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21 Free Things to Do in Boston

By Mara Vorhees, Lonely Planet Writer
June 17, 2019
A view of Boston's Freedom Trail with historic buildings and church
F11photo/Dreamstime
Boston may have a reputation for posh living and pricey lodging, but it's also home to an array of freebies.

Bostonians pay notoriously high prices for baseball tickets and real estate. But fortunately, budget travelers can experience the best of Boston without paying a cent. Here’s the scoop on 21 free (or nearly free) things to do, see, hear, eat and even drink.

1. Follow the footsteps of revolutionaries on the Freedom Trail

The Freedom Trail is the best introduction to Revolutionary War-era Boston. This 2.5-mile, red-brick path winds its way past 16 sites that earned this town its status as the Cradle of Liberty. Follow the trail on your own, or hook up with a free guided tour by the National Park Service. Departing from Faneuil Hall, the tours max out at 30 people, so arrive early to secure your spot. Outside of the tour season, you can download a map to use. Many of the sites along the trail are also free to enter.

2. Sit in the Governor’s Pew in King’s Chapel

The stately Georgian architecture of King's Chapel contains a bell crafted by Paul Revere and the prestigious Governor’s Pew, where George Washington once sat. It’s a lovely setting for weekly noontime recitals (Tuesday). Admission is always free, but a $4 donation is recommended.

3. Eat lunch at Boston’s historic marketplace

Lunch is not free, but the history lesson is. Take a look around the Great Hall and listen to a ranger talk about historic Faneuil Hall and its role as market and meeting place. Then head to Quincy Market to take your pick from dozens of affordable food stalls.

4. Take a tour of the Massachusetts State House

Visit the Massachusetts State House, the so-called `hub of the solar system’ to learn about the state insect (the ladybug) and to pay your respects to the Sacred Cod. Free tours led by The Doric Docents (volunteer tour guides) are Monday through Friday and visit the ceremonial halls, the legislative chambers and the executive branch.

5. Experience a sailor’s life aboard the USS Constitution

The USS Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned warship, and it is docked in the Charlestown Navy Yard. Navy officers lead free tours of the upper decks, where you will learn about the ship's exploits in America’s earliest naval battles. You don’t need money, but you do need a photo ID.

6. Explore the fort and lounge on the beach at Castle Island

Castle Island isn't really an island, but a vast, green waterside park with amazing skyline views. The massive Fort Independence is open for exploration and free tours. Otherwise, you can relax on the beach, fish from the pier or dip your toes into the chilly harbor waters.

7. Walk the Black Heritage Trail

On Beacon Hill, the 1.6-mile Black Heritage Trail explores the history of abolitionism and African American settlement in Boston. Download a map for a self-guided walking tour; or meet up with the free NPS tour, which departs from the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial.

8. Climb to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument

The landmark obelisk marks the site of the fateful battle in June 1775 that turned the tides of the War for Independence. Climb the 294 steps of the Bunker Hill Monument to the top for an impressive panorama of city, sea and sky. You’ll expend nothing but energy.

9. Enjoy a day at The Boston Public Library

The Boston Public Library was built as a 'shrine of letters’ but it's also a temple of art and architecture. Free guided tours depart from the main entrance; or you can pick up a brochure and guide yourself around the stunning, mural-painted halls. The BPL also hosts author talks, musical performances and other free events.

10. Get a glimpse of Boston’s excellent art collections

Boston is considered the Athens of America, so you should probably check out the art. On Wednesdays after 4pm, admission to the Museum of Fine Arts is by donation (pay what you can, though $25 is suggested). On Thursdays after 5pm, the Institute of Contemporary Art hosts Free Thursday Night.

11. Tour JFK's birthplace

John F Kennedy was born and raised in this modest clapboard house in Brookline, now listed as the JFK National Historic Site. Listen to Rose Kennedy’s reminiscence, as you peruse the furnishings, photographs and mementos that have been preserved since the Kennedys lived here. Guided tours are half an hour Wednesday through Sunday (9:30am - 5pm). The site will be closed from November 2019 through 2020 for renovations.

