By Harriet Baskas
July 01, 2018
Courtesy of South Street Seaport Museum

It’s really July that roars in like a lion, given all the fireworks communities set off to celebrate July 4th and usher in summer.

But the fun doesn’t have to stop there, thanks to plenty of cheap, free and cool events offered up around the country, including festivals celebrating everything from baby food to cherries and pickles, to free concerts, surfing competitions and discounts on multi-course meals.

Food Festivals

A tradition since 1925, the National Cherry Festival runs June 30 through July 7 in Traverse City, Michigan with parades, pie-eating contests, pit spitting contests and plenty of other tasty cherry-centered activities.

Fremont, MI, home to the Gerber Products Company and the self-proclaimed Baby Food Capital of the World, spoons up the National Baby Food Festival July 18-21. Highlights include a grand parade, a baby crawl, frog jumping, turtle races, a baby photo contest and a baby food eating contest – for adults.

And in Pittsburgh, PA – where the Heinz company has been headquartered since 1890 – the free Picklesburgh festival will celebrate all things pickled July 20-22 from its perch on the Roberto Clemente Bridge. In addition to live music and vendors offering every type of pickled food item imaginable, participants can partake of do-it-yourself pickling demonstrations and enter the pickle-juice drinking contest.

Ships and Surfing

In New York City, the South Street Seaport Museum is offering free admission from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. each Friday from July 6 through September 22, 2018. The museum is home to a fleet of five historic ships and is currently hosting an exhibition about the experience of sailing on early ocean liners.

Baseball fans will rally in Cooperstown, New York, July 27-30 for the Hall of Fame Weekend at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Some weekend events are ticketed, but there’s no charge to watch Hall of Famers ride in trucks down Main Street during the Parade of Legends Saturday evening, July 28, nor is there a charge for lawn seating during the Induction Ceremony on the grounds of the Clark Sports Center on Sunday, July 29.

Baltimore’s giant summer Artscape festival runs July 20 – 22, with free activities ranging from Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concerts to dance, opera and theater performances, visual arts installation and artist markets throughout the city neighborhoods.

San Antonio continues its tricentennial year celebration in July with a wide variety of special ticketed and free partner events, including a series of free Friday night jazz performances (July 6, 13, 20 and 27) courtesy of the Balcones Heights Jazz Festival.

The summer line-up at The Muny, an 11,000-seat outdoor musical theater complex in St. Louis, includes “Jersey Boys,” “Annie,” “Gypsy,” and, appropriately enough, “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Ticket prices start at a reasonable $15, but those in the know line up early for the 1,450 free seats (in the last nine rows of the theater) handed out before each performance.

Billed as the world’s largest surf competition, the U.S. Open of Surfing rolls in (and out) July 28 to August 5 in Huntington Beach, CA. In addition to surfing, the nine-day event includes free outdoor movies, art installations, live music, skateboarding, BMX competitions, movie premiers, fashion shows and more.

Restaurant Week in Cities Across the Country

Keep your summer travel budget in check by taking advantage of Restaurant Week deals in cities offering special set menus and prix fixe prices on lunch and dinner.

New York City’s summer Restaurant Week runs July 23 to August 17. Reservations (necessary for many popular eateries) open on July 9. Other cities offering Restaurant Week deals in July include Baltimore, Maryland (July 27 to August 5), Baton Rouge, Louisiana (July 11 to 16), Providence, Rhode Island (July 8-21) and Charlotte, North Carolina (July 20-29).