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Free to See: U.S. Architecture

Architecture and design buffs are in luck: There are a number of free tours, open houses, and guides. Check this list for our top picks. Sponsored by Toyota Venza

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The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, is a landmark piece of American architecture.


New York, New York

The annual October openhousenewyork (OHNY) weekend is the largest architecture and design event in America—and it's all free. Tours, talks, performances, and workshops help guests explore and understand the built environment of all five boroughs. Other OHNY programs continue throughout the year.

The Historic New Orleans Collection

New Orleans, Louisiana

Docent-guided tours from this French Quarter museum and research center are available for a fee. But a free, self-guided version can be downloaded to an iPod or other compatible device, which lets you explore the quarter's historic buildings and courtyards at your own pace.

San Francisco City Guides

San Francisco, California

This volunteer group gives free tours of the city, many of which have architectural themes, including Victorian San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Pacific Heights Mansions, and Rising Steel: Two Centuries of San Francisco Architecture.

Chicago Architecture Foundation

Chicago, Illinois

This foundation is a must-visit for architectural enthusiasts, and outstanding exhibitions like the Chicago Model City and Neighborhoods Go Green are absolutely free. Many lectures and programs here are also free to the public.

Gateway Arch

St. Louis, Missouri

It's free to get inside this iconic, stainless steel structure. The view will cost you, however: There is a fee for the tram ride to the top. The Arch is just one stop on a larger, free architectural walking tour of St. Louis.

Architecture Month

Honolulu, Hawaii

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Honolulu hosts Architecture Month each April. Enjoy free tours of Chinatown and notable Honolulu buildings, architecture talks and films, and even studio tours at local architectural design firms.

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

La Jolla, California

When Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine, established the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, he wanted a facility that could inspire groundbreaking science within its walls. Louis I. Kahn delivered, and the spectacular buildings and courtyards he designed by the sea are so striking that free, guided architectural tours are offered each weekday at noon. Reserve in advance online.

Landmark Center and Rice Park

St. Paul, Minnesota

The Landmark Center, itself a century-old icon of the upper Midwest, offers free architecture tours that take visitors inside other buildings surrounding Rice Park.

Art Deco

Miami, Florida

Love art deco? Then chances are you already love Miami. Check out our guide to some of the top spots in terms of art deco architecture, along with a map and tour route to let you roam the streets at your own pace. The area is especially hopping in January during the annual Art Deco Weekend.

Common Boston

Boston, Massachusetts

In June the Boston Society of Architects puts on a free festival of architecture and design that celebrates neighborhoods all over the city. Common Boston's talks, tours, and debates sustain a lively dialogue on the creative urban environment.

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