks for the family. It falls within the states of Tennessee and North Carolina. You can choose to rough it on the Appalachian Trail, camp out in a developed campground or wilderness, or stay in anywhere from luxurious suites to nice inexpensive hotels in nearby Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN. And, speaking of Pigeon Forge, you have Dollywood and all the innumerable attractions they offer in the area. On the North Carolina side you have more campgrounds, the city of Cherokee that has several Indian souvenirs and museums, whitewater rafting and fly fishing (the last two are actually offered in both states). The mountains are absolutely beautiful and make for great photo ops. Please look up our Great Smoky Mountain web page for further details.

Another great choice is Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and State Park. They also have camping and wildlife viewing, especially bird watching. A unique shoreline allows for walking on the beach or swimming in Lake Michigan. They even have areas for you to bring your own horses and go horseback riding. For those of you that enjoy sightseeing and history, you can see the five World’s Fair houses from 1933 or attend the Gathering At Calumic in early May, where Eastern Woodland Indians and Western Great Lakes fur traders and Voyageurs reenact what life was like along the Calumet River from 1730-1830.

If you enjoy boating, there are several places in the Midwest, but the two northern ones are Voyageurs National Park and Isle Royale National Park. Voyageurs is in Minnesota and Isle Royale is off of the northern coast of Michigan in Lake Superior. Both offer great wilderness adventures as well as canoeing, kayaking, motor boating and fishing opportunities. Voyageurs is considered a water park meaning you have to take a boat over to the actual park, but it is a short journey. There are places to camp out or lodges to stay at that will help equip you, enabling you to boat around the waterways and find those great fishing spots. Isle Royale is a long boat ride or a short “puddle jumper” flight. It has wilderness camping only, but also has a lodge for those who only enjoy day hiking and some comfort. There is kayaking, fishing, backpacking, wildlife, with the longest running research program studying wolves and moose, scuba diving, and ship wrecks. It is truly a unique ecosystem to observe.

The Western US has much more to offer in national parks. The most famous is Yellowstone where you will see Old Faithful and lots of other geothermal marvels and one of the few places in the lower 48 to observe grizzly bears up close. You’ll also see bison roaming very close by so be careful. It is located on the border of Wyoming and Montana. There are numerous ranches and lodges to stay at or you can camp out in the park. There is also great fly fishing, kayaking, climbing and backpacking. Another biggie is Grand Canyon National Park. This one is in Arizona, again on the border of Arizona and Nevada, but also close to the southern Utah border. It is part of the Grand Staircase, an immense sequence of sedimentary rock layers that runs south from Bryce Canyon National Park, through Zion National Park (both in Utah) and ends at the Grand Canyon. There is camping, backpacking, day hiking, whitewater rafting, and plenty of photography opportunities.

Other great parks, (although all of them are super places to visit) in the west, are Yosemite, Channel Islands, Redwood, Arches, Olympic, Grand Teton, Canyonlands, Rocky Mountain, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, Crater Lake, Mt. Rainier, and Sequoia. All of these have great wide spread activities that will suit any vacationers’ needs and desires. Please check out our individual park pages for further information on each of these superb parks.

The Eastern United States also offer splendid options for vacationing. Acadia National Park in Maine has unsurpassed northern oceanside views and cliff climbing that you won’t find in other parks. There is also fishing, island exploring, hiking and beautiful gardens to gaze upon. Further down the eastern side is Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The Appalachian Trail runs through the park for 101 miles giving you plenty of hiking and backpacking options. There is also camping, fishing, bird watching and horseback riding.

In Florida, you will find three national parks and one preserve with the most famous being Everglades. Everglades is so much more then what you have seen on TV. The wildlife is phenomenal and makes it easy to get some great animal and bird shots. There is also wilderness camping, (watch out for alligators!) canoeing, fishing, airboat rides, hiking, and rare, as well as beautiful flora. Big Cypress National Preserve is right by Everglades and is very similar, but also offers cypress stands, mangrove forests, endangered species of wildlife like the peregrine falcon and the Florida panther. Activities include fishing, biking, canoeing, hiking, and hunting. Biscayne National Park is off of the eastern tip of southern Florida. As the world’s third-longest coral reef tract, there are snorkeling, scuba diving trips, sailing, swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking opportunities, making it a celebrated national park vacation for family vacations or outdoor adventure-seeking spring break crowds. Dry Tortugas National Park is a unique park preserving Fort Jefferson that was built during the Civil War and never finished, and the nesting places of terns and sea turtles. You will be able to enjoy Key West snorkeling, saltwater fishing, swimming, lighthouses, ship wreaks, hiking, beach camping, boating, scuba diving, bird watching, and underwater photography of some of the best coral reef and marine life areas down in Southern Florida.

