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Cheap Thrills

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4TH SATURDAYS UPTOWN Billed as "A Cultural Exchange & Global Marketplace," this free event boasts something for everyone. Shopping for the shopaholics, entertainment for the perpetually bored, food for erebody and peace for the single moms in the form of a children's village (hallelujah!). It's ongoing on the fourth Saturday of every month from 10am-5pm at Actor's Theatre, 650 E. Stonewall St. Call 704-342-2251 for details.

SPEED STREET 2006 In celebration of the Coca Cola 600, downtown Charlotte again becomes the place to be for food, drink and the best live entertainment the sponsors could muster. This year's acts include Lancaster's Julie Roberts, Chris Cagle, REO Speedwagon, Staind, Twisted Sister and (am I reading this right?) MC Hammer. I won't even bother trying to sell you on this event because unless you like being out of the loop, you're already going. For more info visit www.600festival.com.

MOVIES IN THE PARK Not quite Breakfast at Tiffany's in Central Park, but still a great local substitution. This free event for the whole family is sponsored by Watershed in conjunction with the Parks and Recreation Department. Movies begin at dusk at the Amphitheatre in Freedom Park, 1900 East Blvd., with free popcorn and drawings. Bring your own blanket or chairs the second Friday of each month: June 9, July 14 and August 11. Info at www.watershedcharlotte.com.

SPRINGTIME TOURS of historic streetcar neighborhoods Just in case you haven't already noticed, Charlotte has some pretty nice old ("historic" only makes it seem more auspicious) neighborhoods. And you should take full advantage of this opportunity to see Charlotte in its natural state before overdevelopment means living in a concrete jungle. Tours begin at Carrabba's Italian Grill, 1520 South Blvd. May 25: Dilworth; June 1: Plaza-Midwood. Starting at $5. www.charlottetrolley.org.

MIYAZAKI IN MAY The brilliant Japanese director behind such great animated fare as Princess Mononoke and Kiki's Delivery Service is honored with showings of his work at the Main Library, 310 N. Tryon St., throughout the month of May. May 28: Spirited Away (Oscar winner). The final film this month is showing at 2pm in the auditorium. Absolutely free. Got to www.plcmc.org or call 704-336-6214 for details.

LEARN TO MEDITATE Take it from loyal practitioners of meditation: There's nothing like it to take the stress of your workday off your shoulders. That's why the Pain & Rehab Institute is offering a free class in the breathing techniques and imagery used in ancient qi gong meditation (betcha didn't know there was more than one kind). The office is located at 128 E. Plaza Drive in Mooresville. Classes are Thursdays at 7:30pm. Call 704-649-1629 to get started on the path to serenity.

CHARLOTTE COMEDY THEATRE Have ya been moping around, feeling a little blue? Then, here's the thing for you! Check out New Stuff Thursdays, an improv student-based show offering just the right dose of side-splitting humor to jolt you out of the doldrums. Too cheesy, then try on Sunday's Open Mic Jam, a combo of comedy, spoken word, music, you name it. Times/Prices: Thursday, 8pm/$5; Sunday, 7pm/$3. The location is 1308 D The Plaza. Call for reservations 1-866-467-7681. Comedy Rated R.

GOSPEL ON THE LAWN The law firm of Homesley, Goodman & Wingo will host its fourth annual Gospel on the Lawn series in front of its Mooresville firm in the Issac Harris House, 330 S. Main St. Bring lawn chairs or blankets. All concerts are at 7:30pm. June 9: Joyful Hearts. Call 704-664-2162.

SPORTS CONNECTION The ultimate cheap thrill is, of course, sports! Among the conventional sports offered at this complex are unconventional (and cheap) games like laser tag and skating. For $5, future Tony Hawks can skate all day -- and Star Wars fans can play laser tag. Go online www.SportsConnectionNC.com or call 704-583-1444.

SALSA NIGHTS Be Shakira for a night and prove that your "Hips Don't Lie" at the free Latin-style dance lessons offered at the Loft, 1526 Elizabeth Ave. Learn salsa, merengue, bachata and more. Touting "celebrity instructors," this joint gets hips swiveling every Wednesday night at 8pm. Hit www.hispanos-usa.com or call 704-333-5898.

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