Planning to travel to North America? Want to know how to visit New York attractions like MoMA for free? Or why you should go to Stanley Park, one of the top attractions in Vancouver? Then check out our 50 free things to do in North America.
Don’t forget, if you are planning to visit North America, we’ve got a great selection of USA hostels and hostels in Canada for you to book.
1. New York: Visit MoMA on a Friday night
Save $20 by waiting until Friday night to visit New York's incredible Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Every Friday from 4pm to 8pm the usual admission fee is waived during Target Free Friday Nights. Keep in mind that you can’t book tickets in advance, instead just show up at the museum and join the queue. Admission is given on a first-come first-served basis. Don’t worry if there’s a pretty big crowd there before you, as the whole thing is really well-organised and the line tends to move quickly. When you get inside, join the steady stream of visitors marvelling at the modern and contemporary art on display. This includes paintings, photography and lots more by famous artists from around the world like Dalí, Picasso, Pollock and Van Gogh.
Location: 11 West 53rd Street between 5th & 6th Avenues, Midtown.
Opening hours: Sat-Mon & Wed-Thurs 10.30am-5.30pm, Friday 10.30am-8pm, closed Tuesdays.
2. Los Angeles: Stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame
One of the most iconic attractions in Los Angeles, you can’t visit LA without wandering along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and checking out the stars beneath your feet. Stretching along Hollywood Boulevard between Vine and Brea Avenues, the Walk pays homage to stars of the silver screen, musicians and many more. Keep an eye out for Marilyn Monroe’s star on the southern corner of Hollywood and Highland. The diverse collection of honourees also includes Charlie Chaplin, Stan Lee, Michael Jackson and even Kermit the Frog.
Location: Hollywood Boulevard between Vine and Brea Avenues.
3. Boston: Enjoy a free guided tour of 'The Freedom Trail'
Without a doubt, the Freedom Trail is one of the top things to do in Boston as it brings you past 16 of the city’s most significant landmarks. To learn all about this famous trail, why not take one of the free walking tours led by National Park Service Rangers. Along the way you’ll visit Freedom Trail sites, learn about Boston’s role in the American Revolution and lots more. Tours can accommodate 30 people, with tickets given out on a first-come first-served basis half an hour before the tour begins.
Location: Boston National Historical Park Visitors Center, 15 State Street.
Opening hours: Apr 19th-June 20th & Sept 1st-Nov 28th – Weekdays at 2pm, weekends at 10am & 2pm; June 21st-Aug 31st – Daily at 10am, 2pm & 3pm.
4. Miami: Get around using the Metromover
In operation since 1986, Miami's Metromover is a free automated rapid transit system and it's a great way of getting to some of the city’s main attractions without spending a cent. Initially using just one line, today the Metromover runs on three different Loops and serves 20 stations located in Downtown Miami and Brickell. The American Airlines Centre, Cultural Plaza and Bayside Marketplace are just a few of the cool spots served by this hugely popular public transport service.
Opening hours: Daily from 5am to midnight – cars arrive in stations every 90 seconds during rush hour & every three minutes during off-peak hours.
5. Toronto: Go for a stroll along Woodbine Beach
One of the highlights of The Beach neighbourhood in Toronto, Woodbine Beach has been awarded a prestigious Blue Flag. Go for a swim, sunbathe on the sand or wander along the strand and look out across the expanse of blue that is Lake Ontario. This is also where you’ll find the start of the Boardwalk, a 3-kilometre stretch popular with joggers and walkers.
Location: Lake Shore Blvd East.
6. San Francisco: Check out the Cable Car Museum
Cable cars are synonymous with San Francisco, and what better way of learning about them than by visiting the free Cable Car Museum. This is where you can actually watch the huge wheels and engines pulling the cables that the cars run on. Established in 1974, the museum is located inside the Barn and Powerhouse on the corner of Washington and Mason Streets. Antique cable cars, tools, photographs and more can also be seen at this unique San Francisco attraction.
Location: 1201 Mason Street.
Opening hours: Daily; Apr 1st-Sept 30th 10am-6pm, Oct 1st-Mar 31st 10am-5pm.
