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National parks: Deals inspired by Ken Burns' new doc

By JD Rinne
January 12, 2022
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Courtesy <a href="http://mybt.budgettravel.com/_Old-faithful/photo/4522577/21864.html">dni/myBudgetTravel</a>

The nation's 58 national parks, those stalwart symbols of American ingenuity, will get the true celebrity treatment this weekend, when Ken Burns' latest documentary The National Parks: America's Best Idea debuts on PBS this Sunday.

The 12-hour, six-part series took almost 10 years to make, features celebrity involvement from the likes of Tom Hanks and Andy Garcia, and according to the PBS website, is "a visual feast, featuring some of the most extensive, breathtaking images of the national parks system every captured on film." 'Nuff said—consider it appointment television.

We've spotted several vacation packages and special deals to coincide with the premiere. Aramark, a company that runs many of the hotels and resorts in the parks, has several "America's Best Idea" packages available, with validity into 2010.

For instance, stay one night at one of the three lodges in Washington State's Olympic National Park for $119, and you get the second night at another lodge for just $99 (a savings of up to 30 percent).

Live on the East Coast? At Shenandoah National Park in Virgina, there's a two-night package starting at $272 that includes accommodations, a bag lunch for two, and a hiking adventure book.

If you're planning a trip, also consider Expedia's new site on National Parks, a partnership with the the National Park Foundation. Get downloadable park maps and info about lodging options near each park—a helpful tool.

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Expert Advice: Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan on National Parks

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National Parks

Step Into Our National Parks

We’re counting the days till the February 12 release of National Parks Adventure, an IMAX 3-D film shot in some of America’s most beautiful and inspiring places to commemorate the 100th anniversa­ry of the National Park Service, in August. Nearly a century ago, the National Park Service was founded on the firm belief that America’s wildest places should be preserved. Forever. Not subject to political or commercial whims or trends but protected in perpe­tuity for future generations. As we approach the NPS centennial, Budget Travel feels proud to have played a role in celebrating places like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, Great Smoky Mountains, Acadia, and Everglades and unlocking their secrets, making them accessible to every traveler. National Parks Adventure, pre­sented by Expedia and narrated by actor/environmen­tal activist Robert Redford, was shot in 30 national parks over nine months by director Greg MacGillivray, who hopes the massive effort (involving four separate film crews) will bring what documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has called “America’s best idea” to a new audience and encourage travelers to discover the 400-plus parks across the U.S. The film is told from the point of view of moun­taineer Conrad Anker, a national parks ambassador with a deep, off-the-beaten-path knowledge of iconic sights and lesser-known backcountry. FIND YOUR PARK While we’re awaiting the film’s release, we’ve been having fun researching (and getting inspired by) America’s national parks at FindYourPark.com, an interactive initiative launched in anticipation of the NPS centen­nial that includes every park in the system.

National Parks

Yellowstone in Winter

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK -November 13, 2014 - Even for people who have been to Yellowstone National Park many times in summer, a winter trip is like visiting a whole new park. But unlike a summer trip, a winter visit requires more preparation with roads open only to over-the-snow vehicles and just two of the nine lodges open. That is why Xanterra Parks &amp; Resorts' Yellowstone National Park Lodges, the operator of lodging, restaurants and activities in Yellowstone, offers packages designed to showcase the park's winter offerings while minimizing the planning. "A winter visit to Yellowstone can be like visiting another amazing world," said Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for Xanterra in Yellowstone. "While obviously all the natural features enjoyed during summer can be seen in winter, a blanket of snow and winter temperatures seem to transform the park, especially geyser basins, into other-worldly snowscapes.  And the opportunities to view wildlife, especially wolves, is excellent during the winter season." Xanterra offers a lineup of winter-season multi-day packages that help visitors focus on their interests. These packages include "Lodging &amp; Learning" packages in partnership with the Yellowstone Association Institute (YAI), self-guided winter "Getaway Packages" and a guided snowmobile "Adventure Package" as well as lodging and transportation options for those who want to customize their own experiences. The park's winter season begins Dec. 20, 2014 with the opening of Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel opens Dec. 21. The lodges provide the only wintertime accommodations within the park. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel will close for the season March 2, 2015, and Old Faithful Snow Lodge will close March 1, 2015. The popular Winter in Wonderland Lodging &amp; Learning package features a comprehensive overview of the winter experience while additional packages focus on specific interests with titles like Yellowstone on Skis, Winter Wolf Discovery, Winter Wildlife Expedition, Old Faithful Winter Expedition and YNot Winter, a package developed to teach participants the basics about winter-season experiences in Yellowstone. Each program includes expert guides, accommodations, in-park transportation, some meals and Xanterra's "Snow Card" good for 10 percent off meals, in-park transportation, tours, ski shop services and most retail items. Introduced last winter, an airport shuttle from Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport provides a convenient and cost-saving option for traveling to/from the park. Package participants receive a special rate of $42 (plus applicable taxes/fees) each way, a savings from the regular rate of $53.50 plus tax each way. Except for the road from Gardiner, Mont. to Cooke City, Mont. via Mammoth Hot Springs, transportation within the park is limited to snowmobiles and enclosed heated snowcoaches during the winter. Snowcoach transportation is available daily to a variety of park locations. Xanterra also offers a wide range of half- and full-day snowcoach, ski and snowshoe tours as well as ski and snowshoe rentals and instruction. Winter packages can be booked by calling (1) 307-344-7311 or toll-free 866-GEYSERLAND (866-439-7375) or by submitting the secure online package reservation request form found on the website www.YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com.

