If your still looking for something to do for your summer vacation this year, don't despair thinking everything fun is outrageously expensive or already all booked up. Instead of the typical waterpark, trip to the beach or visit to grandma's house, you can escape Chicago and visit one of these unique and amazing national parks. While there are admission fees for the parks, they are a drop in the bucket compared to what you would spend at Disney World or on a trip to the beach.
National Parks are said to be a treasure for the American people, and they are full of natural wonders and interesting activities and sights to see. There are other parks closer to home, but these five stand apart as the "best of the best."
5. Mammoth Cave
This park is the closest to Chicago, being outside of Louisville, Kentucky. While most of the top national parks feature wilderness and surface side wonders, Mammoth Cave’s true treasures are deep underground. Ranger led tours of the cave allow visitors to see the site in all its wonder and majesty, and provides first hand experiences of how different life below the surface truly is. Even in the height of summer, you will probably want to bring a sweater or jacket- it stays briskly cool in the cave even when the surface is baking in Kentucky Fried Heat.
4. The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is much, much more than just a big hole in the ground. This geological wonder offers up spectacular views, amazing sunsets and the exciting Colorado River. As the Griswald's have educated us in National Lampoon's Vacation, it is a long drive and your family will probably drive you insane along the way, but the views are worth the trouble.
Yosemite is another park that is home to some of the best views and natural features the country has to offer. From sweeping vistas to pristine waterfalls and giant sequoias, this park is a natural wonderland. Located in California, you can fly into LA or Burbank and then rent a car to drive to the park. Also, you can make a stop at Death Valley (not recommended during the hottest part of the summer) or visit some of the abandoned ghost towns in the area.
2. Volcanoes National Park
Located in Hawaii, Volcanoes National Park allows visitors to get up close and personal with real lava and witness live eruptions. This part provides unique insight into the volcanic process that originally formed the Hawaiian Islands and will awe and inspire all visitors. If you plan on visiting Hawaii any time soon, try to fit this unique and beautifully violent national treasure into your itenirary.
Yellowstone firmly holds first place in this list. With stunning vistas, incredible wildlife and water features such as Old Faithful, this park truly is one of America’s crown jewels. This park’s reputation of being the best is well deserved. Unfortunately, it is also one of the hardest ones to get to as well. Flights to the nearest city, Jackson's Hole, don't come cheap and it is a very long drive from Chicago. If you have a week or more of vacation time, you should consider flying into a cheaper city, like Salt Lake City, renting a car and driving up to the park. On your way, you can take in other amazing sights and visit more parks on your way. If you do want to drive from Chicago, try to get a two week chunk of time so you can stop at the Badlands and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on your to the park.
National Parks truly are America’s greatest treasures. They offer stunning views, unmatched natural wonders, and instill visitors with a true sense of nature’s majesty. Although not everyone may be lucky enough to visit all of the nation’s national parks, the top five should not be missed.