Holidays in North America's National Parks
If you are looking for something special and unique and possibly a new holiday tradition for your family, why not consider enjoying your national parks.
For the adults out there looking for something without all the frills and hoopla of Santa and presents, in the USA there is a unique holiday tradition. It was started as a Christmas Day event back in 1900 across the USA and Canada and has since become a Christmas season tradition in the USA and across the Americas.
A clever ornithologist named Frank Chapman proposed a new idea: A Christmas bird census, in which hunters would lay down their guns and join bird lovers in counting every individual bird they saw on a single day of the year. The first count on December 25, 1900, involved 27 participants in 25 locations from Scotch Lake in New Brunswick, Canada, to Pacific Grove in Monterey County, California. Together, they tallied about 18,500 individual birds of 90 different species.
The concept proved to be useful not only in rescuing bird populations from unnecessary killing, but as a tool for scientists as well. To this day, the national Christmas Bird Count (CBC)—managed by the National Audubon Society—helps to reveal declines in individual species, concentrations of birds in specific habitats, the effects of habitat loss, and the growth of invasive species (like house sparrows, European starlings and house finches) across the country.
If you’re looking for a great way to enjoy your favorite national park over the holidays, sign up to volunteer for the park’s Christmas Bird Count. Counts are no longer held on Christmas Day, but they are clustered between December 14 and January 5 each year—months when birding can be challenging, but resident species are firmly established in reliable habitats.
Here are just a few of the national parks that participate in the Christmas Bird Count. Click on each for more information about its past results and future events. To find a count in your area, visit Audubon’s CBC information site.
Big Bend NP, Texas
Everglades NP, Florida
Glacier NP, Montana
Great Basin NP, Nevada
Joshua Tree NP, California
Pipe Spring National Monument, Utah/Arizona
Prince William Forest Park, Virginia
Rocky Mountain NP, Colorado
Yellowstone NP, Wyoming
Yosemite NP, California
Other types of national park traditions, that fall more in line with the typical pomp and circumstance expected at Christmas, can be found along the border of the USA and Canada at Niagara Falls and the likes of the Festival of Lights.
Niagara Falls has some spectacular holiday traditions and festivities as well, not he least of which is the Festival of Lights.
Winter Festival of Lights
Niagara Falls is an enchanting winter destination, and the 25-year-old Winter Festival of Lights makes it even more romantic. The brilliant Niagara festival brings three-million tree and ground lights along with over 125 animated light displays to town. The award-event draws 1.3 million visitors between November and January each year.
During the Winter Festival of Lights, Niagara Falls is transformed into a winter wonderland of shimmering lights. Below, you will learn about the wonderful illuminations found within the Niagara Parks and throughout the City.
The five kilometre route along the Niagara Parkway is known as the Niagara Parks Winter Wonderland and includes three million sparkling tree and ground lights and over 120 lighting displays including the world-famous Enchantment of Disney® animated displays.
There is no admission fee to view the illuminations but donations are gratefully accepted (suggested contribution $10 per car), with proceeds used to enhance the lights and displays.
Light Displays Include:
· The Great Canadian Outdoors (Dufferin Islands)
This is just a small taste of the unique adventures that can be found during the holiday season, within hours of where you live.
If you are yearning for something out of the ordinary or just not as commercial and something that does not break the piggy bank, with a little research it can be yours.