You use a price comparison app to save money on airfare. You check the local Airbnb rates to stretch your lodging budget. And you scour the internet for deals and discounts on activities. After all, travel and money are unfortunately synonymous.
Unless you know where to look, that is. Ideal for travelers who appreciate the uncommon, these 16 strange places across the globe offer plenty of fun at no cost.
1. Carhenge ― Alliance, Neb.
In 1987, artist Jim Reinders found two ways to make Stonehenge better: build it out of cars and stick it in Alliance, Neb. Carhenge doesn't just feature the iconic roadside attraction of precariously balanced, gray-painted vintage cars; it also boasts a collection of car art sculptures to browse. As a bonus, the site is open all day, every day, and costs nothing to see — though donations are appreciated. Carhenge is proof you can find plenty of fun, free things to do in every state.
2. Museum of Bad Art ― Somerville, Mass.
If your family moans at the idea of a pretentious art museum, forgo the admission price — and those $16 gallery cafe sandwiches — in favor of this Somerville, Mass., tribute to kitsch. Inside, you'll find 400 pieces of art guaranteed to be bad, complete with written explanations that attempt to offer context. To get in free, just request a museum pass via email or buy a ticket to a movie or show at the Somerville Theatre.
3. The Glockenspiel at the Neues Rathaus ― Munich
In the central town square of Marienplatz, you'll find flamboyantly dressed figures guarding the neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (or New Town Hall). Things get a little weirder when the figures come to creepy life to perform a twirling reenactment of moments from Munich's history. It won't cost you a single euro to see the glockenspiel show every day at 11 a.m., 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. — though the late show doesn't run in winter.
4. Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden ― Bang Saen, Thailand
Munich's glockenspiel might be inadvertently creepy, but the sculptors behind the freakish statues at Wang Saen Suk's monastery garden had every intention of freaking you out. Made to represent the 136 pits of torture in Buddhist hell, the site features half-human creatures and colorful depictions of torture ranging from impalement to lava.
If you're looking for free things to do near Bangkok or Pattaya, this odd destination makes for a fearfully frugal day trip. You'll know you're there when you see the "Welcome to hell" sign. Seriously.
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5. Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail ― Weldon Spring, Mo.
There is only one place where the phrase "nuclear waste adventure" is a good thing, and that just happens to be Weldon Spring. Likely the only 40-million-cubic-foot mound of toxic waste on your itinerary, the site features a mass of clay, sand, concrete and stone engineered to cleanse the area of its nuclear history.
The anti-nuclear slabs form austere, sci-fi-style architecture that visitors love to hike and climb for stunning views. This odd attraction also hosts a free museum on site.
6. The Island of the Dolls ― Mexico City
At the top of any list of weird places, you'll find Isla de las Munecas, or the Island of the Dolls, located just outside Mexico City. The legend goes that caretaker Don Julian Santana Barrera found a drowned young girl floating in the surrounding Xochimilco canals shortly before he discovered her doll.
Out of respect, he hung the doll in a nearby tree. As the story goes, after the ghost of the girl began to haunt him, the caretaker started hanging hundreds of dolls around the island to ward off her spirit. It's a macabre tradition that visitors carried on long after his death in 2001, and you can see it for yourself without spending a dime — if you dare.
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7. Comic Book Route ― Brussels
Belgium brings to mind images of waffles and castles, but the city of Brussels is known for something else, too ― Franco-Belgian comics. This city-sanctioned, free walking tour features more than 50 colorful murals created by a variety of comic and street artists. Some are tucked away in hidden corners, while others are emblazoned across multiple stories of buildings.
8. The Mindfield ― Brownsville, Tenn.
Leave it to the artists of the world to provide us with the best — and weirdest — free things to do. In 1989, Brownsville, Tenn., artist Billy Tripp started his life's work creating the Mindfield. An acre-wide, 125-foot-tall mass of repurposed metal parts ― including an entire water tower — the Mindfield is a free-to-visit tribute to Tripp's mom and dad, so the feels are free, too.
