General Grant National Memorial

Overview

Often referred to as Grant’s Tomb, this 150-foot tall marble and granite rotunda is the largest mausoleum in North America.  Following his death in 1885, the rotunda was constructed in less than two years with donations from 90,000 individuals worldwide, the largest ever public fundraising effort at the time.  It is located on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River in the Morningside Heights area of Manhattan, where Grant spent the final five years of his life after serving two terms as President (1868-1876).

Highlights

Museum, film, tomb

Must-Do Activity

The Overlook Pavilion is separate from the rotunda and offers a few exhibits and a film about Ulysses S. Grant (plus you can put your head in an oversized $50 bill which typically bears Grant’s face).  The rotunda contains the tombs of Ulysses and his wife (Julia) who passed in 1902, as well as murals and bronze busts of fellow Civil War generals. 

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

Outside the rotunda is long curving bench with mosaic images (a la Gaudi) depicting different aspects of the National Park Service (NPS) system.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/gegr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, but it is better to take the subway to get to this area.

Camping

There is camping available within Gateway National Recreation Area, which is managed by the NPS.

Related Sites

Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (Missouri)

Hamilton Grange National Memorial (New York)

Statue of Liberty National Monument (New York)

Explore More –Julia Grant requested that which feature never be added to the rotunda?

World War II Memorial

Overview

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. was dedicated in 2004 to remember the 16-million Americans that served in uniform during the war.  It is located on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.  The seven-acre site is managed by the National Park Service (NPS).  There is not an NPS visitor center at the site, but there are information kiosks around the area, including two near the Lincoln Memorial.

Highlights

Pavilions, pillars, bas-relief sculptures, fountains

Must-Do Activity

The memorial’s design was chosen in a competition with more than 400 others and was created in 1997 by Austrian-born architect Friedrich St. Florian.  It features a large pool and fountains, two pavilions labeled Atlantic and Pacific, 56 pillars for each state and territory, as well as bas-relief sculptures and quotes from historic figures.  On the Freedom Wall, each gold star represents one hundred of the 405,399 Americans who died during World War II.

Best Trail

Walk the bridge across the Potomac River to Arlington, Virginia for a view of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial that depicts the American flag being raised over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima during World War II.  This is not an NPS site, but does offer a commanding view of the National Mall and is especially photogenic at night.

Instagram-worthy Photo

After dark is a great time for photography on the National Mall, and the World War II Memorial is no exception.  You might consider bringing a tripod for clearer photos.

Peak Season

Spring

Hours

24 hours a day with NPS rangers posted until 10 p.m.

https://www.nps.gov/wwii/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, but public transportation is recommended in Washington, D.C.

Camping

None

Related Sites

World War I Memorial (District of Columbia)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (District of Columbia)

Korean War Veterans Memorial (District of Columbia)

Explore More – The memorial contains two hidden “Kilroy was here” engravings; what is the significance of this inclusion?

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Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Overview

Gustavus, Alaska (population 400) is the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, and can be accessed by air or ferry from Juneau.  Some large cruise ships include the bay on their Inside Passage itinerary, but to get closer and really hear the thunder of cracking Margerie Glacier it is better to take a daytrip aboard a smaller catamaran from the docks at Glacier Bay Lodge.  Guided multi-day kayaking trips are one way to have a wild experience more similar to John Muir’s 1879 exploration detailed in his book Travels in Alaska.  Learn more in our guidebook to the 62 National Parks, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).

Highlights

Sitakaday Narrows, Bartlett River Trail, Margerie Glacier, wildlife

Must-Do Activity

Vacation packages including boat tickets, meals, and a private cabin at the lodge are reasonably priced through the National Park Service (NPS) concessionaire.  Shortly after departing on your all-day boat tour you will see humpback whales in the Sitakaday Narrows, then up the bay are Steller sea lions, harbor seals, and a variety of seabirds.  By scanning the cliffs you might also spot mountain goats and brown bears.  The boat turns around at Margerie Glacier, a great place to witness the thunderous calving of a tidewater glacier, an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list. 

Best Trail

On the days you are not on the boat, there are several trails around Glacier Bay Lodge or you can explore the shoreline at low tide to see an assortment of marine life. 

