More Free Things in the USA
We all love a freebie, and when it comes to sightseeing, there are plenty of bargains to be found. All across America, cities have a plethora of things to see and do without breaking the bank. From photography classes in Yosemite National Park to free beer tastings in Portland, Oregon, having a tight budget doesn’t mean you can’t experience the very best of all a city has to offer. Here are some of the coolest, cost-free things to do in favorite destinations around the US.
Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre urban cultural park in San Diego, California that features beautiful green belts, manicured gardens, natural vegetation zones, walking paths, several theaters and museums, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Nature, culture, and science come together in the park, which is home to no less than 17 museums and cultural institutions, including the San Diego Air & Space Museum, the San Diego Natural History Museum (the NAT), the San Diego Museum of Art, and the Fleet Science Center. It also boasts multiple performing arts venues, and many attractions such as the California Tower, the El Cid Statue, the Spanish Village Art Center, and the world-renowned San Diego Zoo. There are plenty of shady spots with benches for people to relax and enjoy the lush green spaces.
San Diego, CA
Cable Car Museum
Located at 1201 Mason Street in the Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, California, the Cable Car Museum is a free museum that celebrates the history of the cable car with several historical and innovative exhibits about the San Francisco cable car system. Established in 1974, the working museum features several examples of old cable cars, including cars from the Sutter Street Railway dating back to the 1870s, and the Clay Street Hill Railroad. The museum complex also features the cable car powerhouse, which drives the cables, the car depot where the cars are kept, which can be viewed from two overlook galleries. Run by the Friends of the Cable Car Museum, the museum is open year-round.
1201 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108, Phone: 415-474-1887
Cape Cod Lighthouses
Cape Cod is a prominent peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean in eastern Massachusetts that is a favorite summer escape spot for city-goers and famous for its beautiful beaches, world-famous Wellfleet oysters, clam chowder, and historic lighthouses. The history of the Cape is rich with stories of shipwrecks and heroic rescues with the 14 lighthouses at the center of them all, offering a romantic slant on the often-tragic tales. Today, many of the lighthouses have museums documenting their history and are open for the public to explore. Famous Cape Cod lighthouses include Chatham Light, Highland Light, Race Point Light, Three Sisters Light, Stage Harbor Light, Nauset Light, and The Parsonage Inn.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Circus-Circus Free Circus Acts
Based at the lively casino hotel of the same name, Circus Circus offers free entertainment in the form of circus shows every day on the center stage of the Carnival Midway at 11:30 am. Part of the world's largest permanent circus, the entertainers perform a variety of acts, including high-flying trapeze tricks from Argentina, feats of strength and balance, stunning aerial displays, wild and wacky Circus Circus clowns, high energy acrobatics, fantastic feats of balance, foot juggling unicycles, and artful skills with multiple umbrellas.
2880 S Las Vegas Blvd, Las Vegas, NV 89109, Phone: 702-734-0410
International Rose Test Garden
Based in Portland’s Washington Park, the International Rose Test Garden is the oldest official continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States. The garden is home to over 10,000 rose bushes of approximately 650 varieties that bloom from April through October with the most beautiful displays generally in June. Established in 1915 as a haven for hybrid roses grown in Europe during World War I and dedicated as a garden in 1924, the garden features several sections, including the Shakespeare Garden, the Royal Rosarian Garden, and the Miniature Rose Garden. The landmark garden is open daily, and admission is free.
400 SW Kingston Ave, Portland, OR 97205, Phone: 503-823-3636
Lake Eola Park
Located in the heart of Downtown Orlando, Lake Eola Park, a public park with a variety of activities and attractions for visitors of all ages. The park is built around Lake Eola, which rests at the center of the park and is bordered by a paved walking path that is a favorite spot for walkers and runners. Visitors can spend a few hours paddling around the lake on rented swan-shaped paddle boats, feeding the live swans and other birds that live there, picnicking on the grassy shores, or watching a play in the Walt Disney Amphitheater, which is based in the park. The eastern side of the park is home to a Chinese pagoda, and a children’s playground and the park offers spectacular views of Orlando’s skyline from all areas.
