10 Ways to Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service in the DC Area

It’s been called “America’s Best Idea” and it’s having a huge birthday. On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service (NPS) will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a series of events designed to honor the Service’s century of conservation and recreation.

When you think of National Parks, distant destinations such as Yellowstone or Yosemite might come to mind. You might not realize, though, that we live in one of the densest areas of NPS sites in the country. There are 50 National Parks sites in the greater Washington area! If you’d like to take advantage of these national resources available to us, the NPS Centennial is a perfect time to do it.

Here are ten ways to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service in Northern Virginia, DC, and nearby areas.



The National Mall is home to several NPS sites that you can explore with a free scavenger hunt game app during the week of the Centennial celebration.

1. Play the National Parks Treasure scavenger hunt app at the National Mall.

During the week of August 21-26, 2016, search for artifacts and artwork along the National Mall to unlock virtual passport stamps. You must download the app Klickaklu from the Apple iTunes Store to play. Open the app, click on “Play a Hunt” and select “Centennial Scavenger Hunt” the list of Nearby Hunts.


2. Celebrate with music, comedy, and beer at Constitution Gardens.

On the evening of Thursday, August 25, 2016, the National Park Service will celebrate with a beer garden and live music and comedy shows at Constitution Gardens, a park located near the Washington Monument. Ages 21+.


3. Spend a day at the Centennial Family Festival on the National Mall.

On Saturday, August 27, 2016, the Centennial Family Festival will take place at Constitution Gardens near the Washington Monument. The celebrations will include live music, kids’ activities, Lego models of national parks, virtual reality park tours, 3-D printing of National Mall monuments and memorials. FREE.



The National Museum of Natural History is presenting an IMAX movie and a photo exhibit about the National Parks.

4. Watch the “National Parks Adventure” IMAX movie at the National Museum of Natural History.

This visually stunning and adrenaline-pumping adventure movie is now playing at the Smithsonian’s National Musuem of Natural History. Tickets can be puchased online.


5. See a concert at Wolf Trap.

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is a majestic setting that combines music, nature, and architecture. The park’s four-day Centennial celebration includes a concert line-up of popular performers. Advanced ticket purchases are required.

Wednesday-Thursday, August 24-25, 2016: Ricky Martin
Friday, August 26, 2016: Aretha Franklin
Saturday, August 27, 2016: Bonnie Raitt


6. Be a part of a giant NPS arrowhead logo at the Washington Monument.

On Thursday, August 25, 2016, Over 1000 people are expected to assemble on the grounds of the Washington Monument into the shape of a huge, living version of the NPS arrowhead logo. An aerial photograph will be taken for the NPS website and social media accounts. FREE, but register online in advance.



Harpers Ferry National Historic Park will host a Centennial festival on August 20, 2016.

7. Head to the waterfront Confluence Festival in Harpers Ferry.

On Saturday, August 20, 2016, Harpers Ferry National Historic Park will host the Confluence Festival, a Centennial celebration on the shoreline of the Shenandoah River. Activities will include live music, youth and adult art activities, and more. FREE.


8. Honor the NPS with baseball at Nationals Park.

On Thursday, August 25, 2016, the Washington Nationals will pay tribute to the NPS during its game with the Baltimore Orioles. Support the National Parks and both DC-area home teams. Tickets can be purchased online.



Smithsonian museums will host a variety of exhibits in honor of the NPS Centennial.

9. See NPS Centennial exhibits at the Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian museums are offering multiple FREE exhibits related to the 100th birthday of the National Parks.  Some of the current exhibits include:

Postal Museum: “Trailblazing: 100 Years of our National Parks
This exhibit features original postage stamp art from the USPS and artifacts loaned by the National Park Service, and explores the ways that mail moves to, through, and from our national parks.

National Museum of Natural History: “100 Years of America’s National Park Service: Preserve, Enjoy, Inspire
This is photography exhibit that showcasesthe majesty, diversity, and importance of America’s national parks. The exhibition also highlights ways in which the National Museum of Natural History and the NPS have worked together to identify and preserve the country’s national treasures.

United States Botanic Gardens: “Flora of the National Parks
This art exhibit showcases some of the plant species and communities found throughout the more than 400 national park sites. It includes a series of lectures and children’s programs.



Great Falls Park in Virginia is one of many DC-area National Park Service sites that will offer free admission on August 25-28, 2016.


10. Enjoy four Fee Free Days at all National Parks.

Over the four-day weekend of August 25-28, all National Park Service sites in the country will waive entrance fees and offer FREE admission. It’s the perfect opportunity to explore! Some of our local NPS highlights include Great Falls Park, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Shenandoah National Park, and the monuments along the National Mall, but there are many more. The greater National Capital Region is home to 50 National Park sites*:


Appomattox Courthouse National Historic Park (Appomattox)
Arlington House Robert E. Lee Memorial (McLean)
Assateague Island National Seashore (Accomack County)
Blue Ridge Parkway (Va. and N.C.)
Booker T. Washington National Memorial (Hardy)
Colonial National Historic Park (Yorktown)
Cumberland Gap National Historic Park (Also in Ky., Tenn.)
Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields (Fredericksburg)
George Washington Birthplace National Memorial (Colonel Beach)
George Washington Memorial Parkway (McLean)
Green Springs National Historic Landmark District (Louisa)
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park (Also in WVa., Md.)
Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove (McLean)
Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site (Richmond)
Manassas National Battlefield Park (Manassas)
Petersburg National Battlefield (Petersburg)
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail (Also in Pa., Md., D.C.)
Prince William Forest Park (Triangle)
Richmond National Battlefield Park (Richmond)
Shenandoah National Park (Luray)
Theodore Roosevelt Island (McLean)
Wolf Trap Farm Park for the Performing Arts (Vienna)

Chesapeake & Ohio National Historic Park
Constitution Gardens (Southwest)
Ford’s Theatre (Northwest)
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (Southeast)
Lincoln Memorial (The Mall)
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House (Northwest)
National Mall
Pennsylvania Avenue National Historical Site (Northwest)
Piscataway Park (Southeast)
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail ( Also in Md., Va., Pa.)
Rock Creek Park
Thomas Jefferson Memorial (The Mall)
Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Mall)
Washington Monument (The Mall)
White House (Northwest)

Antietam National Battlefield (Sharpsburg)
Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Also in D.C., Va., Pa.)
Assateague Island National Seashore (Berlin)
Catoctin Mountain Park (Thurmont)
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (Sharpsburg; Also in D.C., WVa.)
Clara Barton National Historic Site (Glen Echo)
Fort McHenry National Monument (Baltimore)
Fort Washington Park (Southeast)
Greenbelt Park (Greenbelt)
Hampton National Historic Site (Towson)
Monocacy National Battlefield (Frederick)
Potomac National Scenic Trail (Also in D.C., Va., Pa.)
Thomas Stone National Historical Site (Port Tobacco)

*Source: Washington Post

Photography by Charlotte Geary

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