Bargain family travel: Free National Parks Day

Geysers and waterfalls often nab the attention at Yellowstone National Park, but quieter Lamar Valley has its own beauty.
See more than presidents at Mt. Rushmore.

Celebrate the start of summer
In honor of the longest day of the year, the National Parks Service is offering free admission on Tuesday, June 21. It not only kicks off the summer peak travel season, but gives you the longest annual stretch of sunlight to explore America’s best trails, scenic drives and historic sites across the country.

It’s a great travel bargain if you’re visiting parks that normally charge $10-$25 for a seven-day pass. Granted, you’ll need more than one day to see America’s most majestic national treasures, such as Yellowstone National Park, but for those you who are revisiting familiar parks or those that are smaller, such as Mount Rushmore National Monument, this is a perfect incentive to hit the road.

We’re choosing Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near Traverse City, Michigan, this year, but can highly recommend Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Colo.; Mount Rushmore, S.D.; Badlands National Park, S.D.; Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Medora, N.D.; and Yellowstone National Park.

Minnesota travelers take note: Admission wasn’t charged at either Voyageurs National Park or Grand Portage National Monument last summer. Both are excellent for explaining the rich history of local tribes, fur traders and voyageurs.

Have a favorite national park? Leave a comment and share your tips.

–Photos by Lisa Meyers McClintick