Free Weekend in Yosemite Offers Visitors Chance to Explore Gateway Communities

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The coming free admission weekend in Yosemite makes for not just a great chance to explore the national park, but the many attractions in the surrounding communities.

Valley View, one of the scenic spots of Yosemite National Park. The park is offering free admittance the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Yosemite is obviously the main attraction here, but it brings people here where they find much more

Yosemite National Park will once again be offering free entry weekends in 2011, with the first one coming up as a celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Tourism officials say the free entry days are not only the perfect chance to explore the scenic park, but the surrounding gateway region as well.

“Yosemite is obviously the main attraction in the region, but it brings people here where they find much more,” said Jarrod Lyman of the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau which represents Madera County, California’s Gateway to Yosemite. “When they discover things like Bass Lake, the Madera Wine Trail and other popular attractions, they realize there is much to see in the gateway region.”

Madera County surrounds Highway 41, the most traveled entrance in to Yosemite. Located at the south entrance to the park, the entrance is the closest to popular spots like the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias, Glacier Point and tunnel view. There are also many things to see and do on the way in to the park as well.

“Many people don’t realize how prolific the area is in terms of wine production,” Lyman said. “Quite often, the grapes from popular wines from more well-known areas are actually grown here. However, a lot of those grapes grown here also become award winning wines made in Madera County.”

Madera County is also home to numerous art galleries and history museums. The region claims more artists per capita than any other in the country, and the rich history stemming back to Native American tribes, the gold rush and logging industry are on display throughout the county. Organizations such as the Madera Arts Council and Sierra Art Trail hold numerous events to acquaint visitors with the galleries and works of Madera County, while the Consortium of Southern Yosemite Museums represents nine museums showcasing everything from clothing dating as far back as the 1700’s to gold panning, logging and even a working 100 year old steam engine, on which you can ride through the Sierra National Forest.

“Yosemite is certainly a gem, but for someone to get the whole experience, it’s important not to lose sight of the many other attractions in the gleam of that gem,” said Lyman.


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