What is the best free WordPress events calendar plugin? (2020)
We had a look at some of the free WordPress events calendar plugin options for WordPress.
Calendar plugins can be pretty complex pieces of software. So, we aren’t going to go into full detail of every feature on offer here. But, we have tested each of these top five calendar plugins for WordPress. Our reviews intend to document the experience that a non-technical user will have.
There are short YouTube videos where we do a quick rundown of the user experience of each one.
Don’t feel like reading and watching the whole thing? That’s fine too! Skip to the conclusion right here.
Modern Events Calendar Lite Review
First thing you’ll notice is that the setup for Modern Events Calendar Lite was very easy. Adding an event was also a fairly standard affair. It’s not much different from adding a blog post. With the only real difference being the need to set up the time, date, ticket and booking options.
My favourite part of using Modern Events Calendar Lite was how beautiful it is. The event displays are all very well designed. Also, the sheer number of display options simply dominates it’s competitors. This is even when using the free version.
Because of how good the event display looks, you could actually run an entire website based on it. For example, using the blank ‘Hello’ theme, paired with the Elementor page builder. This would result in a nice clean result that would be super easy to maintain and update.
By the way, This was also the only plugin we tested that included an Elementor widget! This probably isn’t a big deal (using short codes in any page builder isn’t really hard). Though it is worth noting. We think Elementor is probably the quickest way to learn web design.
The free version lacks ticketing or booking functions, but it would be ideal for an event blog. For example, someone covering a local music scene. Also, someone blogging a ‘whats on’ type page could make good use of this plugin.
Having said that, you can work around the booking and ticketing in the free version anyway. Like I’ve shown in the video… Don’t mind a little extra work? Are your event management needs not very complex? It’s easy enough to link from your event page to a Woo-commerce product (i.e. a ticket!). Or, link out to a ticketing service like Eventbrite to handle the e-commerce aspect.
Also, the pro version is just a one time cost. This is a real breath of fresh air in these days of annual subscription software. Getting lifetime updates and support for software like this is amazing. Especially if your core business is running or managing events.
Conclusion: Modern Events Calendar Lite, Is This Our Favourite Free WordPress Events Plugin?
In our experience, we can recommend Modern Events Calendar Lite as the best free WordPress events calendar plugin. It’s probably one of the top paid ones too!
Events Manager Review
This is a very full featured plugin, aimed more at developers. The things we liked were:
- Google maps integration,
- Works with a multi-site WordPress install
- Multiple types of tickets
- Creating multi locations and venues
It’s also worth noting that the free version gives you front end submissions. This would make it a nice choice if you’re starting out in event management and need to keep costs down.
As for display options, it was a little weaker than the other options we tried. However, the plugin’s design to meshes well with other WordPress plugins. So, it would be possible to add things like grids, feature events and carousels this way.
In our tests, we were able to get some basic event listing and calendar views set up in a short time. However, these views could certainly use custom CSS to make them look better.
Conclusion: Events Manager
The sheer power and features of this plugin is impressive. It would really best suit a pro event management page.
The weight of option maybe excessive for many users. Are you are a smaller operation, like an individual company hosting occasional events? or a venue or artist just hoping to display your own events? There are certainly other options that will need less work on your part.
All-in-One Event Calendar (By Time.ly) Review
All-in-One Event Calendar is a little different to the others. Besides offering a plugin, it also has a full online service that you can manage your events with. While there is a free tier, the focus definitely seems to be on the premium products. Events can be displayed on your site with either the plugin or by embedding code from the Time.ly dashboard settings.
The WordPress plugin gave us options for a poster-board view, a calendar view and a sidebar widget. None of them were very well styled out of the box though…
Now lets look at the second method. You can create events over on your Time.ly account, and place some embed code onto your page. This will let you put nicely designed sliders and carousel type views without even using a plugin. The free version does show a little Time.ly branding – though this wasn’t too obtrusive.
This would also be a decent solution for non WordPress users who don’t want to pay for plugins. If you are using something like Wix or Shopify you’ll know what I mean here. It might even be an option for very small hobbyists or groups who are working with free hosting. It’s common that free hosts won’t give you any back-end access. But, they often will give you the ability to embed some front end code.
