We'll be just five days into the official start of fall on September 28, making it a great day to get outside and see the fall foliage (if it's turned) for National Public Lands Day.
Maybe you don't celebrate the pseudo-holiday, but you should start. It's a day when many people go out into the nation's National Parks and volunteer. You're clearly an amazing, selfless, good-looking human if you do that. However, if you aren't up for working on a day off, it's also a day when you can get into more than 400 National Parks for free. (And you might be able to catch the northern lights this weekend from some National Parks.)
Yup, National Parks are kicking open their proverbial doors and letting anyone who needs a little nature time. This is one of five days this year the park system will invite visitors in for free. The final fee-free day in 2019 will be November 11 in honor of Veterans Day.
Occasionally travelers want to know why National Parks aren't always free. The parks are, broadly speaking, underfunded and expensive to care for, preserve, restore, and staff. But that doesn't stop many parks from actually being free or hosting free activities. An example: You have to pay for tours of the massive cave systems at Mammoth Cave National Park. But the park's "surface activities" like biking and kayaking, hiking and stargazing are free every day of the year.
It's also worth noting that the fees aren't really that steep. Admission on a normal day at Zion National Park -- one of the most beautiful places in the country -- is $35 for an entire carload of people. Plus, that admission is good for an entire week. Compare that to, say, five minutes at a Disney theme park.
Enjoy the parks or find a way to help out around one. They're incredible places worth protecting. Too often in recent years, the nation's open spaces have been under threat, whether it's opening up land near National Monuments for drilling and mining or making it easier for the nation's waters -- the water everyone shares -- to be polluted. National Public Lands Day is a good excuse to remember why these spaces are so wonderful.