Whether your vacation plans include exploring the country or enjoying a staycation, you don’t have to break the bank to have a good time. Each state has numerous free activities that will allow you to give your wallet a break. In certain places you can go hiking, explore a museum, take a distillery tour or lay out on a beach without spending a dime. Here are the best free tourist attractions in every state.
Alabama – Birmingham Botanical Gardens
The Birmingham Botanical Gardens was Alabama’s top free attraction last year with 352,000 visitors. The garden is 67.5 acres and consists of over 30 different themes including the Japanese Garden, Ireland Iris Garden and Dunn Formal Rose Garden.
Alaska – Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Standing at 3.3 million acres Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is known for its mountains, wildlife and obviously glaciers. Aside from Bartlett Cove much of the place is remote. Popular things to do at the park include kayaking, camping, river rafting and sports fishing.
Arizona – Mission San Xavier del Bac
Mission San Xavier del Bac is a National Historic Landmark near Tucson, Arizona. Visitors flock to the church because of its beautiful architecture. Since 1978, $11 million has been on its preservation and restoration.
Arkansas – Crystal Bridges Museum of Art
Check out Crystal Bridges if you have an appreciation for art and nature. It has an amazing collection of American art and architecture which it refreshes regularly. The museum is located on 120 acres of Ozark woods and features beautiful biking/walking trails.
California – Griffith Observatory
Griffith Observatory offers a variety of exhibits and live shows but the main reason to take the trip is for the amazing views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign.
Colorado – Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center
The Garden of the Gods Park is a National Natural Landmark in Colorado Springs. There are plenty of activities to keep you occupied including hiking, rock climbing, biking and more. A key highlight is their weekly 5K Fun Run known as Gallop in the Garden.
Connecticut – Elizabeth Park
Stop and smell the roses at Elizabeth Park. It’s the home of the oldest public rose garden in the country. There are over 15,000 rose bushes and 800 varieties of roses in the garden. The best time to visit is between June and October.
Delaware – Air Mobility Command Museum
If you’re a military airplane buff this museum is right up your alley. You’ll see over 30 different aircrafts including cargo haulers, fighters and more. Visitors can also explore the Dover AFB Control Tower which was used from 1956 until 2009.
Florida – Siesta Beach
You can’t go to Florida and not visit one of their spectacular beaches. Siesta Beach is one of the best in the country and is famous for its quartz-white sand.
Georgia – Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park
No trip to Atlanta is complete without a trip to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. At this historic site you’ll be able to tour MLK’s birth home and Ebenezer Baptist Church where he became a pastor.
Hawaii – Waikiki Beach
In the Aloha state almost all the beaches are free. Waikiki Beach is best known for its great waves which is perfect for surfing or paddle boarding. If that’s not your cup of tea you can always just relax and soak up the sun.
Idaho – Freak Alley Gallery
Freak Alley Gallery is said to be the largest outdoor art gallery in the Northwest. If you’re a fan of street art, you’ll enjoy the murals and graffiti on display. Plus, the artwork is changed regularly so there’s always something new to see.
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Illinois – Chicago Cultural Center
The Chicago Cultural Center is one of the most visited attractions in Chicago. Visitors can experience free guided tours, art exhibits, performances, lectures and film screenings. It’s also worth noting that you can find the world’s largest Tiffany stained-glass dome there.
Indiana – Indianapolis Artsgarden
The Indianapolis Artsgarden is located in downtown Indianapolis and is considered one of the “Coolest Places to get Married in America” by Buzzfeed. However, the Artsgarden is best known for hosting more than 250 free lunchtime concerts and art exhibitions throughout the year.
Iowa – Iowa State Capitol
The Iowa State Capitol building has stunning architecture and a 23-karat golden dome. Its beauty alone is worth the trip. Visitors can also take a free guided tour of the governor’s offices, legislature and the old Supreme Court room.
Kansas – Keeper of the Plains
The Keeper of the Plains is a 44-foot steel sculpture designed by Native American artist Blackbear Bosin. Every night they light a “Ring of Fire” as long as the weather permits.
