Skip Black Friday Shopping and Visit These State and National Parks for Free Instead

Park officials nationwide are waiving fees to get people off the couch, away from stores, and into nature.
Shrine Drive-Thru Tree, Avenue of Giants, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California. (Photo: Thomas Janisch/Getty Images)
Nov 26, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

After a Thanksgiving Day’s worth of turkey, mashed potatoes, and too much gravy, and apple pie, many American families set out early Friday in search of cheap Christmas gifts and flat-screen TVs, or they stay in and shop online all day.

But this year, a new trend could throw the consumerist tradition out the window. In fact, it aims to throw you outside.

That’s the idea behind the #optoutside movement kicked off by outdoor sports retailer REI, which announced earlier this month that it would not open any of its 143 stores nationwide for Black Friday.

Now, state parks in Northern California, Arizona, and Oregon, as well as national parks in Washington state, will offer visitors free admission on Friday, Nov. 27, in an effort to encourage people to get outdoors.

Sarah Creachbaum, the superintendent of Washington state’s Olympic National Park, hopes families will use the day of free entry to create a new holiday tradition, instead of following up the Thanksgiving Day feast with a day spent inside at the shopping mall or on the couch.

“Thanksgiving is a time-honored American tradition, and we invite families to create new traditions by enjoying a fee-free day at two of the Northwest’s premier national parks,” Creachbaum said in a statement.

Mount Rainier National Park is also getting in on the #optoutside trend.

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“National Park Service employees and partners work all year to ensure that the country’s most treasured places and stories are protected and available for visitors to experience firsthand,” Mount Rainier deputy superintendent Tracy Swartout said in a statement. “This year we want our visitors to know how thankful we are that they also care about their parks.”

In Arizona, entry to all 25 state parks will be free on Friday to any visitor who picks up a pass at an REI store this week. Park-goers are being encouraged to take photos and post them to the Arizona State Park Facebook page.

The 10 photos that receive the most likes will win their posters a yearlong pass to all Arizona state parks.

In California, the conservation group Save the Redwoods League will pay the $8 to $10 vehicle entry fee for any Friday visitors to any of the 49 state parks that contain redwood trees. Visitors must download and print a Free Redwood State Parks Day-Use Pass at SaveTheRedwoods.org/freefriday to take advantage of the offer.

Oregon’s Parks and Recreation Department is offering free parking passes at its 26 state parks on Friday as well.

“Rain or shine, windy or not, we’re thankful Oregon’s outdoors are a constant source of joy,” department director Lisa Sumption said in a statement. “Take a break, get out, and enjoy some fresh air.”