5 Fascinating U.S. National Parks for National Park Week

Happy National Park Week!

In celebration of National Park Week, we are happy to share a National Park Round Up! Rather than focus on a specific park, Buddy and I picked our top National Parks for each of the National Park Service’s themes for the week. And there so many great parks to choose from that this is a part one in a two-part series. Check out the second post in the series here!

Now, without further ado, 5 Fascinating U.S. National Parks for National Park Week.

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A poster that says National Park Week 2022 Wind Cave National Park MPA Project Travels. In the background is box work from Wind Cave National Park. The box work is orangish brown.

5 Fascinating U.S. National Parks for National Park Week

1. Saguaro National Park: sPark Discovery

Blooming ocotillos (long green sticks with bright pink tips) appear in the center of the photo. In the distance is a  bright blue sky and mountains. Saguaro National Park East MPA Project Travels.
Ocotillos in Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park captures the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. From the Ocotillos, Palo Verdes, and the iconic Saguaro cacti to the beautiful sunsets and endless blue skies. Saguaro National Park is a beautiful place to experience a sunrise or sunset. Located in two districts on the east and west side of Tucson, Saguaro National Park is easily accessible from the city.

What to bring

Sunscreen, a water bottle, a hat, and sturdy walking shoes. Also bring layers! A light layer for sun protection in the spring, summer and fall. And layers for cold mornings and evenings in the winter.

When to visit

As locals, we recommend the best time to visit is in the winter when the reptiles are in brumation, and temperatures are moderate. If you visit in the winter, please note that the mornings and evenings can be colder. Some visitors to Saguaro National Park like to come during the spring to see the wildflowers. This is a great time to visit as well. But remember to bring lots of sunscreen, and to watch out for reptile friends.

Why we chose Saguaro National Park for sPark Discovery

Yvonne: Saguaro National Park was the top choice for the theme sPark Discovery because Saguaro National Park East- the Rincon District is the closes National Park to our house. This makes it very convenient to go for a hike in the morning and run errands in the afternoon. Or go to school and work in the morning and enjoy and evening desert hike. We love rediscovering our nearest National Park.

A Desert trail with steps leading up a slight hill. The path is flanked by two large Saguaro cactus and other desert plants like mesquite trees, and nopal cactus. Saguaro National Park East. MPA Project Travels.
Freeman Nature Trail in Saguaro National Park East.

Buddy: My favorite thing about Saguaro National Park is that it is so close to our house, it is so convenient. Also, all the beauty of the land, the cactus forests, the plants and creatures that you do not see if you do not live in the Sonoran desert. It is fun to experience.

Yvonne: The one experience at Saguaro National Park that I have not done yet is a moonlight hike.  These special hikes sell out really fast. And since the pandemic, they have not offered moonlight hikes in Saguaro National Park East, which is closer to our house. I am waiting to do a moonlight hike in Saguaro National Park East soon!

For more on Saguaro National Park, check out our blog about Hiking Douglas Spring Trail in Saguaro National Park East.

 Check out Saguaro National Park’s website for all the details.

2. Death Valley National Park: sPark Creativity

A teenage boy in blue and a man in a black shirt walk away from the camera on a dry lake bed. They walk towards mountains in the distance under a bright blue sky. Death Valley National Park. MPA Project Travels.
Buddy and Sal at Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park

The vast, endless, and unique landscapes of Death Valley National Park are breathtaking! Across the valley, every point of interest is unique. From the natural wonders of Badwater Basin, Artist Palette, and Racetrack Playa to the quirky and fun manmade wonder of Teakettle Junction, Death Valley is a beautiful desert gem!

What to bring

Sunscreen, a water bottle, a hat, and sturdy walking shoes. Also bring layers! Lots of water! And gas money – the prices of gas in Death Valley are extraordinarily high!

When to visit

The best time to visit Death Valley is during the fall, winter, or spring months, before the heat kicks in. Visiting Death Valley during cooler months means that it is less likely that you will experience the high and sometimes deadly heat. If you must visit during the summer months, please follow the precautions that you will find posted throughout the National Park. 

Why we chose Death Valley National Park for sPark Creativity

Yvonne: Many national parks are awe-inspiring but one of our favorite parks for artistic inspiration is Death Valley. When we visited Death Valley, the beauty of the landscape sparked our creativity. We created 8 Movement Postcards during our time at the National Park. Including a Movement Postcard filmed during a moonlight hike on the Mesquite Flat sand dunes. Which national parks spark your creativity?

