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The Ultimate 2021 National & State Park Vacation Guide

Photo: Dan Meyers/Unsplash



For more than a century, millions have flocked to U.S. National Parks each year to experience firsthand some of the most fascinating, picturesque and adventurous places on earth—from landscapes to wild animals, to daring mountains and hiking trails, to fascinating geologic formations and so much more, the 423 national parks in the United States have a bit of something for everyone. 

Not to be overlooked, there are also more than 6,000 State Parks scattered across the United States, which offer up the best outdoor scenery and activity local terrain has to offer. State parks serve as popular weekend getaways for many who enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, boating and other outdoor activities. And after a year on lockdown, there has never been a better time to explore the outdoors. 

Here are 10 of the best National and State Parks—and the closest Hilton properties that are waiting nearby to welcome you.

Must-See National Parks

According to visitation statistics from the National Parks Service, the top five most-visited National Parks in 2020 were the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Zion National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Because these are among the most visited in the U.S., be sure to check your desired park’s website for updates on capacity, reservations, hours, and any offerings that may be limited at this time.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – NC, TN

Families can explore the Great Smoky Mountains, which straddle the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, taking in wildlife and breathtaking scenery. Camping, and hiking through forests or to waterfalls, are other popular activities here. Stop at Cades Cove for wildlife viewing and get ready to spot white-tailed deer, black bear, skunk, coyotes and more. And be sure to end your day atop Clingman’s Dome, at 6,643 feet the highest point in the park and an epic way to watch the sunset on another day of adventure. The Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg offers lodging just a half-mile from the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance and the Gatlinburg Trailhead. The hotel also offers an indoor swimming pool and a fire pit for nighttime entertainment.

Yellowstone National Park – ID, MT & WY

Did you know that Yellowstone National Park was the first National Park in the United States? In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone Park Protection Act to help preserve this beautiful place, and the first National Park was born. The park, which is a bucket-list vacation stop for many, actually stretches through three states: Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. It delights the senses with a bevy of wildlife and hydrothermal and geologic wonders. Animals often spotted here include bison, elk, bear and wolves. Visitors can also explore rare geologic formations and thermal basins, or they can hike, bike, fish, go boating or horseback riding. The Homewood Suites by Hilton Jackson is located right in Jackson Hole valley, home to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. The area offers shopping and restaurants nearby, or guests can enjoy free hot breakfast at the hotel or prepare meals in their in-room kitchens.

Zion National Park – Utah

Zion National Park, Utah’s first National Park, is full of activities, including hiking, biking, backpacking and canyoneering. Take in the panoramic views of the Kolob Canyons or hike through The Narrows in the Virgin River. Because this park serves as the meeting point of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, Basin and Range, and Mojave Desert physio-geographic zones, it’s home to a wide range of animal life, including falcon, California condor, collared lizards, Mexican spotted owl, Mojave desert tortoise and more. At night, find respite at Cliffrose Springdale, Curio Collection by Hilton, a stunning hotel a half-mile from the Zion National Park Visitor Center. Guests can recharge from a long hike at the hotel’s two heated outdoor pools and hot tubs (available year round).   

Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado

Hikers get those shoes ready. Rocky Mountain National Park offers more than 300 miles of hiking trails. Camp, bike, picnic, horseback ride, and fish throughout the park, or visit the Holzwarth Historic homestead site. Hampton Inn Loveland is one of the closest Hilton properties to the park. It’s also located two miles from Chapungu Sculpture Park and minutes from outlet shopping.

Grand Teton National Park – Wyoming

The Teton Mountains are home to extraordinary wildlife, glittering lakes and alpine terrain. Hiking, biking, fishing, backpacking, floating down the Snake River, climbing and mountaineering are all on the menu at Grand Teton National Park. Bear, elk, trout, bald eagle, wolves and mountain lions all call the park home. The Hampton Inn Jackson Hole is located just 15 minutes from Grand Teton National Park and one hour from Yellowstone National Park. Enjoy restful nights here with free Wi-fi and complimentary breakfast.

Must-See State Parks

If you can’t make the trek to a major National Park this year, there’s likely a State Park within a few hours drive from your own home. Depending on the park, a State Park day-trip or weekend getaway could be the perfect place for camping, swimming, fishing, hiking, kayaking and so much more. Be sure to check your destination’s official website for hours, restrictions, and even updates on pet access.

Baxter State Park – Maine

Baxter State Park offers more than 200,000 square acres of wilderness to explore, including 215 miles of hiking trails and 337 campsites. The crown jewel of the park is Mount Katahdin. It’s the highest mountain in the state of Maine, measuring a whopping 5,269 feet tall, and was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1969. Aside from camping, hiking, biking, fishing, and hunting are also permitted.

