Take Your Pick
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Alamogordo, NM
White Sands and Pistachios
White Sands National Monument - Large dunes of stunning white gypsum cover 275 square miles of the Chihuahuan Desert near Alamogordo. The ever shifting sands make this National Monument a work of art in progress. There are nightly organized "sunset dune walks" or you can venture out on your own to take in the beauty. Remember your sunglasses during the day, the reflection from the sand can cause "snow" blindness. Another attraction of Alamogordo are the pistachios. Stop in at one of the pistachio farms, take a tour of the farm and pick up a pound or two of locally grown nuts.
Albuquerque, NM
Ancient Art
Petroglyph National Monument - The Petroglyph National Monument sets aside over 7,000 acre and contains roughly 17,000 ancient carvings for the public to view. The oldest carvings are up to 5000 years old and were created by early hunter gatherers. The later petroglyphs were carved by Anasazi Indians and Spanish sheep herders. The rock art is etched into basalt boulders from ancient volcanoes, five of which can still be seen today. There are plenty of hiking trails to stretch your legs, so get out and explore ancient civilization's art gallery.
Amboy, WA
The Active Mt Saint Helens
Mt Saint Helens - On May 18, 1980, immediately following a 5.1 magnitude earthquake, the north side of Mt Saint Helens slid down the mountain and an eruption shot volcanic ash 80,000 feet in the air. It became the deadliest volcano in US history and the costliest, 57 people died, hundreds of homes were destroyed and miles of roads and railroad tracks were buried. Today the 8,365 foot snow capped summit (a full 1,300 feet shorter than the pre-eruption days) seems serene and tranquil. But while looking down into the crater left after the explosion, even this sock monkey can imagine the raw force of the explosion.
Aneth, UT
The Ruins of Hovenweep
Hovenweep National Monument - The Hovenweep National Monument contains the remnants of six groups of structures built by Pueblo Indians around 1200 AD. The Puebloans were an agricultural people and it is thought that this area was much more conducive to farming during that time. The structures they built were used as living quarters, storage areas, and defense towers. One of the best archeological viewing trails at the monument is the two mile path around the Square Tower Group. Getting to and from the monument involves traversing some very dusty and long dirt roads, but that just means you'll have the park to yourself.
Appomattox, VA
Where Robert E Lee Surrendered
Appomattox Courthouse National Historic Park - On April 9, 1865 General Robert E Lee surrendered the army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse. The War Between the States which ran roughly four years and saw nearly 630,000 deaths was finally over. Although it wasn't the last army of the Confederacy to surrender, it is often looked at as the unofficial end of the Civil War. At the site are the Appomattox Courthouse/Visitor Center, the Plunkett-Meeks Store and the McLean House. The McLean House is the location where signing of the surrender occured.
Arco, ID
Lots and Lots of Lava
Craters of the Moon - Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is the nation's largest lava field and is comprised of 750,000 acres. Over 60 volcanic eruptions ranging from 2,000 to 15,000 years ago have spewed lava from what is called the Great Rift Zone. Features throughout the park include giant cinder cones (great for climbing), spatter cones and jagged lava fields. The highlights of the park are the lava tubes in the park's cave area. At the end of a 1/2 mile trail are four lava tubes, (Dewdrop, Boy Scout, Beauty, and Indian) which can take hours to explore. Remember to bring a flashlight with extra batteries and some water.
Ashford, WA
Rainier from Above
Mt Rainier National Park - Rising dramatically from the surrounding valley is the 14,411 foot snow-capped active volcanic cone called Mt Rainier. Mt Rainer is the highest peak in the Cascade Mountain Range and the centerpiece of 380 square mile Mt Rainier National Park. Covered with dozens of glaciers and surrounded by spectacular waterfalls, wildflower meadows and pristine old-growth forests, this national park is an awe-inspiring natural wonder. Activities include camping, hiking, mountain climbing, and good old fashioned sightseeing.
