50 great things you can do this summer for under 10 bucks (including a bunch of freebies)

It takes only a few postcards from exotic locales to make a perfectly content human being whine, "Boy, what am I going to do this summer?"

Sound familiar?


Perhaps, like me, you have no plans to jet off to the south of France, to quaff red wine and nibble cured olives, as my friends are going to do. Or to cruise around the Hawaiian Islands, practicing the hula along the way, as my sister will be doing this summer.

Money a little tight? Not to worry. We've found lots of great things you can do this summer in and around Baltimore, and within driving distance of the city. All for under 10 bucks. Some places you may not have heard of before; others are old favorites that are worth revisiting.


Keep in mind that our under-$10 limit applies to admission charges only. In some cases, you'll have to factor in transportation, meals and other costs. For instance, you might pay $5 to get into a festival -- and three times as much when you add in gas, highway tolls, a gyro and lemonade, a roller coaster ride, a couple of games at the water-balloon arcade and a Bromo Seltzer.

Still, the cost of the event itself is a great bargain. And who knows? If you start saving now, maybe by next summer you'll be able to afford a trip to France or Hawaii.


1. PICK UP A PADDLE -- Take a park-sponsored canoe trip. Canoes and guides are provided and costs range from $2-$8 per person. (Patapsco Valley State Park, 410-461-5005; Gunpowder Falls State Park, 410-592-2897)

2. SPEND A RAINY DAY WITH POE -- Turn a dreary summer Saturday into a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe, who lived briefly, died and is buried in Baltimore. Start at the Poe House at 203 Amity St., which was scheduled to reopen early this month after renovations ($3, $1 ages 12 and under, 410-396-7932). Then head over to the Westminster Burying Ground, Poe's final resting place. You can stroll through the cemetery on your own, or call ahead for a tour of the catacombs, scheduled the first and third weekend of every month, April through November. ($4, 410-706-2070)

3. CUT FLOWERS -- You can buy an armload of flowers and herbs for under $10 during Harvest Days at Stillridge Herb Farm in Woodstock. In July, the 3-acre farm is at its most colorful, as 60,000 everlasting flowers come into bloom. Sunflowers are new this year. (410-465-8348)

4. KEEP THE KIDS BUSY -- The kids are home and you're running out of ideas to keep them busy. Take them to Rash Field for Kid's Stuff on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10:30 in July. They'll be entertained with everything from puppet shows to hands-on nature demonstrations. (free, 410-837-4636)

5. SWING YOUR PARTNER -- Sashay over to Lovely Lane Methodist Church on St. Paul Street for the Baltimore Folk Music Society's American contra and square dance on Wednesday nights. Dances are held every week from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., but if your dos-a-dos is just so-so, go on the second or fourth Wednesday of the month for a dance workshop at 7:30 p.m. No partner is needed. Call the group's hot line at (410) 366-0808 to find out who's calling the music. ($7, members $5)


6. LEARN TO COMPOST -- Turn your coffee grinds into "black gold" by setting up a backyard compost bin. Your soil (and the environment) will thank you. Contact the Home and Garden Information Center, University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service at (800) 342-2507, or call your county Extension Service office and request leaflet No. 245, Home Composting.

7. GET FESTIVE IN CYBERSPACE -- Did you miss the Smithsonian Institution's Festival of American Folk Life that ended on July 4? If you're literate in cyberspeak, don't despair. Explore the festival on the World Wide Web at: You'll find pictures and descriptions of what happened at the annual celebration, which this year featured Cape Verde, the Czech Republic, American Indian women and Russian music. Just remember to keep the call under $10. (Smithsonian information: 202-357-2700)

8. SEE WHAT'S NEW AT THE ZOO -- A spotted leopard born this spring is the newest inhabitant of the Baltimore Zoo. But not for long. In August, six chimpanzees will make their debut at the grand opening of the Chimpanzee Forest, which marks the completion of the zoo's Africa section. ($7.50, $4 seniors and children over 2, 410-366-5466)

9. GET A BOOK SIGNED -- When you're turning pages poolside this summer, won't you feel better knowing the book has been signed especially for you? Free book-signing appearances include mystery writer Carolyn Hart at Mystery Loves Company, in Fells Point, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 18, (410-276-6708); and singer Judy Collins, who will sing and talk about her foray into fiction at Bibelot in Pikesville at 1 p.m. July 29. (410-653-6933)

10. PET AN INSTRUMENT -- Bring the kids to Artscape '95 for a bit of culture. New this year is the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's "petting zoo," where kids can touch instruments and talk to musicians. The hands-on event takes place 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. July 22, in the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, followed by a family concert at 4:15 p.m. Artscape runs July 21-23 in the Mount Royal cultural district. (free, 410-396-4575)

11. GO-CARTING -- If you can't remember the last time you went, it's time to go again. That's go as in go-cart racing. At Checkered Flag Go Kart in White Marsh, four-minute rides are $3, Mondays to Thursdays, and $3.50 on weekends. (410-335-6393)


12. GROOVE AT THE INNER HARBOR -- Head down to the Harborplace amphitheater for free outdoor concerts on weekend nights this summer. Hear folk, classic rock or alternative music on Fridays (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.), jazz on Saturdays (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and patriotic music on Sundays (6 p.m. to 8 p.m.). Call (410) 332-4191 or (800) HARBOR-1 for more information.

