Free Summer Concerts You Can’t Miss

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Summer! The weather’s getting warmer, the produce is perfect, the kids are out of school and there’s no shortage of things to do with your longer days. The sky is the limit, and even a lack of sun in the sky can’t dampen your summer spirit. On any given evening when the sun begins to set, outdoor music venues across the country host concert series featuring local and world-famous artists—for free. We’ve got a few in our hometown of Santa Barbara (jazz on Wednesdays, bluegrass on Sundays) and we’re willing to bet your town has a free summer concert series, too. So pack a picnic and head to the local park, pavilion or amphitheater for a no-cost, people-watching, frisbee-throwing, outdoor-dancing, beer-sampling good time.

And since not all free concerts are created equal, here’s a few of our favorites in some great cities across the country. Use these incredible outdoor concert series as an excuse to plan the summer road trip you’ve been daydreaming about…

Nightfall Concert Series in Chattanooga

Nightfall Concert Series, Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Nightfall Concert Series, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Nightfall Music Series

 

With nearly three decades under their belts, the organizers of Chattanooga’s free Nightfall Series know how to put together a summer concert lineup. Every Friday from May – August, head to Miller Plaza to watch a local band open for a national headliner—many of whom will play in Chattanooga for the first time in 2016. This summer’s diverse lineup runs the gamut from bluegrass to Afro-pop, and no matter who’s playing, admission is always free. In addition to the varied musical selection, come to Nightfall prepared to please your palate with grub from local food trucks and local booze vendors. The 2016 Nightfall Concert Series has a special twist, too: on the first Friday of each month, crowds will gather at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, then “Rock the Block” down to Miller Plaza—enjoying a parade of antique motorcycles, cars, and bikes, collected by local hobbyists, along the way. Get your Chattanooga choo-choo on!

Millennium Park in Chicago

Millennium Park Series, Chicago, Illinois.
Millennium Park Series, Chicago, Illinois. John Menard

 

Visit Chicago’s 24.5-acre Millennium Park today, and you’d never guess it was an industrial wasteland for nearly a century and a half. With some help from world-renowned architect Frank Gehry—whose other notable designs include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles—the seminal park took shape in 1997, and is now home to one of the country’s best-known summer concert series. The 2016 Millennium Park Series lineup is as genre-defying as the park’s architecture, and includes free twice-weekly concerts (Mondays and Thursdays) from June through August.

City Park Jazz in Denver

City Park Jazz, Denver, Colorado.
City Park Jazz, Denver, Colorado. jess melgey

 

Whether you get there by bike (there’s a free corral), public transit, on foot, or by car, arrive early for the City Park Jazz series and enjoy some time exploring the Park before the show. There’s the Denver Zoo, or the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, which features rotating natural history exhibits, a planetarium, and a terrace featuring some of the city’s best views of the Colorado Front Range. Adventurous park visitors can rent cruiser bikes, surreys, pedal boats, and kayaks to explore the park.When the sun goes down each Sunday between June and August, head to the pavilion—rain or shine—for a diverse cultural mix of music and local cuisine.

Concerts at the Mural in Seattle

Pickwick – Hacienda Motel (Live at the Mural) from KEXP RADIO on Vimeo. During KEXP & Seattle Center’s Concerts at the Mural series at the Mural Amphitheater. Recorded 8/26/11. Video courtesy of KEXP.

The music scene that brought you Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, and countless others brings you free concerts every Friday in August at the Seattle Center.The beautiful Mural Amphitheater was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, which also featured artwork by contemporary American painters like Georgia O’Keefe and Jackson Pollock, as well a performance by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and a concert by Ella Fitzgerald. Today, you can enjoy free Live at the Mural shows with the backdrop of that quintessential Seattle symbol, the Space Needle. In a city with a music history as rich and colorful as Seattle’s, you know the free concert scene will knock (or rock)  your socks off.

Twilight Concerts in Santa Monica

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Few outdoor venues have the staying power of the century-old Santa Monica Pier. You know the one: located just north of Muscle Beach, the iconic pier has appeared in dozens of movies and television shows, and was once considered the best fishing spot in Santa Monica Bay. Several makeovers later, the modern-day pier is home to an amusement park, complete with a giant solar-powered ferris wheel, the original 1920s carousel, and an aquarium. This year’s Twilight Concerts lineup runs Thursdays from July through September and features a diverse lineup of bands from across the country. Tip: skip pricey parking near the pier and opt for public transit—or bike valet—instead.

