Meet the Unofficial LEGO National Parks Collection

Scenes from Yellowstone, the Everglades, and more.

national parks lego vignettes instagram
Design by Maitane Romagosa
Design by Maitane Romagosa

The recipe for the perfect hobby is pretty straightforward. Combine a few of your truest passions into one simple activity, and you'll have created yourself a relaxing, fulfilling, and personalized cocoon where you just feel good. It isn't a heavy lift, and it isn't annoying to keep going. If your hobby is a match for you, you'll just keep at it.

One National Park Service employee—who wishes to stay anonymous—seems to have found his true hobby calling. Combine a deep interest and care for our national parks and a passion for LEGO, and voila—you'll find NPS LEGO Vignettes (@legoparkranger), a social media micro-sensation with more than 80,000 combined followers between Instagram and Facebook.

A quick scroll through the Lego Park Ranger profile will show you what it's all about. It's a series of delightful vignettes, created with LEGO, depicting anything that is managed by the National Park Service. You can find national parks themselves, or even holiday celebrations and events, and there's even recreations of national monuments and historic landmarks. And usually, they're pretty funny too—and between the little jokes and witty takes, they provide the public with important NPS information and safety tips.

Originally, it all started in 2015 when the NPS employee and his wife—who "took the original photos for [him] when [he] needed them to look pretty," he told Thrillist in a recent interview—submitted a proposal for a LEGO National Parks set via Lego Ideas. Even though the couple managed to rack up the required 10,000 supporters needed for official LEGO consideration, the toy company didn't end up actually choosing the set for production.

They had roughly 5,000 fans when LEGO turned down the project. Somehow, this didn't stop our national parks superfan—and he and his wife just kept going. "We decided these silly LEGO posts celebrating the National Parks [were] something people liked, so we might as well keep going," he said. "It became different during Covid. As things went really dark all around us, we wanted to have even the slightest distraction from the melancholy. So we started posting every day and inexplicably haven't stopped."

Now, those initial 5,000 followers have multiplied. On Instagram, the profile flaunts almost 19,000 followers, while the Facebook community has reached more than 64,000 fans. So the project keeps going, and the admin posts a different vignette almost every day.

One of the creator's favorite creations is a scene of Longfellow House-Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site, where Longfellow is portrayed as a werewolf. But if you ask the creator himself, there are a lot of vignettes that make the couple laugh. According to him, one of the most popular ones is always the (recently semi-viral) vignette showing a park visitor attempting to cook a turkey in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park (something that has actually happened, albeit with a chicken). Finally, he said one scene depicting Alice Roosevelt smoking on the roof of the White House got them some good laughs.

"And you never know what weird history you might find on the internet," he adds. "One in particular was great about Roger Williams' body being eaten by a tree. It is a ridiculously great true story that also gave us the opportunity to use the Groot minifigure from Guardians of the Galaxy, which is a bonus."

While LEGO said no the first time, it's always possible the company could give the proposal another chance, particularly at a time when national parks merch is trending. The pair is now debating about making another Lego Ideas run, and with the support of an extra few thousands of followers, the hike toward success might be a little easier.

Ideally, if the second submission worked out the way the couple wanted it to, LEGO would agree to make a collection of three to five builds, featuring a mix of big iconic parks and smaller historic sites. "It was exhausting the first time, and really taught us just how many 10,000 is as we watched supporters trickle in a few a day," the NPS employee said. "That said, we have A LOT more fans these days, so maybe 10,000 supporters wouldn't be too difficult to inspire."

It is unclear whether or not LEGO is aware of the project, or if an official National Parks LEGO collection could be in the pipeline. Thrillist reached out to LEGO for comment on the matter but did not hear back by publication time.

In the meantime, we asked the creator to roundup his favorite vignettes of all time. You can find them below:

Cooking a turkey in Yellowstone. | Photo courtesy of NPS LEGO Vignettes
Roger Williams eaten by a tree. | Photo courtesy of NPS LEGO Vignettes
A homage to "The Shining" | Photo courtesy of NPS LEGO Vignettes
The Stonewall riot | Photo courtesy of NPS LEGO Vignettes
A Monty Python reference | Photo courtesy of NPS LEGO Vignettes
Celebrating Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the Everglades | Photo courtesy of NPS LEGO Vignettes

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Serena Tara is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. She will beg you not to put pineapple on pizza. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.