Do you have a fourth grader this year? “Every Kid in a Park” is an annual program of the U.S. government that provides free passes to National Parks for fourth grade students.
The program was established to allow fourth graders and their families to discover our wildlife, resources, and history for free on America’s public lands and waters for a full year (September 1 through August 31). The free pass is for kids who are in fourth grade during the current school year and it expires in August.
In most cases, the fourth graders’ free passes will cover admission for the whole family as well.
What Parks Are Included in the Free National Park Pass?
Agencies that participate in the Every Kid in a Park program include the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
What this means is a whole lot of free for you and your fourth-grader!
The pass allows free admission at sites that charge entrance fees, standard amenity fees, or day-use fees. There are more than 2000 federal recreation sites you can visit. Many parks charge per car, so the student’s pass will admit the entire carload for free. When you visit a park that charges per-person prices, the pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults for free.
What’s Not Included in the National Park Pass
The pass doesn’t cover things like parking fees, camping, boats, and special tours. As an example, the arch in St. Louis has an entrance fee of $3, but it costs an additional amount to take the tram all the way to the top. Your student’s pass will cover the entrance fee, not the tram ride.
Also, there may be some sites that are managed by private operators who don’t honor the pass, so you should always call ahead to find out if the specific site you want to visit will accept it.
Since this is a National Parks pass only, it won’t cover admission fees for local, city, or state parks (although we do have an article about the yearly Kansas Parks pass you should read).
How Do Fourth Graders Get the Free Park Pass?
To get the pass, fourth graders complete a web-based activity and then are awarded a voucher for printing. Once your 4th grader arrives at the participating Federal recreation site they may exchange their printed Every Kid in a Park voucher for the Annual 4th grade Pass. (Not all locations can exchange the paper voucher, but there is a long list of those that do. In Wichita, it is the Great Plains Nature Center.) Ooh, also note that they will not accept a digital version of the voucher on your smart phone or tablet. It has to be printed.
For more information about the free National Park Passes for fourth graders, check out EveryKidInAPark.gov