10 Reasons Why I Love the National Parks Service System

Seven years ago I planned my first major road trip. My children were toddlers and we were planning on traveling almost cross country to visit good friends who were temporarily relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Sharing my itinerary with my Uncle Bob, he asked if I planned on visiting any National Parks. I knew of the National Park Service system, but didn’t know much information about the various locations. Uncle Bob pulled out a worn, tattered, small blue spiral book and about an hour went by before I spoke again. (Full disclosure: Uncle Bob is a good storyteller and he does have a TON of travel experience.) His National Parks Passport book was filled with stamps dating back to the early 1970s. It was the perfect memento of his travels and I knew I had to start my own passport book.

Since 2012, I have collected dozens of passport stamps from various stops in the National Park Service system. There are over 400 locations in the United States and American owned islands. These locations include parks, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and even the White House. With every stop, I became a bigger and bigger fan of the National Parks system. Here are my top 10 reasons why:

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Fort Sumter National Park in Charleston, SC

There is plenty of architecture, southern cuisine, and water views to check out in Charleston, South Carolina but no trip would be complete without reliving a major turning point in our country’s history.

Fort Sumter National Monument is the only structure on the man-made island, which was created in the early 1800s as a defense for the city of Charleston. In April of 1861, the Confederate army bombed the still incomplete Fort, signaling the start of the Civil War.

Operated by the National Parks Service and Fort Sumter Tours, access to the island is by tour boats docked at both Liberty Square or Patriot’s Point. I would leave from the Liberty Square Visitor Center so you can spend some time checking out displays which chronicle the history of the fort and check out a small gift shop. Make sure you stamp your National Parks PassportNote: There are restrooms located at both locations and I would recommend using them before boarding the boat to the island. The Visitor’s Center at Liberty Square is located on the second floor, but there is an elevator.

The 40-minute narrated boat ride to the fort explains many details about the start of the Civil War.  Once you’re on the island, you can explore the fort on your own. There are park rangers stationed at various points to give short lectures and to answer any questions. There are also placards that give detailed information about structures and objects.  I would plan on spending 45-60 minutes at the fort. When you go, be sure to look out for:

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Boone Plantation, South Carolina

The South is known for numerous plantations: large estates with farms producing a wide variety of crops. One of the most popular and still functioning plantations is the Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant in South Carolina.  Located just 20 minutes outside of historic Charleston, Boone Hall was founded in 1681 on the banks of the Wampacheone Creek by English Major John Boone. For centuries the plantation was known for growing and selling cotton and pecans. Now, the Boone Hall Farms Market also sells various fruits, vegetables, seafood (from the local docks), prepared foods, and gifts. Film buffs will recognize the estate from the film “The Notebook.”

The plantation offers a wide variety of ways to explore the site and learn from history. All tours are included with the admission fee. I first wrote about Boone Plantation for Kidventurous, but wanted to share some of my favorite parts of our visit and a few nearby bonus stops: (updated for summer 2017) 

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