5 fun, free ways to celebrate National Park Week

Images courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA  Ring in spring with a visit to a national park during National Park Week, April 15 through 23. Throughout the country, hundreds of programs and events will encourage visitors to explore new places and enjoy new experiences.

Visitors will receive free admission to all parks April 15-16 and again on April 22-33.

“Our National Parks are our national treasure,” Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said. “My formative years were spent in Glacier National Park and one of my biggest mentors was a park ranger and football coach. The lessons you learn from the land and the park rangers cannot be learned anywhere else on earth. As we head into the next 100 years of the Park Service, I’m looking at ways to improve infrastructure and visitor experience while conserving the precious lands for generations to come.”

With 417 national parks, there are plenty of places to visit.

“There are endless options during National Park Week to discover someplace or something out of the ordinary,” Acting National Park Service Director Michael F. Reynolds said. “Whether one seeks relaxation, exhilaration, or inspiration, there is something for everyone in a national park.”

Following are just five of the fun ways you can celebrate National Park Week.

Save Some Money

There will be free entrance to all national parks during the weekends of National Park Week. The 118 National Park Service sites that normally charge entrance fees will offer free admission on April 15, 16, 22, and 23. There are also free or reduced rate annual passes available for active duty military families, fourth grade students, senior citizens, volunteers, and people with permanent disabilities.

Try Something New

Introductory programs during National Park Week might just get you hooked on a new interest. Brush up on astronomy at a Night Sky Party in Saguaro National Park, go birding at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, take a photo workshop at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, make pottery at Ocmulgee National Monument, dance to Cajun music at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, or try your hand at surf fishing at Gateway National Recreation Area.

Become a Junior Ranger

National Park Week starts with National Junior Ranger Day on April 15. Throughout the country, kids of all ages can take part in family friendly events and earn a park-specific Junior Ranger badge. Children can see a bald eagle up close at Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, participate in crafts at Lowell National Historical Park, go on an archeology dig at Chiricahua National Monument, or test their global positioning system (GPS) skills in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

Fill a Park Prescription

The second annual Park Prescription Day will be filled with activities that showcase the physical, mental, and psychological health benefits of time in nature. Supported by increasing scientific evidence, many medical doctors now write prescriptions for the outdoors as an antidote for ailments such as diabetes, high blood pressure and depression.

On April 23, dozens of parks, including Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Shenandoah National Park, Capulin Volcano National Monument, Tumacácori National Historical Park, Prince William Forest Park, Hot Springs National Park, and park partners will host activities that include hikes, health screenings, yoga, and volleyball.

Go Wild on Earth Day

Spend some time outside on Earth Day, April 22. Attend a wildlife festival on the Natchez Trace Parkway, go for a walk on the wild side at Cabrillo National Monument, learn to canoe on the Niobrara National Scenic River, make an appearance at a drama festival at Chamizal National Memorial, listen to a concert at Buffalo National River, weave a pine needle basket at Fort Matanzas National Monument, or meet a Civil War soldier at Stones River National Battlefield.

Utah’s national parks

Utah has five national parks, three national monuments, one national recreation area and one national historic site that usually have fees ranging from $3 to $30, depending on the park. Some of the parks that will have free admission include Capitol Reef National Park, Dinosaur National Monument and Golden Spike National Historic Site. To see the full list, click here.

Many of these national parks are less than a two hour drive from one another, so visitors can take advantage of the offer by visiting multiple parks in one trip. Some parks that are close include Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Zion national park or Canyonlands and Arches national parks.

The free admission days encompass all entrance frees, commercial tour fees and transportation entrance fees. Fees such as reservation, tours, camping, concession and third party fees are not included in the fee-free days.

Ruby’s Inn in Bryce Canyon offering special deals

Ruby’s Inn — a historic hotel and resort just outside of Bryce Canyon National Park — offers shuttles directly to viewpoints in Bryce Canyon, making Ruby’s the perfect gateway to enjoy the fee-free days. During the National Parks Week, Ruby’s Inn is offering a Spring Fling discount to allow travelers to save more money. From March 26 to May 4, the offer includes 30 percent off each additional night after one night at the regular spring rates.

Visit www.nps.gov to plan your park visit. The site contains trip planning information and a calendar of events. Use hashtags #FindYourPark, #EncuentraTuParque and #NPS101 on social media during National Park Week.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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