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Saturday, July 1, 2023

Free Summer Travel Activities

Summer is, officially, here! That means vacation for a lot of people. Over 60%* of adults surveyed said they plan to travel this summer. You'll be seeing high crowds, delayed & cancelled flights, and high prices. Some are cutting back on trips, due to inflation, which is totally fair and valid. 

There are always several free things to do in a city and those things multiply when it's warm out and tourists show up, so do a bit of research first.
Urban Light - art installation in LA

If this is you, here are some things that are always free and cheap and available in most destinations:
As you probably know, I love a good farmers' market. If there's one where we travel, I do my very best to plan a day around it. You are going to eat anyway, so this is your chance to try something hyper-local. It's also a great opportunity to interact with locals and learn more about the food they grow and eat. I've learned a lot about different areas and farms/ranches this way. People always love to talk about their products and practices with you, or even just their city in general.

Alton Baker Park in Eugene, OR

Green Spaces
All cities have public green spaces, and if you're in a popular destination, those parks can have a lot of cool amenities, like galleries, sculptures, water features, swimming, fishing, cool gardens, playgrounds, and more. Holland Park in London has a Japanese garden with peacocks.  Balboa Park in San Diego has a botanical garden. 

Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh

There are a lot of free museums when you travel. Some are very cheap and some cost quite a bit unless you go on certain days of the week/month. I've been to some terrible museums that charged a large fee and some fantastic museums that were totally free, both large and small. In fact, most of the museums in London have no entry fee, so you can see a Picasso or Monet for nothing, but almost every museum in Paris has an admission fee, and you may have to stand in line for hours to pay them. I opted for smaller museums this last trip that only charged 10 euro to get in and was pleasantly surprised. Look for museum passes in cities you want to visit and indulge in a lot of art, but make sure you'll get your money's worth first, as our trip to Paris before this was a disappointment, because we would have had to wait in lines longer than enjoying the museum, even if you get their before they open.  

Downtown Las Vegas

Street Art & Murals
Even smaller towns now work with local artists to beautify their spaces with public art, like sculptures, building murals, and even larger installations. Las Vegas is a wonderful place for this, but so is LA, Philly, Portland, and so many other cities around the world. Graffiti art is some of my favorite art, but seeing the vast array of different free art while walking around is always astounding to me. You can research this before you arrive and plan out a route to see some of the best things.

Walking Tours
You could find a company that takes tourists on walking tours and go with a bunch of other people. I have appreciated a lot of these tours, but I also appreciate a good self-guided tour that allows me to go at my own pace and make stops along the way, letting me do it all in one day or split it up over my trip. Check out the app GPS My City to find tours worldwide by locals and other tourists. You can find everything from food tours to history tours.

Not actually a concert, but this was in Spring Mountain Ranch outside of Vegas

Outdoor Concerts
Summertime brings out a lot of free entertainment and most boardwalks, town squares, or even large parks offer free concerts by local arts, and sometimes well-known musicians. Portland often does free concerts downtown and I've been fortunate enough to see some amazing bands, from Guster to Bon Jovi. San Francisco's Pier 39 has outdoor music, an often other entertainment, on weekends and in the evenings. 

Shakespeare In the Park
I love packing a blanket and a meal and setting up a space at a park to watch free theater. The quality can vary, but it's almost always fun and you can't beat the admission price of zero dollars. You might bring some cash for tips, but you're never required to contribute. It's just polite. 

The closest to hiking I get is at vista points off the highway LOL

Go On a Hike
By now, you all know that I'm not an outdoor person unless it involves sightseeing in a city. I love a view, but I don't love hiking. If that's you, great. Many places have all levels of hiking trails for those looking for easy hikes or those more experienced. This is the time to see local wildlife and plants and take a bunch of nature pics. If you aren't a go-hike-in-the-hills kind of person, maybe do this next thing.

Lime bike in Old Sacramento

Rent a City Bike or Scooter
This isn't free, but it can be a cheap way to see a city and also get a bit of exercise or cover more ground than just walking. Most cities have one or both of these options and you can easily pick up a rental and return it to a different location. 

Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh

Check Out a Church
Most historical churches are open for visitors and so many of them are free to enter. If you want to learn about the history of the building and see amazing architecture, this is a cheap way to do it. Sometimes, you aren't permitted to take photos inside unless you pay a nominal fee. St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh charged me 2£ to take pictures, which went to the upkeep, as it's still a working church, and I felt it was worth it, even if I had taken zero pictures. The building is phenomenal. 

There are almost always several free things to do in a city and those things multiply when it's warm out and tourists show up, so make sure to do a little digging on what you can do to fill in your time and stretch your dollars. It's fun to see a different side of a destination and save money in the process. 

What are your favorite things to do that are cheap or free when you travel?

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