12 months of free
The Niagara Falls Blues Festival (Sept. 9–11, www.niagarafallsbluesfest.com) has grown into a three-day street party on Old Falls Blvd. between Prospect and 1st St. in NF, USA. The lineups get more impressive every year, too.
Curtain Up! (Sept. 16, www.theatreallianceofbuffalo.com) is built around a gala and multiple theater productions, but the street-party aspect is free, along with art openings on and around Main Street. This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of a fall tradition.
The new school year always brings with it a wealth of lectures, concerts, and performances that don’t cost a dime—provided you know where to look. We feature as many university offerings as we can in our print and online calendars, but UB (www.buffalo.edu/calendar/calendar), Canisius (www.canisius.edu/finearts), SUNY Fredonia (www.fredonia.edu/rac), and Niagara University (www.castellaniartmuseum.org) are all particularly committed to no-cost events open to the general public.
The Amherst Symphony (www.amherstsymphony.com) kicks off each new season of four free concerts with a performance this month at the Amherst Middle School, 55 Kings Highway, Amherst. The Cheektowaga Symphony Orchestra (www.cheektowagasymphony.com) follows a similar pattern; in both cases, check the organization’s website for the latest info.
The College at Brockport offers plenty of free arts programming, including a Music at Noon series (Oct. 5 and Nov. 9 this year, Mar. 7 and Apr. 11 in 2012) and the provocatively named “Stage Whispers” program, in which theater professionals affiliated with Rochester’s Geva Theatre Center take you behind the scenes of their craft (Oct. 20, Dec. 8, Mar. 1, and Apr. 19). Visit www.brockport.edu/finearts for details.
Road trip! Load up the car and head to the Finger Lakes for one of the monthly 2300° events at the Corning Museum of Glass (One Museum Way, Corning; 800-732-6845, www.cmog.org), which generally take place on the third Thursday of every month. Admission is free, and you’ll enjoy glassmaking demonstrations, live music, and special events that fit the month’s theme.
Few art events in our area are as ambitious as the Burchfield Penney’s periodic four-day RendezBlue festivals, bringing together exhibition openings, film screenings, lectures, concerts, readings, and performance pieces all loosely tied to a particular theme—and all free. Clear your calendar for “Rhapsody” November 17 through 20. (1300 Elmwood Ave., 878-6011, www.burchfieldpenney.org or www.rendezblue.org.)
This is obviously the month for ”Christmas Strolls” and similarly named opportunities to watch tree-lighting ceremonies, shop late, and sweet-talk Santa. Hertel, Allentown, and Elmwood all offer variations, but you can up the Currier & Ives quotient if you try the ones in Ellicottville, Newfane, the Tonawandas, and other hamlets, ‘burbs, and villages in the area. See our December holiday calendar for details, or hit the website of the quaintest Chamber of Commerce you can find.
Wine tastings are always available in many area wine shops and liquor stores, but they are most frequent during this celebratory time of year. Try them on Saturdays especially.
Ice skating in Rotary Rink at Fountain Plaza from mid-December through March is free if you bring your own skates, or you can rent a pair for 3 bucks or less. Buffalo Place (www.buffaloplace.com) has been running the show in conjunction with the city since the late 1990s.
The Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve (93 Honorine Dr., Depew; 683-5959) offers dozens of free and ultra-cheap events year-round, but this seems like a perfect time to strap on a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis for a little winter wonderland action. Google the unwieldy URL or consult our very own calendar for a list of talks, walks, and other opportunities.
Ready to warm up? Visit the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (1285 Elmwood Ave., 882-8700, www.albrightknox.org) on the First Friday of any month, when admission costs nothing and the gallery is open until 10 p.m.
Enjoy a Brown Bag Concert at Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall on UB’s Amherst Campus. These free noon concerts are hosted on the first Tuesday of every month by UB’s music department; there’s one on February 7 (program TBA). Check www.slee.buffalo.edu for details.
Speaking of SUNY schools, the dance department at Brockport offers a pair of free Alumni Dance Showcase concerts every year this month; in 2012 they’re on Feb. 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. Check www.brockport.edu/finearts for details.
Explore City Hall (65 Niagara Sq.). The building is not only an architectural masterpiece; it’s filled from top to bottom with fascinating, often bizarre iconography. Free tours are offered every weekday at noon by Preservation Buffalo Niagara (www.preservationbuffaloniagara.org). Meet in the lobby.
See a film on the big screen as part of Shea’s Free Family Film Series (646 Main St., www.sheas.org). This breathtaking venue was once an old-fashioned movie palace and it remains a great place to see classic silent films (with organ accompaniment), monster movies, musicals, recent Disney releases, and other family faves. The free screenings usually take place on the second Sunday of each month, and always at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at local stores and the box office two weeks in advance.
By now you’re feeling the urge to get out and about, aren’t you? Many of the state and county parks of WNY offer special themed hikes all year long; the calendars at www.niagarafallsstatepark.com and www.buffaloaudubon.org are both good places to start your search for nature-y things to do.
Celebrate spring with a trip to the landmark that first put our fair city on the map. Preservation Buffalo Niagara offers free tours of the Erie Canal terminus every Friday through Sunday. Meet at the Truss Bridge at noon; see www.preservationbuffaloniagara.org for details.
Every year on May Day, the Subversive Theatre presents a staged reading of a new or classic play; check www.subversivetheatre.org to find out what they’ll be up to next time around.
Summer brings an ever-growing number of things to do outdoors at no charge. Music’s a biggie—there are concert series every night of the week (all listed in the special music calendar in our June issue)—but if you want to get in on the action yourself, consider Drumming for Peace, a weekly drum/dance circle every Friday night at the Lewiston Peace Garden (475 Center St.). This past summer was its debut, so cross your fingers it’s back in 2012.
Looking for an excuse to visit Toronto again? Check out Luminato, a ten-day festival packed with free concerts, performances, readings, food tastings, magic acts, fashion shows, and screenings. This past summer you could have caught They Might Be Giants, k. d. lang, the Kronos Quartet, a festival of Arabic films, and readings by the likes of Geraldine Brooks and Jeanette Winterson, all without paying a Canadian penny; watch www.luminato.com for the skinny on 2012’s offerings.
Since we sent you out to a bunch of concerts last month, let’s stop and smell the roses this time. (Needless to say, you can enjoy both bands and begonias for free all summer around these parts.) Of the fourteen garden walks that are currently part of the National Garden Festival (www.nationalgardenfestival.com), eleven are free and the other three ask for a donation of five bucks or less.
Lovers of cheap art and live performance would be wise to check out the Buffalo Infringement Festival (www.infringebuffalo.org); all the acts in this 11-day extravaganza from the end of July through the first Sunday of August promise that they will charge no more than $10 for their shows, but the majority either pass the hat or skip the cover charge altogether.
Allentown makes for a terrific evening any time of year, but it achieves a certain kind of hyperactive funky glory in late summer, so we’ll pick this month to recommend First Friday, the neighborhood’s monthly art walk (www.firstfridaysallentown.com) when a dozen or more galleries open their doors from 5 to 9 p.m. There’s no charge to browse, and you’ll often find musicians and other performers playing in or outside many of the venues. Bonus: the wine may be cheap, but for you it’s free.