Why You Should Visit National Parks
The National Park Service is celebrating National Park Week April 15 to 23, 2017, and entrance fees will be waived for the weekends of April 15 to 16 and 22 to 23. Congress established Yellowstone National Park as the the first national park in 1872. Several other parks followed, but there was not a single organization or entity that provided maintenance or organization. However, in 1916, Woodrow Wilson signed an act establishing the National Park Service to unify the upkeep and maintain the mission of preserving the natural and archaeological treasures in the United States of America.
National Park Fees and Passes
Many families wonder why they should visit our national parks. National parks are a fascinating and economical way for families to see the country and learn about historical events. Fees vary from park to park, but some are free.
National park passes are available for $80 per year, a great price for the individual who does a lot of traveling. Members of the U.S. military branches receive a free pass, as do all 4th graders in public, private, or home school. Finally, seniors can purchase a lifetime pass for $10.
A Variety of Parks for Everyone
National parks offer a variety of attractions that can fit any family’s lifestyle. People often think of national parks as located in “wilderness” areas. While parks are often located near towns or cities, some parks do celebrate the natural beauty of the country; Yellowstone National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Yosemite National Park are some examples.
Other parks are located in cities or metropolitan areas. Many of these, but not all, are centered around historic events or archaeological sites. These parks provide unique opportunities to plan a visit to a national park as part of larger vacation or trip experience. Examples of these parks are The Alamo, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi.
National Park Activities
National parks offer a variety of activities for visitors and families. Some parks offer miles of hiking opportunities, while others offer driving loops or tours. Each national park has a website with information about activities, tours, and area attractions. Be sure to check the websites before your trip to check for any closures or alternate schedules.
National Parks also offer the Junior Ranger program. This program includes an age-appropriate booklet of activities for children to learn about the park through discovery. Upon completion of certain activities, children can take the Junior Ranger pledge and earn a pin or badge. The Junior Ranger program, like the National Park Service mission, focuses on conservation of natural resources, appreciation of historical sites, and responsible citizenship and usage.
National Park Tech
I have an app on my phone called Parkopolo that we use when traveling. The app includes maps, operating hours, and descriptions of parks to help you plan your trip. You can also search by topic (American Presidents, Early Explorers, Human Rights) or Activity (Auto Touring, Camping, Snow Skiing) to help you choose the best park for your family.
As part of the centennial celebration of the National Park Service, the organization has implemented a Find Your Park campaign. Search social media using the hashtag #FindYourPark to discover beautiful sites around the country. Plan a trip to a national park and post your own pictures. Don’t be surprised when your photo gains some attention by fellow park lovers!
You may also enjoy:
- 10 Tips for Visiting National Parks with Kids
- Visiting the Most Popular U.S. National Parks
- National Parks to Visit near 6 U.S. Western Cities
- America the Beautiful Passes: Save on National Park Visits
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Heather and her family were born and raised in east Texas, where she is an assistant principal. Her husband teaches high school chemistry and her daughters are…