No tickets? No worries — at least, not if you know where to go for a little free entertainment. Complimentary concerts abound in the East Valley. We love them for those days when our schedules magically open up, giving us a chance for an easy, impromptu outing. Some of our faves:
Sonoran Sunset Series at Chandler’s Veterans Oasis Park
It’s hard to beat the atmosphere at the Sonoran Sunset Series, where a family friendly act performs next to a pretty lake and under the stars. Drinks and snacks, such as hot cocoa and s’mores, are available for a fee, or you can bring your own food, along with blankets and folding chairs. In December, glowing luminarias around the lake lend sparkle to a holiday-themed performance. In inclement weather, performances move indoors to the adjacent Environmental Education Center, where you’ll find a menagerie of live animals on display and a nature store.
DETAILS >> Monthly performances begin in September and conclude in April at Veterans Oasis Park, 4050 E. Chandler Heights Road, Chandler. For dates and lineup, call (480) 782-2889 or visit ChandlerAZ.gov/veterans-oasis.
Gilbert’s Concerts in the Park
Wearing out the kids typically isn’t a problem at sprawling Freestone Park; this concert series adds a perk to the experience for adults. Once the playing is done, families can collapse on blankets and lawn chairs at the lakeside amphitheater, where bands play live. Food is available for purchase, or you can pack your own snacks. Sponsor booths offer freebies and giveaways.
DETAILS >> Concerts are Thursday nights in October and November and March through June at Freestone Park, 1015 E. Juniper Road. For a list of performers, call (480) 503-6200 or visit GilbertAZ.gov/events/.
Free Out to Lunch Concert Series at Mesa Arts Center
Held each fall and spring on Mesa Arts Center’s Shadow Walk, these hourlong outdoor shows offer a midday change of scenery for office workers, homeschoolers, retirees, and stay-at-home moms with youngsters in tow. Seating is available on low walls and lawn areas, but you may want to bring a folding chair or blanket for back up. Bring your own lunch or buy it from a food vendor. While there, you can also stop in the free art museum, Mesa Contemporary Arts, or The Store, a local artists’ co-op.
DETAILS >> 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. most Thursdays, Nov. 1 through Dec. 20, 2012 and Jan. 24 through April 11, 2013. For a schedule of bands, call (480) 644-6500 or visit MesaArtsCenter.com.
McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park’s Sunday Evening Concerts
Long considered a top destination for families with children, this train-themed Scottsdale venue hosts free concerts Sundays in May, June and July. Aside from the music, you’ll find rides aboard a scaled-down reproduction of a Colorado narrow gauge railroad and a painstakingly restored antique carousel. Add to that railroad displays and artifacts, a snack shop that operates out of an old Southern Pacific Railroad caboose, and plenty of room for kids to roam — from grassy areas to playgrounds. Blankets and folding chairs are welcome.
DETAILS >> 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays, May 5 through July 7, 2013. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, 7301 E. Indian Bend Road, Scottsdale. Free admission. Rides cost $2 per person; children younger than 3 ride free with a paying adult. (480) 312-2312 or TheRailroadPark.com.
Free Summer Concert Series at Chandler Center for the Arts
When summer grows long and our ideas for amusement short, we love options like Chandler Center for the Arts’ free summer concert series. For little to no coinage (sometimes we like to say “thanks” with a donation), it’s an effortless, air-conditioned evening out for friends and relatives of all ages — and easy to pair with drinks, dinner or dessert just next door in downtown Chandler.
DETAILS >> Concerts typically start in July and go through September at 250 N. Arizona Ave. For dates and times, call (480) 782-2680 or visit ChandlerCenter.org.
Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or firstname.lastname@example.org