You know about the beaches; now go hiking in Franklin Canyon or stroll through one of L.A.'s ethnic enclaves: from Little Tokyo, near downtown, to west L.A.'s Ethiopian district, near Fairfax.
A day at Griffith Observatory or at the Getty Museum costs nothing. The Museum of Contemporary Art is free on Thursday evenings, the fossils at the La Brea Tar Pits' Page Museum are free on the first Tuesday of each month, and the L.A. County Museum of Art is free from 5:00 p.m. until closing.
There's no charge to watch most TV shows get taped. Some have tickets the day they tape; for others you'll need to reserve a spot weeks in advance (try tvtix.com, which has tickets for New York City shows, too).
Bikers and hikers enjoy KATY Trail, a railroad right of way turned scenic path. There's also Boonesfield Village (636-798-2005), where Daniel Boone once lived, plus farmers' markets such as Kirkwood and Tower Grove.
The Museum of Westward Expansion at the Gateway Arch is free, as are the St. Louis Zoo, Grant's Farm (the former Ulysses S. Grant homestead, now an animal preserve), the St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Louis Science Center, and the Laumiere Sculpture Park Art Museum.
The Route 66 Festival on October 9 and 10 is held on both sides of the old Chain of Rocks Bridge—the longest pedestrian bridge in the United States—and the Big Muddy Blues Festival is on Labor Day weekend. Best of all? The Anheuser-Busch Brewery offers free tours—and free samples.
NEW YORK CITY
Big Apple Greeter matches you with a local who'll share a neighborhood's history and hot spots (book a month in advance, 212-669-8159). Plus, there's a free Union Square walking tour on Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. (212-517-1826). The Central Park Conservancy provides ten different tours of the park (212-360-2726).
A list of freebies is at ny.com/museums/free.html. The Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim are free on Friday evenings.
Check out Shakespeare in the Park, June 10 through August 30. Get free tix at Central Park's Delacorte Theater the day of a show; line up by 6:00 a.m. for a hot play with big buzz (212-539-8500).
Beware the Dreaded Asterisk
Why? Because it usually means the advertised price is not what you'll actually pay. I recently found a flight from New York City to London for $226, followed by the asterisk. Turns out there's a $25 handling fee, a 3 percent service fee, a nearly $15 tax, and international taxes and fees of $250. Likewise, I found a Baltimore-to-Bermuda cruise starting at $599 per person. But that doesn't include fees and taxes ($101.08), plus extra fees for shore excursions, specialty restaurants, drinks, and other expenses. Bottom line: Scrutinize the fine print before giving your credit card number.