The Best Free Tourist Attraction in Every State
Most of our 400 national parks and historic sites are free, and even the ones that aren’t offer several free days during each year. And don’t forget admission and tours are free at all our state capitol buildings. So, pull out a map and start planning to find out why America is the “Land of the Free” and the “Home of Happy Tourist.”
Alabama: Montgomery Museum of Fine ArtsShackleford Photography/Shutterstock
The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in the state capital is home to a permanent collection that includes everything from 19th and 20th century American paintings and sculpture to Southern regional art. There’s even an interactive art gallery for kids! Admission is always free at this tourist attraction.
Alaska: Anchorage Market and FestivalCourtesy Bill Webb
While Anchorage isn’t the capital of Alaska, it is the state’s largest and most populated city. The Anchorage Market and Festival is open and free of charge on weekends. It features 300 vendors, located on seven acres downtown. Anchorage is also at the beginning of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, where walks and hikes can last between two hours and a half-day. Free, of course. If you’re ready for sightseeing, find out the most impressive library in every state.
Arizona: Desert Botanical Garden
Courtesy Desert Botanical Garden
If you want to see the desert bloom do not miss the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. It’s free every second Tuesday of the month. And the very impressive Phoenix Art Museum is a free tourist attraction every Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Arkansas: Walmart Museum
Courtesy Alan Dranow
Tucked up in the northwest corner of Arkansas is Bentonville, which gave birth to a little emporium you may have heard of. It’s Walmart, which is currently one of the biggest companies in the world. Downtown, admission is free to the Walton’s 5&10 and the Walmart Museum. And just outside town is the spectacular Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which is also free. Go!
California: Jelly Belly Factory
Courtesy Jelly Belly Factory
Who doesn’t like Jelly Bellies? Free tours of the Jelly Belly Factory are offered daily at 1 Jelly Belly Lane in Fairfield, California. Free samples, too! Can’t decide which flavor to try first? Check out our ranking on the best jelly bean flavors.
Colorado: United States Air Force Academy
Driving around and taking in the spectacular natural beauty of Colorado is, of course, free. If you know some kids who might be interested in becoming a future cadet, then head to the United States Air Force Academy just outside Colorado Springs where free tours are offered daily. These are the cheapest months of the year to visit all 50 states, by the way.
Connecticut: Yale University
Courtesy Yale University Art Gallery
New Haven, Connecticut was the first place in the U.S. to offer pizza by the slice to hungry customers, including students of a little college called Yale University. While in New Haven you can go on a tour of the campus, free of charge, every day of the week. It’s the alma mater of both President Bushes, Bill and Hillary Clinton, journalist Bob Woodward, and Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the Morse code to name a few. Make sure you check out the best state gifts from each state while you’re at it.
Courtesy Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB
From the spectacular sunsets in Key West the southernmost point in the U.S. mainland to strolling the streets way up north in historic and charming Fernandina on Amelia Island, Florida is chock full of free beaches to enjoy. Here are some of the best beach vacation ideas in the U.S.
Georgia: Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site
No visit to Atlanta, GA, would be complete without visiting the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, where visitors may tour his home and the Ebenezer Baptist Church across the street. There is no admission charge to learn more about one of America’s greatest leaders at this tourist attraction.
Courtesy Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson
There’s major good news when it comes to our gorgeous 50th state: All the beaches are free! Just pull over your rental car and dive (or tiptoe) in and let the Aloha Spirit begin with a dip in the Pacific Ocean. Don’t forget the sunscreen. Ready to go? Find out everything you need to know before taking a vacation in Hawaii.
Idaho: Idaho State Historical Museum
Courtesy Ryan Gerulf
Admission is free at the Abraham Lincoln Exhibition tourist attraction which is part of the Idaho State Archives in Boise. You can learn about the legacy Lincoln left behind in Idaho. It features over 200 artifacts and documents.
Illinois: Chicago Cultural Center
Courtesy Nick Ulivieri
The Chicago Cultural Center located in the heart of the city offers theatrical and dance events, concerts, lectures, and films all free in a stunning landmark building which boasts, among other marvels the largest Tiffany glass domes in the building that once housed Chicago’s first central library. Here’s the most iconic book set in every state.
Iowa: Grant Wood Studio
Courtesy Lori Tofanelli
Grant Wood lived in Cedar Rapids where he painted one of America’s most iconic works of art, American Gothic. The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art runs the Grant Wood Studio, a tourist attraction which offers admission and tours at no charge.
Kansas: Santa Fe Trail
Courtesy Kansas Tourism
Western Kansas has very little light pollution, so as you travel along, stop once in a while and gaze at the night sky. The Santa Fe Trail went through Kansas and you can still walk the longest remaining stretch of the trail just outside Dodge City.
