If you’re already reeling from the taxes you have to pay on April 15, here’s a chance to at least recoup a little of your hard-earned money. On April 19th and 20th the entrance fees to all the national parks in the U.S. will be waived, including Pinnacles, Yosemite, Lassen, and Muir Woods. And because National Park Week (April 19-27) coincides with Earth Day (April 22nd) and National Junior Ranger Day (April 26), several parks are offering free family-oriented programs such as special ranger-led hikes and volunteer clean-up projects. Think of it as an affordable opportunity for you to be a rock-star parent, aunt, or uncle while enjoying America’s Best Idea—our national parks.
Okay, so first you need to pick your park. Here’s the list of National Parks in California:
• Yosemite National Park
• Lassen Volcanic National Park
• Pinnacles National Monument
• Muir Woods National Monument
• San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
• Sequoia National Park
• Whiskeytown Unit National Recreation Area
• Lava Beds National Monument
• Cabrillo National Monument
• Death Valley National Park
• John Muir National Historic Site
• Joshua Tree National Park
Once you’ve picked your park, log on to the National Park Service’s National Park Week webpage at www.nps.gov/npweek. Here’s you’ll find links to help you plan your visit, park discounts, an event calendar, info about National Junior Ranger Day (with official Junior Ranger badges and certificates!), and a link to www.nationalparkweek.org, where you can share your national park photos, videos, and tips on their website.
Now some parks are offering a lot more than just free entrance fees and commercial tour fees. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, for example, is hosting Adventures at Sea: Life Aboard a 19th Century Sailing Ship on Sunday, April 20, where kids get to play “A Sailor’s Life is the Life For Me!” on the old-timey wooden sailing ships of yore (kids LOVE this imagination-fest).
Other freebies being offered include National Parks Owner’s Guides filled with detailed maps, travel tips, and inside information on what not to miss. The link to the free guide is at http://www.nationalparks.org/explore-parks.
If you can’t make it to any of the parks in April, here are three other times during the year when the National Parks are fee-free:
• August 25: National Park Service Birthday
• September 27: National Public Lands Day
• November 11: Veterans Day weekend
“America’s national parks have something for everyone,” says National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Take a break and experience something new, enjoy some fresh air, get some exercise, and see where history happened. And, since admission is free to all 397 parks, all week long, National Park Week is a great time to get up, get out, and explore a park.”
For more insider tips and deals on fun and affordable things to see, do, and explore in California, the place to go is LocalGetaways.com, where you’ll always find best California travel deals.