Blue Ridge Parkway – Asheville, North Carolina

Stretching through the southern and central Appalachians, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers an exceptional glimpse of the regional flora and fauna. The park features Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain peak in the Eastern United States, Nell River, the oldest river in North America, and Linville Gorge, the deepest gorge east of the Grand Canyon. Animals you may spot range from white-tailed deer to black bear. The Hilton Asheville Biltmore Park is just 10 miles from the Biltmore Estate, the North Carolina Arboretum, and more.

Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park – California

Explore the sandstone caves of Chumash Painted Cave State Park to see the rock art created by Chumash Native Americans. The Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort offers additional fun, with direct beach access, pools, tennis courts, bike rentals—and a concierge team that can line up kayaking, coastal cruises and golf for you.

Gateway National Recreation Area – NY, NJ

Gateway National Recreation Area stretches 27,000 acres from Sandy Hook, New Jersey to Breezy Point, New York. The park is the gateway from the ocean into New York Harbor. Try archery, kayaking, biking, birdwatching, camping, swimming and more. DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tinton Falls – Eatontown is located just minutes from shopping and a short drive from Asbury Park Beach and Long Branch Beach boardwalks. The hotel also offers a warm DoubleTree cookie at check-in.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area – AZ & NV

Lake Mead National Recreation Area was America’s First National Recreation Area, and spans 1.5 million acres that includes mountains, canyons, and valleys. Visit Lake Mead or Lake Mohave, to boat, fish, hike, or go scuba diving or horseback riding. The Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa is a desert oasis located in the Mojave Desert in Henderson, NV, 20 minutes from Lake Mead. The Reflection Bay Golf Club and Las Vegas Strip are also just a few miles away.

Ichetucknee Springs State Park – Columbia, Florida

Travelers can paddle down the six-mile Ichetucknee River via canoe or kayak, and splash in spring-fed swimming holes at Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Here, visitors can go tubing, spot wildlife—including turtle, wild turkey, beaver, otter and gar. Visitors can also snorkel in Blue Hole, a spring that maintains a temperature of 72 degrees year-round. Bring your own snorkel gear to glimpse an underwater cave system that starts 40 feet below. Home2 Suites by Hilton Lake City is located in the historic Lake City, Fla., near Ichetucknee Springs, shopping, and more.

Redwood National & State Park – California

Explorers in for forested fun will love the breathtaking redwood trees of Redwood National & State Park. The park offers wide open spaces to walk, camp, kayak, hike, tidepool, bike. The park is also a popular place for scenic drives. Dogs are also permitted in some locations. Check the park’s official site for details. Hampton Inn & Suites Arcata is located just off of the Pacific Coast Highway 101. The Arcata Community Forest is just three miles away, as is the Beau Pre Golf Course, local dining and more.

Valley of Fire State Park – Overton, Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park contains ancient, petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2,000 years. Stop into the Visitor Center to learn about the park’s geology and ecology, then head out for camping, hiking, and enjoy tremendous photo opps like Arch Rock and Elephant Rock. You can also hike Mouse’s Tank Trail, which is known for having one of the largest collections of petroglyphs that date back nearly 3,000 years. The Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa is a desert oasis located in the stunning city of Henderson, NV. The hotel offers a pool with private cabanas and Mediterranean-style spa.

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Travel & Leisure

Norwegian Cruise Line Introduces Norwegian Viva



Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), the innovator in global cruise travel, today unveiled Norwegian Viva, the next ship in its brand-new Prima Class.

Providing guests with elevated experiences including more wide-open spaces, thoughtful and stunning design and exceptional service, Norwegian Viva will begin sailing remarkable Mediterranean itineraries in June 2023, homeporting in key Southern European port cities including Lisbon, Portugal; Venice (Trieste) and Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy; and Athens (Piraeus), Greece. She will then sail the Southern Caribbean for her 2023-2024 Winter Season offering warm-weather getaways from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Mirroring the upscale design and structure of her record-breaking sister ship Norwegian Prima, Norwegian Viva, also built by renowned Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri in Marghera, Italy, will debut at 965 feet long, 142,500 gross tons and accommodate 3,219 guests at double occupancy. Travelers will live up every second of their journey in the most spacious accommodations including the brand’s largest inside, ocean view and balcony category staterooms.

The world-class vessel will not only offer the highest staffing levels and space ratio of any new cruise ship in the contemporary and premium cruise categories and largest variety of suite categories available at sea, but will also boast a redefined The Haven by Norwegian, NCL’s ultra-premium keycard only access ship-within-a-ship concept. The Haven’s public areas and 107 suites designed by Piero Lissoni, one of Italy’s most renowned designers, will feature an expansive sundeck, a stunning infinity pool overlooking the ship’s wake and an outdoor spa with a glass-walled sauna and cold room.

