FREE SUMMER FUN
Whether you want to stay cool indoors at an art gallery or head out for live music and fireworks, there are lots of free things to do all over the country this summer. Cheapism.com has rounded up some of the best free events in each state for summer 2015.
Montgomery has an average temperature of 92 degrees during the summer, but don't let that keep you from enjoying an outdoor movie at the Riverwalk Amphitheater. In the month of July, the outdoor theater shows free movies every Monday night.
Alaska is home to some of the country's most awe-inspiring scenery, and that natural beauty makes a nice backdrop for Fourth of July fireworks. At Juneau's Independence Day festival, watch a pyrotechnic display over the breathtaking Gastineau Channel
The old mining town of Bisbee throws a free party on July Fourth. In addition to the requisite fireworks, the town hosts coaster races for gravity powered cars and holds an unusual contest of mining, mucking, and hard-rock drilling skills.
The Glendale Summer Band Concert Series returns this summer with free performances on Thursdays from July 2 to July 23. Musicians entertain the crowd with show tunes, ballads, and their own takes on popular songs.
Arkansas, nicknamed the Natural State, is home to more than 50 state parks, offering plenty of options for hiking, boating, swimming, and camping. On Saturday, June 27, there's a free Sunset on the Mountain event at Pinnacle Mountain State Park, west of Little Rock. A ranger will lead visitors up the mountain's West Summit Trail to experience a one-of-a-kind sunset viewing.
Up north in Eureka Springs, foodies can explore French foods at the fifth annual Fleur Delicious Weekend, running July 7-12. French restaurants and cookbook authors will perform cooking demonstrations and offer free samples.
The Fillmore Jazz Festival in San Francisco is the largest free jazz festival on the West Coast, drawing more than 100,000 music fans to the Fillmore neighborhood each year. This year's installment occurs on Independence Day weekend and features performances by Mingus Amungus, Shayna Steele, and the California Jazz Conservatory Ensemble.
The Denver Botanic Gardens opens its gates to the public and waives the admission fee on special days throughout the year. This summer, visitors can roam the gardens and some installations, including the butterfly exhibit, free of charge on July 21, Aug. 31, and Sept. 9.
Riverfest in Hartford celebrates summer with food trucks, live entertainment, and fireworks. It takes place at two locations this year -- the Mortensen Riverfront Plaza in Hartford and Great River Park in East Hartford -- on July 9-11. Fireworks occur on the final night.
On Aug. 1, the annual sandcastle contest returns to Rehoboth Beach. A sculpting demonstration offering tips on the latest building techniques kicks off the event on July 31. Adults and children can participate in the fun for free while competing for prizes.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
On Aug. 29, the Capital Dragon Boat Regatta returns to Washington, D.C., for a full day of boat racing. Spectators can watch teams race down the Washington Channel for free. Vendors will offer an assortment of retail and food products.
The Miami Art Expo is offering free tickets to this international art extravaganza, which runs June 20-26. To get free tickets, registrants must fill out a short form on the event's website.
Every summer, the Old Fourth Ward Arts Festival in Atlanta celebrates the historic neighborhood where Martin Luther King Jr. lived. This free event is June 27-28 and focuses on the arts, fresh food, and the fascinating history of the area.
If you're lucky enough to be in Hawaii this summer, check out the 38th Prince Lot Hula Festival in Honolulu. The free festival is held at the Moanalua Gardens, a historic estate with beautiful flora, and focuses on the famous but once forbidden dance.
The World Village Festival is a free multicultural arts festival that showcases dance, music, storytelling, poetry, film, and food from around the globe. It runs June 19-21 in Capitol Park in downtown Boise.
If you're looking to help others this summer, consider volunteering to fix up the homes of seniors and residents with disabilities on June 13. During the Paint the Town event, hundreds of volunteers paint and revitalize residences in Boise, Eagle, and adjacent cities.
Taste of Chicago is the largest food festival in the world. There are rides, live music -- the lineup this year includes Weezer, Erykah Badu, and Spoon -- and hundreds of food vendors. The festival is in Grant Park along Lake Michigan and runs July 8-12. (Although admission is free, food and drink tickets come at a cost.)
Every Monday and Tuesday throughout the month of June, Illinois residents with valid identification can visit the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago for free. Exhibits that usually cost extra, such as Caribbean Reef and Waters of the World, are also free.
The 2015 Summer Cruise-In in Auburn offers free entertainment for car enthusiasts of all ages. Simply relax and watch classic cars cruise downtown Auburn, about 20 miles north of Fort Wayne. The event takes place this summer on June 18, July 23, Aug. 20, and Sept. 17. Auburn is also home to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.
