Traveling in the land of the free and the home of the brave can be anything but free. But there are some places within those 50 states that can be visited for free, or nearly free.
So, before you head out on your next adventure of America’s highways and byways, take a look at this list.
Alabama: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Street Historic Walking tour in Selma, a self-guided route which includes the MLK, Jr. monument in front of historic Brown Chapel AME Church, can be enjoyed for free. Twenty memorials highlight the history of the Voting Rights movement in Selma. You can walk to the end and back in no more than 30 minutes.
Alaska: The Campbell Creek Science Center is an outdoor science education center in the heart of Anchorage. Consider the 740 acres of trails to be your classroom for learning about plants, wildlife, and more. There are paths and activities for students of all ages.
Arizona: For a real taste of the Old West, head to Goldfield Ghost Town, located just east of Apache Junction on the site of an old town and gold mine operation. During the winter and spring season, enjoy free gunfighter shows on Saturdays and Sundays. Several attractions charge a fee.
Arkansas: Experience the longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge in the world, built specifically for that use. Named the Big Dam Bridge because of its massive 4,226 foot span built atop Murray Lock and Dam in Little Rock. Drive over or walk across the bridge for free.
California: Stargaze outside San Diego’s Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park on the first Wednesday of every month for free. The San Diego Astronomy Association sets up huge telescopes to offer guests a great view of all the stars in the night sky.
Colorado: In Picket Wire Canyonlands outside La Junta, you can stand in a three-toed impression left in the bedrock by a brontosaurus 150 million years ago for free.
Connecticut: Go below and tour for free the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered ship. Interactive exhibits and an extensive collection of submarine artifacts, documents and photographs will keep you busy and engaged.
Delaware: The DuPont Environmental Education Center in Wilmington is a treasure. The modern, four-floor observation facility overlooks a boardwalk though the marsh, as well as the Christina River, and is free.
Florida: The Indian River Citrus Museum and Gift Shop in Vero Beach offers free admission. Discover how citrus seeds made their way to Florida and the learn how area pioneers established the fruit as some of the best in the world.
Georgia: While there is an admission cost to get into the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, guests are able to explore the gardens for free. Even better, bring a fishing pole and bait and see if you can catch a fish in the stocked ponds.
Hawaii: The USS Arizona Memorial has a visitor center which chronicles the history of the attack on Pearl Harbor that killed more than 2,400 Americans and got the United States into World War 11. Entry to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is free as are the tickets to the USS Arizona Memorial.
Idaho: The Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot showcases Idaho’s famous potatoes. The museum provides information on potato history, the growing and harvesting process, nutrition, trivia and educational potato facts. Adult admission is $3; seniors and military is $2.50; children ages 6-12 get in for $1 and children 5 and younger are free.
Indiana: Put on your walking shoes and climb to the glassed-in observation platform of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, located in the center of Monument Circle downtown, Indianapolis. The monument stands just 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty.
Iowa: Star Trek fans know Riverside, Iowa, as the Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk, first captain of the USS Enterprise. The Future Birthplace attraction features a scale model of the Enterprise and throws a huge annual birthday party for the fictional captain.
Illinois: One of only a few free zoos in the country, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo covers over 35 acres and features tigers, polar bears, lions and more than 230 other species of animals. The Farm in the Zoo and Nature Boardwalk bring you up close and personal with the animal world.
Kansas: Children of all ages and their adults are welcome at Kansas City’s Kaleidoscope to create art together at free 40-minute family art sessions.
Kentucky: Featured on the TV show “Ghost Hunters” Buffalo Trace Distillery has long been rumored to have visits from the supernatural. Take a ghost tour to hear legendary stories and maybe catch a glance of Colonel Blanton.
Louisiana:Visit Louisiana State University’s mascot Mike the Tiger in his new tiger habitat on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge.
Maine: When I lived in Maine my family visited Portland Headlight in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, often. It is a beautiful lighthouse along with Fort Williams Park where you can bring lunch and fly kites with ocean breezes. It also is the location of Battery Keyes, one of the last two batteries built at the fort in 1906.
Maryland: Baltimore’s Basilica, the first Catholic Cathedral in the USA, is free to visit. The construction of the dome and the structural supports in the basement are worth the visit. Admission is free but a donation is suggested. Take a guided tour.
Massachusetts: The USS Constitution is a preserved and restored Navy vessel docket at the Charlestown Naval Yard in Boston. Built in 1794, the three-masted battleship saw extensive action in the War of 1812. Free tours are given every 30 minutes.
Michigan: The Ford Rouge Factory Tour in Dearborn is self-guided and consists of five sections. While the five sections explore various aspects of automobile production, one of the most interesting parts is watching the assembly of the Ford F-150 truck from an elevated walkway that loops through a portion of the factory floor. Admission is $15.25 for adults; $11.50 for youth and free for those 2 and younger.
Minnesota: A private collection of LEGOS housed in the BOHM Thorp Building on Central Ave. and 18th St. in Minneapolis. Lego Brick World is open to the public on the second Saturday of the month. Admission is $5 per person. Ages 3 and younger are free.
