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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 everybody 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.

SUMMER RETRO FILM SERIES Check out film classics all summer long at the Ballantyne Village Theatre, 14815 John J. Delaney Drive. Get the complete schedule at www.ballantynevillage.com and order tickets online or by calling 704-369-5101. June 23-25: The Goonies; June 30-July 2: True Romance. June 9-August 6, Friday-Saturday, 10pm and midnight; Sunday, 1pm. $5.

BARNES & NOBLE SUMMER GAME NIGHTS It's always a stretch to suggest spending quality time with the family. However, it's also very apparent that the lack of family togetherness has led to the downfall of modern society. No, for real -- try to remember the last time you spent some nonenforced time with your mom, dad, brother or sister. Kinda hard, isn't it? That's why Barnes & Noble has come up with a plan. Bring 'em round with games to spur communication and bonding. (Family Ties isn't just a TV show starring Michael J. Fox; it's a movement). This free therapy for you and the dysfunctionals you call family takes place one Tuesday night a month until September, at the 3327 Pineville Matthews Road location.

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: July 14 and August 11. Info at www.watershedcharlotte.com.

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.

STD TESTING What can be a bigger thrill than finding out you're not HIV-positive? Get tested for HIV and syphilis, courtesy of the Metrolina AIDS Project, the Mecklenburg County Syphilis Elimination Program and the Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte. No appointment is necessary and walk-ins are encouraged. Just come to the Center on Wednesdays between 5pm and 7pm.

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.

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.

SUMMER SHOOTOUT SERIES Here's something to do this summer the kids will love. Kids: Imagine, if you will, watching two school buses, those big yellow monstrosities that take you to the worst place on earth, hurtling towards one another on a one-way collision course. Sounds good, huh? The rundown: 10 races over nine weeks (June 16-Aug. 8) with a fireworks doubleheader, character-themed race cars called CRASHcars, a Legends Car and Bandolero racing. Grab the kids and race to Lowe's Motor Speedway. Hit 'em up at 800-455-3267 or www.lowesmotorspeedway.com. $5 adults/$3 children (ages 6-12).

= FREE!

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