A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List

Elizabeth Banks May 28, 2013

Looking for fun summer plans? Katie has some great ideas for you… Xx EB

A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List

My spring/summertime essentials include a pair of fresh Keds, a kick ass strawberry shortcake recipe, and my National Parks Passport. The Passport is a little blue book—half guidebook, half wishlist—outlining all the historic sites, parks, and memorials that the National Park Service cares for. At each site, there is a unique stamp that you can use to make a cancellation in your passport while you, as the NPS motto states, “Experience your America.”

To say I’m obsessed with my National Park Passport is putting it lightly. Last year, in a frenzy, I visited the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Clinton Castle, Federal Hall, and the birthplace of Teddy Roosevelt in three days! I felt like Nicholas Cage in National Treasure (only with much more believable dialogue).

I’ve become captivated with collecting the stamps at parks and memorials that dot the country, marking America’s treasures. I’ve found myself going out of my way to finagle routes that include of the spots listed in my passport. The best part is: every place I’ve visited has surprised me, taught me something about our past, and touched me.

Here are just a few of my favorite places so far on my quest to fill my National Parks Passport:

Ellis Island
New York

A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List
A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List

My family, and many of yours, came through Ellis Island. It was the final stop in an exhaustive, generations-changing journey for 12 million people. The immigrant inspection station that serves as the museum is largely unchanged, which means I was able to stand on the same tiled floor as my grandfather did. Seeing where my family started in America was one of the greatest adventures my National Parks Passport has given me so far.

The Both Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty (also a passport stamp!) were damaged during Hurricane Sandy. They are set to reopen, appropriately, on July 4th, 2013.

Grand Canyon National Park
Arizona

A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List
A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List
A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List

American poet George Sterling described the park in his poem At the Grand Canyon, like so: “Thou settest splendors in my sight, O Lord!” It’s far closer than I could come to trying to explain what it feels like to stand in front of the Canyon. It’s the reason the word, “magnificent” was invented.

Governor’s Island
New York

A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List
A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List
A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List

Governor’s Island is a tiny island off the coast of Manhattan. It used to be a military outpost but it now a quiet refuge from the concrete of New York. The perfect time to visit Governor’s Island is during the twice-a-summer Jazz Age Lawn Party. A wooden dance floor is laid down, a white tuxedo-ed orchestra sits underneath the massive oaks, and a population of picnickers who have stepped out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel appears to waltz, flirt, and compare handlebar mustaches.

Joshua Tree National Park
California

A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List
A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List
A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List
A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List

I have a soft spot for Joshua Tree because I visited it on my honeymoon where my brand new husband and I hiked up a mountain, vigilantly looking for desert tortoises. It was my first time in a desert and I was surprised at how alien the landscape and plants were, especially the park’s namesake: the Joshua tree. The park stretches out for almost 800,000 acres and encourages camping, hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing.

Rocky Mountain National Park 
Colorado

A Passport to Adventure: For Your Summer To-Do List

Breathtaking landscapes await you at Rocky Mountain National Park, literally—Trail Ridge Road crests over 12,000 feet! From the wildflowers to the waterfalls, this is one of the most beautiful places in the country. Even if you can’t make it out to Colorado now, you can get a glimpse on one of the many National Parkswebcams (though—trust me—the views are better in real life).

Profits from the National Parks Passports ($8.95) funnel back into the National Park Service so you can feel all warm and fuzzy about buying yours.

Families take note: there is a special National Parks Passport for kids as well as a totally free Junior Ranger program at several hundred NPS outposts. Though I am, admittedly, much older than their demographic, Park Rangers have always allowed me to participate too and it’s a really fun program!

Have you been to any national parks? Which has been your favorite so far?

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