Most people's idea of roughing it on Black Friday is pitching a camp chair outside the nearest big-box retailer at 3 a.m. Some fun, huh?
But this year, the California State Parks system and two environmental groups are offering free admission to dozens of state parks to encourage folks to step outside and enjoy the state's natural wonders instead of duking it out at the mall on one of the biggest shopping days of the year.
On Black Friday last year (the day after Thanksgiving) outdoor retailer REI launched what's becoming a nationwide movement with its #OptOutside campaign, an award-winning promotion in which the company closed stores nationwide and asked people to head outside to enjoy nature. The company even pays its staff to #OptOutside instead of coming to work. Dozens of businesses and non-profit organizations are participating this year, from groups like GirlTrek and Outdoor Afro, which are hosting events, to Subaru, which is providing vehicles so New Yorkers can take shelter dogs into nature.
“We believe that being outside makes our lives better," said REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke. While the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us.”
So as that third piece of Thanksgiving pie makes its way through your bloodstream, you can grab free admission and parking to visit one of 116 participating California state parks.
But you have to reserve the pass and print it out.
There are a limited number of spots -- 13,000 in total -- and the number of passes available for each park varies based on the park's capacity. A pass is good for one vehicle but you need the printed hard copy; electronic images on your smartphone won't get you through the gate.
To find participating state parks, reserve passes and print them out, visit www.greenfriday.org.
All California state parks will be open the day after Thanksgiving regardless of whether you snag a free pass. Normal day-use fees apply -- usually $6 to $15 per vehicle. You can check a full list of each park's admission price here.
It's the first time that three organizations -- the state parks, Save the Redwoods League and the California State Parks Foundation -- are working together to provide free passes to state parks. Last year, California State Parks and Save the Redwoods League offered free entrance to 48 redwood parks.
Anyone who participates in the day can take photos of themselves outdoors and post to social media using the hashtag #OptOutside.
California State Parks is also using two other hashtags, #GreenFriday and #CAstateparks, on Twitter and Instagram.