Atlanta, GA
Birthplace of MLK Jr
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site - In 1980, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site set aside nearly 35 acres of historic buildings in Atlanta to preserve the legacy of MLK Jr. Included in the site are his birth home, Ebenezer Baptist Church where King was co-pastor with his father, Fire House No. 6 which is now a museum, the National Park Visitor Center, the eternal flame, and the tomb of Dr. Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King. Martin Luther King Jr. was first recognized nationally for defending Rosa Parks after she was arrested for not moving to the back of the bus. He later became the nation's human rights leader and promoted change through non-violence and civil-disobedience.
Baker, NV
Stalactites of Lehman Caves
Great Basin National Park - Great Basin National Park is the only national park completely housed in the state of Nevada (Death Valley touches California and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area spills over into Arizona). The Basin covers an area of over 75,000 acres; with the park's centerpiece being the majestic Wheeler Peak, a 13,063 foot tall white capped mountain. At the base of Wheeler Peak are the Lehman Caves featuring thousands of limestone stalactites and stalagmites. Don't worry about fighting crowds here; Great Basin is one of the least visited national parks.
Baltimore, MD
The Guns of Fort McHenry
Fort McHenry - Fort McHenry "the star-shaped fort" was completed in 1802 and was designed to protect Baltimore's Harbor. It was just 12 short years later that the fort was called upon to do that very thing. On September 13th and 14th, 1814 during the War of 1812, the British Royal Navy pummeled the fort with cannon fire. While witnessing the bombardment and then seeing that the American Flag still flying, Francis Scott Key was inspired to write "The Star Spangled Banner". A short film entitled "The Defense of Fort McHenry" is shown at the Visitor Center every 20 minutes. Then walk the perimeter of the fort to see the large guns and the interior for a tour of the barracks.
Bar Harbor, ME
Be the First to See the Sun
Acadia National Park - Acadia National Park is one of the top ten most visited National Parks, attracting between 2 and 3 million people a year to its rocky coast. The park consists of three areas, Mount Desert Island, the Schoodic Peninsula, and Isle au Haut (only accessible by ferry). Features of the park include the famous Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Thunder Hole which shoots a geyser-like spout of water over 40 feet in the air, and Cadillac Mountain the highest point in Maine (and the first to see the sun in the USA from October to March). Take a ranger-led walk or boat cruise, a horse-drawn carriage ride, or a refreshing swim in the North Atlantic.
Bayfield, WI
Named for the 12 Apostles
Apostle Island National Lakeshore - The Apostle Island National Lakeshore is recognized as one of the most pristine National Parks in the USA. The area attracts outdoor enthusiasts with its fantastic kayaking, beaches, sea caves, and wildlife viewing (which include black bears and bald eagles). The islands also play host to six lighthouses, including the octagonal Sand Island Light Station. Originally named the Apostle Islands because it was thought there were only 12 islands, there are actually 22 islands that make up the archipelago.
Beatrice, NE
160 Acres for $18
Homestead National Monument of America - In 1862 Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Homestead Act which turned over 270 million acres of public land to any citizen 21 years of age or older. Each homesteader received a 160 acre parcel of land for a small filing fee of $18. To keep the land, the owner had to live on the land, make improvements, and farm for 5 years. The Homestead National Monument of America is located on one of the first parcels given away, the Daniel Freeman Homestead. There is a visitor center, acres of tallgrass prairie, a frontier cabin and a one room school from the 1800s.
Bridgeport, NE
Oregon Trail
Oregon Trail - The Oregon Trail stretches some 2,200 miles from Missouri to Oregon, going through Nebraska, Wyoming and Idaho. This particular marker is just north of Courthouse and Jail Rocks, two distinctive formations often written about as pioneers traveled westward. These large clay and sandstone formations rise over 400 feet from the North Platte Valley and resemble the names they were given. In addition to the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, Mormon Trail, Pony Express Trail and Sidney-Deadwood Trail pass near here.
Bryce, UT
Home of Hoodoos
Bryce Canyon National Park - Bryce Canyon National Park contains a collection of deep amphitheaters filled with multi-colored spires called hoodoos. There are thousands of these orange, pink, white and red hoodoos for nearly as far as the eye can see. A couple of the more popular ones are The Sentinel and Thor's Hammer at Sunset Point. There are a few ways to enjoy park; hike the more than 50 miles of trails including the Rim Trail; drive the 18 mile park road along the plateau rim and be sure to stop at every point along the way because the each one is marvelous; or by air from a hot air balloon, private airplane or helicopter.
