Gateway Arch National Park

The Gateway Arch is often referred to as “The Gateway to the West” because it reflects the role St. Louis played in the westward expansion of the United States in the 19th century.

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History of the Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch stands an impressive 630 feet above the Mississippi River in St. Louis, making it the tallest national monument in America. Civil leader Luther Ely Smith initiated the revival of the waterfront, including this preeminent engineering structure designed by Finnish-born architect, Eero Saarinen.

Sadly, Eero Saarinen died in 1961 before the completion of the stainless steel arch. The Gateway Arch was completed in 1965, with the Visitor Center at its top being opened in 1967.

Unique Attractions

1. The Gateway Arch

You can have a great view of St. Louis and the area that lies beyond the Mississippi River at the Visitor Center located at the highest point of the Gateway Arch.

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2. The Museum of Westward Expansion

This museum is located directly below the Gateway Arch, and it exhibits highlight the challenges faced by Americans, including the Lewis and Clark Expedition during the overland westward immigration, which had a significant impact in shaping the West.

3. The Old Courthouse

This original Federal-style courthouse was completed in 1828. It hosted the first two trials of Dred Scott, who sued for his freedom as a slave in 1846. Today, this building hosts a museum and restored courtrooms.

Tours Available at the Gateway Arch

The tram ride tour begins with an interactive pre-boarding session with exhibits featuring 60s-era animation and trivia about the Gateway. Then, you will be transported up 63 stories to the top of the tallest monument ever built in America. Each tour takes about 45-60 minutes.

Restaurants in the Area

Some of the best restaurants where you can dine after a tour in the Gateway National Park include; Charlie Gitto’s Downtown, Carmine’s Steak House, and Ruth Chris Steak House.

The Gateway Arch National Park is the place to visit in the Midwest. You get to know more about your nation’s history, including the people who risked their lives to make America what it is today.

Embark on a Trip to Channel Islands National Park

Not far from the coast of California is the Channel Islands National Park, a park that hosts some of the most charming and fascinating islands in the country. The long history of the islands spans thousands of years from when it was first settled by Native Americans all the way to when it was designated as a National Monument and then, a National Park.

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The Islands

There are many islands that are a part of Channel Islands National Park and each and every one of them are stunning places to visit. For example, San Miguel Island has some spectacular beaches and is also the home to a lot of exquisite wildlife. Santa Cruz Island is home to a lot of historical buildings as well as stunning seaside cliffs. Santa Barbara Island is a diverse and gorgeous place with tall mesas in the interior and a lot of grasslands by the sea where the island’s wildlife live and breed. While not an island itself, another popular place to visit within the park is the open ocean itself. Boat tours that will take you whale watching around the islands are available and are a very popular thing for visitors to do.

Activities on the Islands

Depending on which island you’re on, there are a lot of different things you can do during your visit to Channel Islands National Park. Anacapa Island has a beautiful lighthouse that you can visit as well as hiking trails that you can take a tour through. Santa Cruz Island has some great spaces for camping, however, the western half of the island does not permit any camping. Every island also provides an opportunity to watch seals and sea lions rest and relax on the beaches and coasts. And of course, swimming and snorkeling in the beautiful blue waters of the Pacific Ocean are also popular activities to do on any of the islands.

Food and Lodging

Channel Islands National Park does not have any restaurants or lodging options and all food and water must be carried with you when you visit the park. Boats with snacks and drinks are nearby but by and large, visitors will have to bring their own supplies when visiting the islands.

Prepare to Set Sail to Dry Tortugas National Park

There are few places in the Americas where you’ll get to see both the natural beauty of the world as well as the innovative creations of humanity in the same location, but Dry Tortugas National Park is one such place. Located many miles away from the coast of Florida, Dry Tortugas National Park has a long and lurid history. The cornerstone of the park, Fort Jefferson, was built in the mid-1800s but was never completed, yet it still stands today as a testament to the importance of the islands that form Dry Tortugas National Park.

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The Beauty of Dry Tortugas

Fort Jefferson is the most popular attraction in Dry Tortugas and rightfully so as it is the largest brick fort in the entire United States. Not only is it a sight to behold in person, but the fort’s long history is also something that many visitors and tourists will yearn to learn more about when they tour the fort. But Fort Jefferson is not the only thing that Dry Tortugas has to offer. The majority of Dry Tortugas National Park isn’t dry at all and is actually in the water. The vast and beautiful ocean that surrounds the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park is also a very popular reason to visit the park.

Popular Activities

Other than touring Fort Jefferson, no visit to Dry Tortugas National Park is complete without observing the ocean that it protects. Some of the many things to do include diving to see old shipwrecks, watching the beautiful sea turtles that nest at Dry Tortugas National Park, or just being in awe at the vibrant and natural beauty of the park’s coral reefs. There are also of course more dry options such as camping at Garden Key or enjoying some of the warm and captivating beaches of the islands.

