Who doesn't love free, especially on vacation? We are all trying to save money these days, and with gas and food not getting any cheaper, free attractions are always a plus. What better place than the Free State to get your dose of cheap vacation fun?
Here are a few particularly good attractions to check out:
Columbia Festival of the Arts
The city of Columbia goes big for the arts, and with free entry and access to many of the festival's galleries and showcases, your whole family can enjoy a vibrant weekend filled with colorful fun here. A favorite of many for this festival is the Chalk-It-Up Contest, in which different amateur and professional artists go head to head as they create masterpieces along designated stretches of sidewalk. Everything from original portraits of loved ones to recreations of masterpieces like Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night" have graced the local asphalt, and are sure to spark the creative juices in any budding artist. After you've picked out your favorite creation, head to ArtPark, the festival's craft show, which hosts more than 50 artisans displaying their paintings, textiles, sculpture and jewelry for all to enjoy. The festival also provides KidzArt, a series of free workshops for kids that lasts 45 minutes each. Just make sure you register prior to the event.
The festival takes place in the second half of June, usually for about two weeks; however, dates are subject to change slightly each year, so be sure to check on the festival's website before you start planning your trip to the Balitmore area.
American Visionary Art Museum
Although this Balitmore museum is always open and is not an event per se, a trip to the American Visionary Art Museum (also known as AVAM) is an event in and of itself. Although it's only be around for about 20 years, the museum is dedicated to showcasing the art of self-taught, intuitive artists, and includes a range of collections that are anything but stuffy. With an exterior largely covered in sweeping swirls of glass and stone, AVAM is even more surprising inside. Art exhibits are set up based on themes as many of the pieces showcased here do not easily fit within a traditional genre.
The Art of Storytelling, for example, features pieces that tell a folk or fairy tale, help to spread a rumor or simply enchant the viewer to look more deeply at a fantasy world. Pieces in the exhibit include sculptures, films, embroidery, diorama and even confessions from the PostSecret project. Full of the quirky, the strange and the strangely beautiful, a trip to AVAM will be one your entire traveling group will never forget.
Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race
The name says it all - this cool race pits physics aficionadi, creative artists and wonderful minds against each other along 14 miles of pavement, mud and sand. Because of the mixture of roadways, all vehicles must be amphibious, or able to work on both land and sea. Be prepared to see plenty of great costumes and creative designs - everything from cyclops boat cars to quaint gingerbread house boats have competed in this wonderful race. Best of all, every vehicle must be human powered, although solar, water or wind-powered assistance is an option as well.
The annual race takes place every first week in May, so be sure to check out the exact date so you don't miss out on one of Baltimore's zaniest events.
Need to de-stress, but don't have the cash to shell out for a top notch spa treatment? Head to Silver Springs, just north of Washington, D.C., near Annapolis, to enjoy the Meditation Museum. In addition to providing a number of exhibits and galleries that will provide you with a deeper feeling of serenity, the museum also regularly offers different events that work to promote a more balanced understanding of one's self and how to more appropriately react to your surroundings. Past events include topics such as reaching a higher love potential, Raja Yoga Meditation introductory courses and how to approach loved ones who have recently experienced a loss with respect and apathy.
Baltimore Book Festival
All you bookish types: Head to Baltimore for the chance to see your favorite author speak at the Baltimore Book Festival. This annual festival, which occurs every September, features more than 100 different booksellers and exhibitors, as well as nearly-constant book readings, a children's book parade and plenty of live music. Fledgling writers can even bring a few pages of their most recent project to a local literary expert for advice on how to better shape their prose - all for free! No matter what aspect of literature you like best, every bookworm and writer will likely love this free festival.