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Reader Participation Day: What Memorabilia Do You Take Home From A National Park Vacation?


Enter a gift shop in a national park and your senses are overwhelmed with memorabilia for sale that years down the road will, hopefully, remind you of your vacation. What do you look for?

There are hats to collect, T-shirts, and hiking stick medallions. Then, too, there are even scrapbook supplies, puzzles, guidebooks, field journals, coffee cups, and framed photographs by photographers who, most often, are better shooters than we are. Some gift shops offer commemorative wool blankets, jewelry, and beer glasses.

Do any of these items interest you? Do you focus on one aspect of park memorabilia -- hats or the hiking stick medallions, perhaps -- to track your national park visits?


I collect the lapel pins, stick 'em on a bulletin board in my living room to track my progress. At an average cost of $4 each, that's about $600 on a bulletin board!!

I also try to find local art on my trips. Sometimes NPS gift shops will sell works of local artisans, other times I'll go to nearby towns or art shows to see what folks are making. This is a better choice than some commemorative teaspoon: most of that junk is made in China, at least locally made artworks support an American artist, helps the local economy, and gives you something actually unique & interesting to put on your mantle.

I have pins as well for my hiking hat and as an avid reader I HAVE to come home with a book! I enjoy history and biographies so anything about the local history of where we are holds my interest (Jim Bridger's biography, Missing in the Minarets,: the Search for Walter A. Starr Jr, etc). Christmas ornaments from our vacations have their very own Christmas tree in December so those are a must as well!

Similar to Connie, I look for an ornament if available. However, we don't have a separate Christmas tree - just a main one with all our travels / memories, which makes for a fun annual review. Other than that, I go for the photo magnets - we have quite a collage of beautiful shots stuck to our refrigerator!

I collect the iron-on patches that most national parks sell. At first, I was putting them on a wall in our RV. Now, I have so many, I put them in a scrap book. One day, maybe I'll have a quilt made with them all.

Pottery shards, sticks, rocks, pine cones, the odd critter for a new pet, fossils, wildflowers, saplings, a thermos full of geyser water..... KIDDING

My family collects posters when we can find cool ones, passport stamps, lots of photos, and memories.

I also collect the embroidered patches as anon said above. I try to have one for every place we go. Other than that it's books. If there's a book that highlights the natural history of the park I'm in, I'll buy it. I rarely leave a gift shop without a book in hand. You can usually find the same books cheaper at Amazon, but I consider that my extra donation to the NPS cause. The VC's and gift shops are usually staffed with such friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable people, I want them to keep getting paychecks.

T-shirts, hats. Also, at Shenandoah and Yellowstone, we've found these great little half-packs that hold about the amount of a wallet with room for an energy bar or two and have a water bottle holster. They're not as dorky as a traditional fanny pack, and they're great for a short hike. My 77-year-old mother said that half-pack was her favorite souvenir from a 4-state, 3-park trip. She wears it on her daily walks now, and people always ask her about her trip to Yellowstone when they see the logo on the pack.

I collect patches and pins, and on occasion, my wife collects mugs. We are avid hikers so we also always buy a local park hiking guide and stamp it instead of using the blue passport books.

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