National Parks Are Free Day

A family hiking through a national park, wearing colorful outdoor gear, surrounded by diverse wildlife and breathtaking nature scenes..
National parks are free day illustration

Welcome to, your go-to source for all things related to national days! Today, we have an exciting and wallet-friendly celebration to talk about - National Parks are Free Day!

When is Parks Are Free Day?

It's national parks are free day on the 20th January.

Celebrating the Great Outdoors!

Every year, on National Parks are Free Day, nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts unite to celebrate the breathtaking beauty of our magnificent national parks. It's a day when outdoor exploration is not only encouraged, but also doesn't cost a penny!

National Parks are Free Day provides the perfect opportunity to gather your loved ones and embark on an unforgettable journey through some of the most stunning landscapes our country has to offer. Whether you prefer hiking, camping, bird-watching, or simply enjoying a picnic amidst nature's splendor, there's something for everyone in our national parks.

From the towering peaks of the Rockies to the serene beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains, our national parks encompass a diverse range of habitats and ecosystems. They preserve the natural wonders that have captivated visitors for generations.

A Brief Internet History

National Parks are Free Day started as an initiative to promote accessibility to our natural treasures. In the early days of the internet, a group of passionate nature enthusiasts recognized the need to raise awareness about the importance of preserving our parks and encouraging people to explore them. They believed that by offering a free admission day, more individuals and families could experience the wonder and awe of these national treasures.

In 1997, with the internet gaining traction, they launched a website dedicated to National Parks are Free Day. The site quickly gained attention and enthusiastic support. People began sharing their experiences and photos online, inspiring others to venture out into the great outdoors.

Joining the Celebration

To celebrate National Parks are Free Day, check the list of participating parks and their specific guidelines on the official website. It's important to plan ahead and arrive early, as many parks can get crowded during this special day.

Remember to pack some delicious food for your outdoor adventure. Whether it's sandwiches, snacks, or a mouthwatering barbecue, good food always makes the experience even more enjoyable!

While exploring the parks, take part in fun sports activities like frisbee, volleyball, or soccer. It's a great way to make lasting memories and burn off some energy!

Did You Know?

Did you know that national parks give you a chance to spot rare wildlife? Keep your eyes peeled for majestic creatures like black bears, elk, bald eagles, and even the elusive Bigfoot. Okay, maybe not Bigfoot, but who knows what surprises await you in the wild!

History behind the term 'Parks Are Free'


The Birth of Central Park

In 1851, the idea for a large, public park in the heart of New York City was born. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, two visionary landscape architects, won a design competition for what would become Central Park. Their design aimed to create a green oasis, a place for all people to enjoy nature and escape the hustle and bustle of the city.


Yellowstone National Park established

In the year 1872, Yellowstone National Park was established as the first national park in the United States. This marked a significant milestone in the preservation of natural landscapes and wildlife. The park's creation set a precedent for future national parks and demonstrated the importance of protecting these natural treasures for public enjoyment.


Yellowstone National Park is established

In the year 1872, Yellowstone National Park was established as the first national park in the United States. This landmark decision marked the beginning of a new era in the conservation of natural landscapes, allowing people to freely access and enjoy the beauty of the wilderness.


Groundbreaking and Construction

Construction on Central Park began in 1853. It involved massive amounts of earth-moving, landscaping, and planting. Thousands of workers toiled for years to transform the rocky, swampy terrain into the picturesque park we know today. The park's designers paid attention to every detail, from the winding pathways to the placement of each tree, to create a harmonious and inviting space.


National Park Service (NPS) is founded

The year 1916 saw the establishment of the National Park Service (NPS) in the United States. This agency was created to oversee and manage all national parks and monuments across the country. Its mission was, and still is, to preserve and protect the natural and cultural resources of these areas for future generations to enjoy.


First free admission day at a National Park

In 1904, the National Park Service (NPS) designated the very first admission-free day at a national park. This initiative aimed to encourage more people to visit and appreciate the natural beauty of the parks. Voluntary contributions were encouraged to support park maintenance and conservation efforts.


Opening to the Public

After years of hard work, Central Park finally opened to the public on May 1, 1858. Crowds of people flocked to the park to explore its vast expanses, rolling meadows, and serene water bodies. The park quickly became a beloved escape for city dwellers, providing a recreational retreat that was accessible to people from all walks of life.


Free admission introduced during Great Depression

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the United States faced economic challenges, and many people struggled to afford leisure activities. In response to this, the NPS began offering free admission to national parks to provide a respite for citizens during difficult times. This move aimed to promote tourism, boost morale, and allow everyone to experience the country's natural wonders regardless of their financial situation.


Fee-Free Parks Day established

From 1997 onwards, the U.S. National Park Service began designating specific days as 'Fee-Free Parks Day.' On these days, entrance fees to all national parks were waived to make them more accessible to people from all walks of life. This tradition still continues today, allowing visitors to explore the wonders of national parks without financial barriers.


Expansion and Inspiration

The success of Central Park inspired other cities and communities to create their own parks. Olmsted and Vaux, the masterminds behind Central Park, went on to design numerous parks and green spaces across the United States. Their innovative designs blended nature with human-made landscapes, offering people a place to relax, play, and connect with the natural world.


First Earth Day and increased environmental awareness

Earth Day, which started in 1970, brought widespread attention to environmental issues and the need for conservation. This movement influenced policymakers to allocate more funding towards national parks and expand the concept of 'parks are free.' It reinforced the idea that parks should be accessible to all, fostering a sense of stewardship for the natural world among the public.


President Obama's call for Free Park Admission

In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the 'American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,' which included a provision for free entrance to national parks across the country. This measure aimed to encourage outdoor recreation and stimulate the economy. It further enhanced the accessibility of national parks for all citizens.


Fee-Free Days introduced by NPS

In 1997, the National Park Service introduced Fee-Free Days, which allowed visitors to enter national parks without paying the usual entrance fees on designated dates. This initiative aimed to encourage broader participation and make parks more accessible to those who might have otherwise been deterred by fees. Fee-Free Days still continue today, providing opportunities for people to explore and enjoy the parks at no cost.


COVID-19 Pandemic and temporary park fee waivers

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many national parks temporarily waived entrance fees to mitigate the spread of the virus. This served as an incentive for people to enjoy outdoor spaces while practicing social distancing measures. The temporary free access to parks highlighted their importance as safe havens amidst challenging times.


The National Parks System

In 1971, the United States Congress established the National Park Service, an agency dedicated to the preservation and protection of natural and cultural resources. This marked a significant milestone in the history of parks in the country, as it recognized the importance of conserving and making accessible the nation's most treasured natural and historic sites.


COVID-19 pandemic impact

The year 2020 marked a significant turning point for the 'parks are free' concept. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, many national parks temporarily closed or restricted access to ensure visitor safety. However, during this challenging time, the parks continued to provide virtual experiences and online resources, allowing people to connect with nature from the safety of their homes.


Free Park Access

Today, many parks around the world offer free access to the public. Governments and organizations recognize the value of providing spaces where people can enjoy and connect with nature, promote physical and mental well-being, and foster a sense of community. Whether it's Central Park in New York City or national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite, these parks continue to play a vital role in preserving our natural heritage and providing opportunities for recreation and appreciation.

Did you know?

Did you know that national parks give you a chance to spot rare wildlife? Keep your eyes peeled for majestic creatures like black bears, elk, bald eagles, and even the elusive Bigfoot. Okay, maybe not Bigfoot, but who knows what surprises await you in the wild!


awareness food fun loved ones sports nature

First identified

18th January 2016

Most mentioned on

20th January 2020

Total mentions


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