When you and your family are looking for something to do, whether it’s a vacation or a weekend getaway, remember to add national parks to your list of possible adventures. With more than 400 national parks throughout the country, you probably don’t have to look far for a park near you.
Not only can you find outdoor and indoor fun at national parks year-round, but you also don’t have to worry about breaking your budget. The majority of national parks don’t have an entrance fee, but for those that do, fees are waived on designated free entrance days.
Active duty military members and their dependents are also eligible for the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass for free, a pass that’s normally $80. The pass allows free admission for a year at sites that charge entrance or standard amenity fees.
Interested in visiting a national park? Here are 10 parks that participate in the free entrance days and are located in states where you might be stationed.
1. Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia
Colonial National Historic Park is located near the Hampton Roads area in Virginia. This region includes Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake with several military installations, like Naval Station Norfolk, Langley Air Force Base and Fort Eustis. The park features Yorktown Battlefield, Historic Jamestowne and Colonial Parkway.
2. Fort Washington Park, Maryland
Fort Washington Park in Maryland was built to defend the nation’s capital. There are daily tours of the fort, picnic areas, river views, hiking trails and special events like Civil War artillery firing demonstrations. This is a great place to visit if you’re stationed in the Washington, D.C. area.
3. Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi
Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi preserves the site of the American Civil War Battle of Vicksburg and features the USS Cairo Gunboat and Museum and the Vicksburg National Cemetery. Check it out if you’re stationed at one of the military bases in the state of Mississippi, including Keesler Air Force Base and Naval Air Station Meridian.
4. Fort Davis National Historic Site, Texas
Are you stationed at a base in Texas? Fort Davis National Historic Site is a reminder of the role the military played in the settlement of the western frontier. You can go on self-guided tours of restored and re-furnished buildings, hike on three different trails and attend special events throughout the year.
5. Everglades National Park, Florida
Everglades National Park, which covers 1.5 million acres of South Florida and spans three counties, protects an area that provides a habitat for numerous rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile, and the Florida panther. It offers activities like hiking, canoeing, biking, camping, ranger-led programs, tram tours and boat tours. It’s a great destination for those stationed at the many military bases in Florida.
6. Yosemite National Park, California
There are numerous military installations in California, including Camp Pendleton, Naval Base San Diego and Travis Air Force Base. While you’re stationed in California, Yosemite is a must-see. Yosemite National Park is known for its waterfalls, deep valleys, meadows, giant sequoias and much more within its 1,200 square miles.
7. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
If you’re based in Hawaii, take a trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The park has 150 miles of hiking trails through volcanic craters, scalded deserts and rainforests as well as a museum, petroglyphs, a walk-in lava tube and two active volcanoes.
8. Fort Sumter National Monument, South Carolina
Fort Sumter, located in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, is best known as the location where the shots that started the American Civil War were fired. Fort Sumter National Monument includes three sites in Charleston: the original Fort Sumter, the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center and Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island.
9. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
The state of Washington is home to military bases like Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. It is also home to Mount Rainier, an active volcano that ascends to 14,410 feet above sea level. It offers opportunities for scenic drives, hiking, mountain climbing and ranger-led programs.
10. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park is 75 miles from Washington, D.C. and encompasses part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You’ll find waterfalls, vistas and wooded hollows. Take a hike, go camping, have a picnic and relax as you cruise along Skyline Drive.
What are your favorite national parks?
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