Think you can’t come up with lots of cool, fun things to do for free while you’re traveling? I thought so, too, before I started this trip, but then I realized that the best activities are the free ones. Now, before you roll your eyes, hear me out: often, it costs money to do man-made indoor things. Seeing concerts, attending art shows, paying high admission to man-made attractions: these are all things that can suck up your money. Often, the free or relatively cheap things to do involve having experiences, talking to people, and getting out and doing some research. Below, I’ll walk you through some fun things to do for free that I’ve found exist in almost every city.
1. Stroll through outdoor art venues
Most big cities have art districts, where there are streets lined with galleries on either side. In these art districts, it’s very common to see lots of sculptures up for display outdoors. Sure, if you want to, you can pay a small amount to get into the galleries, but you don’t have to. Just strolling through the artsy areas of the cities will be enough to give you a great experience. Even in smaller cities, if there are not designated art venues, there are often pieces of outdoor art you can find with a bit of research. You’ll get to see something cool, take some pictures, and not spend any money!
2. Visit beaches and parks
A no-brainer in most tropical destinations in the world, beaches are usually totally free and open to the public. Even in non-tropical destinations, however, travelers often forget about the vast array of outdoor activities there are to do! I’m guilty of this myself, but whenever I meet up with locals in the cities I’m in, they are often eager to tell me first about the beautiful outdoor recreational activities. Some parks or beaches have a small parking fee, if you are driving, but other than that, you can go spend an entire day exploring the gorgeous outdoors!
3. Visit historic cathedrals and other famous architecture
One of my favorite things to do – even in my hometowns – is to stroll through the historic part of the downtown area and look at the original buildings. Some, of course, will be set up as tourist attractions and will charge an admission fee – you can skip those! There are plenty of historic buildings – like cathedrals, for example – in cities all across the States and abroad that are totally free of charge. Go in and wander to your heart’s content.
4. Check out the markets
Some cities, like Charleston, have famous markets that go for what seems like miles! Yes, there are a lot of people there looking to spend money on items, but you don’t have to be one of them. When I was in Charleston, I went to the historic Charleston Market twice – just to look around and see all the sights! Often, you can meet local vendors there and have really interesting conversations. You can also check out farmers markets and craft fairs.
5. Pick up a calendar for parades and local events
Okay, so you may have flown to New York City specifically to go see the touristy sites – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t ton to do around the city that’s totally free of charge – and it’s not just NYC! Most cities have community calendars that list things like parades, free shows, free gatherings of common interest and even free meals, sometimes. It takes a bit more research to find out what the locals are into, but it’s super worth it!
One of the most important things I think people can learn is that you don’t have to be rich to travel! Travel is a mind-broadening, enriching experience that I think everyone should participate in – it might take a little extra time to do the research to get out and see the world for free, and to find the most fun things to do for free – but when you do, you’ll be super glad you did!