Lt. Gov. Tina Smith announces free admission to state parks on Black Friday

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr announced today that entrance fees to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas will be waived on Friday, Nov. 27 for “Free Park Friday,” encouraging Minnesotans to spend time outdoors, and with family, on the day after Thanksgiving.

“At a time of year when Minnesotans pause to give thanks, I am so grateful for the incredible state parks and trails we have here in Minnesota,” said Smith. “Visiting these parks is a great way to spend time with family and loved ones, relieve stress, and enjoy exercise in the great outdoors.”

L-R: Tourism Director John Edman, DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, Parks & Trails Director Erika Rivers.

Gov. Mark Dayton has proclaimed Friday, Nov. 27, to be “Free Park Friday” at all Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. The governor also directed the DNR Commissioner to exercise his statutory authority to issue a written order, waiving entrance fees to state parks on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

“We are very fortunate to have such outstanding state parks and trails in Minnesota,” said Landwehr. “So get out there, walk off your turkey dinner and have some fun on Friday!”

Research shows that spending time outdoors benefits children and adults, including improving mood, enhancing creative thinking and problem solving, promoting a conservation ethic, and improving physical fitness. On Thanksgiving Day, the average American consumes around 4,500 calories. A brisk walk can burn about 300 calories in one hour.

“There is a Minnesota state park within 30 miles of almost everyone,” said Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota State Parks and Trails. “So no matter where you live or celebrate Thanksgiving, the restorative power of nature is always nearby.”

Minnesota’s state parks contribute to a $13 billion tourism industry in Minnesota, a key sector of the state’s economy. At 2012 study from the DNR found that Minnesota state parks draw in over $230 million in spending to local communities each year. An estimated 69 million domestic travelers and 270,000 international travelers vacationed in Minnesota in 2013.

“Outdoor recreation is a main draw for visitors to Minnesota and numerous state parks and recreation areas are a big part of Minnesota’s tourism economy,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota. “State parks are nestled near vibrant communities where you can find cozy hotels, B&Bs, resorts, dining options, unique festivals and something new to experience only in Minnesota this season.”

Those visiting Minnesota state parks and recreation areas on Nov. 27 are encouraged to share their adventures on social media using #FreeParkFriday and #OnlyinMN.

Explore Minnesota State Parks
With 75 state parks and recreation areas statewide, almost every Minnesotan lives within 30 miles of a free, outdoor adventure this Thanksgiving weekend. Here are a few of the great options to explore across Minnesota:

  • Explore a 3-mile loop around Pike Island at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul and keep an eye out for wild turkeys near the entrance to the park.
  • Hike along the St. Croix River at Afton State Park in Hastings.
  • View trumpeter swans at Lake Maria State Park in Monticello.
  • Visit the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park in Park Rapids to watch for the first signs of ice between the rocks.
  • Take the trail to Shovel Point at Tettegouche State Park in Silver Bay while listening to Lake Superior’s waves lapping on the shore.
  • Check out the views of the Whitewater Valley from the Chimney Rock overlook at Whitewater State Park in southeastern Minnesota.
  • See—and hear—thousands of waterfowl at Lac qui Parle (“the lake that speaks”) State Park in Montevideo.
  • Hike the prairie at Blue Mounds State Park in Luverne to see what the bison are up to.

For more information, visit the DNR website. For additional resources on things to do and places to stay across the state, visit exploreminnesota.com, and share sights this season on social media using #OnlyinMN.