512 E Washington St, Orlando, FL 32801
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site
Established in 1980, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site celebrates and pays tribute to the famous civil rights leader. The park is home to several prominent buildings that played a role in his life, and visitors can take a guided tour through the park, following in the footsteps of one of America’s most famous men. Spread over 35 acres, the park consists of several buildings surrounding Martin Luther King’s boyhood home on Auburn Avenue in the historic district of Sweet Auburn. Some of these buildings include a state-of-the-art visitor center that houses a museum that annals the American Civil Rights Movement, the original Ebenezer Baptist Church where King and his father pastored, the ‘I Have a Dream’ International World Peace Rose Garden and a memorial tribute to Mohandas K. Gandhi. The park also features an ‘International Civil Rights Walk of Fame,’ which showcases the lives of those who worked and sacrificed to make equality a reality for all.
450 Auburn Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30312
Metromover is a free train service that operates seven days a week in Miami’s downtown and Brickell area. Operated by Miami-Dade Transit, Metromover is a mass transit automated people mover train system that serves the Downtown Miami, Brickell, Park West, and Arts & Entertainment District neighborhoods, with stops at major attractions and sites such as the Bayside Marketplace, the American Airlines Arena, and Miami-Dade College.
Built to celebrate the Millennium, Millennium Park is a vast public park located in the Loop region of Chicago. The park, which is open to the public year-round, features a wide variety of public art, ranging from architecture and landscape design, sculptures and artworks, exhibitions, concerts, and family activities. Connected to parts of Grant Park by the Nicols Bridgeway and the BP Pedestrian Bridge and sitting atop the Millennium Station, the park is easily accessible for visitors and features other landscape attractions such as the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the Crown Fountain, Cloud Gate and the five-acre urban sanctuary of Lurie Garden. In summer, the park becomes the beating heart of the city, with a range of fun things to see and do, such as film series’, live music concerts, and summer workouts to keep you in shape.
201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602, Phone: 312-742-1168
Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a famous site that is centered around the world-renowned sculpture of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills in Keystone. Carved by Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln and completed in 1941, the 60-foot-high granite sculpture represents birth, the growth, the development, and the preservation of the United States. The 1,278.45-acre park features a museum with interactive exhibits telling the story of the sculpture and attracts more than two million visitors annually.
13000 SD-244, Keystone, SD 57751, Phone: 605-574-2523
Niagara Falls is a world-renowned waterfall created when 3,160 tons of water from four Great Lakes plunge over a 200-foot cascade into Lake Ontario. The falls are made up of three sections, namely American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls on the American side of the border and Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. The New York side of the falls features five islands on the river, lush green parklands, and over 400 of hiking, biking and nature trails, while the Canadian side boasts lovely promenades lined with blooming flowers in the summer. Visitors can experience Niagara falls with a journey into its heart on the Maid of the Mist, where you can see the power and hear the thundering roar of thousands of gallons of water falling right before your eyes and feel the mighty rush of the mist on your face.
Niagara Falls, New York, and Ontario, Canada
Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is a public market and vibrant neighborhood community in the heart of Seattle’s downtown area with beautiful views over the Elliott Bay waterfront. Opened in 1907, the market is the oldest public farmers' markets in the United States and houses hundreds of farmers, artisans and craftspeople, and small businesses. Named after the main street that runs through the market, Pike Place built on the edge of a steep hill and is spread across eight buildings with several tiers below the main level of the market that feature a variety of shops such as antique dealers, collectible shops, and small family-owned restaurants. The upper level of the market boasts stands selling fresh local produce, fresh fish, and local arts and crafts.
85 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101, Phone: 206-682-7453
Point Reyes National Seashore
The Point Reyes National Seashore is a 71,028-acre preserve and protected coastline in Northern California’s Marin County that is maintained as an important nature reserve. Located north of San Francisco, sprawling Point Reyes is known for its spectacular natural scenery that includes some of the cleanest and beautiful beaches in the state. The park is home to several attractions and unique points of interest, including the 1870 Point Reyes Lighthouse, the cliffside Alamere Falls, Wildcat Beach, and the Phillip Burton Wilderness. Recreational activities in the park include hiking, mountain biking, whale-watching, beachcombing, and wildlife watching.
