When you look at needs versus wants, travel probably fits into the latter category. You won’t starve, freeze to death, or stop breathing if you can’t take a vacation. I do believe it is important to see the world in whatever capacity is possible for your situation. I always need to have some sort of trip planned, even if it is only a camping trip a couple of hours away. It makes the hectic and often motonous routine of daily life more fun knowing a break is in sight. Transportation and lodging cost money in most cases, but you can find tons of free things to do in some great cities. While I am no world class traveler, these are some fun, fabulous, free things to do in my favorite vacation cities.
We’ve been to San Diego several times. It is within a day’s drive from where we live, and has great beaches, which are always free. Some of my favorites in the area include:
- La Jolla Shores-This is an amazing area with ocean cliffs, a swim beach, and the harbor seals. If you’ve never seen a seal that wasn’t in the zoo or at Sea World, this is a must for all ages.
- Coronado Island/Hotel Del Corondo-Coronado is my favorite beach areas in San Diego, and while you can’t stay at Hotel Del Coronado for free, you can visit this historic hotel with the red turret roof. The grounds are amazing. From just about anywhere on Coronado, you can also watch the planes and helicopters take off from the naval base.
I grew up an hour and a half from Nashville, and it was a treat to visit when I was a kid. Even if you don’t like country music, there are tons of neat things to see here.
- Opryland Hotel-If you visit the Opryland Hotel from November 16-December 25, you will see the most amazing display of Christmas lights, trees, and decorations. In the Cascade area, you really feel like you are visiting a twinkly rain forest, complete with humidity.
- The Parthenon/Centennial Park-No it’s not Athens, but this is a full-scale replica. You do have to pay to visit the museum inside, but you can see the Parthenon and park for free. Dressing like a godess is optional.
Denver is a fun, metropolitan city in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains that has great sports teams. What more can you want?
- Denver Broncos Training Camp-If you are a fan of the Broncos, or just want to see Peyton Manning, you can attend training camp for free beginning toward the end of July. Space is first come, first served.
- LoDo- Lower Downtown area. There is a little of everything on the 16th Street Mall area. Street preformers are often around during the summer, and a free shuttle bus runs the lengthe of the street.
If you ever make it to Italy, Rome is a great place to start. There are tons of fountains, churches, and architectural delights that are free and open to the public.
- Trevi Fountain-While the fountain if free to visit, you will most likely want to throw in a coin. Legend has it that this tradition will ensure your return visit in the future.
- Vatican Museums-The Vatican Museums are free on the last Sunday of the month. That being said, the crowds are huge on the free day and you have to be there early to get in. It might be worth the cost of admission to avoid the crowds.
Los Angeles is not one of my favorite cities because of the difficulty of getting around, but there are some fun things to do there that you can’t do anywhere else.
- Attend a taping of a live show. My sister and I saw a taping of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. You have to plan in advance, and you still might not get it, but seeing movie stars is really fun. Check the networks websites for details.
- Rodeo Drive- While I could never buy anything here, you can park your old beater right next to the Lamborghinis and window shop.
I haven’t been to New Orleans since before Hurrican Katrina, but from friends, I’ve heard it has had a great rebirth. Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met have been in New Orleans.
- Bourbon Street-If you like great jazz music, this is the place. All the Voodoo shops are pretty fun as well.
- Mississippi River-The mighty Mississippi is as mighty as it gets here. Being in Colorado, where the rivers are pretty meek in comparison, viewing this river is truly astounding.
D.C. is the mother of all free things, in my opinion. Most of the historical landmarks and museums are free, but you may need to pre-register or obtain a ticket early in the morning. It’s hard to narrow down two, but here are my favorites.
- Smithsonian Air and Space Museum-Seeing Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit or the Wright Brothers’ plane gives me goose bumps.
- Capitol Building-Whatever your current view of politics, it is pretty awesome to stand where former President’s like Abraham Lincoln once stood.
No matter where you go, with the right planning, you can find many fun, fabulous, free things to do on vacation. Next summer, we plan to visit the Portland area. If you have an tips, I’d love to hear them.
What are your favorite vacation cities? Any fun, free finds?
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