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What to do in some of my favorite U.S. cities for free!

I’m an extremely frugal traveler, because if I weren’t, I wouldn’t be able to travel as much as I do. Rarely do I pay for anything when I arrive in a city other than the obvious – food, drink and public transportation.

I also travel off the beaten path, discovering unique locales that aren’t in a tourist book. A few noted here are typical tourist attractions; however, they are worthy of visiting.

The following lists are my recommended activities in the cities I most recently visited. I lived in Chicago for the past seven years before returning to my hometown of Madison. All venues are free unless otherwise noted.

I didn’t want to inundate the post with links; therefore, if you get stuck searching for something, just leave a comment or contact me directly.


Osaka Garden

Beautiful and serene Japanese gardens.

Millenium Park

Numerous free activities including art, sculptures and concerts.

Garfield Park Conservatory

Lovely greenhouses and exhibition halls.

National Museum of Mexican Art

Experience authentic art and culture.

Free Walking Tours

I haven’t done this; however, many people highly recommend it.

Chicago Cultural Center

A range of activities that are free unless otherwise noted including art, architecture, concerts, exhibits and more.

Chicago Water Taxi

$3-7 per ride depending on the distance. A great way to see the city by boat inexpensively.

Landshark Beer Garden at Navy Pier

Live music under the stars accompanied by fireworks on Wednesday and Sunday evenings.


Hatch Show Print

Watch posters being made at this very cool letterpress shop, and then have fun trying to decide which posters and other trinkets to buy.

Tootsie’s World Famous Orchid Lounge on Broadway

No cover and live music all day long in an atmosphere that is way too much fun.

The Station Inn

Amazing bluegrass jam on Sunday evenings with a group of musicians playing unplugged for hours.

The AT&T Building (better known as the Batman Building)

Couldn’t stop sneaking photos.

Cumberland River

Enjoy a stroll and admire the architecture.

Farmer’s Market/Bicentennial Mall

You can eat, drink, hike, observe memorials, and more.

Nashville Flea Market

$5 parking if you park on the grounds.


Prospero’s Bookstore

Come for the books and stay for the ambience.

Boulevard Brewery Tour

My favorite brewery tour thus far thanks to the staff and facility.

Jazz at the Majestic Restaurant

Impressive live jazz in a speakeasy-style atmosphere.

The Roasterie Factory Tour

Coffee lovers unite at this cafe where you can get a tour of the facility.

The Central Library

Well known for its unique exterior and it was cool to see in person.

City Market

Eat, shop, be entertained, and a whole lot more.


The Sculpture Garden

Stunning art on beautifully manicured grounds.

Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lodge

One of a kind venue to eat, drink and be merry.

Mill City Ruins Park

An interesting place featuring mill ruins, walking paths and raised catwalks.

The Guthrie Theater

Spectacular photo ops at the 4th & 9th floor observation areas.

Harriet Brewing

Many free live music events plus a free brewery tour at this unique venue.


Amoeba Records

The largest independent record store in the world, offering weekly live music events and fantastic sidewalk sales.

Nick Metropolis Collectible Furniture

The most unique shop I have ever been to, and feel very fortunate if you are lucky enough to meet Nick.

The Getty Center

Astonishing art, views, architecture, concerts and more.

Book Soup

A splendid place for author events and browsing.

Runyon Canyon

A breathtaking place to hike and take in a yoga class.


$10 to watch an outdoor movie with food trucks and a live band (food extra).

Hammer Museum

Intriguing exhibits and collections.

The Last Bookstore

You have to see it to believe it, especially the 2nd floor.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Interesting burial sites, peacocks, and beautifully manicured grounds await you.

Barnsdall Art Park

Check the calendar for lots of friendly, fun events.

Griffith Park Observatory

The place to learn about astronomy, hike and take in amazing views.

Peddler’s Creamery

Peddle a bike for fun, exercise and a free taste of ice cream.


Hatch Shell

Outdoor concert venue near the Charles River.

Harvard University Campus

Great place to walk around and soak up the history and beauty.

Liberty Hotel

Used to be a prison, an interesting place to explore.

Public Garden

A lovely, sprawling place to walk and when you get tired, you can hop on a swan boat (for a small fee).

Boston Common Park

The perfect place to cop a squat and do some people watching.

Harpoon Brewery Tour

$5 gets you a tour and tasting.

Beacon Hill

Historic neighborhood complete with cobblestone streets.

Charles River Esplanade

The perfect place for a walk or jog with pretty views of the Charles River.


Burnie’s Rock Shop

One of a kind wares at this awesome shop.

The Central Library

An architectural masterpiece that you won’t want to leave.

Absolutely Art

A wonderful art gallery with shared coffee shop space and a great outdoor patio.

Old Sugar Distillery

Spirits made from scratch, get a free taste and tour.

Matcha Tea House

Delicious food and tea with a selection of gorgeous tea rooms.

National Mustard Museum

Everything you need to know about mustard (and then some).

Pope Farm Conservancy

Trails, wildlife, Native American garden, and the most picturesque sunflower field you will ever see.

Mad-City Ski Team Water Show

Wildly entertaining show.

Olbrich Gardens

Beautiful outdoor gardens and lots of entertainment.

Memorial Union Terrace

The best patio in town, free outdoor concerts, and a great place to relax, people watch, and enjoy food and beer.


This is proof that you can have a good time, no matter where you go, for practically nothing! I hope you have as much fun exploring as I do.

Profile photo of Sher BonDurant

I have been living in Chicago for the past 7 years until a recent return to my hometown of Madison, WI. For the past 3 years, I was a freelance writer for the Chicago Tribune. It started with a blog about Couchsurfing and led to a second blog about events and venues in Chicago.I enjoyed writing so much that I started my own blog and travel/leisure Facebook page. I travel as much as possible and can't wait to write about it when I get home. My current addiction is Europe. I can't get enough and explore new countries every year.

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