Get Out and Play: How Healthier Generation Staff Stay Active in the South
This post is part of Healthier Generation’s summer blog series highlighting creative ways to keep kids fed, active and engaged all summer long.
Parks are the heart of every community and an integral part of a city’s design. They have the power to bring people together through physical activity, provide learning opportunities in wildlife exploration and bring clarity of mind for emotional well-being.
In honor of the National Recreation and Park Association’s Park and Recreation Month, we asked some our staff — who span the country working toward our mission of giving every child a healthy future — to share their favorite local parks and what activities they enjoy doing there.
Here is part 1 of 4, highlighting parks from the southern part of the United States:
"White Rock Lake, located in northeast Dallas, is a bustling park with lots of trails for hiking and biking. With the lake as the park’s focal feature, there are many opportunities to enjoy some water activities. Last year, I learned to kayak and paddleboard here; it was so much fun! The park features a museum with the same name and is also close to the Dallas Arboretum."
-Jeannine Rios, Healthy Schools Program Manager
Mission and Austwell, TX
"Mission Hike and Bike Trail is where I run when I am traveling and visiting schools in this area. It’s a very popular trail where people run, walk, bike for leisure on the paved roads, or go off-road with mountain bikes. With lots of opportunity for wildlife and bird viewing, you can take the 9+ mile trail at a leisurely pace.
Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is the only wildlife refuge known for their whooping crane population. It has a 16- mile paved loop that I like to ride, and I also run out there. It’s extremely popular with birding enthusiasts, and on runs I’ve come across alligators and rattlesnakes. It’s a great place to get up close and personal with all kinds of wildlife."
-Fancy Flores, Healthy Schools Program Manager
"Lake Livingston is close to my home; it’s a park my family and I frequently visit. Tall trees providing lots of shade and easy walking trails makes this park a great pick for the whole family to enjoy. Other activities that can be enjoyed at the park include camping, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and mountain biking. Of course, a good old fashioned picnic and game of catch or frisbee are always good options, too."
-Amanda Krippel, Healthy Schools Program Manager
New Orleans, LA
"While living in New Orleans, I was a big fan of City Park. With 1,300 acres to explore, it is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. You would be hard-pressed not to fall in love with this park; it has something for everyone such as: the Museum of Art, Botanical Garden, bike and boat rentals, a dog park, gondola rides, an amusement park, hiking trails, restaurants and so much more! City Park hosts festivals and weddings year round, too. If you are ever visiting New Orleans, you must make this one of your top destinations!"
-Stephanie Keeffe, Healthy Schools & Communities Program Manager
"Living, working and playing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina has provided my family with an amazing opportunity to enjoy nature and history, all in one place. The Outer Banks is the site of the first National Seashore. You could spend hours walking the beach and not see another soul for miles. Kayaking and fishing in the National Seashore is an oceanological treat, as the waters are filled with dolphin, many different species of fish, birds and sea life. The island I live on, is where you’ll find Roanoke Island Festival Park. My family loves this interactive park of concerts on the sound, movies and outdoor plays, a replica of the first English settlement in America and the Elizabeth II, a representation of one of the seven English ships from the Roanoke Voyage of 1585. Two of our favorite places to visit are the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island and Jennette’s Pier. The kids love to visit the marine life center in the aquarium, looking for sea glass and sharks’ teeth in the beach sand and fishing off the pier. If you’re looking to hike from the ocean to the sound, climb a giant sand dune, fly a kite or hang-glide, Jockey’s Ridge State Park is the place to go."
-Michelle Owens, National Advisor
"One of my favorite parks in the greater Miami area is Crandon Park on Biscayne Bay where we have hosted birthday parties and picnics on the beach! The water is shallow and calm for the kids to play safely without the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean. It also has an amusement area with a carousel that entertains the kids when they get tired of the sand and sea.
Another favorite is Larry and Penny Thompson Park, which my kids used to enjoy. They loved the water park, and we camped there when I was a Girl Scout leader. With remnants of fruit tree groves, water slides and hiking paths, there is something of interest for everyone."
-Carol Chong, National Nutrition Advisor
If these are in your area, we hope you’ll visit and try a new activity! And if not, we hope you’re inspired to get out there, explore and play in your local parks. Tweet us @HealthierGen to share your favorite neighborhood park and #HealthySummer activities!