The cost of everything seems to be going up these days, but here in New England, where frugality has always been a virtue, some popular attractions remain open to the public absolutely free of charge.
Plan a budget vacation or an affordable day trip with this guide to the 10 best free things to do in New England.
The Freedom Trail
The Freedom Trail—a two-and-a-half-mile walking tour that connects 16 significant Boston landmarks—is not only one of Boston's must-see attractions, it's a free journey into history. Simply follow the painted or bricked red line, and you'll be immersed in the rich Revolutionary-era history that is preserved within this modern city. Walking the Freedom Trail is a fabulous freeway to explore Boston, and interior access to the trail's featured sites is also free with just three exceptions: the Paul Revere House, the Old South Meeting House and the Old State House.
U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum and USS Nautilus
Peer into a periscope, see a replica of the world's first submarine, watch films about submarines of yesterday and today, pretend to take a submarine's controls... and that's all before you venture aboard the USS Nautilus for a free audio tour. Nautilus was the first nuclear-powered submarine and the first vessel to travel 20,000 leagues under the sea, and it's now open free to the public year-round. Located on the Thames River in Groton, Connecticut, just off Interstate 95, the U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum also exhibits a fascinating collection of submarine artifacts. There's something for everyone, from Naval history enthusiasts to five-year-olds, so plan a visit to this often overlooked free attraction.
Stephen Huneck's Dog Chapel
If you own a dog or have ever loved a dog, put Stephen Huneck's Dog Chapel in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, at the top of your list of free things to do in New England. Take your dog along if you can. Whether or not you make your pup sit in a pew, his prayers will be answered when he discovers the nature trails, swimming ponds and other delights of the 400 scenic acres that surround the chapel on Dog Mountain.
The Yankee Candle Village flagship store in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, is the Disney World of candles. You can literally lose yourself for hours in its winding, cavernous showrooms and among its tantalizing scents. Of course, the good folks at Yankee Candle hope your visit will cost you something. Consider yourself warned that it may be impossible to avoid purchasing a votive or two at a minimum: Yankee candles come in wonderful, scents and they make ideal gifts. If you have tremendous willpower, however, you'll find this retail complex a visually enthralling and very entertaining free place to browse. There are many additional things to do near Yankee Candle Village, and some—like seeing the dino bones at the Beneski Museum of Natural History—are also free.
Want to get into Yale free? It's entirely possible... as long as you don't need a degree! Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, is a remarkable cultural attraction that you really should visit. Here's why: Not only can you take a free guided tour of this historic New England campus, you can view magnificent works of art and changing exhibits at the Yale Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art absolutely free and even attend one of the Yale School of Music's nearly 300 annual performances. Most concerts are... you guessed it... free!
Staying Over? Hotels Near Yale
The Cliff Walk
Here's a free attraction that's no secret. Strolling along the Cliff Walk is the most popular thing to do in Newport, Rhode Island, a lovely and historic city that welcomes about 3 million visitors annually. This 3.5-mile pathway by the sea is one of New England's most spectacular walks. It affords views of both Newport's legendary mansions and the restless and magnificent ocean they overlook.
Cathedral of the Pines
Cathedral of the Pines is one of New England's most moving and spiritual places. Situated on a secluded hilltop amidst spindly, fragrant pines with glorious Grand Monadnock Mountain as its backdrop, this nondenominational sanctuary in Rindge, New Hampshire, is a place to reflect, to give thanks for nature's beauty, to honor those who have served America and to worship in whatever way suits you... all without opening your wallet.
Eartha is truly a wonder (in addition to being a Guinness World Record holder), and you can visit her free of charge the next time you're in Yarmouth, Maine. What on Earth is Eartha? I'm glad you asked. Eartha is the world's largest revolving/rotating globe, a three-story replica of our planet that is on display year-round at the home of her creator: the DeLorme map company. It took DeLorme employees two years to create this giant, computer-controlled globe, which revolves on a specially designed cantilever arm and rotates on an axis.
Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory
The Cape Cod Potato Chip Company has been making its signature kettle-cooked chips in Hyannis, Massachusetts, since 1980. Free factory tours are available weekdays at Cape Cod Potato Chip, and kids will especially love seeing how America's favorite snack food is made. You'll even get a free sample of crunchy, delicious Cape Cod Potato Chips when you complete your tour.