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Hot Fun in the Summertime: Free-Admission Live Events Near You

These activities across the country are a family friendly and free way to explore great cities from Juneteenth to July 4th and on through Labor Day weekend.

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gif of photos of summertime activities to check out
AARP (Baltimore Office of Promotions & The Arts; Getty Images, 2; Courtesy Miller Outdoor Theatre, 2)
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What's your favorite summertime activity? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Are you looking for some frugal fun this summertime? Well, allow us to be your city guide. Mark your calendar and save the dates for some of the best free and fun things to do this summer – from Juneteenth and Pride celebrations, to food, music and arts festivals – taking place in your city, a city near you or a city worth traveling to. All events are free and open to the public.

Charlotte, NC

(June 7 - 9)
Taste of Charlotte is the city’s largest food festival. There’s plenty to do and see and admission is free, but to sample yummy fare from local restaurants you’ll have to bring some coin in order to purchase festival coins.

Philadelphia, PA 

(June 9)
Flock to Philly for the Odunde festival, touted as the country’s largest Black and African cultural festival. Enjoy live entertainment, peruse Afrocentric fashions, and tempt your tastebuds with offerings from African, Caribbean and soul food vendors.

Houston, TX

2023 Juneteenth celebration in Houston, TX at Miller Outdoor Theatre
Courtesy Miller Outdoor Theatre

(June 14 - 15)
Take a musical journey through Black history with the immersive, two-night program, Wells Fargo Presents Juneteenth: A Musical Journey Through Eras. The first evening spans gospel, blues and classic R&B from 1960-1980, and on night two the journey continues from 1980-2000 with the emergence of hip-hop. All tickets are free and available online.

Atlanta, GA

(June 21-23)
The three-day Juneteenth Atlanta Parade and Music Festival in Piedmont Park offers something for everyone, including the 5K Freedom run, marching band competitions, African drumming, and arts and crafts. Outside food isn’t allowed, but soulful grub is available for purchase.

Syracuse, NY 

(June 26 - 30)

Downtown Syracuse comes alive with the five-day Syracuse International Jazz Fest. This year’s lineup includes headliners The O'Jays and Kenny G., as well as Freda Payne and local jazz artists and groups.

New Orleans, LA 

The Original Pinettes Brass Band performs at ESSENCE Family Day, 2023
Erika Goldring/Getty Images for ESSENCE

(July 4-7)
Many of us have experienced a hot girl summer at the beloved Essence Festival of Culture, which turns 30 this year. Although evening concerts are ticketed, daytime events at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center don’t cost a thing – including food demos and wellness workshops. Plus, there are free pop-up events throughout downtown NOLA.

Los Angeles, CA 

(July 4-7)
Say it loud if you’re Black, LGBTQIA+ and proud at Los Angeles Black Pride. This four-day event was formed to be an inclusive and safe space and features several free events–a block party, dance party, and a marketplace for Black-queer-owned businesses–all at Catch One, America’s oldest Black-owned disco.

Charleston, SC

(July 27)
Located a short drive from Charleston in Mount Pleasant, the 20th Annual Sweetgrass Festival champions the history, culture and traditions of the region’s Gullah-Geechee people. Family friendly activities include dance and drumming performances, cooking demos, and storytelling.

Baltimore, MD

Artwork at the Baltimore Artists Market
Courtesy Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts (BOPA)

(Aug. 2-4)
Artscape is billed as America’s largest free outdoor arts festival and draws thousands of locals and visitors annually. Spanning the Bolton Hill, Mount Vernon and Station North neighborhoods, this Charm City summer tradition boasts top music artists (in recent years TLC and Nile Rodgers & Chic performed), vendors selling handcrafted jewelry, culinary delights, visual art exhibitions, and an artist marketplace.

New York, NY 

(Aug. 7-18)
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Harlem Week– an event that began in the summer of 1974 as “Harlem Day,” co-founded by Black creative luminaries like Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. During the weeklong celebration of the historic and culturally rich New York City neighborhood, the robust schedule features several stages of live music, including gospel, R&B and hip-hop artists; theater and dance performances; international food vendors; health and financial literacy workshops; fashion shows; and plenty of time to shop ‘til you drop.

Chicago, IL

(Aug. 29 - Sept. 1)
Get ready to swing out, sister, at the Chicago Jazz Festival. This Labor Day weekend tradition takes place in the city’s Millennium Park (home of the reflective “The Bean” sculpture), and showcases local jazz talent alongside renowned artists like bassist Ron Carter and rising star harpist Brandee Younger, who performed in 2023.

What's your favorite summertime activity? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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