Belinda

Apr 192014
 

America’s Best Idea — our national parks — is even better when they’re free! Mark your calendar now for entrance fee-free dates for the coming year. On these dates, FREE entrance is available to 133 National Parks across the country that normally charge a fee. During the free-free days, the parks waive entrance fees, commercial tour fees and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservations, camping, tours, concessions and fees collected by third parties are not included in this promotion.

2014 National Parks entrance fee-free dates

  • January 20, Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • February 15-17, Presidents Day weekend
  • April 19-20, opening weekend of National Park Week
  • August 25, National Park Service Birthday
  • September 27, National Public Lands Day
  • November 11, Veterans Day

Here is just a sample of what you can do during Free Entrance Days in the National Parks:

  • Cabrillo National Monument in California lies at the tip of the Point Loma Peninsula, just west of the city of San Diego. The Visitor Center features the “Age of Exploration” exhibit, films, and ranger-guided programs with interesting insights into the history of Cabrillo. Features of the park include views of the harbor and city of San Diego, whale watching in January and February, and birding is popular year round.
  • Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah has famous fossil finds, dramatic river canyons, mysterious petroglyphs and endless opportunities for adventure. Kids can earn a special Junior Ranger Paleontology badge by completing age-appropriate activities.
  • Yellowstone in Montana is our nation’s first National Park. Popular activities include picnicking, fishing and hiking. The park features the largest active geyser field in the world, including Old Faithful, along with amazing wildlife. Be sure to consult the Yellowstone National Park Trip Planner.
  • The Grand Canyon in the northwest corner of Arizona and close to the borders of Utah and Nevada, provides many opportunities to learn about nature, science and history. Take a tour with a park ranger. Visit one of the many Information Centers. Watch a park orientation film (it starts every half hour from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily). Use your cell phone for a fun way to learn about the park and listen as park rangers give two-minute audio tours at points of interest on the South Rim. (During winter, South Rim roads are open, but are snow-packed and icy in places. Call 928-638-7496 for updated road conditions recording.)
  • Padre Island National Seashore southeast of the city of Corpus Christi, Texas, is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. The park protects 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies, and wind tidal flats teeming with life. It is a safe nesting ground for the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle and a haven for 380 bird species. It also has a rich history, including the Spanish shipwrecks of 1554.
  • Everglades National Park in Florida is America’s third largest National Park at 1.5 million acres. The park provides important habitat for numerous rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile, and the elusive Florida panther. Popular activities include photographing birds, hiking and observing wildlife, and ranger-guided tours.
  • Especially for Kids. At participating National Parks, kids can participate in the Junior Ranger program. Participating parks provide a FREE booklet that describes all sorts of age-appropriate activities in the park. When they’ve completed the tasks, they are awarded an official Junior Ranger badge.

Entrance fees to extremely popular parks are in the $20 to $25 range for private cars. Many of the smaller parks, historical sites and recreational areas have lower fees, and 265 sites are always free. Another way to save if you’re planning a trip that includes multiple national parks, is to consider the $80 annual pass that provides entrance to all national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and many other Federal lands – more than 2,000 in all.

Find a Park by going to the National Park Service website and using the search tool or interactive map. You can search for parks in your state or parks that feature activities you like, such as camping, fishing or hiking, as well as educational programs and historic sites.

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Apr 112014
 

one sparkTake your shot at being a venture capitalist!  Jacksonville’s innovative  One Spark crowdfunding festival continues this weekend, through April  13, with 630 “creators”–that is, entrepreneurs, innovators, artists and entertainers–plus thousands of visitors.  There’s also a festival of food trucks and a beer village for attendees. The festival headquarters is at Hemming Plaza with exhibits and stages within a 20-block radius of the square. The fun goes on into the night with disc jockeys, dancing in the streets and restaurant specials.  Participants are vying for a $200,000 crowdfunding pot, which will be distributed based on crowd votes, plus bonuses for the top vote getters and $3-plus million in venture capital and individual crowd contributions.  The party is free for visitors, who can register to vote for their favorite participant and get festival maps at www.beonespark.com.  For more detailed coverage of the festival, check out Jacksonville.com or Folio Weekly.

Apr 082014
 

one sparkTake your shot at being a venture capitalist!  Jacksonville’s innovative  One Spark crowdfunding festival goes on this week, from April 9 to 13, with 630 “creators”–that is, entrepreneurs, innovators, artists and entertainers–plus thousands of visitors.  There’s also a festival of food trucks and a beer village for attendees. The festival headquarters is at Hemming Plaza with exhibits and stages within a 20-block radius of the square. The fun goes on into the night with disc jockeys, dancing in the streets and restaurant specials.  Participants are vying for a $200,000 crowdfunding pot, which will be distributed based on crowd votes, plus bonuses for the top vote getters and $3-plus million in venture capital and individual crowd contributions.  The party is free for visitors, who can register to vote for their favorite participant and get festival maps at www.beonespark.com.  For more detailed coverage of the festival, check out Jacksonville.com or Folio Weekly.

Apr 012014
 

artwalk art April 2,  Jacksonville First Wednesday Art Walk celebrates Earth Day with earth-friendly exhibits, artworks made from recycled goods, and a “Trashy to Classy” recycled goods fashion show. In addition, performance artists, musicians and dozens of vendors and exhibitors will be on hand for the downtown festivities. Listen to live music at Hemming Plaza and at other venues around the square. Details on exhibits and a map for the self-guided Art Walk tour can be found at www.jacksonvilleartwalk.com.

Apr 012014
 

museumThis weekend is the first full weekend of the month, and that means Bank of America and Merrill Lynch customers can visit museums free through the bank’s Museums On Us program. Just show your Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card Saturday or Sunday and you’ll get free admission to more than 150 museums and attractions in cities across the United States.

In Jacksonville, the deal is good at  the Museum of Contemporary Art and The Museum of Science and History.

If you’re traveling, you can also get free entry to other Florida museums in Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, West, Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. There’s also a mobile-friendly site to check out museum deals from your phone: http://museums.bankofamerica.com.

Mar 292014
 

RAMThe March 29 Riverside Arts Market offers a line-up from the North Florida Folk Network, including Charley Simmons, Road Less Traveled, Larry Mangum and Dixie Rodeo. The concerts go on between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., along with other performances and RAM food, arts and craft vendors. As always, RAM takes place under the Fuller Warren Bridge on Riverside Avenue.

Mar 172014
 

Mini Mania happens every Monday at Sweet by Holly.  The St. Johns Town Center gourmet cupcake and yogurt emporium offers two-and-a-half bite wonders in an array of flavors for $1 each all day Monday.  That’s a 50-percent discount.  Order them by the dozen and while you’re waiting, sample the self-serve yogurts.  You may just want to return on Tuesday when yogurt is 22-cents an ounce.