Summer Free-For-All! 

No money? No problem. Here are 10 things to do this summer that won’t cost you a penny.

Memphis Skate Park

John Branston

Memphis Skate Park

Time to Bounce
With the Tigers advancing in the NCAA tournament and the Grizzlies marching to the Western Conference Finals, Memphis experienced a hoops-mad spring. But if you thought basketball was on a summer break, think again. This week, the city’s summer pro league, the Bluff City Classic, returns, playing seven games over three nights every week at the Verties Sails Gymnasium at Southwest Tennessee Community College.

The Classic began in the early ’80s and for years was a summer showcase for much of the area’s best basketball talent, from Tiger greats (Andre Turner, Anfernee Hardaway) to other area NBA talent, college ballers, overseas pros, and playground legends. Maybe you remember Hardaway and fellow local star Todd Day going head-to-head at the Classic in the ’90s, early in their respective NBA careers. Or Turner finishing a game with such flair that fans rushed the court in celebration. Or the Summer of Snap, where Jimmie “Snap” Hunter showcased his game before finally joining the Tigers. Or Mitchell High’s Thaddeus Young, who now plays for the Philadelphia 76ers, plowing through old high-school foes like a summer-league Lebron. Or Grizzlies’ stars like Rudy Gay showing up in the gym. Or current Tiger point guard Joe Jackson making his slick-dribbling Classic debut on the road from high school to college.

After being dormant for much of the past decade, the Classic was brought back in 2011 by Hardaway and his associate Stanley Blue. Last year, though, the comeback got sidetracked. Venue-booking issues relegated the event to the smaller gym at LeMoyne-Owen and a neighborhood shooting on a game night cut the entire event short. This year, the Classic returns to its usual home with a commitment, according to sponsors, to also return to its safe, family-oriented norm.

A women’s game will kick things off each week at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. Men’s games will follow at 6:30 and 8 p.m. each Tuesday-Thursday night leading to a final game on Friday, August 18th. All games are free and open to the public. Those focused on only seeing the star participants, be forewarned, though: The Classic is like the proverbial box of chocolates — regardless of the published rosters, you never know who’ll suit up until the game tips off. — Chris Herrington

Book It
Oh, I could wax poetic about the importance of libraries in our society, and how they play a vital role in an informed, educated, and imaginative populace. Maybe add something about obtaining a library card as a seminal moment in an individual’s life, and the immense power with which it can be wielded being asymmetrical to its nonexistent cost of purchase: As it pertains to libraries, freedom is free. I could talk about the recent legislative controversy in Tennessee over whether library cards are acceptable identification when voting (voting being another one of the best “free” things you can do).

Or I could just defer to a scene from Seinfeld, where a library cop (played by Philip Baker Hall) accuses Jerry of losing a book years ago and never paying the overdue fine: “Maybe we can live without libraries, people like you and me. Maybe. Sure, we’re too old to change the world. But what about that kid, sitting down opening a book right now in a branch of the local library, and finding drawings of pee-pees and wee-wees on The Cat in the Hat and The Five Chinese Brothers? Doesn’t he deserve better?” — Greg Akers

Picnic with the Dead
The dead don’t want your money. What would they do with it if they had it? Unlike your money-grubbing friends, the resting souls at Elmwood are perfectly willing to hang out with you for free. Pack a picnic using leftovers from your fridge (unless you’re feeling fancy and want to splurge for Taco Bell, but that wouldn’t be free) and head to Elmwood Cemetery to spend a peaceful afternoon with former Memphis mayors, Civil War vets, U.S. senators, blues singers, and outlaws. Walking tours cost $15 and car audio tours are $10. But if you’re looking to save some dough, just guide yourself through the 161-year-old burial ground. — Bianca Phillips

Wheels Thrills
Try the Memphis Skate Park if you dare, and just watch if you don’t. Either way, it’s time well spent.

The regulars are pretty amazing. Most of them are young males with skill, daring, and a disdain for helmets whether they’re riding skateboards or BMX bikes.

The park opened in November of 2011 and has gradually built up a following. One attraction is “the wave,” a curling ramp in shape of a breaking wave. Daredevils have slapped on stickers at the highest points of the curve before pivoting in midair and coasting back down.

The park is located behind the Board of Education offices on Avery Avenue. There’s a dog park and baseball fields nearby (Tobey Fields) also worth checking out on a summer night. — John Branston

Sip Joe’s Wines & Liquors in Midtown pours free samples of premium liquor, wine, and high-gravity beer — often new and innovative flavors — every Friday and Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. Occasionally, guest wine and beer makers attend the tastings (recent guests have included Chris Sparkman from Sparkman Cellars and the folks from Brooklyn Brewery), so you’ll have a chance to chat up the maker of your booze. And should you decide you need more than a small sample, all the wine, liquor, and beer being sampled is offered for sale at a discount during the tasting. Of course, imbibers must be 21 and up. — BP
1681 Poplar • 725-4252

Music To Your Ears
Not many new events have been as successful as the Levitt Shell Concert Series, which brings the city together at Overton Park for free summer-night concerts during two month-long series at the beginning and end of the season. The current series launched in late-May with the North Mississippi Allstars and continues each night Thursday-Sunday, through mid-July, with such notables as alt-country stalwarts Son Volt (June 27th), the Stax Music Academy (June 30th), Brooklyn roots band the Spring Standards (July 11th), and a “40th Anniversary Concert” celebrating the local chapter of the Recording Academy (July 13th). You can pack a picnic dinner or sample local vendors such as DeJaVu or Ghost River Brewing. Bring lawn chairs or spread out on a blanket. Bring the kids.

