There’s nothing better than finding something exciting to do without having to open your wallet. While those opportunities might seem few and far between, every state across the nation has something free to explore. Each state offers a number of unique experiences for families to immerse themselves in the culture. And there’s something for everyone — nature lovers, art enthusiasts and candy connoisseurs.
These free activities allow you to avoid frivolous spending and stick to your budget. While some are well-known tourist attractions, most of these activities allow locals and visitors alike to trek off the beaten path and learn something new — free of cost. Find out what activities you can get for free in every state.
Alabama: History Walk in the Civil Rights District
Walk through the history of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama, on your own self-guided tour. You can visit the famous Kelly Ingram Park, the location of many rallies, demonstrations and confrontations in the 1960s. And if you love The Temptations, pay homage at Eddie Kendrick Memorial Park, which features a bronze sculpture of the singer.
Alaska: Front-Row Seat to the Northern Lights
There aren’t many places on Earth where you can experience the Northern Lights — but Alaska offers this natural light show in its own backyard. Winter is the best time to view the lights, with the long periods of darkness and frequency of clear nights providing the best opportunities for aurora displays.
Arizona: Ice Cream Cone Factory Tour
Have you ever wondered how an ice cream cone is made? Well, you’re in luck — you can take a tour of the world’s largest ice cream cone manufacturer based right in Arizona. Celebrate over 100 years of joy at Joy Cone, with two facilities in Hermitage, Arizona, and Flagstaff, Arizona. Each cone is inspected by a person, not a machine. Tours must be scheduled in advance, with a select number of dates open to the general public. If you’re an ice cream fanatic, a visit to this cone company may be a real treat.
Arkansas: Tickets to the Walmart Digital Museum
If you’ve ever wondered how Walmart got its start, you can snag free admission to the Walmart Digital Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. Sam Walton opened the very first Walmart in 1962, with 18 successful Walmart stores by the end of the decade. The museum takes you through the growth of the company, as well as featuring special toy exhibits for the child in all of us.
California: Exploration of Space at Griffith Observatory
At night, head out to the Griffith Observatory to look at the stars. Admission and access to the telescopes are completely free. You can take in live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and there is free admission to various events. Griffith Observatory offers monthly programs, such as the Sunset Walk & Talk event, where you can go on a free guided sunset hike led by a park ranger and museum guide. Learn about the history of Griffith Park, and point out constellations as they appear in the evening sky.
Colorado: Journey To Garden of the Gods
The Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center in Colorado Springs is officially a world-class museum, which offers hands-on interactive exhibits for the whole family to enjoy. Be sure to check out the spectacular views of the red-rock monoliths. Visitors can drive through the park or take a free guided nature walk led by a naturalist volunteer. Learn about how the red rocks were discovered in Colorado, as well as the discovery of an entirely new dinosaur species.
Connecticut: Trek To a Tower
There are 120 steps to the top — but that shouldn’t stop you from taking in the Heublein Tower in Simsbury, Connecticut. In 1876, Gilbert Heublein promised his fiance, Louise, a castle on a mountain. Ask, and you shall receive. This tower had the very first residential elevator in Connecticut and a top-floor ballroom. Now, the home and museum are only accessible by a 1.25-mile walking trail, which is a short hike for year-round visitors.
Delaware: Brewery Tour
Take a free Quick Sip Tour of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware — with four free samples to boot. Please remember to bring your ID and closed-toe shoes when you go. If you don’t want a tour, you can always stick around and play lawn games like bocce and cornhole.
Florida: A Beach Vacation
Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of things you can get for free in Florida. If you like seafood, you can dive for your own scallops in the Big Bend region from June until September. Local restaurants will even prepare them for you. If you’re not a fan of seafood, beachgoers can beat the heat at Sun Splash Park in Daytona Beach. It offers free admission and four acres of fun for the whole family.
Georgia: Activities Within Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park
Take a stroll along the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame in Atlanta, and reflect on those who have paved the way toward justice. Visitors can also take a ranger-led tour of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth home. While this tour is free, be prepared for an extensive wait. If you’re impatient, take a self-guided tour of other sites, such as the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dr. and Mrs. King’s gravesite, Freedom Hall and Fire Station No. 6.
Hawaii: Lei-Making Skills
If you can pull yourself away from the beach, a local craft shop provides a unique opportunity for locals and visitors alike. Ui Mau a Mau — which means “beautiful forever” — teaches lei-making classes. Leis are an important part of the Hawaiian culture, as they are often used to represent love and celebration.
Idaho: Encounters With Wildlife
Check out the Morrison Knudsen Nature Center in Boise, Idaho, for a unique outdoor experience. With various weekend wildlife nature activities as well as evening lectures, there are considerable opportunities for nature lovers to encounter local wildlife.
Illinois: Visit the Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo is located right in Chicago in the “shadow of skyscrapers” — and completely free. Feel transported as you explore tropical rainforests, the savanna and various habitats of your favorite wild animals. There’s an array of daily activities at the zoo, where you can feed cows, learn about ape care and watch trainers feed the seals.
