Planning a Vacation? How About a Place Less Frequented?

April 15, 2011

Guest blogger Tina Perantonakis likes to check out lesser-known national parks – and some of them are free!

Growing up as a native Washingtonian, my knowledge of our national parks was limited to the sites in and surrounding the National Mall, such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial. As I started traveling more throughout the United States, I had the opportunity to visit some of the most popular national parks, including Yellowstone, Redwood, and Golden Gate, but I gained the most pleasure in discovering and exploring those that are lesser known. Most recently, I visited Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.  Mesa Verde houses arguably the most impressive cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo people. 
To commemorate National Park Week, which is April 16-24, 2011, I am highlighting a book published by the National Park Service: The National Parks: Index 2009-2011. This book has become indispensable in my travel planning, as it contains listings of National Park System areas by state, in addition to National Heritage Areas, National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and the National Trails System. Although the Index is not intended to be a guidebook, nor does it contain standard guidebook information such as visiting hours, trails, and campground locations, it does provide the administrative addresses and brief descriptions of the sites – and these descriptions often include interesting facts.  Did you know that there is a national park in American Samoa devoted to protecting tropical rainforests, coral reefs, and fruit bats?  I certainly did not – until I read the entry in the National Parks Index.

This year, the National Park Service will be offering several fee-free days at more than 100 parks that usually charge an entrance fee.  I plan to take advantage of the fee-free days by visiting several Civil War historical sites, including Antietam National Battlefield  in Maryland and Appomattox Court House National Historical Park inVirginia.

For more information on National Parks Week, visit here. To take advantage of the National Park Service free entrance days, visit here.  To purchase a copy of The National Parks: Index 2009-2011, visit here.  You can also find it in a library.

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