It has been said the best things in life are free-and there is nothing like a free admittance sign to bring out the miser in even the most discerning traveler. Yes, vacations cost money. Everyone from the airline agent, to the car rental rep, to the server at the Steak and Shake has his hand out, but luckily there are a few places in the US where that famous four-letter word still has meaning.
So put up your wallet and get out your map, because here are five free and totally cool things to see in the United States.
Niagara Falls in New York
There is just something about a waterfall that brings out the inner child and nothing can compare to the mother-of-all waterfalls, located just 15 miles north of Buffalo in Niagara, New York, Niagara Falls.
This natural world wonder shoots a million gallons of water per second over a cliff that is 180 feet deep and 0.6 miles wide. Although Niagara enthusiasts claim the Canadian side offers better panoramic viewing, the American Falls have Prospect Point – and that’s not shabby.
There is also Goat Island, the Niagara Rapids and a number of walks and picnic areas located around the falls, as well as over 400 acres of protected wildlife and landscape, making this the perfect place for a cheapskate and his date.
The Alamo in Texas
Many people mistakenly believe the fight for Texas independence was won on the grounds of this Mexican-style mission in San Antonio. However, the Battle of the Alamo was a downright disaster. Over 189 people lost their lives in this slaughter, including old west legends, James Bowie, Davy Crockett and William B. Travis, in a 13-day holdout against a Mexican army of more than 5,000 soldiers.
It was the courage, pride and determination of these heroes who inspired the victory six weeks later in San Jacinto and who motivated Sam Houston to proclaim the now-famous battle cry “Remember the Alamo.”
Today, more than 2.5 million people a year visit the Alamo that is maintained by volunteers from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Tightwads beware – it is free to enter the Alamo, but donation boxes are cleverly placed by the exit and all contributions are appreciated.
For another free site in San Antonio, head a few blocks over to the River Walk and stroll along the Mexican-inspired streets and buildings while listening to soft Spanish music playing in the background. Muy romantico.
Billy the Kid’s Gravesites in New Mexico and Texas
Only a larger than life legend like Billy the Kid could pull off a stunt like this – two gravesites in two states, more than 450 miles apart. And both of them are free.
New Mexico officials have been protecting the gravesite of William Henry Bonney, aka “Billy the Kid,” since 1881, when he was shot and killed by lawman Pat Garrett in Ft. Sumner. The debate between the states began in 1949 when a man named “Brushy Bill” Roberts came forward in Hico, Texas claiming to be the real Billy the Kid. There was strong evidence and many people believed him – just not the folks from New Mexico.
The Texas gravesite can be found in Hamilton, along with a Billy the Kid museum, while the New Mexico gravesite is protected by a steel cage less than seven miles southeast of Ft. Sumner-along with yes, another Billy the Kid museum.
The National Mall in Washington, DC
More than 24 million people a year travel to Washington DC to partake in one of the most patriotic promenades in the country.
The National Mall is almost two miles long and stretches from the US Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial and is lined by 2,000 American elms – would you expect anything else? – and 3,000 cherry trees.
West Potomac Park and the Tidal Basin are located on the outskirts and are home to other national monuments and memorials. Some of the most famous sites in the National Mall include The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, The US Capitol Building, ten of the Smithsonian Institute museums, The Vietnam Memorial and the US Botanic Gardens.
Hollywood Walk of Fame in California
More than 2,500 miles separate the National Mall in Washington DC from another famous American footpath that is dotted with stars. More than 2,500 stars representing entertainment hotshots from motion pictures, television, radio, recording and live theatre, as well as fictional characters and behind-the-scenes players, line the sidewalk along Hollywood and Vine.
The decision to bestow someone a star on America’s most famous walkway is left to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce who announces nominations each year at the end of May.
Celebrities must fit into one of the five categories and pay $7,500 for their star. You, on the other hand, can walk all over them for free.
Read about author Cherrye Moore and check out her other BootsnAll articles.