California State Parks offer a break from food, shopping

Getting outdoors delivers scientifically documented benefits to the mind and body, including easing stress and boosting happiness.|

Need an antidote for overstuffing yourself on Thanksgiving or an escape from Friday's supercharged shopping scene?

California State Parks urges people to take in the fresh air and fine scenery at 280 locations from the Oregon border to the Mexican border, including a dozen parks in Sonoma County.

“It's a great alternative to coping with the crowds at the mall,” said Adeline Yee, a parks spokeswoman.

Be advised a National Retail Federation survey indicated that 164 million people - more than two of every three Americans - are planning to shop or considering shopping during Thanksgiving weekend, which runs from Thursday through Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, concluding on Cyber Monday.

Of those bent on spending, the survey found 66 percent want to grab the great deals associated with the biggest shopping weekend of the year, the federation said.

State parks can't give you a door-buster deal on a new television or turtleneck. Rather, they feature sandy beaches, redwood forests, hiking trails, tranquil lakes and historic sites - and that's just here in Sonoma County.

Getting outdoors also delivers scientifically documented benefits to the mind and body, which include easing stress and depression, boosting happiness, sharpening mental focus and bolstering immunity with an increase in virus- and tumor-fighting white blood cells, according to

To sweeten the deal a bit, state parks this weekend offer a #InventYourAdventure contest called “Every Adventure Has a Story,” with six travel backpacks worth $200 each as prizes.

Contestants need only trek to a park between Friday and Sunday and post a photo or video on Instagram with an explanation of why the park is “special to you,” the department's press release said.

Contest details are online at

Like the shopping malls, state parks get a bit crowded the day after Thanksgiving, especially with their own giveaway, which this year offered more than 2,500 free park passes in a collaboration between the parks system and Save the Redwoods League.

On Wednesday, however, passes for the 46 participating redwood state parks had all been claimed, including eight parks in Sonoma County and 11 more in Mendocino County.

Last year, more than 35,000 people visited 116 parks using 11,560 Friday-after-Thanksgiving passes.

To beat the rush this weekend, parks officials suggest visiting during off-peak hours, from opening time to 11 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to closing time.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or

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