Accommodations

Because of how isolated Dry Tortugas National Park is, there are no lodging or restaurants in the park. All food and water that is available to visitors are on the ferry that brings them from the mainland to the park. For campers, you are allowed to go fishing for food, but it’s highly recommended you stock up on supplies before going camping there.

Honor a Great President at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

There may be no President who has been as strong of a conservationist as Teddy Roosevelt. An avid outdoorsman, Teddy Roosevelt carried his love for the beauty of nature with him when he became President. Among many other great achievements, President Teddy Roosevelt protected wide swaths of land by creating National Parks and National Monuments around them. It is fitting then that a National Park was created in his honor many years later, and that park is the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. 

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The President’s Visit

Teddy Roosevelt visited the area that would turn into the park in 1883 for a big game hunting expedition. His experience in North Dakota changed him so much that he would go on to become the conservationist history remembers him as. Theodore Roosevelt National Park still has the big game that the President hunted, though nowadays they are not close to extinction anymore. There are many tours that will take you and your family to see all the beautiful and moving scenery and wildlife that Teddy Roosevelt saw when he first visited the place back in 1883. 

Other Things to Do

Asides from learning about the namesake of the park, there is also a wide variety of other things to do there. The small town of Medora is located at the entrance of the park and it features museums as well as lodging options for visitors. The scenery of the rest of the park is very beautiful as well, with long, winding rivers, magnificent mountains, and great spaces for camping too. Hiking is by far the most popular way to experience the beauty of the park, but driving down the roads will also provide visitors with a splendid and scenic driving experience. The Scenic Loop Drive, in particular, is a 36 mile stretch of road that will provide not only a beautiful driving experience but also an educational one as well. A lot of the park’s wildlife will wander along its path and the drive also features pullouts and signs along the road that will give visitors a chance to learn more about the park.

Dining Options

Because of how remote the park is, there are no restaurants in the park at all. However, at Medora, there are limited options for dining, though its dining options become even more limited during the winter months. There are a few other restaurants that are more than 15 miles away from the park, so be sure to plan ahead before visiting the park. 

Get Swept In The Tides of Itsukushima Shrine, Japan

With over 1400 years of history, the Itsukushima Shrine floats on top of the Seto Inland Sea and once served as the holy home of Shintoism. Itsukushima was built on the Island of Miyajima, an island with such reverence that it is held to the status of Goddess, and serves as a symbol of the diversity of Japanese culture and the country’s rich history.

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Enter the City of Shrines

For as little as 300 yen or just under 3 American dollars, visitors can explore the vast corridors and grandeur of Itsukushima and admire the traditional Shinto style of architecture. For a combined 500 yen, add the grand treasure hall to your tour and be sure to experience Itsukushima during both high and low tides.

The Tide Times Two

In addition to the beauty of the shrine’s architecture, Itsukushima offers two ways to admire it. During the low tide hours, walk to the grand O-torii gate and discover parts of the island before the tide returns to swallow them up once more. High tide also offers its own dramatic transformation of the shrine. Feel the sea lapping through the floorboards as you walk Itsukushima’s corridors.

 Venture Outside of Itsukushima Shrine

There is also much to see on the Goddess herself. Between tides, take a scenic 2-hour adventure up Mt. Misen to the Goddess’s crown where the natural wildlife flourishes in abundance. When you are done exploring the shrine grounds, or if you are just in need of a break, enjoy a meal from one of the many authentic Japanese restaurants located less than a mile from the Itsukushima Shrine. With a host of restaurants that boast an array of culturally inspired Japanese, Italian, and Western cuisine, eating options are plentiful. Experience Japanese style grilled steak from TP dining & café TINO, a Teppanyaki (food grilled on an iron griddle) restaurant, or have your shot at izakaya (pub style food) and Wagyu yakiniku (BBQ) from Aka Kara Hatsukaichi Miyajima Kaido Branch restaurant, both located in Miyajima near the shrine. With so much to eat, visitors will want to be sure to make time just to taste all of what Miyajima has to offer.

Never be too far away from the holiness of Itsukushima while you capture a few selfies to commemorate the experience. Set out for one of the thousands of islands that comprise the Seto Inland Sea where mankind and nature have coexisted for centuries. No matter where your wandering eye takes you in or outside of the Itsukushima Shrine, you will find a harmonious balance of natural beauty and Japanese ingenuity.

Visit the Majestic Olympic National Park

The beauty that’s found in Olympic National Park is a secret that many Native Americans have known about for years before President Teddy Roosevelt sought to protect its beauty from any further encroachment. Created in 1909, Washington’s Olympic National Park is home to many things that will leave visitors in wonder and in awe. 