Kentucky: The Bourbon Trail
Courtesy Visit Bardstown
Nothing is more American than Kentucky Bourbon. Driving along the trail is free and many distilleries offer free tours (and samples). Like a lot of states, Kentucky has its share of quirky liquor laws and the famed Bourbon Trails meanders through several dry counties where it’s illegal to buy what you might sample along the way. One of the centerpieces of the Bourbon Trail is the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown where admission is always free at this tourist attraction.
Louisiana: Acadian Cultural Center
Courtesy Lafayette Travel
The Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette is the best (and free) way to learn about Cajun Country via its films, exhibits, storytelling, and art.
Maine: Portland Museum of Art
Courtesy Portland Museum of Art, Maine
The Portland Museum of Art is free on Friday evenings from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., courtesy of a little local purveyor called L.L. Bean. The museum is made up of three separate but connected buildings, including one that was designed by famed architect I. M. Pei.
Maryland: Maryland Historical Society
Courtesy Maryland Historical Society
Admission is free at the Maryland Historical Society on Thursdays where (“Oh, say”) you can see the original copy of the “Star Spangled Banner” in Francis Scott Key’s handwriting. Don’t miss these U.S. trivia facts you never knew about.
Massachusetts: Freedom Trail
When it comes to free things to do, Boston really takes the cake—or the cream pie. From walking the Freedom Trail to touring iconic American historical sites such as the USS Constitution (it has a suggested donation), Paul Revere’s House (it’s $3 to get in but you can get the general picture by just stopping to gaze at the architecture), and Faneuil Hall, you can gain great knowledge about one of America’s most historic cities.
Michigan: Detroit Riverfront Conservancy
Courtesy Detroit River Front Conservancy
The 3.5-mile RiverWalk run by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is a great (and free) tourist attraction to see the city’s impressive skyline as you saunter, bike, or blade your way along the banks of the Detroit River. It has public art installations and activities you can join in year round. Ready to travel? Here’s a bucket list idea from every state.
Minnesota: Minneapolis Institute of Art
Courtesy Meet Minneapolis Institute of Art
The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” (you can see all of them at no charge) offers visitors a wealth of experiences. The Minneapolis Institute of Art consistently ranks in the top 10 of America’s best museums and is free all the time.
Mississippi: Natchez Trace Parkway
Courtesy Visit Natchez
According to the National Park Service, “The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile drive through exceptional scenery and 10,000 years of North American history. Used by “American Indians, ‘Kaintucks,’ settlers, and future presidents,” the Old Trace played an important role in American history. Today, you can drive, hike, cycle, or horseback ride through it.
Missouri: St. Louis Art Museum
Montana: Drinking Horse Trail
Courtesy Ellen Kress/Gallatin Valley Land Trust
In Big Sky Country there are plenty of free ways to see the sights—some of the most beautiful in the world. Just outside Bozeman is the 2.4-mile Drinking Horse Trail that’s family friendly and dog-friendly, too.
Nebraska: Boys Town Hall of History
Courtesy Jenn Gjerde/Nebraska Tourism
Omaha also offers lots of free opportunities including tours of the Boys Town Hall of History, the famed charity that inspired the movie Boys Town. In fact, you can see Spencer Tracy’s Best Actor Oscar he won for play founder Father Flanagan—a tourist attraction that is free of charge.
Nevada: The Vegas Strip
Courtesy Travel Nevada
It costs nothing to stroll the world famous Vegas Strip, which is home to some of the best people watching you’ll ever see, nearly 24 hours a day. One extravaganza after another unfolds in every lobby and casino along the way.
New Hampshire: Susan N. McLane Audubon Center
Courtesy Susan Audubon Center
The Susan N. McLane Audubon Center in Concord offers year-round environmental education for all ages offering exhibits featuring live and endangered animals (including a Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Screech Owl, and Barred Owls), picnic areas, several miles of hiking trails, and a Nature Store.
New Jersey: Princeton University
From strolls along the famed boardwalk in Atlantic to a plethora of sandy beaches along the Jersey shore has plenty of free things to explore. Including tours of the campus at Princeton University, attended by Former First Lady Michelle Obama, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jimmy Stewart, Queen Noor of Jordan, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos among many other notable names.
New Mexico: Palace of the Governors
Courtesy TOURISM Santa Fe
Santa Fe is full of free things to do including docent-led tours of the Palace of the Governors, an adobe structure built in the 1800s where you can learn about the area’s history. You can also explore the many art galleries along Canyon Road. It doesn’t cost anything to look…
New York: Staten Island Ferry
Courtesy Jen Davis
New York has the reputation of being a concrete or asphalt jungle, but don’t forget that Manhattan is also an island. A great way to get out on the water is to take the Staten Island Ferry, which runs between the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island and the Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan 24/7. It’s a great way to see the famed skyline, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island as you cruise along the New York Harbor.
North Carolina: Blue Ridge Parkway
Courtesy Visit NC.com
Over 250 waterfalls dot the state and miles of coastline are all free. The 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the western part of the state where you can hike and camp. This tourist attraction is especially popular in the fall for leaf-peeping.