Bushkill, PA
The Scenic Delaware
Delaware River - The Delaware River flows along the entire eastern edge of Pennsylvania and offers over 300 miles of free flowing river and gorgeous countryside. Drop a canoe in the river near Winterdale, PA and in a week or two you will be passing Cape May, NJ on your way out to sea. During the sojourn you'll see four states and pass through the Upper Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The Water Gap is a section of the river that snakes through the Appalachian Mountains where the only sound you'll hear is your paddle and an eagle's wings flapping.
Camp Verde, AZ
Montezuma Didn't Sleep Here
Montezuma Castle - Built into a cliff-side 100 feet above the ground is a 20 room structure constructed around 1100 AD. Originally it was thought Aztec Indians built this dwelling and it was misnamed Montezuma Castle in honor of the famous Aztec emperor. It was later learned that Southern Sinaqua Indians built this five-story dwelling and used it to house up to 50 people. Two other Sinaqua sites are nearby and worth the trip, Montezuma Well and Tuzigoot. If nothing else, visit Tuzigoot just to say the name Tuzigoot.
Carlsbad, NM
Cave Formations
Carlsbad Caverns National Park - There are caverns and caves throughout the USA, but Carlsbad is the grandest and most beautiful of them all. You can enter the cave by foot though the Natural Entrance, a one mile trail that descends 750 feet to the Big Room. Or you can take the elevator from the visitor center straight down to the lunch room near the Big Room. No matter how you get there, you are in for an extraordinary visual treat of subterranean cave formations and chambers. The formations in the cave include the Giant Dome, Rock of Ages, and Bottomless Pit. Signs throughout describe the formations, but you can also pick up a hand-held listening device that describes everything for you. That's much more chimple. There are other caves, including the Kings Palace (guided tour only), and in May through October you can enjoy the evening bat flight from the Natural Entrance.
Chinle, AZ
Arizona's White House
Canyon de Chelly National Monument - Canyon de Chelly offers some of the most stunning views of thousand foot cliff faces in Arizona. In the side of one of those cliffs is the White House Ruins, an Ancestral Pueblo Indian cliff dwelling built in the 12th century. In all, five Native cultures have inhabited the canyon, Archaic, Basketmaker, Pueblo, Hopi and Navajo. This string of inhabitation starting in 2,500 BC makes this region one of the longest continuously inhabited areas in North America. When visiting the park, the White House is the only area in the canyon that can be hiked without a Navajo guide. It is a tough 2.5 mile round trip hike that had this little monkey breathing hard. Bring water!!!
Christiansted, St Croix
Fort Christiansvaern
Fort Christiansvaern - Overlooking the northern edge of St Croix in the port of town of Christiansted is one of the best preserved of the five Danish forts remaining in the West Indies, Fort Christiansvaern. Constructed in the late 1700s of yellow brick (and maintaining that color today), the fort was built to protect the colony from the onslaught of pirates, hurricanes and slave revolts. The fort is built in a star shape around a small courtyard and includes corner bastions and small dark dungeons. The imposing fort is registered as a National Historic Site and offers some great photo ops of the harbor and of the town.
Corpus Christi, TX
The Less Wild Side of Padre
Padre Island - Situated along the southern Texas Gulf Coast, Padre Island is 113 miles of glistening sand dunes, natural grasslands, and diverse wildlife. For seventy miles of the island is the Padre Island National Seashore, the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world. Wildlife such as turtles and nearly 400 species of birds call this area home. The other forty three miles of the island are for fun. Each year for a few weeks in March, South Padre Island is filled with the craziness of Spring Breakers. They come for the miles of shore-lined hotels located on the best beaches in Texas.