Buddy: My favorite thing about Death Valley is pretty much everything. Everything is so cool over there. Especially the sand dunes and the salt flats. And the fact that it is below sea level. There are so many other factors. It just blows my mind, It’s kind of cool.

A boy and a teenager in black shirts and shorts stand next to each other in the distance looking away from the camera. In the background are3 mountains and a blue sky spotted with clouds. In the foreground are salt rock formations. Devil's Golf Course in Death Valley National Park, MPA Project Travels.
Buddy and Sal at Devil’s Golf Course in Death Valley National Park

What is a Movement Postcard?

A Movement Postcard is a mini-dance film in one minute or less that we create when we are onsite exploring a new space. The movement we do is a in conversation with the space and place around us and the way that our bodies feel and move throughout that new place and space.

The inspiration behind the Movement Postcards comes from our day jobs. I am a choreographer and Buddy is a performer with the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus. And since 2015 we have been creating dance films together for work. And since Motherhood and the Performing Arts, which is what MPA stands for, started as a dance film project and then shifted into a travel blog, the Movement Postcards are a way we hold on to our performing arts roots.

For more detailed information about Death Valley, check out the series on Death Valley National Park below:

3. Badlands National Park: sPark Collaboration

Canyons of various shades of white and orange. Badlands National Park. MPA Project Travels.
Badlands National Park.

Badlands National Park’s landscapes are second to none. Beautiful vast prairies are punctuated by spires and multicolored canyons that look painted from the distance. And when the sun sets, the stars in the night sky take center stage in this area with little light pollution. Badlands National Park is a must see!

What to bring

A tent! Sleep under the stars in Badlands National Park. Ditch your tent’s rain fly and fall asleep under the stars. If you are bringing a tent,  heavy-duty steel tent stakes are recommended because it is very windy in Badlands National Park.

Other suggested items include sunscreen, a water bottle, a hat, and sturdy walking shoes. Black Diamond SpotLite 200 headlamps red light setting if you choose to attend the ranger led Night Sky Program. 

When to visit

It gets cold in the winter in South Dakota! Late spring and early summer or late summer and early fall are great times to visit. The weather in the summer is nice, but there are crowds. 

Why we chose Badlands National Park for sPark Collaboration

Yvonne: I was inspired by Badlands National Park’s research initiatives, particularly the fossil preparation lab. At the fossil preparation lab, located in the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, you can see undergraduate and graduate students working with fossils in real time. I thought this was a good example of the National Parks collaborating with different universities.

A man in a black shirt and a boy in a red T-shirt walk away from the camera on bright yellow earth. The sky is blue with spotted clouds. The Door Trail in Badlands National Park. MPA Project Travels.
Buddy and Sal hiking the Door Trail in Badlands National Park

Buddy: Honestly my favorite thing about Badlands National Park is that it looked like there were a bunch of little tiny canyons over there. And the fact that the land is not actual dirt like it is in Tucson. The dirt in the Badlands is a different texture like ash or something. It is really cool. The dirt texture was different.

For more detailed information about Badlands, check out the series on Badlands National Park below:

Check out Badlands National Park’s website for all the details.

4. Minuteman Missile National Historic Site: sPark Innovation

Buddy in a red shirt and black pants and black glasses stands in front of the Minuteman Missile National Historical Site. MPA Project Travels.
Buddy in front of the Minuteman Missile National Historical Site Visitor’s Center

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is a located east of Wall, SD on Interstate 90 on CottonWood Road. At the site, you will find the Visitor’s Center and, if you reserve your tickets in advance, you can take a tour of the Delta-01 Launch Control Facility.

In addition to the Visitor’s Center on site, the Delta-09 Missile Silo is located a short 15-minute drive on due west on I-90 toward Wall. There a cell phone guided tour is available. This is a quick and easy drive from Wall, SD and an excellent place to spend a few hours on your way to or from Badlands National Park.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site was Buddy’s Top Choice for National Park Week.

A poster that reads Minuteman National Historical Site Buddy's Top Choice. MPA Project Travels National Park Week.

What to bring

Sunscreen and sturdy walking shoes if you plan on walking around the silo or taking a tour.

When to visit

Any time! But it is cold in the winter in South Dakota.