13. REDISCOVER VINYL -- If you've got some gaps in your record collection, head to the Maryland Music Collectors Record/CD Expo at the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department on Aug. 20. Buy, sell and trade with 50 dealers. (free, 410-455-0418)

14. GO TO THE RACES -- A $3 grandstand admission leaves you with enough money to make three $2 bets on Thoroughbreds at Pimlico Race Course. The horses return on July 25. (410-542-9400)

15. TOUR A FACTORY -- Start with a look back at industry in Baltimore at the turn of the century at the Museum of Industry, located on Key Highway in a former oyster cannery ($3.50, seniors and students $2.50, 410-727-4808). Then look at a company doing business in Baltimore today. Call (410) 631-2111 to arrange a tour of the General Motors assembly plant on Broening Highway, Southeast Baltimore. The two-hour tour is given twice a day, five times a week. Wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes.

16. GREAT BIKE RIDES -- For the novice bicyclist, nothing beats flat terrain with no traffic. Try the 20-mile Northern Central Railroad Trail that stretches from Cockeysville to Pennsylvania (free, 410-592-2897), or the 13.3-mile Baltimore and Annapolis Railroad Trail that starts in Glen Burnie and leads to the state capital (free, 410-222-6244).

17. TAKE AN INTERNATIONAL VACATION -- Or just feel like you're doing that at one of Baltimore's ethnic festivals. Coming up: Ukrainian Festival, July 22-23 ($2); Italian Festival, July 28-30 ($2, $1 seniors, under 12 free); Hispanic Festival, Aug. 12-13 (free); German Festival, Aug. 18-20 ($2, under 12 free with adult); American Indian Festival, Aug. 25-27 ($5, children $3); India Day, Aug. 26 (free); Korean Festival, Sept. 16 (free); AFRAM Festival, Sept. 22-24 ($5). For locations, call (410) 837-4636.


18. EXPLORE THE CIVIL WAR -- If you don't feel like driving to Antietam, Gettysburg or Manassas to retrace battlefield history, talk strategy with Union soldiers taking part in "living history" demonstrations at the B&O; Railroad Station Museum in Ellicott City. The oldest railroad station in America has Civil War-themed activities scheduled through Oct. 31. ($3, $2 seniors, $1 under 12, 410-461-1944)

19. SEE ART FOR FREE -- Visit the Baltimore Museum of Art on a Thursday, or the Walters Art Gallery on Saturdays before noon, and get in free. The BMA's major summer exhibit is "Matisse, Picasso and Friends: Masterworks on Paper From the Cone Collection," (through Aug. 27, 410-396-7100). The Walters' exhibit, "Worth a Thousand Words: A Picture of Contemporary Political Satire," covers the best of political satire, including works by cartoonists Pat Oliphant and Gary Trudeau. (through Jan. 21, 410-547-9000)

20. TOUR A SHIP -- Check out ships visiting the Inner Harbor. Arriving this summer are the 210-foot U.S. Marine Spill Response Vessel (July 13-17), and the Brazil, a 430-foot Brazilian training ship (Aug. 7-11). Both ships will be docked at the West Wall of the Inner Harbor. Free.

21. EAT FROM A MEADOW -- Learn about edible and other useful plants during a walk through the meadow at the the meadow at the Irvine Natural Science Center in Stevenson on July 27. ($4 adults, $2 children, half-price for members, 410-484-2413).

22. PICNIC IN A GARDEN -- Bring your own picnic dinner to the summer concert series on Sunday nights at Ladew Topiary Gardens, a 250-acre estate in Monkton. Scheduled this season: bluegrass music by Foggy Bottom on July 16; Baltimore Jazz Orchestra on July 30; Bob Barrett's Big Band on Aug. 13; and country western swing by the Lone Starlets on Aug. 27. (concert and garden admission: $7, $6 students and seniors, $2 children, 410-557-9466)

23. RELIVE SUMMER IN CITY -- If you grew up in Baltimore, you may remember playing games like slipper slap and hot potato, and cooling off afterward with an egg custard snowball. Now your kids can share those experiences when the Baltimore City Life Museums celebrate "Summer in the City" noon to 4 p.m. July 15. (museum admission: $5, $3.50 seniors, children 4-18 and military personnel, 410-396-3523)


24. SPEND THE DAY ON THE WATER -- Ride the water taxi all day (weekdays $2.25, weekends and holidays $3.25 for adults, $2.25 children 10 and under, 410-563-3901). Or get around the harbor on your own steam in a paddle boat (half-hour rentals $5 for two, $6.50 for three, $7.50 for four, 410-837-3482). OK, so neither's a luxury cruise. What did you expect for under $10?

