In the nearly 50 years since its inception, Earth Day evolved from a hip, thought-provoking happening aimed at college kids to a day of fun and teachable moments intended to prompt kids at every age to take action in the era of global warming.
The observance was the brainchild of Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, who was personally moved when he viewed the aftermath of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, he realized if he could infuse that energy to generate awareness on conservation and fighting air and water pollution, it could potentially get average Americans from all walks of life involved with the cause.
Here are some of the more interesting and unusual observances of America’s most compelling newer holiday.
EARTHx2019 is one of the most expansive Earth Day celebrations in the country. The myriad of informative and educational activities revolve on teaching the public ways to sustain clean, clear, abundant water for all, and to protect the world’s oceans, rivers and lakes with a variety of habits and practices. Highlights include guest speakers, interactive and augmented reality exhibits, an auto show focused on smart everyday transportation solutions, sustainable food tastings and solar car races.
Westchester County, New York
In historic Sleepy Hollow, kids can see firsthand how colonial residents “grew” their own clothes at Philipsburg Manor at the Sheep-to-Shawl event, April 21–22. This event allows visitors to follow the entire process of textile creation, from shearing sheep to spinning the wool into yarn and thread to dying and weaving the finished product as it was done more than 300 years ago. A team of Scottish border collies will be on hand to demonstrate sheep- and duck-herding skills. Tickets are $16 for adults and $8 for kids age 3–17 if purchased online.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
During the annual Strawbery Banke Museum volunteer garden clean-up day, teams of volunteers spend the morning on the 10-acre campus of this “living history museum” sprucing up the heirloom gardens representing more than 250 years worth of gardening trends from 1695 to 1955. Volunteers can fuel up with morning refreshments from Starbucks and be treated to a pizza lunch from Flatbread Company of Portsmouth. Alternatively, they can also sign up to participate in a slow food potluck following the cleanup. The museum will also give away free heirloom seeds to get your family thinking about creating an heirloom garden from the ground up.
Providence, Rhode Island
On the morning of April 27, the City of Providence hosts its 7th Annual Spring Cleaning, featuring a Protect Our Species theme and a special kick-off event at Roger Williams Park leading volunteer groups into multiple cleanups across the city. Participants can also check out the Blue Jeans Go Green initiative clothing drive led by clothing store chain Madewell. Worn-out blue jeans will be collected for repurposing as housing insulation for underserved neighborhoods. Participants will also be given badges providing them free access to the Roger Williams Park Zoo and free rides on RIPTA and UBER to and from clean up sites.
The Swedish craze of plocka upp (picking up trash while jogging or hiking) made its way to the Sonoran Desert, thanks to local naturalist Sarah Williams and Nicole Corey, co-founders of Natural Restorations. Families can sign up for the group’s Earth Day Cleanup on April 22 to “plog” away at pollution while learning new things about plant and wildlife along the Lower Salt River and the Tonto National Forest’s neighboring hills and desert pathways. Mesa retailers Sean Huntington and Cameron Jarman’s collaborative retail shop Keep Nature Wild on Mesa’s Main Street actively promotes wilderness cleanup activities throughout Arizona year-round.
Palm Beach County, Florida
The Ann Norton Partnership for Art, Science & the Natural World hosts its Third Annual Earth Day Celebration on April 22 in its sculpture garden, free for visitors with the price of admission. Through a local STEAM educational initiative, several organizations unite to stage interactive learning stations that call attention to Earth Day’s significance and educate kids and teens on actions they can take to protect the planet. They include Audubon Florida, Everglades Foundation, FAU Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Manatee Lagoon – An FPL Eco-Discovery Center, and South Florida Science Center and Aquarium. On the following weekend (April 27), the Palm Beach Zoo stages Party for the Planet at the Palm Beach Zoo with numerous interactive educational activities for the entire family.
Niagara Parks Power Station offers visitors a unique, interactive experience. Located on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, the once-dormant power station features all-day attractions where visitors learn how the hydropower station used the power of Niagara Falls to generate electricity.
Although some people consider Virginia Beach a summer destination, it thrives in the fall as well. This autumn, Virginia Beach is pulling out all the stops to become a prime destination for the season. Check out the list of offerings.
Through Oct. 15, Key West Attractions Association spearheads the Kids Free Florida Keys program, offering free admission and opportunities for children age 12 and younger. Parents, grandparents, extended families and their kiddos can explore Florida Keys attractions, tours, watersports and more with this value-added program.