Tell Us Your Favorite Childhood Movie and We'll Tell You Which National Park to Visit

Take a Trip Down Memory Lane, and Then to a Park
Katherine RivardNPF Blog
iStock / monkeybusinessimages

Lights, camera, parks! What do national parks and your favorite childhood movie have in common? They’re both infused with a big helping of nostalgia, of time spent with family when anything was possible. Think of a favorite childhood movie that showed you a whole new world, then plan your next national park adventure.  

101 Dalmatians  

A "bark ranger" dog looks at the camera with a mountain range in the background

Bark Ranger Gracie at Glacier National Park

NPS Photo / Alice W Biel

Dog lovers will agree: Cruella de Vil was one of the cruelest cartoon villains. Luckily, dogs are welcome at many national parks, like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore and Glacier National Park. Plan a visit with your bark ranger

Annie 

The yellow house of Hamilton Grange National Monument with red autumn leaves

Hamilton Grange National Monument

NPS Photo

Annie and Alexander Hamilton have more in common than you think. These famous orphans both lived in New York City. Despite his tragic childhood in the Caribbean, Alexander Hamilton overcame the challenges he faced, moved to New York, and eventually became one of America’s Founding Fathers. Visit the home where he lived with his family, Hamilton Grange National Memorial, which is now located in Saint Nicholas Park in Manhattan.  

Balto 

Ten dogs pulling a sled across a snowy landscape

Mushing at Denali National Park

NPS Photo / Jared Withers

This Siberian husky and sled dog helped transport medicine across Alaska in the 1920s, so head north to Denali National Park and Preserve, which houses the National Park Service’s only operating sled dog kennel. Visitors to the park can interact with the dogs and learn how the pups are trained for their important duties. Just like Balto, they work hard all year despite Alaska’s extreme climate.

Cars 

A patch saying "Route 66" on the bottom of a leg of jeans

Petrified Forest National Park is the only park containing a section of Historic Route 66

NPS Photo

In Cars, Lightning McQueen discovered the beauty of small-town America and Route 66. See this history for yourself at the Route 66 Heritage Area. The route begins in Chicago and ends in Los Angeles with many historic sites along the way. Take a road trip and add national parks to your itinerary! 

Charlotte’s Web 

White fence with silo in the background. In front of the fence are two large trees with bright yellow leaves.

Barn at Eisenhower National Historic Site

NPS Photo

Around the time E.B. White published Charlotte’s Web, Dwight D. Eisenhower began his first term as president. His home and farm are preserved as the Eisenhower National Historic Site. Though the president mainly focused on raising black Angus cattle, the farm is a window into the life of a president and farmer during the mid-twentieth century. Visitors can also take a shuttle bus to the park from Gettysburg National Military Park and enjoy a self-guided tour. 

Finding Nemo 

Looking out along the edge of the water, seeing both the coral reef beneath and the green mountains in the distance

National Park of American Samoa

NPS Photo

You can see Nemo in real life without a trip to Australia or the dentist’s office at National Park of American Samoa. This tropical park is like no other, filled with the area’s natural beauty and the opportunity to learn about the Samoan people. Speak whale in the fall as humpbacks migrate through the area and snorkel in the clear water to see clownfish and hundreds of other fish species.

Fox and the Hound 

Sunlight beams in, filtered by airy green leaves, onto warm brown rocks along a misty blue river

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Shutterstock / Rob Hainer

Foxes, finches, and woodpeckers can all be found within Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, creating a setting not-so-different than that of The Fox and the Hound. The park is a perfect spot to enjoy time with your friends, no matter your differences. Float down the river together on a raft or canoe, appreciating your shared love for our national parks. 

Free Willy 

An orca jumps of the water, breaching

A breaching orca, Kenai Fjords National Park

NPS Photo / Jim Pfeiffenberger

Kenai Fjords National Park is the place for you. Though more northern than the movie’s Seattle locale, this Alaskan park is one place within the National Park System where it’s possible to spot orcas just as they were meant to be: free and wild. The park even has a killer whale population assessment program that has been ongoing since 1986, 7 years before the release of Free Willy! Even if you don’t spot an orca, fishing, flightseeing, and boat touring are just a few ways to make incredible memories at the park.

Frozen 

View of high alpine terrain with rocky peaks in the distance and snow fields in the foreground

View from Chilkoot Summit, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

NPS Photo / K. Unertl

Frozen’s icy backdrop is reminiscent of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Let it go and #FindYourPark / #EncuentraTuParque in this frozen landscape. You won’t find reindeer in the park today; nevertheless, visitors do have the chance to spot bears, birds and more while hiking near Skagway. 

Goonies 

Warm lights glow in the dark Ghost Room in Oregon Caves National Monument

Ghost Room in Oregon Caves National Monument

NPS Photo

The Goonies were just a group of friends living in Oregon and trying to prevent the foreclosure of their homes. They found treasure and more than they bargained for in nearby caves. For your own cave adventure in Oregon, grab your friends and head to Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve to learn about the cave’s inhabitants and underground river. Be sure to sign up in advance for a ranger-led tour. 

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey  

Stone stairs surrounded by boulders leading up to a balcony with a view of the foothills

Hospital Rock River Balcony, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

NPS Photo

If Chance, Shadow, and Sassy can navigate the wilderness of the wilderness, so can you! Located in the southern Sierra Nevada, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park are home to giant sequoia forests, subalpine forests, rocky alpine terrain, and more. Take a unique tour through the parks by hiking, horseback riding, or backpacking for an incredible journey. 

Ice Age 

Fossil of a Columbian mammoth

Columbian mammoth fossil, Waco Mammoth National Monument

iStock / Arpad Benedek

Less than two hours from Dallas, you can find the first and only evidence of a nursery herd of ice age Columbian mammoths at Waco Mammoth National Monument. The park joined the National Park System in 2015 and is open on weekends.  

The Land Before Time 

A lone raft flats down the Yampa River between high cliffs

Yampa River, Dinosaur National Monument

NPS Photo / Jacob W. Frank

If the dinosaurs and incredible landscapes in Land Before Time fascinated you as a child, visit Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah. You’ll imagine dinosaurs roaming the surreal canyons, rivers, and deserts. See more than 1,500 dinosaur bones embedded in the cliff at Quarry Exhibit Hall. 

Lilo & Stitch 

Sunrise at Kalawao - waves crash against a rugged brown and green shoreline, while large mountains loom

Kalawao, Kalaupapa National Historical Park

NPS Photo / T. Scott Williams

Stitch is a little different than other species in Hawaii, but that doesn’t stop him from becoming part of Lilo’s ohana. At Kalaupapa National Historical Park, a unique history is kept alive by telling the story of an island where people with Hansen’s disease were forced into isolation. The island remains a somber reminder of negative responses to the challenges of illnesses. 

The Little Mermaid 

A school of yellow and silver fish in the coral reef

Coral reef at Biscayne National Park

NPS Photo / Shaun Wolfe

“Under the sea / Darling it's better / Down where it's wetter / Take it from me.” Sebastian was right! See for yourself at Biscayne National Park, where you can find lobsters, shipwrecks, sea turtles, plant life, and more. And while there are no mermaids, you can see manatees, which are believed to have been misidentified as mermaids by Christopher Columbus. Snorkel along the Maritime Heritage Trail to spend the day pretending you’re a merperson. 

The Secret Garden 

A young boy looks at a small pool with lilies and lily pads

Lotus and Water Lily Festival, Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

NPS Photo / Rachel Hendrix

Is there anything more enchanting than stumbling upon an undiscovered beautiful place? Find a friend, and uncover the magic of Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington, D.C. The gardens are home to marshes, manmade ponds, and wildflowers. The best time to visit is during the annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival, when visitors can take part in arts, crafts, and games among the blooming flowers.

Shrek 

Rainwater gathers on the Concho Billie Trail

Concho Billie Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve

NPS Photo

Swamps aren’t just for ogres. While Shrek attempted to preserve the peace and quiet of his swamp, Big Cypress National Preserve protects its diverse landscape. The swamps are just one of five habitats in the preserve and are filled with bald cypress trees and airplants. Visitors should keep their eyes peeled for native inhabitants like river otters and American alligators.  

Snow White 

A visitor stands on a large stone, looking out to a technicolor landscape on a sunny day

Old Rag Summit, Shenandoah National Park

NPS Photo

Enchanting as the forest where Snow White stayed with the seven dwarves was, Shenandoah National Park is just as magical and filled with (less helpful) woodland creatures. Expect deer, songbirds, and quiet woods. It’s the perfect place to escape an evil queen, or your daily routine. Hike Old Rag Mountain, fish, and take a bike ride, and you’ll be ready for your own deep slumber after an active day. 

The Sound of Music 

A green clearing with a ridge of evergreen pine in the background

Buckner Homestead, North Cascades National Park

NPS Photo

Yes, The Sound of Music takes place in the Austrian Alps, but without crossing the pond, you can take in the majesty of the mountains in North Cascades National Park. The park’s stunning views of the alpine landscape will have you twirling in the meadows and singing about your favorite things. Pack a lunch and embark on a cycling route to work up an appetite before finding a spot to lay out your picnic.  

Star Wars 

Golden beams illuminate the lightly ridged sand dunes, a golden brown ridge of mountains in the background

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park

NPS Photo

Blast off to Tatooine, also known as Death Valley National Park, where Star Wars buffs can see specific sites where Episode IV and VI were filmed. Do or do not visit, there is no try. 

Up 

A brick sign stands out front of a brick house on an overcast day

Paul Laurence Dunbar House Historic Site, Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

NPS Photo / Tom Engberg

The sky has always been a place for the imagination to dream big. At Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, learn about Wilbur and Orville Wright and how they transformed their dreams into reality. 

Favorite childhood movies inspire our imaginations to run wild. Visiting national parks goes one step further, teaching visitors of all ages about nature, culture, history, and more. #FindYourPark / #EncuentraTuParque to indulge your nostalgic side.  


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