National ParksBudget Travel Lists

10 insider tips for visiting Yellowstone

Yellowstone, America’s first national park is big — 2.2 million-acres big. In addition to its size, Yellowstone divides into distinctly different regions and habitats that include geysers, fumaroles, and other geothermal features plus a canyon, a lake, and a series of limestone terraces as well as an abundance of roaming wildlife. With such vastness and variety, the park can be overwhelming. To make the most of your Yellowstone visit, follow these insider tips. 1. See Old Faithful in the early morning or in the evening. Almost everyone who enters the park heads to Old Faithful. For a more intimate experience, explore the Upper Geyser Basin in the early morning before the day visitors arrive or in the late afternoon after they leave. 2. Visit Yellowstone Lake in the afternoon. While the day visitors view Old Faithful and the surrounding area, head to 136-square-mile Yellowstone Lake, the largest in the park. Consider signing up for a guided boat tour or rent a boat on your own. 3. Take a hike. Don’t just see Yellowstone’s wonders through your car window. Walking even a ½ mile on a boardwalk or trail offers you a more complete sense of Yellowstone’s features and landscape. 4. Look for wildlife at the right times. Your best chance of spotting the park’s legendary bison as well as other critters is in the early morning or evening. 5. Explore Lamar Valley. Often less-visited than other areas, Lamar Valley’s habitat draws wildlife and the open vistas create optimum viewing conditions. You may see elk, bear, coyote, bighorn sheep, and eagles, especially if you arrive early. Consider booking the park’s early-morning Wake Up to Wildlife Tour. 6. Stop at the Visitor Centers. Each facility presents educational exhibits that focus on their region of the park. While at the centers, check for the ranger programs. 7. Look at the stars. Go outside after dark. Walk 100 yards from your lodge or drive a short distance to a turnout, then park, scan the lot for wildlife and if none is present, exit your car to look up at the dazzling display of stars. With little light pollution, the night sky is a wonder. 8. Carry a flashlight at night. Since the park keeps the outdoor lighting soft, bring a flashlight for comfort, especially when traveling with young children. 9. Bring binoculars. Stay a safe distance from the wildlife. If you want to see what a bison or elk looks like up close, view them through your binoculars. 10. Pack for multiple seasons. Even in summer low temperatures at night can hover near freezing and daytime highs shoot into the 80s. Pack layers. For more information and reservations, visit yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or call 307-344-7311. For more travel experiences available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.

National Parks

Veterans and Gold Star families get free access to America's National Parks

In honor of Veteran's Day in 2020, the US Department of Veteran's Affairs has announced that US Military veterans and Gold Star families will be granted free access to America's National Parks, wildlife refuges and other Public Lands, starting on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 and continuing every day onward. “With the utmost respect and gratitude, we are granting Veterans and Gold Star Families free access to the iconic and treasured lands they fought to protect starting this Veterans Day and every single day thereafter,” said Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt.'Entrance fees will be waived for all National Park Service sites, as well as recreation fees for the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation sites. This gives veterans free access to 2,000 public sites and 400 million acres of land. As part of the program, veterans will need to present one of the following forms of ID: Department of Defense Identification Card Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC) Veteran ID Card Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card Gold Star Families are next of kin of a member of the United States Armed Forces who lost his or her life in a “qualifying situation,” such as a war, an international terrorist attack, or a military operation outside of the United States while serving with the United States Armed Forces.