7. Chicago: Chill out in Millennium Park
There’s a lot to see in Millennium Park, which is arguably one of the coolest parks in the US and a must-see on your trip to Chicago. The park's most notable landmark is Cloud Gate, better known as ‘the Bean’. Designed by Anish Kapoor, this unusual statue attracts large numbers of snap-happy visitors. Other attractions include the Crown Fountain, gardens, sculptures and more. The park is also home to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a breathtaking outdoor concert venue.
Location: 201 E Randolph Street between Michigan & Colombus Avenues.
Opening hours: Daily from 6am-11pm.
8. Washington DC: Visit some of the Smithsonian Museums
The Smithsonian is a huge organisation consisting of various museums and research centres, and at least three of its free museums should definitely feature on your Washington DC itinerary. The National Museum for American History is a treasure trove of 3 million artefacts spanning all of US history. During your visit, keep an eye out for the original American flag and Abraham Lincoln’s hat, along with quirkier pieces like Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. Another Smithsonian-run institution is the National Museum of Natural History. This popular museum was opened back in 1910 and today features a huge variety of exhibits, from dinosaur bones to sparkling gems. To see the world’s biggest collection of aircraft and spacecraft head to the National Air and Space Museum. Its impressive exhibits include the Wright Brothers’ plane, Apollo 11 and samples of lunar rock which visitors can actually touch.
Location: National Museum of American History – 14th Street & Constitution Ave NW; National Museum of Natural History – 10th Street & Constitution Ave NW; National Air and Space Museum – Independence Ave at 6th Street.
Opening hours: National Museum of American History – Daily 10am-5.30pm/7.30pm; National Museum of Natural History – Daily 10am-5.30pm/7.30pm; National Air and Space Museum – Daily 10am-5.30pm/7.30pm.
9. Las Vegas: Catch the Bellagio Fountain Show
Attracting thousands of spectators every day, the Bellagio Fountain Show at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino is a spectacular display of water, light and music. It’s one of the most iconic events in Las Vegas, earning its place in pop culture history with appearances in films like Ocean’s Eleven. To get a good view of the free show, make sure to show up about 10 minutes before the spectacle begins to claim your place at the railings.
Location: 3600 Las Vegas Blvd.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 3pm-8pm every half hour & 8pm-midnight every 15 minutes, Sat-Sun noon-8pm every half hour & 8pm-midnight every 15 minutes.
10. Vancouver: Explore beautiful Stanley Park
Stanley Park is one of the top things to do in Vancouver and is visited by around 8 million people every year. Covering a substantial 400 hectares, this huge urban park is home to an array of attractions. Stroll along the 8.8km-long Seawall and you’ll find stunning views of the Vancouver skyline just waiting to be photographed. You can also wander through the beautiful Rose Garden, explore the forest and marvel at the towering totem poles. As it’s such a big spot, it might be a good idea to stop off at the information booth inside the Georgia Street entrance and pick up a free map of the park.
Location: Georgia Street, Downtown Vancouver.
Opening hours: Daily, dawn until dusk.
11. New Orleans: Enjoy a free walking tour of the French Quarter
To learn more about this famous New Orleans neighbourhood, head on down to the French Quarter Visitor Center for one of the free walking tours. Twenty-five tickets are dispatched on a first-come first-served basis half an hour before the tour starts. On this hour-long tour you’ll walk to the Mississippi River and learn how the city of New Orleans came into being. Don’t worry if you miss the tour; there’s still plenty to learn about the French Quarter from the free exhibits in the visitor’s centre.
Location: 419 Decatur Street.
Opening hours: Daily, 9am-5pm; tours depart daily at 9am.
12. Orlando: Check out the CityArts Factory
Wander through the free CityArts Factory in Orlando and you’ll see intriguing works of art from local and international artists. A number of different galleries are housed in the Factory and the exhibits change on a monthly basis. If you’re looking for something a bit different after spending time at the city’s theme parks, this is a great choice.
Location: 29 South Orange Avenue, Downtown Orlando.
Opening hours: Tues-Sat 11am-6pm, closed Sundays and Mondays.
