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All across Arkansas, people are hoping to connect with their families in new and exciting ways. Screen time has a time and a place, but the desire to get back to our roots and reclaim some of our childhood adventures is leading many families, like Bobby Braly and his 4-year-old son Huxley, to create a family challenge or bucket list. The two have set a goal of visiting all 52 Arkansas State Parks in 2020.
As a former schoolteacher, I am well aware of the benefits of formal education. As a mom, I have seen firsthand the importance of less formal education that happens on nights and weekends within our own family. Getting away from screens and into nature can benefit children (and adults) physically, mentally and cognitively. And it can be a lot of fun! This has been the catalyst for Braly.
“The state of Arkansas has identified these parks as the best places in Arkansas, and they provide a great way for Huxley to learn about nature. We bring a lot of identification and guide books, were learning biology, geology and map skills. It’s also getting him out in all four seasons. Children who get out in nature from a young age develop a respect for it and become stewards for nature.”
On Jan. 1, 2020, Braly and Huxley ventured out on a First Day Hike and kicked off their journey to see all 52 Arkansas State Parks at Devil’s Den in West Fork. Braly selected the park because it is close to their home but also because his great-grandfather, Algie Braly, had worked there in the 1930s with the Civilian Conservation Corps to help build portions of the park.
To date, the Braly’s have visited 10 state parks with a plan to visit approximately five each month. At each park, they visit displays, participate in interpretive programs led by rangers and hike some of the trails. Along the way, they are also camping in many parks, which has been a favorite activity of Huxley. Well, that and making s’mores! (Braly’s pro tip is to replace the traditional chocolate bar with a peanut butter cup.)
My son is close in age to Huxley and we’ve been enjoying following along with their journey on Facebook, Instagram and their blog Boy Meets Park. We were inspired to set a family goal to spend more time outdoors and learning about nature. To achieve that goal, my husband and I are completing our Master Naturalists training and a family goal of visiting at least 10 state parks this year, spending at least 14 nights camping and completing 100 miles of outdoor activities as part of the Iron Ranger Challenge.
If you’d like to challenge yourself to see more of Arkansas this year, the best time to get started is now. Your challenge may be big or small, but what matters is that you choose a goal and a time frame in which you feel comfortable. Our family bucket list is heavy on the outdoor activities, but yours can be anything you want it to be. Here are a few ideas to consider.
Food should be on everyone’s bucket list. Each week, Kevin Shalin (aka The Mighty Rib), gives us the lowdown on a local restaurant. He’ll tell you what each restaurant is known for and give you suggestions about what to order. Check out all of Kevin’s posts for some great tips or start with his Top 20 Places to Eat in Arkansas.
Arkansas is chock full of historic sites and museums. You could visit a different spot each day of the year and still not see everything Arkansas has to offer. Add these historic stops across Arkansas to your 2020 bucket list.
Public Works Projects in Northeast Arkansas
Faubus House in Huntsville
South Arkansas Museums
Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie
Clark County Historical Museum
Blyth’s Scott County Museum
Ko-Da-Ha Indian Village
Maybe you and your family need to incorporate some more physical activity into your daily lives. Arkansas offers plenty of opportunities to get active. Add a unique activity to your bucket list.
Earn a Merit Badge
Winter and Spring Hiking
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
From Arkansas State Parks to our National Forests, Sunday drives and everything in between Arkansas is a sight to behold. Grab the car keys, a map and a camera and take in the beauty!
Arkansas’s National Treasures
Trails at Crystal Bridges
Talimena Scenic Byway
10 Must-Visit Towns Along I-40
25 Things to Do in South Arkansas
10 Things to Do in South Arkansas
6 Central Arkansas Cities to Visit
10 Things to do in Central Arkansas
4 Fantastic Outings in Northeast Arkansas
Highway 65 North
10 Things to Do in Northwest Arkansas
10 Things to Do in Northeast Arkansas
There are already Arkansans taking advantage of the diverse landscape of the state and taking part in personal challenges to see more of the state that we call home. As evidenced by a quick search on OnlyinArk, Arkansas is full of amazing places, things to do and things to see. As you travel through the state, you will see mountains and valleys, prairies and forests, farmland and cities. Arkansas really does have something for everyone.
Cover photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.
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