National Park

Free and discounted passes offer museum and park options

With prices rising, free and discounted passes can help reduce the cost of travel.

Several options are available, including the Every Kid Outdoors Pass, the America the Beautiful National Park Pass, and the Michigan Activity Pass.

All Kids Outdoor Passes

The Gawel family from Monroe visited several national parks with the Every Kid Outdoors Pass, offered by the National Park Service.

The program saved the family about $200 in admission fees. The free pass is available to all fourth graders.

Steve and Laura Gawel and their children, Alex, 16, and Bekah, 11, learned about the Every Kid Outdoors Pass years ago but were eligible again last summer when Bekah was in fourth grade .

“I first heard about it when my son was in sixth grade. When we were looking for a family vacation a few years later, I remembered the program and we went to find more information,” Laura said. “Enrolling in the program was really easy.”

Bekah only had to answer a few questions online about places she would like to visit.

“It made her feel like she had a role to play in planning this vacation, which made her more interested in what we saw,” Laura said. “At the end of the survey, you get a printable page containing the program entry voucher. We presented this voucher at the first park we visited, and they gave us an ID that worked at all the other parks we visited.

The pass provides free entry for the fourth year student. In some cases, the whole family was admitted to the park for free, Laura said.

The Gawels ventured into the Great Plains with the pass.

“We decided to take advantage of several national parks in the High Great Plains. We started by visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, then spent a few days in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. We drove south from Yellowstone and spent a day and a half exploring Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. After that, we headed back east, visiting Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and Badlands National Park in South Dakota. It was a really special time for our family,” Laura said.

She said the family only made the trip because of the Every Kid Outdoors pass.

“We wouldn’t have made this trip. Having the pass made us want to go, and it was fun to plan a trip seeing how many national parks and monuments we could visit in one trip,” Laura said. “It was a great way to bring our family to visit the national park. parks and give our children the chance to see some of the amazing gifts that nature has to offer. »

The Every Kid Outdoors Pass is accepted at 2,000 federal recreation areas. Next year’s season starts in September.

“No matter where you live in the United States, there’s a site within two hours of your home,” the National Park Service said.


America the Beautiful National Park Pass

Monroe's Scott and Jenn McCarty and sons Brian, 10, and Harrison, 8, hiked The Narrows in Zion National Park in Utah this summer.  The family used the America the Beautiful National Park pass to travel.

The McCarty family of Monroe saved about $100 this summer with the America the Beautiful State Park Pass, also offered by the National Park Service.

The pass costs $80 per year and provides free admission for up to four adults to more than 2,000 national parks and federal recreation sites. Children 15 and under are admitted free.

Scott and Jenn McCarty purchased the pass earlier this year. They have two sons, Brian, 10, and Harrison, 8.

“We actually just completed two weeks in Utah and Arizona, where we visited Zion, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Capital Reef, Canyonland and Arches National Parks,” Jenn said.

The family has a fourth-grader, but instead of the free Every Kid Outdoors pass, opted for The America the Beautiful National Park pass because it offered free admission to more family members and lasted longer.

“Even by buying the pass, we saved money. We visited six national parks this summer. Entrance fees for all six would have cost us about $185, so we saved about $100 by purchasing the annual pass in advance,” Jenn said.


Michigan Activity Pass

Barbra Kruger

Anyone with a library card from the Monroe County Library System can view a Michigan Activity Pass.

The pass provides discounted admission to museums, theaters, historic sites, science centers and other locations in the state, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Yankee Air Museum, Hidden Lake Gardens and the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills.

Some attractions offer free admission, while others offer free admission or discounts at the gift shop.

“Now they even offer mobile passes,” said Barbra Krueger, community outreach coordinator for MCLS.

MCLS has offered the pass since 2013. It is offered through The Library Network.

“I’ve always believed that your library card is the key to unlocking a world of adventure. Our partnership with Michigan Activity Pass is just another example of the limitless potential of your library card,” Krueger said.

The Michigan Activity Pass is a well-used program. In June, 864 reservations were made by library patrons in Michigan.

For more information, visit


The newly redesigned River Raisin Battlefield State Park Junior Ranger Badge is displayed.  Residents can earn the badge by completing activities.

National Park Service Junior Ranger Badge

Visitors to US national parks can participate in the Junior Ranger Badge program.

“Participants in the program can get a free booklet with information and activities. The material is aimed at children ages 5-12, but anyone can participate, even adults,” reported a recent Gannett story.

To earn a badge, participants must complete the activities in the booklet. Activities can include puzzles, gathering information from a landmark, or doing a good deed.

River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe launched its Junior Ranger insignia program in 2013, during the bicentennial of the January 1813 battles, said Jami Keegan, chief of interpretation, education and volunteers.

“The program is based on our exhibits and programs,” she said. “Anyone who visits the Battlefield Visitor Center can participate and earn a badge.”

Since 2013, more than 6,500 have completed the program.