Activities and tours are a massive part of going away, to fully immerse yourself in the destination. The downside of being a culture vulture abroad however, is that entrance prices, tickets and tours can sometimes cost as much as accommodation.
This month however we chatted to the travel experts at Cheapflights.co.uk, who showed us there are actually many ways to experience a destination for absolutely nothing.
Cheapflights spokesperson Lasse Skole Hansen comments: “The price of entertainment and having fun can mount up when you’re on holiday. Well-organised travellers can save themselves a bundle though, by googling museums and galleries for their free opening times. Also, they should visit tourist offices for entry vouchers and giveaways. Here are our 11 favourite free activities to experience while you are away.”
Lots of cities have bike-sharing schemes. In cities like Washington, DC, Montreal and Paris, travellers can sign up for a free cycling service. In the US, you may find smaller cities like Salem, Massachusetts, and Simsbury, Connecticut, that have completely free bike shares. Many college communities offer free rides as well.
Carnivals and parades show off a city at its best. Rio Carnival, Notting Hill Carnival and St Patrick’s Day Parades, in cities with big Irish communities, are all fantastic to behold. Gay Pride events, Saint’s Days and Chinese New Year are all also super times to spot a free parade and get out those dancing shoes.
Free US boat tours
If you have booked flights to New York, the fleet of Staten Island Ferries makes the five-mile, 25-minute trip past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty more than 35,000 times each year. The four Savannah Belles Ferries, named for notable women from the city’s past, are an enjoyable way to get from one historic point to another or just to connect with the proud shipping and maritime tradition of this almost-300-year-old port.
Free water parks
In the U.S. city of Boston, there is a Greenway with free water features, where an elevated highway has been replaced by play spaces for all ages. At Theatre Square in Krasnodar, Russia, there is a giant splash fountain shooting jets of water 80 feet into the air, accompanied by classical music. Toronto, Canada, has a network of more than 100 wading pools and splash pads all open for free in the summer, including a 600-jet water play area open 247 in the middle of Dundas Square.
Free food & drink
In many cities all over the world, walk into a bar or restaurant around 5pm and the odds are you will find free food or drinks. The Italian custom of Aperitivo calls for buffets full of delicious free fayre for the enjoyment of anyone buying one drink (or more). And don’t forget local food producers as a source of free eats. At the three Blue Diamond Growers shops in Northern California travellers can taste their almond products. Or, browse local farmers markets for locally-sourced produce and plenty of free samples. In the US, depending on local laws, you may well find complimentary or discounted drinks and free food during ‘happy hour’. If in wine country, do your research and find out which vineyards offer free tastings.
Free ice skating
In Ottawa, Canada, every January travellers can skate five miles along the Rideau Canal at no cost. In Stockholm, Sweden, visitors have the choice of a spin in the centre of town at the Vasaparken ice rink or taking a 20-minute trip out to Edsviken. If free skaters then master the trail skating at Edsviken, they can look for other free “tour skating” tracks throughout Scandinavia, especially in Finland. And, if headed to ice-deprived spots and have a pair of roller skates, travellers can look for inline skating like the weekly Tuesday evening rolling party in Tel Aviv, where hundreds of people blade around town on a 13-mile route.
Free sporting events
London’s annual Boat Race, the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, the Tour de France, a marathon in any major city – all fantastic free sporting spectacles, with bags of atmosphere. Autumn is also rowing season across the US, and regattas are free, easy and fun to watch from the riverbank.
Free ping pong
If you have booked flights to Amsterdam, Sarphatipark offers free ping pong. And in New York’s Bryant Park, free ping pong is available too. There is ping pong table that circulates around the city of Darwin, Australia, along with paddles and balls. In other places, you may need to bring your own gear and wait your turn. It’s worth it for a fun way to take in a destination and play a little sport.
If you plan ahead, you may be able to gain free tickets to TV show tapings. Late-night shows, talk shows and game shows all film before live studio audiences. However, not every show requires a ticket. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and at Parliament Hill in Ottawa are time-honoured traditions. The same can be said of the 11am “chiming” of the Glockenspiel in Munich. For more than 100 years, when this clock strikes that hour, a 12-15 minute show begins with a two-part story re-enacted by 32 life-sized figures.