12 Great American Destinations
Great National Parks: Acadia, Yosemite
Believe it or not, winter will soon be over. Snow shovels can be put away, picnic baskets can be filled with bread and wine, and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" can be heard at ballparks across America. Celebrate the start of warmer days to come by taking the family on a trip to one of America's many great destinations. To help you get started, here is a list of 12 must-see locations -- from the Grand Canyon to Disney World -- that are known to build memories that are not easily forgotten.
Great American National Parks
Chaotic cities, clogged highways, and mile-high skyscrapers: if this sounds like the environment you find yourself in everyday, then take a break and come to a completely different world. The National Park Service has set aside 84 million acres of land for the creation of national parks where your early-morning commute along a quiet trail might lead you to misty waterfalls, granite domes, or a gorgeous view of the ocean. The best part is, you don't have to travel the world to see some of these spectacular wonders -- most of them are not too far from home. So why not pack up the car with a tent and sleeping bags and take the whole family on a tour of America's national parks?
Acadia National Park, Maine
At the northeast edge of the country there lies an island where the waves of the Atlantic come crashing into the cliffs. Welcome to Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park.
Acadia has more than 40 miles of tree-lined carriage roads, perfect for families looking for a gentle stroll or an afternoon of biking. From bird walks to stargazing, there is no shortage of Ranger-led activities in the park. Learn about the history of the land where native people began settling 5,000 years ago. Then, come sunset, make sure you find yourself in one of the many spots of the park offering shimmering views of the Atlantic.
Contrary to popular belief, moose sighting in Maine is not very high. Consider yourself lucky if you happen to spot one strolling in the woods.
Yosemite National Park, California
Naturalist John Muir fell in love with Yosemite at first sight. He writes: "Yosemite Park is a place of rest, a refuge from the roar and dust and weary, nervous, wasting work of the lowlands, in which one gains the advantages of both solitude and society. Its natural beauty cleans and warms like a fire, and you will be willing to stay forever in one place like a tree."
Based in the Sierra Nevadas, Yosemite is where all aspects of nature come together. Visitors to the park hover mostly in the Yosemite Valley, but when you go, do what Muir would've done -- see it all. Ride to Glacier Point for an overlook with an immaculate view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and the High Sierras; drive Tioga Road to Tuolumne Meadows and watch the flowers of the meadow blossom in the spring. Then head on over to Mariposa Grove and crane your neck to the sky to witness the largest living creatures on earth -- sequoia trees.
And when you do eventually make your way down to the Valley, take time to admire four of the world's largest waterfalls. You can drive right up to the base of the largest -- Yosemite Falls, where the sheer force of 2,000-plus feet of falling water will make your knees quiver.
Photo courtesy of National Park Service.