The National Parks Service (NPS) was created in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson and has since amassed 401 national parks covering more than 84 million acres of land; nearly 300 million people visit national parks each year. National parks are in every state except Delaware, and the oldest, founded in 1872, is Yellowstone National Park which spans across Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.
Did you know there are 15 national parks located in Massachusetts? Discover the natural beauty of the Bay State this National Parks and Recreation Month by checking out one, all, or a select few. Experience the splendor of “America the Beautiful” with a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, and explore these and other national parks across the United States year-round.
Highlights of Massachusetts National Parks and Historic Sites Include:
- New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park – 33 William St., New Bedford
Referenced in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick as “perhaps the dearest place to live in, in all New England,” New Bedford to this day maintains its 19th-century charm. Visit the Schooner Ernestina, a national historic landmark; tour a Greek revival mansion; or visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Free guided tours of the park are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. seven days a week in July and August, and by appointment year-round.
- Springfield Armory National Historic Site – One Armory Square, Springfield
The Springfield Armory began producing arms for the nation under George Washington and continued to do so until 1968. Now a national historic site, the Armory is open to the public seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Boston Harbor Islands boast a Civil War-era fort, historic light houses, tide pools, hiking, camping, and many other fun outdoor activities just minutes from Boston’s bustling metropolis. You can even play vintage 1860’s baseball on Georges Island! View a map of the islands.
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site – 83 Beals St., Brookline
Visit the birthplace of the 35th President of the United States. In 1967, Rose Kennedy, J.F.K.’s mother, restored the house to its 1917 appearance, and visitors can now tour the President’s boyhood home. Park rangers offer free 30-minute guided tours Wednesday through Sunday from 9:30-11.30 a.m. and 1-3.30 p.m., as well as 45-minute tours of Brookline at 2:15p.m.
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail – 2,184-mile footpath which spans 14 states, including 90 miles in Massachusetts
The Appalachian Trail, built by private citizens between 1921 and 1937, passes through the peaks and valleys of the Berkshires, offering stunning vistas from sites such as Mount Everett. The terrain on this portion of the trail is moderately difficult, rated level 3-6. Hikers may travel all or part of the path and campsites are available along the route. View a full map of the trail to discover where to start your journey.
There are many ways to celebrate National Parks and Recreation Month closer to home as well. Play with children in the back yard, toss a Frisbee on the Esplanade, have a picnic in a local park in your city or town, or visit the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation for information on state parks, beaches, and recreational activities.
Even if you can’t make it out to a national park this month, explore the NPS website for a virtual vacation and introduce children to the WebRangers, a site dedicated to introducing kids of all ages to national parks, monuments, and historic sites.
Join the conversation: Tweet a picture of your local, state, or national park adventure to @massgov
Tags: Appalachian Trail, Berkshires, Boston, fun, harbor, J.F.K., JFK, Kennedy, MA, Mass, Massachusetts, National Parks, National Parks Service, nature, NPS, Park, parks, recreation, travel, Western Massachusetts