A new year means new goals and adventures to embark upon. With more than 400 unique national parks and hundreds of programs and partnerships nationwide, the opportunities are endless. In 2020, what is your perfect vision of a park experience? Here are 20 suggestions to get started!
1. Find Your Park
More than 300 million people from around the world visit national parks each year and make memories and personal connections to these special places. National parks are as unique and varied as the people who visit them. Have you found your park yet? Share your moment on findyourpark.org or on social media using #FindYourPark or #EncuentraTuParque.
2. Looking Back and Ahead
During 2020, the National Park Service will commemorate milestone anniversaries of history and heritage that shaped our nation. Join in the commemorations, celebrations, and conversations to reflect on history and what it means for Americans today.
More than 400 years of African American Heritage
400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing
250th anniversary of the road to American Revolution
150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment for African American men’s legal right to vote
100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment for women’s legal right to vote
75th anniversary of the end of World War II
3. Park Rx for Health Goals
If you are starting the year with resolutions, we may be able to help you get to your goals. Join a yearlong challenge at a national park or create your own using thousands of miles of trails, rivers, and unique places and activities in national parks. Learn more about the physical and mental health benefits of visiting national parks and prescribe yourself regular visits.
4. Try a New Hobby
Be adventurous and try something completely new. We’re not just talking about challenging yourself to a new sport you’ve never tried, like paddleboarding, rock climbing, or horseback riding. Try your hand at learning a new skill, like plein air painting, tortilla-making, birding, or poetry competitions. Many parks offer ranger-led activities or cultural demonstrations that can help you test the waters.
5. Become a "VIP"
The National Park Service Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) program is celebrating its 50th birthday in 2020! Whether for a few hours or full time, lend your time and talents as a steward of America’s public lands in a wide variety of volunteer tasks. Find more information on becoming a VIP and share your NPS volunteer experiences on social media using #NPSVolunteer.
6. Get Social
Share your national park experiences with family, friends, and us on social media using #FindYourPark or #EncuentraTuParque. It may inspire others to explore nature or history. Want fun facts, games, and pretty park pictures? Check out social media accounts for the National Park Service or your favorite parks. Keep an eye out for livestreams, chats, and InstaMeets.
7. Picture It
National parks bring out the inner photographer in all of us regardless of skill level. Try your hand at taking photos of the stunning scenery, historical backdrops, and fun family and friend photos. Remember to always keep safety in the picture, especially when photographing wildlife or around heights. Share your favorite snaps on social media using #FindYourPark or #EncuentraTuParque.
8. Somewhere Old
Take a trip down memory lane by revisiting a special national park place from your past. Find that whimsical view, peaceful picnic area, or victory step on a mountain trail that created a lasting memory worthy of reliving or sharing with family and friends. Maybe even find inspiration by dusting off the old family albums and recreating one of your old photos from a previous park trip.
9. Somewhere New
Create new memories with a trip to a national park that was on your bucket list or maybe one that you never considered visiting. Or try visiting a part of your favorite park that is less traveled, even by you. You may be surprised at what you find—maybe even one nearby!. Use a Trip Planning Guide to get started on your new adventure.
10. Somewhere Borrowed
As part of the global celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, learn about efforts to understand and preserve our nation’s natural spaces for future generations and how you can get involved. Stay up to date about ongoing scientific research happening in parks and consider contributing to research and monitoring as a citizen scientist. Check out sustainability projects in parks and ways you can take part, including trying alternate transportation.
11. Somewhere Blue
When’s the last time you saw the ocean? This may be your year to hit the beach, explore underwater trails, or watch marine wildlife found in oceans, coasts, and seashores of national parks. Or stay inland to conquer the rapids or calmly meander down the miles of rivers flowing through national parks and national heritage areas.
12. Aim for the Stars
Many national parks offer the rare chance to switch off all the lights, allowing you to gaze up at a pretty stellar view of the night sky that may include the Milky Way, shooting stars, and planets. Join rangers for star parties, telescope viewing, and night walks happening year round. A few parks even have solar telescopes to get a closer look at the brightest star in our solar system.
13. Get to Know the Neighborhood
Did you know that the National Park Service is at work in almost every community in the United States? The National Park Service has many programs and partnerships that preserve historic, cultural, natural, and recreational resources outside park boundaries. Explore places on the National Register of Historic Places, national historic landmarks, national natural landmarks, national recreation trails, and national heritage areas to better know your neighborhood.
14. Earn Your Badge
Calling kids of all ages! Almost every park has a Junior Ranger program inviting kids to earn an official Junior Ranger badge or patch by completing activities or joining a ranger-led activity. For the inner-kid, many parks don’t have an age limit and sometimes have an additional Senior Ranger program. See how many new badges you can earn this year!
15. A Learning Experience
Parks make immersive classrooms to learn about history and nature. Educators for all levels and subjects can explore education resources, including lesson plans, in-park and virtual field trips, and more. Some parks have a Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program to bring teachers’ expertise to the park for the summer and back to the classroom.
16. Every Kid Outdoors for Fourth Graders
Got a fourth grader in the family? All fourth graders can get a free pass to more than 2,000 public lands across the country to explore nature, history, and new recreational experiences. Best of all, they can bring their family and friends along for free with the pass. Find more information on Every Kid Outdoors, including how to sign up.
17. Envision Your Future Career
Internships and Pathways Program positions for students and recent graduates are a great way to get hands-on experience in a variety of job fields to prepare for longterm careers both in and outside of the National Park Service. Explore opportunities during the school year or a summer adventure.
18. Partner With Us
Are you part of a team interested in stewardship of America’s natural and cultural heritage? Consider partnering with the National Park Service or a local park on a variety of projects within parks and in communities around the country. Check out partnership opportunities, including preservation of natural and cultural resources, providing recreational opportunities, becoming a friends group, and more.
19. Try a New (Ranger) Hat on for Size
Does green and gray suit you? Consider joining the National Park Service team in a wide variety of career fields for those who love to work outdoors or indoors. Find information about working for us and become part of a team of more than 20,000 employees playing different roles in caring for America’s natural and cultural treasures and the more than 300 million people who visit them.
20. Share the Park Experience
Last, but not least...Introduce someone to parks. Many people have not yet experienced their national parks. Help them take the first steps to enjoying the many things their public lands have to offer so they can also find their park.
Last updated: March 7, 2020