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National Treasures Offer Activities That Appeal to Every Age Group

National parks are favorite destinations for visitors of all ages. With just a quick glance around the lobby of the venerable Old Faithful Inn or a walk along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, you'll see travelers of virtually every age. Because parks offer a wide range of activities for travelers with varying physical abilities and interests, parks are terrific inter-generational vacation spots.

Experts from park concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts see many multiple-room bookings, particularly during the summer season, and they believe these bookings are often made by inter-generational family groups. A recent study by the Travel Industry Association (TIA) shows that national parks continue to be popular. Some 40 percent of all adults visited a U.S. national park while on a trip during the last five years, and nearly 87 million leisure trips in the U.S. included a stop at a national or state park in 2002, according to TIA. The non-profit organization's research indicates some 93 percent of all Americans who visit a national park are highly satisfied with their visit. The top reasons for national park visits, according to the survey, are to experience nature, for the educational benefit, to spend time with family and to experience culture and history. TIA has also found that travelers place a high importance on a clean, unpolluted environment and that many travelers like to support companies that protect and preserve the culture, history and environment of the places they operate.

Educating visitors about environmental sustainability, history and culture takes a deft understanding of the needs and perspectives of each age group, and Xanterra-operated parks offer a variety of programs with the diversity of visitors in mind.

The South Rim of Grand Canyon is a good example. While not everyone is fit enough to hike the Bright Angel Trail to the bottom of the Canyon and back - a feat that should be undertaken only by visitors who are physically fit and fully prepared for the Canyon's challenges - a leisurely walk around the rim can offer visitors a wonderful introduction to the Canyon's geology. Xanterra has prepared a self-conducted walking tour of the South Rim. The free brochure includes descriptions of places like the El Tovar Hotel, a historically and architecturally significant lodge completed in 1905 at a cost of $250,000. Visitors can shop for Native American artwork in the Hopi House gift shop, visit the Grand Canyon History Room in Bright Angel Lodge or enjoy a cup of coffee in the lobby of the famous El Tovar.

There's also a growing trend among physically fit grandparents and grandchildren participating in soft adventure travel such as hiking and wildlife-viewing, both activities that are found in national and state parks.

As one of the country's largest and most fascinating national parks, Yellowstone has always been a traditional multi-generational travel destination. While all members of a group can watch the wonder of geysers and other thermal features, those with more of an adventurous spirit and good physical abilities can also go hiking in the backcountry or participate in a horseback trail ride. Others can enjoy a walking tour of the 100-year-old Old Faithful Inn, fish in Yellowstone Lake with a guide or take a guided motorcoach tour ride in a vintage touring vehicle to watch the sun set.

"Many inter-generational groups tend to split up and explore the parks at their own pace by day, then meet back at the lodge for dinner," said Judi Lages, vice president of sales and marketing for Xanterra Parks & Resorts, operator of lodges, restaurants, gift shops and activities in many national parks. "National parks are really perfect for inter-generational groups because they allow families to bond but still spend time participating in activities that are of most interest to them."

Lages said the Internet has been a boon to vacation planners who live in multiple locations throughout the country because they can send links to web sites - such as www.xanterra.com and www.nps.gov (the National Park Service site) - and e-mail vacation suggestions to all group members.

For more information about Xanterra and links to individual properties, visit: www.xanterra.com. For reservations and more information about Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion or Death Valley, call (1) 303-297-2757 or toll-free at (1) 888-297-2757. For reservations and more information about Yellowstone, call (1) 307-344-7311. For reservations and more information about Flamingo Lodge in Everglades National Park, call (1) 800-600-3813 or (1) 239-695-3101. For reservations at Crater Lake Lodge, call (1) 541-830-8700. For reservations and more information about Ohio State Park Resorts, call (1) 800-282-7275.

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