Category Archives: travel

Happy 100th Birthday, National Park Service #FindYourPark

100 years ago today, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill from Congress, instating the National Parks Service “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

This has been a summer of taking in American history and along the way I’ve visited a handful of National Parks. How has it taken me this long in life to realize what a treasure I have all around me, preserved for my enjoyment and education?  I went on and on about this on Snapchat earlier this summer, but it’s worth repeating:

  • An annual pass to the National Parks Service is currently $80/adult and gets you into more than 2,000 federal recreation sites and covers entrance fees at national parks and wildlife refuges.  Your pass also waives standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands.
  • If you have a 4th Grader, take advantage of Every Kind in a Park!!!  The pass admits all children under 16 and up to three adults for free, but you have to have a paper pass with you upon arrival, so BE PREPARED!
  • US Military and their dependents get free annual passes and once you turn 62, you become eligible for a $10 LIFTIME PASS.

There are National Parks in every single US State, Washington DC, and our four US Territories, Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. How close are you to a National Park?  Find a Park by location and determine which location you can get to quickest, because you don’t need a pass to visit a park this weekend!  

In celebration of NPS’s 100th Birthday, admission to ALL 412 NATIONAL PARKS is FREE August 25 – August 28!!!! 


If you live nearby-ish and are willing to road trip, I HIGHLY recommend a trip to Hyde Park, NY.  [also: look who I spy on their IG feed!] There is A LOT to see and do in Hyde Park, and our 9 hour visit barely touched the surface. It was an incredible experience and I would DEFINITELY go back.  Here are some snapshots and highlights from our trips to the Home of Franklin D Roosevelt and Val-Kil Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site.


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Long Summer Days [and a few snapshots from DC]

My favorite thing about this time of year is that the sky is still bright with light at 9:03 PM. 
The days seem to last and I can fit in SO MUCH of whatever it is I want to spend my time on.  Sometimes that means long podcast-filled walks followed by conversations with friends old and new over bottles of brews on a patio or porch.  And sometimes that means grocery shopping and food prep followed by four episodes of Rizzoli & Isles in front of the air conditioner with Nick while I debate markers vs. crayons for my next coloring page.


Long summer days are also perfect for traveling, especially when you want to indulge in every bit of tourism you can.  It’s a very POTUS summer over here; Nick’s mom Kathleen is coming to visit next month and we’ve got a trip to nearby Hyde Park for lots of FDR goodness on the agenda. This has been a road trip on the “yeah, I’ll do that eventually” list since I moved to the area in 2008, and no one was surprised over my thrill when she mentioned wanting to go while she’s here. 


Also accomplished this summer: my first trip to DC. Our site seeing took place on Monday evening and Tuesday morning [I was in town working a trade show for the week] and I was delighted with the experience. Monday evening I was a tag-a-long with a group of about-to-be Freshmen high school tour thanks to an invite from their teacher, and I soaked up all I could from the very knowledgeable tour guide. We toured the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.  I also spent about an hour at the National Mall without the group. I really enjoyed taking a moment to notice the grandeur of the monuments around me and think over-romanticized writer-brain thoughts what they represented.


My favorite memories of Monday night were definitely the time spent on the back side of the Lincoln Memorial.  I first ventured back on my own, before meeting with the group.  I stood alone at one of the back corners, taking in the view of the Washington Monument and US Capitol Building through the column cut out of the fortress surrounding the giant Lincoln sitting inside. 

view through

Later after catching up with the group, the tour guide led us to the back of the memorial, asking us to sit as she pointed to a residence and spot of land in the distance before beginning a story of Mary Lee’s Rose Garden at Arlington National Cemetery. I loved this space and have decided that if I lived in DC, I would try to start a dinner picnic club that meets on the back wall once a month.


There was a LOT I didn’t get a chance to see when I was in DC, but I have a strong list of priorities going for our next trip [the memorials around the reservoir are a MUST for me next time!]  I’m not at all disappointed in what we covered in the short tourism time during this trip.

We also managed 90 minutes of the National American History museum, which was in no way enough time and I can’t wait to go back.  The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden exhibit is the literal definition of AMAZING and I barely took time to read a thing, the American Stories pop culture exhibit was a fantastic rush through, and we completely skipped out on the FOOD: Transforming the American Table exhibit

There are also several exhibits being built for future openings and several exhibits we didn’t even get a chance to glance towards, which explains why revisiting this museum when I have several more hours is definitely on my Next Visit To Do list. [and then, you know, every other National Museum, too.]



Tomorrow morning I am headed to Washington D.C. for the first time EVER. I’m traveling to staff a trade show for work, but we have plenty of sightseeing time on the schedule, too. To say I am excited would be a major understatement.


I had gone back and forth on whether or not I want to travel with our DSLR camera for my tourist adventures but I’ve finally decided I will be bringing it with me.

I’ve had a bit of experience using the camera at home, for staged shots and during events and parties, but the majority of the time I take photos and video while on the move, I’m sharing in real time via mobile devices.  Typically, Nick takes the “real shots” with the DSLR for future use when we are out and about.  Since Nick isn’t going on this trip with me, the “should I bring the camera?” question lingered for the past couple of months.

At first I consider the possibility of my carrying the camera to DC and back without getting any photos of value.  I imagined the camera never/rarely leaving the hotel room if it felt like it was going to be a hassle to carry around as we walk from spot to spot.  I also pictured myself rushing through every photo opportunity in an effort to not annoy my travel companions.


Then a few weekends back, I took myself on a walking tour through the nearby Stockade Historic District to gauge my comfort level taking photos while on the go.  Ninety minutes, one historic cell phone tour, and 306 digital files later, my concern turned to confidence: bringing “the fancy camera” with me was the right decision. [Let this be a reminder to your self-doubt about anything to just give it a try and see how it feels, okay?]

Also, my boss-friend Jennifer, whom I’m traveling with, loves taking photos herself and has promised not to make me feel rushed if I stop to capture something along our trip.


This is my first visit ever to our nation’s capital and I must admit, with all my love for fun facts about the American presidency I know I am going in with a completely romanticized vision of what our trip will be like. Basically, I’m expecting to experience a 100% representation of this clip from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington:

These are in no way realistic expectations, I understand. Recent social media shares I’ve caught from pals visiting monuments and memorials include famous spaces filled with sweaty faces.  Families and groups of school children and bunches more noise than one would expect after watching the dreamy scene at the end of the above clip: Mr. Smith feeling ALL THE THINGS at the Lincoln Memorial.

While rocking some #sidehustle client work this weekend, I came across some great how-to articles on Digital Photography School that seemed like pre-DC must-read gifts from the universe:

I’m looking forward to taking time to capture our adventures while chasing lines, hunting patterns and remembering to take my time, specifically.  Slowing down has never been my strong suit and truthfully, this is likely my steadiest criticism throughout my lifetime.  Approaching tasks [especially those I’m enthused over!] calmly, steadily, mindfully and without rushing takes a lot of focus and practice for me.  Taking the DSLR with me on our tourism adventures will be a great exercise in expanding my patience muscles.


I’ll also be trying to share some of my travel happenings in real time on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #THSGoestoWashington [hey, one can dream.] and definitely sharing stories of the journey on Snapchat, too. You can find me at thenheathersaid on all the internet spaces. Choose your favorite social stream and follow along. [Though it is worth noting that this year I’ve made it a mission not to repost content from one social stream to another, and instead create unique content specifically with that medium/audience in-mind. #PracticeWhatYourPreach]