They say nothing in life is free, but don’t believe it — there are plenty of free and low-cost activities to take advantage of. If you’re traveling this spring or summer, you can go to free wine tastings, stargaze with the pros or enjoy fireworks and walking tours.


They say nothing in life is free, but don’t believe it — there are plenty of free and low-cost activities to take advantage of. If you’re traveling this spring or summer, you can go to free wine tastings, stargaze with the pros or enjoy fireworks and walking tours. Here are a few options for several regions of the country. Unless otherwise noted, all are free. Special exhibits may not be included.

Boston area

Best Cellars: Lean to taste like the pros during wine tastings at Best Cellars 5 to 8 p.m. weekdays and 2 to 5 p.m. weekends, www.bestcellars.com.

Coit Observatory: The stars are the limit during public viewing after 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays spring and summer and 7:30 p.m. fall and winter, www.bu.edu/astronomy/facilities/observatory.html.

American Revolution’s Freedom Trail: A self-guided tour hits 16 revolutionary Boston sites, www.thefreedomtrail.org.

“Old Ironsides:” Battle the British with tours of the USS Constitution, Navy yard and exhibit hall, www.ussconstitution.navy.mil.

Harvard Square Cambridge: Tourists and academics mingle with over 300 street performers in this colorful street scene, www.harvardsquare.com.

Philadelphia

Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell: Practice your John Hancock where the Declaration of Independence was signed, www.nps.gov/inde.

U.S. Mint: Put yourself where the money is and learn the history of coin manufacturing, www.usmint.gov.

The Rodin Museum: The “Thinker” will wow you, but the museum also boasts the largest collection of Rodin works in the U.S., www.rodinmuseum.org.

Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site: Creepy yet fascinating, Poe influenced generations of authors, www.nps.gov/edal.

Reading Terminal farmers market: Prepared to be overwhelmed with the bounty of this bustling, historic market, www.readingterminalmarket.org.

 New York City

Times Square: If you can make it here … well you know the rest, www.timessquare.com.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral: Slip in for a moment of quiet reflection at this neo-gothic cathedral, www.stpatrickscathgedral.org.

Bronx Zoo: Leaping lemurs and cave-dwelling crocodiles just some of the highlights on display in the Madagascar exhibit, www.bronxzoo.com.

New York Botanical Garden: Serene waterfalls and crystal palace greenhouses can be seen for free Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays, www.nybg.com.

Museum free days: A bevy of biggies can be seen for free certain days/times of the week, including the Museum of Modern Art, which is free Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m., www, www.ny.com/museums/free.html.

Washington, D.C.

The White House: Make yourself at home in the president’s mansion with stops at the State Dining Room and library, www.whitehouse.gov/about/tours_and_events.

Arlington National Cemetery: Pay your respects at America’s most hallowed ground, www.arlingtoncemetery.org.

D.C.’s monuments and memorials: The Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument are not to be missed, but there are plenty other significant sites. Don’t forget your walking shoes, www.dcmemorials.com.

The Smithsonian: It’s best to have a plan, because all 16 museums and art galleries are all free, www.si.edu.

Georgetown: Stroll the streets where our nation’s history was forged, www.georgetowndc.com.

Upstate New York

The Daredevil Museum of Niagara Falls: You’ll shake your head in disbelief at the thrill-seekers who conquered the falls, www.niagarafallslive.com/daredevils_of_niagara_falls.htm.

Albany Pine Bush Preserve: This unique and rare ecosystem is also famous for its deep literary significance. The “Song of Hiawatha” is just one literary link. www.albanypinebush.org.

Watkins Glen State Park: The most famous of the Finger Lakes’ parks boasts 19 waterfalls and spellbinding gorge paths, www.nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/info.asp?parkId=105.

Underground Railroad Heritage Trail: Retrace the steps of slave “conductors” along this scenic trail that includes abolitionist John Brown’s home, nysparks.state.ny.us/heritage/trails/underground.asp and www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/underground/ny4.htm.

St. Louis

Forest Park: To find the heart of the city, visit its 1,300 acres of lakes, walking paths and attractions, www.stlouis.missouri.org/citygov/parks/forestpark.

St. Louis Zoo: Immerse yourself in a safari tour along River’s Edge and view animals from four continents, www.stlzoo.org.

St. Louis Art Museum: Dedicated to art and free for all, the museum includes works from virtually every culture and time period, www.stlouis.art.museum.org.

St. Louis Science Center: Global climate on your mind? Explore “Ends of the Earth: Polar Bears to Penguins,” www.slsc.org.

Bellefontaine Cemetery: This final resting place is worth a visit as a historical, architectural and horticultural showcase, www.bellefontainecemetery.org.

 

 

Chicago

Millennium Park: So much to do: Gaze at yourself in “The Bean” sculpture, stroll Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavillion or simply splash in the interactive Crown Fountain, www.millenniumpark.org.

Art Institute: An array of world-class art is complemented by the new modern wing housing one of the world’s most comprehensive collections. Free Thursday evenings, www.artic.edu.

National Museum of Mexican Art: Bridging cultures is the goal at the nation’s largest Latino museum, www.nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org.

Navy Pier: Come out to play on the pier with free fireworks Wednesday and Saturday nights and a stroll through the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, www.navypier.com.

Lincoln Park Zoo: Go ape for LPZ’s famous gorillas, www.lpzoo.com.

 

Minneapolis/St. Paul

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: Take your picture by a whimsical icon of the city – Spoonbridge and Cherry, www.garden.walkerart.org.

Weisman Art Museum: Designed by Frank Gehry with a mostly 20th-century collection, the building is an artwork in itself, www.weisman.umn.edu.

Minnehaha Park and Falls: Don’t miss this spectacular urban delight with its over 50-foot falls, www.nps.gov/miss/maps/model/minnehaha.

Lake Calhoun: With sandy beaches and paved paths, sports enthusiasts flock here for fishing, swimming, wind surfing, sailing, walking, biking and more, www.minneapolisparks.org.

Mall of America: Special events like book signings and performances are a daily occurrence at this behemoth shopping/entertainment complex, www.mallofamerica.com.

 

 

South/Southwest

 

Memphis

 

Beale Street Historic District and the Walk of Fame. Can you feel the beat — it’s the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, www.bealestreet.com.

 

Center for Southern Folklore. Embrace your Southern heritage or simply explore it, www.southernfolklore.com.

 

Southland Greyhound Park. Betting costs money, but the pulse-pounding excitement is free, www.southlandgreyhound.com.

 

Peabody Hotel. The famed March of the Ducks takes place twice a day. Follow it up with a quick elevator ride to the roof for spectacular views of the city, www.peabodymemphis.com.

 

Mud Island River Park. Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty at this neighborhood gem, www.mudisland.com.

 

 

New Orleans

French Quarter or Garden District. See city sites relaxed and on foot with a self-guided walking tour, www.frommers.com/destinations/neworleans.

 

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. Experience the music with free jazz performances almost daily plus historic sites and live demonstrations, www.nps.gov/jazz.

 

St. Charles streetcar. Hop aboard to travel the length of uptown New Orleans’s celebrated St. Charles Street as it passes Tulane and Loyola universities, Audubon Park and stately mansions, $1.25, www.norta.com/StCharles.

 

Café du Monde. People watch over a cup of café au lait and a plate of beignets then stroll through Jackson Park and the St. Louis Cathedral, www.cafedumonde.com and www.jackson-square.com.