Offbeat National Parks
Looking north over Biscayne Bay at an island (at left) and at mangroves that line the shoreline (at back).
Yosemite and Yellowstone are the jewels of our national park system. But you can find plenty of other great places to visit among the 391 parks, monuments and recreation areas run by the National Park Service. Here are a few sites that are less well known—but equally fascinating.
Biscayne National Park
This park in eastern Florida covers 270 square miles, and 95% of it is underwater. Divers and snorkelers hit the ocean to explore shipwrecks and a bright coral reef, home to reef lobsters.
Women’s Rights National Historical Park
Seneca Falls, New York
The Wesleyan Chapel, site of the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848, is part of this historical park. So is the home of women’s rights leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton. A carving of the Declaration of Sentiments expresses the hopes for equality of these 19th century pioneers.
Cape Cod National Seashore
With its 40-mile stretch of beach and historic lighthouses, Nauset Light and Highland Light, this park is a great place to swim in the Atlantic, explore nature trails and learn about our nation’s seafaring past and present.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Near Hilo, Hawaii
Visitors find the Earth’s most massive volcano, 13,677-foot Mauna Loa, and watch lava flow from the world’s most active volcano, bubbling Kilauea.
San Francisco, Calif.
Alcatraz Island sits in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the “Rock” was home of America’s most famous federal prison. Tours give visitors a glimpse of what life was like for prisoners and guards.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
Located near Pike’s Peak, this mountain valley protects giant petrified redwoods and fossils of ancient insects and plants. They were preserved 35 million years ago when erupting volcanoes covered the valley in ash.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
New York City
Visitors can see what life was like for immigrants in this tenement building in which 7,000 people lived between 1863 and 1935. In its cramped rooms, you can learn how determined residents survived tough times.
Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site
In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled that public schools in the U.S. could not be segregated. The lawsuit that brought the case to the high court originated in Topeka, Kansas, and this site commemorates the landmark decision. On view are four segregated elementary schools reserved for African-American children only.
See also: A Tour of U.S. National Parks.