One of the perks of the upcoming long weekend (besides immortalizing the great Martin Luther King Jr, natch) would be that all of the 397 U.S. National Parks will offer free admission from Saturday through Monday. Sweet deal, right? We scoped out some of our favorite parks — and some amazing hotels to go along with them, of course.
NATIONAL PARK PICK: LINCOLN MEMORIAL; WASHINGTON, DC
Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech — a speech which ultimately became the defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement — on the Memorial’s steps. There are dozens of activities planned for the weekend, including a children’s recitation of the speech, an event remembering the Korean War Veterans and even a family-oriented “quest,” designed for children to learn more about Dr. King — and to have some fun, of course!
Splurge Stay: The Hay-Adams
This is quite possibly the most famous hotel in the capital, and deservedly so. The Obamas here in 2009, two weeks prior to the President’s inauguration, and long before that friends John Hay (Abraham Lincoln’s private secretary) and Henry Adams (the author and descendant of John Quincy) built their homes on the plot of land where the hotel now sits. The Hay-Adams draws powerbrokers from around the world with its impeccable service, a great bar and restaurant, and elegant rooms, some of which overlook Lafayette Park and the White House.
Steal Stay: River Inn
The 125-room River Inn offers great value. Its 450-square-foot suites have full kitchens and pullout couches; add in free perks like Wi-Fi, bike rentals and Bally Total Fitness gym passes, and you’ve got yourself a sweet deal.
NATIONAL PARK PICK: YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK; CALIFORNIA
World-famous for its waterfalls, Giant Sequoias, glaciers, and unusual rock formations, Yosemite is the place to go for family fun. With mostly clear skies and temperatures expected to hover around the mid-50s this weekend, it’s the perfect time of year to take a hike on one of the dozens of trails in the park and enjoy the breathtaking views.
Splurge Stay: Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite
The Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite is surrounded by Sierra National Forest, about two miles from the South Gate entrance of Yosemite National Park. It’s a comfortable place with a homey ambiance, and simple decor inspired by Native American and Southwestern patterns — it’s a bit like a fancy hunting club’s headquarters. The rooms are modern and the quaint cottages come with fireplaces and private balconies. With five on-site restaurants, an abundance of outdoor recreational activities, two pools, and a wonderful fitness center and spa this is a nice place to feel a bit pampered in Yosemite.
Steal Stay: Yosemite Lodge at the Falls
This 249-room budget hotel sits right in the heart of Yosemite Valley and within walking distance of the beautiful Yosemite Falls — so guests going for location over luxury might consider this option. The room decor is probably going for “rustic,” but it comes off as more outdated, and the on-site restaurants serve average food. However, its location and price are hard to beat, and there’s an outdoor pool to boot.
NATIONAL PARK PICK: HAWAIIAN VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK; HAWAII
With two of the world’s most active volcanoes and unmatched views, this park is one of the highlights of the Big Island. You can drive around the Summit Caldera of Kilauea Volcano, explore recent lava flows or simply stroll along one of the gorgeous trails. There’s a special ranger-led hike planned for tomorrow that will take visitors to the 1868 lava fields.
Splurge Stay: The Fairmont Orchid Hawaii
This 32-acre luxury resort in Waimea delivers all the high-end Big Island essentials: A beautiful spa comprised mostly of outdoor huts, a white-sand beach on a calm lagoon, beautiful grounds and a huge pool with ocean views. Plus, the Fairmont Orchid is next to a famous golf course and there are on-site tennis courts, both great options to get your sweat on.
Steal Stay: Holua Resort at the Mauna Loa Village
The Holua Resort at the Mauna Loa Village is a bungalow-style condo complex, located to the south of Kailua-Kona in the Keahou Bay area. The large units feature full kitchens, living/dining areas and expansive lanais. The decor is generic and overly bright, but the beds and furniture are extremely comfortable. Eight pools with hot tubs are located throughout the property, so you never have to worry about overcrowding.
NATIONAL PARK PICK: SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK, ARIZONA
The main attraction here is the large cacti from which the park gets its name, but there’s plenty else to see at this park (with breaktaking mountain views). Over 165 miles of well-maintained trails lead visitors through the arid terrain of the Sonora Desert, dotted by hundreds of ancient petroglyphs. The park is divided into two districts, both within an easy drive of Tucson.
Splurge Stay: JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa
Big, luxurious, and loaded with activities, the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa is a family- and business-friendly hotel located on the outskirts of west Tucson. It’s surrounded by striking desert landscapes, with good views all around. There’s golf, tennis, numerous pools and water features, shopping, restaurants, a massive lobby and a top-notch spa.
Steal Stay: Hilton Tucson East
The 232-room Hilton Tucson East features striking vistas of the surrounding Santa Catalina Mountains, which are on full view from the soaring, seven-story atrium. The spacious, airy lobby and second-floor restaurant have a contemporary vibe from its understated furniture and muted hues. The guest rooms also have an updated feel and are fairly large, except for the small bathrooms.