If you live near an urban area of any size, there are free events which have inadequate publicity and at which you will be most welcome. And, they are quality events, too: these are things worth your time.
It's up to you to find them. Here are some upcoming examples, using my locality of San Antonio:
1. Book Signings (go to book store sites, input your zip code, scroll through their events or check CelebrityBookSignings and search for your town):
Authors of all kinds do book signings as part of their promotion. This can be a great way to actually converse with the author, too: it's amazing how often signings have just one or two people show up (there are the Joel Osteen exceptions, of course).
In the past year, Wynonna Judd came through San Antonio to promote her book, just like true crime novelist and Edgar Award nominee Diane Fanning, and in the next week:
Sept. 28, 2006, at the San Pedro Barnes & Noble: Gary Stromberg will discuss his book, The Harder They Fall, detailing celebrities who dealt with addiction and recovery. Interviews included such famous folk as: Richard Pryor, Richard Lewis, Grace Slick, Dr. John, and Chuck Negron (Three Dog Night), Malcolm McDowell and Mariette Hartley, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Franz Wright, writer Anne Lamott, and athletes Doc Ellis and Gerry Cooney.
Sept. 30, 2006, at the Quarry Market Borders: Former Spurs Coyote Tim Derk will discuss his new book, Hi Mom! Send Sheep details his years as the Spurs Coyote mascot before suffering a massive stroke.
Nov. 12, 2006, 3 pm at the Barnes & Noble NW location, Kinky Friedman will be discussing The Christmas Pig and presumably, the Texas gubernatorial election results.
At both Barnes & Noble and Borders as well as the Library, there are reading groups, poetry readings, and the like, on a monthly basis. Free to join.
2. Lecture Series (search for the university or group, then search for events or lectures within the site):
Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will be at Trinity University on November 13, 2006, in Laurie Auditorium as part of its Distinguished Lecture series. According to Answer.Com, Ken Burns is "is the wonder boy of modern documentary filmmaking, known for his PBS specials on the U.S. Civil War, baseball and jazz. His 1990 mini-series for public television, The Civil War, was a pop culture sensation in America when it aired in 1990. Burns's signature techniques -- particularly his use of a moving camera to explore still photos -- were quickly adopted by other filmmakers and led to something like a renaissance in documentary films. Burns's other major mini-series for public television include Baseball (1994), Jazz (2001) and Mark Twain (2003). He won Academy Award nominations for his documentaries Brooklyn Bridge (1981) and The Statue of Liberty (1986)."
Margaret Atwood will be at the Charlene McCombs Empire Theatre at 7pm on October 30th for a free public reading from her latest work plus a question and answer session, hosted by Gemini Ink.
3. Museum Events (search their sites for calendars, and read through for things of interest as well as days when they offer free admission):
Witte Museum offers free jazz every Sunday from 4 to 8 for those who bring their lawn chairs or blankets, since seating is on the grassy area between the Museum and the San Antonio River, there in Brackenridge Park.
Admission is free at the McNay, although a five dollar donation is "suggested" for those wishing to view certain collections. The San Antonio Museum of Art has free admission on Tuesdays from 4-8.
4. The Library (Your local library should have a list of events as well as a calendar at its site.)
Learn to make flour tortillas from the master down at the Central Library as Olga Flores of Taco Haven teaches a free class on October 2nd at 6 pm.
Listen to classical guitarist Ray Tamez at 2pm on Saturday, October 7th at the Cortez branch of the Library.
Get the skinny on college applications and financial aid from university representatives at various times during the month at various branches of the Library.
Discuss the border minutemen on October 9th at at 6:30 pm the San Antonio Indiginous Forum, meeting at the Forest Hills branch of the Libray.
There's an unbelievable amount of activity at our local library: lots of family fun events, adult events, kid and toddler events. Storytimes to Small Business Networking. Too much to list here.
1. Locally, one Barnes & Noble has Pajama Storytime on Saturdays at 730pm for children ages 3-8. Meanwhile, the Borders in Quarry Market has a weekly storytime on Saturdays at 3:30. In October, both stores are having Lemony Snicket parties.
2. Home Depot offers free kids workshops (see last week's post).
3. Visiting the Alamo is free, although donations are most welcome.
4. Tour a vaquero's ranch on the first Saturday of the month for free, although you have to get yourself to Floresville for the caravan and it's best to have a rugged vehicle for the trip. This is offered as part of the Missions National Park, and the ranch is Espada's Rancho de las Cabras.
5. Attend the UTSA Archaeology Fair on October 13th, from noon to 4pm, and do things like participate in a mock dig and visit the buffalo soldier's encampment.
6. The San Antonio Zoo offer free admission on the first Tuesday of every month to one adult and up to two children younger than 5.
7. The San Antonio Library offers free admission to the first 20 kids ages 12 or older that sign up for its Papel Picado class. Artist Kathleen Trenchard shows the kids how this paper-cutting art form works, and each child gets to create his own papel picado art piece.
8. Teens are invited to learn ghost-hunting with San Antonio Paranormal Investigations on October 3d at 7pm at the Westfall Branch of the Library.
Again, the Library has an amazing amount of stuff for kids, from toddlers to teens, involving a wide variety of interests. Too much to list here.