Who’s happy? I’m happy! You’re happy! It’s the National Park Service’s 100th birthday!
But seriously. Let’s take a look at why national parks are so special:
- They were the first of their kind in the world. After seeing what happened to Niagara Falls and how it became so built up, President Ulysses S. Grant decided that he wanted to preserve other places in America that were just as spectacular. Along with the help of John Muir, he was able to set aside some land in California as the world’s first “true” national park: Yosemite. From there, presidents (most famously Teddy Roosevelt) reserved more and more land to the national park service with the intention that it would remain the way it is: wild, free, and undisturbed by the progress of industrialization and man. Here’s a three-minute or so video on the history. Educate yo’self.
- They’re cheap AF! Since the country wants to make these amazing places available for EVERYONE, many of these wild lands and historic monuments are free to visit. That means you, the patron, don’t have to spend a dime – and if you do, it’s usually very cheap compared to other tourist attractions around the area. If you can’t afford to drop five or ten bucks for some places though, keep an eye out on nps.gov – they have lots of fee-free dates throughout the year where they’ll wave their admission fee.
- Learn something new. Almost all of the parks have a visitor center with informational displays. Many have interpretation programs that are done by the rangers there. Let me tell you something – I’ve been to a TON of national parks and monuments and I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t come across a nicer group of people than park rangers. They’re always so knowledgeable (and will happily look up information for you if they don’t know the answer) and absolutely LOVE their job. A lot of them are avid national park travelers too and will happily share some insider tips with you (I hadn’t have fallen in love with Ocmulgee NM if I hadn’t talked to a park ranger at Martin Luther King NHS). Many of these programs are free and if they’re not, they’re still pretty cheap and SO worth doing.
- Get some unique experiences. Want to travel through the world’s longest cave system? Take in the history of a revolutionary music genre? Hike up the side of a cliff to get the same breathtaking views that John Muir fell in love with? Visit one of the most notorious prisons in the world? Or, if you’re… more mild… sit on pristine beaches or snorkel some of the world’s best coral reefs? Regardless of how strong your sense of adventure is or your skill level, I can guarantee that you’ll be able to find something that you’ll enjoy within the borders of the National Park Service.
- Build your immune system! Studies have shown that the more time you spend outside, the less allergies you have and the stronger your immune system will be. This especially goes for little ones.
- Speaking of little ones…. Need a good way to burn off their energy? There are many programs that are specifically geared for kids. These programs can be for an hour or two or even all day. What a way to get a break!
- Hoarding? Each national park has a unique stamp associated with them, which can then be put into a passport specifically made for the National Park System. I’ve had mine since 2002 and continue to add to it every chance I get. I also beg my friends who visit parks to bring me back stamps and brochures so I can collect them as well (who knows? If we wind up getting a mailing address, you all might be able to help fuel my addiction too). I also hoard hiking medallions which I proudly display on my hiking stick. The stick itself is a regular conversation starter, too.
Anyway, y’all probably catch my drift by now. There’s nothing I’d rather do than spend my day in a National Park. They’re tons of fun and I really want to go to ALL of them! Here’s a map of all the places I’ve visited:
Here’s to more adventures with y’all! If you have a question on any of the places on the map, leave it in the comments. Or you know…. nerd out about national parks.