Cheap Thrill$

50 fun things to do in Charlotte for $5 or less

| February 28, 2007

Charlotte isn't an expensive city. If you think so, just check out other cities' rental listings on Craigslist. But when you're on a budget ­-- whether it's because your job sucks, your student loan payments are too steep or simply because you hold tighter to your nickel than K-Fed to an alimony payment -- it's hard to enjoy the finer things in life. Creative Loafing can't get you Cristal and valet parking, but we recognize that entertainment on a budget doesn't have to be limited to watching crappy dreck on network TV. So here, without further ado, are our suggestions of ways to see the city on the cheap.

1 All-ages record store show - CHRIS RADOK

1 All-ages record store show: Lunchbox Records isn't just a place to buy CDs. The popular shop on Central Avenue frequently hosts all-ages shows, with only a $3 to $5 donation requested for the bands, whose members are probably even more broke than you. So don't skimp on the donation (

2 Copy CDs from the library: OK, so if you're an aesthete, you probably won't find what you're looking for here. But forget about a music collection of scratched, 20-year-old artists the listening public has long since forgotten. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library can easily dispense you of the urge to shell out your hard-earned $8.50-an-hour on mainstream music that made the Top 40 a few years ago. That way you don't have to pay to hear all those songs you're embarrassed you like. You can also save on your movie rental expenses the same way (

3 Thrift-store scavenger hunt: Anyone who's a regular at the area Goodwills, Value Villages and the like knows that there are some items you'll find at any thrift store in America. Other items can be found with regularity but are far from sure things. Look for a copy of Rush Limbaugh's wretched The Way Things Ought To Be -- every Goodwill in America has at least one. The same holds true with What to Expect When You're Expecting.

4 Drink special devotion: Dollar drafts aren't that difficult to find, but really, why not just get a six-pack of PBR and drink at home? Bar Charlotte, however, does offer $1 Red Bull-and-vodkas on Thursdays (300 North College St.). You don't have to look too far to find deals elsewhere, either.

5 The NoDa Film Festival: So it's not every weekend, and the most recent slate of films just wrapped up, but the festival's movies are always a good way to spend an evening. So far, Jeff Jackson and company have highlighted gems of African-American films, Asian cinema and retro French flicks. Check their Web site at and/or rent the movies from Netflix (two weeks free to new customers).

  • Courtesy Hands on Charlotte
  • 6 Volunteer

6 Volunteer: Get off your ass and help some folks out. The people at Hands on Charlotte ( provide an easy way to get started with relatively little commitment. If their charities don't appeal to you, check out Or just pick up the Yellow Pages.

7 Free billiards: A handful of places in Charlotte offer free pool for folks on a budget. Elizabeth Billiards, a smoke-filled favorite among certain past and present CL staffers, is known to give out free pizza on Fridays. Of course, they probably want you to shell out a couple of bucks for beer (that free pool ain't paying the light bill). Invite your friends and look thirsty. They owe you money anyway.

8 Greyhound station sightings: Snobs may sneer, but for my money (or lack of) the bus station on Trade Street provides excellent fodder for people-watching. Remember: Bus stations don't typically employ metal detectors (though I have seen a drug-sniffing dog or two) so the bus depot is where you see the seedier side of interstate travel. Nor do people take buses on business trips, so their travels are more likely to involve a story. And if they're going Greyhound, they likely have plenty of time to wait and might not mind telling a tale or two. Sit around and look bored. You'll see things (601 West Trade St.).

7 Free billiards - PHOTOS.COM

9 Scamming free drinks off friends: Drinking for less than $5 pretty much involves either an embarrassingly low tolerance for booze or showing up at the bar and hoping your friends will cover your tab. Wait until their badly drunk, then remind them about last week when you bought them all those Jäger bombs. This plan, however, only works with friends whose memories fade quickly.

10 Spread some love: Visit animal fairs at the various pet stores around town. These dogs and cats need good homes, but in the meantime a little attention will do. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's Animal Control Bureau has an adoption fair at South Park Mall on the first Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.


Comments (15)

Showing 1-15 of 15

Let me rephrase the title of this article. "50 not-so-fun things to do for white people in Charlotte for 5 bucks or less". Much better.

