ADVERTISEMENT

Historic U.S. Homes: Our Top 8 Picks

By Liza Weisstuch, Lonely Planet Writer
July 23, 2019
Harry Truman House
Sharon Day/Dreamstime
Get ready to discover American history, culture, and the arts in a whole new light: By visiting the homes of some of our nation's luminaries.

You can read an author’s entire body of work, study a president’s legacy, or celebrate the achievements of a civil rights hero, but nothing gives you a true understanding of a famous figure like a visit to the place she or he lived. Their home is their sanctuary for creating their art, developing and carrying out their righteous mission, or simply experiencing life in a setting that influenced them. Here are a few historic homes that deliver a thorough education and, if you’re open to it, inspiration.

1. Harry S. Truman National Historic Site: Independence, Missouri

From 1919, the year he married Bess Wallace, until his death in 1972, President Harry S. Truman lived in a simple Victorian home in, fittingly enough, Independence, Missouri. (During his eight-year residency on Pennsylvania Avenue, it was known as the ‘Summer White House’)

A wander through this home delivers an intimate look at the life of the World War I veteran and 33rd American President. Like most presidential homes and memorials, this one is part of the National Parks Service and tours by park rangers happen regularly. The home is so loaded with period details, family heirlooms, personal objects and memorabilia that a guided tour is well worth it.

2. Susan B. Anthony House: Rochester, New York

One of the cornerstones of American democracy – a woman’s right to vote – took root at a modest, pre-Civil War brick house in Rochester, New York, which is located about 90 minutes from Niagara Falls. Pioneering activist Susan B. Anthony turned her house into the headquarters of the suffrage movement, and when she wasn’t campaigning across the country, she was organizing from the parlor here, often with anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass and fellow women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Check out the third-floor attic, where she penned many political documents, and the second floor features a collection of memorabilia that tell the story of the suffrage movement.

3. John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site: Brookline, Massachusetts

America’s 35th president was born and raised just outside of Boston, in the ritzy suburb of Brookline, and to this day, the unassuming home where he spent the first three years of his life stands as a monument. It’s a museum-like destination showcasing Kennedy family mementos and photographs.

4. Morris-Jumel Mansion: New York, New York

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton are just a few of the notables who dined in the Morris-Jumel Mansion, a country retreat built in 1765 on an elevated perch overlooking Manhattan in what is now the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Harlem. It was commissioned by Roger Morris, a colonel in the British Army, and his wife Mary. But in 1776 it was seized by the Continental Army and transformed into General Washington’s HQ.

About 35 years later, it was purchased by wealthy businessman Stephen Jumel who pulled out all the stops to refurbish it. Known to be the oldest house in Manhattan, its period details have been carefully maintained, much to the joy of locals over time. (Duke Ellington once deemed it ‘the jewel in the crown of Sugar Hill.’)

5. Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum: Baltimore, Maryland

The city of Baltimore pays tribute to its longtime resident Edgar Allan Poe in many ways, such as naming its football team the Ravens, in honor of his famous poem. A visit to Charm City can be a Poe-filled pilgrimage, what with Enoch Pratt Free Library’s original manuscripts and his grave at Westminster Hall and Burial Ground.

Of course, the best way to learn about the American icon and his celebrated work is to visit the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, a modest building where he lived for much of the 1930s with his teenage cousin/bride, Virginia, and her mother. His workroom sits at the top of a narrow and fittingly creaky staircase while the rest of the house, which became a National Historic Landmark in 1962, has exhibits on his life in Baltimore, his family and the poems and stories he penned.

6. Emily Dickinson Museum: Amherst, Massachusetts

The tranquil woodsy landscape of Amherst Massachusetts, about 95 miles west of Boston, is the setting where Emily Dickinson penned her contemplative, radical verse. The Emily Dickinson Museum is set in two historic properties – the Evergreens, her brother and sister-in-law’s house, and the Homestead, a two-and-a-half-story brick house, where the famously reclusive Dickinson was born and spent most of her Victorian-era life writing countless poems, only ten of which were published – allegedly without her knowing – during her lifetime.

Wander the Homestead for a look at her parlors, library, kitchen and maid’s quarters and check out ‘my Voice is alive,’ an interpretive exhibit about her early work.