Why we chose Minuteman Missile National Historic Site for sPark Innovation

Buddy: I chose the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site for sPark Innovation because the Minuteman Missile series and all Intercontinental ballistic missiles series that the United States created in the 1950s and 1960s were very innovative and new to the world in their time. And these missiles were also used to launch people into space. They are space rockets!

Yvonne: Are National Historic Sites technically National Parks? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Check out Minuteman Missile National Historic Site’s website for all the details.

PRO TIP: Book your Delta-01 tour tickets in advance! Advanced reservations are required and there are no tickets at the door.

5. Wind Cave National Park: sPark Opportunities

A brown prairie dog stands in a field of  green and brown grass surrounded by the occasional while flower. Wind Cave National Park. MPA Project Travels.
Prairie Dog at Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park is best known for its underground wonders. With beautiful boxwork formation lining most of the cave walls, Wind Cave is a cool (literally!) and marvelous delight! But it is not all about what is below the surface. Above ground, Wind Cave National Park has trails that cut through prairies and pine needle forests.  Hiking is a great way to see wildlife and experience the beauty of South Dakota.

What to bring

For a cave tour: jackets or long-sleeved shirts, jeans or pants, and non-slip closed toed shoes. The cave is a cool 54 degrees Fahrenheit and is chilly even in the summer.

For a hike: Sunscreen, a water bottle, a hat, and sturdy walking shoes.

PRO TIP: Water bottles are not allowed on Cave Tours. Leave your water bottle in the car!

When to visit

It gets cold in the winter in South Dakota! Late spring and early summer or late summer and early fall are great times to visit. The weather in the summer is nice, but there are crowds.

PRO TIP: Cave Tours often sell out during the summer months.  While you can book some cave tours in advance, other cave tours are sold on a first come first serve basis. To ensure you get your ticket, arrive early in the day. After entering the Visitor’s Center, make a bee line for the Cave Tour desk and reserve your spot!

Why we chose Wind Cave National Park for sPark Opportunity

Buddy: The main reason I chose Wind Cave National Park for sPark Opportunity is because if had to work at any of the National Parks I visited, that would be the place. Because I would get to explore the cave, give cave tours, and do research, and learn about the cave’s history.

Orangish brown boxwork at Wind Cave National Park. Box work is on top of a rock ceiling in a cave. MPA Project Travels.
Boxwork at Wind Cave National Park

Yvonne: I would absolutely visit Wind Cave National Park again. And on my next trip, I will do two things differently.

One, we would spend more time there. I would probably take my tent and we would camp. When we visited Wind Cave National Park, we were only there for an afternoon. We stopped at Mammoth Site in the morning and had to check in to our cabin later that afternoon. So we did not get a lot of time in the National Park.

The second thing I would do differently is take longer hikes! During our visit, we did a quick hike but not a longer one. This is because we had a cave tour reservation that afternoon. I would definitely take longer hikes because I heard that hiking there and seeing the wildlife is an extraordinarly experience.

For more about Wind Cave National Park, check out our blog about the Top 2 Activities for an Amazing Afternoon in Wind Cave National Park.

Check out Wind Cave National Park’s website for all the details.


That’s it for now! Stay tuned next week for 4 More Fascinating U.S. National Parks for National Park Week! And let us know in the comments below, what is your favorite National Park? What parks would be on your list? And which National Parks spark your connections?

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18 thoughts on “5 Fascinating U.S. National Parks for National Park Week

  1. I have never been to Wind Cave National Park. I learned about some great spots from your article. Death Valley is one of my favorites too!

  2. There are so many great National Parks to visit. I am sad that we have not yet made it to Death Valley. And the Wind Cave National Park is one I had not yet heard about. A cave tour would definitely be a great plan … in the warmer months!

  3. Wow, such a great article – with all the essential information. Well done! Death Valley is my dream, hopefully one day 🙂

  4. Great list of fascinating National Parks! I haven’t visited any of these on your list yet. I’d love to check out the beautiful landscapes of Death Valley National Park.

  5. Fab post! There are sooo many cool options for National Parks in the States! I am really keen to visit the Badlands and Death Valley – the scenery is so different to everything we have in Canada.

  6. Death Valley and the Wind Cave are on my bucket list. Would love to go to those two places someday soon. Love all the pics and movement cards. Thank you 😊

  7. Great selection of national parks here! I would love to do a road trip in the States and hit up some of these. Thanks for sharing!

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