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The World's Best Free Stuff

The World's Best Free Stuff

Courtesy of Visit Denmark

Free Bicycles

Zip around town on two wheels. In Copenhagen, Zürich, Bern, and Helsinki (usually from May though the fall) you can borrow a bicycle from stands stationed around the city. Each program requires a nominal deposit ($3–$20), which is returned after your ride when you lock the bike up. Many cities, including Paris, Vienna, Rome, and Lyon, offer free bikes for the first half hour (after that you'll have to fork over some cash).

Where: Helsinki, Bern, Zürich, Copenhagen, Paris, Vienna, Lyon.

The World’s Best Free Stuff

The World's Best Free Stuff

Tom Craig / Alamy

Free Podcasts

What: Forget renting the museum wand. Instead, download podcasts to your MP3 player and get a step-by-step narration of some of the world's hottest spots. Some examples:

Europe:

  • Rick Steves will guide you through the Louvre, Versailles, the Coliseum, the Sistine Chapel, the Uffizi Gallery, and other sites. Each tour features a PDF companion map.
  • Zevisit has free downloadable audio guides to scores of European cities, including Dublin, Hyères, Bordeaux, Munich, Arles, and Cannes.
  • Author Peter Caine has a free podcast based on his book, Walking the Da Vinci Code in Paris. The tour follows the footsteps of Dan Brown’s characters in the best-selling novel.

New York:
Open House New York offers a number of free podcasts of notable though often overlooked buildings throughout the five boroughs, including the Edgar Allan Poe cottage and the Little Red Lighthouse.

The World’s Best Free Stuff

The World's Best Free Stuff

Courtesy of the Steigenberger Hotel

Free Public Transportation

What: Ride subways, buses, and ferries for free.

  • Europe: 27 InterCity Hotels throughout Germany and one in Vienna offer free unlimited local public transportation to guests during their stay. (In some cities that even means the train ride to the airport.) Each guest is given a voucher at check-in that's valid until midnight of their checkout day.
  • New York City: Sure, the main purpose of the Staten Island Ferry is to transport people the five-mile distance between Manhattan and Staten Island, but visitors can’t beat the spectacular view of the skyline, Statue of Liberty, and New York Harbor during the 25-minute ride.
  • Several cities offer free transportation around their downtowns, either by bus, light rail, trolley, or all three. Some of these free spots include Denver, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; Coral Gables, Florida; and Buffalo, New York.

The World’s Best Free Stuff

The World's Best Free Stuff

Courtesy of exchangehomesoia.com

Free Accommodations

A hotel can be the most expensive part of a vacation. Instead, live in someone else’s home while they live in yours. List your house or apartment on a vacation-exchange site like Only in America. There’s no listing fee, but you’re limited to the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. To go global, the International Home Exchange Network features listings all over the world on nearly every continent for an annual listing fee of $40. And Intervac International offers traditional exchanges globally, as well as a hospitality exchange (travelers visit and stay with you, then you return the favor another time). Annual membership fee: $95 (if you don’t find an exchange within a year, you get a full refund.)

Tip: Yes, having someone else live in your home may feel a little dicey. Call the swapper to you get a sense of who they are and make sure you’re comfortable with them. Check their references and ask friends or neighbors to periodically check in.

The World’s Best Free Stuff

The World's Best Free Stuff

Courtesy of Lemassif.com

Free Skiing

What: The price of riding chair lifts is climbing as high as some of the mountain peaks they serve. But there are ways to hitch a free ride.

  • Utah: With the Quick S.T.A.R.T. Vacation package, if you take an early morning flight to Salt Lake City and head straight to the mountains, show your boarding pass (and a voucher and ID) and ski that day for free at Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort, and The Canyons Resort. Already in Utah?Show up at Alta from 3pm–4:30pm and ski off the Sunnyside Lift for free.
  • Colorado: Several resorts offer some type of free-skiing program to reward volunteer work. At Winter Park Resort, for every four hours you volunteer, you earn a one-day, transferable lift ticket. And there's no limit to the number of free lift tickets you can earn!
  • Quebec: For one day each year during Christmastime, anyone who dresses like Santa (beard, hat, and red jacket) can ski for free on Santa Claus Day at Le Massif in Charlevoix, outside Québec City. You won’t be alone. Last year, 500 Santas participated.

The World’s Best Free Stuff

The World's Best Free Stuff

Courtesy of Utah Olympic Park

Free Sports Events

Sure, you can see amateur athletes compete at your local soccer field. But world-class athletes are expensive to see, right?Wrong!

  • Park City, Utah: Each year, dozens of Olympic teams (from China to Australia to Great Britain) train at the Utah Olympic Park, site of 14 events during the 2002 Olympic Winter games. You may see Olympians ski jumping 60 feet into the air or training for bobsled, luge, and skeleton.
  • Lake Placid, New York: At Lake Placid’s Olympic Center, site of the 1932 and 1980 winter games, you can watch Olympic and professional figure skaters and hockey teams training for free.
  • Many professional baseball and football teams allow the public to watch them train and sometimes offer autograph days. Check out the Chicago Bears’ free practice sessions in July and August, 50 miles south of Chicago in Bourbonnais, Illinois. From mid-July to mid-August, fans can watch practice, get player autographs, and take part in free clinics.

The World’s Best Free Stuff

The World's Best Free Stuff

Courtesy of Tate Britain

Free Museums & Zoos

Some of the world’s top museums don’t charge a cent to see their prized possessions.

The World’s Best Free Stuff

The World's Best Free Stuff

Courtesy of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Free Concerts

Top-notch music from world-class performers can be a pricey affair. But not here (and many other spots around the globe):

The World’s Best Free Stuff

The World's Best Free Stuff

Courtesy of Paris Tourist Office/Amélie Dupont

Free Movies

At $10 and climbing, movies can be a pricey affair for a group of travelers. So show up here (and many other spots) and don’t pay:

  • Paris: Every summer, the ultramodern Parc de la Villette outside the city draws movie lovers with its giant outdoor screen and free Open Air Cinema festival. The 2008 offerings center around Hollywood icons Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, and Gina Lollobrigida.
  • Baltimore: The American Visionary Art Museum sponsors Flicks on the Hill, an outdoor film series featuring free outdoor movies from Casablanca to Harold and Maude to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Guests sit on the side of Federal Hill while movies are projected onto the side of the museum.
  • Pismo Beach, California: Every other Wednesday from June through August, Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa in Pismo Beach, on California’s Central Coast presents a Cinema Under the Stars series on the hotel’s lawn. Available to all movie buffs, not just hotel guests, movies may include West Side Story, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Sleepless in Seattle.

The World’s Best Free Stuff

See the slideshow: The World's Best Free Stuff

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