Enjoy history, culture, natural beauty, and scientific exploration at our national parks this vacation season. National parks not only protect some of America’s most iconic treasures, but they also tell diverse stories and teach valuable lessons about our shared heritage.
Here are six fun and affordable ways to discover new places in the National Park System, and learn something interesting while you’re there–since a national park is like a classroom, but way more fun.
1. Commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with a trip to a battlefield. History buffs will appreciate seeing some of the major battle sites like Manassas and Gettysburg up close, though it’s also worth exploring some of the more remote and lesser-known sites, such as Pea Ridge.
2. Visit the childhood home of a historic figure to learn about day-to-day living in a different era. Experience a replica of the log cabin in Kentucky where Abraham Lincoln was born or marvel at Teddy Roosevelt’s childhood home in New York City. Be sure to ask at the visitor center if the park will offer any demonstrations or interpretive history presentations during your visit.
3. Connect with your past at a place that has special meaning to your family history, like this journalist did with several generations of his family.
4. Take part in a “BioBlitz” and discover an array of wildlife and plant life while helping the park inventory its biodiversity. Two BioBlitz events are scheduled this summer at Acadia and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Can’t make it? Take a guided walk with a park ranger somewhere more convenient, taking note of as many different species as you can.
5. Encourage your children to connect to the science, history, and natural wonder of parks by becoming a junior ranger. If the kids can’t make it to the park, explore the WebRanger program online.
6. Learn about the geology of canyons, mountains, and other scenic landscapes. National park visitor centers can provide you with resources to help you understand the ground below you—both with books and ranger-led walking tours.
The National Park System covers over 83 million acres nationwide, preserves natural and historic sites, creates jobs, benefits local economies, and educates a diverse public. This summer, help protect its future by fostering the next generation of park lovers.
The good news is that you might not need to travel far; there may be one close to home.