The snow is melting, daylight savings time has started and although some of us aren't too happy about waking up an hour earlier for work each morning, spring is almost upon us and National Parks are beckoning. Several parks that close over the winter are sprucing up for the new season and a number of lodging properties are offering spring and early bird specials to entice you to visit before the peak summer months.
Go green at Yellowstone National Park (www.nps.gov/yell) this spring and leave the car outside. Get plenty of fresh country air, exercise and see the sights, including hundreds of individual waterfalls. From April 1 through April 19, 2008, Yellowstone National Park only allows bicycles, rollerblades and pedestrians in the park (plus in-park Yellowstone tour vans), plus entry is free. Stay at Three Bear Lodge (tel. 800/646-7353; www.threebearlodge.com) in the western section of Yellowstone, in Montana from $59 per night for a room with two queen beds or $79 per night in a family unit that sleeps four people in a king sized and a double bed and you also get to enjoy a dip in a hot tub, use their exercise room, and dine in the famous Three Bear Restaurant and Grizzly Lounge. From West Yellowstone you can cycle to Madison Junction and then to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone or Mammoth Hot Springs (the road between Madison and Old Faithful remains closed to all until April 18 and no services are available in the park).
There are plenty of reasons to visit Olympic National Park (www.nps.gov/olym) in Washington State this spring season. Apart from the Pacific Ocean and pristine landscapes, you can indulge in natural mineral pools, swimming in the freshwater pools or invigorating massages at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort (tel. 888/896-3828; www.visitsolduc.com) which is currently promoting the following springtime specials. In honor of Earth Day 2008, arrive any day during the month of April by earth-friendly mode of transportation (such as a bicycle, electric or bio-diesel car, walking, horseback, etc.) and receive a $50 in-house voucher to use for dining or gift shop purchases, when staying at least one night in a cabin or river suite. A non-kitchen cabin is priced from $141 per night for two people, a kitchen cabin is $172 per night and a river suite is $299 per night for four people. Taxes and gratuities are additional.
Their Spring at the Springs special invites you to be one of the first to experience the calming waters of Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort this season (the resort re-opens on March 28). Save over 35% on regular rates on this package which includes one-night accommodations in a standard non - kitchen cabin, four box lunches for a day of hiking,four breakfasts and a complimentary pool toy for use in the pools for $188 plus taxes. The offer is valid on any night from March 28 through May 1 or for midweek stays from May 2 to 22, 2008. Some blackout dates. Additional people pay $25 each and pet fees apply. Still in Olympic National Park, the Kalaloch Lodge (tel. 866/525-2562; www.visitkalaloch.com) has a Spring is in the Air package with overnight rates starting at $109 plus tax for Sunday to Thursday night stays from now until May 15, 2008.
Shenandoah National Park (tel. 888/896-3833; www.visitshenandoah.com) at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains is currently offering a spring Early Bird package available at both its Skyland Resort and Big Meadows Hotel. For $99 per night for two (this price includes taxes plus a per night, per room $1 National Park Fund donation and $3 water surcharge), two adults receive overnight accommodations in a traditional room at Skyland Resort or Big Meadows Lodge plus breakfast. This special is valid for stays from March 23 through June 26, 2008 at Skyland and April 27 through June 26, 2008 at Big Meadows (excluding weekends and Sunday, May 25, 2008). They are also offering a culinary workshop with Chef Terry called Shenandoah
Seasonings to be held at Skyland Resort on June 15 to 16 (Father's Day Special Cook-out) and September 21 to 22, 2008. The culinary packages are priced at $449 for two people and include two-nights' lodging based on double occupancy; Sunday afternoon Meet the Chefs Wine and Cheese reception, a Monday morning and afternoon food and wine workshops; Monday evening five-course dinner and wine pairings; recipe cards of featured workshop foods; Shenandoah Seasonings specialty aprons and at April session only, breakfast both mornings. There will also be four individual day workshops on June 16, August 8 and 15 and September 22, 2008 at Skyland Resort from 10am to 3pm, featuring two cooking demonstrations and Shenandoah Seasonings aprons as gifts priced at $20 per person.
Marrero, Louisiana, just outside New Orleans, is home to the Barataria Preserve, part of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (tel. 504/589-2330; www.nps.gov/jela). In early spring, hundreds of bird species are migrating, thousands of wildflowers are in bloom, and alligators are looking for love. On Saturdays and Sundays from March 22 through April 13, 2008, park rangers and preserve volunteers will be on the trails to point out wildlife and answer visitor questions. Ranger programs will include canoe treks, wetlands walks and full moon programs on foot and by canoe. Also in the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park, visitors can take Ranger-guided Bayou boat trips, departing from the Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette (tel. 337/232-0789)and the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux (tel. 985/448-1375). The boat tours are in traditional Louisiana wooden boats and vary in length and destinations visited. The Bayou Lafourche boat tour departs from the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux every Saturday, Sunday and Monday until May 31, 2008, at 10am.
Visit the Madewood Plantation on Sundays and Mondays for $26 per person (a four hour tour) which includes lunch in the formal dining room and a home tour. Visit the E.D. White Historic Site on Saturdays for a two hour tour priced at $10 plus tax. The 90-minute Bayou Vermilion boat tour departs from the Vermilionville Heritage and Folklife Park dock, next door to the Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette daily from Tuesday to Saturday at 10.30am until May 31, 2008. Join a National Park Service ranger on the Cocodrie, a traditional Louisiana boat, and discover the history of Bayou Vermilion while watching for alligators, egrets and other wildlife. Tickets for the boat tour only are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $6 children aged four to 18 (children under three are free), or for the boat cruise plus a self-guided tour of Vermilionville and lunch at Vermilionville's restaurant, the price is $24 for adults, $22 for seniors 62 and $16 for children.
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