AARP Research

AARP Travel Research: National Parks

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Most adults have visited a National Park in their lifetime. Baby Boomers have had the most experience, having visited an average of 14 Parks.

Overall Findings

  • 70% of those 18+ have visited a National Park in their lifetime.

  • 71% of visitors first experienced a park when they were a child, before the age of 18.  The perceived ideal age for children to visit a National Park is between 7 and 17 years of age.

  • Baby Boomers have had the most experience visiting National Parks, seeing an average of 14 parks compared to 7 for GenXers and 5 for Millennials.

  • Visiting National Parks is more about seeing a natural wonder, relaxing and getting some fresh air, more so than making a conscious effort to create memories for children.

  • The Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Yellowstone are the parks visited the most, but also popular are the monuments and memorials found in Washington, DC.

  • National Park trips are typically taken during Summer Vacation (39%).

  • The average National Park trip is approximately 3 days long, however, the top change they would make to their trip, if any, would be to stay longer.

  • 61% of the U.S. Pop, 18+, plan on visiting a National Park in the next two years.

  • National Parks are most often described as Breathtaking (19%), Beautiful (16%), Scenic (15%), or Majestic (13%).

Generational Differences

  • The incidence of National Park visitation varies significantly by generation.

    • 66% of Millennials
    • 65% of GenXers
    • 75% of Baby Boomers
  • But is it because of time/opportunity or lifestyle/preferences?  The data would suggest that it might be a little bit about both.

    • Baby Boomers have had more time to go to more parks
    • Baby Boomers report higher satisfaction on National Park trips
    • Baby Boomers are more likely to recommend such a trip to others
  • Among those who have visited a National Park, Millennials (81%) are more likely than Baby Boomers (69%) to have first visited a park when they were a child (<18 yr. old).

  • That said, Millennials are least likely to have taken children on such trips (19%) compared to GenXers (54%) and Baby Boomers (77%); but again, age and time are likely the impetus here as Baby Boomers have the most time/opportunity to go with children and grandchildren.

  • Types of National Parks visited vary slightly by generation; Baby Boomers take in more parks with long scenic drives as part of the trip, GenXers focus on parks suitable for the whole family, while Millennials appear to be more engaged with parks and sites with US history than the older generations.

  • Baby Boomers (90%) and GenXers (89%) report higher levels of satisfaction with their most recent National Park trip compared to Millennials (84%).  That said, the majority of recent visitors (83%), regardless of age, are planning to visit another park in the next 2 years.

A 13-minute online survey was conducted among males and females age 18-plus who have taken at least one leisure trip in the past two years.  The survey was fielded in December 2015 - January 2016.  Final data have been weighted to the U.S. Census for analysis.  For more information contact Vicki Gelfeld at VGelfeld@aarp.org.

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