If there is one perfect time to visit the Eastern United States, it has to be autumn, when temperatures start creeping back down from the oppressive summer heat and the leaves start turning that rust color we have come to associate with the return of pumpkin spice lattes.
Despite its beauty, the Eastern part of the country doesn’t have as many national parks as other regions. But, the region is home to an abundance of historical sites operated by the National Park Service.
If you’ve been collecting points in a hotel loyalty program, you can explore these parks and historic sites alike for next to nothing.
Here’s a roundup of a few of the best National Park Service sites in the region, along with nearby hotels where you can redeem points. A lot of these properties are very close to the parks — a huge plus compared with other regions where the nearest hotel to a national park could be an hour or more away. But here, you’re sometimes just a short drive or even a leisurely walk from your hotel to some of the most beautiful outdoor experiences the U.S. has to offer.
Acadia National Park
Discover the natural wonders that attracted Vanderbilts, Rockefellers and Carnegies over a century ago on this small but stunning island off the coast of Maine. With over 150 miles of hiking trails, you’re sure to get your fill of New England’s fresh air on your visit. This small park is a popular spot to see fall’s changing colors, so you will need a reservation to drive your vehicle into busy parts of the park during certain parts of the year.
Holiday Inn Resort Bar Harbor – Acadia National Park, Maine
Located on the same island as Acadia National Park, this Holiday Inn Resort boasts a hands-down best location. You’ll also get free parking, but there’s no free breakfast. As part of the Kids Stay and Eat Free promotion, kids 19 and under don’t incur any extra charges when sharing the room with their parents, and kids 12 and under do not pay for meals. There is an outdoor pool to enjoy during warm months.
You will need 27,500 IHG points per night to stay at this hotel.
Hyatt Place Portland – Old Port, Maine
This Hyatt Place in the Old Port area of Portland is superbly located in the most interesting part of town. You’ll get free breakfast at this pet-friendly property. But because it’s centrally located, parking will cost you $25 a day. There is an indoor pool, and the balcony suites have some of the best views in town.
Hyatt prices this hotel at 15,000 World of Hyatt points per night.
Courtyard Bangor, Maine
About an hour from Acadia National Park, this Courtyard in Bangor offers guests complimentary parking. There is an indoor pool in the hotel. You will need to leave your pooch behind as this is not a pet-friendly property.
Marriott Bonvoy members will pay between 20,000 and 30,000 points per night to stay at this Category 4 property.
Hampton Inn Ellsworth/Bar Harbor, Maine
This Hampton Inn is in the small town of Ellsworth, so don’t expect to find a ton of dining options nearby. But you'll be just 15 miles from the park. Besides, you’ll enjoy a free hot breakfast at the hotel. Parking is complimentary and there’s an indoor pool, but this Hampton Inn is not pet friendly.
Searching some randomly selected dates turned up rooms for 21,000 Hilton Honors points per night, but check your dates as prices vary.
» Learn more: The complete guide to earning Hilton Honors points
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is on the smaller side, but it’s packed with unforgettable sights and experiences. Situated between Shenandoah Valley and Virginia Piedmont, Shenandoah Park is home to a seemingly never-ending wilderness area with sights like Stony Man and Hawksbill peaks, both exceeding 4,000 feet. Perhaps the best part of the park, the Skyline Drive winds 105 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering stunning views you can drink in at a leisurely pace.
Hyatt Place Charlottesville, Virginia
About 50 minutes from the park, this Hyatt Place in Charlottesville offers free breakfast and complimentary parking. The indoor pool and gym at this pet-friendly property are closed temporarily, but check back for reopening dates.
World of Hyatt members pay 8,000 points per night at this hotel.
Courtyard Charlottesville, Virginia
This somewhat modern Courtyard in Charlottesville has spacious rooms and great outdoor spaces. Complimentary parking is offered, but this is not a pet friendly hotel.
As a Category 3 Marriott Bonvoy hotel, the nightly rate ranges from 15,000 to 20,000 points.
Homewood Suites by Hilton Charlottesville, Virginia
Homewood Suites are characterized by spacious rooms perfect for families. Free hot breakfast and parking make it an even more enticing option. The hotel has an indoor pool and is pet friendly.
A recent search yielded a rate of 32,000 points per night, but double-check the specific cost for your dates as Hilton Honors rates vary.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Charlottesville – Ruckersville, Virginia
Located in Ruckersville — not Charlottesville — this Holiday Inn Express has a bit more room to spread out. You’ll get free breakfast as well as free parking. There is an outdoor pool for the warmer months. Unfortunately, no pets are allowed at this hotel.
The nightly rate is 17,500 points out of your IHG account.
» Learn more: Your guide to booking award nights with IHG Hotels
Though not a national park, Niagara Falls is a jewel of the Northeast, attracting visitors from all over the world. The oldest state park in the United States, New York’s Niagara Falls is the place to marvel at more than 3,000 tons of water flowing over the falls every second. It encompasses more than 400 acres where more than 600 different plant species grow.
Hyatt Place Niagara Falls, New York
From your home base at this Hyatt Place, you can walk to Niagara Falls’ viewing area in just five minutes. This modern hotel offers free breakfast, is pet friendly and has an indoor pool. Parking can range from $15 to $50 per night, depending on the season.
A night here costs 12,000 World of Hyatt points.
» Learn More: World of Hyatt: The complete guide
Courtyard Niagara Falls, New York
Walk to the park from this stylish Hyatt Place with free Wi-Fi and an indoor pool. There’s no free breakfast here, and parking costs $10 per day. Also, this hotel is not pet friendly.
Each night here will cost between 30,000 and 40,000 Bonvoy points.
DoubleTree by Hilton Niagara Falls, New York
Just a few blocks from Niagara Falls, this DoubleTree offers views of the Niagara River from many of its rooms. You won’t get free breakfast, but you will enjoy DoubleTree’s famous fresh baked cookie at check-in. Self parking is $15 and this hotel is not pet friendly.
You might find rooms at around 28,000 Hilton Honors points per night, but check your dates for exact rates.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Niagara Falls, New York
Though it’s about a 12-minute drive to Niagara Falls, the affordability and amenities of this Holiday Inn Express make it a good option. You get grab-and-go breakfast for free, and self-parking is free, too. This pet-friendly hotel also has an indoor pool.
It costs 12,500 IHG points per night to stay at this hotel.
Don’t miss great stops along the way
When planning a visit to America’s parks, scout the surrounding areas for other points of interest you may want to see. Heading to Shenandoah National Park? Consider a stop at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s former estate and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You may also want to check out Luray Caverns, the largest in the eastern United States, where you can walk through its many chambers and admire the geological formations.
On your way to Acadia National Park, visit Bangor, Maine, where you can drive past author Stephen King’s house on your way to grabbing a lobster roll for lunch, with time left to take in the beautiful scenery from the Maine Coastal Islands National Refuge.
History buffs should consider visiting Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Center and the Old Fort Niagara before capping off the day with a stop at one of dozens of wineries around Niagara Falls State Park.
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