NEWSBRIEF: Free Park Friday

Gov. Mark Dayton announced “Free Park Friday” will return on Black Friday, Nov. 23, highlighting that entrance fees to all Minnesota state parks and recreation areas will be waived. Dayton encouraged all Minnesotans to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends on the day after Thanksgiving. 

“I wish everyone in Minnesota a very happy Thanksgiving, and recommend visiting one of Minnesota’s beautiful state parks — for free — on Friday,” said Dayton. “Like sharing a meal, going for a walk can be a great way to spend quality time with family and friends.”

Research shows that spending time outdoors benefits children and adults, including improving mood, enhancing creative thinking and problem solving, promoting a conservation ethic, and improving physical fitness. On Thanksgiving Day, the average American consumes around 4,500 calories. A brisk walk can burn about 300 calories in one hour.

“Holidays can be stressful, but Minnesota state parks and recreation areas are open year-round to provide places to unwind and relax, surrounded by natural beauty,” said Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota State Parks and Trails. “We hope that visitors who go to a state park for the first time on Free Park Friday will have fun, feel refreshed, and want to come back.”

Although most state park offices and visitor centers will be unstaffed or minimally staffed on Free Park Friday, a variety of on-site and online resources are available for visitors:

•Find directions to the parks on the individual park web pages at www.mndnr.gov.

• Look for the self-orientation signs near the park entrance for suggestions on what to see and do during your visit.

• Additional hike recommendations can be found online at the Free Park Friday page. 

• Pick up a hard-copy map at the park office or, download one of the new GeoPDF maps that show you where you are based on your mobile device’s built-in GPS receiver. Internet access is needed to install the app and map files, but once they are installed, they do not need Internet access or cell phone service to function.

 

A few Minnesota state parks will offer special programs. Examples include:

• Feeling Full Hike – 10-11:30 a.m. at Sibley State Park in New London. Join a naturalist on a hike to Mt. Tom, with some stops along the way to learn about our feathered friend the turkey. Meet at the Interpretive Center.

• Turkey Hike – 1-2 p.m. at Whitewater State Park near Winona. Learn the fascinating history of the wild turkey in the Whitewater Valley. Meet at the visitor center for a brief introduction, then take a hike to look for signs of wild turkeys.

• Bison Tales – 1-2 p.m. at Blue Mounds State Park in Luverne. Join a naturalist to learn more about efforts to conserve bison throughout the state. Touch real pieces of bison, practice your bison communication skills, and make a bison storybook of your very own to take home. Meet at the picnic shelter in the cart-in campsite area.

 

For additional resources on things to do and places to stay across the state, visit exploreminnesota.com, and share your sights this season on social media using #OnlyinMN.

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