Free Entrance to All National Parks on Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr., Day

An inscription from the Martin Luther King National Memorial on the Washington Mall in Washington, D.C.

An inscription from the Martin Luther King National Memorial on the Washington Mall in Washington, D.C. Photo © Johnny Bivera.

On Monday, January 21, the Department of the Interior will waive entrance fees at all national parks in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. For those of us fortunate enough to have the day off, the fee-free day is an excellent reason to commemorate the life of the visionary leader in one of America’s most inspirational places.

Monday is also Inauguration Day. For those who plan to be in the Washington, D.C., area, a trip to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial near the Tidal Basin on the National Mall is worth the short walk from downtown. The memorial, officially dedicated in 2011, is a majestic, larger-than-life tribute to the Civil Rights hero that allows visitors to travel through a symbolic “Mountain of Despair” to see a 30-foot replica of King himself, known as the “Stone of Hope.” (Both quotes are from King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech from 1963.) The statue is surrounded by a 450-foot granite wall inscribed with memorable quotes from throughout King’s career.

If you’re not planning to be in D.C., however, it’s worth noting that this memorial is always free to the public—as is the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site that preserves his childhood home, his tomb, and the Center for Nonviolent Change founded in his name by Coretta Scott King in Atlanta, Georgia—so you can plan a cost-effective trip to either of these historic places when it suits you. For more inspiration on where to spend a meaningful day near you, see NPCA’s list of parks in the National Park System that showcase African-American history, including pivotal people and places in the Civil Rights movement.

Of course, if you’re the solitary type, you might also put a book on King in your backpack, head to any of your favorite parks, find an overlook on a quiet trail, and reflect on his tremendous legacy.

About the Author

Editor of Online Communications Jennifer Errick

Jennifer Errick is editor of online communications at NPCA.