On 25 August 2016, the United States’ National Park Service will turn 100 years old and the Capital Region USA will be pulling out all the stops to mark this impressive milestone. With more than 20 parks in Virginia, 16 in Maryland as well as many historic points of interest and the National Mall in Washington D.C., the region boasts some of the most varied sites in the country. Encompassing historical landmarks, mountain ranges and scenic trails, they’re all considered local treasures and give visitors a unique insight into the rich history and topography of the region.
Here’s a pick of the region’s best scenic and historic National Park Service sites to explore in 2016:
SCENIC: Be stunned at Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park lies astride a beautiful section of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, just 75 miles west of the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. The National Scenic Byway, Skyline Drive takes visitors through the 105-mile-long park, providing more than 75 overlooks with spectacular vistas. Five hundred miles of trails, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail, lead visitors to waterfalls, panoramic views, protected wilderness and preserved human history in the Shenandoah Valley. Many animals, including deer, black bears, and wild turkeys flourish among the rich growth of oak-hickory forest making it a great spot for wildlife viewing.
HISTORIC: Head on over to Historic Jamestowne in Virginia to see where the English first settled
Historic Jamestowne, part of Colonial National Historical Park, is the original site of the first permanent English colonisation. At this archaeological site visitors can take a fascinating look into America’s early history and walk in the steps of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas. Visitors can also witness an ongoing archaeology dig and take a tour with the site’s archaeologists.
SCENIC: Walk among the Wild Horses of Assateague Island
For those who love sand between their toes, Assateague Island National Seashore is a beautiful beach with a unique twist. With 300 horses taking residency here, visitors will be able to spot these majestic animals on every part of the island. Explorers will love living alongside wild horses in the camping sites, as well as enjoying sightseeing cruises and trying their hand at crabbing and kayaking.
HISTORIC: Relive the War of 1812 at Fort McHenry in Baltimore
Fort McHenry in Baltimore is a coastal star-shaped fort best known for its role in the War of 1812, when it successfully defended Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British navy in Chesapeake Bay between 13 and 14 September 1814. The battle inspired Francis Scott Key to pen what would become the national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner” – originally entitled “Defense of Fort McHenry”. During the Civil War, the fort served as a military prison. Interestingly, when a new flag is designed for use by the United States, it is first flown over Fort McHenry. This spectacular embodiment of the spirit of America is open most days for a visit and is a must-see for history buffs.
SCENIC: Delight in the cheerful Cherry blossom in springtime
Washington, D.C. will host its annual National Cherry Blossom Festival in three National Park Service locations in April. The event is Washington, DC’s greatest springtime celebration that annually celebrates the gift of the cherry blossom trees and their symbol of enduring friendship between the citizens of Japan and the United States. The festival will take place around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, in East Potomac Park (Hains Point), and on the Washington Monument grounds with the parade to be held on 16 April 2016. Visitors to the event can secure the best view from the Potomac River on board a canoe or kayak which can be rented from many hire shops along the river. Many choose to take a picnic and enjoy the view from under one of the trees in full bloom.
HISTORIC: Follow in the footsteps of great men in central DC
For more than 200 years, the National Mall and Memorial Parks have symbolised the nation and its democratic values. The National Mall (the immense 1,000 acres of green space in the centre of the capital city), stretches from the foot of the United States Capitol building to the Potomac River. The iconic monuments, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to name a few, can be reached by foot for free. The National Park Service Park Rangers even offer a wide variety of programmes and activities including talks, walks, runs and bike tours which are provided for free.
Purely Capital Region USA (www.purelycapitalregionusa.co.uk / 0844 804 4480) offers a 14 night self-drive ‘Cruisin’ the Capital Region’ tour which takes in all three states and includes, return flights from London Heathrow to Washington Dulles International, economy car hire and standard accommodation from £1,489 per person. Prices based on two people sharing for travel in April 2016.
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22 December 2015
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