- North Carolina
No matter how old we are, we never outgrow the desire to collect souvenirs from our travels.
While we have the ability to take and share photos instantly, nothing reminds us of the places we’ve been and the good times we’ve had quite like a tangible trinket – the more interesting and uncommon, the better. You’ll find no shortage of distinct souvenirs in the U.S. National Parks' gift shops, from stuffed animals to collectible coins to games, including a U.S. National Park-themed Monopoly board. You’ll also find plenty of items unique to the parks, such as the four described below.
Bear Carvings from Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which lies along the North Carolina-Tennessee border, is home to roughly 1,500 black bears. The animals can often be spotted lumbering across hiking trails and resting in tree branches. If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of one – they are adorable, but keep your distance! Whether or not you spy one in the park, you can make sure you see one ever day afterward by picking up a hand-carved wooden bear statue at one of the regional gift shops. The carvings vary from lifelike to comical, large to small, so you can find a bear that best suits your home.
Wood shavings from a bear carving in progress
Sequoia Seeds from Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park in California – less than 300 kilometers east of San Francisco – wows with its monumental features, from towering cliffs to plummeting waterfalls to sequoia trees so tall you can’t see the tops. The 500 or so giant sequoia trees that rise from the park’s Mariposa Grove have been reaching for the sky for 3,000 years or so, but they all had much more modest beginnings. You can nurture your own sequoia sapling with a grow-a-tree kit from the park’s gift shops. The kits come with everything you need to grow your own sequoia, including seeds and a miniature greenhouse. All you need to do is plant the seeds and ensure they have plenty of sunlight and water.
Sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park are thousands of years old
Turquoise from Grand Canyon National Park
Pop into any souvenir store in Arizona and you’re bound to find the state’s official gemstone: turquoise. The blue gemstone, mined in several places across the state, is a staple accent in cowboy hats, belt buckles and jewelry sold in the region. For a unique keepsake, pay a visit to the Havasupai and Hualapai Indian reservations, just west of Grand Canyon National Park. Tribal members set up makeshift markets selling a wide variety of necklaces, earrings, bracelets and other accessories that feature the brilliant blue stone. Once you’ve found your perfect souvenir, experience the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that extends out over the canyon’s ledge.
Traditional turquoise jewelry handmade by Native American artists
Pueblo Pottery from Mesa Verde National Park
While many of the U.S. National Parks strive to protect the USA’s natural wonders, Mesa Verde National Park in the southwest corner of Colorado (about 400 kilometers northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico) preserves a fascinating slice of human history. The park encompasses nearly 5,000 archaeological sites where ruins of the ancestral Pueblo people have been discovered. This native civilization occupied the area from 600 to 1300, leaving behind an impressive array of structures, including 600 cliff dwellings, artifacts, artwork and pottery. You can even take a piece of the history home with you. Recreations of the original artifacts are available in the gift shop, and they make beautiful home accents.
Colorful examples of Native American Pueblo pottery