25. GIVE IT A SHOT -- After being closed for two months, the 215-foot Shot Tower reopened in June with a new sound and light show, and a hands-on exhibit that simulates the shot-making process. Now that the landmark has its own Metro stop, downtown workers can even squeeze in a lunchtime tour. (free, 410-396-3523)

26. DO IT YOURSELF -- Find out how to install a garage door, re-tile your bathroom or sponge-paint your bedroom. Both Hechinger and Home Depot stores offer free do-it-yourself workshops that could have you tearing apart something by Labor Day.

27. THINK GREEN -- Take an ecotour of the Chesapeake Bay area with the Annapolis Gardening School. Naturalists explain the bay's ecology during the 45-minute boat tours of Spa Creek and the Severn River. The tours leave from City Dock in Annapolis on Saturdays and Sundays. ($6, $3 children, 410-263-6041)


28. HIKE THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL -- Well, maybe not all 2,158 miles of it, but try hiking a few of the 40 miles that wind through Maryland. Call the Appalachian Trail Headquarters in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., for a free copy of the National Park Service brochure and a list of maps and other materials that are available for sale in the Trail Store. (free, 304-535-6331)


29. ROOT FOR SUPERSTARS-TO-BE -- Check out up-and-coming players on two Oriole farm teams, the Bowie Baysox (301-805-2233) and the Frederick Keys (301-662-0088). You might also see a major-leaguer doing time there. (box seats $7; general admission $5 adults, $3 seniors, children and military personnel)

30. HAVE FUN WITH FOSSILS -- If you've ever wanted to find fossils, July 15 is the day to drive down to Calvert Cliffs State Park in Calvert County for Fossil Fest (800-784-5380 or 301-888-1410). Search for fossilized shark teeth from the Miocene era that started some 25 million years ago, then head over to Sharkfest! at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, where there will be lots of shark-related activities for kids ages 4-15. ($4, $2 children 5-12, 410-326-2042)

31. EAT CRABS -- Summer just wouldn't be the same without steamed crabs. Pay homage to the crustacean at the 48th National Hard Crab Derby and Fair in Crisfield, Sept. 1-3. (approximately $4, 410-968-2682 or 800-782-3913)

32. SMELL THE LILIES -- Visit Lilypons Water Gardens in Buckeystown, where 100 acres of ponds bloom with lilies and lotus during the summer months. Lilypons is holding a Lotus Blossom Festival July 14-15, and a Koi Festival, at which Japanese imperial carp will be displayed and judged, Sept. 2-3. ($2-$4 suggested donation to benefit Frederick arts organizations, 800-999-5459)

33. DIG FOR CLUES -- Sift dirt side by side with archaeologists at the site of Maryland's first capital. The popular Tidewater Archaeological Dig takes place in Historic St. Mary's City on July 29-30. Behind-the-scenes tours will be offered, and participants can explore all areas of this outdoor living-history museum, including the reconstruction of a 17th-century plantation. ($6.50, seniors and students over 13, $3.25 children 6-12, 301-862-0990 or 800-SMC-1634)

34. FIDDLE AROUND -- Listen to all kinds of fiddlers compete for $3,000 in prize money at the Deer Creek Fiddler's Convention 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 30 at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster. Also explore the 140-acre farm museum and watch demonstrations by artisans. ($7, $5 in advance, children under 18 free with paying adult, 800-654-4645)


35. SEE SNAKES -- For those who aren't repulsed by reptiles, the Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel conducts demonstrations with live snakes. "Close Encounters of a Scaley Kind" will be held on 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. July 11, Aug. 1 and Aug. 22 at the 13,000-acre national wildlife refuge. (free, 410-674-3304)

36. GATHER RASPBERRIES -- And blackberries and blueberries, too, if you hurry to a pick-your-own farm in Maryland. Berries are in season right now. Check your local library or county Extension Service for a copy of the brochure titled 1995 Maryland Direct Farm & Pick Your Own Directory. Then call ahead to find out day-to-day availability of produce.

