Martin Luther King Jr. Day is one of the few fee-free days for the national parks, but this year, there's a new twist.
Since the government is currently shutdown, many national parks, historic sites and monuments are either closed or partially open — meaning facilities such as visitor's centers and restrooms are closed but people can still enter the park.
But just in time for MLK Day on Jan. 21, Atlanta-based Delta Airlines has given a grant through its foundation to the National Park Service (NPS) specifically so the King historical park (which includes historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and his childhood home) can be open for 16 days beginning on Jan. 17.
Delta CEO and trustee of the Delta Air Lines Foundation Ed Bastian said the group "felt it was important we do our part to ensure that the historical landmarks be accessible to the public," reports CNN.
Several other national parks are also open because of grants from nonprofit groups or state governments footing the bill. The state of Arizona is paying to keep the Grand Canyon open and the state of Utah is doing the same for Zion, Bryce Canyon and Arches national parks, simply because they are so important historically. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state would spend $65,000 a day to keep open the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, mainly because they bring in about $500,000 a day in tourism revenue.
To find out if a national park, site or monument near you will be fully or partially open, go to the NPS website and search by state or name.
In years past, the NPS has offered fee-free days on several national holidays and other significant days as a way to encourage people to enjoy the parks.
Other fee-free days after the shutdown ends
Last year prior to the shutdown, the NPS announced that MLK Day would be one of several free-fee days offered this year. There are more than 100 park locations that normally charge fees but will be waived on these dates, which are listed below. Click here to see a complete list of the 396 parks that will have free fees.
According to the NPS, the fee waiver includes entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees, but other park-related fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not covered by the fee waiver unless stated otherwise.
If you can't make it to a national park on this particular weekend (or even if you can), be sure to mark your calendar for these free-fee NPS dates:
- Jan. 21: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- April 20: First day of National Park Week/National Junior Ranger Day
- Aug. 25: National Park Service anniversary
- Sept. 28: National Public Lands Day
- Nov. 11: Veterans Day
Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in January 2018.