Free Things to Do in America

From Kentucky to Vermont and Utah, fun times don’t have to cost a lot

Just because the temperature has dropped a few degrees doesn’t mean you have to stay at home watching Netflix.

If the winter blues are making you stir crazy, fear not: There’s plenty of excitement to be had across America. From sampling maple syrup in Vermont to following the Freedom Trail in Massachusetts, you don’t have to leave the U.S.—or break your budget—to have an amazing adventure.

Check out these seven fun activities you can enjoy in these states for free. Note that, in 2020, it’s imperative to check websites and social media updates beforehand to ensure that your destination is open and accepting visitors at the time you arrive.

Morse Farms Maple Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free Things to Do in Vermont: Taste Maple Syrup

Don’t leave Vermont without sampling some authentic maple syrup. You’ll find plenty of maple farms in the Green Mountain State, and some of them offer free tastings. At Sugarbush Farm in Woodstock, for example, you can get free admission and try four grades of pure Vermont maple syrup.

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free Things to Do in Massachusetts: Follow the Freedom Trail

You can’t follow the yellow brick road in Boston, but you can follow a red line that guides you along the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail. Visit 16 official sites that are significant in the history of the American Revolution, from the Old Corner Bookstore to the site of the Boston Massacre.

And don’t forget about Faneuil Hall, which hosted America’s first town meeting. These days, you can shop, eat, and enjoy live musical performances in the market.

Buffalo Trace Distillery tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free Things to Do in Kentucky: Drink Bourbon

Kentucky is known for its bourbon, so why not take a tour of the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort? All tours are complimentary, and the Trace Tour doesn’t require a reservation. You’ll see bourbon barrels and get to sample some of the best local liquor. Extend your travels on the Bourbon Trail.

Shiner beer © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free Things to Do in Texas: Tour a Brewery and Sample Beer in Shiner

Speaking of beloved American beverages… Shiner, Texas is home to 2,069 people, Friday’s Fried Chicken, and—most famously—the Spoetzal Brewery where every drop of Shiner beer is brewed. Tours are offered throughout the week, where visitors can see how every last drop of their popular brews get made. Tours and samples are free. Founded in 1909, the little brewery today sends more than 6 million cases of delicious Shiner beer to states across the country. Founder, Kosmos Spoetzal, would be pretty proud! To which we say “Prosit!”

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free Things to Do in Virginia: Wander Colonial Williamsburg 

Explore Colonial Williamsburg in the city of Williamsburg. Visitors typically drop a bit of cash to tour the 18th century buildings in Colonial Williamsburg, but if you keep your wanderings to commercial shops and the city streets, you don’t have to spend a dime.

You’ll be highly entertained as you explore the government buildings, shops, homes, gardens, and taverns of Williamsburg and viewing free outdoor entertainment like re-enactment actors firing cannons. Enter the residents’ homes or learn about their workplaces; see where they sleep, where they eat, and where they socialize.

Valley of the Gods © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free Things to Do in Utah: Explore the Valley of the Gods

This little valley near Bluff, Utah is filled with sandstone formations and starry night skies. Located in the southeastern corner of Utah it is out of the way of the main national park loop.

To drive through the Valley of the Gods you will take a 17-mile, unpaved loop. Similar to Monument Valley, but only a quarter of the size, it remains quiet and peaceful.

Holmes County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Free Things to Do in Ohio: Experience the Past in the Present in Holmes County

The Amish have established themselves in the Holmes County area, and it is estimated that one in every six Amish in the world live in this area. The Amish choose to live a simple way of life, which is clearly evident by the presence of horses and buggies, handmade quilts, and lack of electricity in Amish homes.

Holmes County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along the byway you will be treated to the typical, yet breathtaking sights of Amish Country: teams of huge, blonde Belgians pulling wagons of hay, farmers working in the fields and of course, beautiful views of lush, green farmland, large white houses, and red barns.

