If you’re one of the lucky few who gets Martin Luther King, Jr. Day off work and you’re not sure what you’re going to do with that extra time, perhaps you should plan a visit to your favorite national park. After all, MLK Day is the first fee-free day of the year and we wouldn’t want to squander any opportunity for a free visit to the parks.
Considering the day is dedicated to Dr. King, it should come as no surprise that we would recommend a visit to his national historic site in Atlanta and Memorial in Washington, D.C. And since 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, either location will make a fitting destination for those looking to honor his legacy.
Of course, the fee-free holiday is simply a good excuse to go to a national park, and there are obviously plenty of other things we can do to take advantage of the day. For instance, visitors to the Grand Canyon can go camping along the South Rim, while fans of winter weather will enjoy snowshoeing along one of the many trails in Glacier. If you’re craving something a bit warmer then Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park may be more your speed, while water lovers will no doubt enjoy a paddle along one of the Everglades canoe trails.
If you’re a fan of the national parks, and enjoy taking advantage of these fee-free days, then you’ll definitely want make sure you visit your favorite park on Monday. The next free-entry days don’t come until April 22-26 in celebration National Parks Week. That seems like an awfully long way off at this point.
[Photo Credit: National Park Service]
The Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, D.C., was unveiled on August 28, 2011. It has since proved hugely popular, with an estimated 1.5 to 2 million visitors in its first year. It has also proved controversial.
As Art Daily reports, several public figures complained about an inscription on the memorial that reads, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” The inscription is not in quotes because it’s actually a paraphrase of what King said. His actual words were, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”
Leading poet Maya Angelou told the Washington Post that the paraphrase makes King look like “an arrogant twit.” She went on to say that the civil rights leader was anything but arrogant and the paraphrase “minimizes the man.”
Now the full quote will be included. In September or October, after the summer tourist rush is over, two sculptors will change the quote.
The statue’s other inscription hasn’t caused any controversy. It reads, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]
To celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the National Park Service will host its first fee-free weekend of 2012 this week. Starting Saturday, January 14 and running through Monday, January 16, the entry fee for more than 397 national parks and monuments across the U.S. will be waived completely.
A number of the parks and monuments will be honoring the civil rights activist with special ceremonies and events throughout the weekend. The newly opened MLK Memorial in Washington, D.C., for instance, will have rangers on hand to discuss Dr. King’s pivotal role in seeking equality for all races, while the MLK National Historic Site in Georgia will host a special program on Sunday that examines King’s legacy.
Of course, there are always a host of other activities to do in the parks as well and the winter months often bring unique opportunities to these scenic places. I’d recommend snowshoeing in Yellowstone, hiking in Yosemite, or even paddling the Everglades. After all, without an entrance fee, there’s no excuse not to go.
If you can’t make it to your favorite park this weekend, never fear. The Park Service has a number of other free days scheduled for the year, with your next opportunity coming on April 21-29 in celebration of National Park Week.
For a complete list of the national parks that will be fee-free this weekend, click here.
Want to know where to head for MLK weekend? Hotwire just announced the top 10 most booked destinations travelers are visiting over Martin Luther King Day weekend.
Several cities have historic significance, including Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. he received his B.A. degree at Morehouse College and where the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center was founded as well as Chicago, was the first state to adopt MLK as a state holiday. Public pressure for the holiday mounted during the 1982 and 1983 civil rights marches in Washington.
According to results from Hotwire’s American Travel Behavior survey, 74% of people would rather take several smaller vacations over the year than one big one.
So here’s an impromptu poll – will you be traveling this MLK weekend, and if so, will you be visiting one of the ten most popular destinations?
Destination & Average Nightly Hotel Price
Las Vegas, Nevada $101
Atlanta, Georgia $72
Orlando, Florida $54
New York City, New York $125
Fort Lauderdale, Florida $97
New Orleans, Louisiana $87
Chicago, Illinois $66
San Francisco, California $109
San Diego, California $74
Washington D.C. $83
[Flickr via michaelhyman300]