This summer, head to a national park. There's plenty to do -- from bike rides, to stargazing, to climbing the Statue of Liberty all the way to the crown. And there is even a chance to head to the parks free. See some of the events that top our list this summer.
Statue of Liberty Reopens
After suffering flood damage from Superstorm Sandy, which hit on October 29, the statue on Liberty Island in New York Harbor plans to reopen on July 4. The monument, which has become an icon of freedom, was a gift from France in 1886.
Ferry tickets to Liberty Island are available now. For those who wish to climb up to the crown, reservations are required.
Be warned: The route to the crown means climbing a double-spiral staircase of 389 steps, with no air conditioning. Also, temperatures inside are often 20 degrees hotter than the outside.
Remembering the Battle of Gettysburg
The famous and bloody Battle of Gettysburg marks its 150th anniversary. Fought over three days and resulting in the highest number of casualties -- approximately 51,000 from both sides -- the battle is considered a turning point of the Civil War and, months later, the site of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The Gettysburg National Military Park will mark the occasion with a "living history" of the event over July 1-3, the days of the battle.
See Saratoga National Historical Park by Bike
The site of one of the first significant American victories of the Revolutionary War came in Saratoga, N.Y., in 1777. These days, the Saratoga National Historical Park remembers its history with outdoor activities. From June through August, the park is offering visitors ranger-guided bike tours. A fun way to see the park this summer, evening rides promise to take bicyclists on gentle five-mile sections of the park. Don't forget insect repellant and water.
Night gazing at Great Basin National Park
The Great Basin National Park on the Nevada-Utah border boasts one of the last truly dark skies in America. Night owls can stargaze this summer with the Great Basin's Dark Rangers programs on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights through Labor Day. Park-provided telescopes enhance the experience. On June 22 and August 20, visitors can take a ranger-guided hike during the full moon, and on August 12 the park will host a watch party for the Perseids meteor shower.
Apps for that
Two new apps will help with summer trips to the parks. First, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation's TravelStorysGPS app -- a multimedia, GPS-activated app that connects travelers to the surrounding landscapes in real time. As visitors head through the park, the tour guide on your phone will clue you in to what you're seeing, including history, geography, and the landscape.
Second, the Washington Wildflowers app -- Washington is blooming, and now there's an app that provides images and descriptions for more than 870 common wildflowers, shrubs, and vines found in Washington and adjacent areas of British Columbia, Idaho, and Oregon. "The number of species covered and wealth of information included sets a new standard for wildflower identification apps," said David Giblin, collections manager of the University of Washington Herbarium at the Burke Museum and one of the app creators.
Free Park Day
Mark your calendars for Free Entrance Day at national parks on August 25, to celebrate the birthday of the National Park Service. For those who plan to visit the parks through the summer, consider the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. The $80 pass gets you in to the 2,000-plus parks.
This America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is offered free to all active duty military members and their dependents.