$0: Parade the Circle, Wade Oval
This free event at Wade Oval is a hallmark of summer for many in Cleveland. The park is transformed into a vibrant, colorful festival of art and music. Think Mardi Gras tempered for all ages, full of local and international artists, street performers, and revelers celebrating the arts with enormous dancing puppets, human-powered floats, and amazing street performances. "Circle Village" will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 13, with the parade stepping off at noon. This year's theme: to beat, to breathe, to create. universitycircle.org.
$7: Cuyahoga County Fair, Berea
There's something very Midwestern about the county fair. The whole event — the animals, the food, the sights, the rides — taps into more bucolic corners of our consciousness. If you pardon the at-times blithely bovine crowds, you'll find yourself experiencing a brand of fun that doesn't come around too often anymore. Grab an elephant ear and bounce around from demolition derbies to bunny barns and square dancers. Then grab a corn dog and hop around from the ferris wheel to the midway and the big-time country concert. The fair comes 'round but once a year, so don't miss out on one of the great weeks of our Northeast Ohio summer. This year's fair runs from Aug. 10 to 16.
19201 East Bagley Rd., Berea, 440-243-0090, cuyfair.com.
$0: Lakewood Summer Meltdown, Detroit Avenue
Coming up on its sixth year, the Lakewood Summer Meltdown has become a staple of summertime in this westside 'burb. Detroit Avenue shuts down for a few blocks around Warren Road, and the downtown district comes alive: Performers perform, vendors vend, entertainers entertain, dancers dance — you get the drill. It's fun, and the fine folks at LakewoodAlive put on a terrific event for all ages. Admission is free, though things like food, the 5K race and drinks in the beer garden will cost ya. There's nothing quite like celebrating the high-water mark of summertime in the middle of the street. This year's event runs from 4 to 10 p.m. on July 11.
$0: Larchmere Porch Fest, Larchmere Boulevard
Imagine: Thirty bands performing on 30 front porches around one of the nicest neighborhoods in Cleveland. That's exactly what goes down during Larchmere Porch Fest, running from 1 to 8 p.m. on June 21. "It's so amazing," says Lynne Alfred, owner of the Dancing Sheep boutique. "It draws people from all over. It's actually to showcase not just the commercial district, but also the whole residential area." This year's line-up includes Shivering Timbers, Revolution Brass Band, MuAmin Collective, Jim "LooseChange" Snively, Diana Chittester, Oldboy and many more bands and artists.
$30: Scene's Ale Fest, Lincoln Park
The price is certainly steeper than all these other delightfully free festies we're profiling here, but Ale Fest has grown into a league of its own over the years. It's Scene's hallmark summertime event, anchoring that crazy July heat with a badass selection of microbrews from Northeast Ohio and across the U.S. The whole thing goes down in Tremont's Lincoln Park, where breweries set up shop and pour all your favorite IPAs, porters, hefeweizens and ciders, and plenty of beverages that will be new to you. We've noticed the past few years that impromptu volleyball games become gravitational centers as the day goes on, so bring your best spike. Add in some food and music, and you're looking at an ideal way to spend a Cleveland afternoon. Yes, we're biased, but this is a can't-miss frenzy of foamy fun. We'll see you on July 25. Stay tuned for ticket announcements soon.
$0: Scene's Second Annual Pig and Whiskey
Scene brought Pig and Whiskey to downtown Willoughby last year, pairing ribs with fine drink beneath the summer sun. A dozen mouth-watering barbecue joints and eateries lined up to keep hunger at bay. We figured there's nothing better than a glass of whiskey to pair that that 'cue, so we brought some two dozen distilleries to the show and kept everyone in high spirits all weekend. A full roster of bands performed over two days, with Uncle Kracker headlining. The whole thing was so much fun that we'll be doing it again during the second annual Pig and Whiskey later this summer. Admission is free, and whiskey samples, beer and cocktails are available through the purchase of drink tickets (ages 21 and over, duh). The BBQ and other food items are available directly through the individual vendors. This year's festie goes down on Aug. 29 and 30; keep your eyes peeled for the official announcement.
$0: Wade Oval Wednesdays, University Circle
Wade Oval Wednesdays have become a summertime staple in Cleveland, and this year, they're again proving why. The free concert series at Wade Oval — in the heart of University Circle — is the perfect venue for a picnic and a chance to hear some incredible music. Starting June 17 and running through the end of August, you can hear Councilman Kevin Conwell's band, the rock/soul group Welshly Arms, the jazzy light rocker Brent Kirby, the Cleveland Bluegrass Orchestra and many other groups and genres. When the weather cooperates, you can't ask for a better summer evening. Check out the website for schedules, and arrive with enough time to negotiate the parking. But remember: WOW is always free!
10820 East Blvd., 216-791-3900, universitycircle.org.
$0: Cleveland Area Soap Box Derby
With all the hoopla surrounding the Gay Games and the Republican National Convention, no one saw fit to publicize the fact that Cleveland will be hosting the National Derby Rallies in 2015 and 2016. There's always the All-American Soap Box Derby down in Akron if that's a tradition in your family. But if you want to keep it local, Thursday, July 20 through Saturday, August 1 is when racers nationwide will converge on Cleveland for some intense derbying. Don't miss out on this unique competition. Great for the kiddies as well!
$0: Cleveland World Festival, Rockefeller Park
On Sunday, August 2, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., head to the Cultural Gardens of Rockefeller Park for a day of family oriented music, dance and theater performances, multicultural food and drinks. Free admission, free parking, free shuttles. Visit the website for details as the date gets closer.
$0: Beach With Music and More, Edgewater Live
It was a huge success last year, and now the Cleveland Metroparks are doing it for the second summer. On Thursdays after work, head to Edgewater Beach to enjoy a free weekly happy hour concert series with all the amenities you'd want: booze, food trucks, cornhole, standup paddleboarding, yoga and more, all on Lake Erie's sandy beach. Edgewater Live goes between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m., June 11 through August 13 (Revolution Fire).
$0: Motorcycles, Thunder on the Strip
If you've got a motorcycle, head to Geneva-On-the-Lake on September 10 through 13 for a massive weekend gathering of leather-clad riders. (If you don't have a bike, it's still one the of the best people-watching opportunities all summer). Show up, show off, drink beer and enjoy the music and festivities with hundreds of bikers who've been flocking there for the weekend for the past nine years.