Free Rides

Washington, D.C. isn't the only place you'll find excellent entertainment for free. From Shakespeare to reggae, summer is the season to get your fill of the arts, entertainment and even food without paying box office prices. The following is a list of free or cheap events around the country this summer.
Free Music Fests

Woody Guthrie Free Folk Music Festival

July 12-July 16

Arlo Guthrie
Presented in Woody Guthrie's hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma, the Free Folk Music Festival is a tribute to the late, great icon of American music. In only its third year, this four-day event has won praise as one of the best folk festivals in the country. Entertainers this year include folk legend Pete Seeger.

Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz

July 21-23

Now in its 9th year, The Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz is presented in Hartford, Connecticut's historic Bushnell Park Performance Pavilion. The festival draws more than 30,000 spectators a year to watch some of the top jazz acts in the world. This year, jazz trumpeter Chuck Mangione headlines.

Saturday in the Park

July 1

Performed at the bandshell in Grandview Park, Sioux City, Iowa's Saturday in the Park is one of the Midwest's premier rock music festivals. This year the directors of this free event expect an audience of more than 30,000. The Allman Brothers Band headlines this year.

Stern Grove Festival

Now through August 13

The Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco features free concerts every Sunday by internationally acclaimed musicians and dancers. The programs meander through the traditions of Japan, rural America, Romantic-era Italy, Latin America, jazz, Africa, the Middle East, Brazil, classical orchestral music and ballet, and the avant-garde.

Seattle Peace Concerts

Now through September 17

Moving among park settings throughout greater Seattle, the Seattle Peace Concerts bring music and a message to many urban centers. Spanning musical styles from folk-rock, reggae, and R&B to jazz and alternative contemporary, the Sunday concerts are family-friendly so that children can hear musicians who usually play the grown-up venues.

Vermont Reggae Festival

July 29

Located in Hardwick, the Vermont Reggae Festival is the largest and longest running free reggae concert in America.

Free Shakespeare
Click on the city and find out what's playing for free in a park near you.For a list of other Shakespeare events across the country, click on Shakespeare on the Web.
Free Food

The Taste of Chicago

June 30-July 9

Take your taste buds on an eating expedition at the 20th annual Taste of Chicago. Hundreds of local restaurants offer food ranging from all-American favorites to gourmet cuisine to exotic ethnic fare. Admission is free but the food will cost you. All the restaurants, however, offer small free samples.

The Taste of Buffalo

July -9

This "Taste" may not be free but at least it's cheap. All items are priced between 50 cents and $3. Try cuisine from the most popular restaurants in western New York or sample something new like ostrich or alligator. The Taste of Buffalo also provides continious entertainment featuring local and national artists on four stages.

Clark Potato Days

July 29-30

Every summer the residents of Clark, South Dakota give praise to their prized tubers. The locals vie for top honors in a potato sculpture contest and a potato cook-off. The Clark Potato Days offer free samples including potato-based desserts. And what potato festival would be complete without a few rounds of good old-fashioned mashed potato wrestling? That's right, grown adults battle it out in the fluffy white stuff. The winner claims the crown of Mashed Potato Wrestling Champion of the World.

Hope Watermelon Festival

Aug. 10-13

Hope, Arkansas is more than just the birth-place of President William Jefferson Clinton, it is home to the annual Hope Watermelon Festival, featuring some of the largest watermelons in the world. The festival has hundreds of arts & crafts booths, food, entertainment and other family-oriented activities. Admission and activities are free and a slice of fresh Arkansas watermelon will run you just 75 cents.

Other Free Stuff

Hot Air Balloon Festival

June 23-25

Aspen, Colorado plays
host to the Snowmass
Hot Air Balloon
The most photographed and well-attended event of the Aspen, Colorado summer season, the Snowmass Hot Air Balloon Festival is held on the grounds of the Snowmass Village Ski Resort. This colorful ballooning event draws about 8,000 spectators to witness the ascent of 50 hot air balloons against the spectacular backdrop of the Elk Mountain Range. The weekend also includes balloon races and the "Night Glow," an evening event of grand, glowing balloons.

French Festival

Located in Santa Barbara's Oak Park, the French Festival lets Californians revel in the sights, sounds and foods of France at the largest French celebration in the Western United States.

There is continuous free entertainment on three stages, including cancan, Moroccan belly dancing, grand opera, Cajun and classical groups, folk dancing, jazz, and cabaret music and wandering mimes, jugglers, and accordion players.

Event Finders

Below are some Web sites that help users search for summer events, free and otherwise. They are listed roughly in order of size and scope - from a modest list of community and cultural events by state, to a world-wide mega-search site for arts and entertainment listings. lists events for every state in the U.S. lets users search by genre or performer among listings for 1,500 U.S. arts festivals. goes well beyond festivals, listing community and cultural celebrations of all descriptions worldwide. bills itself as a world-wide events search site. It's not there yet, but it does have extensive listings for destinations throughout North America, Europe and Australia., for real overkill, claims to have listings for 350,000 arts events in 1,500 cities.