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Deals and Events Surrounding National Parks Week, Plus Summer Packages

National Parks Week will be celebrated this year between April 19 and 27 (technically nine days) so it is the perfect time to head to a National Park and take part in numerous festivities and show your support for the country's magnificent natural landscapes and recreational facilities. Saturday April 26 is a special day for kids at Parks around the country. The second annual National Junior Ranger Day is designed to get children involved through a series of ceremonies, interactive games and events that connect children with the resources found in National Parks. So grab the rug rats and take part in a fun day outdoors at one of dozens of participating Parks. Examples include:

  • Acadia National Park (tel. 207/288-8808; www.nps.gov/acad) in Maine is hosting a fun-filled day of outdoor activities on National Junior Ranger Day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Children from ages five through 12 can enjoy a variety of events including games, arts and crafts, nature hikes, cultural activities and more while exploring, learning about, and protecting Acadia National Park.
  • At Shenandoah National Park (tel. 540/999-3500; www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/national_jr_ranger.htm), Junior Ranger Day means activities like meet live raptors, face to beak with their Birds of Prey program, discovery hikes, a bear talk, jumping on board a fire truck and getting your photo taking with an owl. All events take place in and around Byrd Visitor Center.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park (tel. 865/436-1208; www.nps.gov/grsm) in Tennessee is offering children and their families a variety of free hands-on activities from searching for salamanders to making dinner bells at the blacksmith shop. Heritage scavenger hunts, wildflower searches and cornhusk doll making are a few of the other natural and cultural activities that will take place.

Also during National Park Week, Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrates the 58th Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage (www.springwildflowerpilgrimage.org) from April 23 to 27, 2008. There will be more than 150 educational and fun activities coinciding with the peak blooming dates for thousands of wildflowers and the arrival of a hundred plus species of migratory birds. For flower and bird lovers, activities include indoor and outdoor evening programs, guided nature walks, flower identification walks, birding trips, and photographic tours by professional biologists, historians, and naturalists. A special presentation will be made by Erica Glasener, host of the Home and Gardner Television's "A Gardeners Diary." Certain activities are free whilst others incur a registration fee. Select hotels in Gatlinburg are offering rooms at special discounted rates for people registered for the 2008 Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. Be sure to mention you're a pilgrim when making reservations. Room and suite rates range from $54 to $460 per night at the following local properties:

There are still spaces available for this spring's Lodging and Learning packages at Yellowstone National Park (tel. 307/344-5566; www.travelyellowstone.com). Spring is the best time of the year to see bears, wolves and baby animals and packages are designed to maximize your opportunities to get up close and personal with these Yellowstone residents and stay in the Park overnight. This spring's Lodging & Learning packages focus on wildlife, geology, and history. Programs are designed for a maximum of 12 people and for participants who are a minimum of 12 years old. New this year is "Essential Yellowstone," a four-day, five-night package offered on May 18 and 25, June 1 and 8 and September 21 and 28. The program includes expert instruction by a Yellowstone Association Institute naturalist/guide, five nights of accommodations at Lake Hotel, breakfast and box lunch daily, dinner on the last night, in-park transportation and optional evening programs. Rates per person are $859 based on double occupancy and $1,207 for single occupancy. The "Spring Wolf & Bear Discovery" is a three-day, four-night program offered during the months of May and June. It includes lodging at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, breakfast and box lunch daily, dinner on the last night, in-park van transportation, optional evening programs and expert instruction by an Institute naturalist. Field activities include optional sunrise and sunset trips to Yellowstone's Northern Range to look for bears and wolves, short hikes in bear and wolf habitat and two classroom presentations focusing on the behavior of these predators. The trip is priced at $579 per person based on double occupancy and $787 for singles.

The "Old Times on the Grand Tour" is a five-day, six-night program offering visitors a chance to see Yellowstone from the perspective of the park's early visitors. Participants stay two nights each at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, Old Faithful Snow Lodge and the Lake Hotel. During the day, take the famous "Grand Tour" of Yellowstone in the luxury of a refurbished historic yellow bus. These buses dating back to 1936 were recently reintroduced to the Park after a 40 year absence. The tour includes stops at cultural sites from the park's past, walking tours of historic and thermal areas and stops to view wildlife. The five-day program is offered on May 18 and 25 and again in the fall on September 21 and 28. Rates are $1,399 per person for double occupancy and $1,890 per person for single occupancy.

Utah's Zion Mountain Resort (tel. 866/648-2555; www.zionmountainresort.com) located just outside Zion National Park offers accommodation options in cabins, cabin suites, lodges and can even arrange a stay in a traditional Native American Tipi or Navajo Hogan. If you are really quick and can book your upcoming visit by April 18, 2008, you will receive 10% off the price of your stay at any time except holiday weekends plus receive one free one-hour horse ride. If you can visit before the end of the month, you will receive 10% off lodging for any one night stay, 15% off any two nights and 20% off three nights or more. You must mention this discount offer when making your booking. They also offer a variety of packages including the National Parks Adventure which includes three-nights accommodations in a Meadow View cabin, three breakfasts at The Buffalo Grill, Cinemax movie tickets and a one hour horseback ride priced from $365 per person based on double occupancy (until October 31, 2008). Their special three-night/ four-day Zion Weekend Warrior package offers a short and sweet, down and dirty adventure all wrapped in one action-packed trip. Experience canyoneering through a beautiful slot canyon, mountain biking with breathtaking views of Zion and the red rock west, rock climbing and great hiking on some of Zion National Park's most famous trails. This trip is priced at $939 per person and includes three-nights deluxe lodging, all meals, guides, transportation, gear rental and bike maintenance.

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