Cottonwood Falls, KS
On the Kansas Prairie
Tallgrass Prairie - The Tallgrass Prairie as an intricate ecosystem of plants and animals that the National Park Service set aside as a National Preserve. At one time the Tallgrass Prairie covered more than 140 million acres in North America and now only a fraction of that number exists. On the Prairie you can take a bus tour of the Flint Hills area to see the historic homes or take in the "backcountry", fish in one of the three ponds on the preserve, set out on a hiking expedition, or kick back and enjoy the panoramic views of the of the wide-open prairie.
Crater Lake, OR
Did I Mention This Place is Blue?
Crater Lake National Monument - The palette at Crater Lake National Monument is filled with azure, indigo, sapphire, cerulean, baby and teal blue for a minute or two - then as the sun shifts, midnight, royal, cobalt, and steel blue paint the panorama. With the blue sky reflecting off the blue water, it seems like billions of blue molecules are formed to make Crater Lake the bluest place on earth. It is also the deepest lake in the US, at 1,935 feet, and the seventh deepest in the world. The caldera lake formed around 7,700 years ago, when Mount Mazama erupted and then collapsed. Then, all at once, everything turned blue.
Crescent City, CA
Trees Big Enough to Drive Through
Redwood National Park - The top three tallest trees in the world, Hyperion, Helios and Icarus - all towering over 370 feet - are Coastal Redwoods living in the Redwood National Park. Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are a fast growing and hardy species that can live over 2,000 years. The area's national and state parks preserve over 100,000 acres of land and trees, which offers visitors plenty of room to drive and hike among these giants. If you want to drive through, instead of drive among the trees, there are plenty of opportunities along Highway 101 to do that too.
Death Valley, CA
Scotty's Castle in Death Valley
Scotty's Castle - Death Valley, which in 1913 recorded a world record 134 degree temperature, is home to Scotty's Castle. This Spanish-style villa is named after Walter Scott (1872-1954) a gregarious con man who proclaimed he owned a gold mine in the valley. He persuaded millionaire Albert Johnson to invest in his gold mine and had a hand in convincing Johnson to build a home there. In 1922 construction on "Scotty's Castle" began. The property is now owned by the US National Park Service which offers two tours of the house; a 50 minute house tour and a 60 minute underground tour.
Denali Park, AK
Highest Peak in North America
Denali National Park - Denali National Park (formerly Mt McKinley National Park) is an expansive 6 million acres, the size of Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island combined (but only half the size of the largest National Park, Wrangell-St Elias to the south). The entire area is a gorgeous wilderness area of unspoiled natural beauty filled with an abundance of wildlife. Denali, which means the "High One", a name given by the native Athabascan people, refers to Mt McKinley, the highest peak in North America at 20,320 feet. On a clear day when the illuminated white peak dominates your entire field of vision, you will only be able to utter one syllable words like "WOW".
Destin, FL
A Day at the Beach
Gulf Islands National Seashore - The Gulf Islands National Seashore is the nation's largest National Seashore and protects portions of the Florida and Mississippi coast, several barrier islands and all of the wildlife that calls these areas home. The seashore also protects several forts, Fort Barrancas, Fort Pickens, and Fort McRee which are all located in Florida. Fort Massachusetts is off the coast of Mississippi on West Ship Island and can be reached by ferry (see Mississippi for details).
Devils Tower, WY
Close Encounters of a Third Kind
Devils Tower - In 1906, Devil's Tower was designated the nation's first National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt. The volcanic formation (volcano core) stands 1,267 feet above the surrounding plains, with a summit of 5,112 feet. The most popular thing to do at Devils Tower is to hike around the monument on the 1.3 mile paved trail. The trail weaves through a field of giant rocks that have fallen off of the tower and offers great views of climbers scaling the monolith. A little trivia about the nearby town of Sundance trivia - Harry Longabaugh, the Sundance Kid, got his name after spending time in jail here. There is a nice sculpture of the Kid on Main Street.
