Best Places for Free Wifi (That is not Starbucks)

Posted on July 29, 2010


I do my blogging from a Starbucks and their free wi-fi.

I do it to get out of the house and socialize (while I sit with my headphones on typing on my MacBook Pro).
However, I had something bad happened the other day. My neighborhood Starbucks did not have any internet service. I went to another one in my medium-size community. No service. Oops.

So what do I do when I can’t work at Starbucks.

The good news is that there are plenty of businesses that now have free wireless internet. So where are five places to look for free wi-fi:

1. Your Local Coffee Shop
(photo credit: Gunjan Karun)
Instead of going to “corporate coffee” shops, I know people who are pretty adamant about supporting locally owned coffee bars. Most of those coffee shops have wireless internet. In fact, I can not think of one local coffee shop that does not have free wifi. So if the national chain coffee shops are not working, try to go local.
2. Bookstores (Barnes & Noble/Borders/etc.)

(photo credit: Dave Dugdale)

B&N and Borders both now have free wi-fi at most, if not all of their stores. Most communities have one or both. However, there are other bookstores that have a small coffee shop. Most of those should have wireless internet.
3. McDonalds
(photo credit: Ian Muttoo)
With McDonalds introducing free wireless internet at every store, other chains really don’t have an excuse not to have it as well. Nw, I did have some issues logging at a couple of McDonalds. I talked about this on twitter and someone from McDonalds saw it and said they would talk to someone in tech support (now whether they did or not I have do idea). But I liked the response. I even know someone who did a Face Time chat with their iPhone 4 at McDonalds and it worked.
4. Libraries
(photo credit: ConanTheLibrarian)
Most libraries have wifi connections during open hours. However each library have different rules about access. At some, you need to get a username/password from a librarian. Truthfully, I had never thought about the library. But it would be a cool option. I have heard of people who are running startups from their local library.
5. Panera Bread
(photo credit: Roboppy)
Probably the next best option to Starbucks. Coffee, food, and most have more room than Starbucks. Now, there are a couple of things to remember. First, if you are there during lunch rush (11 a.m.-2 p.m.), they could ask you to move along. Second, there have a content filter so if you want to play online poker, you can not do it at Panera.


The good side: After 2 p.m., you can pretty much set up camp there until closing. In St. Louis, my favorite Panera is empty late afternoon/evenings.


Last thing, I have heard (but have not experienced) a 30-minute time limit at some stories.


Bonus: Public areas
In some cities, parks and downtown areas have free wi-fi access. For example, Times Square is one big wifi hotspot.
A final note: Free wifi also could equal S L O W internet. These business are not putting wifi on a T1 line. So people who play World of Warcraft on a wifi connection could leave the others in a world of hurt. So keep that in mind.
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Posted in: Free, Internet