The Best Free and Cheap Things to Do in May Across the U.S.
For Mother's Day, you may want to get in the car, hop on a plane, or bike it across town to visit your mom, bring her flowers, and take her to brunch. But during the rest of month, consider enjoying the free festivals taking place in Seattle, Atlanta, Philadelphia, or Augusta.
Here’s a sampling of some of the free, cheap and cool attractions happening around the country in May.
Happy Birthday to the Godfather of Soul
On May 3, celebrate what would have been James Brown’s 85th birthday in his hometown of Augusta, Georgia. The Godfather of Soul is honored with an exhibit at the Augusta Museum of History (admission: $4) that is filled with photos, Brown’s stage costumes, and plenty of his personal memorabilia.
Stroll around town and you’ll find a good dose of James Brown-themed public art, including a life-size bronze sculpture of the artist with a built-in camera that will take your selfie with the statue and then email you the photo.
Kentucky Derby Festival
On May 5, the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky may last just a few minutes, but the Kentucky Derby Festival goes on for weeks with free concerts and dozens of community events. The Pegasus Parade, featuring marching bands, equestrian units, fanciful floats and inflatable character balloons, takes place May 3.
San Antonio's Tricentennial
San Antonio’s Tricentennial Commemorative Week runs May 1-6, with entertaining, artistic, and educational events celebrating the city’s historic roots and legacies.
Highlights include Founders Day on Thursday, May 3, which includes an evening event full of performances by local mariachis, folklorico and conjunto groups, and Arts for All Day on Friday, May 4, when many local museums will offer free admission and fireworks will cap off the day along the Mission Reach. On Military Appreciation Day (Sunday, May 6) Fort Sam Houston will open to the public for the first time since 9/11 with a free festival that includes performances, historic tours, demonstrations and a fireworks show.
Kinetic Sculpture Race in Baltimore
The American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD, hosts the 20th annual Kinetic Sculpture Race on Saturday, May 5. Line up anywhere along the 15-mile race course to watch wild and wacky human-powered contraptions compete on a course that makes its way over land and through mud and water and root for the teams that will win awards for everything from art and engineering to finishing next to last and smack dab in the middle.
Artisphere in Greenville
Greenville, South Carolina, will holds its 14th annual Artisphere festival May 11–13 with more than 250 artists and performers in attendance from around the world. During the free, three-day celebration, more than 100 artists will exhibit their work along a pop-up “Artist's Row” on Main Street while others will presents dozens of live music, theater, dance and art performances.
Sail Philadelphia Festival
When Memorial Day weekend rolls around Philadelphia plays host to a five-day Sail Philadelphia Festival that starts on Thursday, May 24 with the (free) parade of tall ships arriving and docking at Penn’s Landing. Public tours, sailing excursions and plenty of riverside activities will be offered during the Waterfront Festival that takes place over the holiday weekend. Festival admission tickets are $5 for kids/seniors/military and $7 for adults and include admission to the Independence Seaport Museum where adult admission is usually $17.
Folk Festival in Seattle
The Northwest Folk Life Festival will take place over Memorial Day weekend, May 25-28, throughout the former World’s Fair grounds that are now Seattle Center. Now in its 47th year, this free festival is a celebration of music and artistic traditions from around the world with more than 5,000 performers participating each year.
Free Jazz Fest in Atlanta
The month-long Atlanta Jazz Festival comes to a close with three stages full of free jazz concerts in Piedmont Park during Memorial Day weekend. See the festival jazz calendar for headliners and concert times.