10 great travel freebies


By Sarah Sekula, Published in USA Today

Discovering a discount or two on vacation is a surefire way to put a smile on your face. But tracking down a must-see destination that doesn’t cost a dime, well, it doesn’t get much more satisfying than that. Darren Frei, editorial director of ShermansTravel.com, shares with Sarah Sekula for USA TODAY favorite something-for-nothing excursions.

High Line
New York
“Leave it to New York City to turn an unused elevated train track into a public park,” Frei says. “The elevated track now known as the High Line was originally built on New York’s West Side in the 1930s to keep freight trains off the city’s streets.” These days, the 30-foot-high structure lined with maple trees and wild geraniums is a great place to escape daily life and take in views of New York’s most iconic sights. “Every Saturday at 11 a.m., visitors can enjoy a free, guided walking tour,” Frei says. 212-206-9922; thehighline.org

U.S. National Parks
Throughout the USA
The U.S. National Park system waives its entrance fees several times throughout the year. The next fee-free days are Sept. 25 and Nov. 11. “In New York’s Adirondack National Park, autumn foliage is at its most brilliant during the last two weeks in September,” Frei says. “Out west, September is elk mating season in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.” 202-208-3818; nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm

Smithsonian Museums
“There’s a reason why the nation’s capital remains such a vibrant center for arts and culture,” Frei says. After all, “there are 19 Smithsonian museums and galleries, 17 of which are in Washington, D.C.,” and admission is free. Plus, Frei says, “the Museum of Natural History is celebrating its centennial this year with a special exhibition looking into its own history and evolution.” 202-633-1000; si.edu/museums

The Getty Center

Los Angeles
“The Getty Center has been credited for helping Los Angeles come into its own as a highbrow culture capital,” Frei says. “Perched in the Santa Monica Mountains, its impressive travertine marble buildings have sweeping views of the Los Angeles basin and hold a remarkable collection of mostly European art. Admission is free. Parking is $15 per car but free after 5 p.m. on Saturdays and for evening events throughout the week.” 310-440-7300; getty.edu

Aruba Aloe Factory
Oranjestad, Aruba
“The island’s native aloe plant can be found all over the island,” Frei says. “Take a tour through the state-of-the-art Aruba Aloe Factory, and you’ll see the production process firsthand, from the harvesting of raw aloe vera leaves to the finished product. Informative tour guides explain the restorative and soothing qualities of the aloe plant and its many uses, the most popular of which, at least among tourists, is applying it to sunburned skin.” arubaaloe.com

Tijuca National Park
Rio de Janeiro
At more than 12 square miles, this sublime site weighs in as the largest urban national park in the world, home to hundreds of species of plants and wildlife. While you’re there, “don’t miss the Cascatinha Waterfall, which measures more than 100 feet high, and caves of Saudade, Paul and Virginia,” Frei says. “The best views can be found on Pico da Tijuca, which, at 3,350 feet, is the highest peak in Tijuca.” rio-de-janeiro.info/tijuca-national-park.htm

Lunchtime Concerts at Concertgebouw and Muziektheater
Amsterdam’s cultural season runs from September through June, and a highlight are free lunchtime concerts, Frei says. “Tuesdays (from October to June), the Boekmanzaal auditorium hosts free performances by members of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, the Choir of the Netherlands Opera and the Netherlands Ballet Orchestra,” he says. us.holland.com/e/17778/Free-lunchtime-concerts.php

Lincoln Park Zoo
At 49 acres, this meticulously manicured zoo is one of the last in the nation offering free admission. Here, guests look through modern glass enclosures for a nose-to-nose encounter with gorillas and chimpanzees. Plus, Frei says, “the zoo just announced the opening of the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo, an urban pond ecosystem in the heart of Chicago boasting 14 acres of natural shorelines.” 312-742-2000; lpzoo.org

British Museum
“Since being established in 1753, the museum has accumulated more than 7 million objects from every continent, some of which have caused a bit of controversy,” Frei says. “For example, the Duveen Gallery houses the Elgin Marbles, a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures from the Acropolis. Even though the Elgin Marbles were later purchased by the British government in 1816, the debate about whether or not England should return the sculptures to Athens lives on.” britishmuseum.org

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
Vancouver, British Columbia
“During the Ming Dynasty, scholars would create elaborate gardens to host family and friends,” Frei says. “This traditional Chinese garden in Vancouver’s Chinatown is the first of its kind built outside of China. While there is an admission fee for the garden itself, the adjacent Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Park has no fee and boasts lush flora and fauna surrounding a central pond and a traditional Chinese pavilion.” vancouverchinesegarden.com