The Des Moines Arts Festival brings a variety of performing arts, visual arts, and live performances to Iowa's capital city June 26-28. The event is free and features musicians such as Matt Kearney and Eddie Money.
Heartland Military Day is an all-day event June 6 at the Museum of the Kansas National Guard. The public is welcome to come see military reenactments and equipment and enjoy live music with no admission fee.
Lexington, which calls itself the horse capital of the world, is home to the summer Hagyard Challenge Series. The public can enjoy Lexington's horse culture by watching a series of horse-jumping competitions for free July 23-30.
The French Market Creole Tomato Festival in New Orleans will take place June 13-14 this year in the nation's oldest marketplace. The festival features traditional Cajun and Creole cuisine, cooking demonstrations, live music, and a tomato parade. There's no admission fee, but purchases at the festival benefit and support local farmers.
The Central Maine Egg Festival is a five-day celebration of the breakfast staple featuring street dances, art shows, "Egglympics," and other fun events. This year, it takes place July 13-18 in downtown Pittsfield, about 45 minutes from Augusta.
Star gazing is a nice way to spend a summer evening, but it's even better with a telescope. The public is welcome to visit the observatory at the Maryland Science Center on June 27 to view the stars and planets for free.
Harborfest returns to Boston's historic downtown and waterfront district July 1-5. The mayor will kick off the festival with a ceremonial cake cutting, to be followed by days of live performances and educational events. Most of the festival is free, including the opening ceremony, walking tours, art shows, and the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular July 3-4.
The Ford Fireworks parade attracts thousands of participants each summer. This year's festivities are on June 22, and there's no cost to attend the parade and watch the fireworks show over the Detroit River.
Every Thursday in June, the Twin Cities River Rats perform a water-ski show for free in Minneapolis. Spectators can watch from the grassy banks of the Mississippi River, just north of downtown.
The Mississippi Book Festival at the historic state capitol building in Jackson features authors, speeches, book vendors, live music, and food vendors. It runs all day Aug. 22 and there's no admission fee.
Fair Saint Louis claims to be America’s biggest birthday party. The city expects a quarter of a million people to gather downtown on Fourth of July weekend for a free celebration. The event features fireworks, air shows, and musical performances by the likes of Melissa Etheridge, Blondie, and Morris Day and the Time.
The historic Moss Mansion in Billings will host its 27th annual festival this year on June 6. This free event features artists from across the West, food vendors, and activities for kids.
Literary enthusiasts will appreciate a Sheldon Museum of Art show about the life of writer Willa Cather, who lived in Nebraska as a child. "Visual Cather: The Writer's Pictorial Imagination" runs through Aug. 30 at the museum in Lincoln. Art lovers can explore Native American art at the "Looking Back, Looking Forward: Native American Art from the Permanent Collection" exhibit at the Great Plains Art Museum in Lincoln through Aug. 1. Both are free and open to the public.
Every Monday in the month of July, Artown will take over Wingfield Park in Reno with free music, dancing, and movies. The festival also features workshops, multicultural events, fashion shows, and tours.
The Food Truck Drive-In festival runs throughout the summer on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month (third and fifth Saturdays in August) in Victorian Square in Sparks. Food trucks will sell a variety of tasty treats, but you can always bring your own food. The night ends with a free movie in the outdoor amphitheater.
The 27th annual Hillsborough Balloon Festival and Fair offers fireworks, marching bands, food vendors, and lots of hot-air balloons. The festival runs July 9-12 in Hillsborough, about 30 minutes from the state capital of Concord.
Toms River throws a big street party on July 18. There will be live bands, rides, and games, plus dozens of food vendors and craft tables. Parking and admission are free.
The Arts and Music Festival comes to Fort Lee every year, providing thousands of attendees with free entertainment, performances, and carnival rides. The festival will take place June 7 on Main Street in downtown Fort Lee.
A variety of traditional Hispanic foods, crafts, and performances are on display at the Spanish Market festival in Santa Fe. There is no admission fee for the event, which is July 25-26.
On June 9, several major museums in Manhattan will waive admission fees during the annual Museum Mile Festival. Museum hours are extended for the event, which includes the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cooper-Hewitt, the Jewish Museum, the National Academy Museum, Neue Galerie, and the Museum of the City of New York.
If you're not desperate to escape the heat, try the Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival, featuring live music, spoken-word performances, and dance. The free event runs July 22 to Aug. 9.
Every Friday in June, popular '80s movies will be shown outdoors in downtown Raleigh as part of the Downtown Raleigh Movie Series. Raleigh is also the scene of the Downtown Food Truck Rodeo featuring food truck vendors from across the state. Downtown streets are blocked off for this free outdoor event.