37. TASTE THE FRUIT OF MARYLAND VINES -- Tour the winery and sample wines at Linganore Winecellars at Berrywine Plantations in Mount Airy. There will be live music and special events at the Reggae Wine Festival, July 15-16, and the Bayou Razz-Jazz Wine Festival, Aug. 19-20. ($5 fee includes wineglass; under 21 free with adult, 410-795-6432)


38. MAKE A DAY OF THE MACABRE -- Looking for a museum that might actually interest your teen-ager? Try the National Museum of Health and Medicine on the grounds of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. There are exhibits on Civil War medicine, surgical tools and more. But the real attention-getters are oddities like the bullet that killed Lincoln, two-headed babies and preserved human organs. (free, 202-782-2200)

39. POLO, ANYONE? -- Head to the nation's capital to watch polo matches on the field east of the Lincoln Memorial. The action takes place Sunday afternoons at 4 in July and at 3 in August. Heighten the fantasy by talking in a phony British accent. (free, 202-619-7222)


40. GO BARGING -- Cruise along the C&O; Canal from Georgetown in Washington to Great Falls, Va., (or vice versa) on a 90-foot barge, while Park Service guides in period costume tell the story of the canal's history. ($5, $3.50 seniors and children 3-11, 301-299-3613)

41. INSPECT A VETTE -- Ever dream of owning a Corvette? Drive up to the fairgrounds in Carlisle, Pa., Aug. 25-27, for "Corvettes at Carlisle," touted as one of the largest Corvette gatherings in the world. You can even drive one home, if your budget will allow. ($6, under 12 free, 717-243-7855)

42. GET PUMPED -- Say you're driving down Interstate 83 through York, Pa., and are feeling fatigued. Stop by the corporate offices of the York Barbell Co. just off the interstate for a self-guided tour through the United States Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame. Included are exhibits on the Mr. America competition and the history of Olympic weight lifting. Fantasizing about what your physique could look like will get that blood circulating again. (free, 800-358-9675)

43. SPEND AN AFTERNOON AT THE SMITHSONIAN -- Take your family to visit the newest member of the Smithsonian family. The National Postal Museum in Washington, which turns 2 on July 30, has a new postcard exhibit, appropriately called "Are We There Yet? Vacationing in America." (free, 202-357-2700)

44. THINK PLAID -- There's plenty to love about the Scottish -- Highland dancing, bagpipes, meat pies and, of course, men in skirts. You'll find all of these at the Virginian Scottish Games in Alexandria, July 22-23. This annual Celtic festival is one of the largest in the United States. (advance tickets $9, 703-838-5005)

45. BID ON A PONY -- Trot on down to the most famous pony auction in the country, although you probably can't buy much horse for under $10. The auction takes place on Chincoteague Island, Va., on July 27 at 9 a.m., following the 70th annual Pony Swim from Assateague Island, Md. (free, 804-336-6161)


46. MAKE IMELDA ENVIOUS -- Peruse hundreds of pairs of shoes on display at the Shoe Museum, located at the Pennsylvania College of Podiatric Medicine in Philadelphia. You'll find everything from ancient Egyptian burial sandals to the 18-eyelet boxing shoes Joe Frazier wore the night he beat Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden. Free tours, given on Wednesdays and Fridays, must be arranged in advance. Contact the Center for the History of Foot Care and Footwear at (215) 625-5243.

47. PERFECT YOUR THROW -- If you never could quite master your Frisbee technique, take a workshop at the National Frisbee Festival on Sept. 2 on the National Mall. Frisbee experts, both human and canine, will give demonstrations during what is considered the largest noncompetitive Frisbee festival in the United States. (free, 301-645-5043)

48. CREATE YOUR OWN MOVIE TIE-IN -- Going to a blockbuster film is still a great thing to do for under $10. But try enhancing your movie-going experience this summer. Take the kids to see "Pocahontas," then plan a trip to the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia, where the real Pocahontas saved the neck of Capt. John Smith ($8 per car, 804-229-1733). Before or after watching "Apollo 13," visit the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in Washington. (free, 202-357-2700)

49. WATCH THE BOYS OF SUMMER -- And we mean boys. The Little League Baseball World Series takes place Aug. 21-26 in Williamsport, Pa., about two hours north of Harrisburg. Games are free, but if you want to visit the Little League Museum, it will cost you $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $1.50 for children ages 5-13 (717-326-3607). For tournament schedule information and directions, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Little League Baseball World Series, Attn: Public Relations, P.O. Box 3485, Williamsport, Pa. 17701.

50. LOVE A PARADE -- There's nothing like a parade to stir up patriotic feelings. Check out the U.S. Army Twilight Tattoo on the Ellipse in Washington, (7 p.m. Wednesdays from July 12-Aug. 23; 202-475-0856) or the Marine Corps Sunset Parade at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Va., (7 p.m. Tuesdays through Aug. 15; 202-433-4173). Both events are free.

KATHRYN HIGHAM is a free-lance writer living in Howard County.