free events

Out and about in April: cheap, free and offbeat adventures



(OVO by OVO Collective) 

Spring flowers are out and so are crops of cheap, free and fun festivals and events around the country. Here are some highlights from a round-up I pulled together for Travel + Leisure.

Fiestas in San Antonio

¡Viva Hemisfair! (April 6-8) in San Antonio’s Hemisfair district marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 World’s Fair, which was held with great fanfare in the Alamo City.

The three-day festival will include free music and cultural performances, public art, historical exhibits, a ‘60s-themed fashion show and other fun throwbacks to the 1968 fair.

The 11-day Fiesta San Antonio (April 19-29) started with a single parade back in 1891 and today brings multiple parades and more than 100 other free and ticketed events, including carnivals, balls, arts fairs, concerts and more to streets and venues in the city.

See the light in Baltimore

Light City, a free large-scale light, music and innovation festival take overs the waterfront in Baltimore, MD April 14-21 with a full line-up of performances and free concerts, an opening night parade, closing night fireworks and 21 brand new juried light installations by artists from around the world.

SPAM fan?

Waikiki’s SPAM Jam festival returns to Honolulu on April 28. The annual street festival offers three stage of free music along with crafts, souvenirs and food booths serving up – what else but – a surprising variety of dishes incorporating the canned ham product first introduced in 1937 that remains especially popular with Hawaiians.

Park it in a National Park

While admission is free at many of the more than 400 national parks sites around the country, more than 100 site normally charge an entrance fee. Avoid the fees in every park on April 21, the first day of  National Park Week (April 21-29, 2018) when many parks offer special programs and events as well.

Book it to Berkeley

The free two-day Bay Area Book Festival (April 28-29) returns to downtown Berkeley, CA for the fourth year with a full line-up of authors and speakers, children’s programs, arts installations,  and hundreds of literary exhibitors. There’s also a (ticketed) series of conversations and film screenings about literature in partnership with the Berkeley Art Museum and the Pacific Film Archive.

Valentine’s Day – at the airport

Charles Lindbergh-themed Valentine

Who says airports aren’t romantic?

Pretty much everyone.

But this year many airports and several airlines are getting all dolled up and offering treats, entertainment and some surprises to sweeten up Valentine’s Day for travelers and their sweethearts.

Here’s a round-up of some of what’s in store:


On Thursday, Delta Air Lines transcontinental passengers in both economy and BusinessElite traveling between New York’s JFK and Los Angeles (LAX) or JFK and San Francisco (SFO) airports will receive a complimentary glass of sparkling rosé and Ghirardelli chocolates. On Southwest Airlines all passengers 21 and older are eligible to receive one complimentary alcoholic beverage of their choice during each Valentine’s Day flight.

PHL, Valentine Origami Demonstration

On the ground, Valentine-themed origami paper folding demonstrations are scheduled at Philadelphia International Airport on Valentine’s Day. Passengers may fold a heart during two live demonstrations, pick up paper and folding directions and fold a heart later or take a pre-made red or pink folded paper heart. Demonstrations will take place from 11:30 a.m to 1:30 p.m. and from 4 to 6 pm at the Performing Arts Stage between Terminals B and C.

The Aveda Store at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport (in the Airport Mall, across from checkpoint 2) is offering Valentine’s Day travelers complimentary seated neck, shoulder and back-stress relieving rituals, hair consultations and hosting a “best kiss” contest. After a complimentary lip touch-up, guests may leave a kiss imprint on a card. The customer with the best “kiss” gets a prize.

Everyone wins on Valentine’s Day at Miami International Airport during parties being held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. pre-security in Terminal and from 2 to 5 p.m. post-security in Terminal D. In addition to DJ music, stilt-walkers will pass out chocolate roses and there will be games and prizes, craft tables for making valentines and a heart-shaped background for striking a Valentine’s Day pose.


At Jacksonville International Airport in Florida, volunteer airport ambassadors will continue their Valentine’s Day tradition of handing out about 1,500 colorful carnations to passengers and, at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, “Cupid” will be roaming Terminal B (through February 15th) handing out vouchers for free chocolate hearts. (The vouchers are also available in the Terminal B shops.)

Many airport shops will have special Valentine’s Day discounts and deals and tables piled high with romantic, pre-wrapped, grab-n-go gifts. At Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), the specials include Valentine’s Day cookies from the Paradise Bakery and, at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas, Amy’s Ice Creams will have fresh, chocolate-covered strawberries available for purchase at its post-security shop and, for last minute shoppers, in the baggage claim area.

Plenty of Valentine’s Day entertainment is also on tap.

Early birds in Texas are invited to the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport for a Valentine’s Day Breakfast at 6 a.m. to celebrate American Airlines addition of a new flight to DFW airport. On the menu: breakfast tacos and heart-shaped cookies.

In Ohio, Port Columbus International Airport (CMH) will be holding a Passenger Appreciation Day on Valentine’s Day with live music, fresh popcorn, a kid’s activity table, Valentine’s Day pencils, stickers and old-fashioned stick candy.

On Valentine’s Day, Billy Gaines will be singing love ballads at the Concourse C food court stage at Nashville International Airport and in Nova Scotia, Canada, chocolate hearts will be handed out while an Elvis impersonator serenades passengers and visitors at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

(My story about Valentine’s Day at airports and on airlines first appeared on the MSN Traveler Blog.

Free ice-skating in Denver, courtesy Southwest Airlines


Southwest Airlines is sponsoring an ice-rink in downtown Denver this winter and that means free ice-skating for all.

The Southwest Rink at Skyline Park is next to the historic Daniels and Fisher Clocktower and will be open weekdays from noon to 10 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Don’t have your own skates? No problem. You can rent skates at the rink for just $2.

Pillows? You’ll have to bring your own.

Photos courtesy Flickr Commons.