7. Louis Armstrong House: Queens, New York

The brick house on 103rd Street in the working-class neighborhood of Corona, Queens, doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside is a time capsule that tells the story of one of America’s most iconic musicians. Louis Armstrong, who grew up poor in New Orleans, lived out his retirement years with his wife, Lucille, in this gorgeously appointed home, which today stands as a tribute to the legend.

The charming kitchen, the opulent bathroom and bedroom, the handsome wood-paneled office featuring original recording equipment, and the inviting living room, packed with souvenirs that Satchmo collected on his global travels, have all been maintained with attention to detail.

8. Eastman Museum: Rochester, New York

Photography museums and galleries proliferate the planet, but the oldest in the world is in Rochester, New York at the estate of George Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak Company. A National Historic Landmark since 1966, the Eastman Museum is set on 10.5 picturesque acres and contains works from more than 14,000 photographers, including celebrated contemporary artists like Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman, the world’s largest collection of daguerreotypes, and vintage prints from luminaries like Ansel Adams.

Eastman’s actual home contains more than 200,000 objects ranging from business and personal correspondences, including some with presidents, his own photos and scrapbooks, and an archive of Kodak advertisements.

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with Lonely Planet’s weekly newsletter.

Keep reading
Budget Travel Lists

8 Coolest Motels in America

Over the past few years, creative hoteliers have been taking rundown vintage motor lodges and sprucing them up with modern amenities without sacrificing any of the nostalgic charm. Here are a few of America's coolest motels where you can rest your head, retro-style. 1. Austin Motel: Austin, Texas Joanne’s Fine Foods, a classic 1950s-style diner, is the Austin Motel’srestaurant, and its throwback vibe captures the overall vibe of the super-hip property. Both fit perfectly into their setting, Austin’s super-hip South Congress neighborhood. Opened in 1938, the motel underwent a makeover in 2017 and now stands as a tribute to mid-century modern design and style. Each room features retro-esque radios and lamps, plus orange and yellow vinyl accents that complement the ultra-colorful, vibrant wallpaper. But the biggest draw is the kidney-shaped pool, a gathering spot for locals in the warm weather. 2. Beck’s Motor Lodge: San Francisco, California Rooms at this Castro district motel are no longer $5 per night, the rate charged when it opened in 1958, but parking is free, which is hard to come by in San Francisco and a big boon for road-trippers passing through. Beck’s Motor Lodge is perhaps the most historic on our list, what with its role in the gay rights scene in the 1960s. A 2017 makeover added sunburst décor, analog clocks, simple throwback furniture, and other details that enhance mid-century modern vibe. Contemporary amenities like flat-screen televisions were added, too. A few of the 58 rooms have access to the rooftop sundeck, a perfect perch for a timeless San Francisco activity: watching the fog roll by. 3. Vagabond Hotel: Miami, Florida Once you know that Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra hung out here back in the day, you’ll understand how important it was that this Miamihaunt’s snazzy 1950s-era vibe was preserved during a 2014 refurbishment. The works brought the hotel back from the brink of disrepair. The Vagabond Hotel’s revival is in sync with the design-centric MiMo Historic District in which it’s located. The sleek rooms feature Atomic Era-style geometric stenciling on the walls, groovy vintage lighting fixtures and custom-made furniture with pops of Miami-appropriate pink, turquoise, and muted yellow hues. 4. Modern Hotel & Bar: Boise, Idaho Because of the growing number of hipster business that have sprung up over the past few years – breweries, farm-to-table restaurants, artist galleries – Boise has developed a reputation as ‘Little Portland.’ As such, the Modern Hotel & Bar, an expansive low-rise building located about a ten-minute walk from the vibrant downtown, fits right in. It opened in 2007 in an overhauled Travelodge, an early lackluster motel franchise with all the hallmarks of a classic roadside accommodation, such as rooms that open onto an outdoor corridor. The rooms are decorated with mid-century modern furniture and retro-chic lighting. The stylish, laid-back restaurant/bar features creative dishes and classic cocktails. The most buzzed-about thing, however, is the turntable and collection of ’45s in the lobby bathroom. When the hotel opened, locals lined up to play DJ. 5. Big Texan: Amarillo, Texas The towering cowboy figure flanking the roadside sign for the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo is a dead giveaway of the adjacent Big Texas Motel’s kitschy throwback vibe. Not convinced? Just take a look at the motel’s façade, which looks like the set of a Western movie, and the Texas-shaped pool. Opened in 1960 and located on Route 66, just a few minutes from Rick Husband International Airport, the property’s rooms feature campy touches such as swinging saloon doors, old-timey wooden furniture and animal pelts, all of which add up to a theatrical Old West atmosphere. 6. Jupiter Hotel: Portland, Oregon Located in Portland’s fast-evolving Central Eastside neighborhood (known locally as Lower Burnside, or LoBu), Jupiter Hotel takes the log cabin design that’s inextricably linked to the Pacific Northwest’s woodsy landscape and gives it a jolt of cool, modern energy. Set in a low-slung 1964 motor lodge, which stretches out across several zig-zagging buildings, rooms open to an outdoor corridor. But the old-school look of the exterior belies the sleek rooms, which balance subdued minimalism with pop art vibrancy. The creative vibe that’s so characteristic of Portland extends beyond the rooms. The lobby doubles as a gallery for local artists, and the Doug Fir Lounge – a log-cabin-themed restaurant/bar and club next to the motel – features local beer, nightly concerts and a lively patio. If the creativity moves you, doodle your masterpiece on your room’s giant chalkboard before snapping it and tagging it #jupiterhotel. 7. Thunderbird Inn: Savannah, Georgia With its neon sign, blocks of color marking the exterior, and MoonPies and cans of RC Cola on the nightstand, the T-Bird Inn looks like something out of a Doris Day movie. When this downtown Savannahmotel, which sits on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1964, it lured travelers – including the Jackson 5 – with its ‘refrigerated’ rooms. Now, after a 2018 overhaul, it charms with warm popcorn on arrival, retro-chic rooms, full-on green initiatives, and complimentary Krispy Kreme donuts. Also, puppy parents will be happy to know that the hotel features an enclosed dog run and offers doggie bedding and treats. 8. Unscripted Durham: Durham, North Carolina Retrofitted into a 1960s motor lodge, the Unscripted Durham boasts a giddy mod sensibility with a vintage-style poolside lounge, mid-century modern furniture in the lobby and guestrooms, and wallpaper with colorful geometric patterns throughout. No modern, high-tech amenities are spared at the expense of a thoughtfully designed vintage look that makes you half-expect Don Draper to stroll through the lobby of this conveniently located downtown Durham property. There’s a smart flat-screen television and Bluetooth sound system in each room and high-tech equipment in the fitness center. Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with Lonely Planet’s weekly newsletter. Make sure you're ready for anything with travel insurance from our trusted partners.

