You don’t need deep pockets to have a good time in Charlotte. In fact, some of the most fun things to do in the Queen City cost $10 or less. Here’s the deal on 10 of them:
1 Find Your Muse Open Mic: $3. The Evening Muse’s long-running open mic takes place every Monday night. You’ll hear a wide range of music in many styles, as well as a smattering of comedy. If you’d like to show what you’ve got, get there early to get your name on the list. Also, The Evening Muse is a bargain other nights of the week too. Rarely is a show over $12, and many are $7 to $10. The talent is top-notch and the sound in the room is out-of-this-world good.
The Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. www.eveningmuse.com.
2 Abari, Charlotte first bar/arcade combination. Bring a pocketful of quarters, or get some from the change machine, and relive your youth, whether that means Street Fighter II, Ms. Pac Man, Frogger or pinball machines. Specialty cocktails and craft beers are available, and the machines have convenient cup holders, but if you want to keep it on the cheap, they’ve also got PBR.
Abari, 1721 N. Davidson St. abarigamebar.com.
3 Mountain biking at U.S. National Whitewater Center. Free admission, but $5 parking. Some of the best biking trails are at the Whitewater Center. Also, catch a concert as part of the twice-weekly summer concert series, River Jam, or during the frequent festivals.
U.S. National Whitewater Center, 5000 Whitewater Center Parkway. usnwc.org.
4 Discount movies at Cinemark Movies 10 in Matthews: $1.50 movies on Tuesdays. There are plenty of movies to choose from. Movies are just $3 other nights. Check the website and learn how to sign up for a weekly coupon for a free concession item.
Cinemark Movies 10, 9508 Northeast Court, Matthews. www.cinemark.com/theatre-detail.aspx?node_id=902128&.
5 Gantt Center: $9. Explore the excellent collection of African-American art. The center also hosts performances, dance classes and other activities that are free with admission. In addition, the museum has periodic “Gantt After Dark” events, which offer free admission and feature live music, free bites and a cash bar.
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art+Culture, 551 S. Tryon St. www.ganttcenter.org.
6 Concerts in Uptown Charlotte Parks: Free. Charlotte’s Uptown parks, Romare Bearden Park, Freedom Park, and the newest one, First Ward Park, all host free concerts and festivals. Concert series include Freedom Summer Jazz, Music Box Lunch at Romare Bearden Park and First Ward Park, Party in the Park at Romare Bearden Park on Wednesday nights in the summer, and more. You can purchase food and drinks from vendors, food trucks, or nearby restaurants. uptowncharlotteparks.com.
7 Brewery tours: Free. To say that Charlotte’s microbrewery scene is exploding is an understatement. Breweries are popping up all around the city and provide a relaxed setting for enjoying an afternoon or evening, often with an in-house menu, or food trucks, as well as live music, and sometimes even yoga.
8 Petra’s: Price varies. This friendly, modest bar in Plaza Midwood is a hidden gem, offering just about everything: live music, storytelling, game nights, art gallery receptions and silent movies with live piano accompaniment. Depending on the event the cover varies, but it’s rarely over $8, and is often $3 or even free. (But do tip your bartender!)
Petra’s, 1919 Commonwealth Ave. petraspianobar.com.
9 Walking tours: Free. Charlotte Museum of History leads free walking tours through historic neighborhoods like Belmont and Elizabeth. Although they’re free you do have to sign up in advance and they fill up quickly, so keep checking back on the museum’s website for future tours.
Charlotte Museum of History, www.charlottemuseum.org.
10 Cheap seats at Charlotte Knights games: $8. There may be no nicer way to spend an evening in uptown Charlotte than at a Charlotte Knights game, at the beautiful BB&T Ballpark. Win or lose, you’re close to the action and are treated to a stunning skyline view. If you want to make it a cheap night, opt for “berm” seating. The berm is the grassy hill along the first base side of the stadium. You can’t bring chairs but blankets are permitted.
Charlotte Knights, www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t494.
Jody Mace, a freelance writer, is founder of www.charlotteonthecheap.com