Will Free Admission to National Parks Make You Hit The Road?

For any mom (or dad) living near a National Park, this is an offer that's almost too good to be true — this weekend entry fees at more than 100 of our National Parks is free of charge.

Yes, free.

Now, that might not be that much depending on which National Park you live near. Sure Muir Woods costs just $5 for an adult who wants to tour the kings of all redwoods, but Yellowstone might set you back $25 if you arrive by car — or $12 for anyone 16-years-old or older who hikes in for the day.

This is all part of what we are continuing to see in the country. As families hit hard by the recession are still scaling back on summer vacations — hotels, amusement parks and other attractions are trying to lure them in with deep cuts in prices.

Still, while free admission is lovely, if you're traveling any major distance to grab a look at Old Faithful, for instance, it's going to cost a bit more than an entrance fee for a family — try gasoline, a few meals, and perhaps a night at a hotel. But some lodges and attractions are offering special deals for the summer to coincide for these weekend events — everything from discount rates on horseback riding at Glacier National Park to travel packages at Maswik and Yavapai Lodges at the Grand Canyon.

This is actually the third of these special weekends (the last two were in June and July). But I wonder how many families might be swayed by these fee-free days. I'm not sure a $25 fee one way or the other would make a difference whether I take my daughter to a classic National Park or not....

Of course we live in Manhattan, and have Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty (National monuments, under the protection of National Parks Service) right in our backyard. But unfortunately while both are free to get into all year round, the ferry ride to both islands is $12 a pop — and Lady Liberty is not part of the free-dom package this weekend.

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Comment by Lauren Barack on August 18, 2009 at 2:18pm
Lea, me too! ;) and Forum -- so true. I don't own a car, so gas prices often miss me by -- but this week I rented a car for 3 days and was stunned by the price. Whew.
Comment by Lea Curtes-Swenson on August 16, 2009 at 8:08am
You're right, with all the other related expenses of getting there, free park admission becomes more of an attention-getting promotional tool than anything else. But I still appreciate the gesture. Maybe next summer we'll still see some of those deals out there. If I had to choose, though, I'd rather see a huge economic rebound!
Comment by Forum 4 Women on August 14, 2009 at 7:39pm
Now, if only the gas to get there was free.

I think it's great that they are offering those deals though.

Mine are still young yet, so not taking a summer vacation isn't really that big a deal. We'll make up for it when the economy gets better, but for now, watching every dollar spent is important.




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