The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the nation's first water-based national historic trail, spans nearly 3,000 miles. (Image courtesy National Parks Conservation Association/Flickr)

On August 25th, the National Park Service will be celebrating its 100th anniversary, commemorating a century of stewardship, recreation and land conservation. Looking for a way to celebrate? Across the country, you can make use of “fee-free days”—free admission to all National Park Service sites—from August 25th through 28th. Or you can check out one of the many National Park Service Centennial events happening at parks, battlefields and historic sites across the Chesapeake Bay region, such as the ones listed below.

Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year is the nation’s first water-based national historic trail, a nearly-3,000 mile trail that follows the combined routes of Captain John Smith’s historic voyages on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

On August 25th, both the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail (NHT) and Star-Spangled Banner NHT will be staffing an informational booth at the city dock in downtown Annapolis, Maryland.

On August 27th, a Visitor Contact Station for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT will officially launch at the Zimmerman Center for Heritage in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania. The celebration will include programs and activities for all ages, including a birthday cake.

National Mall and Memorial Parks

Nicknamed “America’s front yard,” the National Mall is the most visited national park in the country. The National Mall and Memorial Parks consist of nearly 1,000 acres throughout Washington, D.C., including sites located off of the mall itself.

On August 27th, the National Park Service will be hosting a family fun day at Constitution Gardens, feature live music, storytelling, face painting and other activities. Exhibits will include Lego models of national parks, virtual reality park tours and more.

The rapids and waterfalls of Great Falls Park make it a popular destination for kayakers and whitewater rafters. (Image by Orhan Cam/Shutterstock)

Great Falls Park

An 800-acre park located just 15 miles from Washington, D.C., Great Falls Park follows the banks of the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia. The northern boundary of the park is home to the Great Falls—a series of rapids and waterfalls that make the site a popular kayaking and whitewater rafting destination.

On August 27, the park will be celebrating both the Centennial and its own 50th anniversary with a night under the stars, including a performance by the Loudoun Jazz Ensemble and a movie screening.

Glen Echo Park

Managed by the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture in cooperation with the National Park Service and Montgomery County, Glen Echo Park is a cultural resource full of visual and performing arts, educational offerings and historic buildings.

On August 27, the park will be celebrating one hundred years of the National Park Service with a day full of events: a performance by the U.S. Army Band, National Park Service history lessons, face painting, historical reenactors and more.

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal extends from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown, Washington D.C. (Image by holbox/Shutterstock)

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

For nearly 100 years, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal provided communities along the Potomac River with coal, lumber and agricultural products. The nearly 185-mile waterway—which extends from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown, Washington, D.C.—served as the primary means of transporting coal from the Allegheny Mountains during its operation from 1831 to 1924. Today, a towpath trail follows the length of the canal, allowing visitors to hike and bike along the scenic route.

On August 25th, the park’s Centennial celebrations will include a birthday card, cake and ice cream. The first 60 participants will receive a free boat ride along the canal, and visitors can hear a program about the legacy of the National Park Service or see a C&O Canal fashion show.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Located where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park includes land in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland. Its nearly 4,000 acres are make up what Thomas Jefferson once called “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature” after visiting the area in 1783.

On August 25th, Harpers Ferry will be hosting a Founders’ Day Naturalization Ceremony, commemorating the Centennial with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service naturalization ceremony featuring guest speakers, music and reception.

Gettysburg National Military Park protects and interprets the site of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. (Image by Jon Bilous/Shutterstock)

Gettysburg National Military Park

Located in Adams County, Pennsylvania, this historic site protects and interprets the landscape of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, the deadliest battle in the American Civil War. The park covers much of the battlefield and several non-battle areas, including Gettysburg National Cemetery.

On August 25th, the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center will be hosting special programs and tours, as well as giving out free cake. And from April through October, the park hosts Living History Weekends, where Civil War reenactors encamp on the Gettysburg battlefield.

Monocacy National Battlefield

This historic battlefield located near Urbana Pike, Maryland, commemorates the site of the Battle of Monocacy, known as “The Battle That Saved Washington.” In summer of 1864, Confederate soldiers were planning to capture Washington, D.C., but federal soldiers along the banks of the Monocacy River were able to delay their approach long enough for Union reinforcements to arrive and defend the capital.

On August 25th, the site will host programs that focus on the history of the National Park Service, and the first 100 visitors will receive a cupcake and a chance to enter to win a Centennial gift package.

Fort Washington served for decades as the only defensive fort protecting Washington, D.C. (Image by Pamela Au / Shutterstock)

Fort Washington Park

Located along the Potomac River near Fort Washington, Maryland, this park—celebrating its 70th anniversary this year—is home to a 200-year-old fort that served for many years as the only defensive fort protecting Washington, D.C.

On August 27th and 28th, the site will host a Centennial event that includes reenactors from the War of 1812 through World War II talking about military life in their respective time periods, as well as cannon firing demonstrations from the Fort Washington Guard.

George Washington Birthplace National Monument

In February, 1732, George Washington was born on his father’s farm in the Northern Neck of Virginia. Although the original home was destroyed in 1779, a memorial house was built in the early 1930s, where the National Park Service now operates a colonial farm and living historians demonstrate the typical life on an 18th-century plantation.

On August 27th, rangers and volunteers will celebrate the Centennial with a look back at the period when the monument was created—the 1930s—by showcasing the fashion, music and games of the era.


See more events happening at National Park Service sites across the Bay region, or use the Find Your Chesapeake site to find a new place to explore.

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