When most people think of National Parks, places like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone or Yosemite might come to mind. But with over 417 park units making up the National Park system, you can find parks in all shapes and sizes, from National Memorials to National Seashores. In DC alone, there are currently 25 official National Park units, with another 22 in Virginia. While the National Mall and all the historic memorials should be at the top of your DC to-do list, the 4 places highlighted below are among my favorites, each offering something special. Here’s why you should consider adding one or two of them to your list next time you visit the DC area.
As this post is published, it’s National Park Week, a time to celebrate the spectacular places around the U.S. that belong to all of us. Over the last 10 years, our family has taken several road trips to visit many national parks, including iconic parks like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But one of my favorite road trips was the one we took to the Four Corners region of the Southwest. We spent 13 days exploring, making a loop from Albuquerque, New Mexico, through Colorado, Utah and Arizona and back to New Mexico. The national parks we visited on that trip had some of the most unusual landscapes in the U.S., particularly the Utah parks Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion. Here are some things to know and tips to help you plan a visit to see these unique parks Utah.
If someone asked me to describe Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, I would say it reminds me of an east coast beach town without the beach! Think of a place with every attraction you can imagine for kids of all ages, a variety of lodging options, and plenty of restaurants and ice cream shops. Throw in a scenic mountain location just a short drive from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and you have a family-friendly vacation destination with something for everyone. Our road trip to Tennessee several years ago was inspired by my daughter's invitation to a school related conference in Nashville, and Pigeon Forge seemed like an ideal spot to explore before heading to Nashville. With the recent devastating Tennessee wildfires in the news, I thought it would be a good time to finally write a more detailed blog post about Pigeon Forge and the surrounding area.
As 2016 comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on familyTravelsUSA and how it has impacted my travel experiences. My initial purpose was to simply share a few family road trips but I can look back now and see that it has been a great personal motivator for me to seek out and share new adventures in the United States. Along the way, I hope that I have provided inspiration for readers to explore new places both across the country and in their own backyard. My kids may not remember every detail of every single place we have visited, but I’m happy knowing that I have exposed them to the great outdoors, iconic national parks, new foods, big cities small towns, and tons of fun adventures from coast to coast. So as you plan your next vacation, consider these 7 reasons to explore the USA in 2017 and beyond, no passport required!
We all get excited when we are packing up our suitcases and heading out the door for vacation. But if you are like me, you hate the look your dog gives you every time you leave the house. So why not take them with you on your next weekend adventure? Luckily in the DC area and surrounding suburbs, there are many dog friendly spots, including several that are part of the national park system. So take a hike, a cruise on the Potomac River, have a picnic or just spend some time outdoors enjoying nature with your furry friend. Here are 4 adventures that have been dog tested for fun! And don't forget to bring lots of water and extra treats!
Want to take a family road trip but not sure where to go or how to plan? In honor of the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, I’ve pulled together road trips highlights from familyTravelsUSA, including visits to many national parks. There are plenty of options no matter where you live. We’ve taken several “fly/drive” road trips, flying to our initial destination, then renting a car to explore. These trips have focused on different regions of the US, such as the 4 Corners area of the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest. You might also consider mapping out a trip that covers destinations within a 3 or 4 hour drive from your home. As our kids got older, we started including more urban activities, visiting cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Looking back on our trips, it’s hard to pick a favorite, as they all hold special memories. Here are highlights of 6 trips, running in length from 4 days to 3 weeks, with links to the detailed posts containing suggested routes and activities. You can also visit the familyTravelsUSA Pinterest boards, filled with ideas and suggestions for topics including road trips, national parks, road food and much more. Summer is almost here, so start planning!
Everyone loves to start the New Year with a resolution, so this year I decided mine would be to work harder to keep in touch with extended family. When I saw that the weather was looking perfect the first weekend in January, my daughter and I decided to make a quick road trip to visit my 94 year old aunt, who lives outside of Philadelphia. It was also a great excuse to continue our search for the best cheesesteak in Philly!
As 2016 rolls around, I’ve been reading a lot on social media about the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, and more specifically the Find Your Park initiative. According to the National Park Service, the campaign is not only about national parks, but “state parks, local parks, trails, museums, historic sites and the many ways that the American public can connect with history and culture, enjoy nature, and make new discoveries.” As a family, we have visited many of the top parks, and still have quite a few on our list. Now more than ever is a great time to plan a trip to one of these magical places, whether it’s a weekend trip to a nearby park, or a week long vacation halfway across the country. This article is the first of several that I’m going to post throughout the year, highlighting parks big and small throughout the US, in the hopes of inspiring readers to get out and explore.
As I put the finishing touches on this blog post, I hear the weatherman say that is going to be close to 70 degrees this weekend! All the more reason you should consider visiting DC during the colder months. Most tourists, as well as locals, tend to visit between March and October. But December and January are often wonderful times to see some of the more popular attractions like the National Archives Museum and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum because the crowds are much smaller (excluding the week between Christmas and New Year’s). With that said, the weather is never predictable, with 70 degrees temperatures one week and snow the next, so be prepared. You should always check before you go for any closings or late openings due to weather. Besides staying warm in all the free museums, here are five fantastic reasons to head to DC during the colder months.
Imagine spending the day on an island that is home to plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world. You’re probably thinking you have to travel to the Galapagos Islands in South America, right? But did you know that the Channel Islands off the coast of California are home to 145 unique animal and plant species? Thousands of years of isolation have created this amazing natural environment, and in 1980, five of the eight Channel Islands (Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa and San Miguel) were designated as the Channel Islands National Park.
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