Finding Free Public Wi-Fi Where You Least Expect It

Last Updated Dec 1, 2010 10:23 AM EST

For me, Wi-Fi is such an essential service that I think of it like water or electricity; I just expect it at work and at home. But in between those locations, connectivity is somewhat spotty. Yes, I've got access at Starbucks, the library, and most hotels I use when traveling. But there are a lot of other places to get connected as well.

Recently, Unplgged rounded up a list of unexpected places around town which offer free Wi-Fi. They're great resources to visit in a pinch -- if you need to connect to the Internet and don't have another option nearby -- or if you're there anyway and usually wouldn't have realized you could pull out your laptop, tablet, or phone.

  • Best Buy. I can't speak for all big box retailers, but Best Buy has a free Wi-Fi network up and running, which, if nothing else, you can use to make sure the in-store prices match the online advertised specials.
  • McDonald's. Again, I don't know how many fast food franchises offer Wi-Fi, but Ronald does, in a staggering 11,500 locations.
  • The park. Your mileage may vary, but Internet access is springing up in public parks, most notably as a result of the Public Internet Project. To get some idea of the scope of this project, check out a map of free Wi-Fi access points in New York City.[]
  • Whole Foods. Round these parts, Whole Foods is known as "Whole Paycheck" -- you'll pay dearly for the selection of healthy and organic foods they sell. But they also offer free Wi-Fi, which is handy if you stop in and eat your healthy lunch at one of the store's tables.
  • Bookstores. Everyone has it. Whether you stop in at Borders, Barnes and Noble, or some other less notable location, you're almost certain to be able to connect to the Net.
Of course, no matter where you find yourself, for your own safety be sure never to try to connect to "Free Public Wi-Fi."