On the white steps of Sacre Coeur — a landmark in Paris — we listened to a free concert of Beatles songs. With acoustic guitars and Moroccan accents, a group of young men performed a medley of Fab Four hits for the price of applause and a few smiles.
From Paris to New York, local entertainment is available for a song. Travelers can sample no-cost and low-cost entertainment with a few simple strategies:
Street performances: The ranks of street performers include costumed revelers at Carnival in Venice, a snake charmer in Miami and musicians in Boston's Hay Market area, who offer serious entertainment for just a reasonable tip, or in the case of Venetian carnival participants, for free. Other entertainment options include free New York performances of Shakespearean plays in Central Park, outdoor concerts, street mimes and sketch artists.
Laptops: Business travelers stranded at inconveniently located hotels do not have to be held hostage by room service and pay-per-view movies. With free Wi-Fi as a standard hotel amenity, a laptop can work overtime as a portable entertainment center. Even without a Netflix account, online movies and television episodes from Hulu.com or video.aol.com (AOL's online video library) can provide free late night or rainy day entertainment when leaving the hotel is not convenient. Imeem.com and Pandora.com provide free music channels and playlists customized with your favorite songs.
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Libraries: Poetry readings, tango demonstrations and art tours are available at neighborhood branches of public libraries. Before your trip, log on to the public library system Web site in your destination city, and check out the events calendar. The Free Public Library of Philadelphia, for example, provides cultural events and entertainment for teens, adults, young children and families. Free activities include films, stage performances, poetry readings and craft sessions.
Museums and performance centers: Don't overlook civic performance art centers, which showcase ballet, Broadway performances and concerts for affordable prices. At a community center in Jerusalem, we watched a local cast perform an original musical. In the U.S., county or city community centers offer free or low-cost programs featuring local, regional or national performers. The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County stages a free gospel concert on Sundays with well-known singers and other free programs for families.
Wisebread.com writers Sharon Harvey Rosenberg and Myscha Theriault are co-authors of the best-selling personal finance book "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget," and founders of PoshFrugalityNetwork.com. Theriault is founder of TrekHound.com, a travel Web site, and Rosenberg is the author of "The Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money." Find them on Twitter at Twitter.com/FrugalDuchess and Twitter.com/MyschaTheriault.