Summer Travel: Luxe Hotels In Or Near National Parks

grand canyon
Flickr user YoTut

Planning a trip this summer? Why not make it family friendly with at trip to a national park? While we love spending our days hiking, biking or riding the river, we’re not always about camping out or grabbing the nearest roadside motel after a long day outside. Here are some of our favorite luxe hotels in or near national parks:

Budget Tip: Time it right by visiting a National Park in the US on August 25th (National Park Service Birthday), September 28th (National Public Lands Day) or Veterans Day Weekend (November 9-11th), the parks won’t charge admission!

Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first national park with 2.2 million acres of natural wonders and wild animals. Top sights include the Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Prismatic Spring on the Lower Loop, Mammoth Hot Springs on the Upper Loop and Yellowstone Falls near the shared section of the two. At the southern edge of Yellowstone Park lies Grand Teton National Park, which boasts majestic views of the jagged peaks of the Teton Ranges and miles of hiking and wildlife watching by Snake River.

Stay here:
Hotel Terra Jackson Hole (Jackson Hole, Wyoming)
Located at the gateway to Grand Teton National Park and a short one hour drive to the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the LEED-Silver Certified and AAA Four Diamond luxury Hotel Terra Jackson Hole’s has a special “Passport to the Parks” package that offers three nights lodging, a seven-day park pass and more.

Or Try:
Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa (Teton Village, Wyoming)
The AAA Four Diamond Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa is also steps from the entrance to Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park and one hour south of Yellowstone. Their “National Park Explorer” package includes a $50 gas voucher and daily breakfast credit for a three-night stay, as well as a seven-day park pass.

Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and has a depth of over a mile. Known for its visually overwhelming size and intricate and colorful landscape, the Grand Canyon boasts some of the world’s most jaw-dropping and dynamic views.

Stay Here:
L’Auberge de Sedona (Sedona, Arizona)
Situated just 45 minutes south of The Grand Canyon in Sedona, Arizona, this luxurious hotel offers a special package that helps guide travelers to and from the canyon named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The two-night package offers a day-long tour and breakfast credit.

Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest
Divided into two sections, called districts, Saguaro National Park is 91,442 acres, 70,905 acres of which are designated wilderness. The park gets its name from the saguaro, a large cactus, which is native to the region. Close by is the Coronado National Forest, which is spread throughout mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Divided into five ranger districts, each consist of multiple “ski island” mountain ranges.

Stay here:
Tanque Verde Ranch (Tuscon, Arizona)
Tanque Verde translates as the “green pool,” a name given by the Pima Native Americans due to the seasonal river that runs through the land to create a mountainous desert oasis of vibrant cacti and various unique plants. All-inclusive rates mean that three meals daily are covered, and the resort offers a number of activities, including guided hikes, biking and horseback riding.

Banff National Park
Spanning 2,564 square miles of valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows and rivers, Banff National Park is one of the world’s premier destination spots and one of the most visited national parks in the world.

Stay here:
Fairmont Banff Springs (Alberta, Canada)
Nestled in Canada’s first national park and the world’s third, the Fairmont Banff Springs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built in 1888 as a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) hotel.

Shenandoah National Park
This 200,000-acre park is haven to deer and songbirds and is an ideal location for outdoor activities for the whole family. It’s also an easy drive from major cities like Washington, D.C., and Richmond. If we were planning a day trip, we’d do the challenging yet manageable hike called “Old Rag” along Skyline Drive and take a pre- or post-trip visit to nearby Charlottesville.

Stay here:
Salamander Resort & Spa (Middleburg, Virginia)
Salamander Resort & Spa is set to open this August in the heart of Virginia wine and horse country in the quaint 18th-century village of Middleburg and a short two-hour scenic drive along Virginia’s Skyline Drive to Shenandoah National Park. Set on 340 acres of farmland, the brand new resort offers a culinary program led by Chef Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant in D.C., including two restaurants, a wine bar, a cooking studio and a two-acre culinary garden; a world-class spa with 14 treatment rooms and an onsite equestrian program to rival any other in the world.

Celebrate national s’mores month at a national park

August is National S’mores month (Who knew?!?) and the 10th is actually National S’mores Day. In honor of this sweet occasion, several national parks will hold a celebration of the chocolate-marshmallow treat that is one of America’s favorite summertime snacks. Visitors to the parks on that day, and throughout the month, will have the opportunity to enjoy the popular confection while swapping stories around the campfire.

Two of the more popular parks that have events planned include Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Shenandoah will play host to the Backyard Barbecue & S’Mores Festival on August 21st, which will serve up plenty of ribs and chicken, as well as down home music, to go along with those sticky treats. Meanwhile, visitors to Mesa Verde can take advantage of the complete camper package, which includes a reserved campsite, a pancake breakfast, two seats on the Far View Explorer tour, and all of the fix’ns necessary to make your own s’mores.

