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100+ Places to Park Free in the U.S.

The National Park Service Free Entrance days are back. Free entrance to over 100 National Parks and Historical Landmarks. See detailed coverage in Free U.S. Parking in September 2011.

Vernal Falls, Yosemite Park, California

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend in January has passed. However, opportunities remain to check out one of our national treasures in 2012:

  • April 21-29                     National Park Week

  • June 9                            Get Outdoors Day

  • September 29               National Public Lands Day

  • November 10-12           Veterans Day weekend

The fee-free entrance includes:

  • entrance fees; 

  • commercial tour fees; 

  • and transportation entrance fees. 

Other fees, such as camping, tours, concession , etc, are not included.

Although these will be great outings for couples and families, singles (as a group or solo) will have an awesome experience, too. For me, simply taking in some of the majestic views that ease stress away makes a trip worthwhile.

Sawmill Geyser in Yellowstone National Park

In addition to beauty, you’ll find lots of magnificent flora, birds and geological treasures.  Oh, and wildlife. Probably no tigers, but lots of bears. Don’t worry, the parks with a bear population will give you safety precautions and tactics should you meet one.  Most parks also offer loads of walking trails, which give new meaning to walking in majesty. Or, take a driving tour. The rangers in the parks also lead programs specific to each park. The kids get educated without even realizing!

Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone Nat'l Park

You can also enjoy biking, fishing, lunch in the great outdoors; as well as a multitude of exhibits and films. In the National Landmarks, you’ll relive history.

The Vanderbilt Mansion in New York provides a “complete example of a gilded-age country place, illustrating the political, economic, social, cultural, and demographic changes that occurred as America industrialized in the years after the Civil War.”

Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site
Photo – National Park Service

Gardens at the Vanderbilt Mansion. Located at ...

Gardens at the Vanderbilt Mansion. Located at the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, 4097 Albany Post Road, in Hyde Park, New York. Designed for Frederick W. Vanderbilt (1856–1938) by McKim, Mead & White in the Beaux-Arts style, and built between 1896–1899. Historic house museum and gardens maintained by the U.S. National Park Service. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The National Park Service’s (NPS) list of free entrance sites includes several National Historic sites.  These include ones within the parks, like The Yellowstone Fort; in addition to stand-alone monuments (i.e. the Vanderbilt Mansion).

 The NPS also provides a listing of the National Historic Landmarks such as the Jekyll Island Historic District in Georgia, Valley Forge in Pennsylvania or the F. Scott Fitzgerald House in Minnesota. This listing also includes landmarks in U.S. territories (i.e. American Samoa.

Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, designated thirteen (13) new historical landmarks this past March. Landmarks such as the Carrizo Plain Archeological District in San Luis Obispo County, California. It’s described as representing “a unique concentration of pre-contact sites, art, and artifacts, the outstanding significance of which has been recognized for almost a century by anthropologists, archeologists, artists, and novelists.”

As you can tell, the NPS offers much to do, see and experience. You’ll find reasonable fees outside of the fee-free days. too. The parks also offer packages and passes (i.e. seniors, lifetime, etc.).  And, like last year, you’ll find discounts and special offers from park partners and neighboring businesses. These come in handy for the amenities and services not covered in the fee-free deal. Services like camping, concessions, etc. 

For more details on activities the parks offer and fees, if any, see the 2011 article, Free U.S. Parking in September 2011.

Go here for a listing of the fee-free parks for 2012. Parks like Yosemite in California; The Petrified Forest in Arizona; the Everglades in Florida; Big Bend in Texas; Yellowstone in Idaho, Montana or Wyoming; the Vanderbilt Mansion in New York; Death Valley National Park in Nevada.

The fee-free days and other discounts apply, again, to over 100 parks in the National Park System.  41 states and 2 territories.  Is your area among them?  The list probably includes one you’ve wanted to visit.  And, there is probably one, or more, within driving distance from you.

Go out and enjoy these U.S. National Treasures when you can.  If you can’t go, at least visit the sites and enjoy the photos, podcast, videos and historical facts the NPS created for you – fee-free or otherwise at http://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm.

And, if you have 45 minutes, watch the film, THIS IS AMERICA, which gives the diverse history and stories of the National Park system. The film includes some gorgeous footage of various parks, too.  

Big Sur, California

Big Sur, California (Photo credit: CCC the_tahoe_guy)

©2012 DLewis

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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Economic, Tips, Uncategorized

 

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Free U.S. Parking in September 2011


Waterfall at Yosemite National Park, Photo by DanNg, NPS

You might have watched Oprah and Gayle’s great adventure in Yosemite National Park during Oprah’s last season. It looked beautiful and all the  394 National Parks offer some aspect of beauty. Entrance to all the parks are inexpensive and the system offers several fee-free days throughout the year.  The next free day happens in September when the National Park Service (NPS) waives the entrance fees at all the parks for Public Lands Day.

The entire schedule of fee-free days in 2011:

  • January 15-17
    (Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday weekend)
  • April 16-24
    (National Park Week)
  • June 21
    (First day of summer)
  • September 24
    (Public Lands Day)
  • November 11-13
    (Veterans Day weekend)

Visit NPS (http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm) for more details. However, visiting a National Park  is a bargain even with fees. For instance, entrance fees at Yosemite in California and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado run $20 per carload for non-tour visitors, while Casa Grande Ruins National Monument charges $5 per person.  These fees gain visitors entry for seven consecutive days. Different fees apply for commercial tours, students and senior citizens. Disabled guests and kids ages 15 and under get free admission.

Each park offers a park specific annual pass (~$40) and the America the Beautiful–National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass ($80).  These passes cover entrance and all standard amenity fees for the driver and all passengers in non-commercial vehicles for parks with a flat fee; and up to four adults for the parks that have a per person charge. Both are valid for one year. The latter pass provides access to the entire National Park Service properties and federal lands managed by five different government agencies. U.S. senior citizen, 62 years and older, pay only $10 for a lifetime Senior Pass. A free lifetime Access Pass is available for visitors with permanent disabilities.

If you can't make it on one of the fee-free days, note that only 147 of the 394 parks charge entrance fees.   Click here for a list of the parks that charge fees but will waive them for the fee-free dates. Again, all the park fees are nominal. For visitors planning overnight stays, check the site of the desired park for lodging prices.  To sweeten the deal, some of the national park 600 concessionaires reduce their prices during the entrance free days. This also includes special offers such as discounted tours, some as much as half off. Concessionaires offer diverse services, such as food, lodging, retail shops, and transportation.      


Keep in mind that the national parks aren't just for camping. You can choose to:
  • hike in the majestic beauty
  • picnic near the awe-inspiring waterfalls
  • Relive history in a horse-drawn stage ride for a tour of history or check out history brought to life in performances at the park theater
  • Learn to capture the park’s enchantment through a photography class at the Ansel Adams Gallery
  • Take a stroll with a ranger – your kids might even earn their Junior Ranger badge
  • Take the two-hour Immersion Tour in an open air train (no worries about being stranded like Gilligan)
Click the names to take a look at the event brochures for Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Big Bend National Park in Texas, as well as the Big Bend newspaper.
While reservations aren’t necessary, the NPS strongly recommends that you call the intended national park to check the weather and event schedules for the day(s) of your visit.
With 394 national parks, finding one within driving distance shouldn’t be a problem. Go forth and park.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2011 in Consumer, Economic, Know this?, Uncategorized

 

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