The Prima Class’ variety of recreational activities also make their elevated comeback on Norwegian Viva with only-available-on-Prima-Class experiences including the fastest freefall drop dry slides at sea with The Rush and The Drop and the largest three-level racetrack at sea with the Viva Speedway.

Norwegian Viva will feature Ocean Boulevard, the 44,000 square foot outdoor walk way which wraps around the entire ship;  Indulge Food Hall featuring 11 varieties of eateries; The Concourse boasting an outdoor sculpture garden; expansive pool decks and infinity style pools at Infinity Beach and Oceanwalk, showcasing glass bridges above water.

Harry Sommer, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line, said: “Norwegian Viva sets the standard in the premium segment, illustrating our commitment to pushing boundaries in four main areas: wide open space, service that puts guests first, thoughtful design and experiences beyond expectation. We have taken everything our guests love to the next level with this brand-new class of ships designed with them in mind.”

Norwegian Viva will boast eye-catching hull art designed by Italian graffiti and sculpture artist Manuel Di Rita, commonly known as “Peeta,” who also illustrated the exceptional hull design on Norwegian Prima. World-class architects who helped design Norwegian Prima including Rockwell Group, SMC Design and Miami-based Studio Dado, also have returned to influence the aesthetic of various restaurants, staterooms and public areas.

“Norwegian Viva, the second of six Prima Class vessels being built with us, reinforces the great collaboration between Norwegian Cruise Line and Fincantieri,” said Luigi Matarazzo, General Manager Merchant Ships Division at Fincantieri. “We were extremely satisfied that Norwegian Prima, the first of the new class, earned record-breaking bookings and we are excited to see how Norwegian Viva will live up to her sister ship. As we proved our resilience during these challenging times, this announcement represents another testament to Fincantieri´s global leadership role in the cruise sector.”

The first two Prima Class vessels, Norwegian Prima and Norwegian Viva, will feature cutting-edge alternative technologies, such as a NOx reduction system (SCR), that reduce the ship’s overall environmental impact.  SCR catalysts filter out sulfur oxides up to 98% and nitrogen oxides up to 90%, ensuring the vessels meet Tier III NOx compliance. Further, they will be equipped with an Exhaust Gas Cleaning System (EGCS), an Advanced Wastewater Treatment System to treat and clean all wastewater to meet stringent international standards and Cold Ironing functionality to connect to onshore power grids to further reduce emissions while in port.

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Travel & Leisure

Surprise Your Family with These 3 Memorable Gifts



Finding the perfect gift for your family can be a challenge, especially when you’re not quite sure where to start. And since chances are everyone in your family has different tastes, you might be wondering which types of gifts will appease everyone. Fortunately, there’s a long list of gifts that will cover all of your family’s bases. 

Narrowing down your list will ensure you’ve given plenty of thought to each idea, ideally ending up with your family being beyond thrilled with what you’ve chosen. Here are three memorable gifts to consider giving your family. 

1. An Unforgettable Travel Experience 

Traveling with your family is one of the best ways to spend quality time together away from it all. It’s a way to explore, experience new things and make plenty of memories. Surprising your family with the trip of a lifetime would be a wonderful gift for everyone, so why not add one to your list this year? 

One of the best parts about traveling as a family is that there are so many options for where to go and what to do. And when your goal is to give the perfect gift, choosing a trip that will go down in the books as one of the best family memories ever is a good place to start. 

Let a Europe cruise immerse your family in gorgeous scenery, amazing food and rich history. A ski trip would be a fun way for everyone to enjoy the great outdoors together. Imagine your whole family enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of a tropical island, maybe snorkeling or even giving parasailing a try. 

2. Family Heirloom Pieces 

One of the nicest gifts you can give anyone is something that comes from the heart. Investing in a personalized, one-of-a-kind piece for your family will add a wonderful touch to your home for years to come. What’s great about this is that there are so many directions you can take it.  

Depending on your home decor style, you may find that some types of art are better suited than others. Getting creative and making a thoughtful decision will ensure you choose the best piece for your family.

A wrought iron or hand-carved wooden namesake sign could grace your front entrance for years, bringing a sense of home each time you pass it by. A family constellation print would not only be beautiful to look at, but a fun activity to do together time after time (try pairing it with a telescope!). There are so many other options for other personalized items, including DIY projects as well. 

3. A Home Improvement Project

Is there something in your home that everyone can agree needs updating? Is there something you’ve always wanted to add to your home but haven’t gotten around to doing? Now’s the perfect time to take action. What better way than to make it a surprise for the rest of your family?