Diamond, MO
Carver Found 300 Uses for Peanuts
George Washington Carver National Monument - George Washington Carver was born a slave around 1864 on the Moses and Susan Carver farm. Early on he acquired a great interest in plants and was sometimes called "The Plant Doctor". Through perseverance and will, George went to high school and then earned a Bachelors and Masters Degree. He is certainly best known for his discovery of more than 300 uses for peanuts. At the George Washington Carver National Monument is a Discovery Center filled with information about George's life as well as a one mile nature trail with the 1881 Moses Carver House.
Dos Playa, Aruba
Goats, Caves and Hiking
Arikok National Park - Encompassing nearly 20% of Aruba's land mass, Arikok National Park is a sprawling oasis of natural beauty. The park is located along the island's rugged east coast and houses large rocky outcroppings, diverse wildlife (wild goats, equally wild donkeys, Aruban rattlesnakes and Aruban whiptail lizards), natural limestone caves, abandoned gold mines, sand dunes and plenty of hiking trails. There is easily enough to do here for an entire weekend. Oh, the park contains two of Aruba's highest mountains, Sero Arikok and Sero Jamanota (both over 600 feet high - and offer fantastic views), a natural pool for swimming and a very informative visitor's center. At the southern exit/entrance is a large wind farm which provides shade and a cool surface for hundreds of goats that call it home.
Eastham, MA
Great Beaches and Hiking
Cape Cod National Seashore - Most national parks in the US contain formations that are millions of years old, but the Cape Cod National Seashore is only about 20,000 years old. The entire peninsula was formed by a glacier from the last ice age, which just reached this area and deposited all the rocks and debris it was carrying. In this 45,000 acre seashore are miles of beaches and dunes with intermittent swamps and ponds that make for great hiking and sightseeing.
Empire, MI
Sleeping Bear Dunes
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore - An old Native American legend claims that a mama bear and her two cubs were swimming in Lake Michigan to escape a fire in distant Wisconsin. Mama bear made it to the shores of Michigan and waited for her two cubs, but they never arrived. Mama bear is now the large sand dune on shore and her cubs the North and South Manitou Islands. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is more than just a legend though; it has miles of pristine lakeshore, dozens of hiking trails, and enough water to fill Lake Michigan. Wait, it is Lake Michigan. Holy cow!!!
Estes Park, CO
Rocky Mountain High
Rocky Mountain National Park - The Rocky Mountain National Park offers 400 square miles of the most spectacular panoramic mountain views in the US. The Trail Ridge Road (US Highway 34) is the most popular way to see the mountains by car and crosses the Continental Divide. The park also has over 360 miles of hiking trails, numerous camping areas, horseback riding, fishing and rock climbing. Whatever you decide to do, after a long day in the park, the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park is a great place to relax. It was also the inspiration of Steven King's book "The Shining". If you've never seen the movie with Jack Nicholson, it's fantastic and plays continuously at the hotel.
Flat Rock, NC
Welcome to the Carl Sandburg Home
Carl Sandburg Home - Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) was born in the Land of Lincoln, Galesburg, Illinois to be exact, and besides his poems he is best known for his biography of Abraham Lincoln entitled "Abraham Lincoln: The War Years". His writing won him three Pulitzer Prizes in his lifetime, and he was gifted lecturer and singer. The Carl Sandburg Home is where the author spent the last 22 years of his life and it is now a National Historic Site. The 260 acre estate contains Sandburg's home (guided tours are available) and an assortment of barns and out-buildings that were used for farming.
Florissant, CO
A Glow in the Dark Stump?
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument - I'll admit this monkey came to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument thinking the fossils here glowed in the dark. But, that would be spelled "fluorescent". Who knew? Anyway, what is here is a captivating meadow filled with numerous petrified sequoia tree stumps and animal fossils ranging in age from 2 to 65 million years ago. There are two interpretive trails in the park and a visitor center which details the history of the area.
Fort Smith, AR
Home of Hanging Judge Parker
Fort Smith - The US Army founded Fort Smith in 1817 to contain fighting between Native American tribes. It was later used as a supply depot and a Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas. Fort Smith's most prominent figure was Judge Isaac Parker (1838-1896) the "Hanging Judge". He became the youngest Federal Judge of the West on May 4, 1875, at the age of 36. In 21 years on the bench, Judge Parker heard over 13,000 cases and sentenced 160 men to death by hanging, of which 79 were actually hanged. The Fort Smith National Historic Site contains a two story barracks, Judge Parker's courtroom, and his restored gallows. Just down the street at the Fort Smith Historic Cemetery you can visit the Judge's grave in section 9, grave 4000.
