Five Tips for Beginning a Garden

Spring is finally here, making this the absolute best time to finally start that garden you’ve been meaning to get around to. Whether you’re looking to plant a lush garden full of wildflowers or you want to grow some of your favorite veggies, this is the prime time to lay some seeds down and watch your beauties grow. Here are ten tips to get you on your way toward your dream garden.

A huge flower garden near a lake.

A gorgeous flower garden to get you inspired. [Image: theunboundedspirit.com/the-sacred-art-of-gardening]

1. Find the perfect spot.

Sunlight coming through trees.

Make sure you find a sunny spot for your garden. [Image: skyway-es.com/sunlight-therapy-heliotherapy]

When deciding on the perfect spot for your garden, you’ll want to use a place that’ll give your plants everything they need to flourish. Most flowers and vegetables need between six and eight hours of full sunlight to grow to their fullest potential. When choosing your spot, make sure trees, buildings, or any other types of obstructions don’t block the sunlight. Similarly you’ll want to ensure that the plants will be protected from windy days as well as the impending cold. Some plants are able to survive in a shady spot, but make sure you check the tags or with a local garden just to be certain. Make sure you can easily bring water to the spot—if it’s easily accessible, tending to your garden will be much more enjoyable and more difficult to neglect doing. Additionally it’s helpful to have your garden in a place that you’ll be able to easily notice if there are any issues. Put it right outside a window you look out of every day or right near your back door for instance.

2. Get to know your dirt.

A hand holding soil.

Get acquainted with the soil you’ll be using in your garden. [Image: www.urbanfarmonline.com/urban-gardening/backyard-gardening/building-super-soil.aspx]

The soil you use in your garden is the most important factor that determines whether you’ll have healthy, abundant growth or if your plants will perish. Before anything you’ll have to clear the present sod and any large rocks, which will prevent your garden from becoming immediately overgrown with various weeds. Make sure to dig when the soil is moist so as not to ruin the structure of the area.

From there you’ll want to start improving the quality of your existing soil. Soil tests can be done through your county cooperative extension office or at a nearby nursery where they’ll tell you exactly what your soil needs and how to remedy the situation. The best course of action is to mix compost (dry glass clipping, decayed leaves, etc.) or mulch in with the soil, ensuring a healthy starting point for your garden. Don’t be confused between fertilizer and compost—fertilizer feeds your plants while compost feeds the soil.

3. Choose your garden.

Vegetable and flower garden with a scarecrow.

Maybe this could be in your yard! [Image: www.gardeningknowhow.com/special/containers/designing-your-container-vegetable-garden.htm]

Now is the time to finally decide on what type of garden you want to cultivate. Before you start buying plants, make sure to educate yourself on what can/cannot grow in your local environment. There’s a lot of research required in this step of the game, but it’s also the best part! Look into drought tolerant plants, annual plants that need to be replanted every season, perennials that come back year after year, easy care plants, plants that will attract the most amount of bees, and any other specifications you can think of. What it’s going to boil down to is choosing the types of plants/vegetables that you like the most and bringing them home to your garden.

4. Purchase your gardening gear.

Various gardening tools.

A list of must-have gardening tools. [Image: gardeningtoolsplus.com/garden/garden-tools-their-meaning.html]

It’s important to at least have some basic tools on hand, but try not to go overboard on a purchasing frenzy. You’ll want to have a spade, garden fork, shears, hose, hoe, gloves, rake, shovel, hand weeder, and a basket for moving around your soil/mulch at the very least. After awhile you’ll develop a preference for certain tools and will have a better idea of what you absolutely do and do not need.

5. Set a schedule.

A drawn gardening schedule with pictures of various vegetables.

However you want to draw it up, a schedule is incredibly helpful when gardening. [Image: urbangardencasual.com/2012/04/11/successful-gardening-101-how-much-do-i-need/]

After you’ve planted your seeds and the seedlings start to peek their faces out from the soil, you’ll want to solidify a schedule as to properly care for your new plants. From weeding to staking to trimming to watering, you’ll always find something that needs to be done in your garden. As time progresses it’s important to keep a record of your garden successes and failures. In this way, you’ll be able to learn what’s working and what isn’t. A concrete schedule will help you remember what time of the year certain plants will bloom so you know when to give what plants your attention.

This list should at least put you on the path toward developing your own dream garden. Get down and dirty, and embrace spring with open arms. Make sure you download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to visit a local park near you for some inspiration!