Budget Travel Lists

9 Ethnic Neighborhoods With Incredible International Cuisine

Thanks to America's beautifully diverse immigrant population, more types of cuisines are available to U.S. diners than ever before—which is great news for those who like to explore the world through food. You can't always hop on a plane and experience a new culture in situ, but look closer to home, and the odds are good you'll find the corresponding fare on these shores. From more familiar flavors like Polish and Korean to lesser-known ones like Bukharian and Hmong, here's where ambitious eaters can get their next fix—no passport required. 1. AVONDALE, CHICAGO: Little Poland Industrial smokestacks and ornate church steeples make up the skyline of Avondale, a largely Polish neighborhood in northwest Chicago. Murals depicting Eastern European traditions bring color to the streetscape, once a drab strip of manufacturers like Florsheim Shoes. Polish immigrants started moving to the neighborhood after the Civil War, and though immigration has slowed in the last few decades as Poles started finding greater opportunities in other parts of Europe, the culture here remains strong, and restaurants and food markets sit as cornerstones of the neighborhood. Staropolska, which was given a makeover a few years ago, remains one of the area’s most traditional. Its extensive menu includes all the staples, like smoked cheese, herring, schnitzel, and pierogi with various fillings. At Kurowski’s Butcher Shop and Rich’s Bakery, a veritable emporium, there's almost always a line at the meat counter for the celebrated kielbasa, smoked sausage, and ham, so make the most of your time and stock up for the trip home. 2. ANNANDALE, VIRGINIA: Korean food As a gathering place for diplomats and global leaders, it makes sense that Washington, D.C., and its surrounds would be hotspots for international fare. Few, however, have as significant a concentration of a single regional cuisine as Annandale, Virginia, located 13 miles from metro D.C., where Korean restaurants line the streets. D.C. locals will point you to high-profile spots like Honey Pig and Bon Chon Chicken, but there’s plenty more for the adventurous eater to discover. Jajangmyun, a noodle dish with fermented black bean sauce, is the calling card at Jang Won. Sok Jip, a seemingly unremarkable shop in a strip mall, is the go-to for samgyetang, a whole young chicken that's stuffed with garlic, ginseng, and red dates and served in its own broth. Any meal is best wrapped up with pat bing soo, a shaved ice indulgence with condensed milk, mochi, fruit, and red bean paste. Shops serving the treat are abundant. 3. PHILADELPHIA: Little Africa In most cities, ethnically distinct neighborhoods emerge informally and take on an identity casually. While Little Africa in Southwest Philadelphia started out that way, it’s become a district with an official city-ordained distinction. The telephone poles in this 10-square-mile community are festooned with flags of many African countries and the Caribbean. Amid the West African grocery shops, hair salons, and travel agencies advertising trips to Accra and Dakar sit restaurants specializing in the many foods from Africa. The flavors of Senegal are showcased at Kilimandjaro, known for Senegalese street food like plates of small pieces of spiced, roasted meats. African Small Pot features a mix of West African seafood and kebabs. A medley of traditions and flavors blend at Le Mandingue, where the chefs hail from Liberia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and elsewhere. And that's just to name a few. In the warmer months, the sidewalks of Woodland Ave, the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, fill with people lined up to buy kebabs and other spicy bites from popup grills. 4. PATERSON, NEW JERSEY: Little Lima Across the river from Manhattan, just 20 miles from the Lincoln Tunnel, New Jersey’s third-largest city is home to a diverse population, but it’s perhaps best known for its Peruvian community. Paterson was once a player in the textile-manufacturing industry, and in the 1950s, it drew many Peruvian emigrants in search of employment. They settled downtown in what would become known as Little Lima and soon opened businesses and restaurants of their own. In 2016, a two-block section of Market Street was officially designated as Peru Square, and today, an estimated 30,000 peruanos call the Silk City home. Here, you’ll find traditional fare like ceviche, lomo saltado (a stir-fry of steak, onions, and tomatoes), and stewed guinea pig at La Tia Delia, a longtime local favorite; crisp-skinned rotisserie chicken with a kicky ají amarillo–laced sauce at D’Carbon; and sweet treats like mazamorra morada, a purple corn–based pudding, at Dulcemente Peruano. Pro tip: Carry cash, as many spots don’t take cards. And if you're in town in July, join the 7,000-plus crowd that floods the streets for the annual Peruvian Parade. 