If you’re feeling a touch of spring fever, there’s no better remedy than a visit to a national park — particularly from April 15 to April 23, during the National Park Service’s (NPS) annual celebration of National Park Week.
All national parks in the United States offer free weekend admission on April 15-16 and April 22-23, and many feature special programs to encourage people to explore America’s wild spaces and national landmarks — or to discover them for the first time.
“Our National Parks are our national treasure,” Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said in a statement. “The lessons you learn from the land and the park rangers cannot be learned anywhere else on Earth.” [Happy 100th Birthday! US National Parks in Photos]
National Park Week kicks off with Junior Ranger Day on April 15, inviting children of all ages to participate in events in parks across the country and earn Junior Ranger badges that are unique to each park, according to a National Park Foundation announcement.
Other activities offered at some of the parks include the Night Sky Party for astronomy buffs, in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park; birding walks at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore; photography workshops at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky; and surf fishing at New Jersey’s Gateway National Recreation Area, to name just a few.
People can search for a nearby park or browse National Park Week events and activities on the NPS website. Park officials are encouraging visitors to post their photos, stories and memories on social media using the hashtag #FindYourPark. NPS representatives and park lovers alike kicked off the sharing in a Twitter chat on April 13.
An estimated 331 million people visited national parks in 2016 — an increase of 7.7 percent, or nearly 24 million visitors — from 2015, and the third consecutive year of record-breaking attendance, according to a statement released March 10 by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Four destinations alone attracted more than 10 million visitors each: Golden Gate National Recreation Area, in San Francisco; Blue Ridge Parkway, in North Carolina and Virginia; Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Tennessee and North Carolina; and George Washington Memorial Parkway, in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
“There are 417 national parks, and each one has a story to tell,” Michael T. Reynolds, acting director of the NPS, said in a statement. “There are endless options during National Park Week to discover someplace or something out of the ordinary. Whether one seeks relaxation, exhilaration or inspiration, there is something for everyone in a national park.”
Original article on Live Science.