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
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
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
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. 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 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
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
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
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
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 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.