Instagram-worthy Photo

Lamplugh Glacier is not as active as Margerie Glacier, but may be more photogenic, which is why we chose to depict it in our logo for this National Park (see below).

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/glba/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None for the park, but this is not a cheap place to visit.

Road Conditions

There are no roads to Gustavus, Alaska, which is only accessible by airplane or boat.  The NPS always sends a bus from Glacier Bay Lodge to pick up arrivals at the airport and ferry terminal.

Camping

There is a free NPS campground near Glacier Bay Lodge if you bring your own supplies. 

Related Sites

Sitka National Historical Park (Alaska)

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska)

This design we created to celebrate Glacier Bay National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – Glacier Bay was named a National Monument in 1925 and was expanded to become the largest NPS site (at the time) in 1939, but when was it finally designated a National Park?

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Top 10 World War II Sites in the 62 National Parks

The official end of World War II occurred on September 2, 1945 on the deck of the battleship USS Missouri (now docked at Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Hawai‘i).  To celebrate the 75th anniversary of this event we previously assembled our Top 10 National Park Service (NPS) units dedicated to the war.  This list ranks the best sites within our 62 National Parks.  Click here to see all our Top 10 lists, including our favorite WWII books and films.

For more information on visiting all 62 National Parks, check out our travel guidebook, A Park to Yourself: Finding Adventure in America’s National Parks (available on Amazon).

10. Yosemite National Park (California)

The “U.S. Naval Convalescent Hospital Yosemite National Park, California” opened in 1943.

9. Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)

Soldiers were sent to recreate at the caverns from Hobbs Air Field, located 100 miles away.

8. Olympic National Park (Washington)

Two of the park’s coast guard and aircraft warning stations still exist.

7. White Sands National Park (New Mexico)

In 1942, the U.S. military established a weapons testing range in the Tularosa Basin that still functions today.

6. Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

Denali’s rugged terrain was a great place to test soldiers and equipment.

5. Redwood National Park (California)

The Klamath River Radar Station B-71 is a rare early-warning radar station.

4. Haleakalā National Park (Hawai‘i)

The numerous antennas atop Red Hill led locals to dub this WWII radar station “Haleakalā National Forest.”

3. Acadia National Park (Maine)

The park’s Big Moose Island was home to a U.S. Navy radio station during WWII.

2. National Park of American Samoa (American Samoa)

These islands hosted soldiers and provided essential communications operations in the Pacific.

…and finally, our #1 National Park dedicated to World War II:

1. Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)

The 10th Mountain Division tested their mountaineering skills and equipment at Mt. Rainier.

Honorable Mention

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (Hawai‘i)

After Pearl Harbor, this federal land on the largest of the Hawaiian Islands held several military installations.

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Nicodemus National Historic Site

Overview

In northwestern Kansas, a small farming community joined the prestigious ranks of National Park Service (NPS) sites in 1996.  Historically-significant Nicodemus, Kansas was founded in 1877 by former slaves from Kentucky freed during the Civil War.  Between 1860 and 1880, the population of African-Americans in Kansas jumped from 627 to 43,107, so the town is representative of a historic period of diaspora, settlement, and reconstruction. 

Highlights

Township Hall, St. Francis Hotel, Old First Baptist Church

Must-Do Activity

Start your tour at the NPS visitor center in Township Hall built by the Works Progress Administration in 1939 (it is not open every day so check online first).  Please respect private property as you drive past two churches, a circa-1880 hotel, and an old schoolhouse (which are all closed to the public) that have interpretive signs along the street out front.  Every summer around the last weekend in July, the small town grows as descendants of its founders return for the Emancipation Celebration.  This event is open to the public and would be a great time to visit.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

The First Baptist Church was completed in 1907, constructed around a smaller church (sort of like a turducken).  When it was completed, the original structure was removed in small pieces through the front door.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/nico/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Weber State Park is located 10 miles east of Nicodemus, Kansas.

Related Sites

Homestead National Monument of America (Nebraska)

Fort Larned National Historic Site (Kansas)

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (Kansas)

Explore More – For whom was the town of Nicodemus named?