Cheap or free things to do in any city

Foucault clock and pendulum in Lexington, KY

Stretch your budget by taking advantage of cheap or free things to do in any town. Finding free or cheap things to do can make any town an interesting add-on stop or vacation destination. This list can also help make your next staycation even more interesting. Read on to see what we mean.

  1. Parks – Local parks are one of the free things to do that never get old. Historic or informational markers, public art and picnic areas are common. Parking is almost always free and nearby. Search out “parks near me” or “parks in _____” on any search engine.
  2. Visitor information centers – find out the scoop on any town by stopping at the visitor information center (also called tourism information center). Representatives can give you the low down on what the town or city is known for and all the free or cheap things to do that may be offered. Be sure to ask about coupons or special deals.
  3. Nonprofit museums – Many, like the Knoxville Museum of Art in Tennessee, operate on donations or have designated museum free days several times a year. Smithsonian affiliated museums have an annual museum free day in September. It’s a great way to celebrate art, history or culture. Free tickets are available on the Smithsonian website.
  4. National or state parks – Look no further than state or national parks for affordable museums, ranger led programs, scenic drives, informational films, picnic areas and much more. Check out this list of free national parks and free state parks.
  5. University or college campus – Public offerings like concerts and museums make a visit to campus one of the free or cheap things to do that every family should consider. Schedules and offerings will be on the school website.
  6. Main branch of the public library – Public libraries are always free and frequently have unique exhibits. One example is the Lexington, Kentucky public library. This one of the few places in the U.S. where you can see a giant ceiling clock & Foucault Pendulum in action. The exhibit is a beautiful display of physics, history and art. The pendulum reaches from the fourth floor to the floor of the first to demonstrate the movement of the earth. Sensors on the floor light up when the pendulum swings over them. Look up to see the frieze above the first floor. It depicts the history of the area.
  7. Walking tours – Many cities have self-guided walking tours that cost nothing. Pick up a brochure at a visitor center. Prepare to be guided by art in public spaces, historic markers and buildings and other city highlights.
  8. Murals – Popular in cities of every size. These giant works of art depict the unique culture and history of the town you are visiting. Some towns have developed mural trails to make these giant works of art easier to find. Check with the visitor center for a brochure. The pictures below were taken in Knoxville Tennessee, Fancy Gap and Bristol, Virginia and Roswell, New Mexico.

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