13. Honolulu: Visit the Hawaii State Art Museum
Also known as HiSAM, the Hawaii State Art Museum in Honolulu is a relatively new gallery which was opened in 2002 and is completely free to visit. Its three main galleries house a collection of paintings and sculptures, and many of Hawaii’s best artists are well-represented. On the first Friday of each month HiSAM’s opening hours are extended until 9pm, with a variety of different events taking place.
Location: 2nd Floor, No 1 Capitol District Building, 250 South Hotel Street.
Opening hours: Tues-Sat 10am-4pm, closed Sundays and Mondays.
14. Philadelphia: Visit the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site
Perhaps best-known for spooky works like The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe was a famous poet and author. At this unusual (and free) Philadelphia attraction, you can visit the house where Poe lived and wrote. As well as learning about his life and works, you’ll also see a cool collection of rare books and plenty more.
Location: 532 North 7th Street, near 7th & Spring Garden Streets.
Opening hours: Wed-Sun 9am-5pm, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
15. Montreal: Spend some time in Mont Royal Park
Found on the hard-to-miss mountain in the middle of Montreal, Mont Royal Park dates back to 1876 and was designed by the same man who planned Central Park. This is where you’ll find the 40-metre Cross of Montreal, which is lit up at night. For incredible views of the city spread out below, make sure to visit one of the three lookout points. Popular activities in the park include jogging, walking and cycling.
Location: Ave Cedar & Ave des Pains, Plateau Mont Royal.
16. Atlanta: Check out the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
Located in the Sweet Auburn Historic District, this popular Atlanta attraction is free to visit. This is where you’ll find the house where Martin Luther King Jr was born, as well as other buildings related to his life including the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. While at the site, make sure you check out the King Center and the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. To see inside his birth home, you’ll have to take one of the guided tours led by the onsite rangers. These are also free of charge; they last 30-minutes and depart on the hour throughout the day.
Location: 450 Auburn Avenue.
Opening hours: Daily, 9am-5pm.
17. Memphis: Watch the March of the Peabody Ducks
To enjoy this unusual attraction you’ll have to head to The Peabody Memphis, a swanky hotel in Downtown Memphis. Twice every day – once in the morning and once in the evening – the Peabody Ducks march along a red carpet to and from the Grand Lobby. It’s a great spectacle and draws lots of onlookers to the hotel. When these five real live ducks aren’t waddling around or splashing away in the lobby’s ornate marble fountain, they live up on the hotel’s roof in their ‘Royal Duck Palace’ and after a three month stretch at the hotel, it’s back to the farm where they were raised.
Location: 149 Union Avenue.
Opening hours: Daily at 11am & 5pm.
18. San Diego: Stroll through Balboa Park
Covering around 1,200 acres, Balboa Park is one of the top attractions in San Diego. Entrance to the park won’t cost you a cent and it’s filled with things to see and do, many of which are also free of charge. The Botanical Building and the very photogenic Lily Pond are well-worth a visit, as are the Rose Garden and the California Native Plant Garden. After checking out these gorgeous gardens, you can stroll through open green spaces, picnic under a tree or even test your skills at one of the outdoor chess tables.
Location: 1549 El Prado.
Opening hours: Daily, 24 hours.
19. New York: See a TV show being filmed
If you’ve always wanted to sit in the audience of a TV show but you don’t want to pay for the privilege then New York is the place for you. In the Big Apple, you’ll be able to get free tickets for a mind-boggling array of shows including everything from Good Morning America to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to Saturday Night Live. So whether you’re looking for a chat show, political commentary or belly-aching laughter, check out www.nytix.com to get your hands on these first-rate freebies.
20. Quebec City: Check out Les Délices de l'Érable
Also known as Canadian Maple Delights, this Quebec attraction is the place to go if you want to find out more about Canadian favourite, maple syrup. It might seem touristy and it is, but it’s also definitely well-worth a look. Why? Well, there’s the free museum upstairs which chronicles the production of maple syrup and, once you’ve found out how it’s made, you can had downstairs to the shop area and sample different variations of the sweet treat.
Location: 1044 rue Saint-Jean.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sat-Sun 10am-6pm.