Whatever free concert series you visit this summer, make sure you spend it with good company. Let us know which concerts we missed!

Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co. Featured image provided by Nightfall Music Series.

The Ultimate Staycation Guide

 

We love vacation because it’s relaxing: Drinking cocktails while watching the sunset, taking long walks, having meaningful conversations with good company, not a care in the world… Half the price and a quarter of the hassle, we’re learning to embrace the staycation. Sure it’s a little harder to get away from it all, but ignore the laundry for a few days and don’t even think about cracking open your computer before Monday morning. Swap your bike for your car or swap your sneaks for your bike. Let brunch spill into lunch, lunch spill into happy hour, happy hour into dinner with friends, and if you’ve got the energy hit the old late-night stomping grounds. Or skip the late night and get your beauty sleep. Whatever you want. It’s your staycation, so live it up.

Tips For a Great Staycation:

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1. Take pictures of your town. Grab a camera (yes, a REAL camera) and join the tourists. If they can appreciate amazing architecture and local public art, you can too!

2. Go to the coffee shop you don’t usually frequent. It’s great people watching, and who knows, might be great coffee as well. Bring a book, do a crossword puzzle, catch up with an old friend. Just don’t check your email.

3. Bike to brunch. Mainly because you’ll need to bike home after a few Bloody Mary’s. Eat extra bacon to soak up the breakfast booze. Leave a good tip, you’re on staycation.

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4. Head to the local botanic garden or arboretum. Pack some snacks and enjoy the garden you’ve never been to. Learn about the local flora and fauna and spend a few hours appreciating the simple things. Well, if you consider photosynthesis simple…

5. Do the local nature loop or urban hike. With all that lounging (it’s a vacation, you shouldn’t be lifting a finger), you may want to walk it off. If there isn’t a designated nature loop, find a local trail map and see which trails connect. For an urban hike, hop on google maps and plot places you want to hit up. Google will map a route for you.

6. Grab a drink at the oldest bar in town. Perhaps it’s the free shuffleboard, maybe it’s the legendary bartender, there’s a reason this place is the oldest joint in town. Pop in during your urban hike or make it the first stop of the night. Just remember to bring some quarters for the juke box.

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7. Visit the local historical home or museum.  Even the tiniest towns seem to have a robust historical society. Seek out your historical home or local history museum and spend some time talking to the docents and exploring the rooms. It’s generally pretty cheap (or donation based) and you’ll learn some gems about the town’s past. Spoiler Alert: It’s probably wilder than you think.

8. Sample beer at the local brewery. Maybe it’s your favorite haunt, even so, get the sampler and remind yourself why you love the local brew. Try whatever is seasonal and sit at the bar so you can ask the bartender all your touristy questions.

9. Pop into a few art galleries. New York has the Met, Los Angeles has the Getty, your town’s got something to write home about. Find it. And might we suggest doing this after the aforementioned local brewery. You’ll be nice and open minded!

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10. Explore the next town over. It’s amazing how far we travel for new experiences. The next great experience is likely just down the road. Pull out a map and find the next town over, about 30 miles away. Hop in the car (or take the train!) and spend an afternoon exploring. Check to see what they’re known for (Do they have a local dish you can’t miss? Do they have a free summer concert series?) and spend the day exploring. Repeat tips 1-9.

11. Treat yourself to some R&R. You saved a whole bunch on hotel and travel costs, so indulge in a  mani/pedi or a full body massage. Rejuvenation is key to a successful vacation, so don’t forsake it. You’re only cheating yourself.

12. Cap it off with a Sunday night BBQ with friends. You’ve got pictures, souvenirs and a boatload of new info about your town. Invite your friends over for a sunday night cookout and regale them with your staycation stories. No shoes required – you’re on holiday, remember?