Hanging out with Llamas and Alpacas

Llamas walking around the ancient fortress of Kuelap in Peru

Llamas walking around the ancient fortress of Kuelap in Peru. [Image: Cynthia Via]

Hanging out with llamas and alpacas is nothing short of endearing as they peek out with their furry long necks. They are grand companions for the road, and almost “silent brothers,” as the Andean people call them. Llamas (pronounced “yama”) have been around for millions of years first originating in North America, then migrating to South America. Alpacas, their close cousin, are native to the Andes mountains of Peru, Bolivia and Chile. Alpacas were mostly bred for their fibers, whereas the llamas as pack animals during the pre-Columbian era. One group that heavily depended on the use of llamas and alpacas was the Incan Empire in Peru. Llamas helped them transport goods, crops and other materials between remote villages. Alpacas were also vital to the Incas; they provided one of the strongest and softest animals fibers, great for making sweaters, especially needed in the cold sierra mountains. They also served as companions for young children and small animals. Llamas and alpacas are symbolic to the indigenous cultures of South America and represent a way of life.

 

Affection for these animals has spread to North America and Europe thanks to hiking and farming initiatives. Hiking with llamas is not only environmentally friendly since they don’t damage the land when grazing or walking, they are also accustomed to high altitude, and are less stubborn than mules and horses. They can alert us when a herd of animals approach in the distance. Llamas are mostly peaceful, curious animals (although they can spit for hierarchical reasons within their herd) and great for people trekking long distance, who can’t endure heavy equipment such as older folks, children and those with disabilities. While an average llama of 300 pounds can carry about 75 pounds (25 percent its weight), it’s not recommended alpacas carry heavy loads since they’re smaller, and not accustomed to taking long hikes. However, many farms allow visitors to feed alpacas and take them for short walks. Alpacas are docile, calm, non-aggressive to humans, and are able to learn tricks. They are especially therapeutic for children.

If you’re ready to embrace the alpaca’s or the llama’s chill attitude, walk along with them in one these parks or farms!

Llama Trekking

Jackson Hole Llamas offers llama trekking trips in Wyoming through five areas in Yellowstone National Park and Jedediah Smith Wilderness. Llamas will carry your gear as you walk with them, so you can enjoy views of wildflower meadows, forests, waterfalls, geothermal areas, and alpine lakes. Their site even shows off a variety of llamas each with a quirky character description. Similarly, Yellowstone Safari Company offers llama treks in the northern parts of the park, including Black Butte Creek Trail, Specimen Creek and Black Canyon. Swan Mountain Llama Trekking offers short and multi-day trek through Montana’s Glacier Country. Some of their longer trails go through Flathead National Forest, Glacier National Park, Great Bear and the Mission Wilderness Areas. They even have a 3-hour wine & cheese llama trek.

The video below illustrates how backpacking with llamas can be a smooth hike.

 

 

Alpaca Walks

Alpacas on the trail. [Cynthia Via]

Alpacas on the trail. [Image: Cynthia Via]

Though alpaca trail packs are rare, some farms allow visitors to feed, pet and take them on short walks. Since most alpacas spend their time within farms, they’ll need a bit of training. If you have your own alpaca, walking is a great way to exercise and build a relationship with them. Walking with alpacas is beneficial for children especially those with autism. In the presence of alpacas, children tend to walk longer and be more invested in the moment.

If you’re in Garret County in Maryland, visit Blue Bell Farm where you can view and walk alongside alpacas as they graze picturesque hills and woodlands. The STARanch Alpaca Trek allows visitors to walk with alpacas through riverbanks and trails along the Caloosahatchee River and Cypress creek. Patchwork Meadow Alpacas in the Mohawk Valley of New York allows visitors to see alpacas up close and explore their mill-spun alpaca yarn.This 33-acre farm is home to 74 alpacas.

 

If you want to have these furry friends around all the time, maybe think about owning an alpaca or llama farm or volunteering in one like these folks.

For more animal encounters download our Pocket Ranger® Apps, and check out our Instagram.

How to Plan the Perfect Picnic

Happy Earth Day! Go out and celebrate with a spring picnic. If planning isn’t your favorite thing to do, then we’ve got you covered! Once you follow this guide on planning the perfect picnic, everyone is sure to have a blast.

