National Park Week feels a little like a secret, perhaps because those of us who know about it kind of want to keep it a secret; if everyone knew that admission to the nation’s 401 national parks/battlefields/sites was free this week, why they’d be overrun! But we’re not too worried about that, because most of them are pretty big — also, the free admission only lasts through Friday — so we’ve come up with a list of a few local and regional picks for you to enjoy this week, at no cost to you. So go on, take a day off work and explore.
Fort McHenry is one of Baltimore’s signature sights, and if you haven’t stopped by since the swanky new visitor’s center opened, now is your perfect chance.
Assateague Island National Seashore, home of the feral — sorry, I mean wild! — ponies is lovely this time of year, especially for bird-watchers. The summer crowds aren’t there yet, and the bugs haven’t yet begun to attack in earnest.
Antietam National Battlefield is one of those spots that brings the Civil War into focus in a way that history books never quite can. Take a self-guided tour through the battleground, visit the field hospital museum to learn about battlefield surgery (eek!), or fish in Antietam Creek.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia was the site of John Brown’s failed anti-slavery uprising; these days, it’s better known for its lovely hiking trails through the Potomac and Shenandoah river valleys.
Shenandoah National Park is the farthest away — about a three-hour drive — but the waterfalls and hardwood forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains make it well worth your while. Even traveling through the park along Skyline Drive feels like an event.
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