Saturday marks the start of National Park Week, a seven-day celebration of America's 394 national parks. During the week, entrance to all national parks (including Yosemite, pictured) is free, and a myriad of events is offered at each park.
The week is “a ‘Nice to see you again’ to those who are coming back and a ‘Welcome’ to the ones who have never been” to the parks, said NPS spokesperson Stephanie Burkhart. “It’s the Park Service’s way of extending a special invitation to everyone in the nation to come visit.”
Special events, almost all of which are free, vary from park to park, but Burkhart pointed to a few of note:
- Stones River National Battlefield in Tennessee: Volunteers can help pick up trash at a historic Civil War site.
- Olympic National Park in Washington: April 16 is National Junior Ranger Day, during which youngsters can earn their Junior Ranger badge, explore the park, and get hands-on experience with scientific tools.
- John Muir National Historic Site in California: Tour the Sierra Club founder's home.
To complement the NPS's fee-free days, hotels, restaurants, and retailers close to parks are offering specials, said John Poimiroo, executive director of the National Parks Promotion Council, a nonprofit that supports the NPS. A listing of these deals can be found on the NPPC's website.
These community-based offers are "just a way of saying to people, ‘Here’s another reason why, on these fee-free days, you should consider going to a national park,’” said Poimiroo.
Check out the NPS website to find a park near you, then call the park to learn what events are happening there during National Park Week.