Coastal redwoods? Dramatic canyons? Joshua trees? The California national parks have so much. See the wonders for free over Presidents Day Weekend. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FITTING HISTORY: Every day of the year is a fine day to be in a national park. And that could be the same national park, for all 365 days, because as everyone knows, each wild place changes by the hour, with the sunset, during a change in the wind. In short, one can never tire of a beloved place, grove, or even tree (we're looking at you, General Sherman, and all of your sequoian brethren). But if one were to spend a day or two in one of the California-based national parks, Presidents Day Weekend might be a most excellent time to do so. The middle of February is about as between-the-crowds as one can get for most of the national parks, save perhaps the deserts, which see a bit of an uptick come winter wildflower season. And as for Presidents Day? Well consider that Teddy Roosevelt is often one of the iconic visages we see as a symbol for the day -- helloooo, Mount Rushmore -- and President Roosevelt had much to do with the formation of the park system. ("Champion" and the president are often used in the same sentence where the NPS is concerned.)
SO... the fact that the national parks observe the presidential weekend as one of their annual free periods is right and fitting indeed. There are just about two weeks in all, over the course of year, that the parks that charge an entrance fee drop it for the day or weekend, and the middle weekend of February is traditionally one. Thus if you want to spend Feb. 15, 16 and 17 in quiet repose -- that's a Saturday through Monday -- go find your peaceful park and give a kind wave to the person at the booth. It'll be free, free, free. For more on the Free Entrance Days at the National Parks, read on, nature embracer and enjoyer of "America's Best Idea."