1 Bear Valley Visitor Center Access Road, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956, Phone: 415-464-5137
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater is a mountain park in Jefferson County in Denver and is part of the Denver Mountain Parks system. The favorite park is renowned for its enormous red sandstone outcrops, many of which are named, such as the ‘Seat of Pluto’ and the ‘Cave of the Seven Ladders.’ The Park has a beautiful amphitheater called the Red Rocks Amphitheater, which has been a world-renowned concert venue for 75 years. Designed by Burnam Hoyt and built of two enormous slabs of Red Stone, the award-winning amphitheater has hosted numerous music concerts and events, as well as the start and finish of The Amazing Race in 2006. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre offers a variety of recreational and outdoor activities for all tastes, ranging from scenic drives, wildlife and bird watching, to hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Red Rocks Park is a unique ecological zone where the Rocky Mountains meets the Great Plains and presents a diverse environment that is home to a variety of birds, animals, and plants.
18300 W Alameda Pkwy, Morrison, CO 80465, Phone: 720-865-2494
Samuel Adams Brewery Tour
Samuel Adams Brewery is a well-known brewery with a rich and long history that helped start the craft beer revolution that is happening today. Founded in the 1980s by Jim Koch, who brewed the first batch of Boston Lager in his kitchen, today, Samuel Adams Boston Brewery is one of America’s leading independent craft breweries, producing 16 draft lines of beloved classics and experimental beers. Locals and visitors alike can learn all about the brewery and its rich history on guided brewery tours and sample the top tipple with tailor-made tastings. Specialty tours include the Original Brew Tour, the Morning Mash-In Tour, and the Sip of Boston Brew Tour, along with several customized tours.
30 Germania St, Boston, MA 02130, Phone: 617-368-5080
The Smithsonian Institution, also known only as of the Smithsonian, is world-renowned museum and research complex Washington, D.C. that is made up of 17 museums and galleries, including the National Zoo. Founded in 1846 and administered by the Government of the United States, the museums that make up the Smithsonian Institution focus on the art, culture, and history of the natural world and boast a collection of over 150 million objects, specimens, and works of art. The complex is centered around the Smithsonian Institution Building, which is better known as "The Castle" and houses the crypt of English scientist James Smithson who established the Smithsonian Institution. Favorite museums in the complex include the Air and Space Museum, the Natural History Museum, the American History Museum, and the National Zoo.
600 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20002, Phone: 202-633-1000
The Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile-long trail that winds its way through some of the historic neighborhoods of Boston, documenting the story of the American Revolution and visiting 16 historical sites along the way. The journey begins at the Boston Common Visitor Information Center and wanders from the Old North Church through resonant burying grounds, historical landmarks, and ancient temples of the Revolutionary Era to Faneuil Hall and ends at the USS Constitution in Charlestown. Major attractions along the route include the Massachusetts State House, King's Chapel and its Burying Ground, the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, the Site of Boston Massacre, Paul Revere House, the Old North Church, Bunker Hill Monument, and the USS Constitution.
Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site
The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site is a beautifully preserved historic home that was once rented by world-renowned American author Edgar Allan Poe. Located in the Spring Garden neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the house is the only house that Poe lived in that still survives and is a designated National Historic Landmark. The site features Poe's former residence and two adjoining homes that were built after Poe left Philadelphia, along with a welcome area, a film screening room, several minor exhibits, a gift shop, and a histrionically decorated reading room that contains a complete collection of Poe's works. Guided and self-guided tours of the site are available, and admission is free.