You can also head downtown for free music this summer, with The Rebel on Beale country music series taking over Handy Park for four straight Thursday nights, starting at 7 p.m. and beginning this week. Sponsored by the country station 95.3 The Rebel, the series will feature Canadian country band Emerson Drive (June 20th), bluesy Nashville duo Steel Magnolia (June 27th), traditionalist Mark Chesnutt (July 4th, 6 p.m. start, with fireworks), and honky-tonk songwriter Keith Anderson (July 11th). — CH

Walk on Water
Kick off your shoes, and dip a toe in the Mississippi River without worrying about being swept away by the current. Mud Island Riverpark’s built-to-scale replica of the lower Mississippi is much safer and cleaner than the real thing, and it’s open to the public every Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Plus, you can ride a plastic swan-shaped paddleboat in the Gulf of Mexico when you reach the end (only $5 for a 30 minute ride). Can you do that in the real gulf? Yea, we didn’t think so. Admission to the Riverpark: Free. Feeling like Godzilla when you stand on the teensy Hernando-DeSoto Bridge: Priceless. — BP
125 North Front Street • 576-7241

Green Acres Farmers markets: They aren’t just for produce shopping anymore. As the number of Mid-South markets increases, the number of accompanying activities and attractions is also on the rise — and most of it is 100 percent gratis. Take for instance the new farmers market, at the Bobby Lanier Farm Park. Each Thursday from 5 to 7:30 p.m., market-goers are treated to live music and garden talks, which cover everything from “Watering and Irrigation” to “Quick, Healthy Meals and Snacks.” Of course, the farmers hope you’ll stick around and do a little shopping and the food trucks might tempt you to grab a bite to eat. But if you’re strapped for cash, the live music, garden talks, and charming chit-chat are there for the taking.

For a full list of area farmers markets, many of which also have live music and activities, check out the Flyer’s calendar. — Hannah Sayle

When Memphians have a little free time on their hands, or are just experiencing down-right boredom, they can head over to St. Blues Guitar Workshop at 645 Marshall to sit at the Whammy Bar and see guitars put together from scratch.

We’re talking guitars like the Mississippi Bluesmaster and the Blindsider and new installments such as the Cigar Box — guitars, by the way, played by everyone from MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden (and, yes, the name does sound familiar) to blues-rocker Eric Gales.

Come take a seat at St. Blues’ Whammy Bar this summer to see firsthand what goes into creating these guitars that so many musicians love. You can even test one out for yourself. — Louis Goggans

Share Secrets
With the weather so nice out, the entire family can enjoy some fresh air, eclectic artwork, and scenery all at the same time when they take a walk through the Secret Sculpture Garden at 1095 Forrest Avenue.

Originally a vacant residential lot, the Secret Sculpture Garden was launched in 2012 after local artist Thomasin Durgin purchased the space. Flowers, abstract sculptures, and colorfully painted benches and garden stones will catch your eye as you walk throughout the garden.

But it doesn’t stop at a nice stroll. You can also participate in one of many art projects being led by community volunteers at the garden. Aspiring artists can also install their very own artwork, and kids looking for something productive to do can volunteer to help with yard clean-up and mowing. — LG

Free Time

Dixon Gallery and Gardens: Free admission Saturdays, 10 a.m.-noon.
Currently on exhibit through July 21st is “Bijoux parisiens: French Jewelry from the Petit Palais,” tracing the history of French jewelry from the 17th century to the 20th century and featuring a large display of jewels (Cartier!) as well as paintings and prints.
4339 Park • 761-5250   

Lichterman Nature Center: Free admission Tuesdays, 1-3 p.m.  
5992 Quince • 767-7322 Ext. 100

Memphis Pink Palace Museum: Free admission Tuesdays, 1-5 p.m.
Now showing through September 1st: “Swords to Plowshares: Soldiers’ Art & Music of the Great War,” a multifaceted exhibit focusing on World War I. Included in the exhibit are pieces of metal trench art, works from vases to cigarette lighters, created by soldiers from shrapnel, plane parts, currency, etc.
3050 Central • 320-6320

Memphis Rock ’n’ Soul Museum: Free admission Tuesdays, 2-7 p.m. for Shelby County residents
191 Beale • 205-2533  

Memphis Zoo: Free admission Tuesdays 2-5 p.m. with Tennessee ID
2000 Galloway • 276-WILD

National Civil Rights Museum: Free admission Mondays, 3-6 p.m. for Tennessee residents only
Currently on display is “Freedom’s Sisters,” celebrating 20 African-American women, from the 19th century to contemporary times, who have fought for equality. Through May 14, 2014.
450 Mulberry • 521-9699

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