101 Free Things to Do in the South
Look no further for a bargain vacation. Here are 101 activities you can do this summer without having to spend a penny.
Go Back in Time
1. Get a closer look at the four beautiful 18th-century Spanish churches that grace San Antonio's Mission Trail.
2. A U.S. Capitol tour seems only fitting for a trip to Washington, D.C., and is completely free of charge.
3. See where the famed Tuskegee Airmen trained to fly and fight during World War II at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.
4. Visit the site of the largest battle of the Revolutionary War's Southern Campaign at the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in North Carolina.
5. The Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site includes a number of facilities in Atlanta such as the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and The King Center.
6. Stand where Gen. Andrew Jackson did when he defeated the Creek Indians in 1814 at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park in Alabama.
7. See where abolitionists Thomas Garrett and John Hunn stood trial before the Federal Court in the New Castle Court House Museum in Delaware for violating the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793.
8. Visit The Alamo in San Antonio, the site of a pivotal battle in the Texas Revolution.
Listen to Some Tunes
9. Every night at 6 p.m., The Kennedy Center offers free concerts at the Millenium Center Stage in Washington, D.C.
10. With a dozen world-class shows a night, the 600 block of Frenchmen Street is the song and soul of New Orleans.
11. Head to Virginia Beach for oceanfront entertainment this summer as part of Beach Street USA.
12. On Thursday nights this summer, watch a free concert at Furman University in South Carolina as part of their Music by the Lake series.
13. If you're in Kansas City stop by The Lounge for free live jazz.
14. One of the best places to hear live bands has to be Nashville's downtown. Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, an iconic cubbyhole on Broadway, has no cover charge.
15. Spend your Labor Day weekend on Beale Street at the Memphis Music and Heritage Festival.
Appreciate the Finer Things
16. Visit one of the SCAD Galleries in Savannah featuring works by world-renowned artists and students.
17. Spend an hour or an entire day at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
18. Marvel at the fine art in Fort Worth's internationally known Kimbell Art Museum.
19. Take in one of the world's largest collections of Wedgwood at the Birmingham Museum of Art.
20. Expand your appreciation of art at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
21. Check out the extensive collection, ranging from ancient to contemporary, at the St. Louis Art Museum.
22. Take advantage of Dallas' free art displays by abstract expressionist sculptor Mark di Suervo outside the Dallas Museum of Art, Northpark Center, and the Nasher Sculpture Center.
23.Check out the large collection of works by regional artists, as well as contemporary crafts and decorative arts at the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock.
Take a Walk on the Wild Side
24. Manatees come in from the cold between November and April at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center. The aquatic mammals are attracted to Tampa Electric’s warm-water discharge canals.
25. Ever wonder what a turtle more than 100 years old looks like? Visit the Chateau des Cocodries in Jennings, Louisiana to meet the turtle and his alligator friends.
26. Explore the 60,000-acre Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, crowned by Mount Scott in Oklahoma. If you're lucky you'll see a herd of buffalo.
27. Monkey around at the St. Louis Zoo and spend a day with 700 different species.
28. Roam Gulf Shores' Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, a 6,200-acre sanctuary with beach access.
29. The Smithsonian National Zoo is home to 2,000 animals right in the heart of Washington, D.C.
30. Spy alligators and turtles and owls at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.
31. From November to March, watch winter manatees congregate at Florida's Blue Springs State Park.
Smell the Roses
44. Have a bloomin' good time at Chapel Hill's North Carolina Botanical Garden.
45. Watch where you sit at the world's only Cactus Plantation, near Vicksburg, Mississippi.
46. Don't pick, but take a gander at the daisies in the Tulsa Garden Center, which is located on the grounds of a mansion built in 1919 and is part of the city's Woodland Park.
47. Perfume scents the air starting in mid-May when flowers start to bloom at nearly a dozen lavender farms that dot the Lavender Capital of Texas in Blanco. Some of the farms open to visitors at the start of the blooming season.