Indiana: Candy-Making Tour
If you have a sweet tooth, Schimpff’s Confectionery is the perfect place for a free tour. Visitors will get to see the Candy Kitchen, the Candy Museum and a free candy-making demonstration on antique equipment. The Candy Dipping Room is also always open for viewing. This mom and pop shop allows you to buy candy or a chocolate soda once the tour is over.
Iowa: A Tour of the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden
Stop and smell the flowers at the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. Explore the display garden and testing ground for plants while seeing where the magazine photographs its many features.
Kansas: Visit One of the Eight Wonders of Kansas
Drivers can see Monument Rocks and Chalk Pyramids from highway US-83 in Kansas — that is, if you know where to look. These 70-feet tall sedimentary rock formations were formed by sea bed erosion during the Cretaceous Period. While these rocks are on private land, they are open free to the public during the day.
Kentucky: Drink Bourbon
Kentucky is best known for its bourbon. And tours at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, are on the house. The Trace Tour leads you through the rolling bourbon barrels, which includes a tasting of their award-winning products.
Louisiana: Swing-Dancing Lessons
You’re in for a swinging good time at the Allways Lounge & Cabaret in New Orleans. Every Sunday, local dance instructors offer free swing-dancing classes at 8 p.m. There’s a live jazz band at the venue from 9 p.m. until midnight, so you can put your new skills to good use.
Maine: Listen To Spoken Word
Word Portland offers a monthly reading series on the first Monday of every month. Writers and readers alike will enjoy the no-frills atmosphere of these events. They have new readers every month, and you can submit work to read at one of their events through their website.
Maryland: Walk on the Wild Side at the Salisbury Zoo
Free parking and free admission — what could be better? Located just a short drive from Ocean City, Maryland, the Salisbury Zoo is the perfect activity year-round. With over 100 animals, visitors can spend an entire day exploring the park and habitats of their favorite animals.
Massachusetts: Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory Tour
Not only do visitors get to watch the transformation of the potato, but there are free chips at the end of the tour. It’s important to note that the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory is only open during the week from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Michigan: Visit Pictured Rocks
Taking a trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a nature lover’s paradise. With sandstone cliffs, beaches, sand dunes, waterfalls and forests, there is something to explore in all four seasons. Take a hike, bring a picnic and remember to take plenty of pictures (the rocks are used to it).
Minnesota: Learn Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About SPAM
Austin, Minnesota, is home to the SPAM Museum, which boasts a “whole new spin on ‘cubism.'” There are a ton of interactive exhibits, including a Monty Python cafe, provision market and a kid’s play area. If you’re interested in the history of SPAM, or you just want to know what it’s made of, there are free guided tours every hour.
Mississippi: Meet Kermit the Frog
Did you know the birthplace of Kermit the Frog is in Mississippi? You can visit Jim Henson’s Delta Boyhood Exhibit on the bank of Deer Creek in Leland, Mississippi, where fans can celebrate the beloved green frog and learn more about the creator himself.
Missouri: Free Tuition at College of the Ozarks
Full-time students at the College of the Ozarks can graduate completely debt-free in Point Lookout, Missouri. This Christian college allows students to participate in an on-campus work program, as well as two 40-hour work weeks per school year. They also offer a cost of education scholarship to all of their students.
Montana: Spiritual Awakening at the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas
The Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is a public botanical park and Buddhist center in Jocko Valley, Montana. The purpose of the garden is to bring about positivity and wisdom to all who visit, and free guided tours are offered April through October.
Nebraska: The Next Best Thing to Stonehenge
Car enthusiasts will love this free attraction. If you’re ever in Alliance, Nebraska, you can see great structures built from classic automobiles and car parts. Carhenge was painted gray to replicate Stonehenge and was built by Jim Reinders as a memorial to his father.
Nevada: Color the Sky With Hot Air Balloons
The Great Reno Balloon Race happens every September in Reno, Nevada. Over 100 balloons take flight each year, making it the world’s largest free hot-air ballooning event. With an average of 120,000 spectators every year, this race is perfect for a free, post-Labor Day event.
New Hampshire: Discover Ski History
The New England Ski Museum collects, preserves and exhibits examples relating to ski history. With free admission since 1992, this site is located near the very first ski resort that taught Alpine skiing. If you love to hit the slopes, visit the new annual exhibit opening this June.
New Jersey: A 9/11 Memorial
The “Empty Sky” 9/11 memorial was made to honor those New Jersey residents who lost their lives in 2001. There are 749 names individually placed on the stainless steel walls, which are the width of each side of the World Trade Center towers. This memorial also faces lower Manhattan, to paint a picture of where the towers once stood.
New Mexico: A Dip in a Hot Spring
If you fancy a dip in a hot spring, New Mexico has plenty to choose from. Spence Hot Spring can be reached by a five-mile hike; however, there are no signs showing visitors how to get there. If you’re up for an adventure, though, trekking to the 95-degree pool for a soak could be a lot of fun.