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Posted by George Thompson on 02/28/2007 at 1:28 PM

Please *don't* visit the $cientology slum. It may be worth a laugh, but you're only encouraging them. They take every visit as evidence that their terroristic fraud is working and they're consequently "upstat" (statistics are up).

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Posted by Arel on 02/28/2007 at 9:42 PM

As a chronically bored bohemian wannabe who's always wondered if attractions like these actually existed in the straightlaced Queen City, thank you so much for these gems!

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Posted by Buddy-Rey on 03/01/2007 at 8:13 AM

You missed one of the best, Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary. Free to tour, donations accepted. Beautiful. And sports, you can get cheap Checkers tickets too. $10 Lower Level seats during the week and weekday games also offer $2 Bud Lights and $2 parking.

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Posted by Brian on 03/01/2007 at 12:56 PM

While some of the girls in there are sub-par, you can occasionally find a hottie and you did get a lot of attention for your $5.

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Posted by Brian on 03/01/2007 at 6:35 PM

My wife and I strive to find things for our five that don't break the bank. And we hang out with other large families as well. Karen Shugart's article has just saved us thousands of dollars in entertainment expenses. I'm sure that others feel this way too, so I'm sending Karen Five Bucks ASAP!!! (Reading this article and sending that $5 could be #51 on the list).

Posted by Joe on 03/04/2007 at 3:18 PM

Karen: Please keep writing! Always remember that each reader, despite their positive, negative, or indifferent feedback pays you a non-negotiable, non-legal tender called "attention" that can never be refunded. The true value of "attention paid" is, and will forever be, priceless. Again, thank you.

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Posted by Joe on 03/04/2007 at 3:40 PM

There are 3 drive ins in our area;Belmont Drive In,Bessemert City/Kings Mountain Drive-In and the Sunset Drive In in Shelby.They are $7-8 a CARLOAD,and if you are discreet,you can bring your own food and drink in and watch 3 movies

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Posted by Michael on 03/22/2007 at 10:47 AM

Go Rock Climbing at Dick Sporting Goods at South Park Mall. If you have a dick card, then it's only 3 bucks a person, it not then it's 5. They supply harness, shoes, and person to pull you up if you suck at climbing. They have different levels, from easy to upside down no way your going any higher.

Posted by Ashley on 05/09/2007 at 11:04 PM

Browse our shops, dine, go antiquing, meet people, have a picnic in our new park, see cars, trucks, motorcycles, enter events, talk shop, or whatever.

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Posted by ken on 05/31/2007 at 10:39 AM

POPS in the park!! Every Sunday in June..south park mall lawn- by dicks' sporting goods... bring food.. enjoy music for whatever you are willing to donate... Movies In the park.. 5 dollars.. freedom park shows movies on Fridays in the park...

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Posted by Tina on 06/05/2007 at 3:18 PM

It's twelve-step for anyone with any issues with money. I love going to these meetings; for the theater end of things there is often someone with a real rags to riches story happening in their lives, and for the rest of us there is a lot to learn about transforming our lives so that we can read these lists out of fun rather than necessity! has lots of great information in general (online meetings too, mostly via email) and has all the local meeting info you will ever need. Workaholics Anonymous is also excellent, for people with any problems with work (from overtime to underpaid) although they have fewer meetings so far:

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Posted by Catherine on 08/06/2007 at 6:26 PM

The theater at Ayrsley has an awesome deal. The first (earliest) showing of each movie is only $4. The start times range from 11am to 2pm, but it is a really good deal

Posted by Ann on 08/19/2007 at 3:53 PM

Last Sunday,I brought very nice sports apparel from Dick'sSportingGoods store through CouponAlbum site at very dicounted price.....

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Posted by Nay on 11/20/2007 at 5:07 AM

You can see some of Charlotte's funniest up and coming comics FREE, upstairs at Hooligan's 140 Brevard Ave. Open mic is 8:00 to 10:00

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Posted by Roxanne Willworkforbotox on 09/17/2012 at 9:17 AM
Showing 1-15 of 15

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