Tag Archives: Top 10

Top 10 Civil War Films

This summer, we are going to cover the many National Park Service (NPS) sites dedicated to remembering the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in American history with the greatest outcome (freedom for the country’s enslaved people).  Part of what makes the United States a great nation is its ability to remember the painful chapters in its past (i.e. Andersonville and Manzanar National Historic Sites).  It is also important to recall where we started so we can accurately see how far we have come and the positive trajectory we (as a nation) are on.  If you keep up with the daily news it is difficult to get this perspective, especially when living through periods of historical change.  That is what makes our NPS sites essential to the future of our republic.

With that long preamble, we now present our first Top 10 list dedicated to motion pictures.  So make some popcorn and find a comfortable seat!

10. Gods and Generals (2003)

This epically long film could have been titled “The Stonewall Jackson Movie.”

9. The Beguiled (1971, 2017)

More of a psychological thriller than a war movie.

8. Glory (1989)

The story of a regiment of African American troops in the Union Army.

7. Ride with the Devil (1999)

This film directed by Ang Lee follows guerrilla fighters in Missouri.

6. Free State of Jones (2016)

Tells the story of a revolt against the Confederacy in Mississippi in the middle of the Civil War.

5. Cold Mountain (2003)

A look into life on the home front in the South (and based on the novel).

4. Gettysburg (1993)

At over four hours, it does a decent job explaining the three days that changed American history.

3. Lincoln (2012)

Daniel Day-Lewis did arguably the best job of the many actors to portray Abe Lincoln.

2. Harriet (2019)

Believe it or not, Harriet Tubman led troops during the Civil War.

…and finally our #1 movie about the American Civil War:

1. Gone with the Wind (1939)

A classic.

Honorable Mentions

Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War (1990)

This nine-hour marathon changed documentaries forever and made historian Shelby Foote a star.

The Blue and the Grey (1982) and North and South (1985)

Mixed reviews for these two television miniseries from the 1980s.

Little Women (1918, 1933, 1949, 1994, 2019, etc.)

The war provides the backdrop for the many films based on Louisa May Alcott’s masterpiece.

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Top 10 National Park Service Sites for Social Distancing

Last week we chose our Top 10 sites for social distancing in the 62 National Parks, so these are our selections from the other 357 National Park Service (NPS) units.  Many NPS sites concentrate people at a single attraction or crowded overlook, but at these parks it is easier to practice social distancing and explore at your own pace. We also chose places where it is not too hot in the summer (with apologies to the awesome Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument). Click here to see all our Top 10 lists. 

10. Ozark National Scenic Riverways (Missouri)

Numerous trails to hike and miles of rivers to float through a beautiful hardwood forest

9. City of Rocks National Reserve (Idaho)

Rock climbers congregate at specific spots, but there are plenty of scenic trails to explore

8. Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail (Mississippi-Alabama-Tennessee)

There are 67 miles of trails and free campgrounds along the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway

7. Cedar Breaks National Monument (Utah)

Hike away from the NPS visitor center to find space at this mini-Bryce Canyon

6. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (Montana-Wyoming)

In addition to the lake, there are numerous trails to explore above the cliffs

5. Buffalo National River (Arkansas)

You do not have to hop in a canoe to see the Ponca Wilderness, there are several hiking trails

4. Lava Beds National Monument (California)

Try self-guided caving through lava tubes in this remote section of northeast California

3. Catoctin Mountain Park (Maryland)

Hit the trails to find solitude in the forests around Camp David

2. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (Tennessee-Kentucky)

There are 400 miles of trails here for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders

…and finally our #1 National Park Service site for social distancing:

1. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (Idaho)

Trailheads provide access to cinder cones, lava tubes, and tree molds (though it can get hot)

Honorable Mentions

Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument (Nevada)

There are neither trails nor any development at all in this new NPS site in Las Vegas

Chaco Culture National Historical Park (New Mexico)

One of several seldom-visited NPS sites to visit once the Navajo Nation reopens

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve (Kansas)

Bison roam this restored grassland in the hills of eastern Kansas

Top 10 National Parks for Social Distancing

With international travel limited in 2020, many Americans are looking to vacation this summer in the country’s amazing National Parks.  The best-known parks often concentrate people at a single attraction with crowded overlooks, so we chose 10 less busy National Parks where it is easy practice social distancing and explore at your own pace, but are also not too hot in the summer (sorry, Death Valley).  For ideas of how to avoid large groups even at the busiest parks, check out our travel guidebook to all 62 National Parks (available on Amazon).

Next week we will choose our Top 10 sites for social distancing from the other 357 National Park Service units (click here to see all our Top 10 lists).