Friedens, PA
Flight 93 Memorial
United Flight 93 - On September 11, 2001 United Flight 93 was destined for San Francisco, CA from Newark, NJ. While in route hijackers over-powered the crew and were planning on crashing the plane into the nation's capitol in DC. Passengers had learned that other hijackers had already crashed two commercial airliners into New York's World Trade Center and one into DC's Pentagon and decided to take action. It is unclear if the passengers breached the cockpit door, but their efforts potentiially saved hundreds of lives in Washington. The plane crashed near Shanksville killing all 40 people on board. A memorial is set up in their honor.
Fruita, CO
Mesas of Colorado National Monument
Colorado National Monument - The Colorado National Monument is an array of deep stratified canyons, large mesas, and multi-colored landscapes. The scenic Rim Rock Drive winds around 23 miles of authentic American West landscape and through three tunnels. Along the way is The Grand Mesa, the largest Mesa in the world, Monument Canyon and the Coke Ovens, both of which are large sandstone rock formations.
Gatlinburg, TN
The Most Visited National Park
Great Smoky Mountain National Park - Enjoyed by nearly 10 million people annually, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited National Park in the USA. That's more than double the visitors of second place finisher, the Grand Canyon. Located on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina the park hosts a portion of the Appalachian Trail in its nearly 800 miles of hiking trails. There are many reasons to visit the park in addition to the hiking trails there is diverse wildlife, great picnic areas and tons of wildflowers. But the number one attraction is simply sightseeing, especially during Fall foliage season. With over 100 species of trees, the mountain is set ablaze with color every autumn.
Gering, NE
Prairie Schooners by Scotts Bluff
Scotts Bluff National Monument - Millions of years ago the area around Scotts Bluff National Monument was a "high plains". The land stood hundreds of feet higher than the current Great Plains. Then the high plains began to erode. As the wind and rain washed away the land, some areas with a hard cap rock refused to give way, creating immense jutting formations. Visiting Scotts Bluff offers some gorgeous views of Mitchell Pass and the North Platte River valley.
Gettysburg, PA
The Turning Point of the Civil War
Gettysburg National Military Park and Cemetery - In about 3 minutes, the 256 word Gettysburg Address was delivered by Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863. It has become the most widely recognized speech in American history. His speech came shortly after the pivotal and bloody battle during the Civil War from July 1 to July 3, 1863. Here roughly 50,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing in action. Today Gettysburg National Military Park and Cemetery contains a museum, a 20 mile auto tour (which surrounds the entire site) and the Soldiers National Cemetery. Be sure to check your photos when you get home, there are many reports of phantom soldiers appearing in the pictures.
Glenwood, NM
Mysteriously Abandoned Cliff Dwellings
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument - The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument stores the housing remnants of the Tularosa Mogollon Indians. Built and inhabited between the late 1200s and the early 1300s, then mysteriously abandoned in less than a generation. To date, no one knows why they left or where they went to. The dwellings themselves were built in naturally formed caves and were constructed of mud, stone and timbers. What you will find there today are some remarkably preserved structures you can tour at your leisure. There are about 7 caves with nearly 40 rooms, and you can still see the smoke blackened cave ceiling and a few petroglyphs.
Grand Canyon, AZ
The Grand Canyon of Grand Canyons
Grand Canyon National Park - Considered by some to be not only Arizona's number one attraction, but the USA's number one attraction. The Grand Canyon is a gorgeous display of buttes, carved rock, and breath-taking chasms created by the desire of one river and six million years of work. The canyon truly deserves its rank as one of the "Seven Natural Wonders of the World". The grandeur runs over 200 miles long, 5-20 miles wide, and up to 5,000 feet deep. The colors are created from various shades of limestone, sandstone and shale all ever changing as the sun works its way across the sky. There are many hiking trails around and in the area or if you don't mind getting a little wet, a white water rafting adventure is a blast.