48. Trip through the tulips at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, which houses more than 10,000 different plants in its collections.
49. Take a sweet walk through the plantation ruins and gardens of Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens in Florida.
50. View the gardens and three lakes at the Bernheim Arboretum in Kentucky, or be adventurous and go for a canopy treewalk.
Visit a Museum
32. At the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., you can view dinosaur fossils, a hall of skeletons, and an exhibit on Anicent Egypt, plus many more.
33. Visit the museum at the United States Naval Academy, which was founded in 1845 in Annapolis, Maryland. You can also tour the grounds of the academy and watch the midshipmen during noon formation.
34. One of the quirkiest yet most interesting art galleries in Texas is the ArtCar Museum featuring cars decorated with everything from plastic action figures to pool balls.
35. Wing your way through the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, and hear stories from a retired flyboy.
36. If you have only a short time to explore The Mall in Washington, D.C., go to The Commons of the Smithsonian Castle to see artifacts from each of the institution's museums.
37. Admire one of the largest helicopter collections on Earth at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum in Fort Rucker, Alabama, where helicopter pilots receive their training.
Visit More Museums
38. Kids and adults alike will love the National Air and Space Museum. It's jam-packed with planes, space stuff, IMAX films, and even thrilling flight sims.
39. Coast through the model ships, paintings, photographs, and artifacts dating from 1842 in the Jacksonville Maritime Museum.
40. The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., takes a in-depth look at the life, culture, and history of the American Indians.
41. Find a cure for what ails you at the National Museum of Health and Medicine at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
42. Check out The LBJ Library and Museum in Austin (the only free Presidential library), which highlights the life of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Lady Bird.
43. Stop by the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and learn more about the 39 Champion Thoroughbreds that have trained at the Aiken Training Track in South Carolina.
Taste the Flavors of the South
51. For a finger-lickin' good time, visit the site where the Colonel created his famous chicken recipe at the Harland Sanders Café and Museum in Corbin, Kentucky.
52. Even if you’re not a beer drinker, you’ll enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in St. Louis.
53. Spice things up with a tour of the McIlhenny Company's Tabasco plant on Avery Island, Louisiana.
54. Take the South’s best-smelling factory tour at Bud's Best Cookies as you ride a tiny train through one of the country’s last family-owned cookie companies in Alabama.
55. Catch the spirit on a tour of the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown, Kentucky.
56. Rise to the occasion with a tour of Fort Worth's Mrs. Baird's Bakery. Tours showing how bread is made are held every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
Go for a Drive
57. The Blue Ridge Parkway, "America's Favorite Drive," stretches for 469 miles connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Shenandoah National Park.
58. For sheer nostalgia, remember the song and get some kicks. Follow Route 66, where it rolls across the open miles of Oklahoma for a scenic drive.
59. Take a tropical trek down U.S. 1 to Key West and see all the beautiful sites of Florida. You'll see the iconic St. Augustine Lighthouse, and can visit the Fort Matanzas National Monument for free.
60. The Cherohala Skyway winds up and over 5,400 foot mountains for 15 miles in North Carolina and descends another 21 miles into the deeply forested backcountry of Tennessee.
61. Texas' Highway 16 twists so much you have to slow down to a crawl in a few places, but this sidewinder of a highway that climbs through the Hill Country for 30 miles is one of the most scenic in Texas.
62. Virginia's Crooked Road Music Trail links together mountain communities, performance venues, and musicians in this remote southwest corner of the state where old-time music still flourishes.
63. Journey through a section of Missouri’s wine country and you’ll see why some people compare it to the Rhine River Valley―Southern style. This path follows two-lane U.S. 94 and crosses the Missouri River to U.S. 100.
Take a Hike
64. Stretching for more than 100 miles through Virginia, Shenandoah National Park is an ideal place for a hike, leisurely picnic, or weekend of camping.
