As we all know, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is more than just a day off from work or school. It’s a time to remember the contributions and sacrifices the civil rights activist made to promote racial equality within the U.S. To celebrate the occasion, the National Park Service is offering free entry into more than 100 national parks that normally charge an entry fee. Below are our top choices the must-visit New England parks this weekend
Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site
Located in Cornish, New Hampshire, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site was the summer home of one of the nation’s most notable sculptures, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. While the house and art galleries are closed during the off-season, the expansive grounds remain open. Dodge cabin fever by getting out there and exploring the several hiking and biking trails on the property. Bonus: The site is featured in our new book, New England’s Historic Homes & Gardens, by Kim Knox Beckius and William H. Johnson. Buy a copy and bring it with you!
Acadia National Park
Known for its breathtaking scenery and vast wildlife, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine, is a playground for outdoorsy New Englanders. In the winter, it’s perfect for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and even camping. For the less adventurous, consider taking a scenic drive along the ocean… and keep an eye out for seals! Does your family have a dog or four? Believe it or not, dog sledding is allowed in certain park areas.
Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site
Take a trip to Hyde Park, New York to visit the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historical Site, which she named Val-Kill. Roosevelt’s self-proclaimed home is where she worked on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On MLK day, history buffs can take a 45-minute guided tour of the property at 1 p.m. or 3 p.m. The more tech-savvy visitors can take part in a cell-phone tour and explore the site at a different pace.
Martin Van Buren National Historic Site
This former home of the founder of the Democratic Party is just two miles south of Kinderhook, New York. While the 36-room mansion on the property is closed in the winter, its 125-acre grounds are open year-round. Visitors can grab a brochure and site bulletin upon arrival and take a self-guided tour along the ¾-mile wayside loop. While you’re in Kinderhook, stop by the statue of President Van Buren and snap a photo sitting next to him.
The Boston Harbor Islands
Finally, we would be remiss not to mention the MLK day Winter Wildlife Cruise to the Boston Harbor Islands. While it’s not free, it’s certainly well worth the admission price, which includes a complimentary drink. Park rangers and experienced birders will lead the cruise on a heated boat, which departs from Quincy at 10:00 a.m. and Boston at 11:00 a.m. The cruise is expected to last about four and a half hours. Don’t forget to bring your copy of Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands!
Whether you’re looking to spend your MLK day snowshoeing along trails or learning about U.S. history, the National Park Service has you covered!