12. Get the inside scoop on America’s oldest university

Students lead free historical tours of Harvard Yard, also sharing their own perspectives on student life. The one-hour tours depart from the Smith Campus Center. Space is limited, so arrive early during busy seasons.

13. Admire the Longfellow National Historic Site

For 45 years, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived and wrote poetry in this stately Georgian manor near Harvard Square. The Longfellow National Historic Site is open Wednesdays-Sundays through October 27. The mansion contains many of the poet’s personal belongings, as well as lush period gardens.

14. Enjoy open-air entertainment at the Hatch Memorial Shell

The Charles River Esplanade is Boston’s backyard, a fine venue for picnics, bike rides and leisurely strolls. Even better, all summer long, the Hatch Memorial Shell hosts free events like outdoor concerts, family flicks and Dancing in the Park.

15. Hobnob with artists at SoWa First Fridays

From the former factories and warehouses in the South End, artists have carved out studios and gallery space. The SoWa Artists Guild hosts an open studio event on the first Friday of every month (5 to 9pm). Come examine the art and mingle with the resident creatives.

16. Sneak a peek inside Fenway Park

If you can’t get tickets to the big game, you can still sneak a peek inside Fenway Park. The Bleacher Bar is accessible from the street, with a window looking onto center field. The bar gets packed during games when there’s usually a waiting list for window seating.

17. Winterland fun in Harvard

Bundle up! Boston is full of opportunities for winter fun. Havard Common Spaces hosts a Winter Fest at The Plaza which is open and free to the public. Try your hand at ice curling, ice bowling or ice shuffleboard.

18. Grab a cheap and tasty lunch from the Falafel King

Two words: free falafel. That’s right, Falafel King customers are treated to a free sample while they wait. If you’re looking for lunch, this hole in the wall is quick and delicious.

19. Sample Boston’s finest on a Samuel Adams Brewery tour

Head to Jamaica Plain to see the birthplace of America’s original craft beer. On the Samuel Adams Brewery Classic Tour, learn about the history of the company, witness the brewing process and sample the goods. By 'goods’, we mean frothy lagers, refreshing pilsners and tasty ales. Tickets are first-come, first-serve; tours run Monday - Saturday (11:15am-5pm) and are open to all ages. Must be 21 to drink. The suggested $2 donation is passed on to local charities.

20. Lunch with a side of history at Boston Common

Unwind at America's oldest park. Enjoy a family picnic or just relax and people watch. Summertime is for Shakespeare and the winters are for ice skating at Frog Pond.

21. Let your kids romp at the Boston Children's Museum

From the Art Studio to the Construction Zone, the Boston Children’s Museum is fun for all. It’s not free, but 'Target Fridays' mean that admission is only $1 on Friday after 5pm.

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Budget Travel Lists

Travel by Train: 7 Awesome Routes for Seeing the U.S.A.

