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Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Planning Your 2024 National Parks Visits

A lot of people love to visit National Parks when they travel, and I know some people who specifically travel for National Parks. If you're one or both of these types of people, then I've got free admission days, the best parks for winter, and more.

A lot of people love to visit National Parks when they travel. If that's you, here are all the things you need to know to plan your trip with the NPS.

I'll readily admit that I'm not an outdoorsy person. I don't like hiking or enjoy wandering around in the woods, even for a cool view from the top. I like outdoors when I'm in the city and sightseeing and can pop into a coffee shop or café and use an indoor bathroom. I appreciate that others are different, so I've pulled together some things for you:

Free* National Parks Days for 2024:

  • January 15: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • April 20: First day of National Park Week
  • June 19: Juneteenth National Independence Day
  • August 4: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • September 23: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day
*Fee-free days include entrance, commercial tour, and transportation entrance fees. Reservations, camping, tours, concessions and fees collected by third parties are not included.

Not sure what National Park you should go to? Matador has curated a list for you based on what kind of traveler you are. For instance, as an animal lover, I should head to the Everglades. Unfortunately, I'm not traveling to Florida until they become more friendly for all travelers, but I have seen some great wildlife while I have visited in the past.

Looking to get away soon? There are parks that are at their best during the winter, so visiting one of those can give you a magical cold weather escape. Pack warm layers and a fully charged camera for the stunning views. 

Do you love hiking? If so and you're hoping to get in some good trails this year, then you'll want to check out these 3 trails that have been newly added to the National Park system. They have been added to the scenic trails already on the list that cover thousands of miles. So, if you're just a person who likes to see the scenery from the car as you're driving through, or you like hiking long distances, or a combination of both, check out the Ice Age, New England, and North Country Trails.

National Parks aren't all hiking and paddle boarding and rock climbing. Some have really unusual activities, like a roller rink. These are things I would travel to National Parks for. If you would, too, here are 10 unusual things to do/see in parks.

I travel for food, and if you do, too, Food Network has pulled together some of the best restaurants in/near National Parks that you must eat at. If you don't want to spend your whole trip eating food you brought in a cooler from home, this is a must-read list. 

There are a lot of parks that are just always super popular. While you may still want to visit them at some point, this year maybe you'd rather visit ones that are a little under the radar. Here are 11 alternative parks to check out instead.

If you have a lot of time on your hands and want to spend 25 days traveling, Amtrak has a train journey that takes you on 4 different trains and 12 National Parks. It includes tours and free time, so you can explore each park as much as you'd like. A shorter journey will take you on a 14-day trip to 5 different parks

As much as I love the train, I'm not sure I'd want to spend weeks on one. If you agree, then maybe try one of these National Parks train rides instead, where you'll only go tens of miles instead of hundreds and range from 2 hours to 2 days. 

Also, did you know a train could be a National Park? Through the Trails & Rails program with the National Park Service and Amtrak, those scenic rail journeys are actually putting you on a moving National Park with a park ranger who will give you a guided tour of your trip. Pretty cool, right?

Some National Parks have "attractions" that are so popular, you can't just get in to see them. You have to enter a lottery to win the chance to see them in person. Know before you go with this list of these places that require a special tour.

Traveling with your pup? Lots of National Parks are dog-friendly. Here are the top 10:

1. Arcadia National Park (Maine)
2. Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)
3. Yosemite National Park (California)
4. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)
5. Zion National Park (Utah)
6. Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)
7. Olympic National Park (Washington)
8. Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas)
9. Congaree National Park (South Carolina)
10. Mojave National Preserve (California)

The United States isn't the only place that has National Parks. They can be found worldwide. If you're taking a trip outside the country, here are the top 20 National Parks and the best time of year to visit each one.

If you will be traveling to the parks, then make sure you are a conscientious traveler who enjoys and respects the land you're visiting. Here are 5 things not to do in the parks, which seem like common sense, but people still do them, so clearly not. Here are also 10 rules you must follow if you're there to view the wildlife.

I hope this helps you get outside and do all the outdoorsy stuff you love to do. Let me know in the comments what your favorite National Park so far has been or which you hope to get to at some point...

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