9. The Fremont Troll ― Seattle
Speaking of wonderfully weird art, you'd be hard-pressed to find a quirkier or more beloved statue than Seattle's own bridge-dwelling troll. After years of rumored troll sightings, sculptor Steve Badanes made the urban myth a reality in 1989. All you have to do to pose with this 18-foot-tall monstrosity ― who famously wields a Volkswagen Beetle in his hand ― is venture below the north end of the Aurora Bridge in Fremont. The statue might just be the most Instagrammable item on this list.
10. The Giant Corrugated Iron Animals of Tirau ― Tirau, New Zealand
You'll find no shortage of sporty tourist attractions in New Zealand, but few are as odd (or free) as the "Corrugated Capital of the World." Typically used in the construction of barns and sheds, corrugated iron is also an artistic tool for the people of Tirau. So far, they've constructed building-sized sculptures of a dog, a sheep, a praying mantis, a castle, a pukeko bird and a cow pushing a shopping cart.
11. The Giant Sculptures of Casey ― Casey, Ill.
Not to be outdone by the Kiwis, the small town of Casey, Ill., prides itself on being home to a whole lot of Guinness-sanctioned "world's largest" stuff. An effort spearheaded by resident Jim Bolin, the cartoonishly massive and fully functional giant sculptures include the world's largest rocking chair, mailbox, golf tee, knitting needles, crochet hook, pitchfork and wooden shoes.
The town also boasts oversized renditions of a bird cage, ear of corn, yard stick, coin, balsa wood plane, pencil and, for some reason, a Minion, but those sculptures aren't record-setting. Better yet, this weird roadside site is free, so bring the kids.
12. Rainbow Tunnel ― Toronto
Not to be confused with the recently re-christened Robin Williams Rainbow tunnel in Sausalito (another free, strange place to visit), Toronto's rainbow tunnel has been brightening up the Moccasin Trail Park since the 1970s.
As a tribute to his fallen friend, Norwegian teen B.C. Johnson repeatedly painted rainbows on this Don Valley Parkway tunnel. No matter how many times the city painted over them, Johnson kept repainting. Nowadays, many Canadians have contributed to this wildly colorful mural, and Toronto has embraced it as an attraction, even officially restoring it in 2013.
13. Dinosaur Park ― Rapid City, S.D.
Hiking through the woods is fun, but you're unlikely to encounter any dinosaurs. Located in the Black Hills, Dinosaur Park solves that problem. A staple oddity of Americana since 1936, the kitschy statues of Dinosaur Park — including a stegosaurus, tyrannosaurus rex and brontosaurus — are still free and open to the public. Of course, they're not in the Black Hills for no reason; the sandstone ridge is known for its fossils and dinosaur footprints as much as its majestic views.
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14. Giant Transforming Gundam Statue ― Tokyo
The world wept in March 2017 when Tokyo dismantled its life-sized Gundam robot ― based on the mecha from the popular anime series, "Mobile Suit Gundam" ― but people didn't have to wait long for a replacement. In September, an all-new 64.6-foot Unicorn Gundam model took its place. Even better, the new Gundam lights up and transforms into Destroy Mode.
After you've taken in the spectacle, you can pop into the nearby mall, which features a rooftop skate park. If that's not enough for you, the mecha-loving district of Odaiba plans on constructing a full-sized, walking Gundam by 2019.
15. Park Guell ― Barcelona, Spain
Despite what the residents of Somerville might say, art doesn't have to be bad to be free. Built between 1900 and 1914, Park Guell is architect Antoni Gaudi's living expression of Catalan modernism. The park boasts colorful mosaics and lively sculptures of wild creatures, as well as organically inspired baroque architecture that incorporates wavy lines. All areas of the park except for the Monumental Zone are free to visit, but be aware of the partial closure of the Placa de la Natura due to renovations.
16. Speakers’ Corner ― London
Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park is the place on the Venn diagram where "free," "odd" and "educational" meet. Head on over to the free park's Marble Arch, and you'll stumble onto a lively public stage that has played host to political and intellectual speakers ranging from George Orwell to Vanessa Redgrave. Continuing a tradition that began in 1872, Speakers' Corner still hosts Sunday soapbox speeches from anyone with an opinion to air, proving that sometimes people are the most interesting attraction of all.
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