Top 10 National Parks of California For Outdoor Lovers

If you are an outdoor lover, California is the number one place in the US to come and experience the majestic beauty of its snow-capped mountains, deep valleys, fast rivers and amazing flora and fauna representatives that reside in these beautiful nature’s retreats.

1. Redwood National Park is an ideal place to explore the beauty of the forests and learn how to preserve this unique ecosystem to last for many generations to come. The ecosystem of the coast redwood is also home to many rare species of the animal world like black bears, lions, elk, banana slugs and many more. Rare trees are also along the main attractions of the Redwood Park. Since many animals roam freely along the vicinity of the park and might be attracted by campers’ foods, follow basic safety guidelines and travel in groups.

2. Death Valley National Park is the ultimate destination if you are an adrenaline rush junkie who is not satisfied by an average type of recreation. This National Park in California has perhaps the hottest and harshest climate with unique set of flora and fauna to explore during your visit. Ranger guided tours are highly recommended to gain a full range of experience in the Death Valley National Park. Do not miss historical old mining sites, deep canyons and acres of wilderness at your disposal. Winter is the best season to visit this place due to dramatically high temperatures throughout the summer.

3. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are the testaments of nature’s great beauty and size. Here you will be surrounded by tremendous mountains, steep foothills and world’s tallest trees. Be aware of the dangers that walking or climbing around the rivers can bring and avoid it at all costs. Driving along winding mountain roads are by all means beautiful but at the same time dangerous for inexperienced drivers.

4. Lassen Volcanoes National Park is a place where volcano can erupt at any moment. You have no reason to be fearful about visiting the Lassen Volcanoes National Park since the volcano is being closely monitored by multiple seismologists in the area. The last recorded eruption took place back in 1921. Taking some of the most spectacular hikes around the bubbling mud holes and breathtaking views are the main attractions in the area.

5. Gold Gate Bridge National Recreation Area is perhaps the most historically and culturally rich or all National Parks in the US. Hike, stroll, camp, hang glide or kite board and do what your heart desires at this incredible place.

6. Point Reyes National Seashore offers limitless activities of the natural exploration of the land and marine flora and fauna. Picnicking along the multiple beaches and bird watching are among the most beloved activities in this area. The Point Reyes Lighthouse provides an incredible opportunity to view the astounding beauty of the seashore in the lens room. Multiple ranger guided tours are available to appreciate true beauty of the ocean seashore.

7. Yosemite National Park is one of the first parks to be founded in the US. You have over 1200 square miles to explore in the Yosemite along its famous waterfalls, vast meadows, deep valleys and simply great wilderness. Here you can embark on biking, hiking, horseback riding, backpacking, fishing and rock climbing. The possibilities are truly endless here. Be advised that you need to get permit to hike certain trails, make sure to check with the rangers for the list of specific locations.

8. Joshua Tree National Park is the land of climatic extremes in the form of strong gusty winds, vast temperature fluctuations and torrential rains. This National Park is the perfect playground for a nature lover taking a California trip. Some of the great things you can do here are mountain biking, hiking and rock climbing. Camping is especially enjoyable in this desert park.

9. Channel Islands National Park is an isolated natural oasis, home to many unique species of animals and plants. Marine life representatives range from as small as plankton to as large as the blue whale. This National Park harbors 5 California Channel Islands. Here you can reconnect with your inner senses and come back to the foundation of life. Some of the activities you can do here are limited only by your imagination. Multiple boat tours allow you to witness blue and gray whales that call Channel Islands their home.

10. Devil’s Postpile National Monument depicts the geological wonder along the unbelievable mountain scenery. Columnar basalt formation reaches 60 feet high and boasts unlikely symmetry. Hiking and camping around the untouched wilderness is truly incredible.

Your California trip will become unforgettable if you visit at least one of many National Park listed above.

Destinations for Your Next Vacation

And the world changed its view of this sleepy little Anaheim orange grove town forever. Walt Disney created a world inside this small town of Anaheim, a world that every kid wants to go to, that every adult also gets excited by, a world of fantasies and fun-filled galore, a world called Disneyland. Yes, Disneyland, the king of amusement and theme parks, is the perfect place for your next family vacation. In the world of amusements parks where Disney World and Disneyland certainly are kings, there are others like SeaWorld, Universal Studios, and Busch Gardens that could be your next pick.

But unless you are the impulsive type who doesn’t mind a few surprises along the way, planning your next destination is the way to go. You want to know which amusement and theme park you will be going to―Disney World, Disneyland, SeaWorld, or Universal Studios. Difficult choices, but they have to be made.