21. Washington DC: Watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Visited by around 4 million people each year, the Arlington National Cemetery is home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which was initially built to house the remains of a WWI soldier. Each day you can witness a solemn changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb. From October to March this ceremony takes place every hour, and from April to September it happens every half hour.
Location: Arlington, Virginia – over the Memorial Bridge across the Potomac River from Washington DC.
Opening hours: Daily; Apr 1st-Sept 30th 8am-7pm, Oct 1st-Mar 31st 8am-5pm.
22. Miami: Take part in free classes at Bayfront Park
Just taking a stroll through beautiful Bayfront Park is a great free thing to do; however, if you’re looking for something extra, check out the regular schedule of free classes held at the park. Every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday free yoga classes are held in this Miami park. These classes are open to anyone over 18; all you have to do is bring your own yoga mat. On Monday and Wednesday, the classes take place from 6pm-7.15pm. You’ve got to get up earlier on Saturdays, when class is held between 9am and 10.15am. A black belt instructor leads a self-defence class for women every Monday and Wednesday from 7.15pm-8.30pm. A variety of things are covered in these free classes, from martial arts techniques to nutrition information. All of these yoga and self-defence classes are held at the Tina Hills Pavilion in the park.
Location: 301 North Biscayne Boulevard.
Opening hours: Daily, sunrise to sunset.
23. Boston: Visit the USS Constitution Museum
First launched back in 1797, the USS Constitution is an important part of US naval history and is a popular Boston attraction. The museum offers free admission and is located beside ‘Old Ironsides’ herself. Inside you can check out a number of interactive displays covering everything from the ship’s part in the Civil War to the diets of sailors to how she got her nickname.
Location: Building 22, Charleston Navy Yard.
Opening hours: Daily; Apr 1st-Oct 31st 9am-6pm, Nov 1st-Mar 31st 10am-5pm.
24. Fort Lauderdale: Stroll along the Hollywood Oceanfront Boardwalk
Stretching out for just over two miles, this popular promenade is a favourite with locals and visitors in Fort Lauderdale. While walking along the Boardwalk, you’ll be able to look out across Hollywood Beach towards the ocean. As a result, it’s a pretty great spot for people watching.
Location: Between Sheridan & Hollywood Streets.
25. Toronto: Visit the Art Gallery of Ontario on a Wednesday
If you can, try and visit the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto during its free admission hours which take place every Wednesday from 6pm to 8.30pm. One of the most impressive art galleries in Canada, the AGO boasts a remarkable collection of artworks by national and international artists. Pieces by popular Canadian artists are displayed alongside masterpieces by the likes of Van Gogh and Monet.
Location: 317 Dundas Street West.
Opening hours: Tues & Thurs-Sun 10am-5.30pm, Wed 10am-8.30pm, closed Mondays.
26. Seattle: Check out the Pike Place Market
Covering an impressive nine acres, Seattle's Pike Place Market was established back in 1907, making it one of the oldest markets of its kind in the US. It’s free to enter this farmer’s market, and while you wander around you’ll be able to enjoy free samples at many of the food stalls. On top of that, the market attracts a large number of buskers and street performers who provide a diverse selection of entertainment.
Location: 1st Avenue & Pike Street, Downtown Seattle.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 9am-5pm.
27. Flagstaff: People watch on Heritage Square
A popular meeting place for locals and visitors, Heritage Square is a great spot to indulge in a spot of people watching. Make sure to check out the unusual set of benches dotted around the square, each boasting a unique design illustrating some part of Flagstaff's history. Various events are also held at the square including a series of free concerts during the summer months.
Location: Aspen Street.
Opening hours: Daily; Apr 1st-Sept 30th 10am-6pm, Oct 1st-Mar 31st 10am-5pm.
28. Chicago: Take advantage of Free Second Mondays at the Field Museum
One of the top attractions in Chicago, the Field Museum offers free admission on every second Monday each month. This huge natural history museum boasts a diverse collection including everything from gemstones to dinosaur bones, while other displays cover Ancient Egypt, the evolution of the planet and more. Make sure to say hello to Sue, the largest and most complete T-Rex skeleton yet discovered.
