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Looking For Something To Do This Weekend? Visit South Florida's National Parks -- For Free!

Kate Stein
Wayne Rassner, board chair of the South Florida National Parks Trust, shows off an alligator hole in a cypress dome at the heart of Everglades National Park.

Are you a South Floridian who's been meaning to explore the Everglades, ride a boat on Biscayne Bay or trek through Dry Tortugas... but just never gotten around to it?

Well, now you're out of excuses. This weekend (April 22 and 23), you can visit South Florida's three national parks for free. It's part of National Park Week, which goes through Sunday. And the celebration includes abundant activities to highlight these natural, national treasures.

Activities at Everglades National Park take place at each of the park's four visitors centers (directions here):

- Ranger-guided wildlife tours starting from several of the visitors centers

- Bike rides to see a meteor shower or wildlife near the Shark Valley Visitors Center (Saturday, April 22; call 305-221-8776 for times and reservations)

- Tram and airboat tours starting from the Shark Valley Visitors Center and its vicinity

- Talks on crocodiles and manatees (1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 22 and 23) at the Flamingo Visitor Center

Tours of the Cold War-era missile base located near the Ernest Coe and Royal Palm visitors centers in Homestead (Tours have ended for the season and are scheduled to resume in December)

At Biscayne Bay National Park (directions here):

- A Junior Ranger Day (Saturday, April 22 at the park's Dante Fascell Visitors Center) that includes bird watching and art projects to earn badges

- Guided boat tours

- Fishing, snorkeling, canoeing and kayaking in the park that's 95 percent water

At Dry Tortugas National Park (accessible only by boat or plane; directions here):

- A programon responsible fishing; nets, licenses and other equipment provided (3 p.m. Saturday, April 22)

- Toursof the park's historic Civil War-era Fort Jefferson

While you're at it, why not check out Big Cypress National Preserve? Admission there is always free.

This post has been updated with additional information about the missile base tour in Everglades National Park.

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