Summer travel '09: Freebies across the USA

Even in hard times, everyone deserves fun in the sun. To kick off the summer travel season, USA TODAY's Travel staff tracked down free events and attractions in every state (and the District of Columbia).


Local luminaries show off their sweet home Alabama in 30-plus communities Saturdays in June via walking tours of historic districts. Convening at courthouse squares, public libraries, city halls and the like, the hour-long tours are punctuated with personal reminiscences. 800-252-2262;— Jayne Clark


Even if you aren't feeling flush, a visit to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway is especially rewarding this year, thanks to a new donation of memorabilia. A portion of the Rapuzzi Collection — an estimated 450,000 historical objects from the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 — are on display at the park's visitor center and museum. Ranger-led walks through town also are available. 907-983-2921,— Chris Gray Faust


The Sonoran Desert skies are among the best for stargazing — which is why the world's largest collection of optical research telescopes is housed at Kitt Peak National Observatory, 56 miles southwest of Tucson on the Tohono O'odham Reservation. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the visitor center has self-guided walking tours and downloadable audio tours. 520-318-8726,— Chris Gray Faust


Who knew Arkansas had its own wine country? For that matter, who knew Arkansas had a Paris? Both lie in the bucolic Arkansas River Valley, northwest of Little Rock, where four wineries on Highway 186 South — Mount Bethel, Post Familie Winery, Wiederkehr Wine Cellars and Chateau Aux Arc — offer free tours and tastings. Nearby in Paris, Cowie Wine Cellars harbors the Arkansas Historic Wine Museum. 800-628-8725,— Jayne Clark


Nothing says endless summer more than a concert on the beach. From June 19-Sept. 4, Santa Cruz will host Free Friday Night Bands on the Beach at the bandstand near the boardwalk. The lineup is heavy on the '80s, with acts such as The Fixx, Loverboy and Scandal on tap. Two shows nightly. 831-423-5590,— Chris Gray Faust


There's a real-life Jurassic Park at Dinosaur Ridge, where visitors can view fossils and bones from ancient creatures such as allosaurus, apatosaurus and stegosaurus. In Morrison, about 20 miles from Denver, the National Natural Landmark has a visitor center and free trail maps. 303-697-3466,— Chris Gray Faust


In New Haven, home to Yale University, the International Festival of Arts & Ideas features hundreds of performances and discussions on everything from civil liberties to Slavic Soul, a blend of "fiery Balkan brass and hip-grinding American soul." About 80% of the doings, which extend June 13-27, are free. 888-278-4332,—Laura Bly


Located in a restored World War II hangar, the Dover Air Mobility Command Museum on Dover Air Force Base is dedicated to airlift and air refueling history. It features a variety of artifacts and vintage aircraft, including a C-47A that flew during the 1944 D-Day invasion, and junior pilots age 10 and up can take the controls of a free flight simulator. 302-677-5938;— Laura Bly


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