How You Can Plan a Vacation to an Amusement or Theme Park

Your kids are pestering you about the cool new rides at Disneyland, or the fact that they want to watch the friendly dolphins at SeaWorld―what are you going to do? You are going to make sure that your next family vacation is at a theme park or amusement park. Here are some tips to help you.
When To Go: So, if you want your next vacation to be at Disneyland, you better start planning now, because if you plan on going during the holiday season, be prepared for overcrowded airports and endless lines. So, why not plan ahead. Airplane tickets can be bought well in advance and are cheaper that way. Also consider booking hotels, rental cars, and whatever else you need at least a week in advance, so that you do not run helter-skelter for rooms or cars. And if it’s possible, try not to go during peak season which would be around school holidays, school vacations, and summer; this way you can avoid the rush and also save big bucks on off-season discounts.
Where To Stay: The first thing you need to decide is whether you want to stay at an on-property resort (which are aplenty) or stay offsite (which are in abundance). It could be cheaper if you pick an off-site hotel, but if you want to enjoy all the rides at any time of the day without worrying about getting back to the hotel room for a change of clothes and what not, choose a hotel on the property of the theme park or amusement park. One of the benefits of staying at an on-property hotel is the great jump-to-the-front-of-the-line benefit.
How Long To Stay: Here comes another big question, how long to stay. This could depend on a lot of factors from budgets to time availability. Depending on how long you are taking for your holiday you can visit that many parks in the area. If you are in Central Florida for 10 days you can visit most of the theme parks in the area. But remember to space it out and give yourself time to enjoy other activities and some relaxation.
Resources: Check for resources for some great deals. The Internet is a great place to start. There are thousand deals available online. You can choose vacation packages that could save you a lot of money. Or you can choose deals which offer a fixed charge and are all-inclusive. Maybe you are lucky to get coupons from milk cartons or shopping at the supermarket.
No matter how you get your vacation planned out, just remember not to get so wrapped in tiny details that you do not end up having fun.

Physics of Roller Coasters

People, especially children, like the thrills involved in the roller coaster. First designed by Mr. Lamacus Adna Thompson on 20th Jan, 1885, the mechanism of this ride contains a special railroad system with tracks and cars or bogies. The interesting part of it is that the track need not be a circuit, but with pre-prepared patterns, the riding on which causes the thrill in the entire operation. To know more about the physics of roller coasters, read the paragraphs ahead.


Most riders of this amusement ride may not be aware that there is no engine for operation. Then, how does a roller coaster work? Before actually understanding the mechanism, we have to understand two words from the glossary of physics. They are potential energy and kinetic energy.

Potential Energy

Potential energy is defined as that energy that is inherent in a physical system in juxtaposition with conservative force acting on it. On the movement of an object from its position against a force, energy is expended and a potential difference is created. Upon allowing the object to return to its original position the energy supplied is recovered. The best example here is the thing which has elasticity. Due to the elastic potential energy, elastic materials regain their original position. There are different types of potential energies, like gravitational potential energy, elastic potential energy, chemical potential energy, etc.

Kinetic Energy

The additional energy, which an object obtains because of its motion, is called kinetic energy. The common example of use of kinetic energy is the movement of cycle. The rider of a cycle pedals the cycle to a certain speed and after that it moves with less pedaling on its own. The kinetic energy so obtained by the cycle is used in facing the air-friction and the resistance of the road. If a dynamo is attached to the wheels of the cycle, then electrical energy is produced. The kinetic energy so produced can be used for converting into other forms of energy. Extending the example of the cyclist, it can be observed that the kinetic energy of the moving cycle on a steep rise will be converted in to a gravitational potential energy once the cycle reaches the top point. On sliding down the slope, the cycle uses the potential energy to come down.


Roller coasters work on the principle of conversion of potential energy into kinetic energy. The cars attached do not have a self-powered motor. Instead, they are pulled by one chained with the other to the first peak of the track. On reaching the top of the first peak, the kinetic energy with which the cars are pulled becomes the potential energy. With that, the cars not only slide down, but also move up the second peak. This process is repeated in the subsequent peaks, and finally, the cars are brought to a stop with the application of brake run. A well-designed roller coaster will have enough energy to complete the entire course of the track and will come to an end on the application of brake run at the end.

Modern roller coasters have launch mechanisms, which kick off a ride with the high amount of acceleration by means of one or series of linear induction motors and linear synchronous motors, powered by hydraulic or pneumatic force. Roll back occurs when a launched train does not have enough potential energy to ascend the top of the first peak.

Under the roll back, the train comes back to the original launching place for re-launch. Some enthusiastic riders want roll back to be performed in view of the thrills involved in it. In the case of continuous circuit roller coasters, when the kinetic energy is not enough for the train to complete the travel after descending from its highest peak point, it moves forward and backward along the track until all the kinetic energy is released. After that it comes to a stop.


Most of the large roller coasters use one or more trains at the same time. They use the block system under which the track system is divided in to several sections or blocks, and only one train is allowed to enter in each block at a time. A section of track at the end of the each block is used for stopping the train if necessary to avoid collision among the trains. Sensors fixed on the block detect the movement of the trains and send signals to the computer system operating the mechanism.