Free tourist attractions in every state
Nothing is sweeter than "free," especially for budget-conscious tourists traveling the United States.
Each state sweetens the pot with a plethora of no-cost tourist attractions. From the iconic to the unique and bizarre, there are numerous opportunities for free activities. Some of these attractions may involve hiking or riding, while others offer a glimpse into the history that made these states what they are today. These stops include parks, wildlife preserves, museums and much more.
Stacker dug into each state's no-cost offerings via news and magazine accounts, travel websites and official state and federal government sites to provide tantalizing options for travelers visiting new states and for people who haven't explored everything in their own.
Some of these opportunities require nothing more than showing up, while others may require visitors to bring a bike, boat, binoculars or a backpack. Some may run an hour or more, while others can become multi-day excursions. All of the attractions on this list are free, but many venues welcome donations to help defray operating costs.
Read on to discover each state's finest free fun.
Alabama: Hurricane Creek Park
Alaska: Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
Designed for year-round family fun, the 11-mile paved path known as the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is ideal for walking, biking, rollerblading, and cross-country skiing. The trail can be accessed by numerous points in and around Anchorage. A hike along the trail that passes through Kincaid Park (also free) may offer glimpses of moose in the winter. In the summer, beluga whales can be seen in Cook Inlet.
Arizona: Scottsdale Pavilions Car Show
Visit the longest running weekly car show in the nation at the Scottsdale Pavilions Car Show at The Pavilions at Talking Stick. The show is also known as the McDonald's Rock 'n Roll Classic Car Show for its location. The weekly free event includes up to 500 classic cars and 150 motorcycles, with 1950s-era DJs spinning tunes every Saturday.
Arkansas: Museum of Native American History
The Natural State is resplendent with gardens, arboretums, parks, natural springs and more idyllic attractions. For a blast into the past, head to the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville. Exhibits include more than 10,000 artifacts covering the Paleo, Archaic, Woodlands, Mississippian, Historian and Pre-Columbian periods.
California: The Gardens at Lake Merritt
Colorado: The Garden of the Gods
Folks wandering through the red rock features of The Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs may find geologic formations resembling kissing camels, sleeping giants and other fantastic shapes. There are free trail maps, guided nature walks, a free weekly 5K Fun Run known as Gallop in the Garden and opportunities to shoot some amazing photographs.
Connecticut: Submarine Force Library and Museum
Situated on the Thames River in Groton, the Submarine Force Library and Museum is home to the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine and the first to circumnavigate the North Pole. Visitors can tour the sub’s lower deck, see the changing displays of the museum's 33,000 artifacts and 30,000 photographs and pore through a 6,000-volume reference and research library on the history of U.S. submarines.
Delaware: DuPont Environmental Education Center
The four-story DuPont Environmental Education Center, situated where the city of Wilmington meets the Christina River and marshlands, offers interactive exhibits and hands-on activities. Visitors can also walk around the 212-acre Russell W. Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge. Several free drop-in programs are offered as well. A seven-mile bike and hike trail is due to be completed in summer of 2018.
Florida: Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
Replete with free wildlife tours and no charge for admission or parking, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge became the first national wildlife refuge in the United States in 1903. Visitors can observe wildlife from hiking trails and observation platforms. There are also other outdoor activities like kayaking and fishing.
Georgia: The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change
Housing the largest collection of primary source materials related to the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta is the hub of a 23-acre national historic site offering self-guided tours. Tourists can visit the civil rights leader's birth home, the crypt of King and his wife, The Eternal Flame and Freedom Hall. The grounds also house the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church Heritage Sanctuary.2018 All rights reserved.