Missouri: Check out the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. While it costs to ride to the top of the Arch, the Museum of Westward Expansion located under the Arch is free. It features exhibits on Lewis & Clark and 19th century pioneers who moved America’s borders westward. Just across the street from the Arch is another free attraction, the Old Courthouse. This historic building was the site of the famous Dred Scott slavery trial.
Montana: Going-to-the-Sun Road is a spectacular and scenic 52-mile highway through Glacier National Park. Drive your car for free or take the shuttle and tour for a small additional fee.
Nebraska: Walk through Gene Leahy Mall in Omaha and enjoy the waterfalls and horse shoe pit. Hear concerts at the amphitheater during the summer and wonder at the thousands of lights adorning the park in winter. One highlight not to be missed: two large playground slides.
Nevada: There are plenty of freebies in Las Vegas. Watch a volcano erupt at the Mirage at the top of each hour from 8pm to midnight. Also, check out the more than a thousand fountains at the Bellagio dance to music.
New Hampshire: Mount Washington in North Conway is one of my favorite mountains to climb. Visit the famous mountaintop observatory at 6,288 feet. Tours are free
New Jersey: Spend time at the shore, but be sure check out the animals that live under the water, too. The Sea Life Museum Marine Stranding Center in Brignantine helps preserve marine wildlife that washes up on the Jersey Shore. You will see whales, dolphins, seals, sea turtles and more for free
New Mexico: The Carlsbad Caverns beneath the Guadalupe Mountains contain more than 117 limestone caves. Time your visit to coincide with the bats’ flight out of the caverns in the evening and you can catch the free Bat Flight talk by a park ranger. Entrance fees for all self-guided tours are free on certain days including MLK Day and Veterans Day.
New York: A well-know secret among New Yorkers who regularly show the sights to out-of-towners, the free Staten Island ferry floats right past the Statue of Liberty for a view of the iconic lady. Many of the city’s top attractions, such as Central Park, Grand Central Terminal, and Rockefeller Center are free to enter.
North Carolina: View the Reed Gold Mine in Midland and take a 30-minute underground tunnel tour for free at this historic gold-mining location. And, if you’re so inclined you can pan for gold for just $2.
North Dakota: The Enchanted Highway, which begins at Exit 72 on I-94 near Gladstone, goes 30 miles to the small town of Regent. Along the route, large metal sculptures decorate the way. Pieces include geese in flight, deer crossing, grasshoppers and the tin family.
Ohio: Take the kids to Paul Laurence Dunbar’s house historic site in Columbus and let them learn the history behind the person the Lexington high school was named after.
Oklahoma: The Museum of Osteology — America’s first skeleton museum —is located in Oklahoma City. More than 300 skeletons are on display.
Oregon: Crater Lake formed 7,700 years ago when a violent eruption triggered the collapse of a towering volcano. It’s the deepest lake in the United States and you can visit it in Crater Lake. Admission is $15 per car.
Pennsylvania: Visit the battlefield in Gettysburg and learn about an era in American history at the Gettysburg National Military Park. The park is free to enter, but there is an admission to museum.
Rhode Island: Don’t miss seeing how the elite live. The Preservation Society of Newport County offers tours of Newport many mansions. While beautiful to look at from the outside, they are also magnificent on the inside but there is a small fee to see the inside.
South Carolina: Kids will get a kick out of Charleston’s Citaldel Dress Parades that take place most Fridays, when classes at the is military college are in session. Rifle, swords, and music abound during the formal military parade.
South Dakota: The Corn Palace, located in Mitchell, is the world’s only corn palace, attracting 500,000 visitors a year. The palace is redecorated each year with naturally colored corn and other grains and native grasses to make it “the agricultural show-place of the world.” Currently, 13 different colors or shades of corn decorate the palace.
Tennessee: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg offers beautiful views and some free attractions. For example, two historic grist mills are open seasonally in the park. Both provide demonstrations of corn meal milling.
Texas: Houston’s most photographed site, the Water Wall, is a dramatic 64-foot U-shaped fountain that has water rushing down its inside and outside walls.
Utah: Experience the life of the pioneers at the Provo Pioneer Village as you walk back into the early days of Provo when the settlers of 1849 had to survive in isolation.
Vermont: Guided tours are offered year-round at Magic Hat Brewing Company in South Burlington. The free tour also includes complimentary beer tastings. Free for those 21 and older.
Virginia: Arlington National Cemetery and the Udvar-Hazy Center, part of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, is the resting place of soldiers from every conflict since the Revolutionary War plus a wide range of aircraft, including a Concorde, SR-71 Blackbird and the space shuttle Discovery.
Washington: You can wander around the Seattle Center for free. View the Space Needle, go into Center House and art galleries and swing by the International Fountain.
West Virginia: Explore how Blue Smoke Salsa makes it famous salsa. Tour on a production day where you will get to cooking, canning, labeling and everything else that goes into each jar of salsa. There’s a small entry fee.
Wisconsin: The National Mustard Museum in Middleton hosts up to 5,624 mustards and hundreds of items of mustard memorabilia.
Wyoming: Nelson Museum of the West in Cheyenne houses a collection of military, cowboy and native American artifacts, western art and national history material.
Deborah Morris’ every-other-week column, The Fru-Gal, can help you get more for less. Go to her website, Fru-gal-friends.com.