We are BIG fans of National Parks as they represent so much of the history and beauty that our country has to offer. We purchase an America the Beautiful pass each year for $80…a small price to pay, in my opinion, to be able to visit as many parks and/or monuments as we are able. However, there are other passes for seniors, disabled and military at reduced prices.
We have been to quite a few National Parks and Monuments with our Heartland Landmark in tow, at this point but have a LOT more to visit in the years to come so this list only covers our favorites to date.
Without any further ado…here are our Favorite National Parks/Monuments (13 in all) in no particular order:
Bryce Canyon/Cedar Breaks/Zion National Park – Utah
These 3 parks are all within driving distance of each other and all worth seeing. Each beautiful in their own way they are absolutely breathtaking. Hard to believe the rock formations can be so pretty! We couldn't choose a favorite because they're similar but so very different from each other!
Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty – New York
If you're a history buff or just proud to be an American…you HAVE to visit both of these destinations. Hop on a ferry and enjoy the ride as you view Lady Liberty for the Hudson River. Even better, disembark at each island and then stroll around and feel the emotions that immigrants of the past felt as they first arrived in our great country. Plan to spend most of the day between the two locations.
Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona
The Grand Canyon's majesty is second to none. Take advantage of the free shuttle system and 'hop on, hop off' at each of the viewpoints so you can decide for yourself which view you enjoy the most. If you're a hiker you'll be in heaven as there are many different trails to follow. Dine in one of the restaurants on site or watch one of the Native American dances in the court yard to finish off your day. Lots to see and do…plan to stay several days.
White Sands National Monument – New Mexico
Ok…so it's a bunch of sand…big deal. But it's SO cool and when you're in the middle of the sea of sand it doesn't seem to end. Get out and play in the sand…climb the humongous dunes…slide down them on a sled of some sort…make sand angels. It's a great place for children and adults alike. We LOVED it and would go back prepared with sleds next time.
White Sands Missile Range is just down the road and the museum is definitely worth a visit, especially if you're military or an aircraft buff.
Washington DC – Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Vietnam/WW1/WW2 Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Roosevelt Memorial...
The whole area should be considered a National Park! Monuments, memorials and museums abound! An area rich in history. You can feel your chest puff out in pride as you walk through the various areas. Plan to spend LOTS and LOTS of time in DC as there are military and private RV parks nearby.
Devil's Tower National Monument – Wyoming
If you're a climber this is really a cool place for you to visit! We're not climbers but really enjoyed watching the climbers that were scaling this massive piece of rock when we visited. Not a whole lot to do but it's such an interesting formation that just seems to pop up out of nowhere that you'll stare in wonder.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park – New Mexico
When Michael mentioned that he wanted to visit Carlsbad Caverns I wasn't real excited. My thoughts were along the lines of, "Once you've seen one cave…you've seen them all." Wow! Was I wrong! We chose to walk down into the cavern, which I am so grateful we did. Not a bad walk at all….but the beauty…absolutely unbelievable. The size alone is breathtaking. Don't miss this one…and be sure to stay until dusk to experience 'the bats'!
Montezuma Castle National Monument – Arizona
Montezuma castle is a cliff-dwelling that is made up of 5 stories and 20 rooms that was built by the Sinagua people between 1100 and 1425 AD! I am amazed at how well preserved the structure is. There is a visitor's center where you can find out more about the castle and its people and the walk to the castle is beautiful and peaceful.
Montezuma Well is not far from the castle and is another interesting place to visit. The natural spring water well was a water source for the Sinagua people who farmed the area.
Oklahoma City Bombing National Memorial – Oklahoma
The museum is fascinating with great displays and plenty of 'hands on' activities to help you better understand the events of April 19, 1995. The memorial itself is a beautiful way to remember the 168 men, women and children who lost their lives that day. The outdoor memorial has a chair to memorialize each of the lives that were lost to this senseless act of violence.
Tuzigoot National Monument - Arizona
Tuzigoot is an ancient pueblo that sits atop a desert hilltop that was built by the Sinagua people. The first buildings of the pueblo/village are thought to be built about 1000 AD and the people left the area about 1400 AD. There are 97 rooms in Tuzigoot and each room was about 10×10 in size with 1 family living in each room. Entrance into each room was through the ceiling, possibly for protection.
You can walk in, around and among the ruins which are elevated to make it easier to see potential enemies approaching. A really fun and interesting place.
Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Site – Texas
This National Historic Site includes LBJs boyhood home, the Johnson Settlement and the LBJ Ranch where LBJ was laid to rest. You can participate in guided tours of his boyhood home as well as the ranch home…plus you can take a self-guided tour of the ranch itself. We found the entire experience very interesting from touring the still-operating farm to stepping into his home and feeling like we'd find LBJ relaxing in one of the rooms.
Ft. Bowie National Historic Site - Arizona
This sight-seeing venture requires a 3-mile round trip hike through the desert to the fort ruins and visitors center…however, there is an ADA accessible car route too. The hike includes interpretive signs along the way that help you understand the conflict between the US. Military and Apache people in the area.
As a bonus make plans to stop at Chiricahua National Monument which is nearby. Make the 8-mile scenic drive that winds through the magnificent hoodoos and spires that make up this cool place…it's well worth it.