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Free and cheap things to do across the U.S.

Harriet Baskas
March 01, 2018

March roars in like a lion — and brings with it some roaring good deals for travelers.

Party on St. Patrick's Day

Cities around the world mark St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, with free parades, pub crawls and gobs of green-tinged festivities. The holiday falls on a Saturday this year, so consider joining parades that day in Chicago (where they dye the Chicago River green), New York City, St. Louis or Hot Springs, Arkansas, which boasts the World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade — a mere 98 feet. South Boston, London, and Sydney, Australia will hold their St. Patrick’s Day parades this year on Sunday, March 18.

And in Dublin, the St. Patrick’s Festival stretches from March 15-19, with a grand parade on the 17th.

Cheer on the cherry blossoms

No one can predict exactly when peak cherry blossom viewing will take place in Washington, D.C., but March 20 is the kick-off date for the city’s National Cherry Blossom Festival, commemorating Tokyo’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees to D.C. in 1912. Free daily music and cultural performances take place through April 8 at the Tidal Basin Welcome Area and the Blossom Kite Festival lifts off on March 31. The festival stretches into April, offering Petalpalooza, with art, games, music and fireworks, on April 7 and the National Cherry Blossom Parade on April 14.

Meal deals in Boston, Portland, Albuquerque and Sonoma County

Photos: David Alvarado / Travel Portland 

Eating out on the road can put a dent in the travel budget, but Restaurant Week/Dine-Out programs offer money-saving 2 and 3-course prix fixe lunches and dinners at popular spots in many cities. All of March is Dining Month in Portland, Oregon; restaurants in Sonoma County, California, celebrate Restaurant Week March 2-11; Albuquerque hosts Restaurant Week March 4-11; and Dine-Out Boston takes place March 18-23 and March 25-30.

Help Pennsylvania celebrate its birthday

To mark the Keystone State’s 337th birthday, or Charter Day, on Sunday, March 11, free admission will be offered at the Daniel Boone Homestead (Birdsboro), Brandywine Battlefield Park (Chadds Ford) and more than a dozen other historic sites and museums along the Pennsylvania Trails of History. On that day the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg will display the 1681 Charter that granted the land for Pennsylvania to William Penn and welcome visitors to its galleries and planetarium for free as well.

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Step out in San Diego

The Spreckels Organ Society presents free, hour-long organ concerts at 2:00 pm each Sunday during March (and every month) in San Diego’s Balboa Park, where the Spreckels Organ Pavilion features one of world's largest outdoor pipe organs.

On Saturday, March 3 and Sunday March 4, San Diego will hold its 12th annual Seaport Village Busker Festival on the city’s historic waterfront. The free event (although tips for buskers are encouraged) features hundreds of contortionists, stuntmen, circus troupes and comedians from around the globe.

Stretch the travel budget in Santa Fe

Santa Fe’s "Kids FreeFest Spring Break 2018" (March 1- April 15) includes hotel discounts, complimentary meals and treats and many discounted activities for kids 12 and under.

For example, during the promotion, the Wildlife West Nature Park and the Santa Fe Climbing Center are offering one free child’s admission/pass for each adult ticket purchased. At Cacao Sante Fe, the spring break offer provides a complimentary Food of the Gods Chocolate Immersion Workshop for a kid 12 and under with a paying adult.

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