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  • Great Falls, Montana
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    Great Falls,

    Montana

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    Great Falls is the third-largest city in the U.S. state of Montana and the county seat of Cascade County. The population was 58,505 according to the 2010 census, and was estimated at 58,434 on July 1, 2019. The city covers an area of 22.9 square miles (59 km2) and is the principal city of the Great Falls, Montana, Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Cascade County. The county’s population stood at 81,327 in the 2010 census. A cultural, commercial and financial center in the central part of the state, Great Falls is located just east of the Rocky Mountains and is bisected by the Missouri River. It is 180 miles (290 km) from the east entrance to Glacier National Park in northern Montana, and 264 miles (425 km) from Yellowstone National Park in southern Montana and northern Wyoming. A north–south federal highway, Interstate 15, serves the city.Great Falls is named for a series of five waterfalls located on the Missouri River north and east of the city. The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1805–1806 was forced to portage around a 10-mile (16 km) stretch of the river in order to bypass the falls; the company spent 31 days in the area, performing arduous labor to make the portage. Three of the waterfalls, known as Black Eagle, Rainbow and the Great Falls (or the Big Falls), are among the sites of five hydroelectric dams in the area, giving the city its moniker, “The Electric City”. Other nicknames for Great Falls include “The River City” and “Western Art Capital of the World”. The city is also home to two military installations: Malmstrom Air Force Base east of the city, which is the community’s largest employer; and the Montana Air National Guard to the west, adjacent to Great Falls International Airport.Great Falls is a popular tourist destination in Montana, with one million overnight visitors annually, who spend an estimated $185 million while visiting, according to the Great Falls Montana Tourism group. Among Montana cities, Great Falls boasts the greatest number of museums, with 10, including the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center near Giant Springs and the C. M. Russell Museum and Original Log Cabin Studio on the city’s north side. Great Falls was the largest city in Montana from 1950 to 1970, when it was eclipsed by Billings in the 1970 census; Missoula assumed second place in 2000, and Great Falls is ranked third as of 2021.
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    Budget Travel Lists