Location

Picnic tables on green grass by a lake

Image: www.picnic-basket.com

Using your state’s Pocket Ranger® app, you can find state parks that offer picnicking spots for you. Just go to Explore > By Activity > Picnicking. Or you can simply search by using the Nearest Me map feature and selecting only the picnicking icon from the menu.

Date & Weather

Blue sky with the sun shining above green grass and trees

Image: www.landscapehdwalls.com

It is important that you choose a date where all of your guests are able to attend. While you are choosing a day, remember to check the weather to make sure that there won’t be any rain clouds in sight.

Theme

Aloha themed picnic decorations

Image: blog.smartyhadaparty.com

To make a picnic exciting and unique, the host should make it a theme picnic. Guests can come dressed to match the theme or they can bring recipes! Themes can vary from Hawaiian, 80’s themed, fiesta, sports, Mardi Gras, etc.

What to Pack

Picnic basket with a cooler with drinking items

Image: www.popsugar.com

  • A picnic basket for tableware and nonperishable items.
  • 2 coolers – Use one for cold beverages and the other one for perishable foods such as meats and salads.
  • Food that will be barbequed to feed all of your guests, unless each guest is bringing a dish.
  • Plastic bags – To keep your trash in.
  • Folding chairs
  • Blankets or sheets to spread out if you like to sit on the grass.

Temperatures

Cold food should be kept at 40 degrees or colder so it won’t spoil. Your cooler should be 25% ice and 75% food. Ice should be on the bottom and at the sides. Place the heaviest, perishable foods over the ice at the bottom of the cooler; then layer lighter items on top. Remember that a full cooler will stay colder longer and that larger pieces of ice melt slowly. Hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees or more.

If you are taking salads with you, remember to place serving containers in a larger pan with ice under them, to keep them cold and fresh.

BBQ Tips

Family barbecuing in the park

Image: urbanmilwaukeedial.com

If you are planning on barbecuing at the park, make sure that the park you are visiting has BBQ grills available, unless you are permitted to bring your own grill.

Before leaving home, wrap raw meat in plastic containers or in re-sealable plastic bags. You can also freeze meats before packing, especially if you are traveling a long distance. It is advised to not partially cook foods at home to speed up the cooking process, which can cause bacteria to grow on food.

Fun Stuff

Family playing football in the park

Image:gauchomarks.com

To keep the fun going, bring along board games, softballs, a football or a frisbee. You can also check for playgrounds, basketball courts and ATV trails during your state park location research.

You and your guests can also go on a hike to tour the state park you are visiting, and watch the sunset if you are planning to stay the entire day.

Suggested Gear:

  • Sun Screen
  • Shades
  • Hat
  • Bug Repellent

Check out these accessories at our Pocket Ranger® Gear Store and search for much more items that can be used during your outdoor adventure.

Celebrate Earth Day at the State Parks!

Earth Day 2015 leaves poster [Image: kvbb945.com/tag/earth-day-2015 ]

Image: kvbb945.com/tag/earth-day-2015

Celebrate Earth Day at state parks across the country and join thousands of people who are getting outdoors and making a difference on April 22nd! First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day is a perfect opportunity to learn more about environmental issues and how you can help. Here are a few ways you can participate this Earth Day:

Take a Hike!

Hikers on a trail in Wisconsin [Image: www.travelwisconsin.com]

Image: www.travelwisconsin.com

Unearth your hiking boots, thick socks, and walking stick and hit the trails on Earth Day! Cumberland State Park in Tennessee is hosting a 3-mile, Earth Day hike on the Pioneer Trail along upper Byrd Creek. See fascinating geological features, smell the wildflowers, cross a swinging bridge, and pass through the trail’s “fat man’s squeeze.” The Earth Day hike in Pomme de Terre State Park, Missouri will strike out on the Cedar Bluff Trail in the Hermitage area of the park. During the hike, park rangers will help you identify local wildlife and wildflowers. All of Washington’s state parks are free admission for Earth Day. Take advantage of this special opportunity by joining other outdoor enthusiasts on the Wildflower Walk at Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center. This 3/4-mile walk along a wetland trail is a great way to learn more about native wildflower species.

If you’d rather celebrate on the water, head to Crooked River State Park in Georgia for an Earth Day River Paddle at High Tide. Paddle your way through a maze of marsh grass before the course opens into gorgeous scenic views of the park.

Volunteer!

