There are some incredible free attractions to visit across the country, but most popular attractions can be money drains. If you’re looking to save money at these famous tourist attractions, do your homework and plan ahead of time. Evaluate parking fees versus ride-hailing services or taxis, and look for discount passes or deals that might be available for your dates.
One lesser-known way to cut corners is bringing your own food. Not only is this a healthier option, but you can also save significant dough by avoiding the costs of deep-fried concessions and sugary beverages.
Click through to find out the cost to visit these popular tourist attractions — and how to save on food expenses there.
Disney World Theme Parks
With tickets starting at approximately $100, everything at the Disney World theme parks and resorts in Orlando, Fla., might feel like it comes with an upcharge, but this theme park still has many attractions that are worth the cost. Since you might still want to pay up for fun, food is one place where you can save a few bucks. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that you don’t need to purchase overpriced concessions at any of the Florida parks or hotels. Guests are allowed to bring in their own food and drink as long as it doesn’t require heating. Just be sure to let a staff member know upon entering the park. Save your cash for mouse ears, autograph books and other souvenirs by packing your own healthy and affordable treats to stay energized throughout the day.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
A signature Colorado experience and the most recognizable structure in the state, Red Rocks is the most acoustically perfect, naturally occurring amphitheater in the world. You can hike around for free, see a concert or participate in a classic movie night or fitness class. Tickets range from about $30 to more than $150, and tailgating is a huge part of the experience. You can bring your own food as long as it’s in a soft-sided cooler or a cloth bag that fits under your seat.
San Diego Zoo
Often named one of the best zoos in the country, the San Diego Zoo is a fun, albeit expensive, family day out. Bringing your food with you will help you save big on your family vacation while enjoying costlier attractions. Entrance to the Southern California animal paradise is about $56 for adults, but you can bring your own food as long as it’s not in a large container or cooler.
The largest natural outdoor amphitheater in the U.S., the Hollywood Bowl in Southern California is another bucket-list-worthy concert venue. You might find a way to score cheaper tickets, but if not, tickets run from about $19 to more than $400. You can bring your own food and drink into the theater as long as it can fit under your seat or, if you have box seating, within the box.
The Getty Center
One of the premier art museums in the country, the Getty Center lets visitors enjoy the museum with no admission charge. Located in Los Angeles, this popular free attraction houses European paintings, drawings, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts and photography from antiquity to the present. Guests are encouraged to bring their own picnic lunches to enjoy on the lawn next to the Central Garden, although no food and drinks are permitted inside the museum galleries.
The National Museum of American History
The National Museum of American History is part of the free Smithsonian museum complex along the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The exhibits preserve a collection of national treasures from military conflicts to movie artifacts that put America on full display. Visitors are allowed to bring food and drinks in resealable containers as long as they are kept in a backpack or bag. Food items can only be consumed in one of the two museum cafeterias.
The Field Museum
One of the most popular things to do in Chicago, The Field Museum is a larger-than-life history museum known for its dinosaur bones, Egyptian tombs and everything in between. Adult admission starts at about $26, and guests are allowed to bring their own brown-bag lunches as long as food is consumed only in designated areas.
The Gorge Amphitheatre
A bucket-list concert venue for many, the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington overlooks the Columbia River and is home to summer music concerts, including the popular Watershed Festival. Tickets for the three-day festivals run several hundred dollars, and most people camp and make a weekend out of it. Each guest can bring a clear plastic gallon-sized bag of food and one factory-sealed plastic 20-ounce water bottle into the venue itself.
Six Flags Magic Mountain
A thrilling theme park that doesn’t have to break the budget in Los Angeles, Six Flags Magic Mountain technically does not allow outside food or drinks, but exceptions are made for guests with allergies and dietary restrictions. Guests must contact park security or guest relations when they arrive, and containers will be marked and dated to show that they have been checked and approved for entry. Admission to the park starts at approximately $60.
Almost 3 million people a year make the trek to South Dakota to pay homage to the nation’s forefathers. Symbolic of America’s founding, expansion, preservation and unification, the four presidents immortalized on the national monument represent important moments throughout U.S. history. One of the best free attractions in the country, Mount Rushmore charges about $10 for parking, and you can bring food and coolers into the park.
The Statue of Liberty
A gift of friendship from France, the Statue of Liberty stands guarding the New York skyline as a symbol of freedom and democracy. Tickets cost approximately $25 per adult to tour the pedestal or approximately $28 to climb to the crown. Both include round-trip ferry transportation to the grounds and Ellis Island. You can bring your own food to the island, but leave large coolers at home.
One of the coolest places to visit in San Francisco, Alcatraz is the site of both the first lighthouse and fort on the West Coast and the famous federal penitentiary. The Alcatraz prison once housed the most dangerous criminals the world has ever known, and stories of debaucheries, convictions and escape attempts live on within its walls. You can bring your own food and drinks to “the Rock” as long as you picnic in the dock area only.
Universal Studios Hollywood
A place for movie magic to come to life, Universal Studios is part studio tour and part theme park. The attraction based in Los Angeles boasts behind-the-scenes tours, character rides and sets from both the silver screen and major motion pictures. General admission to all rides and shows costs about $100, so you’ll definitely want to save a few bucks by bringing your own eats. You can pack snacks in small soft-sided insulated bags, along with any food required for special dietary or medical needs.
Kennedy Space Center
Florida’s gateway to space, the Kennedy Space Center is the place to learn about rockets, astronauts and space exploration through interactive exhibits. If you’re ready to blast off to one of Orlando’s most popular attractions, daily admission is about $50, which is a lot cheaper than actually going through astronaut training. Food and beverages in small soft-sided coolers are permitted in the facility.
Yellowstone National Park
One of the 10 most-visited national parks in the country, Yellowstone straddles the state lines between Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Famed for its geysers, hot springs and abundant wildlife, Yellowstone offers raw nature at its finest. Seven-day passes for individuals are about $20 per person or about $35 per car. Picnicking is permitted throughout the park, and camp stoves and charcoal grills can be used in designated areas. Wood fires are allowed in picnic areas with designated fire grates.