Friday Night Concert Series and Uptown Friday Nights Thursday, May 21, and Friday, May 22

Kick off your three-day weekend — and the start of a summer-long weekly event — by attending this year’s first Summer of the Arts Friday Night Concert Series on Thursday and Friday in Iowa City on the Ped Mall and Uptown Friday Nights Friday in downtown Cedar Rapids at Greene Square Park. In Iowa City, the Friday Night Concert Series starts Thursday with a special performance by the Iowa City High and West High jazz ensembles. It continues Friday night when Big Wooden Radio takes the stage. Check it out each Friday night from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. through August 28. In Cedar Rapids, perennial favorite The Swing Crew is on deck Friday at the Jaycees summertime staple, Uptown Friday Nights. Go back every Friday through the end of July from 5 to 8 p.m. Stay downtown afterward for specials from area bars and restaurants.

Friday Night Concert Series 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday (5/21) and Friday (5/22), Ped Mall, Iowa City, Free, Uptown Friday Night 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday (5/22), Greene Square Park, Cedar Rapids, $5, Must be 21 or older to attend, CENTRE BLUES & BBQ

Liberty Centre Blues and BBQ Sunday, May 24

There's nothing like a little barbecue and blues to get in the mood for summer. And there's no time like Memorial Day weekend to kick off the season. The annual Liberty Centre Blues and BBQ in downtown North Liberty is a  family-friendly event with all-day live music, a variety of local food vendors, kids' activities ranging from fishing to carnival games and a beverage garden for the 21 and over crowd. The regional entertainment includes the music stylings of Wise Fools and Bob Dorr and the Blue Band. So bring your lawn chairs, blankets, big appetites and friends down to the celebration. P.S. It's free!

Liberty Centre Blues and BBQ Noon to 10 p.m. Sunday (5/24), Liberty Centre, North Liberty, Free, Renaissance Festival

Iowa Renaissance Festival Saturday, May 23 through Monday, May 25

The 18th annual Iowa Renaissance Festival and Gathering o'Celts returns to Middle Amana this weekend with three days of festivities. New and returning classic acts will bring the large living history campment fields and entertainment to life. There will be comedy, street performers (nearly 200 from Iowa, Minneapolis, Chicago and Kansas City), traditional horseback jousting tournaments, Highland Games demonstrations, a beer garden and wine tasting and the military history exhibits. The merchant's includes artisans and products that can only be found at a Renaissance faire. The children's realm will also have new surprises and games, along with story-tellers and faerie greeters. Iowa Renaissance Festival 11 a.m. to 6p.m. Saturday (5/23), Sunday (5/24), Monday (5/25), Middle Amana Park, Amana, single day admission $10 for adults, $5 children ages 6 to 14, children under six free,$15 two-day pass, $18 three-day pass