Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 
By Harriet Baskas

The National Park Service is turning 100 this year, and many parks are planning to celebrate the centennial of Woodrow Wilson putting pen to paper to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and … leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

The park service’s official birthday is Aug. 25, but the festivities already are underway in many of the nation’s 407 parks. And some other organizations are jumping on the bandwagon to mark the agency’s passage into triple digits.

Snow surrounds a Continental soldiers' cabin reconstructed at Valley Forge National Historical Park.North Wind Picture Archives / AP

Here’s a round-up of some events that may be worth building a vacation or side-trip around.

On Presidents’ Day – Monday, Feb. 15 – many sites across the country associated with American presidents will present special programs. Valley Forge National Historical Park, for example, will be celebrating George Washington’s 284th birthday with cupcakes, samples of a birthday cake made using Martha’s Washington’s “Great Cake” recipe and a parade for children that will teach them “how to march and drill like a Continental soldier.” Admission is free.

Flying Drones at National Parks Can Result in Fines, Penalties

From March 5-13, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show, held in the 33-acre Philadelphia Convention Center, will have a National Park Service centennial theme, with floral and garden designers creating displays inspired by Valley Forge and Shenandoah, Yellowstone, Yosemite and many other parks and historic sites.

The show will also feature a “Big Timber Lodge” made of wood and stone, with Native American-inspired art, floral totems, a 12-foot waterfall and a life-size American buffalo sculpture. (Tickets: $27 for adults; $20 for students, 7-14; Kids age 2-16: $15.)

During National Park Week (April 16-24), admission fees will be waived at all park sites that have them (look here for a list of other free admission days in 2016). April also brings the re-opening of the Visitor Center Museum at Bryce Canyon National Park in southern Utah, after its $1 million makeover.


For the past nine years, the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society have held an annual 48-hour biological survey, called a BioBlitz, where volunteer scientists, students and community members are invited to help find and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes and other organism as possible.

This year the event takes place May 20-21 at national park sites in and around Washington, D.C. and in a wide variety of other park sites across the country, including Mount Rainier National Park, Cowpens National Monument in South Carolina and Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California.

The American Solar Challenge begins on July 30 and this year the solar cars in the eight-day, 1,800-mile road race will make official stops in nine different National Park sites in seven states as they make their way from Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Brecksville, Ohio, to Wind Cave National Park near Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Numerous national historic sites will also serve as checkpoints along the way (see the full list here), but the official rally stops will offer a traveling exhibit, activities and an up-close look at the cars.

By August, when the National Park Service officially turns 100, park sites across the country will have a fresh list of celebratory programs.

The Roosevelt Arch looms over the entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Montana.Westend61 / Getty Images

One major event already on the books is a party at Yellowstone National Park – the world’s first national park. The party on Aug. 25 will celebrate the National Park Service and the Gardiner Gateway Project, which is improving and transforming the area around the landmark Roosevelt Arch at the park’s north entrance in Gardiner, Montana.

You’ll find more information about National Park Service centennial events here.