Kentucky – Buffalo Trace Distillery
Other than the Kentucky Derby the state is best known for its bourbon. The Buffalo Trace Distillery is a must-go for bourbon lovers. The company has been making bourbon whiskey for over 200 years and offers complimentary tours of their distillery. Plus, a tasting of some of their award-winning products.
Louisiana – Bayou Rum Distillery
The Bayou Rum Distillery is the largest privately-owned rum distillery in America. Rum lovers can take a guided factory tour to learn how it’s made and receive free samples.
Maine – Libby Hill Trails
Libby Hill has 9 miles of trails and provides a little something for everyone. You can go hiking, snowshoeing, mountain biking and even skiing if you have your gear.
Maryland – Baltimore Museum of Art
The Baltimore Museum of Art was founded in 1914 and is the home of over 95,000 works of art. It has the world’s largest collection Henri Matisse artwork. For those who don’t know, Matisse is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century because of his use of color. He helped lead the Fauvism movement.
Massachusetts – Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail is a brick path that takes you through 16 historic sites in Boston. It’s 2.5 miles long and starts at Boston Common. On your walk you’ll pass the Massachusetts State House, the Boston Massacre site and Old North Church until you reach the end at Bunker Hill Monument.
Michigan – Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum
Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum isn’t your typical museum. It’s full of vintage arcade games, creepy animatronic dummies, carnival displays and other oddities. Admission is free but certain machines are coin-operated.
Minnesota – Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is an 11-acre park showcasing more than 40 modern and contemporary sculptures. Its most popular piece is “Spoonbridge and Cherry” by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.
Mississippi – Waveland’s Ground Zero Hurricane Museum
When you think of Hurricane Katrina your first thought is probably about Louisiana. However, the hurricane also had devastating consequences for Mississippi residents. Waveland’s Ground Zero Hurricane Museum focuses on life after Katrina and is full of hurricane history and memorabilia. The museum is located in the only public building remaining in Waveland after the storm.
Missouri – Anheuser-Busch St. Louis Brewery
The Anheuser-Busch St. Louis Brewery offers a free general tour that beer lovers will enjoy. On the 45-minute tour you’ll see their 7-Step Brewing Process and the famous Budweiser Clydesdales. Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis.
Montana – Drinking Horse Mountain Trail
Drinking Horse Mountain Trail is a great place to go for a hike. It’s recommended that you begin the trail counterclockwise because the trail will be less steep. Once you reach the top, you’ll get beautiful views of Bridger Range and Gallatin Valley.
Nebraska – Carhenge
Carhenge is a unique replica of England’s Stonehenge. What makes it special is that Jim Reinders used 39 automobiles to create the sculpture as a dedication to his late father.
Nevada – The Las Vegas Strip
There are plenty of free things to do on the Las Vegas Strip. You can check out the Carnival Midway at Circus Circus, watch the Mirage Volcano Show, visit the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens or take pictures at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign if you’re looking for options.
New Hampshire – Andres Institute of Art
The Andres Institute of Art is where art and nature collide. The 140-acre sculpture park has over 80 works of art scattered along the walking trails. It’s open to the public for free year-round.
New Jersey – Princeton University Art Museum
The Princeton University Art Museum was founded in 1882 and is the home to over 100,000 works of art. Their collections include African art, modern and contemporary art, photography and more.
New Mexico – Corrales Winery
New Mexico is full of wineries that wine enthusiasts will enjoy. One of the best to explore is Corrales Winery. It’s one of the 4 wineries located in the Corrales Wine Loop. They’re open Wednesday – Sunday and offer complimentary tours and tastings.
New York – The Museum at FIT
New York is one of the biggest fashion capitals of the world. With that being said, it’s only right that you take a trip to The Museum at FIT. Fashion lovers will get a kick out of seeing all the garments and accessories from the 18th century to now. The Museum at FIT hosts collections from Azzedine Alaïa, Cristobal Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Halston, Vivienne Westwood and more.
North Carolina – UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens
Visitors of the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens will be able to enjoy all the plants their greenhouses and two outdoor gardens provide. Rhododendrons and carnivorous plants are just a couple of things you’ll find on display.