Worth Pondering…

America is laced with nooks and crannies, good places that go undiscovered by many mainstream travelers.

Historic Triangle: 400 Years & Counting

Virginia’s Historic Triangle is full of living history and fun for the whole family

Traveling through America the past is often hidden, masked by strip malls and suburban sprawl. However, restoration and reconstruction projects are occurring in cities and towns across the nation to preserve our past for future generations.

The Historic Triangle is formed by Historic Jamestowne, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown Battlefield, three cities that were instrumental in America’s development, freedom, and democracy.

Historic Jamestowne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On May 14, 1607, the ships sent by the Virginia Company of London, the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, landed at Jamestown Island with 104 passengers—all men and boys. They began building America’s first permanent English settlement, predating Plymouth in Massachusetts by 13 years.

Historic Jamestowne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Decimated by disease, famine, and Indian attacks, less than half of them survived the first year. However, with more settlers arriving every year and the establishment of their first cash crop, the tiny settlement began to flourish.

Historic Jamestown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Through living history, a film, and gallery exhibits, the aspirations of these pioneers and the hardships they faced are depicted at Jamestown Settlement. Located about a mile from the original site, Jamestown Settlement is 10 minutes from Williamsburg, Jamestown’s successor as capital of the Virginia colony.

Historic Jamestown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your visit to Jamestown Settlement begins with an introductory film that presents an overview of Jamestown’s origins in England and the early years of the colony. Exhibition galleries chronicle the nation’s pre-17th-century beginnings in Virginia in the context of its Powhatan Indian, English, and western central African cultures.

Leaving the indoor exhibits, visitors arrive at the Powhatan Indian village where costumed interpreters discuss and demonstrate the Powhatan way of life. From the Indian village, a path leads to a pier where the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discover are docked. Visitors can talk with costumed interpreters about the four-and-a-half month voyage from England.

Historic Jamestown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Triangular Fort James is a recreation of the one constructed by the Jamestown colonist on their arrival in 1607. Inside the wooden stockade are wattle-and-daub structures and thatched roofs representing Jamestown’s earliest buildings including dwellings, a church, a storehouse, and an armory.

More settlements followed and it was in Williamsburg that the seeds of revolution were sown by the intellectual and independent thinkers who flocked to the city.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Become a resident of a city on the verge of war—or in the midst of it—as you explore the government buildings, shops, homes, gardens, and taverns of Williamsburg. Encounter townspeople on their own soil as they live through a time of change and uncertainty. Buzzing with political discussion and dispute, the city comes alive. Enter the residents’ homes or learn about their workplaces; see where they sleep, where they eat, and where they socialize.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many of the buildings, like the Courthouse, Magazine, and Wetherburn’s Tavern, have stood in Williamsburg since the 18th century. Others, like the Capitol and Governor’s Palace, have been reconstructed on their original foundations. Some of the buildings are used as private residences and offices. Flags out front indicate areas open to guests.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The port city of Yorktown forms the third point of the Historic Triangle, famous for its decisive battle and end to the Revolutionary War.

Yorktown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you stroll through historic Yorktown, let the past envelop you as you immerse yourself in 300 years of history. Here you can experience many 18th century homes, visit the location where the surrender terms for the Battle of Yorktown were negotiated or the home of the Virginia militia with its walls still bearing the scars of cannonballs fired upon the village in 1781. Explore the battlefields, fortifications, and historic buildings where American independence was won.

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Americans won their independence here during the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War on October 19, 1781, when British troops surrendered to General George Washington and his French allies.

Colonial Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, Yorktown Battlefield is joined by the scenic Colonial Parkway to Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestown and is located just 12 miles east of Williamsburg.

Worth Pondering…

On the whole, I find nothing anywhere else…which Virginia need envy.