Location: 1400 S Lake Shore Drive.
Opening hours: Daily; 9am-5pm.
29. New Orleans: Check out the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
Covering nearly five acres, this impressive New Orleans sculpture garden was opened to the public in 2003 and is completely free to visit. It features more than 50 different sculptures created by artists from around the world including both 20th century masters and more contemporary sculptors. As well as admiring these intriguing artworks, you can enjoy the beautiful surroundings, from the garden to the lagoon.
Location: 1 Dueling Oaks Drive, City Park.
Opening hours: Sat-Thurs 10am-4.45pm, Fri 10am-8.45pm.
30. Banff: Chill out in Central Park
A popular spot at the heart of Banff, Central Park is a beautiful open green space beside the Bow River. Check out the gazebo, stroll around the park, hang out at the picnic areas or stretch out on the grass and relax. Free outdoor concerts are held in the park during the summer months.
Location: 1201 Mason Street.
Opening hours: Daily; Apr 1st-Sept 30th 10am-6pm, Oct 1st-Mar 31st 10am-5pm.
31. Washington DC: Check out the Lincoln Memorial
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, is still seen as one of the country’s most influential leaders. Honouring the assassinated president, the Lincoln Memorial is one of Washington DC's most iconic landmarks. Located in the West Potomac Park area of the National Mall, a towering statue of Lincoln is housed inside a temple-like structure and is accompanied by two of his most famous speeches which are inscribed on the walls.
Location: National Mall, 900 Ohio Drive SW.
Opening hours: Daily, 24 hours.
32. Los Angeles: Visit some of the city’s free museums
If you’re looking for something to do in LA that won’t cost a dime, check out a couple of the city’s free museums. Both the Getty Museum and the Hollywood Bowl Museum are free to visit all year round. At the Getty you’ll see a wonderful collection of art including classic paintings and modern sculptures, while the Hollywood Bowl Museum plays host to a variety of exhibits covering music and more. Don’t forget that many other LA museums including MOCA (the Museum of Contemporary Art) and the Long Beach Museum of Art also offer free admission on specific days or at specific times.
Location: Getty Museum – 1200 Getty Center Drive; Hollywood Bowl Museum – 2301 N Highland Avenue.
Opening hours: Getty Museum – Tues-Fri & Sun 10am-5.30pm, Sat 10am-9pm, closed Mondays; Hollywood Bowl Museum – hours vary depending on season & live concerts.
33. Boston: Explore Boston Common
One of the oldest public parks in the US, Boston Common was established all the way back in 1634. This free park covers an impressive 50 acres and is located at the start of the Freedom Trail. What better way to while away a sunny afternoon in Boston than by strolling through this beautiful park. Check out the gardens, fountains and monuments, and don’t miss Frog Pond. As you wander around, you’ll notice that the park is also home to quite a number of extremely tame squirrels.
Location: Park area surrounded by Tremont, Beacon, Charles, Park & Boylston Streets.
Opening hours: Daily, 24 hours.
34. Orlando: Relax in Lake Eola Park
Located in Downtown Orlando, Lake Eola Park is a brilliant place for a stroll. Take the path circling the lake and you’ll be able to look out across the water as you walk. It’s a popular spot with joggers and also with people who come to enjoy a picnic, feed the birds or check out the flowerbeds. If you’re in town on Sunday, visit the Farmer’s Market and try some of the free samples offered by many of the food vendors.
Location: 195 N Rosalind Avenue.
Opening hours: Daily, 6am-midnight.
35. Vancouver: Make your way to Kitsilano Beach
A local favourite, Kitsilano Beach is a great spot for swimming or simply strolling along the strand. Affectionately known as Kits Beach, it also has its own beach volleyball area where you’ll often find a spirited game taking place. On top of all that, this popular Vancouver beach also provides visitors with fantastic views of the city and surrounding areas.
Location: North end of Yew Street, Kitsilano.
36. New York: Take a trip on the Staten Island Ferry
For a cheap and cheerful way to see some of the top New York attractions, hop on the Staten Island Ferry. From the deck of this free ferry you’ll see stunning views of Manhattan’s towering skyline, plus the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and plenty more. If you visit New York, be sure to make this 50-minute round trip to get a remarkable look at the city.
