What To Do For National Park Week? Here Are Some Suggestions!

A visit to Cape Hatteras National Seashore opens up all kinds of possibilities, including getting a closeup look of the Ocracoke Light. Kurt Repanshek photo.

April 21-29, 2012 marks National Park Week, an opportunity for all people, Americans and foreign visitors alike, to take advantage of a vast array of recreational, educational, historical and scientific adventures in the 397 parks in the American national park system.

Admission is free to all parks in the system during National Park Week, and a variety of programs and activities have been planned at parks across the system. Many Americans view our national parks as vast open spaces full of wildlife and natural scenery. While that is true for many parks, the majority of parks have historical, military or scientific themes.

At some parks, these themes intertwine making for an even more inspiring visitor experience, and here are a few examples:

At Cape Hatteras National Seashore, visitors can not only experience pristine beaches full of shorebirds, sea turtles and wild ponies, but can also visit the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, three historic lighthouses, and learn about Native American life and several Civil War battles fought on or near its shores.

A visit to nearby Fort Raleigh National Historic Site will compel visitors to ponder the disappearance of the Roanoke colony in one of the greatest mysteries of American history.

Visitors to Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site and Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site can learn about Booker T. Washington, an African-American who was born into slavery. He founded the Tuskegee Institute, an institution which provided education and career training for African-Americans after the Civil War, still functioning as an institute of higher learning to this day.

Visitors to the park will also learn about the Tuskegee Airmen, a squadron of African-American bomber pilots who were the first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces, seeing action in World War II.

At Independence National Historical Park, a variety of themes are presented to visitors. A tour of the Liberty Bell Pavilion and Independence Hall will help visitors learn about the founding fathers and the American Revolution. A visit to Franklin Court, the site of Benjamin Franklin’s house, will afford visitors an inside look at Franklin and his life in Philadelphia, and a special archaeological exhibit demonstrates many artifacts that were uncovered at the site during its excavation.

Franklin Court also houses a U.S. Postal Museum, highlighting Franklin as the first Postmaster General, and the evolution of the service since its inception. A reproduction of Franklin’s Print Shop shows visitors how the first Poor Richard’s Almanacs and many other publications were printed using a manual printing press.

Several other adjacent sites, such as Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site and Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, add even more to a visitor’s experience.

America’s national parks are increasingly relevant to children, with a variety of programs available at the parks which are designed to pique their interest in the themes of the park, and give kids a more hands-on experience. Junior Ranger Day is on April 29th, and the occasion is a perfect opportunity to introduce kids to national parks. To learn more about children’s programs at a park near you, or to download a Junior Ranger booklet, please visit this site.

There are many books and interpretive products available on eParks.com that will help you to show your support and learn more about the parks. There are also plenty of kids’ items available to pique their interest in the outdoors and in the national parks:

FOR KIDS:

Park Ranger Hat Delta Kite

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, a new federal bureau in the Department of the Interior.

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Go fly a ranger kite during National Park Week!

The National Park Service is the guardian of our diverse cultural and recreational resources; An environmental advocate; A world leader in the parks and preservation community; and a pioneer in the drive to protect America's open space. This kite features a park ranger's hat. It measures 54 wide and 28 high. It's made of rip stop nylon, has a fiberglass frame, and includes a kite line and handle. $14.95

National Parks for Kids DVD

This amazing DVD contains over 2 hours of video in a fun interactive format that kids of all ages will enjoy. Learn about 90 national parks, monuments, and historic sites plus famous events from our nations past. DVD includes puzzles, coloring books, and games. Total running time: 140 minutes. $19.95

America's National Parks Lunch Box and Water Bottle Set

This durable lightweight tin lunchbox and stainless kids-sized water bottle feature some of the most recognizable sites from America's National Parks.

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Let your kids take the parks to school.

It's perfect for the kids to take their lunch to school, or for parents to show their support at work! $19.95

Other items from the America’s National Parks line of products are also available.

America's National Parks Kids' Activity Book

This kids' activity book features games, puzzles, mazes, activities, and trivia all relating to America's national parks! This activity book is broken down by the parks' themes as well as in which region they're located. It also contains pages for cancellation stamps, so your children can collect them and remember when they visited each park. This publication is printed in the USA. $7.95

FOR ADULTS:

Discover America's National Parks DVD

From Yosemite to the Everglades, from Independence Hall to Gettysburg, this DVD explores over 90 locations, including Alaska and Hawaii. Featuring the mesmerizing cinematography of Russ Finley, you will journey through America as never before. Produced by Finley Holiday Films. Run Time: 145 Minutes $19.95

America's National Parks Civil War Handbook

This handbook was produced to help commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

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Glean some of the causes and impacts of the Civil War.

It highlights the national parks that have preserved the battlefields where the war was fought. It also includes dozens of sites beyond the battlefields. From causes to consequences, these parks interpret the military, political, social, and economic impact of the war. This book features dozens of historic photographs and illustrations and includes spaces for our Passport® program's cancellation stamps. Spiral bound, 128 pages. This publication is printed in the USA. $10.95

I Support America's National Parks Pin

The National Park Service of the United States comprises 397 areas covering more than 84 million acres in 49 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands. The National Park Service: guardian of our diverse cultural and recreational resources; environmental advocate; world leader in the parks and preservation community; and pioneer in the drive to protect America's open space. Show your support and interest in America's national parks! $5.95

Additional items from the Supporter line of products are also available.

Guidebook to African-American History in the National Parks

This concise guidebook provides an enlightening glimpse into how African-American history is preserved and interpreted in America's national parks. Woven together, the diverse park sites provide a tapestry into the legacy of the African-American experience. This book includes dozens of historic and present-day images of the parks and the people and events they commemorate. 68 pages; Produced by Eastern National. Printed in the USA. $7.95

FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY:

Passport To Your National Parks® Explorer Edition

The Explorer Edition features a sturdy weatherproof portfolio with a durable inside binder, several pockets for your national park collectibles and personal items, and an attachable, adjustable strap so it's easy to carry. It also comes with a map of the United States which displays the national parks and their locations. The inside pages are bigger and better than ever, and they're expandable, allowing you to add or rearrange pages any way you like. $49.95

America the Beautiful Annual Pass with the Passport® To Your National Parks and Buddy Bison

Have you always wanted to experience our national parks? This set makes it easy!

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The complete package to help you explore the National Park System.

The America the Beautiful Pass gives you and 3 other adults access to federally operated recreation areas across the country. Take your Passport To Your National Parks® along with you and collect cancellation stamps from the parks you visit. And don't forget Buddy Bison! He's your national park travel companion. $95.00