Ken Salazar underwriting your beautiful weekend away

Friday readers, this weekend, whatever your politics, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is your friend. He announced last month that the National Parks Service would waive admission fees three weekends this summer to boost the economy and to give summertime Americans a break. This weekend is one of those lucky weekends. You can take your whole packed family vehicle to one of eight popular sites in Colorado– and get in gratis!

As The Colorado Independent reported in June:

Fees at the parks disappear the weekends of June 20-21, July 18-19, and August 15-16. Many National Park Service locations don’t normally charge entrance fees, but tourists visiting Rocky Mountain National Park during the promotional weekends will save $20 per carload. The waiver knocks $15 per car off the cost of visiting Mesa Verde National Park.

National parks, monuments in Colorado (Graphic/National Park Service)

National parks, monuments in Colorado (Graphic/National Park Service)

Click on the map to the left for a page listing all the National Park Service sites in Colorado.

Other National Park Service locations in Colorado that normally charge admission but will have free weekends this summer include Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado National Monument, Dinosaur National Monument, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Hovenweep National Monument.

The waiver doesn’t include other fees for park visits, including camping, tours and concessions, but some tour operators, hotels, restaurants and gift shops are offering promotions during the free weekends. Sadly, the promotions don’t amount to much yet — free “eco-friendly” shopping bags at some sites and some buy-one-get-one tour discounts. In Colorado, the only promotion listed so far is a “free children’s souvenir water bottle with retail purchase of $35 or more” at Mesa Verde. But for tourists venturing outside the state, free mid-day rides on a luxury houseboat await visitors to Lake Mead, Lake Mohave and Lake Amistad on the three free Saturdays.

Original reporting by TCI’s Ernest Luning.

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