Face-painting at the Mission Federal ArtWalk in San Diego. (Paul Nestor )
If you are heading to San Diego this weekend, consider adding a pair of high-octane cultural festivals to your itinerary. Both events draw tens of thousands and are spread over two days so that you can go to them both and still hit the zoo or the beach. Best of all, both are free.
* Roots Fest on Adams: Think of this as a mini-Coachella music fest minus the heat and the ticket prices.
In its 38th year, the festival is spread along Adams Avenue in the gentrifying Normal Heights neighborhood. Although you'll find crafts booths, food and beer gardens, music is the main draw: More than 30 acts performing on five stages, with blues, bluegrass, Celtic, country, folk, klezmer and zydeco on tap.
Singer-songwriter Gregory Page has taken the stage for 10 years running -- it's a family tradition.
Roots founder Lou Curtiss "used to book my grandfather David Page and his Irish Dance Band at the festival in the 1970s," Gregory Page said. "Preservation of roots music is more important than ever, and Mr. Curtiss' vision to do this is a gift to us all."
Info: Roots Fest on Adams. The festival starts at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, with the last scheduled performances at 7:15 p.m. on Saturday and at 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free.
* The Mission Federal ArtWalk will have music as well, but the main reason to drop by is the chance to get to meet hundreds of artists.
Maybe it's just the liberation of being out of their cramped studios, but most of the artists seem to enjoy, and encourage, interaction with passersby at this open-air festival. Then again, maybe it's the chance to make a sale; the ArtWalk website says $1 million in artwork changed hands last year.
Pop artist Nelson De La Nuez likes to see his fans: "It's amazing how many Twitter followers come there to meet me."
For kids, local arts organizations offer participatory creative projects ranging from making bottle-cap necklaces to making a bank. For adults, hands-on activities include Rosemary KimBal teaching how to work with large canvases on Saturday and Kira Carrillo Corser working with participants to create a mural celebrating peace on Sunday.
ArtWalk turns the Little Italy neighborhood into a lively street festival. Stay hungry: Little Italy's trattorias are a lure in and of themselves, and if they get too crowded there will be street food vendors as well. Also watch for performances by dance troupes and bands.
Info: Mission Federal ArtWalk. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.