For overworked and rent-burdened Denverites, many of the city's top-dollar entertainments seem out of reach. Luckily, the weekend ahead offers plenty of affordable options for delight and diversion. Families, comedy nerds, music lovers, cinephiles and even birders can look forward to three days of events that cost $10 or less (fine print notwithstanding) to enjoy. Keep reading for the ten best free and cheap events in Denver and the surrounding area this weekend.
Summer Family Nights
Thursday, July 26, 7 to 9 p.m.
$7 to $12.99
Offering family-friendly fun at wallet-friendly prices, Denver Downtown Aquarium's Summer Family Nights winds down for the season Thursday night with one last round of deep-sea deals. In addition to a discount on admission to the Aquarium Adventure exhibit, Mystic Mermaid Show and 4-D Movie Experience, guests can also enjoy lower-cost activities like face-painting, scavenger hunts, carousel rides and the Coconut Tree Climb. Perhaps best of all are the guided animal encounters, which allow kids of all ages to marvel at wildlife from an impossibly close distance. It's also the eve of the Aquarium's Tiger Weekend, so parents shouldn't be too surprised if their little ones beg for a repeat visit. Get tickets, $7 to $12.99, and learn more on the Downtown Aquarium events calendar.
Hollywood Favorite: Top Gun
July 26 to 28, August 2 to 4, 7:30 p.m.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
$7.95 to $9.95
Feeling the need for speed? Top Gun, the ’80s-tastic story of Naval aviation cadets and their high-flying hijinks, is an enduring relic of its era recalled so fondly that fans are still clamoring for a sequel some 32 years after its initial premiere. Revisit this slice of cinematic cheese on one the city's grandest screens, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science's IMAX, where it'll be presented in stunning 3-D as part of the museum's Hollywood Favorite screening series. Visit the Denver Museum of Nature & Science box-office page to buy tickets, $7.95 to $9.95, and learn more.
Cartoons & Comedy
Thursday, July 26, 10 p.m.
The Black Buzzard
The Saturday morning cartoon hits of yesteryear are equally rife with nostalgia and unintentional hilarity, a paradigm that Cartoons & Comedy host and producer Chris Baker gleefully exploits for one of Denver comedy's longest-running and most delightful shows. Munch on childishly sugary cereals while quaffing decidedly adult beverages at a show that fuses clips of Muppet Babies and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (spliced between vintage toy and candy commercials) and top-notch standup and commentary from July guests Nathan Lund, Andrew Orvedahl and Ramon Rivas II. Admission is free; find more information on the Big Top Productions Facebook events page.
B-Side Music Fridays with Jake Valentine and The Ghost of Joseph Buck
Friday, July 27, 5 to 10 p.m.
Denver's artiest summer concert series continues at the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art's B-Side Music Fridays, which welcomes Jake Valentine and The Ghost of Joseph Buck to rock the house at this week's outdoor extravaganza. Soak in a uniquely scenic view of the Mile High skyline while enjoying tunes and tipples under the setting sun. The first hundred guests through the door receive a complimentary beer from Ratio Beerworks — provided they're over 21. Visit MCA Denver's Facebook events page to learn more.
Lawn Concert: Red Baraat
Friday, July 27, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Clyfford Still Museum
Unwind to the tune of jazzy party music under the setting sun at the Clyfford Still Museum's Lawn Concert series, which continues this week with a performance from Brooklyn-based sextet Red Baraat. A brassy and sassy blend of Indian rhythms with hip-hop, funk and New Orleans jazz, Red Baraat unites trumpet, trombone, sousaphone and sax in an unmistakably unique sonic equilibrium. In addition to great live music, guests can also nosh dogs from Biker Jim's and ice cream sandwiches from Peteybird while quaffing draughts from Baere Brewery. Admission is free; visit the Clyfford Still Museum events calendar for more details.
Step-Dads Comedy Show
Friday, July 27, 7 p.m.
