I'm learning all kinds of things about National Parks today! Did you know there are 63 of them? I had no idea and I probably wouldn't have been able to offer up a guess that was even close to that number. Here's one - did you know Yellowstone was the nation's first national park? Ok, maybe you knew that one because you live in Montana, or you've been to the park, or you actually paid attention in history class while some of us didn't. But why am I learning these random facts, you ask? Well, it didn't start out that way. I saw a segment on tv this morning that was talking about Yellowstone topping a list of favorites - and when I looked up the details online, I learned a thing or two along the way.

Yellowstone takes the top spot!

Travel + Leisure released their annual rankings for their World's Best Awards, and as a brand-new addition this year, they included national parks as a category people could vote for. Why did they add national parks for the first time in the 26-year history of the ranking? Who knows - but we'll take any reason we can to shine the spotlight on the beauty of Yellowstone. Voting was open from January through May and when the dust settled, travelers, tourists, and vacation-takers named America's oldest national park as the best.

Photo: MissMushroom via Unsplash

What went into the vote?

For the national park category, parks were judged on natural attractions, activities, lodging, wildlife, accessibility, and cleanliness. And since a trip to Yellowstone is full of things like Old Faithful, majestic views, outdoor adventures, bison, bears, and wolves - it makes perfect sense that Yellowstone would be voted the best.

Part of the Travel + Leisure recap for the national parks category includes the following: "Yellowstone also gets top marks for its attention to accessibility, which can be difficult to come by in some national parks, including some wheelchair- and stroller-friendly trails that everyone can enjoy. As one reader explained, "It was safer than I thought it would be with my grandkids. They've done an amazing job with informative placards, accessible parking, and walkways." 

Photo: Goutham Ganesh Sivanandam via Unsplash

If you want to see the complete breakdown for Yellowstone National Park - and see the rest of the parks that made the list - check out the results of the Top 25 National Parks in America.

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Today these parks are located throughout the country in 25 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The land encompassing them was either purchased or donated, though much of it had been inhabited by native people for thousands of years before the founding of the United States. These areas are protected and revered as educational resources about the natural world, and as spaces for exploration.

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