To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the United States National Park System, all parks will be free for visitors from April 16-24. Among the places listed in the National Park System are the most significant to our nation’s history. This includes not only the traditional national parks but also national heritage areas, preserve areas, historical sites, trails, and areas. Included in the festivities of the celebration are activities for children, volunteering for Earth Day and even a National Park Instameet! Read up on the events here and find a national park near you here.
The Southern United States have some of the best and undiscovered national parks and sites in the country. While there are hundreds worth a visit that span all of our states in the region, here are just a few that we recommend planning a trip to.
Arkansas– Hot Springs National Park
I’m excited to be visiting this national park for the first time this week. This city in Arkansas was the country’s first resort and the first site of baseball spring training for its healing springs. Today, you will still see plenty of spas and use of the natural water, but also outdoor adventures like mountain biking and hiking.
Booker T. Washington founded the Tuskegee Institute in the 1800s as a place for the best and brightest from the region to study. George Washington Carver came here and began his legacy as an inventor. At the historic site, you can visit Booker T. Washington’s home and a museum devoted to Carver.
Florida– Everglades National Park
This type of ecosystem is only found in two places around the world, but the Everglades National Park in southern Florida is perhaps the most well-known. It’s home to endangered species like manatees, American crocodiles and Florida panthers. You can experience the park in a variety of ways, including airboat rides, kayaking, camping, and nature walks.
An important stop on any visit to Georgia is the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. It’s actually made up of different locations in the same Sweet Auburn neighborhood, which includes his boyhood home, the church where he preached, a visitor’s center and historically relevant buildings on the same block.
Kentucky– Mammoth Cave National Park
The world’s longest cave system is located in Kentucky and only a small percentage, 400 miles, of it has ever been explored. The sprawling system has plenty to offer visitors, including ranger-led tours, which have been going on for 200 years, 100 years longer than the National Parks system.
Louisiana– Poverty Point State Historic Site
Perhaps one of the country’s most underrated sites, this newly UNESCO-listed landmark was a massive settlement over 3,000 years ago. Here you can see the concentric circles that were created by the hands of laborers and artifacts that have been discovered here. The civilization that lived here predates even the Mayans.
Mississippi– Natchez Trace Parkway
One of the most scenic drives in the country is the Natchez Trace Parkway, which runs from outside Nashville in Tennessee through most of Mississippi. The 444-mile road was originally used as a Native American trading route. It’s also a popular bicycling and motorcycling trip for its curving turns and scenic views.
North Carolina– Wright Brothers National Memorial
Pay tribute to the site of the first flight, where the Wright Brothers flew a successful but brief period in the air in a glider that they made. At this historic site, you’ll learn more about why Kitty Hawk was chosen as the test site and more about modern aviation.
South Carolina– Congaree National Park
One of the newest national parks is located in central South Carolina. It’s the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. Visitors can go for nature walks on the raised platforms or go kayaking through the waterways.
Tennessee– Great Smoky Mountain National Park
The most visited park in the country straddles state lines between Tennessee and North Carolina. Here you’ll find diverse flora and fauna, including wildflowers and black bears. There are a number of cities near the park, so you can either stay in a hotel or cabin or “rough it” by camping.
Virginia– Shenandoah National Park
Another scenic national park is located a short drive from the bustle of Washington DC. See the famous Skyline Drive by car before going on a hike to see the waterfalls and other natural features. The park includes over 200,000 acres of protected land.
Washington DC– National Mall and Memorial Parks
An important way to experience Washington DC is through its monuments and historic sites. This includes the National Mall, monuments and the White House.