New York: Ferry Ride and View of the Statue of Liberty
The Staten Island Ferry is always free. If you’re getting on from the Manhattan side, sit on the right side of the boat for the best view of the Statue of Liberty. The ride is only 25 minutes each way, so it’s the perfect opportunity to grab a great picture.
North Carolina: Explore the First Documented Gold Site in the US
The first documented gold site in the United States is located in Midland, North Carolina, at the Reed Gold Mine. You can take a free guided tour underground, but it costs a few dollars to try your luck panning for gold.
North Dakota: See Super-Sized Sites
You might be surprised to find these large metal sculptures as you drive down the Enchanted Highway from Gladstone to Regent, North Dakota. “Pheasants on the Prairie,” “World’s Largest Tin Family” and “Deer Crossing” are just a few of the wonderful spectacles you can see on the side of the road.
Ohio: Visit the Center of the World
Did you know the Center of the World and Utopia are both in the Midwest? Both towns in Ohio, visitors can see the humble beginnings of Center of the World, which still remains a tiny and unique community.
Oklahoma: Travel Down Route 66
Oklahoma is proud to call itself the “land of the ultimate road trip.” With more than 400 miles of Route 66 in Oklahoma alone, road trippers can stop in various towns, diners, museums and other attractions along the way.
Oregon: Complimentary Brewery Tour
Portland, Oregon, offers plenty of complimentary tours and tastings. Visit Hopworks Urban Brewery for free tours every Saturday. The tour includes two beer tastings, and guests are required to wear closed-toe shoes.
Pennsylvania: Famous Utz Factory Tour
Come get your snack on, and take a self-guided tour through the Utz Chip Trip Tour in Hanover, Pennsylvania. The facility built a special glass-enclosed observation gallery for guests to look down on the production process.
Rhode Island: Experience Fire, Water and Beauty
WaterFire’s 80-plus sparkling bonfires have dazzled over 10 million visitors in Providence, Rhode Island. This sculpture was installed on the rivers in downtown Providence as a powerful art statement, and visitors can stroll through Waterplace Park and enjoy the magic.
South Carolina: Visit the Only Tea Plantation in North America
As the only tea plantation in North America, tea lovers can marvel at the thousands of tea bushes at Charleston Tea Plantation. An educational tour of the tea factory is also available for guests, where you can see the entire tea production process.
South Dakota: See Mount Rushmore
There is no entrance fee for Mount Rushmore National Memorial. However, you may have to pay a fee to park. See the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln carved into the majestic Black Hills of South Dakota.
Tennessee: Concerts in Nashville
Nashville is home to the best country music in the nation. Named the Music City, there are plenty of opportunities to scope out free concerts. Head on down to Honky Tonk Highway, where venues blast free music out on to the street for everyone to enjoy.
Texas: Visit the Alamo
The Alamo Church and grounds are always free to visitors, and there are plenty of daily activities to choose from. Phil Collins — yes, the British singer — donated his extensive collection of Alamo artifacts in 2014. Visitors will soon be able to see this priceless collection on display in a world-class Alamo museum.
Utah: Relive the Olympics
Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. Utah Olympic Park is still thriving 18 years later, and many athletes train for winter-sport activities at the facility. There is free admission to the park, but guests will have to purchase tickets if they want to bobsled, ice skate or zip line.
Vermont: Maple Syrup Samples
You can’t leave Vermont without trying some authentic maple syrup. There are plenty of maple farms to choose from that offer unique samplings. Bragg Farm hosts free daily sugar house tours, as well as a sampling of four grades of pure maple syrup. Sugarbush Farm offers maple syrup, as well as various cheese samples.
Virginia: Virginia Creeper Trail Adventure
This 34.3-mile trail used to be a railroad track deep into the mountains. Now, it hosts year-round nature lovers along its path. Hikers, bikers and horseback riders can stop and enjoy various recreational activities along the way, including the former train station, a playground and waterfall viewing areas.
Washington: Seattle Art Walks
The very first art walk in the nation took place in Seattle. Now, there are many neighborhoods in the community that offer monthly art walks to feature local artists and businesses. This experience offers a free and easy way to enjoy the art and culture of the Emerald City.
West Virginia: Soak in George Washington's Bathtub
Well, it’s not a modern bathtub by any means. The only outdoor monument to presidential bathing is located in Berkeley Springs Park, West Virginia. Its bubbling, warm water was known for its healing powers, and George Washington visited on several occasions to see what the hype was all about.
Wisconsin: Jelly Belly Factory Tour
There are daily free tours at the Jelly Belly factory in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. Take a ride on the Jelly Belly Express, where guests will learn how the world-famous jelly beans are made and how they became so popular in the candy world. And don’t worry — there are free samples.
Wyoming: Escape To Medicine Mountain
Hike up Medicine Mountain to see the historic Medicine Wheel in Lovell, Wyoming. This sacred Native American archaeological site features 28 rock “spokes” that form a circular pattern of stones. Researchers and politicians designated it a National Historic Landmark in 1970, and it was the very first medicine wheel to be mentioned in popular literature.
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