If you're lucky enough to have Monday off in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, treat yourself with a visit to your nearest national park. Monday is the first of nine days this year when entrance fees to the parks will be waived.
So whether you are close to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Acadia National Park in Maine, Everglades National Park in Florida, or Olympic National Park in Washington state, you won't have to pay to enjoy a day in the parks.
“National parks are well-known for scenic beauty and outdoor recreation, but they are also fantastic places to learn about the people and events that have shaped our nation,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis in a prepared statement. “Historic sites, battlefields and memorials across the country preserve the places and tell the stories of our national struggles and accomplishments. I encourage everyone to take time to visit a national park on Monday, especially one of the many dedicated to Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement.”
National parks directly associated with Dr. King include the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail in Alabama and the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington, D.C., which includes the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King made his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.
The African American Heritage section of www.nps.gov contains a series of travel itineraries, essays, and lesson plans. There are also links to the dozens of national parks dedicated to African American history and culture, including New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park (La.), George Washington Carver National Monument (Mo.), Booker T. Washington National Monument (Va.) and Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial (Calif.).
Many national parks will also participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service which encourages people to come together to serve their neighbors and communities in the spirit of Dr. King. Fort DuPont Park (D.C.), Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (Calif.), Rock Creek Park (D.C.), Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area(Penn.) and Valley Forge National Historical Park (Penn.) are among the hundreds of places nationwide hosting volunteer projects.
In addition to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the National Park Service will waive admission fees on eight other days in 2014 – Presidents Day weekend (February 15 through 17), the first weekend of National Park Week (April 19 and 20), the National Park Service’s 98th birthday (August 25), National Public Lands Day (September 27) and Veterans Day (November 11).
National park passes that provide free or discounted admission year round are available for active duty military members and their dependents, senior citizens, and people with permanent disabilities.