    10 social distancing day trips from Washington, DC

    1. Great Falls Billy Goat Trail Great Falls Park is just outside the beltway on the Potomac River, where the river has carved a rock paradise that seems perfectly designed for an excellent afternoon of hiking. The Billy Goat trail is 3 miles of climbing over rocks and exploring hidden crevices. It’s a great workout. 2. Kayak in Mallows Bay Marine Sanctuary Mallows Bay Marine Sanctuary is the newest marine sanctuary in the United States. Visitors can kayak or canoe through the largest ship graveyard in the western hemisphere, featuring over 225 sunken ships. It is located 30 miles south of DC in Charles County, Maryland. Interested visitors can book a guided tour through Charles County Parks & Recreation https://www.charlescountyparks.com/parks/kayak-tours or bring their own canoe/kayak. Teddy Roosevelt Island. Photo: Eric Lewis, Grand Atlas Tours 3. Explore Teddy Roosevelt Island Theodore Roosevelt Island is mostly wilderness—deliberately so, and appropriate for the president who founded the National Park Service. Accessible only via a footbridge from the Virginia side of the Potomac River, the island is actually legally a part of the District of Columbia. There are miles of trails to walk in relative solitude around the perimeter of the island and bird watchers will often find wading birds, raptors, and warblers. In spring and early summer, flower enthusiasts enjoy gorgeous wildflowers. Another way to enjoy the island is to canoe/kayak; those so inclined can bring their own craft: simply you can put it in the water near the footbridge from the Virginia shore or near the culvert between the two parking lots. You can also rent a vessel in Georgetown; note that the Potomac is wide—and often busy! Getting to the footbridge without a vehicle is possible. Pedestrians and bicyclists can reach the parking lot and footbridge by following the Mount Vernon Trail south from the intersection of Lee Highway and N. Lynn St. in Rosslyn, near Key Bridge. The closest Metro station is Rosslyn, on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines. The centerpiece of the island is a plaza with the centerpiece memorial, dedicated in 1967. It includes a 17-foot-tall statue by famed American sculptor Paul Manship and four large stone towers with a selection of Roosevelt's quotations. Contemplate them in relative solitude. 4. Canoeing/Tubing in Front Royal The town of Front Royal, about an hour west of DC on I-66, features both the entrance to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive. It is also a great launchpad for day trips on the plethora of local rivers nearby. Front Royal Outdoors offers canoeing, kayaking and tubing trips. Bring friends and some beers, and enjoy a day on the relaxing Shenandoah River. ©Rob IJsselstein/Shutterstock 5. Skyline Drive Skyline Drive is a 105 mile parkway that winds through the top of the mountain ridge through Shenandoah National Park. Skyline Drive is a perfect way to spend a weekend driving through the mountains and chasing the sunset. It is especially magical in late summer and early fall, where meteor showers and brilliant sunsets abound, and the leaves of the mountains begin turning into their infinite shades of gold and red. The park’s North entrance is in Front Royal, Virginia. There are 3 additional stops to highways that can take you home along the way. Campers will find a well-managed campground at Big Meadows Campground (51.2) and Loft Mountain Campground (Mile 79.5). There are also several major hikes to fill the day. We recommend Old Rag for the experienced hiker and Stony Man for those wanting an easier day. 6. Manassas Battlefield Just outside DC in Manassas, Virginia, is the site of the first and second battles of Bull Run, the first major conflict of the American Civil War. The battlefield and related era structures have been preserved, There are more than 40 miles of hiking trails available for people who want to spend a day stepping back in time. ©Lissandra Melo/Shutterstock 7. National Arboretum The U.S. National Arboretum was created in 1927 and is operated by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. It is open to the public Monday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m., and Saturday & Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Azalea, boxwood, daffodil, daylily, dogwood, holly, magnolia, and maple specimens are among those visitors to the Arboretum enjoy on foot. Other major garden features fill the 446 acres, including aquatic plants, the Friendship Garden, and a collection of conifers. In the National Grove of State Trees, each state is represented across 30 acres. Walk among bald cypresses one might see in Louisiana. Just beyond are pines and birches one would recognize from New England. Redwoods represent California and cottonwoods will remind guests from Great Planes states of home. A particular highlight is the National bonsai collection, and perhaps most famous are the National Capitol Columns, originally from the United States Capitol, replaced when the building was enlarged in the 19th century. It’s an especially popular place for wedding photos—you’re quite liable to see an engaged couple posing for very unique shots! Picnicking is allowed in the National Grove of State Trees. There are two entrances to the Arboretum: the R Street gate is open to cars and pedestrians 1pm to 2pm weekdays and from 8am to 5pm on weekends. From 2pm to 5pm on weekdays, the R Street gate is pedestrian only. The gate at 3501 New York Avenue is open to cars whenever the Arboretum is open. Loudoun County has 40+ vineyards. Source: Visit Loudoun/Todd Wright Photography 8. Spend the weekend in Loudoun County Loudoun County is a winning choice for a road trip in the greater DC area – without having to deal with the big city. Just 25 miles west of the nation’s capital, it offers a mix of rolling vineyards, mountains, and colonial towns that will delight travelers looking for off-the-radar choices. It’s a getaway that won’t make you feel like your social distancing – and the perfect place to plan an outdoor and safe vacation amidst this new era we live in. There’s plenty to do for everyone without feeling like travelers are conceding to rigorous restrictions. Social distancers can take the LoCo Ale Trail and sample the best local craft beers Loudoun has to offer, responsibly of course. There’s also Harpers Ferry Adventure Center, where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet, full of outdoor adventure activities including whitewater rafting, tubing, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and hiking. The center also offers the possibility to camp, and features both cabins and camp space to bring your own tent. Or rent one of 12 vacation cottages along the Potomac River at Algonkian Regional Park. Keeping six feet away has never felt so good. Stroll or bike the Washington and Old Dominion Trail or get lost in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park with its Blue Ridge Mountain vistas, river views, and a generous dose of Civil War. Unwind later in the day with some rosé from one of the 40+ vineyards in the region. 9. Go apple and pumpkin picking near Frederick Less than an hour Northwest of DC is a town called Frederick, Maryland. Frederick is surrounded by farmland, making it an ideal place to go in the Fall for apple picking and pumpkin patch outings. Summers Farm offers a pumpkin patch, corn maze, sunflower field, and all sorts of fall-themed activities that kids and their parents can enjoy. The Lincoln Memorial at sunset. Photo by Laura Brown 10. Take a guided tour of the National Mall DC has some of the world’s best monuments, and everyone should take a professionally guided tour of the National Mall sometime in their life. Our favorite tour company is Grand Atlas Tours, which offers affordable and personalized private tours of DC catered to your interests. We especially recommend touring the monuments at night, when lights bring out the shining marble of the monuments against the night sky.