Preparing your own s’mores is an extremely easy affair. You’ll need just three ingredients: graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars. With those items on hand, you simply melt the marshmallows, preferably over an open campfire, and place it on a graham cracker. Then, put the chocolate bar onto a second graham cracker, and combine it with the first. When squished together, the hot marshmallow will partially melt the chocolate bar, creating a yummy snack that few can resist.

If you can’t make it to one of the parks to celebrate National S’mores Month, perhaps you can have a celebration of your own.

[Photo credit: Jonathunder via WikiMedia Commons]

Select national park resorts offer deals on lodging and tours for National Parks Week

National Parks Week is set to take place from April 17 through the 25, and to celebrate, Aramark, an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service, has announced several great deals on lodging, tours, and retail items.

Several of the lodges that fall under Aramark management are offering two-for-one deals. For example, the visitors to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia can book a nights stay at Skyland Resort for $125 and receive the next nights stay absolutely free. The offer runs from April 18-29, with the deal extending to consecutive nights only. Similarly, visitors to Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado can stay for $99 on their first night, and get their second consecutive night free as well. This offer is good from April 22-30.

Visitors to Olympic National Park have multiple choices in their place to stay, with three lodges running specials Book an evening in the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, Kalaloch Lodge or Lake Crescent Lodge for $157 and you’ll receive the second night free. The offer is good in the first two resorts from April 17-25, and in the Lake Crescent Lodge from May 7-31, but must be booked by April 25.

Finally, visitors to the Yellowstone National Park can stay in the Togwotee Mountain Lodge, located 44 miles from the South Entrance, for just $99 for the first night, and receive the second consecutive night free. The booking must be made by April 25, but is valid for stays between May 21 and June 28.

For more great deals from Aramark, including special pricing on tours, t-shirts and more, click here. Most of the special offers are good through National Park Week, when entry to every park in the system will also be free.

Shenandoah National Park announces activities for 2010

Shenandoah National Park has announced that it will play host to a wide variety of activities for the 2010 season, which is set to begin soon. Those activities include events for the whole family, ranging from fun filled games for the kids, as well as culinary events and special festivals for the big kids too. All the events will be held at Big Meadows Wayside, Skyland Resort or Big Meadows Lodge, which open for the season on March 19, April 1 and May 20 respectively.

Things get underway with an Easter Egg Hunt scheduled to take place on April 4 at Skyland Resort. Children ages three to ten years of age are invited to explore the historic lower-level of Skyland Resort, where dozens of colorfully painted Easter Eggs will be waiting to be discovered. Hunting Easter eggs is just the start for the kids however, as the park will have plenty of other activities to keep them occupied throughout the year, including games, crafts, storytelling, and ice cream socials.

Those Easter egg hunting skills will come in handy later in the year as well. Starting on May 3rd at Skyland Resort and on May 24th at Big Meadows Lodge, visitors to Shenandoah can compete in scavenger hunts from 9 AM to 11 AM on every Monday and Wednesday. The hunts will take place along one of the many trails in the park, and visitors will search for hidden natural and historic treasures to earn certificates of achievement.

Those looking to experience fine dining while visiting Shenandoah National Park should consider the Vintner Dinners, which feature gourmet four-course meals paired with fine wine from one of the wonderful Virginia wineries. Or better yet, consider joining the park’s Executive Chef, or one of the visiting guest chefs, as they lead culinary workshops exploring the tastes of fine foods and wines as well. Both options cost $295, and include overnight stays, as well as the fine dining experience. For a much less expensive culinary option, the Rainy Day Cooking Demos are a mere $10, and offer diversion when the weather turns sour, and the trails are too wet to hike.

These are just a taste of the many activities and events that Shenandoah will host this year, but there are many more to discover as well. For instance, on May 15, Skyland Resort will welcome the arrival of spring flowers with music and food, as part of their Wildflower Spring Celebration.For even more events, check out the complete list of activities and book reservations at VisitShenandoah.com.

Shakespeare comes alive in Staunton, Virginia

The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is well known for its natural beauty. Visitors come from far and wide to hike the trails of the Shenandoah National Park and see the vibrant colors of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the fall — but there’s a new reason folks are flocking to the area: the theater.

In 2001, Shenandoah Shakespeare, which was to become the American Shakespeare Center, opened the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia. The playhouse is a replica of Shakespeare’s original indoor theater, and plans are in the works to build an open air replica of the Globe Theater as well.

Visitors to the Staunton playhouse can enjoy a rotating schedule of Shakespeare classics as well as modern plays and concert events in an atmosphere designed to recreate the Elizabethan experience. Next week marks the opening of the ASC’s production of Shakespeare’s Richard II:

An exploration about the nature of greatness is timely fare in an election year. Pitting Richard II, a man of words, against Bullingbrook, a man of action, Shakespeare raises the art of language to new heights while reminding us that rulers “feel want, taste greif, need friends.”

There are pay-what-you-will performances on September 10, 11, and 12, while regular ticket prices start at $20. Also playing this fall are King Lear, Twelfth Night, and Measure for Measure.