Reader Participation Day: What Memorabilia Do You Take Home From A National Park Vacation?

Enter a gift shop in a national park and your senses are overwhelmed with memorabilia for sale that years down the road will, hopefully, remind you of your vacation. What do you look for?

There are hats to collect, T-shirts, and hiking stick medallions. Then, too, there are even scrapbook supplies, puzzles, guidebooks, field journals, coffee cups, and framed photographs by photographers who, most often, are better shooters than we are. Some gift shops offer commemorative wool blankets, jewelry, and beer glasses.

Do any of these items interest you? Do you focus on one aspect of park memorabilia -- hats or the hiking stick medallions, perhaps -- to track your national park visits?


I collect the lapel pins, stick 'em on a bulletin board in my living room to track my progress. At an average cost of $4 each, that's about $600 on a bulletin board!!

I also try to find local art on my trips. Sometimes NPS gift shops will sell works of local artisans, other times I'll go to nearby towns or art shows to see what folks are making. This is a better choice than some commemorative teaspoon: most of that junk is made in China, at least locally made artworks support an American artist, helps the local economy, and gives you something actually unique & interesting to put on your mantle.

I have pins as well for my hiking hat and as an avid reader I HAVE to come home with a book! I enjoy history and biographies so anything about the local history of where we are holds my interest (Jim Bridger's biography, Missing in the Minarets,: the Search for Walter A. Starr Jr, etc). Christmas ornaments from our vacations have their very own Christmas tree in December so those are a must as well!

Similar to Connie, I look for an ornament if available. However, we don't have a separate Christmas tree - just a main one with all our travels / memories, which makes for a fun annual review. Other than that, I go for the photo magnets - we have quite a collage of beautiful shots stuck to our refrigerator!

I collect the iron-on patches that most national parks sell. At first, I was putting them on a wall in our RV. Now, I have so many, I put them in a scrap book. One day, maybe I'll have a quilt made with them all.

Pottery shards, sticks, rocks, pine cones, the odd critter for a new pet, fossils, wildflowers, saplings, a thermos full of geyser water..... KIDDING

My family collects posters when we can find cool ones, passport stamps, lots of photos, and memories.

I also collect the embroidered patches as anon said above. I try to have one for every place we go. Other than that it's books. If there's a book that highlights the natural history of the park I'm in, I'll buy it. I rarely leave a gift shop without a book in hand. You can usually find the same books cheaper at Amazon, but I consider that my extra donation to the NPS cause. The VC's and gift shops are usually staffed with such friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable people, I want them to keep getting paychecks.

T-shirts, hats. Also, at Shenandoah and Yellowstone, we've found these great little half-packs that hold about the amount of a wallet with room for an energy bar or two and have a water bottle holster. They're not as dorky as a traditional fanny pack, and they're great for a short hike. My 77-year-old mother said that half-pack was her favorite souvenir from a 4-state, 3-park trip. She wears it on her daily walks now, and people always ask her about her trip to Yellowstone when they see the logo on the pack.

I collect patches and pins, and on occasion, my wife collects mugs. We are avid hikers so we also always buy a local park hiking guide and stamp it instead of using the blue passport books.

Stamps in my NP Passport books.

Lapel pins and NP Passport stamps for sure, and a hiking staff badge if I did enough hiking in the park. A long walk from the parking lot to the VC doesn't count as a hike. :-) My Girlfriend always gets a fridge magnet. One day the door is going to fall off when I open it for a glass of milk.

Usually get a book as a souvenir as a gift and if the park has a handbook available I try to get it though not all parks seem to have them and the handbooks themselves can be out of date. So many of the parks are free so I like to get something to support them.

I do the lapel pins and the stamps for my passport book and of course I 'collect' all the pictures I can. I used to collect books but I have run out of room! I have 3 large bookcases in my house and still don't have room for the books I already have. I haven't yet found a way to display my lapel pins. I don't have a lot of wall space in my house (yay big windows!) Any other lapel pin collectors have ideas?

Passport stamps, baseball caps, tshirts, and KoolKanteen water bottles. I especially love the ones that are rare [like my Kalaupapa shirt].

As non-commercial as I usually am, when I see a park or museum gift shop, I'm a lost fool.

I too collect hat pins which I put on a curtain in RV living room. I also collect Jr. Ranger badges. First stop is the VC to get my Jr Ranger book and I always promise to complete the whole book. I've only been turned down once and was told I was "too old." What a bunch of bunk. I always learn a lot about the park doing these activities.

