“The nation is buzzing about National Park Week, America’s largest celebration of national heritage, April 18th – 26th! It’s about making great connections, exploring amazing places, discovering open spaces, enjoying affordable vacations and enhancing America’s best idea—the national parks! It’s all happening in your national parks. The National Park Service is once again partnering with the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, to present National Park Week, a presidentially proclaimed celebration of our national heritage” – U.S. National Park Service. How much do you know about our National Parks? How about we give you a little background info? There are 398 National Parks for you to explore and enjoy. Did you know that Yellowstone was our very first one? Yellowstone was created by an act of Congress in 1872 as a “pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people in order to protect for all time this outstanding natural area.” As Congress created more parks, the need for an agency to administer the park system became clear, and thus the National Park Service was created in 1916. The mission was this: “The fundamental purpose of the parks is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Beautiful, don’t you think? The National Park Service has a fantastic website, and many helpful links to assist you in exploring our National Parks by name, location, activity, or topic. Here’s another tidbit for you: 265 of our 398 parks are ALWAYS free! The remainder do charge a fee, but you can purchase an annual “America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass” to get in to EVERY National Park, national wildlife refuge, national forest, and many other Federal lands, totaling more than 2,000 in all, for only $80! If you’re planning a cross-country trip, it is definitely worth it. Also, it’s important to note that this pass is completely free for active military members and their families. Many parks offer free entry on certain days of the year, and for the opening weekend of National Park Week (April 18 &19) all parks are frree! If you are interested in learning which parks are offering free entry dates for 2015, you can check out this section of the National Park Service website. Spring is here, the parks are beautiful, and it’s a great time to get out and enjoy these pleasuring grounds and outstanding natural areas that have been so carefully and thoughtfully preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. Which National Park is your favorite, and why? We love to hear from you! Share with us here, or on our Facebook page.