Hagerstown, MD
C and O in Cumberland
C and O Canal National Historic Park - The 184.5 mile Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, also called the "Grand Ditch", snakes along the Potomac River on its way through three states, Washington DC, West Virginia and Maryland. Originally intended to extend from Pittsburgh, PA to DC in order to carry coal from Steel Town, it fell out of favor to the faster and more efficient railroad. The C and O Canal National Historic Park preserves the remnants of the 1800s canal and has six different visitor centers. At the Georgetown and Great Falls locations, hop a ride on the fancy "mule-powered" boats.
Harpers Ferry, WV
Changing of the Guards
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park - Including portions of West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland and tucked away at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers is Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. The park has a magnificent balance of history, 19th century charm, and natural beauty. This is the site of abolitionist John Brown's ill-fated uprising which foreshadowed the Civil War. And during the Civil War was occupied by both Union and Confederate Armies. Today the picturesque streets are lined with clapboard storefronts that climb the historic hills. Enjoy perusing through the towns shops and museums as well as visiting John Brown's Historic Fort.
Hawaii National Park, HI
Sun, Smoke and Vog at Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park - There are few places in the world where you can see an active volcano with lava and Volcanoes National Park is one of them. The park is over 500 square miles and includes the 11 mile Crater Rim Drive around Kilauea, 36 mile Chain of Craters Road, Jaggar Museum, Thurston Lava Tube, and over 150 miles of trails. Of course we all come to see the red stuff which is kind of unpredictable. If the lava is flowing into the ocean, a boat or helicopter tour may be necessary. But even if lava isn't flowing the day you are there, Volcanoes National Park has a lot to offer.
Homestead, FL
Gator in the Sun
Everglades National Park - Hundreds of different species of birds, fish, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles call the 1.5 million acre Everglades National Park home. The park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the USA and encompasses roughly 25% of the Everglades. Endangered species such as the Florida panther, manatee, and logger-head turtle can be seen here, but the biggest draw are the enormous prehistoric alligators. It is not uncommon to find a 15 foot, 1,000 lb alligator sunning himself under a Royal Palm. Activities in the park include hiking, camping, canoeing, and biking. Ranger led guided-tours are very informative and so are the narrated boat tours.
Honolulu, HI
A Date That Will Live in Infamy
Pearl Harbor - The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor sank or damaged 30 ships and took 2,350 lives, of which 1,177 were aboard the USS Arizona. President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a speech after the attack stating: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." The attack drew the USA into WWII. At the site today, guests can visit the Arizona Memorial where the mighty USS Arizona lies beneath the waves. Also at Pearl Harbor is the USS Missouri on which the Japanese surrendered, the USS Bowfin a Balao Class Submarine, and the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island.
Hot Springs, SD
Exploring Underground South Dakota
Caves and Caverns - There is no shortage of caves and caverns in the Rapid City area. There is Jewel Cave, Ice Cave, Crystal Cave, Black Hills Caverns, Wonderland Cave, Rushmore Cave, and Wind Cave. All are great, but my favorite is Wind Cave. It is the 3rd longest cave in the US and the 4th longest in the world. The best tour to take is the candlelight cave tour, where you each get a candle bucket and explore the less lighted and less developed parts of the cave. Not sure why, but I always want to sneak off and hide in the cave until everyone is gone, then explore for real. But that is just a monkey dreaming again.
Hot Springs, AR
Hot Springs Mountain Tower
Hot Springs National Park - In 1832 Congress created the Hot Springs Reservation and in 1921 changed the name to Hot Springs National Park. The park includes eight historic bathhouses, 47 hot springs and their watershed, and roughly 5,000 acres of land. To best view the park, head over to Hot Springs' most famous landmark, the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. Opened to the public in 1983, this 216 foot tower of fun offers fantastic views of the downtown Hot Springs, the Ouachita Mountains, and the Diamond Lakes area. You can take the elevator up or get a little exercise and climb the stairs. Either way, the view is stunning.