—Thomas Jefferson

The Absolute Best Places to RV This May

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are our picks for the best places to RV in May

May is like the Friday of months. No, you’re not quite to summer yet, but already people are making vacation plans, and generally slowing down after a nose-to-the-grindstone winter and spring. It’s the kickoff of fun season, when amusement parks open and beach town parking lots start filling up.

But it’s only the cusp of Summer, and you’ll find many destinations are still relatively empty and affordable—and some places really make the most of the pre-summer anticipation. So both at home and abroad, here are five spots you should absolutely check out for your May travels.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Alabama

Before the summer crowds take over the glorious beaches of Alabama’s Gulf Coast, there’s this little beach concert in Gulf Shores called the Hangout Music Festival the weekend before Memorial Day.

Alabama Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Up the road in Montgomery, the most underrated city in Alabama opened the Legacy Museum in April 2018. Housed in an old slave warehouse, the museum chronicles the African-American experience “from slavery to mass incarceration,” in the museum’s words. It’s a chilling look at the history of black America.

Old Talbott Tavern, Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Louisville, Kentucky

OK, it’s no big secret that the only horse race most people can name happens in May. And it’s also no secret the Kentucky Derby is the only thing most people can tell you about Louisville. So maybe if you’re making your way to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, you should also take some time to check out other stuff the city has to offer.

Jim Beam American Stillhouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Try some of the legendary restaurants in the city, or head to the East Market District of Downtown, also referred to as NuLu (New Louisville) neighborhood that is becoming known for unique art galleries, specialty stores, antique shops, and a growing number of local restaurants. On the first Friday of the month, hop aboard a ZeroBus for the First Friday Hop. It’s an all-in-one art show, shopping adventure, and street party.

Heaven Hill Bourbon

Check out Muth’s Candies (home of the famous Modjeska—a caramel-covered marshmallow confection) and Joe Ley Antiques (an 1890s schoolhouse filled with two acres of treasures). 

Need a sugar fix while you’re out shopping? Head over to Please & Thank You, home of what’s touted as the world’s best chocolate chip cookie. The café and record shop sells coffee, sweets, sandwiches, and more. Enjoy a cup of java as you peruse the vinyl record selection.

Makers Mark © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Then there’s the nearby Kentucky Bourbon Trail, full of nearly a dozen distilleries with names like Jim Beam, Makers Mark, and Evan Williams.

If you’re in town for the Derby you don’t even need to attend the race to have fun. This is, after all, one of the biggest party weekends in any city all year.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Bisbee, Arizona

Southeastern Arizona’s Mule Mountains provide out-of-towners the freedom to set out on cactus-dotted hiking trails and discover old copper mines. The thrill of discovery, peaks when happening upon Bisbee, a mining-town-turned-arts-colony tucked into the desert.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Explore Old Bisbee for a history lesson and museum tour as you travel on foot up Main Street to Tombstone Canyon. Next, browse the countless art galleries, studios, and bungalow-style houses that pepper the Warren District. Stop at Mimosa Market, a 100-year-old neighborhood grocer that has mastered the craft of sandwich making. Spend the night at an eccentric sleeping habitat, perhaps a retro Airstream or vintage bus at The Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Columbia, South Carolina

Just a two hour drive from Charleston, stately Columbia has plenty going on in spring, from weekly markets to kayaking on the Saludia River. An interesting time to visit is late May to early June, when a rare viewing of synchronous fireflies turns nearby Congaree National Park into a scene from Disney’s Fantasia, causing the swamps to glow with thousands of tiny humming insects. The fireflies in Congaree will blink in unison on evenings with the right weather conditions. Best of all, the action happens less than a quarter mile from the parking lot, so you won’t have to battle a two-hour hike to witness the breathtaking light show.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Colonial Williamsburg isn’t just a reenactment and it isn’t just a restoration. It’s a 300-acre historic area that attracts nearly 1 million visitors every year. Tour the blacksmith shop, let the kids play Revolutionary Era games, and watch live moments in America’s past.