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Men’s Fletch Print Shirt & Swerve Short , Women’s Muse Dress & Canal Hat

8 Ways to Use a Pareo

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The pareo is the greatest item of clothing you’ve never heard of. Part skirt, part accessory, part cozy blankie, the lightweight and super packable pareo is the Swiss Army Knife of your summer wardrobe. Here’s why we love it:

  • It’s a skirt – It’s long enough to wrap around a few times (40” x 75”)so you don’t have to worry about it being too sheer. Short or long, whatever your preference – you’re the stylist.
  • It’s a sarong – It’s got length so you can wrap it into a halter dress and a hidden pocket is perfect for a credit card or a few pesos. Beach, pool, lake, whoever the summer wind blows you.
  • It’s a scarf – Bunch it up around your neck for warmth on chilly nights.
  • It’s a shawl – Drape it over your shoulders when you need a light layer at the concerts in the park.
  • It’s a headscarf – Protect yourself from the sun or pesky mosquitos, cover up at religious monuments, or use as an eye-mask when you’re camping.
  • It’s a towel – Our pareo is made from handkerchief-light organic cotton, so it feels good and is good for the earth too. Towel off and wring it out – it dries in a jiff. See our model, Eleanor, below.
  • It’s an airplane blanket – Snuggle into it or roll it into a ball for a pillow. Drafty planes and trains will never stand a chance.
  • It’s a tablecloth – Poppy summer colors make for a perfect accessory to any summer festivity. Wine and cheese platter not included.

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The Invite Says “Bring a Side”

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Well folks, Cookout Season is upon us. We’ve dusted off the grills, pulled out the reusable wine glasses and spread our picnic blankets. Between Friday concerts in the park, Sunday BBQ’s and Tuesday family dinner we’re constantly whipping up a tasty side to share. So many activities, so little time. Here are some of our favorite dishes that will have you our the door and ready to party in no time!

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Photo and recipe courtesy of Team Toad

 Mint Mojito Fruit Salad 
3 cups strawberries, sliced
2 cups blueberries
2 cups blackberries
1oz. St. Germain Liquor
2 limes, squeezed
A few sprigs of fresh mint, chopped

1. Wash fruit and layer in a big bowl.
2. In a cup, mix lime juice and liquor.
3. Pour lime juice over the fruit and mix. Sprinkle in fresh mint as you mix the fruit. Garnish with a few sprigs of mint and viola!

**Any seasonal fruit will do – we also like raspberries and watermelon!

 

 

 

 

 

Lemon + herb Healthy Potato Salad - vegan recipe - Luci's Morsels-2
Photo and recipe courtesy of Luci’s Morsels

 

Lemon & Herb Potato Salad (Dairy Free) 
7-8 cups chopped golden potatoes
olive oil, salt and pepper for taste
2/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup tarrgon, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup basil, chopped
2 lemons, bested
2 lemons, juice (approx. 1/3 cup)
2 tbsp wholegrain dijon mustard
2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly cracked pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a bowl, coat potatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper.
3. Lay potatoes on large baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes until tender, stirring once at the 20 minute mark.
4. Combine potatoes (hot or cold) with chopped herbs, zest, juice, mustard, salt, and pepper. If potatoes seem dry, drizzle with more olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Photo and Recipe by Partial Ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

Mexican Roasted Corn Salad 
2tbsp butter, for sautéing
4 ears of corn (or 3 cups of kernels)
2 tbsp mayo
2oz. cotija cheese, finely crumbled
2 green onions, chopped
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 jalepeno, minced
1 lime, juice
1 tomato, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1tsp chilli powder
salt and paper for taste

1. Saute the corn in butter.  Stir to coat and cook on medium high for about 10 minutes until the underside has charred. Stir and let cook for another 3-5 minutes.
2. Add the jalapeno and garlic and saute for about 1 minute.
3. Mix everything together in a bowl, and garnish with cotija.

Sweet Potato Hummus - Vegan - Luci's Morsels-4
Photo and recipe courtesy of Luci’s Morsels

Sweet Potato Hummus
1 can garbanzo beans, drained (liquid reserved)
1 cup cooked sweet potato
2 garlic cloves
1 lemon, juice and zest
5 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp reserved liquid from beans
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Place peeled garlic cloves in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until garlic is finely minced. Add beans and sweet potato. Pulse to combine. Add in remaining ingredients. Taste for seasoning. Serve with veggies and pita.