You've been planning this July 4th since well before Memorial Day -- the barbecue, the fireworks, maybe a community parade -- but what about the rest of the summer?
There are plenty of free festivals and events taking place across the country this July and August that are well worth a spot on your busy social calendar. We may not have been able to include every event we found (here's to you, Grainger County Tomato Festival), but we tried to pick a mix of unique fests in popular summer destinations.
From the country's oldest free Shakespeare festival to a Jerry Garcia tribute day, from rock concerts on the beach to movies under the stars, mark your calendars for the best free summer entertainment the U.S. has to offer.
<strong>August 17, 2012: <a href="http://www.atlanticcitynj.com/acairshow.aspx" target="_hplink">Atlantic City Airshow</a>, <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/united-states/new-jersey/atlantic-city" target="_hplink">Atlantic City</a>, NJ</strong> Keep your eyes on the skies as “Thunder Over the Boardwalk” shows off some of the most talented pilots in the world. Nearly 800,000 people attended last year’s event, which features both military and civilian aircraft. <em><a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/articles/free-summer-festivals/northeast" target="_hplink">See more free festivals in the Northeast. </a></em> Photo: Atlantic Convention & Visitors Bureau
<strong>July 20-22, 2012: <a href="http://www.artscape.org/" target="_hplink">Artscape</a>, Baltimore, MD</strong> Prepare for sensory overload at this event that claims to be “America's largest free arts festival.” Nearly 350,000 people come for the dance, theater, opera, and symphony performances, along with artists, craftspeople, and fashion designers. <em><a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/articles/free-summer-festivals/southeast" target="_hplink">See more free festivals in the Southeast.</a></em> Photo: Visit Baltimore
<strong>July 13-21, 2012: <a href="http://www.aquatennial.com/" target="_hplink">Minneapolis Aquatennial</a>, <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/united-states/minnesota/minneapolis" target="_hplink">Minneapolis</a>, MN</strong> Take part in events ranging from senior bowling tournaments to milk carton boat races. A celebration of all things Minneapolis, this civic-minded festival offers more events than any one person could possibly attend – but you should try! <em><a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/articles/free-summer-festivals/midwest" target="_hplink">See more free festivals in the Midwest.</a></em> Photo: Richard Westley Wong
<strong>August 26, 2012: <a href="http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Market/HotSauce" target="_hplink">Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival</a>, <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/united-states/texas/austin" target="_hplink">Austin</a>, TX</strong> Beat the heat by eating some heat this summer. Taste a variety of hot sauces on plenty of foods, check out the hot sauce competition, or pick up some bottles to use at home. <em><a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/articles/free-summer-festivals/west" target="_hplink">See more free festivals in the Southwest.</a></em> Photo: Austin Chronicle
<strong>Through August 26, 2012 (Sundays only): <a href="http://www.sterngrove.org/" target="_hplink">Stern Grove Festival</a>, <a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/united-states/california/san-francisco" target="_hplink">San Francisco</a>, CA</strong> For 75 years, this festival has brought music and arts – from jazz to opera to ballet – to Sigmund Stern Grove, making it the longest-running free outdoor music festival in the country. Kids concerts run most days before the main show, as well as fun activities like hands-on arts projects and singing and dancing lessons. <em><a href="http://www.shermanstravel.com/articles/free-summer-festivals/california" target="_hplink">See more free festivals in California.</a></em> Photo: Flickr/_e.t
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