Let’s face it: Travel is expensive. Add in hotels, gas, rental cars and meals, and the budget can skyrocket, especially when adding in site seeing and activities. Save on your travel experience by visiting free (or cheap) destinations. My family has great, educational and activity-packed vacations without ever visiting outrageously priced amusement parks.
Free Attractions in Denver, Colorado
- Denver Mint: See money without spending any! The U.S. Mint in Denver offers free tours that bring to life the history and process of America’s currency production. This tour will fascinate everyone in your family. Reservations are required. Book here at the U.S. Mint website. Pro tip: Book early! During busy summer months the tours fill up quickly.
- Hammonds Candies: This free tour is both interesting and delicious! Hammonds has made candy the old-fashioned way since 1920. Take free tours of their factory and watch through big viewing windows to see how candy is made and packed. During my visit, confectioners were making candy canes, and the whole place smelled amazing! Enjoy a tasty free sample at the tour’s end. Yum!
- Dinosaur Ridge: Denver has a rich history that doesn’t just start at the airport. Walk where dinosaurs once roamed, and you don't have to pay a dime! The trails at Dinosaur Ridge are absolutely free. They do have a few paid attractions here. Entry to the indoor is $1.00 per person (children under 3 are free) and shuttle bus tours are $4.00. Active military get half price.
- Capitol Building: Several free tours are available and there is something for everyone: a historical tour, a legislative tour, and a tour called Mr. Brown's attic that includes an interactive space for children. All tours are free. Book at the Colorado state website.
- National Center for Atmospheric Research: This attraction is a bit of a drive from Denver, but well worth the time getting to nearby Boulder to learn about the climate and weather. Admission and tours are free. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays they offer a free guided tour at noon and cell phone tours are available the rest of the time. Or just browse the many exhibits on your own. More details here.
- Celestial Seasonings: Also in Boulder, but pair it with the NCAR and make a day of it. Celestial Seasonings offers free tours of their tea factory and a tea box art gallery. Enjoy free samples of every variety of tea Celestial Seasoning makes.
- Interactive Fountain: Denver's City Park is their version of Central Park and is located right downtown. This big, beautiful park is the perfect place for a picnic. After you eat, send the kiddos to cool off in the interactive fountain. The fountain doesn't operate every day, so check the schedule before go. Your kids will get wet, so make sure to dress them in swimsuits and bring along towels. City Park is located at 1700 N. York St.
- Live Buffalo Herd: Denver has its own Buffalo herd living in a natural setting along the side of a freeway just outside of town. It is quite the drive and the buffalo aren't always visible. We went by six times and the buffalo were visible just once. Probably not worth a special trip, but if you are driving by it is worth a look. The herd is off of I-70 near exit 254. The buffalo are on the south side of the freeway, and there are viewing areas in both directions. Watch for the signs.
- Museum of Outdoor Arts: This innovative museum seeks to bring art into everyday life with their extensive collection of outdoor art. Download their walking tour brochure and take your family on a free tour. Indoor gallery tours are offered on select Saturdays for free.
- 1st Saturdays at the Denver Art Museum: The Denver Art Museum is a must-see attraction for art lovers. Museum entry is typically $10. But on the first Saturday of the month general admission is free. More info available here.
With all these free attractions, you won't have the time, or desire, to visit any of the paid ones. As an added bonus, Denver is a U.S. travel hub. So if driving is out of the question, watch KCL’s “Travel” section for fantastic airfare specials.
Free tourist sites are available in almost every city across the country. Here are some tips for finding free tourist attractions:
Travel/Tourist Websites: The official tourism site for the city or state you are visiting is a great resource for fun and free things to do. Each site is run by the local tourism department . If you need help finding free activities, call or send an email. These cities want you to come visit and will happily provide you with all the information you need.
Local Visitor's Bureau: Make the local visitor's bureau your first stop. Tell them you are interested in free local activities and see what they come up with. Best of all, you'll probably receive a few free maps while you're there (which means that you won't have to ask for directions or buy a map of your own when you get lost).
Ask Locals: Who knows better than residents the best of free things to do. Every town has a few hidden gems, and if you don't ask, you might not find them.
Call Before You Go: Before you head out to a tourist site, pick up the phone and ask a few questions. Many places offer reduced prices or free tickets on certain days and times or have free exhibits available. Don't be afraid to ask for discounts and specials.
TripAdvisor.com: This is a fantastic site with plenty of content and reviews generated by actual tourists. Before visiting an attraction, check out the reviews. Also look for hidden gems and other things to do.
This has been a guest post by Jackie from Ridgecrest, CA
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