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Did You Know: National Parks in Your Backyard

National Parks Week brings a chance to visit local wonders.

You don't have to travel far to experience the very best the country has to offer. And this coming week is your chance.

From April 20 to 28, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation will present National Park Week 2013.

"This year’s theme, 'Did you know…' is the perfect opportunity for Americans to learn amazing and unique things about their 401 national parks," said Kathy Kupper, of the NPS. "With free admission to all parks from April 22 through 26, it is also a great time to explore parks in your own backyard or across the country."

The director of NPS said there is much to offer for those of all ages.

"From bike tours and concerts to whale-watching and living history encampments, a full schedule of National Park Week events offers something for everyone," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "Whether you want to learn, relax, have fun, exercise, watch wildlife, or be inspired – there’s a park for you."

The staff encourages visitors to enjoy the week, and experience all the local parks have to offer.

"National Park Week is a great time to experience all that our national parks have to offer," said Neil Mulholland, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation. "Did you know it is also the perfect time to become an active steward of these extraordinary places? Together, we can ensure that they remain vibrant and relevant for generations to come."

There are SO many ways to enjoy National Park Week, here are just a few, as recommended by the parks system:

DID YOU KNOW…there are 17,000 miles of trails in America’s national parks?

Whether you are hiking to waterfalls at Haleakala National Park or Great Smoky Mountains National Park, seeking the best spots for bird watching at Padre Island National Seashore or Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, or enjoying the scenery at Congaree National Park or Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, you will find expert-led excursions at parks coast to coast.

DID YOU KNOW…that national park fun doesn’t stop at sunset?

Sleep under the stars in one of the 12,000 campsites, see Castillo de San Marcos National Monument by candlelight, take a guided moonlight stroll at Big Thicket National Preserve, enjoy a star party at Bandelier National Monument, or a sunset stroll through White Sands National Monument.

DID YOU KNOW…history comes to life in national parks?

Dress like a conquistador at Coronado National Memorial or visit a prehistoric cave shelter and tool demonstration at Russell Cave National Monument, a colonial encampment at Arkansas Post National Memorial or Morristown National Historical Park or a Civil War encampment at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park or Gettysburg National Military Park.

DID YOU KNOW…you could go for a ride?

Some of the prettiest scenery you’ll ever see is along the 5,450 miles of roads in national parks. In fact, 1,100 miles are designated parkways designed especially for sightseeing. Leave the car behind and pedal your way through parks such as Acadia National ParkGateway National Recreation AreaCanyonlands National Park, and C&O Canal National Historical Park or join the Prison to Peanut Guided Bike Adventurefrom Andersonville National Historic Site to Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.

DID YOU KNOW…you can be a park VIP? 

That is a Volunteer IPark, of course!  Last year alone, 257,000 volunteers donated 6.78 million hours of their time to improve the parks they love.  National Park Week is a perfect time to pitch in and help your favorite park.  Learn how you can protect and preserve these special places at www.volunteer.gov.

DID YOU KNOW…you can become a Junior Ranger?

Kids five to 12 years old are encouraged to take part in free Junior Ranger programs in almost every national park. Ask for a Junior Ranger booklet at the visitor center and earn a badge by completing different activities. Many parks will host special events on Junior Ranger Day – April 20, including Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic SiteCuyahoga Valley National ParkShenandoah National Park, and Booker T. Washington National Monument.

DID YOU KNOW…you could win a national park adventure of your own?

Enter the National Park Week Getaway Giveaway and you and a guest will experience the breathtaking park landscapes, wildlife, and history of the West. This trip features an 11-day guided tour from Denver to Salt Lake City with stops at national parks, museums, and historic sites. Learn fascinating information and stories about each destination and receive a unique level of access to park attractions. The trip includes a full itinerary, including lodging and transportation, all making for a completely hassle-free touring experience. Enter today:http://www.nationalparks.org/sweepstakes

Be sure to share photos, videos, and stories from your national park travels on the National Parks Week website here. The site also contains a calendar of events and plenty of information on how to visit and support national parks. To learn more about protecting and preserving these special places, visit the National Park Service website here and the National Park Foundation website here.  

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