Free National Park entry on Veterans Day, November 11

Half Dome, yosemiteThe National Park Service will grant free admission to all its properties on Wednesday, November 11 to give Americans a free gift on the Veterans Day holiday. Many Americans have the day off of school and work that day, and considering so many of our National Park lands have a connection to veterans and service to the United States, the freebie seems like an apropos way to remember the meaning of the holiday. The gift applies to 393 parks in 49 states.

You may not have Veterans Day off, though, so take note of the days in 2011 that the NPS has already declared to be fee-free: April 16 through 24, September 24, and Veterans Day of next year. There will be more announced in the coming months, but you can mark you calendars now for those.

If you're an Oprah watcher, you also know that even Ms Winfrey (and Gayle) are getting viewers excited about National Park visits. When the talk show empress received a letter from a park ranger that astonishingly few African-Americans take advantage of America's best budget travel resource, she packed up a pop-up trailer and went to Yosemite National Park to go camping.

As soon as she got out of her vehicle in Yosemite's Mariposa Grove, she almost immediately bumped into a black visitor. She wound up giving him her Coleman camper, and the car that pulled it, pretty much because he was at a National Park and black. Good day to be him!

The first episode of her "Big Yosemite Camping Adventure" aired last Friday, and the follow-up hits the airwaves on Wednesday, November 3.

It's true that some National Park properties charge nothing. But the popular ones do. Yosemite, for example, normally costs $20 per vehicle for a week's pass. Going on Veterans Day will get you to Half Dome for nothing. You're unlikely to come out of it with a free camper, though.

The National Park Service also granted free entry on several high-traffic days in the middle of the summer. That strategy, combined with the buzz generated by the recent Ken Burns PBS series on the creation of the system and the fact that visiting a National Park is one of the cheapest days out for families, has boosted attendance across the country.
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