Your (Free!) Gateway to Minnesota National Parks

Little fun fact: There are 397 national parks in the United States, and five sites in Minnesota.

Why should you care? Because this weekend, January 14-16, all will offer free admission to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Day on Monday, and the history that once happened, and now is preserved, in these parks.

In my mind, it’s really the perfect adventure—exploration, education, and activity.

Seriously, my best travel memories involve that combination. Climbing Ulmer Münster in Germany, the tallest steeple and church in the world, had that: Gothic architecture, famous artwork, and 768 vertigo-inducing steps—totally worth the view in the end. Biking the Aran Islands in Ireland? Check, check, and check.

Ratchet expectations and expenses down, and the combo can be found right here in Minnesota. It’s beauty and history of a different (and younger), but still valuable kind.

Your greatest resource to our natural parks is through the U.S. National Park Service ( website, where all events across the country can be accessed, including Minnesota’s. They also break down all five of our National Park Service sites:

• Grand Portage National Monument, Grand Portage
• Mississippi National River & Recreation Area, Twin Cities
• North Country National Scenic Trail (Seven States: New York to North Dakota)
• Pipestone National Monument, Pipestone
• Voyageurs National Park, International Falls

snowshoeingExamine the petroglyth (rock carving) exhibit at Pipestone and then do some of your own exploring in snow-shoes; experience endless nature by foot, ski or snowmobile at Voyageurs; or stay in the Twin Cities and take in all the Mississippi River and recreation center has to offer.

Really, it’s no wonder we’re one of the healthiest states, with so many ways to stay fit.

Don’t worry though, if your weekend is already booked, because you have another free admission opportunity this spring, during National Park Week (April 21-29).

But can you really put a price on well-rounded adventure? I think not.