Location: Whitehall Terminal, Lower Manhattan.
Opening hours: Daily, services operate almost every half hour throughout the day (with more services during peak times) and on the hour at night.
37. San Francisco: Spend some time in Golden Gate Park
San Francisco's Golden Gate Park covers an impressive 1,017 acres and attracts around 13 million visitors each year. It’s free to get into the park and, once inside, you’ll find that many of the best attractions won’t cost a thing. There’s the San Francisco Botanical Garden, which boasts a huge collection of colourful flowers, towering trees and more. Free guided tours of this beautiful spot are offered on weekdays at 1.30pm and on weekends at 10.30am and 1.30pm. Other attractions to check out include the windmills in the west part of the park and the Buffalo Paddock where you can see a herd of American bison. Strawberry Hill is another great part of the park to visit. Not only is it home to Stow Lake and some gorgeous gardens, it also provides fantastic views.
Location: 9th Avenue off Lincoln Blvd.
Opening hours: Daily, 5am-midnight.
38. Honolulu: Go on the Waikiki Historic Trail walking tour
Waikiki Beach is one of the most popular attractions in all of Hawaii, and Waikiki is one of the most visited neighbourhoods in Honolulu. There’s a lot more to this area than just golden sands and high-rise hotels. To find out about the history and cultural significance of the Waikiki area, why not take one of the free walking tours of the Waikiki Historic Trail which covers a two-mile route. Two different tours are offered, each taking in a different selection of local sights.
Location: Queen’s Tour – Information kiosk at Kapahulu & Kalakaua Avenues; Kalia Tour – Information kiosk on 2nd floor of Kalia Tower at Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Opening hours: Tours operate Mon-Sat from 9am-11am.
39. Chicago: Stroll along the shores of Lake Michigan
Wander east from Downtown Chicago and you'll come to what looks like the open sea but is, in fact, Lake Michigan. This massive body of water is one of the ‘Great Lakes’ and is definitely something you should check out during your Chicago trip. Stroll along its shores passing beaches and yacht clubs along the way, and keep your camera at the ready as the lakeshore offers some unforgettable views of Chicago’s impressive skyline.
40. Montreal: Visit the Museum of Fine Arts
Montreal's Museum of Fine Arts or Musée des Beaux-Arts boasts an impressive collection which is actually housed in two different buildings across the street from each other. These are connected by means of an underground tunnel. The main collection is free to visit at all times and consists of paintings, sculptures, decorative arts objects and much more. Don’t leave without seeing the iconic hat that belonged to famous French ruler, Napoleon.
Location: 1380 Sherbrooke Street West.
Opening hours: Tues-Fri 11am-5pm, Sat-Sun 10am-5pm, closed Mondays.
41. Los Angeles: Check out Griffith Park
Covering in excess of 4,100 acres, Griffith Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the US. It won’t cost you a thing to get into the park, and once you’re there you’ll find that it’s filled with things to see and do. For those who prefer to be active, there are numerous trails for hiking, jogging and walking. If you’re looking for something more relaxed, why not chill out at one of the many picnic areas. Don’t leave the park without checking out some of its other attractions including the Griffith Observatory which boasts pretty incredible views of Los Angeles. The building and grounds of this popular observatory are free to visit; however, there is a small fee if you want to see one of the shows in the planetarium.
Location: Griffith Park – 4730 Crystal Springs Drive; Griffith Observatory – 2800 East Observatory Road.
Opening hours: Griffith Park – Daily 5am-10.30pm; Griffith Observatory – Wed-Fri noon-10pm, Sat-Sun 10am-10pm, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
42. Miami: Explore the Art Deco District
In the South Beach area of Miami Beach you’ll find the city’s Art Deco District, which is home to a wonderful collection of art deco architecture. To see some of the most striking examples, stroll along both Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive. Not just focused on pastel-coloured buildings and much photographed spots like the Carlton Hotel, this style even extends as far as the flamboyant lifeguard stations which have to be seen to be believed.
