June 21 is officially the first day of summer. To celebrate, the National Park Service has announced that certain National Parks will offer free admission tomorrow. For those in the Middle Tennessee area this means that Shiloh National Military Park, only about a 2.5 hour drive away from Nashville, is a great inexpensive summer field trip for the kids. Find a ranger station and ask about the Junior Ranger Program where the kids can complete specific activities at the park and receive an honorary Ranger badge or pin for their efforts. There is also an auto tour of the battlefield that will allow everyone to experience the history of the place without leaving the comforts of air conditioning (stop by the bookstore first - they have an audio tour on CD for purchase that narrates the auto tour). There are also educational films and exhibits on display at both the Shiloh Battlefield visitor's center and the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center, located just a short drive further south in Corinth, MS.
The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, which includes the Lookout Mountain National Battlefield, is also on the list of parks offering free admission tomorrow. However, the drive to these historic landmarks will be closer to 3 hours. Of course there is always the Tennessee Aquarium there in Chattanooga as well if the drive will not send anyone over the edge!