The Downtown Street Fair in Fargo is one of the largest events in the area. It takes place July 16-18 and features classic summer fair favorites, including grilled food, art contests, and games.
Stilt walkers and giant puppets take over University Circle in Cleveland for the Parade at the Circle. All ages can enjoy music, dancing, and puppetry on June 13. The Cincinnati Museum Center, which features three museums in one, offers free admission one Friday each month: June 12, July 24, Aug. 21, Sept. 11, and Oct. 23.
The annual Bricktown 4th Fest is a fireworks extravaganza in Oklahoma City. The July Fourth celebration begins with free live performances and ends with a spectacular fireworks show.
On June 13, the city of Chandler invites the public to Tilghman Park for its Ice Cream Festival. The event features an ice cream making contest, free entertainment, kids' activities, and, most important, unlimited free ice cream.
Every summer, the city of Portland shuts down miles of streets for walking, riding, and skating. This summer's parkway rides occur on June 21, July 26, and Aug. 23 in different parts of the city. Each event also features music, food, and other family-friendly activities.
Up-and-coming Portland bands will perform for free July 24-26 at the PDX Pop Now! concert series. The annual event is run by volunteers and includes a legendary basketball tournament between bands.
Penn's Landing in Philadelphia hosts a series of free multicultural events during the summer. From May 18 through Sept. 21, various festivals, including the Portuguese Festival, Hispanic Fiesta, and Southeast Asian Dragon Festival, take place along the Delaware River downtown. The Visit Philly website has the details for each festival.
The Newport Kite Festival at Brenton Point State Park in Newport is July 11-12 this summer. You can bring a kite, watch others fly, or simply enjoy the breeze off the water.
Ocean Boulevard's Hot Summer Nights program provides free entertainment all summer on the boardwalk in Myrtle Beach. The event starts on June 9 and runs through Aug. 29. Visitors can see fireworks, carnivals, live music, and more.
Hot Summer Nites brings free summer fun to downtown Sioux Falls. Classic cars and motorcycles roll through the streets as food vendors and musicians keep the crowd entertained.
Across the state in the Black Hills, fireworks will mark Independence Day. Several pyrotechnic shows take place July 4, including one at Mount Rushmore; check the Black Hills and Badlands Tourism Association website for various options.
Art lovers will appreciate the Saturday Art Crawl on June 6 in downtown Nashville. There's no admission fee and participants can meet artists and admire their work while strolling through the city.Art lovers will appreciate the Saturday Art Crawl on June 6 in downtown Nashville. There's no admission fee and participants can meet artists and admire their work while strolling through the city.
On June 1, the Ransom Center in Austin celebrates "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" with an all-day, indoor exhibit. It's free to enter, but donations are appreciated and help support the Ransom Center.
The Independence Day Festival at Hill Country Galleria in Bee Cave will feature art vendors, water rides, barbecue, live music, and a fireworks show. The fun happens all day on July 4.
In Fort Worth, the historic Stockyards Station stages free gunfight shows every weekend this summer. This comedic reenactment of Old West gunfights attracts local residents and tourists from around the state. The show begins Memorial Day weekend and runs through Labor Day weekend.
The award-winning Urban Arts Festival returns to Salt Lake City this summer on July 18. Hundreds of artists will display their talents, including painting, live music, break dancing, and professional skateboarding.
The 37th annual Middlebury Summer Festival on the Green runs July 5-11 in Middlebury Recreation Park. The free festival celebrates the summer with performances, food, and programs the whole family can enjoy.
The Virginia Lake Festival attracts tens of thousands of visitors to Clarksville. On the weekend of July 16-18, attendees can enjoy hot air balloons, live music, arts and crafts, helicopter rides, and other attractions in this historic town.
In Alexandria, the King Street Trolley is free beginning June 29. It will pass through Old Town and other photo-worthy areas of the city. To view the trolley's schedule, visit the Alexandria Transit Company‘s website.
Bite of Seattle, the city's premier food festival, returns this summer on July 17-19. It's free to enter at the Seattle Center and features cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, a free screening of "Ghostbusters," and lots of food samples.
FestivALL, a nine-day event featuring hundreds of performances, will take place in Charleston on June 19-28. The opening ceremony kicks off the event, followed by various art, dance, and music shows throughout the week. Most of the festival's events are free, including an ice cream social on June 21.
Each year, the Capital Lakes DragonFest draws hundreds to the Wingra River in Madison. On June 20, spectators can attend the festival and cheer on 40-foot-long boats as they race down the river. The event is free, although donations benefit cancer research and survivors.
The Nicolaysen Art Museum in Casper hosts the NIC Fest June 26-29. This summer arts festival is free and all are welcome to browse the art, enjoy live music, and sample the food vendors on the museum's grounds.