Photograph by Eric Miller, Reuters/Corbis
East Coast Surfing Championships
Virginia Beach, Virginia
See top pro and amateur surfers battle for bragging rights (and cash) during America's oldest surfing competition, held in Virginia Beach each August. It's free to drop a towel or chair on the beach and settle in with your binoculars. Enjoy food and fun while taking in a scene that truly celebrates the seaside lifestyle.
Fighting Illini Olympic Sports
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne
See Big Ten athletes compete in Olympic sports—including track and field, wrestling, baseball, soccer, and swimming—for no charge, courtesy of the University of Illinois athletic department. Many other universities also offer free admission to non-revenue sports.
Ouray Ice Festival
This annual January event is the world's top ice-climbing draw and features a who's who of top climbers eager to test their mettle in Ouray while providing spectators with vicarious thrills. And if you're interested in learning about, or even (gulp) trying ice climbing, Ouray is a perfect place to start.
Cape Cod Baseball League
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Catch future MLB stars in a quintessential summer setting by taking in a Cape Cod Baseball League game. Cape Cod is one of America's top summer collegiate leagues and boasts a storied history. There are no tickets required, but some teams may pass the hat or ask for a donation. And don’t forget to try the tasty hot dogs!
The nation's powerhouse colleges charge big bucks on fall Saturdays, but spring games give fans a chance to catch their favorite teams in action absolutely free. Many spring games also offer up-close interactions like free autograph sessions with players.
Head of the Charles
Billed as the world's biggest two-day rowing event, the Head of the Charles draws more than 300,000 spectators to the banks of Boston's storied rowing river. Plenty of activities, exhibitions, merchandise, and food options add up to a very festive October scene. It's not only free to watch the races, but a free shuttle is available to move spectators around the three-mile course.
San Francisco Marathon
San Francisco, California
San Francisco's famed hills are tough on runners, but they make for one of America's most scenic marathon courses. Participants race through the heart of the City by the Bay in this July event. The vibe among runners and spectators alike is uniquely San Francisco.
Birds of Prey World Cup Race Week
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Beaver Creek is not just the only men's World Cup site in the United States—it's one of the most challenging downhills on the entire FIS circuit. Three free days of world-class downhill, Super G, and Giant Slalom ski racing are combined with celebrations of winter sport. Ice skating is also free.
Philadelphia International Cycling Championship
The oldest and most prestigious single-day road race in the United States covers 156 miles during 10 laps in and around Philadelphia—allowing spectators to watch the race evolve without changing locations. The famed Manayunk Wall, bane of many riders, is a favored viewing spot.
The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships
Lake Nokomis, Minnesota
A childhood dream lived large, the country's biggest outdoor pond hockey extravaganza is held each January. Hundreds of teams descend on the lake to play the game “the way nature intended” and dream of inscribing their names on the Golden Shovel.
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