Travel insights from The Travel Institute

America’s National Parks

If you are wondering about fun places to send your clients domestically, the national parks in the United States may provide some answers.

America’s National Park Service will be turning 103 years young in August 2019, which is just another reason to encourage your clients to seek the great outdoors. “From New York to Topeka to Honolulu and places in between, parks are in all corners of the United States and four U.S. territories,” Acting National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds said in a recent press release.

The purpose of the National Park Service (NPS) — established in 1916 to manage the parks in the national park system — was to conserve scenery, wildlife, and natural and historic objects and to leave them unimpaired for future generations, which remains its goal today. Writer and historian Wallace Stegner called national parks "the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."

When Yellowstone National Park was established by Congress on March 1, 1872, it was America’s (and the world’s) first national park. In addition to visiting America’s oldest park, your clients might enjoy a trip to our largest park — Alaska’s Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, offering rugged volcanoes, icy glaciers and wild rivers on 13.2 million acres of wilderness — or our smallest — Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, the downtown Philadelphia home of the Polish freedom fighter and American Revolutionary hero.

Although the 59 national parks understandably are what come to mind when people think of the national park system, it also includes 129 historical parks or sites, 87 national monuments, 25 battlefields or military parks, 19 preserves, 18 recreation areas, 10 seashores, four parkways, four lakeshores, and two reserves. And the NPS also helps administer the National Register of Historic Places, National Heritage Areas, National Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Historic Landmarks, and National Trails.

And most of the areas offer free admission: only 118 of the 417 sites charge entrance fees, ranging from $5 to $30.

Each year, the NPS creates monthly themes to highlight activities in all its sites. Check out its theme calendar here.

At any time of year, the NPS welcomes citizen scientists to work with researchers, collecting data, studying important issues that affect parks, and learning and contributing information about parks and their resources.

To generate ideas of fun things for your clients to do — like stargazing (Alibates Flint Quarries in Texas), geocaching (Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona), hiking in a tropical rainforest (Virgin Islands National Park), studying women’s rights (National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, New York), or watching a sled dog demonstration (Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska) — explore the events on the National Park Service website at, or visit its pages on  Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

And to learn about sites and attractions in the United States, Canada and Mexico, be sure to sign up for The Travel Institute’s North America course.

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