When you're not in a rush to get to your destination, there's no better way to travel than by the slow, steady pace of a train. Though often associated with a European vacation, there are plenty of scenic and adventurous rail routes that you can take right here in—and across—the United States. Train travel offers an up-close look at your very own backyard, whether you're chugging along through the mountains or unhurriedly making your way through the scenic Northeast—all for a price that's often lower than a flight. Ready to see the country by rail? Here are seven train trips that can’t be beat. 1. Adirondack: An International Journey, With Landscape Views Take the stress out of an international flight and climb aboard Amtrak’s Adirondack (amtrak.com/adirondack-train), which takes leaves from Manhattan’s Penn Station and arrives in Montreal less than 11 hours later. The train winds its way through the Hudson Valley’s wine country and the farms of Albany and the Adirondack Mountains. It’s an especially popular route for leaf peepers during the fall, as the already breathtaking scenery is painted in glorious shades of orange, red and brown. (For prime views, make your way up to the dome car.) And pro tip: Since this is an international route, be sure to pack your passport. One-way tickets start at $70. 2. Pacific Surfliner: California Dreaming Surf the coast by rail on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner (pacificsurfliner.com), which takes you through 351 miles of beautiful southern California. The golden coast journey starts in San Diego and ends in San Luis Obispo, stopping in SoCal hotspots like Anaheim, Los Angeles, Carpinteria, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Juan Capistrano. The train tracks hug the Pacific coast and riders can often spot dolphins, California sea lions, and even whales—right from the comfort of their seats. The Pacific Surfliner includes a café car—with plenty of wine options—as well as a bike rack, so you can easily take your wheels and hit the trails as soon as you hop off the train. One-way tickets start at $61.25. 3. Sunset Limited: Watch the Dynamic Southwest Change Before Your Eyes Amtrak’s southern-most route, Sunset Limited (amtrak.com/sunset-limited-train), takes riders on a 48-hour scenic journey of the American southwest, from New Orleans all the way to Los Angeles. From the bayou to the canyons of southwestern Texas to the California mountains, pass through scenery that’s largely inaccessible by car, so have your camera out and be ready to capture it from your seat. Though this route doesn’t take you to into the national parks, the train will stop at their doorsteps. As part of a partnership between the National Parks Service and Amtrak, a national parks guide will often be on board to explain the changing vistas and landscapes as you slowly make your way through, which is all part of a partnership between Amtrak and the National Parks Service. One-way tickets start at $314. 4. Grand Canyon Railway: An American Natural Wonder Awaits Avoid the traffic of Grand Canyon National Park and ride to the iconic destination in style on the Grand Canyon Railway (thetrain.com). The round-trip train route, which takes a little over two hours, begins in Williams, Arizona, and arrives inside Grand Canyon National Park, giving riders plenty of time to explore before heading back in the afternoon. On the journey, riders are lucky enough to get magnificent views of the Ponderosa Pine Forest in Williams, the wide-open prairies, and the San Francisco peaks, all while marveling at (and feeling) the change in elevation. Travelers can also often catch glimpses of wildlife such as elk, mountain lions, and bald eagle throughout the trip. Round-trip ticket prices from $70 to $226. 5. Napa Valley Wine Train: A Toast to the Vineyards of California Just when you think that being in Napa Valley couldn’t get more elegant, the Napa Valley Wine Train (winetrain.com)—a beautifully restored 100-year-old railcar—makes any visit to wine country even more indulgent. The train’s route is short—just 30 miles from downtown Napa to St. Helena—but it’s an unforgettable way to view the vineyards as you ride through California farmland, all while holding a glass of wine in your hand. You can choose between a three- or six-hour trip, depending on whether you want a tasting tour, or a gourmet, multi-course meal served on board during your journey. And of course, there is plenty of wine tasting to be had while you’re chugging along. Ticket packages start at around $200. 6. Vermonter: A Breathtaking Trip Along the Eastern Seaboard Watch the New England landscape shift from big cities to beautiful pastoral scenes on Amtrak’s Vemonter train (amtrak.com/vermonter-train), which runs daily service between Washington D.C. and St. Albans, a small town in northern Vermont. The trip, which clocks in at just under 14 hours, winds through all the east coast highlights: the big metropolises of New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore and the quaint countryside of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. The Vermonter not only provides unbelievable views out your passenger window of skyscrapers, farmland, beautiful churches, and sweeping valleys, but it’s also a great source of transportation for skiers, as it provides easy access to resorts like Bolton Valley and Sugarbush. One-way tickets start at $74. 7. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad: A Vintage Steam-Powered Journey Through Colorado Step back in time and experience Colorado’s beauty on the coal-fired, steam-powered Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train (durangotrain.com), which offers service between the two mountain towns. The train trip, 3.5 hours each way, allows passengers to eat lunch and explore the former mining town for a couple of hours before heading back to Durango. Along the way, riders can glimpse canyons along the Animas River and the plentiful spruces of the San Juan National Forest as the train steadily chugs along through the changing elevation levels. Riders can also opt to be dropped off to fish and hike at secluded locations that are inaccessible by car. Round-trip tickest start at $89.

Budget Travel Lists

6 Things To Do in Tulsa, Oklahoma

If Oklahoma native son Woody Guthrie could write a song about Tulsa today, he would sing about the vibrant creativity, the enterprising entrepreneurs, and the friendly locals, an idealized portrait of the kind of America he immortalized when he sang This Land Is Your Land. From its grand art deco architecture to its trendy cafes, shops, breweries, and bars, Tulsa pulls the rug out from whatever you're expecting from a trip to cowboy territory, particularly this town once known for its place in American history as the end of the Trail of Tears. That's in no small part due to a giant ongoing investment that Tulsa native and public-school alum George Kaiser, the billionaire banker and oilman-turned-philanthropist, is making in the city. (More on that in a second.) Here are a few places to check out and things to do to that bring the city's history and newfound energy together. 1. Gather at the Gathering Place (Shane Bevel) There is really no straightforward way to describe the Gathering Place (gatheringplace.org), which sprawls across 100 acres along the Arkansas River. It's part theme park, part public park, part recreational hub. It embodies a five-acre state-of-the-art playground that feels like something out of a German fairy tale forest, a stylish lodge-like community center with a giant fireplace and free Wi-Fi, plus a skate park, sports courts, nature trails, a labyrinthine “sensory garden” for kids with interactive, multi-sensory features, two desensitization spaces designed to have a calming effect on children with autism, a water play-space with contraptions that spray water seven feet into the air, family-friendly eateries and concession stands, green spaces, and even more. The $465 million Gathering Place was developed by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, making it the largest private gift to a public park in U.S. history. 2. Get Your Kicks (Liza Weisstuch) Of the many, many changes that Route 66 has undergone since it was established as one of the nation's original highways in 1926, the most recent ones have included closures of old roadside eateries and while many landmarks remain, others have disappeared over time. It’s in the name of renewal that in May, Mary Beth Babcock erected Buck Atom Space Cowboy Roadside Attraction, a 21-foot fiberglass statue of an animated astronaut, outside her store, Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios on 66 (buckatomson66.com). It’s a tribute to an era when these mighty “muffler men” kept watch on the road from Chicago to L.A. Its retro style befits her store, a treasure trove of books, figurines, and sundry gift items that evoke the atomic era. This is just one of the stops on the walk down Tulsa’s stretch of the historic road. Set off from downtown, where it's designated as 11th Street, and you’ll pass a cemetery, established in 1902, the charming modern housewares and furniture shop Jenkins & Co. (jenkinsandcotulsa.com), the iconic Meadow Gold sign, which once tempted travelers with promises of ice cream, then a cluster of stores including Buck Atom's, a used record shop, a vintage clothing spot, and a depot for furniture made with reclaimed materials. Wrap up at Soul City, a vibrant old-school bar with indoor and outdoor stages and live music every night. 3. See Where Art and History Meet (Liza Weisstuch) You can go to the Philbrook Museum to gaze at the Renaissance paintings, works by Rodin, Picasso, and Pueblo artists, and plenty other gorgeous art and ancient artifacts. You can go to wander in the sprawling, meticulously landscaped gardens. Or you could go to get a sense of the way Oklahoma oil moguls lived when Tulsa was the Saudi Arabia of the west. The Philbrook (philbrook.org), located about three miles from downtown, is set in a 72-room Italian Renaissance villa built as the home of Waite Phillips, the magnate who founded Philips Oil. In 1938, Philips and his wife donated the villa to the city as an arts center, and the building itself is as much of an attraction as the works it holds. He clearly spared no expenses in construction--teak floors, marble fireplaces, ornate ceilings, Corinthian columns. His passion for beautiful things also shines through in the downtown buildings that he funded. The Philtower and Philcade, art deco masterpieces, are grandiose office buildings that still anchor the city's skyline. 