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Free in the USA

1800+ parks, museums, collections, and roadside attractions where admission is always free

The Backstory

This book started out to be something quite different. With a passion for things that are quirky and offbeat, I planned to compile a listing of places to visit across the USA that offered the unusual. Part of that process involved getting information on admission fees. Discovering that some of my favorite places were totally free to visit, I knew I had found the true focus of my book.

Free in the USA was written for people with children, people on a budget, people who are driving across the country, people who want to explore without it costing the earth. This book lets everyone extend vacation dollars. Splurge on that expensive attraction, there are other places to visit that will balance out the cost.

There are lots of articles and lists out there about 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.

The result is this book... 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) with over 1000 towns and 1800+ places to visit where admission is always free.

Here's a sample of what you'll find inside Free in the USA

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.

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.

Arkansas Country Doctor Museum served as the home of three doctors and as a primary clinic from 1936 to 1973. The museum focuses on the life of a small town doctor and the history of medicine as it was practiced in the early 20th century.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

River Music Experience is primarily a venue for performances but their exhibits are free. Visitors can explore the music and musicians who created the roots of today's music from New Orleans to St. Paul and then to Chicago and beyond. Access a database with over 300 biographies, 1,000 audio files, and enjoy in-depth information and samples of America's music on America's river.

Robert C. Williams Paper Museum preserves the history of paper and paper technology, from ancient Sumerian cuneiform tablets and Egyptian papyrus scrolls to the watermarked papers of Italy and the high-tech machinery of the modern paper industry.

St. John's Bible is the first hand-illuminated, hand-written Bible since the invention of the printing press. Calligrapher Donald Jackson, MVO, Scribe to the House of Lords and her majesty Queen Elizabeth II created the Bible with gold and platinum leaf on vellum, using hand-made inks and quills.

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.

Voyage Home Museum proves that the people of Riverside, Iowa have a sense of humor. In 1985 the city proclaimed itself the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk, the Captain of the Star Trek Enterprise. They did so with the agreement Gene Roddenberry who made the famous television series. The city has created the Star Trek Voyage Home Museum in what had been the Riverside History Museum and filled it with Star Trek exhibits as well as exhibits focused on the history of the town.

About the Author

Neala McCarten has led a life marked by detours, starting one place, and ending up somewhere unexpected. Born in New York City she eventually obtaining a Ph.D. in Psychology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook (as Neala Schwartzberg). For the next few years, she wandered through a series of jobs. Asking, Who would I be if I didn't know who I am? she finally decided that she was, at heart, a travel writer. In 2006 Neala quit her job, sold her house in the suburbs, said goodbye to the life she had been living, and headed to the Land of Enchantment. She wrote her first book Offbeat New Mexico: Places of Unexpected History, Art, and Culture to share her enthusiasm and love for New Mexico. But the lure of family was strong. And family had migrated to Florida. In 2018, she packed up and headed for the Sunshine State. She already knows what's coming next... her third book introducing readers to a Florida they didn't know existed.


© 2019