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New England's 10 Best Free Attractions

Plan a Budget Vacation or Affordable Day Trip with this Free Things To Do Guide


The cost of everything seems to be going up these days, but here in New England, where frugality has always been a virtue, some of my favorite attractions remain open to the public absolutely free of charge. One of the top 10 free attractions on my list even offers visitors free beer!

Plan a budget vacation or an affordable day trip with my guide to the 10 best free things to do in New England.

See also: Free Things To Do Aroud the World

1. The Freedom Trail

Park Street Church on Boston's Freedom Trail
© 2000 Kim Knox Beckius
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 free way 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.

2. U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum and USS Nautilus

USS Nautilus at the U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum Groton Connecticut
© 2008 Kim Knox Beckius
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 (my daughter had a ball here), so plan a visit to this often overlooked free attraction.

3. Anheuser-Busch Brewery and the Clydesdale Hamlet

Budweiser Clydesdales in Merrimack New Hampshire - Photo
© 2006 Kim Knox Beckius, licensed to About.com
The Budweiser Clydesdales are the beverage industry's most recognizable mascots, and you can meet these famous horses by visiting the Clydesdale Hamlet at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Whether or not you decide to take a free brewery tour, you are welcome to visit the Clydesdales at their picturesque stables on the property, which are open free to the public year-round. But if you're 21 or over, you may find it hard to resist taking the tour when I tell you that it concludes with free beer samples.

4. Stephen Huneck's Dog Chapel

Dog Chapel Vermont - Stained Glass
© 2002 Kim Knox Beckius
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. I adore this scenic spot, with its lovingly crafted chapel and art gallery: Please don't tell my cat.

5. Yankee Candle

Yankee Candle Factory Story MA
© 1999 Kim Knox Beckius
The Yankee Candle 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 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.

6. Yale University

Yale University
© 2001 Kim Knox Beckius
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

7. The Cliff Walk

Newport Cliff Walk Picture
© 2005 Kim Knox Beckius
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.

8. Cathedral of the Pines

Cathedral of the Pines - A Natural Sanctuary in Rindge New Hampshire
© 2003 Kim Knox Beckius
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.

9. Eartha

North American Continent - Photo of North America on Eartha the World's Largest Globe
© 2008 Kim Knox Beckius
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.

10. Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory

Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory Photo
© 2000 Kim Knox Beckius
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.

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