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Cheap Thrills '08 

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

When the Memphis rap group Three 6 Mafia wrote, "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp," the Oscar-winning song from the 2005 film Hustle and Flow, they probably had no idea they were summing up the state of today's economy. These days, times are hard. People are losing their jobs. Homes are being foreclosed in record numbers. Gas has gotten so expensive that it's becoming a joke. And people still have bills to pay. But, don't expect sympathy from credit lenders, Duke Energy or BellSouth.

But just because your ass is broke doesn't mean you can't have fun. Don't think so? Check out this list of 50 things to do in Charlotte for $5 bucks or less, and let Creative Loafing show you how to do the Q.C. on the cheap.

1. Get your groove on: Partying can be kind of expensive, especially for guys -- since clubs rarely offer a "men's night" -- but at HOM (pronounced "home") everyone parties for free (no cover) Sunday through Thursday. With a restaurant, lounge, club, outdoor patio, terrace, garden and a study, HOM, located at 116 W. 5th St., has a little bit of something for everyone.

2. Meet an author: You can catch a book-signing any time of the year at big booksellers (like Borders) or at small, boutique bookstores (like RealEyes in NoDa) across the city. They're always free and you can meet your favorite author or discover new ones.

3. See naked people: There's nothing like a little quality time with a stripper. The Men's Club, at 444 Tyvola Road, doesn't charge a cover on Fridays during lunch. And Club Onyx, at 5300 Old Pineville Road, lets folks in free on Wednesdays.

4. Become Alive After 5: After a long workweek, Alive After 5 is a great way to start your weekend early on the cheap. The free event, held every Thursday at the corner of Tryon and Martin Luther King, features live music by local bands, food and people ready to party and cut loose.

5. Go karting: Tap into your childhood with a ride on a go-kart at the NASCAR SpeedPark at Concord Mills. The Checkered Flag Package includes 5 tickets for $10, which is enough for a ride or some mini-golf, so take a friend and split the cost.

6. Eat on the street: I'm not really a fan of eating food from street vendors, but damn, the taco stands on South Boulevard are a guilty pleasure. The grease ... the cheese ... the spicy beef ... ummm; I can feel my arteries clogging up right now. But for great-tasting tacos that cost only $1 and some change, it's totally worth it.

7. Experience live music: Immerse yourself in music from other cultures at Pura Vida Worldly Art!, located at 1521 Central Ave., with free live shows from a diverse group of performers each Sunday. While there, be sure to check out the art that's on display and unique items for sale from all over the world. Visit the store's Web site for more details: www.puravidaart.com.

8. Celebrate Halloween early: Go to your nearest dollar or costume store and purchase a scary mask. Wait until it's dark and hide in the bushes in your neighbors' yard. When they're coming home, jump out of the bushes and scare the shit out of them. Sure, your neighbors may call the cops or shoot you in the ass, but the entertainment value makes this cheap thrill worth it.

9. See The Light: Tap into your artsy side and take a visit to The Light Factory, located at Spirit Square in Center City. The Light Factory, which is a museum dedicated to photography, film and related light-generated mediums, has a variety of funky and thought-provoking exhibits on display year-round. And best of all, it's always free to the public. Check it: www.lightfactory.org.

10. Get physical: Gym memberships can cost you a lot of dough, so look around for free workout classes. Full Experience Ministries, located at 2945 Derita Ave., invites people of all fitness levels to participate in hi-lo aerobics, kickboxing and Zumba for free. Visit www.thefullexperience.net for details.

11. Sip something: Common Market, located at 2007 Commonwealth Ave., has a wide variety of fine wines, beer and deli foods, and every Thursday you get a chance to sample some of them for free. Plus, there's a live DJ to give the affair a hip vibe.

12. Run around: Parkour is the sport/discipline of quick and efficient movement from point A to B and overcoming any obstacle using only the human body. Sounds badass! You can hang tough with this crew and learn their techniques for free. The group meets several times per week and all skill levels are welcome. Hit them up at charlotteparkour@gmail.com.

13. Get spiritually connected: Praying is good for the mind, body, spirit and wallet, since it's absolutely free. Get connected with others on spiritual journeys at 24-7. Located at 514 15th St., 24-7 provides music, provocative art, comfortable furniture, Wi-Fi and study resources to help you get closer to God. Visit them online at www.charlotte24-7.com.

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