The Comedy RoomRoom
Out of the ashes of the Nerd Roast rises Step-Dads, an altogether less high-concept comedy show from local comics Preston Tompkins and Zach Reinert. Purveyors of absurd, bleak and brief comic videos, Tompkins and Reinert are bringing their diabolical sensibilities to the stage in a show that blends screenings, live sketch and standup in Denver comedy's most welcoming venue, El Charrito's Comedy RoomRoom. July's includes Allison Rose, Georgia Comstock, Geoff Tice, Derrick Stroup, Rachel Weeks and headliner Ben Kronberg, plus the debut of brand-new Step-Dads sketches. Visit the Comedy RoomRoom Facebook events page for more details.
Shakespeare in Clement Park Presents The Comedy of Errors
Friday, July 27, 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Small cheer and great welcome makes a merry feast of fun at the Foothills Theatre Company's presentation of William Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors. Convene with fellow Elizabethan Anglophiles in the Grant Family Amphitheater, located in Littleton's Clement Park, for an al fresco rendition of one of the Bard's most crowd-pleasing comedies set against the backdrop of a magnificent Colorado sunset. The park's naturally sloped lawn provides a plentitude of vantage points for the free performance, though guests are encouraged to bring their own blankets or lawn chairs to this free event. Find more information on the Foothills Parks and Recreation district's events calendar.
July Bird Walk
Saturday, July 27, 8 to 11 a.m.
Hudson Gardens & Event Center
$9 to $10
In accordance with the sage advice proffered in a zeitgeist-seizing Portlandia episode, if you're facing the prospect of a dull weekend ahead, you should put a bird on it. Hudson Gardens welcomes avian enthusiasts to the July Bird Walk, an exploration of the wing-flapping fauna alighting on Hudson's scenic grounds. Expand your ecological knowledge with helpful guidance from an Audubon Master Birder, learning how to better spot and identify different species of birds in the wild while gaining appreciation for their habitat. The organizers recommend bringing binoculars and wearing comfortable shoes and weather-appropriate attire. Register for $9 to $10 via the Hudson Gardens events calendar.
Comedy Saved the Video Star
Saturday, July 28, 9:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Mutiny Information Cafe
Music videos may not hold the same cultural cachet as they did during the heyday of the "I Want My MTV" era, but they nevertheless remain a reliable source of unintentional hilarity. Local comedian and podcaster J.D. Lopez's Comedy Saved the Video Star is a joke-filled trip down memory lane that welcomes standups and audience members to play and ridicule their favorite music videos of distant and current vintage. Join Lopez along with July's guests James Draper, Priscilla Spangler, Derrick Stroup and Anthony Crawford for the only thing keeping the music-video medium relevant (apart from Her Majesty Beyoncé, of course). Admission is free; visit Left Hand, Right Brain's Facebook events page to learn more.
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Sixth Annual Peruvian Festival
Sunday, July 29, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Fox Street Compound
Celebrate cuisine, folklore, music and dance at the Peruvian Festival, an event that invites families to celebrate their heritage or enjoy a unique cultural crossroad. Soccer tournaments, ring wrestling, horse dancing, folkloric performances and guest chefs all combine to enrich the experience at Mi Casa Peru Colorado's sixth annual fiesta. Guests include chef Christian Huerta, traditional dancer Ashleigh Flores, DJ Lalito and many more. Visit the Peruvian Festival Eventbrite page to register for free and find more details.
Jazz Dinner with Matt Skellenger Group
Sunday, July 28, 6 p.m.
Ophelia's Electric Soapbox
Jazz up your Sunday night dinner at Ophelia's Electric Soapbox, where the Matt Skellenger Group takes the stage to entertain diners at the erstwhile brothel and porn emporium. It's an altogether more savory situation at Ophelia's these days, with classy vittles and a thriving music calendar supplanting the smut at one of the city's most distinctive venues. While admission is free, food and cocktails assuredly won't be. Learn more on Ophelia's events calendar.
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