IT was recently browsing National Geographic Traveler’s free cities index, with hundreds of listings on how to spend your down time without spending a dime. What we were surprised to discover, is that many cities—and the more expensive ones at that—offer free tours by local guides.
Want to see Pacific Heights’ mansions? The Coit Tower murals? How about “bawdy and naughty” sites? San Francisco’s City Guides offers a wealth of themed tours—more than 70—that encompass the city’s rich cultural history.
Chicago’s Greeter Program features local experts on more than 25 neighborhoods as well as themed tours including antiques, literature, the Chicago Fire, farmers markets, Ukranian American heritage— there’s something for everyone.
If you’ve just got to know why Benjamin Franklin electrocuted a turkey, try Washington DC By Foot. Guides in blue T-shirts offer quirky monument tours rain or shine, six days a week.
New York’s Big Apple Greeters welcome visitors in 22 languages and observe a strict “no tipping” policy. While they don’t give formal tours, they’ll show you the ropes on the subway and give you inside tips on where to eat and their favorite sites around the neighborhood. And every Friday at 12:30 p.m., urban historian Justin Ferate gives an acclaimed, 90-minute walking tour of Grand Central Station, for the grand price of: zero dollars.
Now that’s what IT calls a bargain!
- Nat Geo Expeditions