5. REGO PARK, QUEENS: Bukharian food Countless noted food writers have sung the praises of Queens, New York City’s most diverse borough, according to census data. (Linguistic experts have estimated that nearly 800 languages are spoken there.) Some have even pegged it for having more exciting food choices than Brooklyn or Manhattan. One of the more unique cuisines to be found here is in Rego Park, where there’s a large population of Bukharian Jewish emigrants from former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, as well as Afghanistan and western China, regions once home to Silk Road cities. Their kosher restaurants and bakeries line what’s known as Bukharian Broadway (aka 108th Street) and offer staple dishes, mostly based on rice, lamb, potatoes, carrots, and spices (think: cumin, paprika, and chili) influenced by Silk Road stops in China and India. Try lamb kebabs; shurpa, a cumin-spiked beef soup; rice pilaf, often of the fragrant, fluffy variety; and traditional lepeshka, a chewy bread. Just note that many restaurants close from Friday night to Saturday night for the Sabbath. 6. JACKSON HEIGHTS, QUEENS: Indian food In the bustling neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens, the main subway station is above ground. The moment you step out of the train and onto the platform, you can smell the curry wafting from the restaurants that fan out from the frenzied intersection below. Once you get down to street level, your other senses are ignited by colorful displays in the windows of high-end sari shops and Indian music blaring from storefronts. Come to shop, stay to dine. The Indian restaurants range from sweeping eateries that look like banquet halls to much more modest counter-service curry shops and everything in between. Jackson Diner is the most well-known of the former, packing in crowds for a daily all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. Indian restaurants definitely dominate, thanks largely to a wave of immigrants in the 1970s, but people from other nations followed, as evidenced by the neighborhood's many Tibetan restaurants and food trucks. Don't leave here without trying a plate of momos, meat-filled plump dumplings. Amdo's, a longstanding food truck beneath the subway tracks, is run by a former monk. He sells a plate of eight that will set you back $5. 7. ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA: Hmong food For thousands of years, the Hmong (pronounced mung), an ethnic group, have lived in southwestern China without a nation to call their own. In the mid-1600s, under heavy persecution, they migrated to Laos, Thailand, and other nearby countries. Due to a series of events after the Vietnam War, the U.S. helped them resettle as refugees, and today, Minnesota has the second largest population in the country, mostly concentrated in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood. Considering that the Hmong didn’t have a written language until the 1950s and traditions were passed down orally, the city's many markets and eateries serve as something of a living history museum. Sample the rich heritage at the Hmongtown Marketplace’s vibrant food court or the pavilion at Hmong Village, where there are many options for classic dishes like larb, a minced meat and mint salad that originated in Laos, khaub poob, a curry noodle dish, and Hmong barbecue. There are myriad restaurants and delis to choose from, too. 8. MIAMI: Little Havana Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, a reported 700,000 Cubans have made their home in south Florida, and the local food scene has never been the same. Little Havana, a neighborhood west of downtown, is Miami’s epicenter of Cuban culture, especially the vibrant area around colorful Calle Ocho, an historic street. Shop for hand-rolled cigars and Latin records, then indulge in some of the best Cuban food in the country. The hugely popular restaurant and bakery Versailles, for instance, offers an extensive menu that's a celebration of traditional island fare, from hearty plates like ropa vieja (a stew of shredded beef, onions, and peppers in a wine and tomato broth) and picadillo (ground beef sauteed with raisins and olives) to what some deem to be the best Cubano sandwiches in the city. Nearby, El Cristo delivers equally authentic dishes like roast pork and empanadas. (Don’t skip the plantains.) For dessert, hit the iconic Velvet Crème Doughnuts or grab an overflowing cone from the artisanal Azucar Ice Cream Company. Too many options? Sign up for a neighborhood food tour and let an expert set the itinerary for you. 9. WHITE CENTER, SEATTLE: Cambodian food (Vladzymovin/Dreamstime)White Center, a neighborhood in west Seattle, is home to a diverse community, including the city’s biggest Cambodian population, which emerged in the 1980s once the Khmer Rouge fell from power, the genocide ended, and refugees arrived in the US. While rising housing prices in Seattle have kickstarted gentrification here, a number of Cambodian businesses are still going strong alongside the Thai restaurants, Vietnamese cafés, and Salvadorian bakeries that make up the historic business district. Sample regional Khmer fare at Queen’s Deli, known for its spicy Phnom Pehn noodles and samlor kako, a ratatouille-like dish, and browse the extensive grocery aisles at Samway Market, a veritable East Asian food museum.

