Dear 100 Hour Board,
I took my two-year-old to a few different national parks. She was not impressed. There were not enough swings, slides, monkey bars, teeter totters, or other things like that. She thinks the trip was a bust! One thing she did like was a river, but she wanted to get her hands into it. She also loved playing in the sand when we rested from time to time. But, overall, the national parks were lacking.
If I were to take her to a "real" national park, where would I go? What type of national park would get her excited enough to want to stay there for a long time?
If when you say real national park you mean a place full of swings, slides, and monkey bars, then go to the CITY MUSEUM!!
It's a huge playground/museum in an old shoe factory in St. Louis. And it's pretty much indescribable. That's just a picture of part of the outside, but it's just a huge building full of slides, secret passageways, and things to climb on. I am unashamed to say that I love the place, and have spent pretty much all day there, multiple times.
So it's not a national park at all but you said "swings, slides, monkey bars, teeter totters" so I got excited.
Keep it real,
If she likes rivers and sand, may I suggest the Sulfur Creek hike in Capitol Reef National Park? The hike starts out with a trek through a sandy dried-up riverbed that lasts about a quarter mile, and then for the rest of the hike you are literally walking/wading through Sulfur Creek itself. It is a very easy, laid back hike, and it's especially nice to walk in the water if it's hot outside. The only thing you may want to keep in mind is that the hike is a little long, coming in at 6.25 miles, but that may or may not be a problem depending on your two-year-old.
That's the only hike I can think of that's specific to your situation, but I also love Arches and Zion National Park here in Utah, and I've always wanted to go to Sequoia National Park in California.
This isn't an actual suggestion for places to go, but I wouldn't worry too much if your two-year old isn't overly enthused by national parks yet. When I was a little girl (like, 6 or 7) my family went on camping trips every year, which all involved a lot of hiking. And I hated hiking. I can recall several hikes where my mom just had to stay behind with me, because I was throwing such a big fit about continuing further.
Though it was terrible for my poor parents in the moment, their persistence paid off, and I now absolutely love anything to do with hiking. So, even if your daughter doesn't like national parks now, there's a good chance she will later.
Dear Parental Unit,
White Sands National Monument in New Mexico is beautiful, different, and due to the firmer, cooler gypsum sand ideal for sledding. They even sell sleds at the Visitor Center; you can return them afterwards for a portion of the price.
There are probably some dune areas closer to you than White Sands, but most any dunes are worth a visit. Try Little Sahara Recreation Area if you are along the Wasatch Front. There are even tribute fossil beds sort of nearby where you are allowed to dig for trilobites, should that interest you.