Get your lucky charms ready, friends.
Like anyone else, we would love to win a multi-million dollar jackpot. Even a $10 scratch card win would be pretty awesome. Yet, there are some lotteries that are far more valuable and that mean so much more. Imagine winning a lottery that lets you see thousands of fireflies dance in unison, revel in dramatic panoramas from atop Half Dome, or rub elbows with politicos on the White House Lawn. Any and all are the stuff of like-worthy Instagram Stories. Grab your four-leaf clovers, rabbit’s feet, and lucky pennies. Here are ten lotteries you, too, may want to win.
Top Picks for You
White House Events
Unless you have political connections, the online lottery is the only way to get on the South Lawn of the White House on Easter Monday for the annual Easter Egg Roll. Since the late 1800s, children have been rolling pastel-colored eggs at the White House. Back then, you could just show up, but today you’ve got to have the luck of the Easter Bunny. A few weeks before Easter, the online ticket lottery opens up at Recreation.gov. Similarly, you’ll also need to win an online lottery to attend the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Select Running Races
We know it’s crazy to think that you’ve got to enter and win a lottery to run a half marathon or marathon. Yet, more than a few runners put their name in a hat in hopes of running popular races, like the New York City Marathon and Marine Corps Marathon. However, these races aren’t entirely no win, no run. There is typically a second chance if you really want to get up early for a long-distance run. Some top races have a guaranteed entry option with a charity fundraising component. Typically, the ask is a $500 to $1,000 donation per runner.
Some highly-coveted wedding venues, like the Rose Garden at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, award usage of the location by random lottery if more than one application is received for the same date. The Rose Garden is among the most famous spots in the park, particularly from mid-May to July when the fragrant roses are in peak bloom. You’ll also need to win a once-yearly lottery to hold your wedding at one of more than 200 parks, gardens, and natural areas in Portland, Oregon.
Every year, whimsical fireflies dance and dazzle, flashing their lights synchronously during mating season in May and June. These synchronous fireflies, called Photinus carolinus, draw visitors from far and wide to see this naturally-occurring glow show. The fireflies light up the night at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near the Elkmont Campground in Tennessee, and Congaree National Park in South Carolina. There’s not room for everyone, so both have online lotteries that open in early- to mid-spring to distribute vehicle permits.
Bucket List Day Hikes
Not everyone can hike Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park in Utah or Half Dome at Yosemite National Park in California. The same goes for The Wave, a colorful, undulating sandstone rock formation in Arizona. This isn’t due to physical limitations but due to limitations placed on daily visitors. Given the sheer popularity of these day hikes, hiking permits are required to manage the crowds and take care of the terrain. All require lottery wins, which may take place months in advance. You’ll want to get your ducks in a row early, well before the hiking season even begins.
That’s right, you want to sleep on the ground, and you need to win a lottery to do so. Not even just a reservation. To manage demand, some highly sought-after campgrounds have adopted lottery systems. In early 2022, North Pines Campground at Yosemite National Park piloted a lottery system to make the campsite booking experience more equitable to everyone. Meantime, New Hampshire State Parks awards campsites at two of their most popular state parks, Hampton Beach State Park and Jericho Mountain State Park, by way of a random drawing lottery.
Certain fishing creeks, streams, lakes, and ponds are especially prized among anglers. So coveted are they that you can only drop in a fishing line if you’ve won a special permit lottery. One such body of water is Cold Creek in Erie County, Ohio. Fishing for trout in a half-mile section requires a win in the annual trout fishing lottery. This one’s competitive, too. More than 4,500 adults entered, and just 96 permits were awarded. Also, Pu’u Lua Reservoir in Hawaii. Cross your fingers for a lottery win to nab a four-hour session to fish for rainbow trout.
Experienced paddlers, like rafting guides, eager to raft the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon must win the permit lottery for this once-in-a-lifetime paddling experience along world-class rapids. Many rivers out west use random lotteries to manage flow and traffic on sought-after waterways. Another popular lottery is the Four Rivers Lottery, which awards whitewater rafting permits to individual paddlers for the Selway River, Hells Canyon-Snake River, Wild Salmon River, and Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
Select Backcountry Backpacking Routes
You can’t just fill your pack and set off to hike Mount Whitney in California. The same goes for the Enchantments, a majestic landscape with dramatic peaks and striking alpine lakes in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. You’ll need to win a permit lottery in order to soak up the gram-worthy views you’ll see on these backcountry routes. It’s a touch less involved to backpack the 93-mile Wonderland Trail at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington. However, an optional early access lottery is available if you want to access the route during peak dates.
Some scenic drives, like the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road at Glacier National Park in Montana, require a coveted timed-entry permit. The same is true for Bear Lake Road at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. This 10-mile road boasts some of the park’s most scenic views and leads to alpine lakes like Bear Lake and Nymph Lake. A drive on the 92-mile Denali Road at Denali National Park in Alaska requires a win in the annual Denali Road Lottery for a chance to drive the road during a four-day event in September called the “Road Lottery.” A landslide has temporarily halted this lottery, but it should be back.