At Travelzoo, we’re lucky enough to have a wealth of travel knowhow at our fingertips, from more than 250 Deal Experts in 28 locations across the globe. Each week, we combine that knowledge to bring you our top weekend tips for some of our favorite cities -- and what’s more, most of the events are free (or, as you’d expect, represent terrific value).
Fifty-six years ago, Marilyn Monroe arrived in London to appear opposite Laurence Olivier in “The Prince and the Showgirl”. Now, the world’s most popular pin-up is being honored with a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Marilyn Monroe: A British Love Affair showcases images and magazine covers from 1947-1962, including her favorite shot of herself, taken by Cecil Beaton, and that photo of the star in a yellow bikini. After all that glamour, a champagne dinner is only fitting -- head to exclusive Mayfair for a 3-course blowout for two for £45.
You likely won’t find a room for less than $300 a night in San Francisco this weekend, but you can make up for that by checking out a plethora of free events:
Catch the Blue Angels flying overhead as part of Fleet Week -- the week when US Navy ships dock at San Francisco ports and sailors tour the town. Duck into a bar -- any bar -- to grab a drink with some happy sailors.
Plan for a top-rated French dinner at a Union Street bistro for just $35. The next morning, head to Sunday brunch in North Beach (anyone want to brave the ever-popular Mama’s this weekend?) and then step outside to see the 144th Annual Italian Heritage Parade pass through the neighborhood. This Columbus Day parade is the city’s oldest civic event.
Wander over to the marina to watch the second round of America’s Cup sailing races. The first round, which took place back in August, attracted more than 150,000 spectators.
Listen to some live music at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival any day this weekend in Golden Gate Park. Musicians will be jamming on as many as six stages at once.
The Castro Street Fair -- an annual event since 1974 -- is also planned for Sunday afternoon. Check out the work of local artists and craftspeople, or pull on your boots and join the crowd on the dance floor.
If you’ve got some money to burn despite that expensive hotel room, San Francisco has some winning sports teams playing this weekend. The Giants’ first two playoffs games take place at home on Saturday and Sunday, and the 49ers play on Sunday in Candlestick Park. (For free entertainment, stop by a sports bar and watch the game with passionate fans.)
Spend the day at one of Condé Nast Traveler's Top 50 US hotel spas for 2011 with this luxe spa package -- $99 per person for a 50-minute massage or facial and a 30-minute manicure at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. In the evening, spread out a beach towel and kick back in a deckchair on the Santa Monica Pier, with free Friday night movie screenings. Music starts at 6 p.m., followed by a film viewing at 7:30 p.m.
Catch a major exhibition of new and recent work by acclaimed artist David Shrigley when it opens in Manchester on Saturday. The free exhibition is being held at the Cornerhouse, Manchester’s international center for contemporary visual arts and independent film. Shrigley’s comic style of cartoon drawings and subversive humor has garnered international acclaim, with a career spanning two decades. Works include drawings in The Guardian newspaper and the animation for Blur’s “Good Song” music video. Cheshire-born Shrigley has never held a solo exhibition on this scale, and Manchester sees its world premiere.
Be sure to take along an appetite for good comedy and fine food -- the restaurant upstairs serves some of the city’s best stone-baked pizza.
If you’re in Barcelona over the next two weeks and are a true movie fan, don’t miss the Sitges Film Festival through Oct. 14. Dedicated to fantasy, horror and science fiction films, the festival takes place in the beach town of Sitges, just a short 40-minute train ride from the center of Barcelona. International movie stars such as Eli Roth, Elijah Wood and Dario Argento are expected this year. You can buy tickets to watch any of the movies, but you can also enjoy one of the most exciting activities of the festival for free: the legendary Sitges Zombie Walk.
October is Chicago Artists Month, a celebration of the fabulous art being created in America’s second city. The first weekend of the 31-day day event includes the Bridgeport Block Party, held on Friday on the South Side and featuring food trucks, crafts and local pieces on display. During the day, enjoy Chicago’s beautiful autumnal weather by searching out the larger-than-life sculptures in the Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Edgewater and Wicker Park neighborhoods. Then stop by this "hidden gem" for wine flights in the Loop by the Chicago River on Saturday.
Visitors to New York this weekend will have even more ground to cover than usual, thanks to Open House New York, an annual event that sees landmarks and other closed-to-the-public spaces open their doors for tours. Highlights this year include access to the TWA Airline Terminal, designed in the 1960s by Eero Saarinen and a symbol of the jet age; a tour of Victorian architecture in a historic Brooklyn neighborhood; activities at the city’s only working farm in Queens and a talk with the architects restoring the famous modernist dining room of the Four Seasons. If all that sight-seeing wears you out, plan a champagne spa day at the famed Waldorf-Astoria for $199. (Saturday appointments are $219.)