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Its Natural Elegance 

Olympic National Park has a large variety of landscapes that are all beautiful and breathtaking. From the beaches on the Pacific Coast to the rainforests and mountains further inland, Olympic National Park has something for everyone. There are short guided trails that are great for kids as well as longer and more challenging trails for adventurers. There are many beaches, rivers, and lakes that are great for activities ranging from just watching its beauty in action to swimming or fishing in them. However, there are strict fishing regulations that you will have to abide by.

A Surprise in the Park

One thing some visitors may not know about Olympic National Park is that the Town of Forks, the town that inspired the Twilight series of books and movies, is actually located in the park. For fans of Twilight, a visit to Olympic National Park is a great chance for them to relive the experience of reading the books or watching the movies all over again. There’s nothing more poetic for Twilight fans to do than to read the books or watch the movies while in the town that inspired it all.

For visitors who aren’t fans of Twilight however, the park still has plenty of other things to do there. Hikes and guided tours across its diverse set of landscapes are available and camping on the grounds is also a popular activity. Closer to the ocean, there are also opportunities to go on a whale watching tour or relax at stunning beaches like Shi Shi Beach. On top of that, the lakes and rivers of Olympic National Park provide a great chance to kayak or fish in, though fishing regulations will have to be observed.  

Food and Lodging

There are several dining options not far from the flora and fauna of the park. These places provide a broad range of dining options to visitors, from a cozier dining experience to a more classy one. A lot of the dishes they serve will include freshly caught seafood from the Pacific Ocean and the rest of the dishes will feature locally grown ingredients as well. 

Experience Paradise at Virgin Islands National Park

The Virgin Islands National Park is a rare place in the world, one that mixes the elegance of the natural world with the thrilling history of humanity. The islands were first inhabited by Native Americans for hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus landed on the islands in the 15th century. From then on, the islands changed hands between countries and peoples until it eventually became a part of the United States.

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A Slice of Paradise

These islands were so beautiful to Christopher Columbus and his crew that they would go back to Europe and tell everyone about how wonderful they were. That incredible beauty still endures to this day. From the coastal cliffs to the awesome beaches, Virgin Islands National Park remains a speck of gold in the Atlantic. The wildlife that lives in the park is equally as breathtaking as the scenery, and there are many tours, both on land and sea, that will take visitors to see all the beauty that the park has to offer.

Fun Things To Do

Hiking through the islands is the most popular thing to do at Virgin Islands National Park and there are trails that are suitable for anyone, young or old. In addition to that, while beaches like Honeymoon Beach are a wonderful place to relax, swimming in the ocean to see its beautiful marine life is also a very popular thing to do. The exotic birds that nest at the island are also a popular sight to see, and they can be seen whether you’re hiking through a trail or resting on the beaches. 

Dining in Paradise

Virgin Islands National Park has a large variety of dining options and they range from fast and casual snack bars to high-class resorts. Whether you’re touring the islands or looking to stay there for a vacation, Virgin Islands National Park has a restaurant or resort for you.

Reconnect with Nature in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

When you think of Alaska, you probably picture blizzards and Eskimos. Sure, Eskimos might miss the sun during the coldest days, but they get to live in one of the most beautiful landscapes around. 

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This underrated state is home to 8 National Parks and thousands of miles of untouched wilderness. Lake Clark National Park ranks high on our list of must-see parks.

Historical Significance

Lake Clark National Park is not only rich in its ecosystem but also in its history. The park has been a part of human history for over 10,000 years. It serves as a watershed to nearly 3.1 million red salmon, 800 plant species, and 37 species of land mammals.

The first human settlers arrived in the area in approximately 10,000 BP (before 1950), shortly after the last great ice age. Years later, around 1,700 BP, settlers created the Red Ochre rock paintings.

Things to Do in the Park

Lake Clark National Park is home to approximately 4,000,000 acres of land for your family to explore. This geological masterpiece boasts 2 volcanoes, Mount Iliamna and Mount Redoubt. You’ll also find 3.3 cubic miles of glacial ice, and ranges in elevation from sea level to a whopping 10,000 ft.

There is something for everyone in Lake Clark. Enjoy bird, bear, and wildlife watching with every family member, young and old.

Explore the lakes via kayaking, canoeing, power boating, and river rafting. 

Family-friendly bear viewing tours are available between late July and mid-September.

Don’t forget to teach the family about bear safety and the parks leave no trace policy. 

Local Cuisine and Sleep Accommodations

Unlike other large national parks, Lake Clark doesn’t have many restaurants and dining options. Instead, the park has a variety of lodging options that provide their own eating accommodations, such as the Redoubt Mountain Lodge and Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. These lodges are located on private property.

If you’re not staying in a lodge, it’s a good idea to bring along your own food. Considering shopping around in Anchorage for local Alaskan cuisine before your flight into Lake Clark National Park.