The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has announced that entry fees at all 75 Minnesota state parks will be waived on Black Friday (11/25) -- encouraging all Minnesotans to get outside and explore Minnesota's parks & trails.

The goal is to encourage families to extend their holiday by spending time together with a walk outdoors. Research shows that walking offers multiple benefits, from increased creativity and better brain function to more flexibility and stamina. So you won't just burn calories, you'll also improve your well-being.

Here are the Ten State Parks Closest to Owatonna

  • Open fields, wetlands, upland forests, lakes, and forest edges provide the perfect habitat for many southern Minnesota wildlife species at Sakatah Lake State Park near Waterville.
  • Walking the Prairie Loop Trail at dusk or dawn can be a magical time visually. With the beautiful contrast in wildflowers and grasses, and the kaleidoscope-like lighting of the sunset or sunrise, the imagery can take your breath away at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park near Nerstrand.
  • Rice Lake State Park near Owatonna is a major wetland in the area. Enjoy camping under the tall hardwoods, picnicking, and birdwatching.
  • Bring a picnic to eat under towering trees in the picnic area or while on a break at one of the overlooks on the trails. Follow the Hiking Club Trail as it loops through the park's varied landscapes at Myre Big Island State Park near Albert Lea.
  • Minnesota's third oldest state park is home to a newly re-established American Bison herd. Enjoy a fun day of exploring Minneopa State Park filled with natural and historical features, including Southern Minnesota's largest waterfall.
  • Bring a picnic to eat under towering trees near the swimming pond, beach house and trailheads. Follow the Hiking Club Trail as it loops through the park's varied landscapes at Flandrau State Park near New Ulm.
  • Beauty and quiet, that is the essence of Carley State Park near Altura. The park's hardwood forest and adjacent farmland is home to white-tailed deer, beaver, coyotes, red and gray fox, pileated woodpeckers, great horned owls, and many migratory songbirds.
  • Hike Chimney Rock Trail for a scenic view of the Whitewater River, or take the Meadow Trail for a more accessible hike surrounded by dramatic bluffs at Whitewater State Park near Altura.
  • Mystery Cave is the longest cave in Minnesota, with over 13 miles of underground passages! Each guided tour takes you underground through different areas, and showcases scenic pools and a variety of cave formation at Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park near Preston.
  • Explore a 3-mile loop around Pike Island and keep an eye out for wild turkeys at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul.

The bottom line is that there's no shortage of ways to spend some quality time with your family outdoors on the day after Thanksgiving, and walk off your turkey dinner! (It's what I'll be doing.)

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