10 Free Things To Do In The USA To Give You More Bang For Your Holiday Buck

1 September 2017
Read Time: 6.9 mins

While a private helicopter tour of Manhattan may be one of life’s unforgettable experiences, it’ll certainly take a bite out of your USA holiday budget. So how can you still do the big-ticket things and stay more than a week? Work some of these fantastic freebies into your itinerary and you’ll find that you can still have a once-in-a-lifetime USA holiday without breaking the bank.

1. Craft Brewery Tours And Sampling

Portland, Oregon

people at a craft beer tasting Sample some of the best craft beers in the country in Portland, Oregon. Image: Getty

Known as the craft beer capital of America, Portland is a city with around 70 microbreweries in operation – the most of any American city. Many of these local breweries offer free tours and sampling, including Bridgeport Brewery in the Pearl District, and Widmer Brothers Brewing Company in Northeast Portland.

2. Visit New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

New York, New York

New York city skyline, United States As the sun goes down in New York on a Friday, make your way to 11 W 53rd St. Image: Getty

Between 4pm and 8pm on a Friday night, the usual admission fee is waived and visitors can marvel at some of the world’s finest contemporary art, for free. Think Dali, Picasso, Pollock and Van Gogh and you’ll start to get a sense of the unforgettable experience you’re in for. A lot of budget-savvy travellers know about this one but don’t be put off by the long queue. The MoMA team is very efficient and the queue moves quickly.

3. Stargaze At Griffith Observatory

Los Angeles, California

Griffith Observatory on Mount Hollywood, California Griffith Observatory sits on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. Image: Getty

Recognise Griffith Observatory? This landmark building had a starring role in the 2016 film La La Land, and is one of Los Angeles must-see attractions. Admission to the building, grounds and telescope is always free – a perfect night’s entertainment after a big day in the city of Angels.

4. Meet Larger-than-life Honest Abe

Washington, D.C.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., United States The Lincoln Memorial was built to honour the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Image: Getty

Washington, D.C. is brimming with free things to do for the savvy traveller and includes plenty of photo opportunities too. The Lincoln Memorial, the National World War II Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial are all free, as is the White House and the Smithsonian Museums. You’ll need more than one day!

5. Enjoy The View From Clingmans Dome

Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

Clingmans Dome observation tower, Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee Once you leave the road, there’s a 800 metre track up to the observation deck at Clingmans Dome. Image: Getty

Clingmans Dome is a mountain over 2,000 metres high, making it the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. It’s said that on a clear day, you can see into seven states. The Tower is one of the most impressive observation decks in the US and is open all year round, although the access road to the mountain is closed during the winter.

6. Try Carter Mountain Orchard Thursday Evening Sunset Series

Charlottesville, Virginia

Appalachian Mountains of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, USA Sunset over the Appalachian Mountains of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. Image: Getty

Each Thursday from mid-May through the end of September, Carter Mountain Orchard stays open until 9pm and offers an open invitation to join them on their lofty peak and watch the spectacular Virginia sunset, free of charge. If you want to make a night of it, there is also dinner, live music, wine, cider and hay rides or, you can bring your own blanket, chairs and picnic.

7. Explore Yellowstone National Park

Wyoming, Montana and Idaho

Yellowstone River, USA The crystal-clear Yellowstone River is a tributary of the Missouri River. Image: Getty

While there are a handful of days during the year when you can enter Yellowstone National Park for free, if you visit on an alternative day you’ll find that the fees are quite low – just $30 for a private, non-commercial vehicle. (This money goes toward maintaining the park, so it’s for a good cause!) What you do get when you enter, however, is the kind of experience money can’t buy: dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers, as well as hundreds of animal species including bison, elk and antelope.

8. Get Your Photo Taken At West Quoddy Head Lighthouse

Lubec, Maine

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, United States. West Quoddy Head Lighthouse overlooks Sail Rock, the easternmost point of land in the continental United States. Image: Getty

Step back in time and visit the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Maine, built in 1808, rebuilt in 1830 and then again in 1858. While you can only enter the working Lighthouse on one day a year in mid-September, the free visitor centre and museum is open all year round.

9. Listen To Jazz In The Deep South

New Orleans, Louisiana

Street signs in French, French Quarter, New Orleans, USA The French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carre, is the oldest part of New Orleans. Image: Getty

New Orleans is a city like no other, with a fascinating history, great food and a world-class music scene. Mingle with the locals and soak up some of America’s much-loved jazz, live, every Thursday at Armstrong Park during Spring and Autumn.

10. Be Amazed At The Cable Car Museum

San Francisco, California

Cable Car in San Francisco, USA Before the Great Earthquake of 1906 there were 600 cable cars in San Fran. Now there are 44. Image: Getty

Cable cars are synonymous with San Francisco, which means a visit to the free Cable Car Museum is almost compulsory. Established in 1974, the museum is located inside the Barn and Powerhouse on the corner of Washington and Mason Streets. Inside, you can watch the huge wheels and engines pulling the cables that the cars run on. Antique cable cars, tools, photographs and more can also be seen at this iconic San Francisco attraction.


Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to the USA.


Erin Bennion

Based in Brisbane, Erin is a writer with a penchant for using fancy old French words wherever possible and an insatiable hankering for trawling through vintage markets in small Scandinavian towns (no really). One of her dreams is to take her family to see General Sherman in Sequoia National Park and give that old guy a group-hug. Don’t follow her, she could end up anywhere. Twitter @erinbennion