8 national and natural treasures (and awesome vacation homes nearby)

This year, explore some of the national parks, monuments, and icons that are such a big part of the authentic American experience. From the expansive natural beauty of Yellowstone National Park to the majestic grandeur of the Washington Monument, here are a few outstanding examples of America at its best—and inviting vacation rental options nearby to help you make memories on your family vacation.

Yellowstone National Park

One of the largest and most famous of the national parks, Yellowstone offers plenty of trails where lucky hikers might see a bear, an eagle, or possibly some bison. For a more sure thing, there’s the Old Faithful geyser and other geothermal features, as well as some fantastic scenery. Just an hour from the park entrance, kick off your hiking boots at this gorgeous lodge. Soak in the hot tub on the deck where you can appreciate the fresh air and mountain views while the kids take full advantage of the game room, complete with Wii and foosball table.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Take a journey back in time to when Tennessee was part of the Great Frontier. In addition to over half a million acres of natural beauty, the Smoky Mountains are home to mills, churches, schools, and log cabins dating back to the 1800s. In nearby Gatlinburg, this lodge has two levels of outdoor deck overlooking the national park and the mountains below. In cooler seasons, you can warm up by the fire—giant windows give you a view so you can be comfortable without leaving all that natural beauty behind.

The Freedom Trail

Few cities are better suited than Boston for a July 4th excursion. Walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail through downtown, passing by 16 historic locations such as Boston Common, the statue of Benjamin Franklin, and Paul Revere’s house. Once you’re finished delving into the story of our independence, retire to this villa overlooking the harbor—it's right on the water and just down the street from Constitution Beach. Or relax in the garden and enjoy the fresh sea air or take a kayak or bicycle out for a joyride.

Bandelier National Monument

A different kind of natural beauty awaits you in this New Mexico national park—hidden in the canyons and mesas are ancient pueblo structures dating back almost a thousand years. Explore alcove houses built right into the canyon walls, with rock paintings and petroglyphs still inside. With 70 miles of trails, there are hikes of various lengths for options to match your level of experience. This immaculately decorated 5,000-square-foot adobe home boasts patios with fireplaces, an outdoor hot tub, and huge picture windows so you can enjoy the landscape.

Black Hills National Forest and Mount Rushmore

The Black Hills of South Dakota were named for how the ubiquitous pine trees made them appear from a distance. But this national forest offers much more than just hills—a trek through these woods reveals canyons, caves, and other interesting rock formations. Plus you can see Mount Rushmore, the most famous (and most patriotic) attraction in the area. Afterwards, head to this chateau that has something for everyone. For adults, there’s the deck, hot tub, and amazing views, while the kids will enjoy the Pac Man-themed game room and huge Hobbit-themed treehouse, complete with round doors!

The Liberty Bell

Few cities offer as many opportunities as Philadelphia to dive headfirst into American history. In addition to the Liberty Bell, stop by the President’s House, where George Washington lived, and Independence Hall, where “re-enactors” sign the Declaration of Independence before your very eyes. This luxury two-bedroom loft is just three blocks from the Liberty Bell and in the heart of the city near a bustling nightlife scene. It’s certified as a historic landmark but packed with modern conveniences and décor to make you feel oh-so-comfortable.

Cabrillo National Monument

Located in San Diego, California, Cabrillo National Monument commemorates the first time a European set foot on the West Coast, but the real star is the incredible view of the harbor. On a clear day you can see all the way to Mexico. Tour the 150-year-old lighthouse and then check into this oceanfront condo right in nearby Mission Beach. It’s so close to the water, you can leave the windows open and let the sound of the ocean waves lull you to sleep.

Washington Monument

What better way to celebrate independence than with a trip to our nation’s capital? Everywhere you look, there’s something to see—the White House, the Washington Monument, as well as some of the best museums in the country. This historic estate, perfect for a large family or group, is just a short walk from the National Mall and features a rooftop terrace with a 360-degree view of the city. The building is a piece of history too—it served as a hospital during the Civil War and still has the stained glass windows from its time as a church rectory.

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