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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Weekend Topic: Free and cheap entertainment options

Someone suggested that I attempt to let you know about some of the low cost options for entertainment around Charlottesville as a weekend topic. UVa events are either free or cheap because the audience is the students. Sporting events are free (you'll have to swipe your ID card for major events like football games, but you won't be charged anything), movies are a few dollars (many that have just left the big theaters...No Country for Old Men is showing tonight), lectures are free, and outdoor events put on by different student organizations are almost always free or charge a small fee that is used for future club events or donated to charity.

On the official student events calendar
, there are 15 events scheduled for today, ranging from a 5K to benefit a summer camp for children with serious illnesses to a festival sponsored by the Thai Student Organization. There are undoubtedly events going on that weren't submitted in time to be listed on the official calendar. Most students hear about them by checking out the bulletin boards around campus or by simply looking down at the chalk ads that can be found all over Grounds.

Charlottesville being a college town, you'll find that there's plenty of free and nearly free entertainment if the many options on Grounds don't pique your interest. The Corner area is full of little shops and cafes that are geared towards the students. Down the same street about a mile is the Downtown Mall, which is a pedestrian only shopping district. Now, I normally caution visitors that this is generally where students go when their parents are in town, as there are some pricey restaurants and boutiques there. However, there are some great, cheap options as well. The entire mall is littered with street vendors and performers.

Thanks to asphaltbuffet on Flickr for the photo

At the "top" (really the west) of The Mall, there's an indoor rink where you can ice skate free on your birthday (and a little more on other days). On the other end, there's a concert pavilion. Friday shows at the Pavilion are completely free. Tickets for other shows at the Pavilion are going to cost what normal concert tickets do, however the best part about this venue is that it's completely open. Plenty of people go to the show, but never walk in the gate.

Thanks to Chris Makarsky from Flickr for the photo

For the artists out there, all the galleries in Charlottesville open their doors on the first Friday of the month. People wander from place to place, checking out what's on display and many of the galleries have food and music to add to the atmosphere. If you want to make some art, grab some chalk and hit the free speech wall outside the pavilion. You'll find all sorts of messages there.

Photo courtesy of mitznc, phedlund33, and Gary Glass on Flickr

From April through October, early risers can check out the Charlottesville City Market, an outdoor market in a parking lot just off The Mall. I rarely see students at The Market, which is a's a great place to get produce, flowers, jewelry, plants, and handmade gifts. The fresh donuts, coffee, and cider are addictive!

I could go on for pages and pages about all there is to do here. Let me suggest that you do what I did for inspiration and go to to search for Charlottesville photos. It's a great way to get a feel for town.

One last thing. I will get complaints if I don't tell you about the best, cheap meal in all of Charlottesville: dumplings. For $2.50, you can get these amazing dumplings at a little shop on the Downtown Mall. They used to operate out of a window on a side street and people would line up down the block for these things. The business has moved to a storefront, but the lines are just as long. I had my doubts when I was told about this place, but I have to admit that they're quite good!

Photo courtesy of Janet Moore-Coll on Flickr

One really, really last thing. In my Flickr browsing, I came across this set titled "Renegade Poets" that contained a series of pictures of the construction barricades that surrounded Ross Hall here on Grounds back about a year or two ago. I wish I had seen the barricades in person. The photos are great!