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10 National Park Events You Can't Miss This Summer

By Kyana Moghadam

Apr 15, 2016

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Sunset at Arches National Park in Utah. 
Photo by Jerry and Pat Donaho/Flickr

Sunset at Arches National Park in Utah. 

It's a celebration!

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The National Park Service is throwing a party, and you’re invited. This summer, the NPS's events calendar is awesome and jam-packed—there are over 300 events from now until the end of August. Check out the full list here, and take a look at the 10 you can’t miss this summer.

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1. Free Park Admissions
April 16–24, 2016
This is a huge deal: For a whole week, as a way to celebrate its centennial, the National Parks Service is offering free entrance to parks throughout the country. Look up the best park for you with their Find Your Park feature and get going. Might we suggest a road trip through Rocky Mountain National Park?

2. Summer Star Parties
April 16, 2016
Summer nights are meant to be spent partying with the stars. Or in this case, under the stars. The National Park Service has a great event at Sleeping Dunes National Lakeshore dedicated to the wonders of the night sky. The evening includes a laser light tour of the constellations, and plenty of telescope gazing. (For more on how to see the national parks after dark year-round, check out our comprehensive guide.)

3. Mountain Meet-Up
April 24, 2016
The parks are even hosting special Millennial-focused “mountain meet-ups” across the country. You'll meet a ranger and a slew of other young nature lovers, then spend the day snowshoeing, learning mountain skills, and discovering the trails of, say, Mount Rainer. Sounds like a Sunday well spent to us. If you're not anywhere near Washington, take a look a the National Park Service’s list of events for a mountain meet-up near you.

4. Flora of the National Parks Art Exhibit
February 9–October 2, 2016
The National Park Service and the United States Botanic Garden have teamed up for an art exhibit in celebration of the centennial. The flora of over 400 national parks are represented in the exhibit, which opened in February at the USBG Conservatory in Washington, D.C. and and will remain open until October.

5. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Wolf Trap National Park
May 25, 2016
A lot happens in our national parks, but for performing arts fans, Wolf Trap Park is where it’s at. There’s a great lineup of concerts and shows happening at the park this summer, including one we're especially excited about: seeing Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes play in the great outdoors.

Every seat's a good seat at Wolf Trap National Park

6. National Parks Adventure IMAX
If you want to see as many parks as possible in under two hours, we suggest a screening of the National Parks Adventure IMAX movie by filmmaker Greg MacGillivary. MacGillivary and an amazing team of outdoor enthusiasts traveled the country, and, as Robert Redford said, the film “captures the stunning beauty of our wild places and reminds us these landscapes are an essential part of the human spirit.” Check out our behind-the-scenes look at the film before catching the show.

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7. Denali Music Fest
July 18, 2016
Did you know that July 18 is World Listening Day? Denali is celebrating by throwing a party that involves storytelling, dance, audio recordings of the natural world, and a whole lot of music.

8. North Rim Native American Heritage Day
August 11–12, 2016
Head to Arizona in August to celebrate the American Indian tribes who have cultural connections to Grand Canyon and to spend the day engaged in a special program that includes everything from live music and dance to an ethnobotany course.

9. Yellowstone Centennial Kickoff
August 25, 2016
Yellowstone became the first national park in 1872, and later played an important role in the founding of the National Park Service, so it only makes sense that the centennial kickoff take place where it all began. Join local, state, and national dignitaries at this free event (advance tickets are required) for an evening of live music and some good fun in the outdoors.

10. A Day of Service

A summer of outdoor fun isn’t complete without a day of giving. There are a number of volunteer days in the national parks throughout the country, and all of them promise a chance to show your park just how special you think it is.

>> Next: Why You Should Experience the National Parks After Dark

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