CALENDAR SHOPPING, as a close-of-the-year pursuit, can be rather pleasurable on an aesthetic level. You know you'll be staring at it for the next twelve months, should you hang it somewhere prominent, like the refrigerator, so picking out the perfect theme is essential. Will you go with kittens in baskets for 2017? Or rainbows? Or ponies? Or some ultimate mythical calendar that features all three? So many delightful decisions. But you don't need to dither over the first dates you'll circle when you buy your date-keeper, beyond the birthdays and anniversaries you need to keep in mind. You'll want to promptly call out, via the thickest pen you have, all of the fee-free days coming up at the national parks. They're pretty special, and definitely money-saving, and there are but a handful each year, so heeding when they pop up is important. The 2017 dates were just revealed in the middle of November 2016, giving you time to circle away.
THE FIRST FEE-FREE DAY... of the new year is Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 16. Presidents Day follows, on Feb. 20, while two weekends pop up in April in honor of National Park Week. The National Park Service's birthday on Aug. 25 will be part of the celebratory, pay-nothing-to-enter batch, while National Public Lands Day on Sept. 30 and Veterans Day Weekend round out the calendar. Oh, and you're correct if you just remembered that not every national park charges an entrance fee; just over a fourth of all the parks, monuments, and sites do on a normal, everyday basis. But those 127 treasures will once again waive admission on select and special days in the new year. Better start circling when on your new refrigerator calendar.