Tuesday, August 11, 2020 Edition: U.S. & World | Regional

10 Unusual Things to Do at US National Parks

For decades, national parks have been the summer vacation destinations of families across America. The typical excursion includes camping, sightseeing, and tours, but there are a whole lot of other interesting and unusual things you can do on your next national park adventure. Check out some of these crazy and fun ideas for inspiration!
1    Sledding at Great Sand Dunes National Park

Did you know you can do the sledding without the snow? Yep, that’s right. It’s possible to be warm and sled at the same time! Pack up the car and take the dusty drive to Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see a gigantic, random sand dune rising up out of the otherwise typical-looking Colorado landscape. Scientists believe the sand dune was left by melted glaciers many years ago. Now that the ice is gone, the sunshine has taken over! This is a fun (albeit dirty) way to entertain your kids for hours on end.
Sledding at Great Sand Dunes National Park
2    Art Class at Yosemite

You can hike it, camp it, drive it… and paint it! Even for the less artistically inclined, beautiful Yosemite brings out the painter in all of us. Learn how to capture the stunning scenes around you and take home a souvenir to be proud of.
Art Class at Yosemite
3    Hunt for dinosaur bones in the Badlands

The Badlands sounds like a horrible place to go, but it’s actually quite incredible. This national park is an area in South Dakota where the earth seems to have dropped away, leaving bizarre formations of dirt standing eerily across a desolate landscape. It’s not terribly uncommon for tourists to discover dinosaur bones and other fossils here! The ever-changing and constantly eroding formations often leave behind interesting artifacts.
Hunt for dinosaur bones in the Badlands
4    Swamp Triathalon in the Everglades

Think you have what it takes to swim, bike, and run the Florida Everglades? Take on this challenge (swamps, gators, snakes and all) when you visit the Sunshine State. This will be one race you’ll never forget!
Swamp Triathalon in the Everglades
5    Rodeo at Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado still hangs on to its Wild, Wild West identity, so why not immerse yourself in the cowboy life while you’re there? See real-life wranglers rope cows, ride bulls, and race horses at the Rocky Mountain National Park’s rodeo. Yee-haw!
Rodeo at Rocky Mountain National Park
6    Paddle hrough a crater in Crater Lake National Park

It’s not every day that you get to float on the surface of America’s deepest lake. Take advantage of this unique opportunity and enjoy the beautiful wildlife around the crater. You may feel a bit like you’re floating on the moon! If you can’t explore space, at least you can explore one of the most interesting places on earth.
Paddle hrough a crater in Crater Lake National Park
7    Get Lost in Gates of the Arctic National Park

Gates of the Arctic National Park is one of the most lonesome national parks in the United States. You can wander for hours and hours (perhaps days?) without meeting a single other soul. This is what the continent looked like before Europeans made it their goal to conquer the natural world, and boy, is it stunning! If you have the knowledge and skills to sustain yourself in the wild, this park offers the opportunity to be dropped off by floatplane and be picked up two weeks later. Be careful, because we’re not kidding about getting lost. There are no roads and no facilities out there.
Get Lost in Gates of the Arctic National Park
8    Walk through an active volcano in Hawaii Volcanos National Park

You may have to laugh at the “No Smoking” sign at the entrance to this national park, because there’s definitely a lot of smoking in the park! It’s not the visitors, though—it’s the volcano! There’s nothing quite like walking through the site of an active volcano and watching wisps of sulfur-scented smoke curling up from vents in the earth. This is a side to Hawaii that you didn’t expect to experience!
Walk through an active volcano in Hawaii Volcanos National Park
9    Scuba Dive in the Virgin Islands

When you think “National Park,” do Caribbean islands come to mind? If not, maybe you should rethink your next National Park plans. The U.S. Virgin Islands is a slice of American Heaven that you can’t miss. Fantastic dive sites abound and beaches are amazing. You may find yourself selling your house and moving there. After all, why not spend your life in paradise? Ok, that may not be realistic. But getting your Scuba license might be!
Scuba Dive in the Virgin Islands
10    Gaze at the Universe in Olympic National Park

In the Pacific Northwest, you can chill with Zeus (sort of). It’s not the same Mount Olympus as the famous one in Greece, but the Mount Olympus in Washington is hardly less incredible. If there’s any place a mythological god would like to live, it would be here. Be ready to be amazed when you check out the summertime Night Sky program. Far from city lights, the heavens put on an awe-inspiring show. On a clear night visitors can view thousands of stars plus far-flung galaxies, nebulae, planets, and constellations. They even provide telescopes!
Gaze at the Universe in Olympic National Park

You may think U.S. National Parks are only about hiking and camping, but you’re wrong! Try some of these unusual activities to turn your next family vacation into something unique and memorable.


  1. Sara
    December 9, 2016 - 12:18 pm

    I really never heard of these places and it’s a shame when you think of it…Santorini, Phuket, Rome, people, even my friends, tend to resort to mainstream destinations that are both super packed with tourists and crazily expensive. I like to travel to more secluded places as this is the best way for me to enjoy new places, not to be jam-packed on a beach with 1k other people around me.

  2. Britanica
    December 12, 2016 - 11:07 pm

    Okay, sledding on sand dunes. Now that’s just awesome! Walking through a volcano sounds really cool, too. I love how lava looks! I had no idea about #10! As a lover of the stars and space enthusiast, I absolutely have to visit the Olympic National Park as some point. Really great post, thanks for the ideas!


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