10. White Sands National Park (New Mexico)

Bring your snow sleds and find a dune to play on at America’s newest National Park

9. Great Basin National Park (Nevada)

Cave tours may not be an option, but there are many trails in this seldom-visited mountain range

8. Badlands National Park (South Dakota)

You do not even need a trail to explore Conata Basin and other portions of this park filled with wildlife

7. Sequoia National Park (California)

Avoid the crowds at the General Sherman tree and instead wander trails through the Giant Forest

6. Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)

You will need a boat to explore these beautiful lakes on the Canadian border

5. Congaree National Park (South Carolina)

This park has 20 miles of forested trails and a creek for canoeing (but prepare for bugs)

4. Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota)

You may see more bison than people on two scenic drives and several long trails

3. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Colorado)

There are no official trails up this sand mountain (plus, pick up a free permit to camp on the dunes)

2. Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

Skip the trail to the peak and instead hike Dog Canyon and the Permian Reef Geology Trail

…and finally our #1 National Park for social distancing:

1. Capitol Reef National Park (Utah)

The numerous trails and canyons have encouraged us to return often to this isolated park

Honorable Mentions

Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)

Other than on the ferry or floatplane flight, there is plenty of room to explore this island

Everglades National Park (Florida)

Avoid the few trails and get into your canoe to experience the park (but prepare for bugs)

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (Alaska)

It should be easy to find space in this rarely visited park where the sun never sets in summer

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Top 10 National Park Service Sites for Wildlife Watching

There are 419 units in the National Park Service (NPS) system and they are among the best places to watch wildlife in the United States.  We previously ranked our Top 10 places for spotting wildlife among the 62 National Parks, so this is the best of the rest.  Click here to check out all of our Top 10 lists.

10. Ozark National Scenic Riverways (Missouri)

There are many fish-eating birds all along these floatable rivers, plus beavers.

9. Big Thicket National Preserve (Texas)

Wildlife in this diverse preserve ranges from alligators to roadrunners.

8. Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument (U.S. Virgin Islands)

There is no dry land within its acreage, so expect many tropical fish and other mangrove residents.

7. Cumberland Island National Seashore (Georgia)

Feral horses are one of the main draws to this remote section of the Atlantic Coast.

6. Padre Island National Seashore (Texas)

The Gulf Coast is a great place for white-tailed deer and sea turtles, but watch out for Portuguese man-o-wars.

5. Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park (Hawai‘i)

There is good snorkeling just outside the park where sea turtles are commonly seen.

4. Cape Cod National Seashore (Massachusetts)

Gray seals attract great white sharks, so swim at your own risk.

3. Big Cypress National Preserve (Florida)

Alligators and Florida panthers are among the residents of this wild section of the Everglades.

2. Buck Island Reef National Monument (U.S. Virgin Islands)

Possibly the best coral reef in the entire NPS system surrounds this tiny island.

…and finally our #1 National Park Service sites for wildlife watching:

1. Point Reyes National Seashore (California)

Tule elk have been reintroduced here, plus watch elephant seals and gray whales in the winter.

Honorable Mentions

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park (Maryland)

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is adjacent to this swampy park.

San Juan Island National Historical Park (Washington)

Tide pools are a big attraction to this park’s 6.1 miles of protected shoreline.

Buffalo National River (Arkansas)

Bald eagles, ospreys, and great blue herons make this a dangerous place to be a fish.

Top 10 National Parks for Wildlife Watching

There are 62 National Parks of the 419 units in the National Park Service (NPS) system and they are among the best places to watch wildlife.  As with all of our Top 10 lists, this is a ranking of our favorite parks and not necessarily a true reflection of biodiversity or the likelihood of spotting the animals listed.  Note: brown bears and grizzly bears are the same species, so we stuck with the Alaskan name.  We have published a travel guidebook to the 62 parks with much more information about where to go to see wildlife (available on Amazon).

10. Theodore Roosevelt (North Dakota)

Bison, elk, pronghorn, white-tailed deer, mule deer, prairie dogs, wild horses, prairie rattlesnakes

9. Virgin Islands (U.S. Virgin Islands)

Sea turtles, stingrays, barracudas, parrotfish, iguanas (introduced), frigatebirds, bananaquits, pelicans

8. Rocky Mountain (Colorado)

Elk, moose, bighorn sheep, white-tailed deer, mule deer, black bears, yellow-bellied marmots, pikas

7. Glacier (Montana)

Mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, elk, mule deer, brown bears, black bears, lynx, yellow-bellied marmots, pikas

6. Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee-North Carolina)

Elk, white-tailed deer, black bears, raccoons, turkeys, salamanders, synchronous fireflies

5. Denali (Alaska)

Caribou, moose, Dall sheep, brown bears, black bears, gray wolves, beavers, hoary marmots

4. Badlands (South Dakota)

Bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, white-tailed deer, mule deer, prairie dogs, black-footed ferrets

3 (tie). Kenai Fjords/Glacier Bay (Alaska)

Sea otters, sea lions, harbor seals, whales, porpoises, moose, mountain goats, brown bears, black bears, bald eagles

2. Everglades (Florida)

Alligators, crocodiles, dolphins, barred owls, anhingas, roseate spoonbills, wood storks, ospreys, pelicans

…and finally our #1 National Park for watching wildlife:

1. Yellowstone (Wyoming-Montana-Idaho)

Bison, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, brown bears, black bears, mountain lions, gray wolves

Honorable Mentions

Voyageurs (Minnesota)

River otters, beavers, moose, white-tailed deer, black bears, gray wolves, lynx, bald eagles, loons

Channel Islands (California)

Sea otters, sea lions, harbor seals, whales, dolphins, anemones, sea urchins, starfish, sea gulls, pelicans

Dry Tortugas (Florida)

Sea turtles, parrotfish, groupers, tarpons, sharks, crocodiles, frigatebirds, noddies, boobies, terns, pelicans

Find more great photos and ideas about where to watch wildlife in our guidebook to National Parks (available on Amazon).

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