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Yosemite National Park, 1903

Photography by National Park Service

On August 25, the National Park Service celebrated its Founders Day, marking the day in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act, which created the Park Service.

In this week’s throwback Thursday, President Theodore Roosevelt and famed naturalist John Muir — considered the “Father of the National Park Service” — are pictured riding horses in California’s Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome standing in the distance, in 1903. Without Muir’s influential writings on Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park — one of America’s first wilderness parks — may not exist today.

In honor of the Park Service, plan a family fun trip to explore the natural beauty and wildlife of one of the 401 national parks in the US — say, Yosemite. Known mainly for its waterfalls, Yosemite offers a plethora of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and fishing for park visitors to enjoy. Plan ahead and visit on one of the Free National Park Days throughout the year!

 

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Were you planning on pitching a tent in a national park, taking in the beauty of the national seashore, or examining the art and artifacts housed in any of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and galleries this week?

If so, you’d better make other plans.

In addition to the 800,000 government employees who face unpaid days off now that the federal government has ceased operation, a shutdown spells a number of consequences for travelers, too. In his speech yesterday afternoon, President Obama put it bluntly, “Tourists will find every one of America’s national parks and monuments, from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the Statue of Liberty, immediately closed.”

While air travel and Amtrak service is not expected to be impacted by the shutdown, a number of popular tourist attractions have begun closing their gates, locking their doors and barricading their entrances. Here’s a rundown of just some the locations that are currently affected by the government shutdown.

National Parks

All of the National Park Service’s more than 400 parks, national monuments and historic sites are currently closed as a result of the government shutdown. On the National Mall in Washington, DC, monuments have begun to be barricaded and fountains turned off — a huge disappointment not only to expectant travelers but also to the 24 couples who were scheduled to get married on the National Mall during the month of October. The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Alcatraz Island, Independence Hall, the Cape Cod National Seashore, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park are all be among the temporarily closed sites, which collectively average about 715,000 visitors per day in October.

As a result of the shutdown, all the parks have been closed today to visitors effective immediately, but travelers already camping in the parks have 2 days to pack up and leave.

Smithsonian Museums and Galleries

Visitors to Washington, DC, hoping to take advantage of the capital’s incredible array of free museums are out of luck today. Don’t count on seeing the Hope Diamond or Dorothy’s ruby slippers — all 19 Smithsonian museums and galleries have shut their doors, including the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of American History and the Museum of Natural History. This also includes the National Zoo, leaving many upset at the new reality that the “panda cam” has gone dark.

So what should visitors to Washington, DC, do today? There are a number of museums not affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution – visit the International Spy Museum, the Newseum, the National Museum of Crime and Punishment, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the National Building Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the National Geographic Museum or the Phillips Collection.

American Military Cemeteries Abroad

Twenty-four American military cemeteries spread throughout the world have also been forced to close as a result of the shutdown. Anyone looking to pay their respects at any cemetery operated by the American Battle Monuments Commission will have to reschedule their visit.

What Else?

Be sure to check with your local passport agency before showing up today – while agencies will remain open, those located in federal buildings have been forced to close their doors.

While you wait for some of America’s most popular tourist attractions to re-open, explore (virtually, of course, since you can’t actually visit) the incredible natural landscapes and historic monuments that make up our country’s National Park sites. Then, test your knowledge with our National Parks Quiz – you’ll be an expert by the time congress gets their act together.

 

Ah, the great outdoors. There’s nothing quite like a vacation to hike Half Dome in Yosemite National Park or check out Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. And with millions of Americans visiting the parks this summer, there has never been a better time to show your support.

Now comes the exciting part: From now until Sunday, when you give to the National Park Foundation, Travel Channel will match your donation $1 for $1 up to $30,000.

NPF can do twice as much with your gift to:

  • Restore 250 miles of trails and waterways
  • Work with teachers in all 50 states to embrace national parks as classrooms
  • Preserve and protect America’s treasured places through grants

What are you waiting for? Donate now to double your impact for NPF!

Now that that’s covered, we have one more challenge for you. How much do you really know about America’s national parks? Take our quiz below and find out!

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At Big Bend, all roads lead to a rich history of peoples living along the Rio Grande along with geologic wonders like the Boquillas Formation. More »

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This Saturday, outdoor lovers have a chance to give back to some of the United States’ treasured nature reserves for National Public Lands Day. It’s the largest single-day volunteer effort in the country, and over 170,000 volunteers are expected to help plant trees, remove trash, restore habitats and beautify their public gardens, beaches and parks. This day is set aside annually to promote the importance of protecting our environment and conserving nature.  If you love hands-on activities and don’t mind getting a little messy, this is a great way to connect with nature and help our environment.

And to celebrate, the National Park Service is waiving the entry fees to all national parks, so If you don’t plan on volunteering this weekend, be sure to get outdoors and take advantage of this great opportunity to explore some of America’s treasures.

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National Get Outdoors Day

This Saturday, ditch your spot on the couch and get moving in celebration of National Get Outdoors Day. Each of the 132 different celebrations nationwide will promote healthy living and outdoor activities through their information centers and “active fun areas.” Brush up on your survival skills, learn to fish and pitch a tent, or have your photo taken with Smokey the Bear! READ MORE

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with a trip to one of America’s stunning national parks? Explore the awe-inspiring rock formations of the Grand Canyon, wander through the spindly cartoon-like Joshua trees at Joshua Tree National Park, get inspired at FDR’s Hudson River estate and presidential library, go gator-spotting in the Florida Everglades or watch the waves crash against the national seashore. All of these incredible historic sites and natural wonders have been lovingly preserved by the National Park Service, often called “America’s Best Idea.”

National Park Freebie

Starting Saturday (and ending Sunday, April 29), more than 100 of the national parks that typically charge an admission fee will be completely free to enter, and a visit to any one of them will inspire you to help preserve all 84 million acres of them. If you’d like to get involved and help out with a project, visit Saturday for Volunteer Day. Or take your kids on April 28 to participate in National Junior Ranger Day, when kids will be taught to “explore, learn and protect” the parks and landmarks that we have inherited. READ MORE

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