This post may contain affiliate links. Please read how we make money for more information.
Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to access the internet but you weren’t sure where you could find a free wifi hotspot? Maybe you needed a place where you could get a little work done without having to pay for a connection.
Thankfully, many places offer free internet connections. In some cases, you may even be able to access the wifi connection in their parking lots – no need to go inside and order something just so you don’t look like a freeloader.
If you are searching online for “free wifi near me” in hopes of finding a place to connect, then this list will provide you with some great options.
Table of Contents
Be Careful When Using Public Wifi
Although public wifi is often convenient, you do need to be careful when using it. Because these networks are open, there is a danger that others may be able to access your personal information. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:
Use Secure Websites Whenever Possible
Websites that use the https prefix on their domains encrypt the data that is transmitted. The “s” in https stands for “secure.”
Although most websites these days are encrypted, there are still some that don’t protect users. Because of this, it’s always best to make sure any website you visit is secure while you are on an open network.
Also, just because a website is “secure,” this doesn’t mean hackers can’t access your information. Always be careful when submitting personal information on any website when using an open network, secure or not.
Protect Your Personal Information
If you enter personal information over open networks, like passwords and banking information, there’s a very real chance that another person who is using the network could obtain the information and then use it for fraudulent purposes.
Open networks are fine for some things, like looking up information on the internet, but when using these connections, it’s best to avoid any activity that requires you to enter sensitive information. You can always do those things at home on a secured connection.
Don’t Save Network Information
When you connect to a network for the first time, your device may ask if you want it to remember the network so you can automatically connect the next time.
If you are prompted to save the network connection, it’s best not to allow your device to do this. If you walk into a place with an open network and your device automatically connects, for example, it could leave you exposed to hackers who want to steal your personal information.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Many websites now let you use two-factor authentication. By enabling this feature, it adds an extra layer of protection against those who want to steal your personal information.
Restaurants with Free Wifi
Many restaurants now offer free wifi. They have a good reason for offering it, too. It isn’t for your convenience. The leaders of these chains know that many people who connect to their internet intend to stay around for a while. And that means ordering food and drinks.
As you are reviewing this list, it’s important to point out that the quality of the internet connection will vary from location to location. Your internet speed will also depend on the number of people using the connection at once. The more people who are on a network, the slower it will be.
Another thing to point out is you may encounter a situation where a store or restaurant chain offers free wifi, but for some unknown reason, a particular location doesn’t offer it. For a location that doesn’t have it, they may be having trouble with their router. Sometimes things happen.
Although many chain restaurants now offer free wireless internet, many mom and pop restaurants offer this service, too.
Free wifi at McDonald’s is one of the most popular options for travelers looking for an internet connection. Its popularity is due to the fact that just about every town in the country has one of these fast food establishments.
This option is ideal for those who are looking for convenience – these are great places to go if you are traveling down the interstate and need a quick connection since many McDonald’s are strategically located right beside the interstate.
The free internet at Starbucks is very popular. Many people enjoy hanging out at these trendy restaurants to drink gourmet coffee. It’s also a great place to bring your laptop. The atmosphere is trendy, the coffee is great, and the internet is free.
3. Panera Bread
With over 2,000 locations across the United States and Canada, Panera Bread is another great restaurant chain with free wifi. In many ways, Panera Bread is very similar to Starbucks. They both sell great coffee, and they are both great places to hang out with your laptop.
4. Dunkin’ Donuts
Yet another place for sipping great coffee and accessing the internet is Dunkin’ Donuts. Although some may not consider this restaurant to be as trendy as other coffee shops, you may be able to use this to your advantage. You can avoid the “sea of laptops” that slows down your connection here and enjoy less competition for bandwidth.
5. Burger King
Burger King is another fast food restaurant with free internet connections. With nearly 18,000 locations throughout the world (and over 7,500 locations in the United States alone), there may be one in your neighborhood.
