Although piling everyone into the station wagon and spending weeks traversing mountains and deserts, checking off Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, the Grand Canyon, and other national parks “Out West” may be a thing of the past for many, a family trip to our great parks continues to be one of America’s most popular and treasured travel experiences.
If that was ever in doubt, last year’s National Park Service Centennial Year celebrations showed once again that our own magnificent national parks are still among the leaders in family destinations, with the number of visitors in 2016 jumping ahead of 2015’s record numbers. The publicity about the 100th anniversary, along with such National Park Service initiatives as “Find Your Park” and “Every Kid in a Park,” all helped remind parents and grandparents that a visit to an iconic locale like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon becomes a touchstone family event — one that children look back on and refer to for the rest of their lives. The centennial was just one of the reasons departures of our America’s Treasures: The U.S. National Parks trip sold out last year (2017 departures are still available, or check out our 2018 trips Canyonlands of the American Southwest or Wild West Adventure.)
The centennial of the National Park Service (NPS) also serves to remind us that the United States was the pioneer in setting aside land as a public resource for the enjoyment of all of its citizens. And although we may think of the National Park Service, a bureau within the Department of the Interior, as synonymous with the parks, the parks preceded it by 44 years.
As we celebrate President’s Day, it’s also worth noting that the occupants of the White House have been some of the biggest champions for our parks. The United States of America was less than 100 years old when Yellowstone National Park was established under Ulysses S. Grant in 1872, decades before Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho achieved statehood. And that followed the real progenitor to the our great public parks, the Yosemite Grant Act, signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1864, while the Civil War was still raging. It set aside land in California that later became Yosemite National Park. Conservationist-presidents like Theodore Roosevelt added to the growing list of national parks and other protected lands, primarily in what are now our Western states. However, with no unified oversight and haphazard supervision by the Department of the Interior, abuse and mismanagement of our public resources were rampant. The growing pains were amply documented in the popular Ken Burns’ PBS series, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”
By 1916, a growing chorus of voices, from conservationists to business people, was calling for better, more consistent management, and the National Park Service was born. Signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916, the act creating the National Park Service stated that its mission was to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
It’s a testament to the success of “America’s best idea” that we future generations continue to value our national treasures so highly. And although everyone has a favorite, the crown jewels of the system remain the great parks along the Continental Divide, including Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and the canyonland wonders of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion national parks. From the snowcapped peaks, pine forests, and spectacular wildlife viewing of the northern parks to the awe-inspiring vistas and desert colors of the Southwest canyon country, the five parks continue to draw record numbers of visitors of all ages. It’s not just Americans who are visiting, either — foreign visitors of all ages are some of the most avid fans of our national parks.
Vantage Adventures Launches “Family Friendly” Saturday-to-Saturday National Parks Journeys
As part of its increased emphasis on Multigenerational Travel aimed at providing trips designed for parents, grandparents, teens, and children traveling together, Vantage Adventures has completely revamped its popular National Parks offering. Beginning in 2018, families can now select from two schedule-friendly Saturday-to-Saturday journeys: Canyonlands of the American Southwest and Wild West Adventure: Yellowstone, Grand Teton & U.S. Monuments. In addition to visiting the national parks and other wonders indicated in the titles, such as Mount Rushmore and Sedona, Arizona, they’re chock full of activities and adventure that appeal to travelers of all ages, including hikes, float trips, and boat trips, as well as such iconic Western experiences as a ride on the Grand Canyon Railway, a Wild West Dinner, the world-famous rodeo in Cody, Wyoming, and opportunities for horseback riding. For the ultimate family adventure, the two trips can be combined into one grand, two-week excursion, America’s Majestic National Parks, Canyonlands & Monuments.