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Getting Something for Nothing
You know how expensive it is to see the sites when you travel. But not every place will have you reaching for your wallet. Travel + Leisure offers this list of 10 great places you can go for free:
The Smithsonian Museums in Washington. All the magnificent Smithsonian museums are free. They are the legacy of an English scientist named James Smithson. Smithson never visited America, but he left his entire fortune to the United States to fund “at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” No one knows exactly why Smithson chose America for his generous gift, but generations of visitors have enjoyed free access to The National Zoo, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Air and Space Museum and 17 other world-class museums and galleries in the nation’s capital.
New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. There are lots of places where you can pay to listen to music in the Crescent City, the birthplace of jazz. But at this location in the French Quarter, there is live music six days a week for free. You also can enjoy free talks, videos and exhibits, and a children’s workshop on Saturdays.
The Getty Center, Los Angeles. This art gallery includes European and American masterpieces. There also is a beautiful garden for when you get tired of looking at art. Although the center itself is free, you have to pay to park – unless you take public transportation.
The Conservatory at the Bellagio, Las Vegas. The gorgeous plants and flowers in the conservatory offer a tranquil respite from the lights and action of the Vegas Strip. There is a daily music performance, and you also can watch the famous Bellagio fountain show.
Staten Island Ferry, New York. In one of the most expensive cities in the world, the commuter ferry to Staten Island offers a free ride with amazing views. Get an up-close look at Lady Liberty and the New York harbor, from Manhattan to New Jersey. Go at sunset for a particularly spectacular experience.
Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia. You can see the Liberty Bell, crack and all, and visit Independence Hall, site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. Stop in at Christ Church, where Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Betsy Ross all attended.
Royal Hawaiian Center, Honolulu. Learn about Hawaiian culture by receiving a traditional massage or learning how to make a lei, play the ukulele or dance the hula. You also can catch free performances of Hawaiian song and dance. And you can park for free for an hour if you get your parking card validated.
The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas. At this tiny Spanish mission, a small group of Texans including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie held off the Spanish army for 13 days in 1836. Although the Texans ultimately gave their lives, their sacrifice became a rallying cry for freedom.
Pike Place Market, Seattle. You can just stroll through this lovely public market on the Seattle waterfront, looking at the fresh produce, checking out the vendors and watching the famous fish stands where the sellers toss big fish. You also can buy a cup of Seattle coffee, a bunch of flowers – or a fish.
National September 11 Memorial, New York. Two reflecting pools mark where the twin towers stood before they were brought down by terrorists. The memorial also is inscribed with the names of all who died in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and Feb, 26, 1993. Admission is free, but you need a visitor’s pass. Same-day passes are available at the site, or you can order passes in advance at www.911memorial.org; there is a $2 service fee per pass for advance passes.