65. See the official Texas bison herd or hit the trails at Caprock Canyons State Park.
66. Explore Oklahoma's Black Mesa State Park located on Lake Carl Etling.
67. Located just west of Little Rock, Pinnacle Mountain State Park offers a wide variety of hiking and biking trails.
68. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park, boasts more than 800 miles of maintained trails.
Escape the City
69. At New Orlean's Audobon Park you can walk among magnolia and stately oaks, or spend a few quiet minutes at the Beauz Arts fountain.
70. Treat your pup to a fun outing at the Dog Beach Paw Playground at Florida's Fort De Soto Park.
71. Savannah's Squares are the icons of this Southern city. You might recognize Chippewa Square as the bus stop where Tom Hanks sat in Forrest Gump.
72. Find all kinds of fun things for the family at Houston's Discovery Green.
73. Inspired by the English countryside, Blount Cultural Park is a beautiful spot within Montgomery.
74. Take a stroll in Ansley Park, a garden neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places in Atlanta.
Ride a Bike
76. Greeneville's 13.5-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail is the perfect spot for a leisurely ride with the family.
77. Set on the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain, the Tammany Trace trail leads to scenic views and great picnic spots.
78. Austin's 10-mile Lady Bird Bike Trail gives riders a great view of downtown.
79. Looking for a little adventure? Check out Oak Mountain State Park's off-road bike trails for all levels of biking experience.
Explore Literary Sites
80. Visit the Old Monroe County Courthouse in Alabama that served as inspiration for Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.
81. The Tennessee Williams Home in Columbus, Mississippi is the first home of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.
82. Take a tour of William Faulkner's Oxford and see his home, the model for the house in The Sound and the Fury, and his grave.
83. Vist the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, the home to the famous writing couple where he wrote his famous Tender is the Night.
84. Visit Washington, D.C. at the most beautiful time of the year for the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
85. Kentucky is known for its smooth bourbon, so celebrate the libation with a 6-day Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown.
86. Savannah goes seriously green each spring, hosting the second-largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the country on March 17.
87. Celebrate the Saints' version of Fat Tuesday by watching a float or two go by at those famous annual Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans.
88. Gaze at the hot-air balloons as they fly up, up, and away at the Alabama Jubilee Hot-Air Balloon Classic & Music Festival in Decatur during Memorial Day weekend.
Take Your Breath Away
89. With soaring cliffs and majestic arches, Kentucky's Red River Gorge is an awe-inspiring place to visit, especially the view from Chimney Top Rock.
90. Dozens of waterfalls tumble throughout West North Carolina, with two—Glen Falls and Bridal Veil Falls—located about 3 miles from Highlands, North Carolina.
91. Salute the setting sun at the daily Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square in Key West.
92. West Virginia's New River Gorge is breathtaking—especially when viewed from 876 feet above the gorge on Bridge Day.
93. Half a dozen cascades spill from a 60-foot-high limestone cliff into a moss- and fern-draped grotto at Gorman Falls in Texas.
94. Visit The South's arch country at The Cumberland Plateau and see the South Arch, which arcs to a height of 70 feet and covers a span of more than 135 feet.
95. For an unforgettable experience, make the trek to Texas' Enchanted Rock for an unmatched view of the sunset. And listen up! It's rumored the rock talks.
96. Frolic behind Grotto Falls in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
97. The memorials on The Mall in Washington, D.C. are awe inspiring and a must for any visitor to the capitol. View Lincoln overlooking the Reflecting Pool, Jefferson standing by the Tidal Basin, and honor our soldiers at the WWII Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
98. Drive down Monument Avenue in Virginia's capitol of Richmond and view monuments for Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, and Stonewall Jackson.
99. Honor the Civil Rights Movement by joining hands around the fountain at the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery.
100. Remember and honor the nation's war heroes at Arlington National Cemetery.
101. Salute a WWII hero at the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk.