Free Things to Do on Vacation
Last updated on January 6, 2020.
The most common thing I hear people say is “How do you afford to travel so much?” Well, there are lots of things I do to make travel more affordable. But one of the best things? Find free things to do wherever I go! Sometimes the freebies are not just budget-friendly, but they are also the best way to get to know a place and its history. So wherever you are, here are some free things to do on vacation around the world.
Originally published November 1, 2017.
Updated January 6, 2020.
Search for public art and murals
Becoming increasingly more popular, you can find public art everywhere you go. Some cities have a collection of sculptures scattered around town. In Cleveland it’s painted guitars, Syracuse has horses, and you’ll find dolphins around Rehoboth Beach. Make it a scavenger hunt to find as many as possible! CowParade statues can be found in cities around the world as well.
Look for street art
Another great form of art to look for is street art! Don’t be afraid to look down alleys or along the sides of buildings; some cities even have particular streets dedicated to street art.
Some of the most famous areas for street art? Beco de Batman in Sao Paulo, Olympic Boulevard in Rio de Janeiro, Wynwood Art District in Miami, ACDC lane in Melbourne, and the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn. Heck, even my hometown of Syracuse has embraced the street art trend!
Stroll through gardens and parks
Gardens. Gardens everywhere! In every city there is green space. My favorite city for its parks and greenspace is most definitely Chicago. Between Millenium Park with Cloudgate, and other parks and fountains laid across the city, Chicago is winning in the park category. And Central Park in Manhattan? you could spend days wandering through the 843 acres and still not see it all!
Be on the lookout for wild animals
Is the place you’re visiting known for a specific type of animal? If so, is there a commonly known place to see them more easily? There are waterways in Queensland known for spotting platypus, manatees are found in Florida, and moose in Maine! Be patient and see what you can see.
Wildlife drives are a great way to find local native animals – and they are often FREE! I recently visited the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge and saw hundreds of birds – egrets, herons, ibis, blackbirds, etc. – alligators, and even at otter! The Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is near me and a great place to visit if you’re winery hopping along Cayuga Lake.
Visit the local library
Libraries are free to visit and they each have their own special exhibit. Big cities and college campuses usually have the best libraries to visit (remember the library at the University of Rochester?). I even recently found out that my former college’s library has an Academy Award in the special archives. The Athenaeum in Boston has a book made of human skin! Find the local library wherever you go and see what makes it special.
Rediscover history at a cemetery
Yes, cemeteries are places of mourning and are generally sad places to visit. But they are also fantastic places to honor the dead. Find the oldest cemetery in town and you’re bound to find some historical figures buried there. Do a little bit of learning and remembrance by visiting their graves and paying your respects.
You’ll find Edgar Allen Poe’s grave in Baltimore, Benjamin Franklin’s in Philadelphia, Susan B. Anthony’s in Rochester, and Washington Irving’s in Sleepy Hollow.
Looking for more famous graves?
New Orleans is known for its beautiful and historic cemeteries.
Even though TLC told us not to, sometimes it’s good to chase waterfalls! Are there any nearby? Then you should find them! Take a hike and experience nature at its finest wherever you are. Embrace the outdoors and get yourself some great photos. Even better, most waterfalls are dog-friendly, so it’s a great stop if you’re traveling with your dog.
Visit filming locations from movies and tv shows
Movies and tv shows are filmed all over the place! See if there was something filmed wherever you are and relive a scene from the movie. You can find filming locations all over the place with a quick google search. It was both creepy and awesome to walk up the famous stairs from The Exorcist in Georgetown. I’ve even put together a list of horror movie locations you can visit.
Looking for movies to inspire you to travel?
Check out this list!
Go to a museum on a free admission day
Believe it or not, many museums offer days with free admission. We all know that the Smithsonian museums in Washington DC are always free, but there are other major ones around the world that let you in for free if you know just when to go. For example, the Louvre – yes, that Louvre – is FREE on the first Sunday of every month. Seriously. I planned my whole trip to Paris around that fact. The Museum of Modern Art in NYC is free every Friday night from 5:30 to 9.
Keep in mind that the museums are usually much busier when there is free admission, so weigh your pros and cons.
Admire memorials & other historical sites
This ties in with some of the previously mentioned places, but be sure to find the monuments or historical places that are famous wherever you are. It’s no secret that Washington DC is full of them, but plenty of other places are too! Check out the mansions in Newport or the Brooklyn Bridge! The northeastern US in particular is full of historical buildings and monuments, as that was the region first settled by the Europeans. But head out west and you’ll see more historical places from Native Americans – just as amazing!
Do you have any other ideas for free things to do on vacation? Share them in the comments!
This is a great list! I love going to libraries – they are often really interesting looking buildings and some have exhibits too. And parks – well – I could walk around parks all the time and never get sick of them.
Great post! Can’t think of many things better than libraries and waterfalls.
These are very helpful! I haven’t been to DC yet. Thanks for the tips.
Love this! Such good tips to cover everywhere and a great way to explore places.
Great tips. We love to find free things to do in cities and I must admit, street art is becoming an obsession for me. There are so many unique art forms when you start looking for them.
Such a awesome list of free things to do! I am adding some to my upcoming trip <3
Emma @ theweekendabroad.com
As a budget traveler, I so appreciate this list on freebies in any city! Great post.
Great list of freebies to look out for traveling! As a budget traveler, every little bit counts, so this is definitely useful!
Great tips! I feel some of the best things are free. I love looking at movie/tv filming locations – one of my favorite things to do.
Yes! What’s your favorite filming location you’ve visited?
I think just taking a walk can be an awesome free activity as well and sit on a bench and people watch.
Fantastic post on things you can do for free when you are on vacation. It was great reading through your list and seeing that we do ALL these things as we travel! I love that most of these free things aren’t on a schedule — you don’t have to feel hurried through any of these activities or feel like you have to “get your money’s worth” when you’re not paying high dollar for the activity. This is a terrific reminder to us all to seek out these kinds of activities. I also find that you meet lots of local people in the process. Thanks for a great post!
Thanks for the kind comments! Everything you say is so true – especially meeting the locals. They also give the best recommendations for other things to do 🙂
I love your list of free things to do. I already do some of them myself but never thought about visiting the local library, I’ll add that to my next trip.
You really should!
I took my love of move sites and musical landmarks and turned it into walking tours. And I love street art too!
That’s awesome! Do you run them?