A family getaway doesn't have to mean expensive theme park tickets or fancy resorts! Visit a town or city and enjoy free fun; save even more money by taking a staycation
, and sampling free things to do right in your own town. And even if you travel to the world's greatest (and most expensive) cities, your family can find free things to do once there.
See also: Free Things To Do - Great Outdoors
1. Free Things To Do: City Parks and Playgrounds
Pumpkin Sail - Photo courtesy of Central Park Conservancy.
Every city has a park where kids can enjoy themselves, and some of the world's best cities have outstanding parks: Central Park
in New York being a prime example-- not only is it a huge outdoor area for all to enjoy, Central Park also has many free programs for families (such as the Halloween Pumpkin Sail
And in any good-sized park, families can count on finding a play zone for kids, with climbing gear, swings, etc.
2. Strolling and Strollering
Venice: famous Rialto Bridge, cost $0.00. Photo © Teresa Plowright.
Some of the most expensive cities in the world are also the best places for just walking around, enjoying being in London, Paris, Amsterdam, or Venice (left-- not so great for strollers with its many bridges, though!)
Also good for just strolling about are the prime tourist zones in certain North American cities: for example, Fisherman's Wharf
in San Francisco has street performers during the day-- jugglers, clowns, magicians, and other kid-pleasers.
3. Free Things To Do, in Many Cities
New York: take the free Staten Island ferry for great harbor views.
4. Free Museum Admission
The British Museum, in London: admission, $0.00.
Some of best museums in the world offer free admission. In London
, for instance, the Science Museum
and nearby Natural History Museum
(both great for kids) are free, as is the British Museum and other must-see institutions; in Paris, the Louvre is free for visitors under the age of 18, and some Paris Museums
are free, period. In New York City, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
has "recommended" prices, but any donation will get you through the doors. Many more museums are free on a certain day of the month.
5. Free Things To Do: Parades!
St. Patrick's Day Parade: photo © Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.
If you time your visit to a city right -- and it's the right city-- your family might catch a terrific parade. St. Patrick's Day, for instance, is a day of major parades
in many towns: New York City, DC, Boston, Savannah, Phoenix... (Surprised you, huh?) Everybody's welcome, and "Everybody's Irish", on March 17.
Fireworks, NYC - Yana Paskova / Getty Images.
In the US, the Fourth of July
is, of course, the
definitive annual fireworks event. But many festivals around the world end the day with a fireworks display that's free for all to see.
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Vancouver, and Honolulu are just some of the cities that host colorful Chinese New Year celebrations: with parades, Lion Dances, Lantern Festivals, dragon boat races... many free events to watch. Dates change every year, but generally range from late January to mid-February.
Photo courtesy of About.com's Guide for London Travel.
A fun and free family activity during the Holiday Season is to stroll along a city sidewalk beside a big department store, looking at decorated Christmas windows: tableaux of elves in Santa's Workshop, with moving parts; traditional Victorian Christmas scenes; or maybe a humorous Santa Claus.
Photo courtesy of About.com Guide for Washington DC.
Many towns big and small have a special Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony to start the holiday season, either late in November or in early December. And some places go all out: if you're visiting NYC, DC, Boston, or Chicago on the right date, be sure to take your kids to watch the Christmas Tree light-up. These fun free events are perfect for families, and probably Santa will put in an appearance too.
That little phrase is music to a parent's ears, and many restaurants serve free kiddie meals to bring in the family customers. Keep in mind that typically, such meals are served only to kids age 12, or even 10, and under; the child must order from a special kids' menu; and the child must be with an adult who's ordering a regular-priced meal.
Balboa Park- Photo courtesy of San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau / Joanna DiBona.
Name a place, and you'll probably find good info on free things to do there, for families, in this round-up of "Free Things" content at multiple travel sites at About.com.