We also collect hat pins for us and the kids. The kids also try to collect pressed pennies wherever we go. Gotta get the National Park passports stamped as well.

Besides fond memories and lots of pictures, I usually get a book or booklet about the park that is rich on photos. Most of the times this is the first thing I do in a new park, to get an idea how professional photographers show the park and what is there to see. The Traveler's sponsor will like that most of the time it is the "stories behind the scenery" booklet. And I keep all the tickets, stubs and what ever I get at the campgrounds or ranger led hikes.

Oh and I got a big coffee mug at Yosemite in 1990, when I was there for the first time. At first I put it away in the cupboard, but sometimes I made it my standard morning coffee mug and use it for about 15 years now almost daily.

Besides that I got the usual assortment of a few t-shirts and caps, but most of them didn't last long and I rarely buy stuff like that anymore.

My husband always has to have a pin and a patch. The kids always get a stamp in their passport and on their junior ranger books, in addition to any junior ranger badge they earn. My son will sometimes get a spoon or something else that catches his eye. I like to get postcards, with dreams of scrapbooking them some time. I love to buy what I can in the gift shop to support the parks and have a tangible memory of fun times.

My daughter and I collect stamps in our passports and pins from every park. We display the pins on lanyards and on our bedroom curtains. The lanyards hang from a hat rack in my daughters room and she can see them whenever she wants to. I also collect the maps from every park. I have a box that is almost full already.

We look for lapel pins and patches to decorate our Bauble Boards with! I also like to keep the maps and use them as background papers for scrapbooks.

Postcards (I'm covering my RV cabinets with them). Christmas ornaments and passport stamps. I used to collect key rings, hung them like charms on a long braided rope bracelet & draped it over a mirror until it got too heavy. Pottery and other local art work is very special. I too want to buy at the VC to support the parks & local artists. The memories associated with each item is priceless.

I collect stamps in my passport book, postcards, bookmarks, calendars, and magnets from every park. I display the magnets on my office filing cabinets so I can escape anytime of the day and I get to choose a different bookmark everytime I begin a new book.

It's patches for me...and Passport stamps...and if there is a cool old-style poster, that's mine, too. I have the patches on 2 backpacks that I hike with...the only problem is deciding which one to take! Someday, they will probably all get sewn onto a blanket or something...maybe a sleeping bag.

I usually get magnets and sometimes ornaments. I have collected, but can't seem to find anymore at the National Parks, are the 8" square ceramic tiles to hang on my kitchen wall. I have collected five tiles from Glacier National Park and one each from Zion NP, Acadia NP, Yosemite NP, Bass Harbor, and Montana Huckleberry. Our goal is to visit all the National Parks, (which we have visited most) and decorate the kitchen wall with the tiles, but these are the only ones that I have found.

Thanks for making me laugh Laran :) See his/her post above.

We collect the park pins but instead of putting them on a hat or vest we take cut off the back part, glue a piece of magnet strip on it and put it on our frige in the motorhome. It's a great reminder of all our trips and usually cheaper than the magnets in the store :) Oh and we take lots of pictures that popup as our screen saver on our laptop.

I used to do t-shirts -- one of these days I need to make a National Park T-shirt quilt because I've got enough to cover a king-sized bed, I think.

And I do refrigerator magnets. I've got them from 28 different national parks and monuments (in addition to many other places I've visited).

This last trip to Yellowstone a couple of weeks ago I came home with a mug and a 2011 calendar [g].

Must haves: the park brochure from the VC, patches, postcards, and passport stamps, CD's of regional music (bluegrass and hammer dulcimer from Great Smoky Mountains, whaling songs from New Bedford, etc.), baseball caps from the "Big" parks (Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Everglades, Mt. Rainier, etc.), and usually one of the KC Publications "Behind the Scenery" books on the park. Also, books by local authors, or at least pertaining to the area, although a couple of years ago I stretched that a bit to buy what turned out to be an excellent book called "The Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges" by....well I can't think of the authors' names at the moment :)

And then the same type of stuff Laran mentions above in that first line (kidding too).

Patches and brochures. I keep the brochures in a file box. Unfortunately some units (such as Constitution Gardens) appear not to have such publications.

I love Barky's comment! My family has a few small concessions in the Parks (in New Mexico) and we work hard to carry handmade items by local artists - often Native Americans. Jewelry, pots, weavings... It really does have a positive impact on the local economy! We have some stuff made in China - because there's a demand and many items (spoons, anyone?) are not made anywhere in the US. Buying local is great! It allows us to keep buying from individual artisans.

Photographs, stories, and memories.