Best Things In Life

11 Great Urban Adventures You Can Enjoy For Practically Free

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Going on a vacation is always a fun idea, but what happens when that budget of yours gets in the way? There are ways to stretch your dollars and have a good time, whether you are visiting someplace new or looking for some adventure in your own neighborhood.

Here are some ideas for gay (or gayish) places to go (or stay) without breaking the bank.

1. GLBT History Museum, San Francisco


We all have that young twink friend who thinks being LGBTQ means nothing more than getting on Grindr and waiting for an older man to give him a compliment. These children need to be educated, and it is earlier generations’ responsibility to teach them. A great place to start: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Museum in San Francisco, a.k.a. the “queer Smithsonian,” where interactive exhibits and performances highlight the fight for equality in the U.S. Admission: $5, but give more if you can afford it.

2. Governors Island, New York City (between lower Manhattan and Brooklyn)
Take a ferry from either Manhattan or Brooklyn to Governors Island, an island in New York Harbor that once served as a military base and is now home to a park. Art installations, food trucks on weekends, and gorgeous views of NYC await. The island is still under renovation, so more improvements are yet to come. Cost of the ferry: $2.

3. National Museum of Funeral History, Houston


You can learn a lot about life by studying the way people view death. At the National Museum of Funeral History, exhibits celebrate the pageantry of funerals. Despite the morbid subject matter, the museum is surprisingly engaging and educational, and with the artifacts from celebrity deaths, it is even entertaining. If you are lucky, you may catch the traveling exhibit about mummification. Cost: $10.

4. Crystal Bridges, Bentonville, Ark.


Pay attention, people: you need to go to Arkansas and visit this museum. You may think Crystal Bridges is just another art museum in the middle of America, but it is actually a cultural jewel. We have written about our love of this place before. The permanent collection is quite engaging and diverse, although the art can be grouped into three categories: nudes of young gay men, portraits of high society women who may be drunk, and pop art by artists whose names you may recognize (Warhol, Lichtenstein, etc.). Plus there is a Keith Haring sculpture in the courtyard that befuddles the locals, and watching that is always fun. Cost: free!

5. Multnomah Falls, near Portland, Ore.

Oregon is peppered with waterfalls, and the grand dame is Multnomah Falls, approximately a half-hour east of Portland. The waterfall itself is split into two sections; walk up to the lower bridge and enjoy the view, feeling the non-chlorinated mist on your face. For the brave souls who do not fear heights, there is a path up the mountain (up and down is 2 1/2 miles) to the source of the waterfall, and it is a lovely view, but the path is very narrow and there are no guard rails to keep you from tumbling down the side of the mountain. So keep that in mind. The view from the bridge is really nice. Cost: free!

6. Japanese Friendship Garden, San Jose, Calif.


In the hub of Silicon Valley, amidst all the tech gurus whose lives revolve around devices, is the lovely Japanese Friendship Garden, perfect for an afternoon stroll. Sculptured trees, a pond, and flowers (depending on the season) make a serene scene. Detatch from The Matrix and soak in a little nature. Admission: free, although parking is $6 per car.

7. Wolfsonian Museum, Miami Beach


The Wolfsonian‘s mission is to document “post World War II” artifacts, and the institution is unofficially the museum of the Art Deco District of South Beach, the historical neighborhood of Miami Beach that grew with the influx of soldiers and refugees after the war ended. The exhibitions detail the experience of America through displays of political propaganda, as well as how Americans’ lives were shaped by the influence of interior design. It’s quite interesting, and the perfect respite from the debauchery of South Beach. And The Wrestler (above) is quite the sexy fellow. Cost: $10.

8. Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta


The history of civil rights and personal liberty are on display at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, an interactive museum in Atlanta. The LGBTQ experience is part of their mission, both as a unique element in the struggle and as a driving force for equality of all persons in society. The permanent exhibition is interesting, and watch the calendar for LGBT-specific programming. Cost: $16

9. Pure Detroit Tour, Detroit


It is true, Detroit has seen better days, but that is part of what makes this great American city so interesting. Take a tour with Pure Detroit and see some of the artistic and architectural gems from the city’s brighter past, including the Guardian Building (above). See the web site for options of where the tours go. Cost: free!

10. Northalsted Market Days, Chicago


Plan a trip to Chicago in August for Northalsted Market Days, one of the biggest outdoor street festivals in the U.S. Music, drag, and of course dancing fills the stages and streets. This isn’t technically a “pride” event, but it is a celebration of the neighborhood otherwise known as “Boystown,” so you do the math. A $10 “donation” is “suggested” to get in. Then because August is a scorcher in Chicago, head north to Hollywood Beach, the gay beach on Lake Michigan.

11. Aloft Hotels Concert Series


Check out the live, complementary, concert series from Aloft Hotels. Artists have included The Lumineers, Ed Sheeran, Green River Ordinance, and Better Than Ezra. For a complete and up-to-date list of all performances, visit and join the conversation @AloftHotels using#AloftLive. Cost: Free

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