Have your travel plans been disrupted by the pandemic? Americans are not currently allowed to travel to many countries, but this doesn’t mean you need to give up on your travel bucket list! How about spending time this year taking local trips?
A great way to visit some awesome destinations while still staying safe is to take advantage of this time at home and visit the beautiful national and state parks right in your own backyard.
If you’d hoped to fly down to the Caribbean this winter know that there are some amazing beaches and seashores as part of the parks system, many of which are even near major cities.
From Boston, you can get your ocean fix by hopping on a ferry to Boston Harbor Islands State Park. Spanning multiple islands, this park has great beaches and birdwatching. Further south in North Carolina are two national park-managed seashores: Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout National Seashores. At just over four hours east of Raleigh, either would be a great spot for a long weekend away from the city.
And if you thought beach time was limited to the coasts, don’t forget about freshwater lakes! Near Detroit, a quick drive south will take you to William C Sterling State Park on Lake Erie, while a drive North opens up possibilities of many parks along Lake Huron. If you’re further West in Chicago, take the scenic drive up the coast of Lake Michigan to spend a few days taking in the jaw-dropping dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Dramatic Mountain Landscapes
Unfortunately, this year, you’re not going to be able to check skiing in the Alps or hiking the Inca Trail off your bucket list. But if you want mountains, you don’t have to leave the country. Some US cities are particularly well-located for mountain adventures, like Seattle, which is near 4 major national parks and many more state parks. Similarly, from Denver, you could easily take a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.
While the tall mountains in the west get the most hype, if you’re locked down on the East Coast you can still enjoy hikes! From NYC you can take a train to the Hudson Highlands State Park where you’ll find an exhilarating hike with a view at Breakneck Ridge. If you’re in Philadelphia, you should take a day trip to the Poconos where you can enjoy mountain activities at parks like Lehigh Gorge State Park.
History and Culture
If you’d planned to spend your vacation days this year exploring old-world cities in Europe, a hiking trip might not be what you’re in the mood for. But did you know the National Parks system also includes many historical and cultural sites right in urban areas?
For instance, in Boston, you can walk the Freedom Trail and see multiple National Historic Sites, plus some beautiful colonial architecture. In Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell can be viewed safely from outdoors. And in Baltimore, Fort McHenry National Monument (yes, that’s the one that inspired the Star-Spangled Banner!) is currently allowing visitors to walk the grounds.
Further South, most people think about Orlando only when they’re heading to Disney World. But if you’re based there and craving a trip abroad, take a weekend trip to St. Augustine. This historic town will transport you to Spain, and you can visit National Historic Sites like Fort Matanzas and Castillo de San Marcos.
Time to Get to Work on Your Bucket List
Now that you’re excited about all the options open to you right here at home, it’s time to start checking items off that bucket list! For a fun and interactive way to do it, check out a National Parks Passport. Most park sites will have a special stamp that you can stamp right in your passport book so you can keep a physical bucket list right in your back pocket.