Okay, we didn’t really count them all, but you can find free wifi almost anywhere these days, in every city in the United States. And when you add up all the locations of all the places we highlight here, it’s probably more than 100,0001. It’s in more places than you’d think — you just have to know where to look.
We all know you can bring your notebook computer down to the closest Starbucks and connect for an hour or two for the cost of a coffee. But with the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee, other finding WiFi at other places can save you a few bucks. Even if you don’t mind the cost, why not add a little variety to where you surf the web?
So let’s take a look at some other places you can connect your phone, tablet or mobile computer to the web.
It’s no secret that just about every coffee shop chain from to Starbucks to Coffee Bean offers free WiFi. But if you look beyond the coffee chains, you’ll find plenty of other retail chains that will let you connect in their stores.
Some food chains like McDonalds, Panera, and Dunkin Donuts have free WiFi. You’ve got to eat, so why not take care of getting on the net at the same time.
Many retail chains, such as Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, Target, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Sam’s Club and Sears also have free WiFi, even though they may not trumpet it on signs. I know, it doesn’t seem very convenient to pull your computers out at the local J.C. Penney, but many of these chains have restaurants or coffee shops in them. And if you just want to check your social media pages and your email, no one is going to kick you out of the store for spending ten minutes in there on your mobile device.
Of course any independent coffee shop that wants stay in business has free WiFi. But what about other types of local retail businesses? Some restaurants that don’t worry about turning tables quickly have WiFi. Bars are starting to hook up wireless as keeping customers in the store sells more alcohol.
Aside from food and drink stores, you can find WiFi in some of places you might not have thought of. For example, hundreds of laundromats now have Wifi installed for their customers. Automotive repair shops have been adding WiFi to their waiting rooms. You might be surprised who has WiFi if you just ask. Of course you can’t just pop into a clothing store and hang around using their connection. But if you are aware of the stores with wireless internet, you can plan ahead and go shopping with you device in hand.
One of the best places you can hop on the internet at is the Public Library. You can sit there all day with your laptop and you won’t even have to order a cup of coffee and no one will tell you to leave. You can’t beat that. Other public municipal buildings such as the courthouse or administration center usually have free wireless. If they try to kick you out of the lobby, tell them you pay your taxes.
You might not be comfortable going to hospitals to use their free WiFi, but if you think about it, they’ve often got some pretty nice lobbies where you can sit all day and pretend you’re there waiting on a patient. Why the heck not when they charge you thousands a day when you visit involuntarily.
Is there an airport nearby? Many have free wireless. Hotel? Even if you aren’t traveling, you might hang out in the lobby. Here’s a 2013 list of hotels with free wifi: http://www.hotelchatter.com/special/free-WiFi-Hotels-2013
Public Open Spaces
There’s a big move afoot for municipalities to install free public WiFi in public places and open spaces. You might be able find a connection in some parks, plazas and other recreational centers. Sometimes it’s a city that spent a small partof their budget to set up wireless the their central park, and other times you’ve got a company like Google who is spending $600,000 to set up WiFi in 31 open areas of San Franciso.
If you go to the website of the city or country in which you live, you’re likely to find a list places. For example, here’s the list of public places in California with free WiFi: http://ca.gov/WiFi/
Should we all be so lucky! Yes, entire cities are covering the area with wireless signals for their residents. It’s likely not in your area yet, but it’s on the way someday. For example, Google is providing free wireless internet to the Chelsea neighborhood in New York, and in Mountain View, CA. Who’s next?
We’re not really advocating that you hop on to your neighbor’s WiFi signal without asking them. But if you are a light web surfer, you might be able to get them to give you their wireless password for beer once a week.
Most people know better, but what if you find that one of your neighbors has not protected their wireless signal with a password? It’s up to you what you do with that, but we can only advise you to not steal their internet. They may have a plan with a data usage limit and you could cost them extra charges. The right thing to do is to tell them about it. They may be so thankful that they’ll let you use it sometimes.
And Where Else?
There are no doubt plenty of other places with free WiFi. And you can find them with some online services devoted to listing them. There are some apps that you can find that will list all the places it knows about in your area that have free WiFi. If you don’t have a device to run an app, go to your public library, hop on a computer, and search for “free wifi” along with your city name and you’ll find some lists.