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National Park Service Announces Offers on Free Fun

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Dec. 9, 2010: The National Christmas Tree is shown at the Ellipse across from the White House in Washington. (AP)

Free stuff alert.  

The National Park Service is giving away more free tickets for this year’s national Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Washington than in years past.  But that's not all.  This week it also announced that it will offer 17 free days at the country's national parks in 2012.

Here are the details.  

Those hoping to catch a glimpse of the White House tree lighting up, mark your calendars. This year’s tree lighting ceremony is scheduled for Dec. 1, but to you have to get your tickets through an online lottery. Click here for more information

The Park Service will distribute 3,000 tickets for seats and 14,000 tickets for standing-room. Sign up anytime between at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, and 9:59 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 7 for the chance to win. Tickets will be mailed by Nov. 14.

If you're making plans to head for the great outdoors, these dates may be worth waiting for. National park entrance fees will be waived 17 of the following days next year.  

January 14-16 (Martin Luther King Jr. weekend); April 21-29 (National Park Week); June 9 (Get Outdoors Day); Sept. 29 (National Public Lands Day) and Nov. 10-12 (Veterans Day weekend).

There are still a few free days left for 2011 as well.  All of the national parks will once again allow entry to travelers without paying on Veterans Day weekend, which is Nov. 10-12. 

For a list of the more than 100 parks that participate in the program click here.

The free events are aimed at getting Americans to experience all that the national parks and sites have to offer, especially during these tough economic times.  But, as with all freebies, expect some crowds.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.