A 90-minute cruise, a look into the big beyond, and exploring the biggest museum complex in the world sounds pricey, doesn’t it? But you can do all that and more for free in this week’s installment of Top Free Things to Do. Last week, we covered the Top 5 Free Things to Do in New York, Chicago, Atlanta & San Francisco and this week we are exploring the free options in LA, DC, Houston, and Denver. Read on for enough free activities to keep you busy all year long!
Top Free Things to Do in Los Angeles
The Griffith Observatory
At the Griffith Observatory, you can learn about the universe in the free astronomy museum and catch a glimpse of a galaxy far, far away in the super Zeiss Telescope Tuesday-Friday from Noon to 10PM and Saturday-Sunday from 10AM-10PM. Note that there is a charge for planetarium shows—2800 East Observatory Rd.
La Brea Tar Pits
If you don’t mind skipping the museum, you can check the La Brea Tar Pits off your must-see list for free. There’s no charge to wander the park and view the oozing pits that claimed saber tooth tigers, mammoths and more. If you don’t want to miss all the recovered fossils, go on the first Tuesday of any month but July and August to take advantage of their free day.—5801 Wilshire Blvd.
Disney Concert Hall and Music Center Tours
No need to shell out for a concert to get a feel for the iconic Disney Concert Hall. A free 45 minute self-guided audio tour is available 10am to 2pm most days. Check the website for details. —111 South Grand Ave.
Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve
This wildlife reserve aims to give visitors an idea of what the area would have looked like before humans settled the area. Expect to find native flora and fauna. The best part? It is free to visit!—6350 Woodley Ave., Van Nuys
J. Paul Getty Museum
Looking for world class art from the middle ages to the present and free every day? The Getty Center has you covered. Parking is $15, but the museum is accessible by public transportation.—1200 Getty Center Dr.
Tour of the White House
Not only is it a staple of the classic D.C. vacation, a Tour of the Whitehouse is free. The catch is you need to submit a request through your congressperson up to 6 months in advance of your visit and no less than 21 days before. Your congressional office will need the name, birth date, and social security number of everyone in your party. Tours are scheduled first-come, first-serve. —1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
National Museum of the US Navy
Get a dose of maritime history at the National Museum of the US Navy. Not only will you see navel artifacts, art, models, interactive exhibits and more, you’ll get to see it all free.—805 Kidder Breese St. SE
The Smithsonian Institute
There are museums and there are museums. And then there is the Smithsonian Institute. It isn’t going overboard to say this is one of the most important museums in the world. It’s certainly the largest, featuring a total of 16 individual museums and art galleries. And every single one of them is free.– 901 D St SW # 704B
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The United States’ official memorial to the Holocaust, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum houses over 12,000 artifacts, photographs, documents, and more. Admission is free, but from March through August, you’ll need to get a free pass to access the Permanent Exhibition on the day of your visit.—100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl. SW
The National Zoo
It is a part of the Smithsonian, but we thought the National Zoo deserved a separate call out. It’s one of the oldest zoos in the country and contains over 400 species. 1/5 of the species represented are endangered. Admission is free and they are open every day of the year except for Christmas day.—3001 Connecticut Ave. NW
Top Free Things to Do in Houston
Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden
The Cullen Sculpture Garden, located at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is open daily and always free. It includes 25 MFAH works as well as others created specifically for the garden.—1001 Bissonnet St.
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Check out contemporary art from local, regional, national and international artists at the CAMH. It is always free but the museum is closed on Mondays. Check website for hours.—5216 Montrose Blvd.
Holocaust Museum Houston
The Holocaust Museum Houston is a place to learn about the impact of hatred and prejudice in society. A permanent exhibition, “Bearing Witness: A Community Remembers,” focuses on the stories of Holocaust survivors in the Houston area. Admission is free.—5401 Caroline St.
Houston Shipping Channel Cruise
Take a cruise through one of the busiest shipping ports in the world courtesy of the Houston Port Authority. Your voyage on the M/V Sam Houston will last 90 minutes. Make your reservations online. You may need to book a few weeks in advance during peak season. —111 East Loop North
Open to the public daily from 10AM to 10PM, the Waterwall is a multi-story fountain that has to be seen up close to be fully appreciated. Bring your camera and a picnic lunch to make the most of the free experience. —2800 Post Oak Blvd.
Dig the prehistoric vibe for free at Dinosaur Ridge. This highly significant dig site is open to the public. You can check out 150 million year old dino bones still in sandstone as well as 100 million year old dino footprints.—16831 W Alameda Pkwy.
Colorado Sports Hall of Fame
The Colorado Sports Hall of Fame at Sports Authority Field at Mile High honors Colorado sports legends. Open Thursday through Saturday, 10AM-3PM, this museum is always free. —1701 Bryant St., Suite 500
Coors Brewery Tour
Learn all about the creation of one of America’s classic brews during the free Coors Golden Brewery Tour. Yes, there are samples at the end of the tour for those over 21. Guests 18 and under will need to be accompanied by an adult. Tours run Thursday-Monday 10AM-4PM and Sunday Noon-4PM. During the summer, tours run daily.—1221 Ford Street and 13th (Golden, CO)
Red Rocks Trail, Amphitheatre & Museum
Becky, a BDealer and former Colorado resident, gave us the inside scoop on her favorite Denver freebie, Red Rocks. “Beautiful scenery, lots of wildflowers, a historic concert venue that’s open to the public. Carmelo Anthony used to run the stairs there when he was a Denver Nugget. There’s also an INSANE fitness group that works out there call “It Burns Joe Fitness” that’s run by a former BMX champion for any vacationing fitness buffs, but my favorite thing to do there was to pack a small picnic and hike from Matthews Winters Park up to the Red Rocks Trail loop, enjoy a snack while basking in the glory of gorgeous views of the rocks, the amphitheater and the city of Denver stretching all the way out to the plains.” The park and amphitheatre are open from 5AM-11PM daily, but close early on concert days. Check the website for details.—18300 W. Alameda Parkway
US Mint Tour
Find out how they get Lincoln’s head so small when you tour the US Mint at Denver free. There is an online reservation system and you can book tours from 8AM-11AM and 1PM-4PM Monday through Thursday. You have to arrive at the tour entrance at least 20 minutes before your tour. Don’t be late!—320 West Colfax Avenue
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