43. San Diego: Hang out at Mission Beach Boardwalk
Stretching along for some 3.5 miles, the Mission Beach Boardwalk in San Diego is an excellent place to indulge in a spot of people watching. Start out at the main lifeguard tower at Ventura Place, making sure to follow the lane guides as the boardwalk is popular with cyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers. Along the way, keep an eye out for the many characters found in the area or take a seat on the wall and look out at what’s happening on the beach.
Location: Pacific Beach & South Mission Beach.
44. Portland: Check out Forest Park
Take a break from the city and escape to the natural setting of this giant park. Covering over 5,000 acres, it boasts more than 70 miles of trails. This huge expanse of parkland is a popular place for walking, jogging and cycling. It’s also a great place to spot a wide variety of local plants, birds and mammals. Best of all, it won’t cost you a cent to explore this Portland park.
Location: NW 29th Ave & Upshur Street to Newberry Road.
Opening hours: Daily 5am-10pm.
45. Toronto: Check out the Allan Gardens Conservatory
The Allan Gardens Conservatory is filled with a colour collection of flowers, along with a wonderful array of palm trees and cacti. Striking seasonal displays can also be enjoyed at this Victorian-style building located at the heart of Toronto's beautiful Allan Gardens. Both the Conservatory and the Gardens are free to visit.
Location: 19 Horticultural Avenue.
Opening hours: Daily, 10am-5pm.
46. San Francisco: Visit Grace Cathedral
Destroyed in a fire in 1906, Grace Cathedral was rebuilt and is now one of the largest Episcopal Cathedrals in the US. Designed in the French Gothic style, the current cathedral was completed in 1964 and features a gorgeous collection of stained glass windows. Famous for its ‘Gates of Paradise’, Ghiberti-style bronze doors, the cathedral is also home to a labyrinth and an impressive array of artworks. Located in San Francisco's Nob Hill neighbourhood, this fascinating building is well-worth a look.
Location: 1100 California Street.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 7am-6pm, Sat 8am-6pm, Sun 8am-7pm.
47. Las Vegas: Enjoy the Fremont Street Experience
A carnival-like atmosphere awaits you at this pedestrian mall on Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas. Home to a remarkable array of street performers, the mall is enclosed by a huge canopy. As you wander along, you won’t be able to stop from gazing upwards at a glittering display of some 12 million lights. You can enjoy free shows on the gigantic overhead screen starting at dusk and taking place every hour until midnight.
Location: 425 Freemont Street.
48. Seattle: Visit the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
Watching boats of various sizes navigate the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks is one of the top things to do in Seattle. During the summer months, you’ll also see salmon making their way up stream by way of the fish ladder. When the salmon are plentiful, sea lions can often be seen congregating near the ladder in the hopes of catching an easy meal. The area boasts some gorgeous gardens, which are a great spot for a stroll after you’ve spend some time watching the commercial fishing boats and pleasure crafts at the locks.
Location: 3015 NW 54th Street.
Opening hours: Daily 7am-9pm.
49. Minneapolis: Visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The collection at the Minneapolis Institute or Arts includes around 80,000 different objects covering 5,000 years of world history. Exhibits include everything from African art to contemporary photography. Paintings, decorative arts, sculptures can also be seen at this fascinating and free Minneapolis museum and art gallery.
Location: 2400 3rd Avenue South.
Opening hours: Tues-Wed & Fri-Sat 10am-5pm, Thurs 10am-9pm, Sun 11am-5pm, closed Mondays.
50. San Luis Obispo: Hang out at Mission Plaza
Close to the Old Mission, another of the top things to do in San Luis Obispo, Mission Plaza is a cool open space covering a two-block area. Boasting a number of different paths to explore and picnic areas where you can chill out, the Plaza is also home to an outdoor amphitheatre. A regular programme of free entertainment can be enjoyed in and around this area, with the majority of these taking place during the summer months.
Location: Broad Street & Monterey Street.
If you’re planning a trip to North America, hopefully these tips will help you save some money along the way. So whether you’re visiting New York or Los Angeles, Toronto or Vancouver, make sure to check out our 50 things to do for free in North America.
Vist our backpackers page