North Dakota: Fort Union Trading Post
Courtesy North Dakota Tourism
The Fort Union Trading Post historical site in the northwest corner of the state offers visitor’s insight into the history of what was the most important fur trading post on the Upper Missouri River from 1828 to 1867.
Ohio: Four Art Museums
Courtesy Toledo Museum
Oklahoma: Route 66
Courtesy Lori Duckworth/Oklahoma Tourism
Get your kicks on Route 66 as you tool along on the largest drivable stretch of what is perhaps the most famous highway in America. It’s totally free to travel down the “Mother Road” and discover the quirky roadside stops along the way.
Oregon: Crater Lake
Courtesy Ian Shive/Oregon Tourism
Crater Lake is America’s deepest lake and is a sort of free tourist attraction. Vehicles are charged $15 to enter the National Park, but up to 15 passengers in the car can get in free. So, gather your 15 best friends and family members and go. It’s spectacular!
Pennsylvania: The Liberty Bell
Courtesy M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia
There’s plenty of good news in Philadelphia when it comes to seeing things for free. The Liberty Bell Center: Free. Independence Hall: Free. The U.S. Mint: Free. So what are you waiting for? Travel to the City of Brotherly Love as soon as you can before prices go up….(Not likely to happen anytime soon.)
Rhode Island: Providence Walks
Courtesy Nick Millard, Go Providence
Providence is another historic east coast city that should not be missed and you can much of it free via Providence Walks: The East Side Tour where visitors can trace the Creative Capital’s nearly 400 years of historical innovation. This is a free walking tour where visitors can trace The Creative Capital’s 378 years of innovation from the city’s founding by Roger Williams in 1636 through present day. Stops include the Rhode Island State House, RISD Museum, Providence Art Club, The Providence Athenaeum, John Brown House Museum, and more.
South Carolina: Stroll downtown Charleston
By all means head to Charleston to stroll, at no cost, through one of the most genteel and gorgeous cities in America. For a long time, since its founding in 1670, Charleston’s nickname has been the ‘Holy City,’ due to its longstanding tolerance and acceptance of people of all faiths. Do stop into some of the beautiful and historic houses of worship along the way. Stop into the visitor center in the center of the town and pick up a free walking tour map and off you go.
South Dakota: Mount Rushmore
Courtesy South Dakota Department of Tourism
To see Mount Rushmore National Memorial costs nothing, but there is a parking fee since no federal funding was used to construct the parking facility. It’s also totally free to enter the Wall Drug Store in, where else, Wall, where you can browse the aisles in one of America’s most famous emporiums.
Tennessee: Tennessee State Museum
Courtesy Tennessee State Museum
In Nashville, Music City, you can learn all about Tennessee and its native sons including Daniel Boone and Sam Houston at the at the Tennessee State Museum where there’s never an admission fee. Take a stroll along Walk of Fame Park tourist attraction to see granite stars honoring your favorite country music stars.
Texas: Dallas Museum of Art
Courtesy Visit Dallas
There is plenty of culture in our second largest state and a good way free way to view one of the nation’s best art collections is to pay a visit to the Dallas Museum of Art, housed in the Edward Larrabee Barnes-designed building.
Utah: Temple Square
Courtesy Douglas Polsipher/Utah Images
Free tours are offered of historic Temple Square in Salt Lake City, the state’s most visited tourist attraction. Here you can view the Tabernacle and maybe even attend a practice session of the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Vermont: Museum of the Creative Process
Courtesy Melissa Levis/Museum of the Creative Process
Famed American artists Norman Rockwell and Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses) created a lot of their iconic American paintings in and around Manchester in the southwest corner of Vermont. In Manchester today, you can stroll the charming streets, window shop at their famed outlets, and get insight into the creative process at the Museum of the Creative Process at the Wilburton Inn just outside town.
Maymont in Richmond, Virginia is a beautiful park has over 100-acres of gardens, a petting zoo, a farm, a nature center, and a historic mansion. The mansion and petting zoo does have a suggested donation, but the rest of this beautiful park tourist attraction is yours to rome around absolutely free.
Washington: Pike Place Market
Courtesy Visit Seattle
West Virginia: Mother’s Day Shrine
Courtesy West Virginia Department of Commerce
Visit the Mother’s Day Shrine in Grafton at the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church where it was first celebrated. (And you thought the holiday was made up by Hallmark.) Don’t miss more about the surprising history of Mother’s Day.
Wisconsin: Miller Brewery Tour
Sample some beer at the Miller Brewery Tour in Milwaukee at no cost. Dip into some condiments at the National Mustard Museum in Middleton and learn more about science at the University of Wisconsin Geology Museum in Madison all for free.
Wyoming: Castle Gardens
Courtesy The Bureau of Land Management
Want to see some ancient petroglyphs for free? Then head to Castle Gardens just east of Riverton or to the Red Desert near Rock Springs where you can view many examples of these historic and artistic footprints.
Next, be sure to check out the best state fair or festival in each state.