Celebrate 100 Years of US National Parks
Grand Canyon National Park, photo courtesy of Monica Poling
On August 25, 2016, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) will celebrate its 100th anniversary and parks across America are planning grand celebrations for the entire year. While most travellers are familiar with America’s 58 National Parks, which bear such majestic names as Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, the centennial celebration encompasses all of the 400+ nationally protected monuments, battlefields, military parks, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas and more that make up the National Park Service.
To add to the general excitement for its centennial celebrations, the NPS rolled out a #FindYourPark hashtag and marketing campaign last year, in order to provide up-to-date information on park events, while also encouraging a dialogue between first time and existing park users.
While nearly countless activities are planned at all protected lands across America this year, one thing is certain. If you’ve waited until now to start planning, you might be too late. Hotels located inside the national parks sell out up quickly every year, so finding availability during the in-demand 2016 season could prove to be an uphill battle.
If your heart is set on a National Park experience in 2016, the best bet might be to book a tour operator-designed getaway, which as of press time, still offer getaways to of America’s most famed parks this year.
America’s Magnificent National Parks: Insight Vacations offers numerous National Park getaways, including the 15-day America’s Munificent National Parks, which begins in Scottsdale, Phoenix and travels throughout the American West, before terminating in Denver, Colorado. Highlights include the Grand Canyon National Park, Lake Powell, Monument Valley National Park, Zion Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park and famed wild west hotspot, Cody Wyoming, home of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Guests will also explore the famed artist colony in Sedona, Ariz., see the headquarters of the Mormon religion in Salt Lake City, Utah and visit famed Mt. Rushmore National Memorial. Rates start from USD $4,869 per person and tour departures run through mid-September. A shorter, nine-day American Parks Trail program, priced from USD $2,898 per person is also available.
Grand Canyon Discovery: Explore the U.S. by rail on the 10-day Grand Canyon Discovery program by Amtrak Vacations. Start your trip in Chicago (Amtrak offers other programs with West Coast departures) and head to the Grand Canyon and then the Red Rocks of Sedona. You’ll travel via the Southwest Chief to Santa Fe, N.M., where you can dig into the city’s artsy culture while also enjoying its stunning landscape. Next its on to the Grand Canyon, where you’ll stay just steps from the South Rim. Your journey ends in Flagstaff, Ariz., where you’ll enjoy a day-long jeep tour of Sedona. The program is available year-round, with rates starting from USD$ 1,700 per person.
Western Discoverer: Add a little glitz to your National Parks adventure with the Western Discoverer by Trafalgar. This 16-day adventure includes Yosemite National Park, Mammoth Lakes and Grand Canyon National Park, but also includes stops in Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Napa, San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Barbara and a stop at Disneyland. The journey has departures through Sep. 2016, and rates start from USD$ 3,676 per person.
National Parks of America: Explore the American west with Collette’s 12-day National Parks of America tour. You’ll explore five parks: Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion Canyon National Park and Grand Teton National Park while also visiting some of the most famous destinations in America’s Wild West. Take a breakfast cruise on Lake Powell, explore Salt Lake City and Jackson Hole, and marvel at the craftsmanship at Mt. Rushmore. Departures run through early October, and rates start from USD$ 3,349 per person.
Hidden Gems of New England: While the western parks tend to generate more attention, there’s plenty to love along America’s Eastern Seaboard. Tauck’s Grand New England, which incorporates filmed vignettes from filmmakers Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan, guides travellers through New England’s scenic autumn landscapes. The itinerary includes Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts with visits to Acadia National Park, Boston National Historic Park and Minute Man National Historical Park. Other trip highlights include a private Tauck schooner cruise in Bar Harbor, sailing with a lobsterman in Portland and a visit with the meteorologists at the Mount Washington Observatory. Departures through early October; rates start from US$ 4,690 per person.
It is important to note that all above-mentioned travel companies offer numerous trips throughout the United States, and the parks and programs mentioned only represent a small cross-section of their programming. Be sure to visit each company individually for more information on other available tours.
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