North Dakota – North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum
Visitors can learn about North Dakota’s geographic history from 600 million years ago to today. They have four galleries which includes exhibits like geologic time, North Dakota woodcarvings, Native American Hall of Honor and more.
Ohio – Cincinnati Art Museum
At the Cincinnati Art Museum general admission is always free. The museum has a permanent collection of over 67,000 works and offers free daily public tours. Of course, you’re also welcome to roam on your own.
Oklahoma – Route 66
Route 66 is one of the most famous roads in America and runs from Chicago to Los Angeles. The largest section of Route 66 is in Oklahoma. As you drive along the highway, you’ll pass unique attractions such as the Blue Whale, Totem Pole Park and the Round Barn.
Oregon – Powell’s City of Books
Book lovers will enjoy a trip to Powell’s City of Books. It’s the largest independent bookstore in the world. Their flagship location has over a million books which includes an amazing collection of out-of-print and hard-to-find titles.
Pennsylvania – Liberty Bell Center
The Liberty Bell is a well-known symbol of American freedom. You can view the bell and its famous crack at the Liberty Bell Center which is located at the intersection of 6th and Market Streets in Philadelphia.
Rhode Island – The Providence Athenaeum
The Providence Athenaeum was founded in 1836 and is an independent, member-supported library. Horror fiction author H. P. Lovecraft used to be a regular visitor of the place. It is also the famous break up spot of Edgar Allan Poe and poet Sarah Helen Whitman.
South Carolina – Charleston Tea Plantation
The Charleston Tea Plantation is the only one of its kind in the U.S. Typically, you can only find tea plantations in Asia, Africa and South America. Tea lovers can take a tour of its factory to learn about each step of the tea making process.
South Dakota – Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Mount Rushmore has been shown in several movies, but nothing compares to seeing it up close for yourself. Entry to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial is free. However, you will have to pay for parking.
Tennessee – Tennessee State Museum
The Tennessee State Museum covers the social, political, economic, and cultural history of the state. Their permanent exhibitions include artifacts from the Civil War and Reconstruction, the first people and they also document how women fought for the right to vote.
Texas – Dallas Museum of Art
The Dallas Museum of Art contains over 24,000 works of art covering the last 5,000 years. Visitors will be intrigued by the various cultural collections such as The Keir Collection of Islamic Art, Arts of Africa, Classical Art and more.
Utah – Temple Square
The most popular attraction in Utah is Temple Square. Visitors can take a free tour of the historic 35-acre site or explore on their own. Some highlights include Salt Lake Temple, the Tabernacle, the Church History Museum and the Family History Library.
Vermont – Museum of the Creative Process
The Museum of the Creative Process is a self-proclaimed “center of creative discovery, innovative research, and intellectual retreat”. Their goal is to bridge art and science by getting you to focus on how art makes you feel. They even offer emotional training programs based on 30 years of clinical research.
Virginia – Mount Trashmore Park
Mount Trashmore Park is the epitome of turning trash into treasure. It was once an abandoned landfill which has since been converted. The 165-acre park has multiple walking trails, a skate park, playgrounds, two manmade mountains, two lakes and more to keep you occupied.
Washington – Olympic Sculpture Park
Olympic Sculpture Park is a 9-acre outdoor sculpture museum located near the water. It’s a great place to take a stroll and appreciate the amazing views. The site offers free tours where you can learn about the park’s landscape design and history.
West Virginia – Blenko Glass Company
The Travel Channel chose Blenko Glass Company as one of Top 10 US Factory Tours. Visitors are given a behind the scene look at how hand-blown glass pieces are created from start to finish.
Wisconsin – Jelly Belly Tour
If you love jelly beans don’t miss your chance to find out how the sweet treat is made at the Jelly Belly Candy Company. Their free tour includes interactive games and exhibits as well as free samples.
Wyoming – Castle Gardens Petroglyph Site
Castle Gardens Petroglyph Site was created by the erosion of a sandstone outcropping. The area is full of Native American rock art known as petroglyphs. Most of the pieces include images of shields. Experts believe they were created between 1000 AD and 1250 AD.