It could be that your kitchen is outdated and cramped, but it’s also the place where your family spends the most time. While a full kitchen renovation is certainly an investment, it’s also something that will pay you back in no time. Or maybe your family has always dreamed of a backyard pool, so you decide to make that a reality. It could also be something like finishing off an area of the basement and creating a game room.

Since home is where your family spends the most time, it only makes sense to do all you can to make it the best possible space for everyone. Presenting it as a gift will make whatever you do that much more special and heartfelt. 

Surprising your family with a gift can be approached in so many different ways. Remember that a gift can be anything — an experience, a material item, or a project of some sort. Spend time thinking about what would best benefit your family and bring the most joy and get ready to give the best gift ever.

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Travel & Leisure

Pakistan – A Wonderful Destination For Adventurous Sports



Pakistan is famous for its exciting cities, historical sites, hospitality, great cuisines across the world. However, most of the international states are not aware of the fact that it is an excellent destination to enjoy adventurous sports as well as cultural festivities. The variety of adventure sports in Pakistan is enormous. There are a number of adventurous destinations for extracurricular activities in Pakistan, which anybody can travel to. From fishing to river rafting, skiing to camping and jeep safari to mountaineering, Pakistan is gifted with such vibrant geographical landscapes that makes it outstanding tourist destination.

The northern areas of Pakistan are known as hub of Adventure sports and open to tourists and sportsman’s wonderful opportunities. Its rivers falling down from the snowcapped mountains and glaciers are great for water sports like river rafting, canoeing, sailing and kayaking. Horse and Camel safaris are other two exciting activities to enjoy. There are various destinations in northern Pakistan that provide wonderful opportunities for jeep safaris. Some of the destinations that can be visited for jeep safari include Gilgit, Hunza, Shandur, Sust and Skardu. Rivers Chitral, Indus, Gilgit, Swat, Hunza, Kunar and the Neelum offer exciting opportunities for water sports. There are mountains that offer wonderful trekking trails that lead to some beautiful spots.

Likewise, Swat is being called as Switzerland of Pakistan. Pakistan also offers beautiful spots for skiing. Swat’s Malam Jabba is one of the best skiing resorts. If Jeep Safari is what gives one thrill, perhaps there is hardly any destination as exciting as the Northern Areas: hence one should come here without any fear and must enjoy the adventure.  

Mountaineers from all over the world continue to test their minds and bodies by ascending some of toughest terrains in the world. Mountaineering is a highly specialized sport, especially on the 8,000-meter high mountain peaks, five of which are located in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region of Pakistan. These include K-2, Nangaparbat, G-I & II and Broad peak. Besides, 70% of mountain peaks above 7,000 meters are also located in Pakistan. An elite group of mountaineers, some of the best in the world, challenge the limits of what is thought to be humanly possible by attempting every winter to climb these summits.

Pakistan has produced wonderful legends in the field of mountaineering like Nazir Sabir, the first Pakistani to summit Mount Everest; Muhammad Ali Sadpara, the first Pakistani to summit Nanga Parbat in winter; and his son Hasan Sadpara. Muhammad Ali Sadpara has put Pakistan’s mountaineering in limelight at the cost of his own life.

Pakistan also has a lot of scope in the field of rock climbing. Unlike mountaineering, rock climbing is not an exciting sport in popular perception. Rock climbing is probably one of the toughest and most dangerous forms of extreme sports.

The season, which attracts mountain climbers from all parts of the world, creates a hoard of opportunities for mountaineering-related businesses in the country and helps Pakistan generate millions in lieu of taxes and fees every year. The life of common people is very tough in Northern areas of Pakistan due to extreme weather conditions specially winter. Pakistan govt has built various lodges along the whole routes, and has offered more services, this step has enticed more people to come. Visa process for foreigners to get tourist visas for Pakistan has been made very easy.

There are few suggestions which can help in bringing more charm in these games. International federations must contribute funds which assist in making the life of public better in the northern areas of Pakistan. The doors of President and PM houses should be opened for national and international mountaineers who summit main peaks and those success stories should be highlighted on international media as well. This adventure sport should be made top priority by government. There is a need to establish an international level professional mountaineering school and a trained rescue team of experts.

The Alpine Club of Pakistan (ACP) should be given more strength. The ACP needs thorough professionals on board to make it more vibrant organization to promote and mainstream mountaineering in Pakistan and attract foreign mountaineers and trekkers. Government and state departments should make more focus to check the bottlenecks and facilitate the trekking expeditions. It is suggested that Mountaineers and High Altitude Porters (HAPs) have no insurance schemes, proper training and sponsorships, they should be facilitated at all levels.  

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