The Best Free Attractions

TripSavvy Editors' Choice Awards 2018

Climb 2,830 steps through a forest in Vancouver. Scale San Francisco's iconic, winding Lombard Street. Or test your stamina on the Santa Monica Stairs. But don't worry, not all the best free attractions come with a strenuous cardio workout. From impressive library exhibits to historic cathedrals, here are TripSavvy's favorite free things to do for 2018.

Free Attractions

Kings Cross, British Library, London, England
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The British Library: London, England — featured in The Top Free Things to Do in London

If you love the written word, the British Library's little known, free exhibition is a must. The changing selection from the Treasures of the British Library collection might include a Gutenberg Bible, Leonardo daVinci's notebooks or an 1,100 year old Chinese copy of the Diamond Sutra — the world's oldest known complete printed book. Handwritten Beatles lyrics sit beside manuscripts by Jane Austen, Tenniel's illustrations for Alice in Wonderland and an original copy of the Magna Carta. The Library is just up Euston Road from St Pancras International Station so a great way to spend an hour or two before your train to Paris. Ferne Arfin

Red sculpture at Laumeier Sculpture Park
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Laumeier Sculpture Park: St. Louis, Mo. — featured in The Best Things to Do for Free in St. Louis

Charging nothing to enter this 105-acre grassy space of rolling hills and wooded areas—marked by brightly colored and highly innovative art sculptures—seems like a crime. Occasional events like Laumeier Sculpture After Dark and Makers Nights, as well as drop-in programming for kids, are announced on its website. The park is maintained by the St. Louis County Parks and Recreation Department, including its 1.4-mile walking trail. Don’t leave without checking out the park’s most famous sculpture: “The Way” by Alexander Liberman (1980), a bright-red piece inspired by Greek temples. Works by Sol LeWitt and Mark di Suvero are also in the park. –Kristine Hansen

Lincoln Park Conservatory: Chicago, Ill. — featured in Free Things to Do in Chicago

The Chicago Park District’s Lincoln Park Conservatory, at Fullerton Ave. and North Stockton Dr., serves a dual purpose. Plants started in its 15 propagating and growing houses later take permanent root throughout one of the nation’s largest city park systems. But the Conservatory also serves visitors who enjoy huge collections of flora. This free attraction includes four main display halls: Palm House, Fern Room, Orchid House — home to about 25,000 natural species — and Show House, site of the city’s annual Spring Flower Show. Combine a visit to the Conservatory with a tour of the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is immediately to the south. Mark Kahler

  • Witt Stephens Nature Center: Little Rock, Ark. — featured in Free Things to Do With Kids in Little Rock
  • The Dittrick Museum of Medical History: Cleveland, Ohio — featured in Free Things to Do in Cleveland
  • Cathedral Basilica: St. Louis, Mo. — featured in The Best Free Things to Do in St. Louis
  • Big Four Bridge: Louisville, Ky. — featured in Free Things to Do in Louisville
  • The Santa Monica Stairs: Santa Monica, Calif. — featured in Fun Things to Do in Santa Monica
Bridge of Glass at Museum Of Glass
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Bridge of Glass: Tacoma, Wash. — featured in Free Things to Do in Tacoma

You can find Dale Chihuly’s glass artwork in many places, but nowhere else will you find such a stunningly large collection on display entirely for free. The Bridge of Glass spans over I-705 in Tacoma, connecting downtown with the Thea Foss Waterway and the Museum of Glass. This pedestrian-only bridge includes hundreds of pieces of Chihuly’s work and offers a solid overview of what he does. On one end, a glass ceiling filled with all sorts of colorful odds and ends. On the other, a wall filled with glass vases inspired by traditional Venetian forms. And in the middle, two tall spires covered in jagged, rock-candy-like polyvitro. The bridge also has great views of Mt. Rainier on clear days and downtown Tacoma. Kristin Kendle

WaterFire in Providence
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WaterFire: Providence, R.I. — featured in The Top Things to Do in Providence

WaterFire attendees know the magic of this multi-sensory festival, which could better be described as an interactive art exhibit. More than 100 braziers throughout Providence’s downtown rivers are set on fire during the WaterFire festivals, casting a warm glow, emitting pine-scented aromas and making a crackling sound that blends with the melodies of opera music. The festival relies on donations and is run by volunteers, including those who dress in all black and kayak on the waterways to stoke the flames until midnight or so. WaterFire festivals typically happen in the summer and fall months. For an especially romantic experience, couples can book a gondola to guide them on the river, and feel the warmth from the flames while being serenaded by Italian love songs. Brittany Anas

Grouse Grind
Lijuan Guo Photography / Getty Images

Grouse Grind: Vancouver, Canada — featured in The Best Free & Cheap Things to Do in Vancouver

‘What’s your grind time?’ is a common question amongst Vancouverites — it’s a local rite of passage to make the 2.9km (1.8 miles) climb up Grouse Mountain in the warmer months. The trek up “Mother Nature’s Staircase” is free, and at the top you’ll find a well-deserved beer or lunch after tackling the 2,830 stairs. Open between spring and fall, the grind usually takes between an hour and a half and two hours. Wear proper footwear and take it slowly! The free trail is one-way and it costs $15 to take the Skyride gondola back down. –Amy Watkins