Don’t look for a Burger King if you’re in Australia, however, because you won’t find one. Due to a trademark dispute, Burger King is known as Hungry Jack’s in the Land Down Under.
Over the years, Chic-Fil-A has been steadily gaining on its rivals, and it is now one of the largest fast-food restaurants in the United States. The restaurant’s popularity is easy to understand. The food is great, and the customer service is second to none.
Although Chic-Fil-A does offer free wifi, it may not be the best place to get some work done or relax due to the crowd. People can’t get enough of those great chicken sandwiches.
7. Taco Bell
With over 7,000 locations, you won’t have to make a run to the border to access Taco Bell’s free wireless internet. Although the tacos are no longer $0.19 each (as they were when the first location opened), you can still take advantage of the restaurant’s internet connection as you enjoy your beefy 5-layer burrito.
Wendy’s is one of those places where most don’t think about getting on their laptops while they are enjoying their Frosties. But the fast-food chain does provide free wifi to its patrons. You can use the lack of internet activity to your advantage to enjoy a connection that everyone and their neighbor aren’t trying to use at once.
Subway is the top-selling sandwich chain in the United States. And if it seems like Subways are located just about everywhere these days, it isn’t your imagination. There are now over 42,000 locations in over 100 countries. Over half of those are in the United States. This makes it an ideal place to look for when you are traveling and need to access their wifi connection.
10. Tim Hortons
Tim Hortons is another popular coffee and donut chain that is a great place to hang out, sip some great coffee, eat something tasty, and get some work done on your laptop with their open wifi. Tim Hortons is based in Canada, which makes sense considering that Canada is the #1 consumer of donuts in the world (they scarf down about a billion annually).
With over 3,000 different locations, Arby’s is technically the second-largest sandwich chain in the United States (Subway is #1). Arby’s is a great place to be on the lookout for while you are traveling because there are so many locations and because they offer a completely free wifi connection.
12. Jimmy John’s
Similar to Subway, Jimmy John’s is another sandwich restaurant chain that offers a free wireless internet connection. Although the number of Jimmy John’s restaurants isn’t anywhere near as high as Subway (about 2,800 locations), you might still encounter one of these in your travels.
Denny’s is the last restaurant chain on this list with free wifi. Although not every neighborhood has a Denny’s, it’s still a great place to be on the lookout for, especially if you need a place to access the internet late at night. Except for Christmas Day, most locations are open 24/7 all year long.
Stores with Free Wifi
Restaurant chains aren’t the only place you can find free wireless connections. Several retail operations now offer the service at no charge to their patrons, too. Stores use it as another way to get people in the doors to do some shopping and spend some money.
While large retail stores aren’t always the best places to pull out your laptop, you may still be able to find a bench in the lobby. Some stores also have small cafes or restaurants inside.
Target is the first retail store on this list that offers free wireless internet. Many Targets have small cafes inside where you can sit down and use the internet. The store’s wireless internet is also great for checking prices on your smartphone while you are shopping if you are unable to get cell service inside.
2. Lowe’s Home Improvement
The big-box home improvement store is another retailer that offers free wifi. Accessing your smartphone’s cell service inside of large buildings isn’t always easy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But since Lowe’s offers a free connection, you can still check Facebook while you’re waiting to check out with your load of lumber.
3. Best Buy
It makes sense that the technology retailer Best Buy would offer free wifi to its customers while they are shopping. This gives you the ability to research items you are thinking about buying before laying down a few Benjamins on a new laptop, digital camera, video projector, or TV.
You can’t escape Walmart. With over 5,000 stores in the United States, just about everyone in the country lives within a relatively short driving distance of the big-box retailer. Many Walmart locations also have restaurants inside where you can sit down and access their free wireless internet.
Walmart’s vast presence makes it a great place to look for while traveling. While you’re there, you can also stock up on some things you need and visit their public restrooms.