    National Parks

    7 National Parks You've Never Heard Of

    On November 7, Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey, became the latest addition to the National Park family. After a long fight by Paterson residents and officials to have the 77–foot waterfall recognized, their dreams were fulfilled—partially—by Monday’s agreement. There remain years of work to mold Great Falls around Park Service standards, but the will, and the funds, can now be brought fully to bear on the project. See the parks. When Ulysses S. Grant declared Yellowstone the country’s first national park in 1872, early conservationists could have only dreamed of the vast network of protected areas that grace America’s states and territories today. Less than 140 years after Yellowstone’s induction, the National Park Service (NPS) now operates 397 parks and monuments. Great Falls might be years away from completion, but visitors have 396 other options to explore in the meantime. And there’s no better time for a park jaunt than this Veterans Day weekend, when over 100 national parks will waive their entrance fees. From November 11–13, explorers can enjoy the beauty and history of National Parks from Florida to Hawaii at no charge. (Many other National Parks are free throughout the year.) No doubt many visitors will take advantage of this largesse to visit Yellowstone, the Everglades and other crown jewels of the Park Service, but there are worlds of wonder beyond the well-trodden path. Why not take a chance on one of the Park Service’s more unusual and lesser-visited locales? Check out the following: Dry Tortugas. Hot and remote, the Dry Tortugas are one of the Park Service’s most inaccessible destinations. One thing they aren’t is dry; the seven islands lying seventy miles west of Key West received their name from their lack of terrestrial fresh water (and an abundance of turtles), but tropical storms inundate the little archipelago with some regularity. Visitors must take a ferry or seaplane to the park, but the reward is worth it: renowned for its marine life and snorkeling, the Dry Tortugas offer clean beaches and clear water, as well as an historic American fortress to explore. Best of all, you probably won’t have to share it with many other people. Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial. The Park Service isn’t exactly modest in its holdings: from the Grand Canyon, to California’s Sequoia National Park, to Wrangell–St. Elias in Alaska (the reigning champ at over eight million acres), it has its share of massive parks. But these spaces contain enough to fill a lifetime, so they might not be the best choice for a weekend trip. If you’re not up for getting lost in a vast wilderness, why not go to the opposite extreme and visit the smallest destination in the NPS? Commemorating the life of an American Revolutionary hero, this National Memorial includes exhibits and artifacts from Kosciuszko’s military career in the new country he helped to liberate. Housed within Kosciuszko’s small Philadelphia home and measuring in at only .02 acres, the memorial is perfect for a quick historical tour. Aniakchak. Only serious adventurers need apply for an expedition to Aniakchak, a swath of land in southwest Alaska encompassing the volcano that gives the park its name. Extreme weather, a rugged, remote landscape and various other inconveniences—like bears—have earned Aniakchak its place as the very bottom rung of the NPS popularity ladder, but the natural riches of wild Alaska are a pot of gold for the few willing to seek out the end of this rainbow. Sure, by the Park Service’s own estimates only a few dozen people make it out to Aniakchak each year—but what an unforgettable experience those determined few must have. African Burial Ground. From frontier Alaska to the glittering streets of New York, the National Park Service spans all environs. On the opposite end of the spectrum from Aniakchak is the African Burial Ground, located in Lower Manhattan. The monument preserves the remains of several hundred free and enslaved Africans buried in the 17th and 18th centuries. The burial ground was forgotten and built over in subsequent centuries, only to resurface in 1991 as a result of construction excavations. A monument and visitor center now honor the memories of the interred. (The African Burial Ground does not charge admission, but will be closed on Veterans Day.) Nicodemus National Historic Site. Billed by the Park Service as “the oldest and only remaining all Black Town west of the Mississippi,” Nicodemus was an important outpost for African Americans moving westward after the Civil War. The historical site in Kansas is comprised of several historic buildings within the still–living community of modern Nicodemus. The town also hosts historical festivals at points throughout the year. Hamilton Grange. Many of the Park Service’s most popular monuments are dedicated to familiar figures of American history. Abraham Lincoln’s three memorials alone attracted over six million visitors in 2010—a far cry from the New York City home of Alexander Hamilton, which received only around fifteen thousand visitors a year before closing for renovations in 2006. Hamilton Grange was reopened in September and is now accepting visitors—and at no charge. If Hamilton holds no interest for you, try another of the lesser–visited memorials dedicated to important Americans: the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, Massachusetts, celebrates the life of the renowned landscape architect; the Flat Rock, North Carolina Carl Sandburg Home remembers the storied career of the quintessentially American poet; and in Washington D.C., the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House stands in remembrance of the early, determined civil rights activist and educator. —Ryan Murphy MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: The Best National Parks For Fall Colors 10 Incredible National Parks of Canada National Parks (Minus the Crowds)

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