532 N 7th St, Philadelphia, PA 19123, Phone: 215-597-8780
The French Quarter (le Vieux Carré), also known as ‘The Quarter,’ is the oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans and steeped in history and heritage. Dating back to 1718, the district was established by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville and grew around the central square of the Vieux Carré. Home to magnificent historic buildings, cathedrals, and famous jazz clubs, the French Quarter has a history that dates back 200 years and has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Resting at the heart of the French Quarter is the 18th-century historic Jackson Square, formerly known as the ‘Place d’Armes’ and later renamed in honor of the Battle of New Orleans hero Andrew Jackson. Overlooking the Mississippi River, the square is surrounded by famous old buildings, including the St. Louis Cathedral, the Presbytere and Cabildo Museums, and the stunning Pontalba Apartments, as well as a plethora of restaurants, museums, cafés and art galleries.
French Quarter, New Orleans
Garden of the Gods
The Garden of the Gods is a beautiful 1,367-acre nature park in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that is famous for its towering red sandstone rocks and 15 miles of scenic hiking trails. The park is home to some of the richest geological history on earth featuring conglomerates of pink, red, and white sandstones and limestone rocks formed over 300 million years ago. The Garden of the Gods Visitor Center features several exhibits and an informative and entertaining 15-minute film that documents the history of the park and its incredible geological formations. The park is also home to a diverse array of unique landscapes ranging from the mountain forests of Pikes Peak and dense pinon-juniper woodlands to the rolling grasslands of the Great Plains.
1805 N 30th St, Colorado Springs, CO 80904, Phone: 719-634-6666
Located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, the Getty Center is one of two sites that make up the J. Paul Getty Museum, the other of which is the Getty Villa. Renowned for its striking Richard Meier architecture, magnificent gardens, and spectacular views of Los Angeles, the center rests atop a hill and is reached by a three-car, cable-pulled hover train people mover. The museum boasts a collection of 20th-century European paintings, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, drawings, and decorative arts, along with a vast number of photographs from 1830s to present day. The museum’s gardens feature several outdoor sculptures designed by Robert Irwin on the terraces and nestled amongst the foliage.
N Sepulveda Blvd & Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049, Phone: 310-440-7300
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is a 1,017-acre sizeable urban park in San Francisco, California, and one of the city’s greatest treasures. Designed and laid-out by park engineer William Hammond Hall and master gardener John McLaren, the three-mile park features beautifully manicured gardens, tranquil lakes, grassy lawns, and picnic groves, and hiking trails, as well as monuments, cultural venues and a variety of activities. Top attractions in the park include a Japanese Tea Garden, De Young Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the Conservatory of Flowers, and the Spreckels Temple of Music, among others. The park can be explored on Segways, electric scooters and bikes, and docent-led guided tours can be arranged.
San Francisco, CA
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Founded in 1899 and one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles, Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the resting place for hundreds of Hollywood’s greatest celebrities and stars. Located at 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery has since been restored to its former glory and boasts over 50 acres of peaceful green space for visitors and families. The cemetery draws visitors from all over the world who come to see where Hollywood’s luminaries are laid to rest and hosts a vibrant cultural events program throughout the year. The active cemetery and funeral home offer a wide range of memorialization options including traditional ground burials to cremation niches and scattering gardens.
6000 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038, Phone: 323-469-1181
USS Constitution Ship Tour
Fondly known as Old Ironsides, the USS Constitution is a beautiful tri-mast, wooden-hulled heavy frigate vessel of the United States Navy that is berthed at Pier One of the former Charlestown Navy Yard. Launched in 1797, the Constitution is most noted for defeating five British warships during the War of 1812 and circling the world in the 1840s and is the world's oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat. Retired from active service in 1881, today, the USS Constitution is open to the public year-round and offers free tours with the mission of promoting understanding of the Navy's role in war and peace.
3rd St, Boston, MA 02129
Waugh Bridge Bat Colony
The Waugh Bridge Bat Colony is one of Houston’s best-kept secrets and draws thousands of both locals and visitors each year who come to see the Mexican free-tailed bats emerge nightly by the millions to feed on insects. Residing beneath the Waugh Bridge, the colony remains in Houston throughout the year, while others migrate south to warmer climes in Mexico. The nearby Buffalo Bayou Park features a bat observation deck where people can watch the evening phenomenon.
Waugh Dr, Houston, TX 77002, Phone: 713-752-0314