Historic Jamestown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

And, then visit the Jamestown settlement and Yorktown battleground for a full historical experience.

Worth Pondering…

Remember, don’t sweat the small stuff. Life’s too short, and the older I get, the shorter it gets. So, just enjoy your life, do the best you can, live according to the Golden Rule and LIVE, LOVE & LAUGH!

6 Perfect Destinations to Take Your RV This Spring

Winter has finally come to an end, which means road trip season is here

Spring is so close we can taste it, making us yearn for the open road and adventurous, memory-building destinations that allow us to let loose our inner-trailblazer.

All signs are pointing to a spring RV excursion! And to get rolling, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite destinations that are ideal for the RV adventurers.

San Antonio River Walk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

San Antonio, Texas

Arguably, the state’s most beautiful city, San Antonio has much to offer. Fantastic museums, San Antonio River Walk, La Villita, HemisFair Park, Tower of the Americas, El Mercado, King William Historic District, and, of course, The Alamo are but a few of its highlights. And if you like the Alamo, you’ll love the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, a string of several 15th- and 16th-century Spanish missions in and around the city.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Fiesta San Antonio (April 18-28, in 2019) started in 1891 as a one-parade event as a way to honor the memory of the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. It has grown into a celebration of San Antonio’s rich and diverse cultures.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Admire the grandeur and wonders of the Grand Canyon, a powerful and inspiring landscape that overpowers our senses through its immense size. You won’t find similar mixtures of color and erosional formations anywhere else. The canyon is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and about a mile deep, according to the National Park Service.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

A universally recognizable iconic destination, Grand Canyon National Park is a true marvel of nature. Just about everywhere you look the views are amazing and the sheer size of it can be overwhelming.

Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina

The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the country. People come for the more than 800 miles of recreation trails that wind through breathtaking scenery, and beautiful wildflowers. In fact, the park is home to the largest number of flowering plants of any park in the country—more than 1,600 different species.

Cades Cove, Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

On the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains, tens of thousands of horny, synchronous fireflies put on a psychedelic fireworks show. They gather near the Elkmont Campground (approximately 6 miles from Sugarlands Visitor Center), flashing simultaneously as part of a two-week mating ritual that lights up the entire forest and draws spectators from around the world. Visit between late May and mid-June, and make reservations in advance.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Explore Colonial Williamsburg in the city of Williamsburg. You’ll be highly entertained as you explore the government buildings, shops, homes, gardens, and taverns of Williamsburg and viewing free outdoor entertainment like re-enactment actors firing cannons. Enter the residents’ homes or learn about their workplaces; see where they sleep, where they eat, and where they socialize.

Historic Jamestown Settlement © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

And the Jamestown Settlement and the Battleground of Yorktown are just a stone’s throw from the city.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

La Conner, Washington

La Conner is one of those places that people love to visit—time and time again. The reasons are many, but one that stands out is that there are so many things to do in—and around—La Conner. A waterfront village in northwestern Washington, La Conner is nestled beside the Swinomish Channel near the mouth of the Skagit River.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

La Conner is a unique combination of fishing village, artists’ colony, eclectic shops, historic buildings, and tourist destination. Relax by the water, enjoy fine restaurants, browse through unique shops and art galleries, and visit the beautiful tulip fields of Skagit Valley.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree is a diverse area of sand dunes, dry lakes, flat valleys, extraordinarily rugged mountains, granitic monoliths, and oases. The park is home to two deserts: the Colorado which offers low desert formations and plant life, such as ocotillo and teddy bear cholla cactus; and the Mojave. This higher, cooler, wetter region is the natural habitat of the Joshua tree.

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The different elevation throughout the park cause flowers to bloom at different times, with the low elevation flowers blooming earlier than higher elevation flowers. Catch a glimpse of the teddy bear cholla at the low elevations and head to higher ground to see blooms in April May.

Worth Pondering…

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will lead you there.