Volunteers help with trail maintenance [Image: news.outdoors.org/2013/07/enjoy-outdoors-learn-new-skills-give.html]

Image: news.outdoors.org/2013/07/enjoy-outdoors-learn-new-skills-give.html

After a long, hard winter, there’s so much to do at the state parks to get them ready for the summer season. How can you help? It’s easy! Just give back to your favorite outdoor space by volunteering your time on Earth Day!

Wisconsin state parks are holding a series of volunteer days with their month-long Work*Play*Earth Day events. On any of these designated days, lend a hand at the parks by helping with repairs, trailwork, gardening, and painting. Refreshments and gifts of appreciation will be provided by Friends of Wisconsin State Parks. Of course, these volunteer days are also about fun! Once you’ve completed a volunteer project, join the park staff on a hike, bike ride or by touring a nature center.

Black Moshannon State Park in Pennsylvania also has Earth Day projects for volunteers. These projects include trail maintenance, litter pickup, leaf removal, and native plant gardening. As an added incentive, Earth Day volunteers can camp for free at the state park’s campground!

The Earth Day Hike & Volunteer Project at Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park in Tennessee is the best of both worlds. Help park staff complete small projects before taking a leisurely hike through the park’s beautiful meadow trails.

Bring the Kids!

Participants at Earth Day Celebration at Liberty State Park, NJ [Image: photos.nj.com/jersey-journal/2012/04/hudson_county_earth_day_at_lib_6.html]

View the NYC skyline while celebrating Earth Day at Liberty State Park! [Image: photos.nj.com/jersey-journal/2012/04/hudson_county_earth_day_at_lib_6.html]

There are plenty of family-friendly Earth Day events happening at parks across the country. At Liberty State Park in New Jersey, the annual Earth Day Celebration will have free arts & crafts activities and giveaways for kids. There will be kite-flying, live music and entertainers, and also fun inflatable rides. At the celebration’s 5K Run and 5K Walk, participants will receive a free t-shirt and also have the chance to win trophies and medals. While you’re at the park, don’t forget to take a moment to enjoy the picturesque view of the New York City skyline!

There will be a full day of family fun at the Earth Day Celebration at Bear Mountain State Park in New York. Student Conservation Association’s Hudson Valley Corps and Trailside Museums and Zoo have a stellar line-up of activities aimed at fostering environmental awareness. These activities will be happening at stations along the trails, rain or shine.

Let your friends, family or the whole world know about your Earth Day adventures and achievements by sharing your waypoints on any of our free Pocket Ranger® apps! With just the click of a button, easily share your marked waypoints with others through Facebook, Twitter and email. 

Everyday Can Be A Walk in the Park in the Enchanted Mountains of Western New York!

When you think of Spring, you might imagine yourself thawing out, getting back outdoors for a hike, or hopping on the motorcycle and riding anywhere! Springtime is here in Cattaraugus County, otherwise known as the Enchanted Mountains! For some, this is their favorite time of year, with new growth all around, warmer days and the opening of all the amazing parks. Cattaraugus County is home to Allegany State Park, open year round, but there’s also have Griffis Sculpture Park, Rock City Park, Sky High Adventure Park and the Onoville Marina, all of which begin to welcome visitors at the start of May.

Red House Lake in Alleghany State Park [Image Credit: NY Cattaraugus County]

Red House Lake in Alleghany State Park [Image Credit: NY Cattaraugus County]

There’s no better place to see the birds soar, watch the flowers bloom and get outdoors than Allegany State Park. One of the joys of warmer weather is camping. Gather around the campfire to hear the noises of the night while you “unplug” with your family. This park has much to boast about being the largest NY state park and offering a 24-mile trail system for mountain biking, two lakes, miles for hiking (including the North Country Trail), and just about any other outdoor activity you can think of. You can get those muscles moving again at their numerous events in May, starting with the Allegany Adventure Run on the 2nd. Geocachers set your coordinates to this park on the 16th and 17th of May for the annual Geobash. Now in its’ 10th year, an array of activities are planned including night caches, games, educational seminars and a free pancake breakfast. Later in the month, the fun doesn’t end with the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage. Held the last weekend in May, this is an outdoor learning experience where participants can enjoy programming on everything from bird banding to a folk concert.

Rock City Park [Image Credit: NY Cattaraugus County]

Rock City Park [Image Credit: NY Cattaraugus County]

Rock City Park will offer visitors a spectacular view from “Signal Rock,” where they can see all the new leaves forming on the trees. Discover 80 foot tall rocks that have been left over from the ice age. Hike the trail that leads under, around and sometimes through these magnificent rocks then check out the souvenir and rock shop or the Fluorescent Light Rock Room. They host their Mother’s Day Weekend Arts and Crafts Show on May 9th and 10th.

Griffis Sculpture Park [Image Credit: NY Cattaraugus County]

Griffis Sculpture Park [Image Credit: NY Cattaraugus County]

The grass is always greener at Griffis Sculpture Park, where nature combines with art. Hike along the trail to come upon over 250 enormous sculptures. Adults like the park because it has beauty like no other, while children like the park because you can climb on some of the sculptures! Fun to visit in any season, visitors will enjoy feeling the sun while resting beside a giant giraffe or by the ladies near the lake.

Warmer weather also means warmer water! Float your boat and soak up the sun along 91 miles of natural shoreline in the Reservoir, launching at Onoville Marina. Explore the trees while climbing through them and racing down the ziplines at Holiday Valley’s Sky High Adventure Park. Don’t forget the golf clubs when you go as Holiday Valley also has a redesigned 18 hole par 70 “Double Black Diamond” golf course that is challenging and well maintained, with breathtaking scenery from every hole.

Onoville Marina [Image Credit: NY Cattaraugus County]

Onoville Marina [Image Credit: NY Cattaraugus County]

Live to ride? Then you have been waiting all winter to get your motorcycle or horse out for some fun! Keep a heads up for two motorcycle events in our area. First, join the rest of the gang at Gowanda Harley-Davidson on Memorial Day for their Ride to Remember. Honor and respect those who served and the reason behind the day. Then let loose at the Hollywood Happening, one of the area’s largest motorcycle events. Three days of live bands, contests, vendors and rides to benefit the ongoing restoration efforts of the Hollywood Theater the last weekend of May!

No horsing around, the Enchanted Mountains is a great place for bridle trails. Looking for horse related events and get-togethers? Keep EnchantedMountains.com/Horse on your favorites list then. Our local stables, clubs, and arenas are committed to sharing their passion for all things equestrian with experienced or beginner riders. Let the Crosspatch take you on a guided trail ride with your own horse or one of theirs. Nothing quite compares to seeing the countryside on horseback.

So get into the swing of Spring by making a trip to the Enchanted Mountains of Western New York. For free information on any of these activities or events or to request free guides, call 1-800-331-0543 or visit EnchantedMountains.com.

Hiking at Palm Bluff Conservation Area

Contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior

Smack in between Downtown Orlando, FL and New Smyrna Beach, FL is a tiny town called Osteen. Just north of Osteen is a conservation area, known as Palm Bluff Conservation Area.

Sign for Palm Bluff Conservation Area [Image Credit: Justin Fricke]

Image Credit: Justin Fricke

After turning onto the marked driveway, hikers will drive about 1,000 feet to the trailhead on the right hand side. Unlike Deep Creek Preserve, there’s no Port-o-John or covered pavilion, so hikers will have to use a tree for a bathroom and a patch of grass to sit, rest, and eat.

There are three loop trails that hikers have to choose from to enjoy on any given day. Hikers will start out on the white trail and within one tenth of a mile, there are signs directing campers to a designated campsite. Camping’s free, but campers should give the land manager a heads up that they’ll be staying there for the night. Day hikers should keep following the white-marked trail for a quick one-mile loop. The trails are wide and the views vary from dry sandy areas to wet and wooded areas covered with shade.

A loop trail that’s a bit longer is the yellow loop. In order to get to the yellow loop, hikers should follow the white-marked trail to the red-marked trail. Hike along the red marked trail for 1.8 miles. There’s an obvious red double blaze tree, but the next red blazes are a little hard to find. Bear to the left a little and hikers will come across a cattle gate with a red blaze, open the gate and keep following the trail. The total length of the yellow loop is 2.1 miles.

The longest loop trail at Palm Bluff Conservation Area is the red loop. It’s 6.1 miles and has some interesting features. Right before the juncture with the yellow loop, hikers will come across an old abandoned house. It’s really cool to check out, just watch out for some rodents and reptiles. I’m pretty sure it used to be home to cattle ranchers from the late 1800’s to the middle 1900’s. There’s also a neat little river crossing that’s easy when there hasn’t been much rain, but I can see how other hikers would have some issues if they’re out there after a lot of rainfall.

All the trails at Palm Bluff Conservation Area are very wide and hikers should be aware that the trails are also shared with horseback riders. There’s not much elevation gain, so it’s a great area for novice hikers and a great place to log some serious miles for trail runners.

Coordinates: 28.890692, -81.140986
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Hiking Fees: Free

Say “I Do” to a Wedding at the State Parks!

Maudslay State Park [www.aestelzerphotoblog.com/do-it-yourself-forest-wedding]

Maudslay State Park [www.aestelzerphotoblog.com/do-it-yourself-forest-wedding]

Celebrate your love for the outdoors by having your wedding at a state park! We are not lying when we say there are hundreds of breathtaking wedding venues offered at state parks across the country. In addition to getting incredible views and unbeatable wilderness ambiance, holding your wedding at a state park may be the best way to keep your budget in check. Below is just a taste of the kind of unique venues you can reserve.

Oceanside Wedding

If sandy beaches and open ocean are must-haves for your wedding day, here a few venues from both coasts that we think will fit the bill.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Park [Image: fildakonecphotography.com]

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Park [Image: fildakonecphotography.com]

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Park, Florida

Arguably Key West’s best beach, Fort Zachary Taylor is the place for couples looking for a tropical wedding. Hold your wedding on the beach at sundown for the most epic sunset photos.

Cape Disappointment State Park, Washington

Looking for lighthouses? Cape Disappointment State Park has two! If you have a small wedding party, hold your ceremony in the lantern room at the top of the park’s North Head Lighthouse. In addition to lighthouses, this park has an ocean-facing beach, which also makes for a spectacular ceremony location.

Big Sur Wedding [Image: vagabond3.com/woohoo-were-getting-hitched]

Big Sur Wedding [Image: vagabond3.com/woohoo-were-getting-hitched]

Big Sur Wedding, California

For a show-stopping scenic vista, go big with a wedding at Big Sur. Choose from one of the three Big Sur state parks (Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and Andrew Molera State Park), and contact California State Parks weddings/special events coordinator at 831-525-5060 for more information.

Odiorne State Park, New Hampshire

With immense views of the Atlantic Ocean, Odiorne State Park is the perfect place for a warm-weather wedding. Hold your ceremony outdoors by the water, and then mosey across the lawn to a reception under the park’s large, sleek tent. During cocktail hour, your guests can pop into Odiorne’s Science Center to check out aquariums of lobster and native fish. There’s even a touch tank with starfish! This is a popular wedding location, so reserve early.

Woodsy Wedding

Custer State Park [Image: www.tomkphoto.com/kristi-troy-custer-state-park-wedding]

Custer State Park [Image: www.tomkphoto.com/kristi-troy-custer-state-park-wedding]

These wilderness venues have plenty of rustic chic ambiance plus great hiking trails. Don’t forget those hiking boots!

Custer State Park, North Dakota

One of the premiere destinations for wedding venues in the Black Hills, Custer State Park offers beautiful countryside and Sylvan Lake as a backdrop for your ceremony. Hold your nuptials outdoors and then bring the party indoors to the banquet hall at the park’s resort. If you’re lucky, maybe the park’s herd of wild buffalo will amble by, giving your wedding photos extra pizzazz.

Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Nebraska

Located just outside of Omaha, Mahoney State Park is the place for sweeping views of picturesque Platte River. With its many fireplaces and log-cabin atmosphere, board your wedding party at the Peter Kiewit Lodge or have guests stay over in the park’s lakeside cabins. Summer wedding? Cool off at the park’s Family Aquatic Center, which has pools and water slides. In the winter, the park is home to an exciting toboggan run, which may be the best way to warm up before taking the plunge into matrimony!

Maudslay State Park is perfect for woodsy- and garden-themed weddings, too! [Image: www.thewestchesterweddingplanner.com/fall-foliage-wedding]

Maudslay State Park is perfect for woodsy- and garden-themed weddings, too! [Image: www.thewestchesterweddingplanner.com/fall-foliage-wedding]

Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee

Waterfalls, bluffs, caves, forests, and lake: There are so many ceremony options at this park! Get married by Fall Creek Falls, a 256-foot waterfall or at the base of the 95-foot tall Piney Creek Falls. Or exchange vows at bluffs like Rocky Point Overlook, which has an exposed cliff that looks northward across the Cane Creek Gorge. Hold your reception at the Fall Creek Falls Inn, which offers panoramic views of Fall Creek Falls Lake. Staying the weekend? Tee off at the park’s 18-hole golf course! For information about planning your wedding at a state park in Tennessee, submit an Event Information Request Form or call Cassie Rapert (Group Sales Manager) at 615-920-3432.

Palmetto Island State Park, Louisiana

Palmetto Island State Park is perfect for those couples looking for a true southern Louisiana wedding. Located on the Vermillion River, the park’s beauty comes from its interior lagoons and coastal forestland that is abundant with palmettos. A great location for larger wedding parties, reserve the park’s visitor center to host your reception.

Garden Wedding

Holding your wedding at one of these state parks means you won’t need to fuss about floral arrangements. And don’t worry about elaborate décor! The historic estates found at these parks will give your wedding all romantic, vintage flair it needs.

Vaughan Woods State Park, Maine

Once the summer retreat for New England’s poets, writers, and artists, the historic Hamilton House and gardens at Vaughan Woods State Park are a fully-realized romantic vision. The estate and perennial gardens are found atop a hillock that overlooks the Salmon River. Different flowers bloom throughout the spring and summer. Vaughan Woods State Park is perfect for engagement photos, too!

Say “I do” at the picturesque Hamilton House & Gardens [Image: www.historicnewengland.org]

Say “I do” at the picturesque Hamilton House & Gardens in Maine. [Image: www.historicnewengland.org]

Ridley Creek State Park, Pennsylvania

If you’re looking for a grand entrance, look no further than Ridley Creek State Park’s magnificent Hunting Hill Mansion. Originally, a stone farmhouse built in the late 1700s, the Jeffords family modified the estate into an English Tudor-style mansion-house in 1914, adding a ballroom and grand staircase room. The grounds are just as stately as the stone façade mansion, including several formal gardens, horse stables, tennis yard and scenic overlook. We recommend getting hitched in the formal gardens and then kicking up your heels in the ballroom.

Saint Edward State Park, Washington

Once a Catholic seminary, the stately architecture and beautiful shoreline make Saint Edward State Park an immensely popular wedding venue. The Grotto is a charming garden alcove surrounded by woods, just the place for an intimate wedding ceremony. Hold your reception at the park’s Grand Dining Hall. This beautiful space has floor-to-ceiling arched windows, dance floor, and glass chandeliers, a perfect balance of elegance and function.

Eclectic Wedding

An outdoor wedding is one thing. An outdoor wedding with mermaids, that’s a whole other thing! Give your wedding that much more character by having it at one of these three parks.

Mermaids at a wedding [Image: marrymetampabay.com]

Image: marrymetampabay.com

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Florida

Complete your tropical wedding with a few special guests: the world famous Weeki Wachee mermaids! For more than 60 years, the mermaid show has enchanted thousands of visitors to the park. Exchange vows at the Mermaid Theater, which dips 16 feet below the surface of the park’s legendary spring. Occasionally, native wildlife, such as turtles, fish, manatees, otters, and every now and then an alligator swim alongside the mermaids in the spring!

Bannack State Park, Montana

Dreaming of a gold rush wedding? The Old West lives on at Bannack State Park, the site of Montana’s first major gold discovery in 1862. This historical landmark includes 50 well-preserved buildings that line Main Street of the ghost town. At different times of the year, the park hosts historical re-enactments. In stark relief next to Montana’s open countryside, this ghost town makes for some stunner wedding photography.

Get hitched in Bannack State Park’s ghost town [Image: somethingblue22.blogspot.com]

Get hitched in a ghost town! [Image: somethingblue22.blogspot.com]

Maudslay State Park, Massachusetts

With its plethora of gardens, Maudslay State Park is an excellent late spring and summer venue. However, Maudslay’s haunted-look in the fall is perfect for couples planning a Halloween-themed wedding. In addition to the pet cemetery and remains of the estate’s original mansion, there are rumors that the park is haunted by a few spirits. Fall foliage combined with looming pines that line the paths of the once grand estate hit just the right gothic note in September and October. Hold your ceremony outdoors in the gardens and then move the party indoors to the park’s historic barn, which boasts high ceilings, large windows and rustic charm.

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