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Opt Outside at a Virginia State Park on Thanksgiving weekend

From the first Thanksgiving at Virginia’s Berkeley Hundred plantation in 1619, Virginians have gathered to give thanks and enjoy family, friends and fun during the holiday. Special time together can continue past the last slice of pie with a visit to Virginia State Parks.

From November 28 through December 1, Virginia State Parks will sponsor Opt Outside and join the national effort to promote healthy lifestyles and encourage people to get outdoors.

A photo contest, with a $500 gift certificate top prize, is a bonus for the holiday weekend. To qualify, photos must be taken at a Virginia State Park between November 28 and December 1. Individuals may submit up to five photos. Visit www.VirginiaStateParks.gov for contest rules.

The 38 award-winning Virginia State Parks are managed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

“The weather is often mild over the holiday weekend and it’s great to get outdoors,” said interim state parks director David Collett. “There will be more than 100 programs in state parks throughout Virginia, so bring the whole family and create some Thanksgiving memories.”

Opt Outside activities include ranger-led hikes, campfires, nature crafts, special Christmas programs and even a wine festival.

Belle Isle State Park, 1632 Belle Isle Road, Lancaster will host “Don’t be a turkey, come hike with us,” from 2-3 p.m. Friday, November 29. Join a ranger for a guided hike along Watch House Trail and take in the beautiful fall scenery of the surrounding forests, swamps and the Rappahannock River.

This approximate 2-mile hike will take place over easy grass trails. It’s a good idea to wear sturdy closed-toe shoes and bring a water bottle. Parking and restrooms are available at the Camp Store.

For a complete list of Virginia State Parks Opt Outside activities, visit the programs and events section at dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/.

To make gift giving easier for fans of state parks, beginning Monday, December 2, and continuing until December 13, Virginia State Parks will offer a 25% discount on gift certificates. Call 800-933-7275, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, to order.

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