Budget Travel Lists

Northeast Wineries: 10 Vineyards That Are Changing the Wine Game

The Northeast region has been an up-and-coming wine area for some time and is finally getting the attention it deserves. With more vineyards opening and notable established wineries expanding from Vermont, Connecticut and New York down to New Jersey and Maryland, you may even call it the “East Coast Napa.” Your hardest decisions will be which vineyard to visit first and if you should order just one glass of wine or an entire flight. 1. Castello Di Borghese; Cutchogue, NY Soak up the history at Castello Di Borghese, the oldest Bordeaux vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island. The 100-acre farm is well known for its expansive collection of Bordeaux and gives history tours at the vineyard for guests to learn about the area and its rich past. The winery also draws a huge art crowd with a gallery in the tasting room that offers regular art shows featuring local artists. (castellodiborghese.com) 2. DiGrazia Vineyards; Brookfield, CT Want to learn about the winemaking process? DiGrazia Vineyards offers free tours of the organic vineyard by founder and original winemaker, Dr. Paul DiGrazia. >span class="s4"> Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy wines on their terrace. (digraziavineyards.com) 3. Channing Daughters; Bridgehampton, NY Tucked away in the picturesque East End in Bridgehampton, Channing Daughters is well known for having a wide array of whites, rosé, reds, orange or skin contact, pet nat and sparkling wine. The vineyard also features a sculpture garden that draws guests to roam through the vineyard and enjoy Walter Channing’s artwork, including a massive 40-foot rocket. (channingdaughters.com) 4. Shelburne Vineyard; Shelburne, VT Shelburne Vineyard started 35 years ago when Ken Albert leased three acres from Shelburne farms, believing that viticulture could be a success in Vermont. Winemaker Ethan Joseph now produces reds, whites, rosés, and even ice wines, which are dessert wines produced from grapes that have been frozen on the vine. Don’t miss out on Ethan’s other label, Lapetus, which focuses on natural resources and experimental wines of Vermont. (shelburnevineyard.com) 5. Wölffer Estate; Sagaponack, NY Established in 1987, Christian Wölffer started Wölffer Estates as a small operation; today that little dream has turned into the largest vineyard in the heart of the Hamptons. Wölffer has an expansive collection of delicious rosés, and has created a pink gin using their famed rosé as the gin base. The winery also has an outstanding summer program, including events like yoga in the vines, music, and special wine-paired chef dinners at the estate. (wolffer.com) 6. Unionville Vineyards; Ringoes, NJ While New Jersey’s nickname is the “Garden State,” when you think of New Jersey, a bustling wine region most likely doesn’t come to mind. But that is, in fact, changing very quickly. Unionville Vineyards sits on an 88-acre farm that was once the largest peach orchard in the U.S. They showcase single-vineyard bottlings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and have a growing portfolio dedicated to Rhône blends and varietals, which are not to be missed. (unionvillevineyards.com) 7. Wild Arc Farm; Pine Bush, NY The husband-and-wife team behind Wild Arc Farm left the Big Apple in 2016 to give their green thumbs a try in the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York. With little to no experience, they took the task to another level when they decided to farm biodynamic and permaculture-focused wines. This gave them the map to create world-class natural wines, a process that avoids using additives and filtration. The farm is opening a tasting room in 2019 and currently its wines can be purchased online and in restaurants, shops, and bars listed in the “Find” section of its website. (wildarcfarm.com) 8. Old Westminster Winery; New Windsor, MD It’s a true family affair at Old Westminster Winery in New Windsor, Maryland. Starting a vineyard was Jay and Virginia Baker’s dream. They planted their first vines in 2011 with their three children, who now fully run the winery. It was such a success that the family opened a massive tasting room in 2015, where they offer live music and local food trucks and have even put out a line of canned wine. Yes, that’s a thing now and you’re going to love it. (oldwestminster.com) 9. Liten Buffel; Middleport, NY Liten Buffel vineyard (meaning “little buffalo” in Swedish) keeps their natural winemaking process quite simple, with no filtration or additives. But the western New York winery’s natural wines are anything but just simple. Opening in 2017, its mission is straightforward: to make the best all-natural wine possible. Make an appointment at their tasting room to try their Pinot Noir or maybe a little Riesling? (litenbuffel.com) 10. Heart & Hands Winery; Union Springs, NY When you arrive at Heart & Hands Winery, you can count on a warm welcome from the vineyard’s mascot, Cailza, a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. The small boutique winery is a reflection of its name, with husband-and-wife team Tom and Susan Higgins committed to producing cool-climate wines that express the flavors of their Finger Lakes region. The winery’s handcrafted wines focus on Pinot Noir and Riesling, from which they create still and sparkling wines. (heartandhandswine.com)

