Create New Holiday Traditions in National Parks

Rocío LowerNPF Blog
Three family members sit on a rock enjoying a sunset at Olympic National Park
Maribel Torres, Share the Experience

A refreshing chill, an excited wonder, and hopeful merriment are in the air – this can only mean one thing: the holidays are now upon us! As you gather with loved ones this season, take some time to discover new places, #OptOutside and #FindYourPark together (o mejor dicho, #EncuentraTuParque juntos), and learn about our nation’s greatest gems – our national parks.

Check out these seven ideas and be inspired to start a new holiday tradition exploring the unforgettable places across the National Park System!


The Milky Way illuminates the sky over Mesa Verde National Park’s Cliff Palace
Thomas Piekunka, Share the Experience

The sun sets early these days, meaning that the nights are longer. It’s the perfect time to head outdoors to revel in the brilliance of a dark sky! Do some research to see which nearby parks might offer the perfect stage for the night sky show. And be sure to prepare for the excursion by checking out these tips for stargazing in national parks.

Long Walks on the Beach

Waves crash on the rocks below the Point Reyes Lighthouse

The lighthouse at Point Reyes National Seashore

Angie Marcelynas, Share the Experience

Summer isn’t the only time to take a long stroll along the beach. Bundle up, get outside, and stretch your legs after a delicious meal while exploring some of the incredible lighthouses of the National Park System.

Become a Junior Ranger


A photo posted by Alyssa Chin (@chinswim) on


Perfect for kids (and kids at heart), the junior ranger program is fun and engaging and can be done at nearly every national park in the country. Check in at the visitor center to collect the activity book and explore the park to discover the answers and complete the activities. Your efforts will be rewarded with a new appreciation for the park, as well as an official patch and certificate!

Get Your Blood Pumping

People snowshoeing in Mount Rainier National Park

Winter snowshoeing at Mount Rainier National Park

National Park Service

Some of our country’s best winter fun can be enjoyed in national parks! Work off the seconds you enjoyed by partaking in some of these winter sports. Or you can fall back on a tried-and-true adventure and head out for a memorable winter hike.

Bird Watching

A group of elementary school students look through binoculars during a bird watching experience at National Park of American Samoa

Bird watching at the National Park of American Samoa

Eymard Bangcoro, Share the Experience

There are wonderful bird-watching opportunities to be had during these months, so head to a national park and make the most out of this time of year. Challenge everyone to count how many different species they find – the winner can treat all to hot chocolate afterwards. You can even invite the kids to draw the birds they see while out on the trail. Just don’t forget your binoculars!

Holiday Celebrations of Yesteryear


A photo posted by Nancy Lutz (@dutchesstourism) on


Some park units kick off the holiday season by putting up period-appropriate decorations. Others put on demonstrations that share the traditions that would have been enjoyed by the people who inhabited these unique places. And others yet celebrate by hosting festivities throughout the season. Check the event calendar for your local national parks to see what’s on the docket!

Day at the Museum

A Museum exhibit within Ford’s Theater
Ben Rome (ghost_bear, flickr)

Sometimes, the weather just doesn’t cooperate to allow you to #OptOutside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still #FindYourPark! Stay out of the elements and explore the fascinating exhibits and museums housed within national parks.

No matter how you prefer to enjoy your national parks with loved ones this season, just be sure to appreciate our national treasure and the holiday spirit together. Looking for other ideas to help inspire new holiday traditions in national parks? Be sure to check out our free Owner’s Guides for travel ideas and insider-tips to making your next #FindYourPark adventure an unforgettable one.

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