Arts & Culture

Free Things To Do In Baltimore This Summer

Here's how to have a good time without opening your wallet.

Even when we’re trying our best to save, sometimes it feels like just existing requires tapping a credit card multiple times per day. (Don’t even get us started on the price of eggs.) Sure, there are plenty of locally owned shops, bars, events, and dining destinations that deserve investment, but if budgeting is a top priority these days, there are also plenty of ways to have fun without breaking out your wallet.

From open-air festivals and outdoor film screenings to book clubs and kid-friendly activities, here are a few ways to get out there while saving some cash this summer.

Catch an Outdoor Movie
A standard trip to the movie theater can cost around $52 when you factor in admission and concessions, but it costs nothing to enjoy a flick from the comfort of your camping chair. Pull out your calendar to mark down showings beneath the stars at venues like the American Visionary Art Museum, Druid Hill Park, The Rotunda in Hampden, Shamrock Park in Bel Air, and The Wine Bin in Ellicott City. Check out our full Outdoor Movie Guide for more info. 

Wander Around a Community Festival
Walk around any neighborhood on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and you’re bound to stumble upon a free community street fair or two. In the coming weeks, be sure to stop by AFRAM at Druid Hill Park June 17-18, the annual Baltimore Pride Parade and Block Party on June 24; Baltimore By Baltimore at the Inner Harbor Amphitheatre on July 1 and August 5; the Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival at Middle Branch Park on July 4; and WTMD’s First Thursday concerts at Canton Waterfront Park on July 6, August 3, and September 7.

Scenes from the monthly Baltimore x Baltimore Festival. —Courtesy of Waterfront Partnership

Explore the City’s Greenspaces
Not only are our city’s gorgeous greenspaces great places to get some fresh air, they also make perfect Instagram backdrops. It doesn’t cost a penny to pack a picnic and take in the tulips at Sherwood Gardens in North Baltimore. Visiting Cylburn Arboretum’s beautiful trees and flowers is also free, and the organization offers a loaded calendar full of programs that are either free (check out Saturday-morning yoga classes throughout the summer) or available to the public for a small suggested donation. Speaking of donations, Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens appreciates a $5 donation per visit, but admission is technically free. The Druid Hill Park gem is home to an array of flowers, fruiting plants, tropical plants, and orchids throughout its gardens and greenhouses. Of course, our city’s public parks (everything from Hanlon and Herring Run to Riverside and Roosevelt) are also free spots to explore and get your steps in.

Go Birdwatching
Baltimore has no shortage of beautiful birds—and we don’t just mean the Orioles. Break out your binoculars and check out our guide to the area’s busiest birdwatching spots, which includes public parks, as well as settings you might not think would be an orinthophiles’ paradise, but are actually home to an array of local winged species.

Hit Up an Outdoor Concert
While we love venues like Merriweather Post Pavilion and Pier Six Pavilion this time of year, taking in the sounds of a live band doesn’t need to require a ticket. (In fact, setting up a lawn chair outside of Pier Six to hear national acts for free was cool long before people started doing it for Taylor Swift.) Throughout the season, bring the kiddos along to free concert series like Summer Sounds at the Square (every other Friday night May 27-September 16), the Friends of Patterson Park Summer Concert Series (select Sundays from 6-8 p.m.), Ed Hrybyk’s Baltimore Pop-Up Jazz Jam (Tuesday from 6-8 p.m.), Friday Night Live at Hunt Valley Towne Centre (Fridays from 7:30-9 p.m.), and The Avenue Live on The Avenue in White Marsh (Fridays and Saturdays 7-9 p.m.)

—Courtesy of Friends of Patterson Park via Facebook

Join a Book Club
Around these parts, not only are we serious about our books, but we’re eager to discuss them. Thankfully, small sellers such as  Atomic Books in Hampden and Greedy Reads in Fells Point and Remington host frequent book club gatherings. Atomic’s aptly named Atomic Reading Club meets the last Tuesday of every month at the store’s Eightbar, while Greedy Reads’ general book club meets the last Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. in Remington. If you’re into more niche novels, Greedy Reads also hosts clubs for sci-fi, translated fiction, queer, romance, climate change, and Black femme and nonbinary books. 

Mark Your Calendar for Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Events
From author talks and exhibits to arts and crafts and storytime for tykes, our city’s historic library system offers free programming at each of its branches on a daily basis. Take a peek at the library’s online calendar for events like scavenger hunts, healthy eating workshops, ASL classes, and next month’s overview of hip-hop led by Baltimore photographer Devin Allen.

Plan a Visit to a City Art Institution
Whether you’re taking advantage of free community days—like waived admission to The Culture exhibition at The Baltimore Museum of Art on Sunday, June 18—visiting a free public venue like the Walters Art Museum, or snapping pics of local street murals, there’s always something artsy to appreciate. The Reginald F. Lewis Museum, which offers free admission to the state’s public school educators and to children under six, is also an ideal summertime destination for students and teachers. 

—Courtesy of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum via Facebook

Pick Out a New Potted Plant at Peabody Heights
Leafy additions to our windowsills and stoops can often be a little pricey, but there’s always the alternative of trading unwanted blooms for something new and fresh. Peabody Heights Brewery’s monthly Baltimore Plant Swap events allow plant lovers to mingle while swapping greenery and supplies. There’s also a designated “free” table for anyone willing to donate plants in need of a new home. 

Test Your Knowledge at a Bar Trivia Night
Whether at spots like Angeli’s Pizzeria in Little Italy (Wednesdays at 7 p.m.), Pariah Brewing Company in Hampden (Wednesdays at 7 p.m.), or Nacho Mama’s in Towson (Thursdays at 8 p.m.), there are plenty of options to team up with your pals to answer questions, score points, and head home with prizes. The experts with Charm City Trivia and Greg’s Shitty Trivia Night offer plenty of weekly options all over town if you’re hoping to get a group together this summer. 

Take a Hike (Literally.)
Forget a pricey plane ticket. We have all of the picturesque peaks, rushing waterfalls, and treasured trails right in our own backyard. Revisit our Outdoor Issue for a list of 55 of them, scattered everywhere from Gunpowder Falls and Oregon Ridge Park to Carroll County’s Union Mills Homestead and spots along the Appalachian Trail.