This clothing retailer doesn’t miss a trick. They are masters of marketing. Their Kohl’s charge card, which occasionally offers discounts on purchases, is a great strategy for bringing people into their stores. And you can access the Kohl’s app using their free wifi to possibly score a coupon.
6. Jiffy Lube
There’s nothing more mind-numbing than sitting around waiting for your car’s oil to be changed. You can either thumb through an old magazine, watch a TV that’s stuck on a channel you can’t stand, or try to block it all out of your mind while you meditate and think happy thoughts.
Thankfully, however, if you are at Jiffy Lube, you can also take advantage of their open wifi. You can bring your laptop and, assuming the people around you aren’t loud or annoying, get some work done.
Michael’s, the purveyor of arts, crafts, decor, framing, and other merchandise, is another retailer that has an open wireless internet connection. This can really come in handy when you need to double-check the materials for the scary DIY Halloween decoration you want to make.
8. The Apple Store
Although the Apple Store does offer free wireless internet, this option isn’t the most convenient since most communities don’t have one. Apple Stores are usually located in large urban areas.
9. Whole Foods
Whole Foods, the upscale purveyor of organic groceries, offers free wireless internet to its shoppers. It’s a great way to look up recipes and other things to see what you need to add to your grocery list while shopping.
10. Office Depot and Staples
Like Best Buy, both Office Depot and Staples also offer free wireless internet connections to their shoppers. This makes it very easy to use your smartphone to do some price comparison before making a purchase decision to make sure you are getting the best deal.
Additional Places with Free Wifi
Restaurants and retail stores aren’t the only places you can find a free and open internet connection. These days, many places now recognize the importance of offering this service. This trend is likely to increase.
1. Public Libraries
Most libraries now offer free wireless internet to their patrons. It’s not uncommon to see many people quietly working on their laptops as others browse through the books. Many libraries also offer great places to work that have electrical plugins nearby. Because of the convenience, public libraries should be at the top of your list when you are traveling and need to access the internet.
2. Local Government Buildings
Many local government buildings recognize the need to offer an internet connection. Attorneys may need to access the internet to check on something at a courthouse, for example. Because of this, many local government buildings now offer the service to patrons.
Gyms are another place where free wireless internet is commonly offered. Most towns have several gyms, and the competition between them is often fierce to attract clients. It’s just one more thing they can offer to make them more appealing to those looking to tone up or lose weight.
4. Train and Bus Stations
Waiting for the train or bus can be terribly boring. To do something to help alleviate the boredom during long waits, many train and bus stations have installed free wireless internet connections. It helps patrons pass the time and helps to keep antsy kids calm and occupied as they await their chariots.
Many hospitals now offer free wireless internet throughout their facilities to help staff communicate. Many medical personnel now use smartphones to make work-related calls, texts, and emails, and they need a reliable connection to make sure data is transferred as quickly as possible.
Hanging out in the hospital cafeteria is a great place to set up your laptop. Most hospitals also have great deals on food.
Many museums now offer free wireless internet connections to their patrons. In addition to viewing amazing dinosaur remains, beautiful works of fine art, and other historical items, you can also check Facebook. Makes sense.
7. Public Parks
Public parks are also great places to find free wireless internet connections. It’s kind of hit or miss with this one. Some parks offer it, while others don’t.
One negative of public parks is the potential lack of plugins for your laptop. While it may be possible to find a plugin at a shelter, there’s no way to know for sure if there is one unless you visit the park and check it out.
Did you realize there were so many different places where you can access the internet for free? Connections are everywhere – you just have to know where to look.
As a final thought on this subject, it’s important to keep in mind that there are now some towns that have free wireless internet. The entire town is covered. Not all towns offer this, of course, but some do.
My town, for example, is one that does offer this service. Unfortunately, the coverage is spotty. In some places, it works, but in others, it doesn’t.
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of places that offer free wireless internet, even in my small town. With this handy list, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a free connection in a pinch.