Travel TipsBudget Travel Lists

11 Fabulously Free Things to Do in New York City This Summer

We wish we could find you a free plane ticket to New York City—and a complimentary hotel room when you get here—but once you're in town, NYC rolls out a never-ending supply of amazing activities that most travelers would be more than happy to pay for, but don't have to. Whether it's world-class Shakespeare, a refreshing boat ride, an unforgettable evening at a museum, or just stretching out on the lawn at a relaxing Midtown oasis, summer in the city has never been more affordable. 1. Shakespeare in the Park The Bard's Coriolanus (July 16 through August 11) will give audiences the opportunity to hear Elizabethan drama presented in the open air, as it was in Shakespeare's day, at the outdoor Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. All tickets to the play, a harrowing tale of democracy under siege by a despotic leader, are free and are distributed in a number of ways, including a line at the theater and online ticketing. To find out how to nab your tickets, visit shakespeareinthepark.org. 2. Staten Island Ferry Did you know that you can get a boat tour of New York Bay, complete with views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and cool off in the salty breezes? Stop—there's no need to reach for your wallet. New York's iconic Staten Island Ferry makes regular trips between lower Manhattan and the borough of Staten Island free of charge. For schedules, visit siferry.com. 3. The High Line (Francoisroux/Dreamstime) Psst! In recent years, when you mention how much you love, say, Central Park or Bryant Park to a New Yorker, they may reply, with just a touch of smug, "Well, have you been to the High Line?" This former elevated freight rail line has been converted into a unique public park that runs down the West Side of Manhattan from 30th Street to the West Village, with multiple access points, including wheelchair accessibility, along the way. Although you may not find free Shakespeare or a carousel up there, the chance to see the city from a different angle—included guided walking tours and Tuesday-night stargazing—is priceless. And free. Visit thehighline.org to learn more. 4. New York Botanical Garden All day each Wednesday, and from 9 to 10 a.m. each Saturday, the New York Botanical Garden, in the Bronx, opens its grounds to visitors free of charge. You can hop a subway train or Metro North's Harlem line from Grand Central Terminal to get there, and walk the winding paths among the trees and flowering plants. You'll have to pay to get into the greenhouses or special events—but on a lovely summer's day, the grounds will likely offer more than enough flora to keep you satisfied. Learn more about the botanical garden's summer programs at nybg.org. 5. Central Park Every single day of the summer, Central Park's calendar is packed with activities like catch-and-release fishing, guided tours of gardens and wild spaces, concerts, theater, and more—not to mention the fact that the park also hosts the charmingly manageable Central Park Zoo, a carousel, puppet theater, and, oh yeah, a museum you may have heard of... the Metropolitan Museum of Art (not free, but residents of the Tri-State area can pay what they wish, and the museum is always free to students with ID). But, honestly, the best way to enjoy Central Park is to wander its paths with someone you love, discovering its ponds (including the one where Stuart Little competed in a miniature-boat race), bridges, and public sculptures (such as the breathtaking Bethesda Fountain, where the closing scene of Angels in America takes place) as you go. If you're the type who must plan ahead, you'll find maps and a somewhat overwhelming schedule of events on the park's official site at centralparknyc.org. 6. Summerstage Got a little time on your hands? How about a free concert? Or dance recital? Or how about dozens of free performances in public parks across all five of New York City's boroughs (The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island)? Summerstage arranges an incredible array of free entertainment each year, including music, dance, and comedy. Find a few—or a few dozen—that sound good to you at cityparksfoundation.org/summerstage. 7. Grand Central Terminal At the corner of 42nd Strett and Vanderbilt Avenue in Midtown, you'll find an architectural treasure that's worth a visit even if you're not planning on hopping on a train. Grand Central Terminal's main hall has the open, uplifting feeling of a cathedral interior, and if you're lucky enough to visit on a sunny, day, you'll see the classic image of sunlight pouring in the building's iconic windows, illuminating the bustle below. For a schedule of the building's award-winning, absolutely free walking tours, visit grandcentralpartnership.org. 8. New York Public Library Not just a collection of books—though it is quite a collection of books—the New York Public Library's main building at the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue also hosts numerous free art and history exhibits with materials from its extensive collection of drawings, paintings, maps, manuscripts, and bound books. If you're a fan of the film Ghostbusters, the building will feel eerily, and comically, familiar. And don't forget to pay the sculpted lions outside a visit. Visit nypl.org for a schedule of exhibits and special events. 9. Bryant Park (Stuart Monk/Dreamstime) Right behind the main library, Bryant Park is an oasis of green—and blood-pressure-lowering serenity—in the midst of Midtown. A children's carousel imported from France plays Edith Piaf recordings as the kids whirl around on beautifully carved and painted horses, bunnies, and cats, and there are a few spots to buy lunch or dinner in the park. But a seat by the fountain on a hot summer day is just about all it takes to relax and recharge—as many New Yorkers do on their lunch hours. The park's summer film festival presents a free movie every Monday night—bring a blanket and a picnic dinner, and get there early to nab a spot on the lawn where you can enjoy a classic like Coming to America, Goodfellas, and Anchorman. To find out what's going on at the park, visit bryantpark.org. 10. St. Patrick's Cathedral As long as you remember that you're stepping into a house of worship (hats off, voices low), a stop at St. Patrick's is a lovely way to escape the summer heat and hoards of shoppers on Fifth Avenue. Religious sculptures, stained glass windows, and soaring architecture can almost convince you that you've stepped into a time machine—or been transported to a European capital. Visit saintpatrickscathedral.org for a schedule of events, including masses and concerts. 11. National Museum of the American Indian New Yorkers who envy Washingtonians for their free access to the Smithsonian museums are forgetting that Manhattan has a Smithsonian museum of its own: the National Museum of the American Indian. Located downtown at the Alexander Hamilton Custom House, the museum is devoted to the history and culture of America's native peoples and in addition to permanent exhibits also offers regular music and dance presentations. Visit nmai.si.edu/visit/newyork to learn more.

ADVERTISEMENT