Free in the USA: A selection of parks, museums, collections, and roadside attractions where admission is always free

There are lots of lists touting great free places to visit. But it turns out these places aren't exactly free, or even places. Some are free only one day a week. Others are free but they are special events. A few say they are free, but then set an amount for a voluntary donation, or say that admission is by free will donation. But we've done the research and found places to visit that are always free admission.

Here are some of the unexpected finds from across the USA from the book Free in the USA: 1800+ parks, museums, collections, and roadside attractions where admission is always free

American Toby Jug Museum

specializes in an unusual form of pottery. It's a jug dating back to the 1760s in the form of a seated person, or the head of a famous person. He is usually a heavy-set, smiling man holding a mug of beer and often wearing 18th century attire. The museum houses over 8,000 Toby and Character jugs in ninety-seven cabinets, and is said to be the largest collection of its kind in the world. Located in Evanston, Illinois the museum is open Noon to 5 PM Friday through Sunday and by appointment.

Arctic Interagency Visitor Center

explores the Arctic Circle through exhibits, walks along the nearby nature trails, and special evening programs on the unique landscapes and history of the Far North. Located in Coldfoot, Alaska, the center is open daily in summer and their staff offers programs at 8 PM every evening. Call the visitor center at 907-678-5209 for the latest schedule.

Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass

holds the largest, most representative collection of glass paperweights in the world. There's also Germanic drinking vessels, and jaw-dropping contemporary glass sculpture. Located in Neenah, Wisconsin the museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 AM to 4:30 PM and on Thursday open until 8 PM. Open Sunday from 1 to 4:30 PM.

Fossil Park

encourages visitors to become fossil hunters. The fossils come from Hanson Aggregate, the Midwest's large working quarries, and contains fossils from the Devonian period. Although you can't use tools, you can keep anything you find in the soft shale. The ADA accessible rock quarry is located in Sylvania, Ohio and is generally open daily from 9 AM to 8 PM.

Grant Wood Home and Studio

was where the artist lived and painted from 1922 to 1935. His most famous work, American Gothic, was painted in this studio in 1930. Located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa the Grant Wood Studio is owned and operated by the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. Note: Although the studio and home is free, there is a fee to visit the museum. Explore Iowa's Grant Wood Trail to different locations throughout Iowa to see some of his works of art and to learn more about his life and times. American Gothic House, also known as the Dibble House, is a house in Eldon, Iowa and is also free to visit.

Historic Sahuaro Ranch

offers a look at Arizona ranch life from the late 1800s to the 1930s. Explore the 13 original buildings set amid 17 acres including a rose garden, barnyard, and historic orchards in Glendale Arizona. Tours of the historic main house are also free and offered on Friday through Sunday from September through May. Limited schedule in June and July.

Houdini Museum of New York at Fantasma Magic

displays several hundred objects that were used and personally belonged to Harry Houdini (born Erik Weisz). An animatronic Houdini even escapes from a straitjacket dangling from the ceiling. The store, located in New York City, is open daily.

Niagara Power Vista

highlights the science and the power of energy generation. Exhibits include a Virtual Reality ride, hands-on experiments, and the geology of Niagara. You can even walk through a turbine. Located in Lewiston, New York, it's one of several centers operated across the region. All of them offer free admission. Open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Yale Collection of Musical Instruments

permanently displays historic keyboard instruments including 28 clavichords, harpsichords, and pianos from the 16th through the 20th centuries. A smart phone audio tour features restored instruments in live performance. Open September through July on Tuesday through Friday from 1 PM to 4 PM, and on Sunday open until 5 PM. Note: Due to renovations, museum is closed to the public until February 2020.

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Neala McCarten



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