4. Action! An Iconic 80s Movie Comes Alive (Liza Weisstuch) The house at 731 N. St. Louis Avenue is quite ramshackle and the yard is unkempt. It doesn’t inspire much enthusiasm. Unless, of course, you recognize the home from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders, the 1983 movie starring a pack of young heartthrobs whose names are now cornerstones of American pop culture: Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon. It's based on the book written in 1967 by Tulsan S.E. Hinton when she was 15. It’s never gone out of print and remains on the reading list in many American public schools. According to Danny Boy O’Connor, founding member of 1990s hip-hop group House of Pain, the house is a national treasure, so when he visited Tulsa and discovered it in disrepair, he bought it and launched a Kickstarter campaign to rescue it from its scheduled date with a wrecking ball. With help from musician Jack White, he raised the money, gut-renovated the place, and painstakingly restored it to match how it looked on screen, down to stains on the wall and grime on the stove. With the support of Ms. Hinton, filled it with costumes and artifacts from the movie, including Coppola's director's chair, many editions of the books and VHS copies, and stills from the film. Tours, which involve meeting downtown for a van that will take you to tour the house and cruise around to a few of the various sites featured in the movie, (theoutsidershouse.com) 5. Dine Around: Mother Road Market Throughout America, food halls have begun to seem like the new shopping mall, not least because every city has one. Tulsa's Mother Road Market (motherroadmarket.com) makes for an exciting visit for a few reasons. First, the premise: It's a nonprofit. The Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation operates the market as well as a commercial kitchen with incubator programs that help entrepreneurs launch businesses. Check out the Kitchen 66 stall for pop-ups from the program's emerging food companies. Second, the Nashville hot chicken at Chicken and the Wolf, a local cult favorite that draws fans each day for its signature chicken--just be sure to heed the warnings that accompany the hottest menu items. There are vegan versions, too. (The owners also run a standalone hot chicken restaurant and the funky Lone Wolf Bahn Mi.) There's also an outpost of the much lauded Oklahoma Joe's BBQ, the requisite food hall taco stall (& Tacos), Nice Guys Shrimp Shack, the hard-to-resist Big Dipper Creamery and OK Cookie Monster, globally accented options at Bodhi Bowl, and, perhaps most attention-grabbing of all, Umami Fries, known for its fry options with kimchi or beef toppings. Add to that a sweet little general store with local produce, the full-service Wel Bar, sprawling covered outdoor area in the back with communal tables and a green space for kids to run around, and you can practically make a day of it. 6. Perk Up: Coffee Mania Let it be known: Tulsans love coffee. Coffee shops here, however, go far beyond the standard “third-wave” cafés, the term used to describe places that focus on single-origin beans, fair trade, and meticulous brewing techniques. Like many places around the U.S., coffee drinks at these cafes are made with the same level of craftsmanship as artisanal cocktails. Unlike many places around the U.S., Tulsa has several spots where you can hang out all day drinking top-rate java and stay in your seat when evening arrives and the cocktail menu goes into effect. Cirque Coffee (cirquecoffee.com), for instance, has stools along a long wood counter, cozy couches, colorful murals, and shelves of whiskey, gin, tequila, vodka, and rum on the wall. The sounds of an espresso machine resound through the airy warehouse-chic space all day long. Come evening, the many folks who’ve been typing on their MacBooks fold them up in favor of the beautiful hard-covered cocktail menu, which offers familiar classics and many originals, including, fittingly enough, creative coffee cocktails. (See: The Hotrod, a mix of cold brew coffee, curacao and simple syrup) Hodges Bend (hodges-bend.com), on the other hand, looks has all the trappings of a nouveau-vintage cocktail bar—exposed brick walls, dark wood furniture, pressed-tin ceiling— that also serves terrific coffee and specialty java drinks made with their own blend. Drinks here include classics, a few originals, and a thoughtfully curated wine list. A globally-accented menu ranging from duck confit tacos to veggie bibimbap round out the offerings.

Road TripsBudget Travel Lists

5 Perfect U.S. Road Trips

Fire up your GPS and start your engines! Every corner of the U.S. delivers amazing road trip opportunities, from parkland to scenic byways to vibrant towns and cities along the way. Here, we’ve rounded up five of our favorite epic drives from sea to shining sea. Your only remaining challenge is to pick your favorite trip and hit the road. BEST OF THE WEST: CALIFORNIA’S HIGHWAY 1 (Jonas Weinitschke/Dreamstime) Pick any stretch of Highway 1 along the California coast and you’ll be treated to epic views and great stops along the way. But perhaps the most iconic portion of the route is the drive between the San Francisco Bay Area and San Simeon. While the drive can be accomplished in just a few hours, we recommend you plan affordable stops along the way: A motel stay in Santa Cruz, at the top of Monterey puts you walking distance to the beautiful beach and fun-for-the-entire-family boardwalk. A day or two in the city of Monterey gives you time to explore the coastal walking trail with its jaw-dropping views of the gorgeous blue waters of the bay and playful sea otters, a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and several world-class meals of fresh crab, sourdough bread, and other California favorites. Continue down Highway 1 for the star attraction, the winding drive along the cliffs of Big Sur, towering over the Pacific, and stop at Pfeiffer State Beach or a walk in the mountains just to the east of the highway. Your Highway 1 road trip can end at San Simeon, home to the incredible estate built by William Randolph Hearst with its truly amazing art collection and grounds. Or keep driving south for the delights of coastal communities such as San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, and the renowned beaches and cities of Southern California! ROAD TRIP TIP: Before leaving home, make sure you have the appropriate auto insurance policy for your vehicle and needs. A visit to Geico.com can help you understand your options and potential savings. SOUTHERN CHARM: BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY You don’t have to choose between a big-city culture and the natural beauty of a national park. The Blue Ridge Parkway allows road trippers to enjoy Washington, D.C., with its free museums, historical sites, and cultural offerings, then head to Virginia’s Skyline Drive along the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which turns into the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of FDR’s New Deal projects, linking Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in North Carolina and Tennessee. The parkway’s hairpin turns and epic tunnels will delight every family member, and a manageable, affordable national park experience is unforgettable, with ranger-led walks and talks, serene hiking trails, and the opportunity to spot an array of wildlife, including black bears, from a safe distance. More adventurous travelers may want to try rock climbing and whitewater rafting (with guidance from a local outfitter). Cool towns such as Asheville, NC, deliver tasty Southern cuisine, and you can balance the great outdoors experience of Great Smoky Mountains National Park with fun family-friendly activities in Gatlinburg, TN. While camping is always the most affordable way to visit a national park, reasonable lodging is available a short drive from both Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains. ROAD TRIP TIP: Get your car inspected before embarking on your drive. Proper tire pressure and engine tune-up can save you money on gas mileage, and having up-to-date safety and security devices may even reduce your auto insurance rates. MIDWEST SPLENDOR: DOOR COUNTY, WISCONSIN Can you keep a secret? Door County’s Coastal Byway, a Wisconsin Scenic Byway, delivers an amazing, lesser-known Midwestern vacation experience that keeps families coming back year after year. Stretching over 66 miles around the Door Peninsula (nicknamed the “Cape Cod of the Midwest”), this scenic byway and the stops along the way add up to a relaxing and delicious getaway. Situated between Lake Michigan and Green Bay, the Door Peninsula can be explored in a weekend, or you can stretch out your experience (which we heartily recommend) over several days with stays in the region’s beautiful towns. Ephraim, on the shores of Eagle Harbor, boasts beaches and harbor views you may associate only with New England, and a stop at Wilson’s for ice cream is a must. Peninsula State Park is one of those “hidden gems” just waiting to be discovered, with acres of forest, shoreline, and camping facilities. You’ll find great food in the town of Sister Bay, and some pleasant opportunities for quiet family time on the eastern side of the peninsula in Bailey’s Harbor and Jacksonsport. ROAD TRIP TIP: Pack a cooler with fruits and veggies, whole grains, grab-and-go protein like cheese sticks, and plenty of water (when visiting a wilder space such as a national park, a gallon of water per passenger per day is recommended). SOUTHWESTERN PARKS: UTAH’S ‘MIGHTY FIVE’ (Ralf Broskvar/Dreamstime) Did you know that Utah packs five incredible national parks into one state? Whether you hit two, three, four, or all of the “Mighty Five” (Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands), a scenic drive into Utah’s wild spaces is perhaps the ultimate road trip experience. While your GPS may recommend major highways along the way, give yourself permission to explore Scenic Byways such as State Route 12, the 120-mile drive from Capitol Reef to Bryce Canyon, and return home with brag-worthy photographs you can’t snap on the Interstate. Once you enter one of Utah’s national parks, hiking will likely be the “main event,” and each park deserves at least a day or two, whether you take ranger-led walks or strike out on your own. Consider trying something new, like a guided horseback tour in Bryce Canyon, and remember that Bryce and Zion both offer exceptional public transportation to get you from site to site. Camping is an affordable way to bunk down in Utah’s parks, but be sure to reserve your spot several months in advance, especially if you’ll be visiting during the summer high season. ROAD TRIP TIP: Don’t count on GPS as your only source of driving directions, especially if you’re visiting a national park or other wild space. Pick up printed maps that cover your road trip and plan out each day’s driving in advance using both GPS and your map - you’ll thank us when your smartphone suddenly says, “No Service.” ULTIMATE NEW ENGLAND: VERMONT & WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS The Green Mountains of Vermont and the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts deliver one of the Northeast’s finest driving experiences, easily reachable from New York, Boston, and other cities. Start in Bennington, VT, where you’ll soon discover that a New England road trip can combine world-class art and culture with natural beauty right outside your car window. The Bennington Museum offers a permanent art collection plus exhibits devoted to contemporary work, and the Grandma Moses gallery lets visitors not only enjoy the work of the iconic American folk artist but also to recognize the nearby Green Mountains as the backdrop of many of her most iconic paintings. Outside Bennington there are ample opportunities for canoeing, hiking, and chowing down on comfort food (and, yes, they serve classic New England clam chowder even as far inland as Vermont). Head to Williamstown, MA, for another incredible art collection, the Clark, and a truly charming small town experience with a vibrant downtown, great shopping, and more. Then it’s off to North Adams, MA, for the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and the endless opportunities for exploring the nearby Berkshire Mountains. You can keep busy in western Massachusetts for days, and it’s also a relatively short drive to the beaches of Gloucester, the New Hampshire seacoast, and even the stretch of Maine near the New Hampshire border, but that’s a road trip for another day! ROAD TRIP TIP: No matter what time of year you’re taking your road trip, there are a few packing essentials: Sunscreen (yes, even in winter), sun-protective clothing, plenty of drinking water, layers of clothing (T-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets), and comfortable walking or hiking shoes.

Budget Travel Lists

10 Affordable Alternatives to This Summer’s Top Destinations

Summer is approaching at a rapid clip, which means vacation-planning is in full force. And when it comes to booking hotels, flights, and the rest, value-hunting is the name of the game. According to TripAdvisor’s newly released 2019 Summer Vacation Value Report, you can score excellent hotel deals in the most popular destinations in the U.S. But those serious about saving will appreciate the study’s key finding: alternative options to the summer’s hotspots. The Most Popular Destinations from Coast to Coast The top picks will come as no surprise: Orlando, Las Vegas, and Myrtle Beach nabbed the highest three spots, followed by Maui, New York City, Key West, and New Orleans. Ocean City, San Diego and Virginia Beach finished off the list. The destinations were determined by a survey of more than 3,500 travelers, conducted in May. According to a TripAdvisor spokesperson, 92% of members are planning summer trips, up 12 percent from last year. Broadly speaking, the survey revealed that 48 percent of U.S. travelers this summer will vacation as a couple and 37 percent will travel as a family. The average length of a trip is one week. Appealing Alternatives According to the survey, straying just a little—but not too much—off the crowded paths can save you up to 38 percent on hotel prices. Orlando, the number-one summer destination, has hotel rooms averaging about $216 per night, but prices in Kissimmee, located about 23 miles south, clock in around $137. Las Vegas, which boasts some of America’s lowest hotel rates at an average of $167, is bested by Reno, where rooms can be had for about $144. Myrtle Beach prices hover around $250 while rooms in Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina’s Outer Banks are a cool $200. Thinking about Maui? Try Oahu instead, where seasonal hotel prices are about $200 lower than the Hawaiian hotspot’s $533. And if New York City has your heart but your wallet calls the shots, check out Philly, where prices average $258, a great deal compared to NYC’s $329. To round out the list, Key Largo is cited as the alternative to Key West, Miami is a good second-choice to New Orleans; Nags Head, North Carolina, should be your go-to if Ocean City rates are too high; hotel prices in Mammoth Lakes top San Diego's; and Williamsburg, Virginia is more affordable in the summertime than Virginia Beach.For travel inspiration, know-how, deals, and more, sign up for Budget Travel's free e-newsletter.

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