America’s First Family is headed to two national parks this weekend. And while they will bring along a small army of security and communications staffers, they will enjoy experiences remarkably similar to those enjoyed by millions of other American families who will visit one of the nearly 400 national park units this year.
The Obama family plans to visit both Yellowstone National Park – the nation’s first park – and Grand Canyon National Park to do some hiking, biking and gazing at natural vistas and wildlife. Their visit will coincide with the summer’s third and final ”Fee-Free Weekend.” All 391 national parks will offer free admission this weekend, and many park concessionaires — including tour operators, hotels, restaurants and gift shops — will provide discounts and special promotions for visitors to further enjoy the parks.
The fee-free weekends have attracted more of America’s 30 million RVers to national parks this summer. Surveys of RV owners conducted by the Recreation vehicle Industry Associaton (RVIA) show that national parks continue to be a popular destination for RVers, with more than 63% reporting in RVIA’s spring “Campfire Canvass” survey that that visiting national parks is a favorite activity.
“RVers love visiting the outdoors and experiencing the wealth of recreational opportunities the national parks offer,” said RVIA President Richard Coon. “The National Park Service’s fee-free weekends have come at a terrific time. RVing is already the most cost-effective way for families to vacation, and this initiative has allowed thousands of America’s budget-conscious families to enjoy inexpensive vacations in some of America’s most beautiful places.”
American Recreation Coalition (ARC) President Derrick Crandall added, “This year, Americans are rediscovering the wonder of our parks. Attendance is up at national parks – and also at many state and local parks. Time spent with family and friends in the Great Outdoors produces healthy bodies and healthy relationships.”
In a speech this spring celebrating the 160th Anniversary of the Department of the Interior, President Obama also emphasized the importance of the great outdoors to America’s children.
The President said of the experience of visiting America’s natural treasures, “these are experiences that enrich our lives and remind us of the blessings that we share. That was certainly the case for me.”
Obama told the crowd of his grandmother’s decision, just before the president’s 11th birthday, to take him to these iconic parks: “We drove down the coast of California and then east to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. … It was an experience I will never forget. It is an experience I want for my daughters and for all our daughters and sons.”
For information on the fee-free weekends initiative of the National Park Service, see: Find A Park. For overall information on outdoor recreation on all federally-managed lands, go to: www.recreation.gov.