Summer travel '09: Freebies across the USA

Through the last Sunday in October, park rangers give daily tours of a little ranch house on the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in the Flint Hills region and talk about its flora, fauna and Native American history. Visitors can cover six miles on a bus free, or hoof it on nature trails. 620-273-8494;— Kitty Bean Yancey


When the moon is full (and two days before and after) and conditions are right (no rain), a lunar rainbow, or moonbow, appears in the mist of an almost seven-story waterfall at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in southeastern Kentucky near Corbin. Park programs illuminate the phenomenon, plus a new astronomy center allows visitors to view the night sky at any time of the month. 800-325-0063,— Jayne Clark


On a windy day on Avery Island in the marshy heart of Cajun country, you can smell the Capsicum frutescens, the ingredient that gives Tabasco Pepper Sauce its signature kick. The tiny red pepper isn't native to this area, but the fiery condiment, manufactured on the 2,600-acre private island for 141 years, is its claim to fame. Factory tours include a short film and a look at bottling and packaging operations. 800-634-9599,— Jayne Clark


Even if the lousy economy puts a crimp on sales of L.L. Bean kayaks and sailing gear this summer, cash-strapped shoppers at the company's flagship store in Freeport can tune in to local and national artists at the 11th annual Summer Concert Series. This year's lineup includes Patty Loveless and Asleep at the Wheel; shows start at 7:30 on Saturday nights from June 27-Sept. 6. 877-755-2326;— Laura Bly


Family-friendlyOcean City courts kids and their parents with an array of free summer diversions, from movie nights, concerts and storytelling around a bonfire to shows and demonstrations at the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum and Tuesday evening "beach Olympics" (who knew sand castle building could be so competitive? 800-626-2326;— Laura Bly


Mentioned as fictional marine biologist Matt Hooper's former hangout in the blockbuster Jaws, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is the country's largest independent oceanographic research institution. Daily walking tours are offered during the summer, and visitors can watch a video that shows a day in the life of the deep submersible Alvin and highlights the 1985-86 discovery and exploration of the wreck of the Titanic. 508-289-2252;— Laura Bly


You don't have to join the Navy or take a cruise to see movies on the deck of a World War II-era tank carrier this summer. Most Friday nights at twilight from June 12-Sept. 18, the retired U.S LST 393, docked in Muskegon, will host family films on deck under the stars. Selections include the naval themed Up Periscope and Operation Petticoat. 800-250-9283;— Kitty Bean Yancey


If you believe in the mythical behemoth woodsman Paul Bunyan, lots of U.S. towns tout Bunyan connections. Tiny Akeley, about 3½ hours north of Minneapolis by car, is one that lays claim to being his birthplace. Visitors can pose in a large wooden cradle or sit in the palm of a 25-foot Paul Bunyan statue. Other Minnesota venues with Bunyan connections or attractions include Brainerd, Kelliher and Bemidji.— Kitty Bean Yancey


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