The free version didn’t offer us the ability to sell tickets. The ticketing upgrade is $9.99 per month.
However, it was possible to link to external ticketing in the free version. You could just link to an Eventbrite page or set up a WooCommerce product on your WordPress site and link to it. This would enable you to sell your own tickets with Time.ly in the free version.
We noted that this option doesn’t let you do front end submissions. So, you’d need to upgrade to one of the more premium plans to get this feature. A little disappointing given that some other options gave this away in their free options.
Conclusion: All-in-One Event Calendar (by Time.ly)
All-in-One Event Calendar could really be a nice solution for some people. For example, are you are using one of the cheaper WordPress.com plans and don’t have access to plugins? This could be an easy workaround!
WP Event Manager Review
We really enjoyed the installation process on WP Event Manager. When you activate the plugin, it automatically guides you through the install process.
The plugin includes some short-codes to put onto your pages. You’ll get a pretty solid event listing that you can view as a list or thumbnail grid.
There is a search function which uses Ajax – so its super smooth and fast! Big fan of this feature for sure.
While on the topic of the search function another great plus is you do get free location mapping. This is normally a premium feature on many other plugins.
One thing we didn’t like here was the thumbnail size. Thumbnails appear to automatically resize to a 22:9 aspect ration. This is a pretty strange choice for thumbnail size. It would’ve been nice to see a more standard size like the 16:9 ratio. You’d find this ratio on many displays and other thumbnails (e.g. YouTube).
Worse still, if your event image isn’t in the 22:9 ratio, it doesn’t crop the image! It re-scales to that ratio and breaks the proportions of the image. Not nice!
It’s likely possible to fix this by editing the template file. But, this ads a step that non-technical users will probably not be comfortable with.
We note that the plugin allows you to override any of the templates through your own theme. So users at the developer level will definitely like this.
Like most of the other systems we tested, not everything is free. The ticketing and booking systems are not included in the free version. You can buy upgrades for this plugin through add-ons. If you only need one add-on (e.g. tickets) it only costs $39. However, if you need multiple add-ons, the cost can add up quickly. It can become more expensive than our other plugin options in this case.
Conclusion: WP Event Manager – a FAST free WordPress Events Calendar
In conclusion, this plugin would be more suited to developer level users. If you need to have a highly customised site that runs on minimalist and fast code – this could be the right choice.
The Events Calendar Review
The Events Calendar by Modern Tribe is by far the most popular events plugin for WordPress. Does this make it the best one? Possibly!
Part of the reason there are so many active installs is that it’s bundled with some popular themes. Most notably, Avada theme uses this plugin for it’s event calendar functionality.
If you look at Theme Forest, you can see all the themes that come packaged with the Events Calendar.
Here is a good example: You can check out the pre built Avada ‘Church’ site here.
You can see that the style of the list view and calendar view looks awesome straight out the box. The only issue is that Avada is a premium theme, but the price is probably justified when it saves a lot of work. You get your events displayed in beautiful layouts without having to dedicate effort.
The free version has a lot of fucnctionality and is very developer friendly.
It also has Front end submission included in the free version – allowing users to submit events. A great feature that is often only included in pro packages.
While the plugin didn’t include any options for tickets and bookings – it’s probably not a big deal. The same company offers another plugin called Event tickets (available here). The free version of this will allow you to sell tickets from your own site!
The free version uses their own payment processing system (Tribe Commerce). This will allow you to recieve your ticket sales payments to your own PayPal account. We didn’t get to test this feature yet but we’d assume there would be some small processing fees here. That would allow it to be a free feature.
Of course, if you want to process the payments yourself with WooCommerce, this is possible. But, you’d need to upgrade to the premium version to get this function.
While we mentioned above – you can get great results when packaging this plugin with a premium theme. You can also get great results using any page builder (Elementor, Gutenberg, Brizy etc.)
Through adding another plugin, you can get pre made short codes and templates. We found these to be well styled and super easy to set up. Check it out here:
Conclusion: The Events Calendar has the best FREE feature set among WordPress events calendar plugins
In conclusion, we had a very good experience with this plugin. At any level, from WordPress newbie to advanced developer – there is good value here.
This was the only complete solution that allows you to have:
- Well styled, pre-designed event displays
- User event submission (Submit events from the front end of the site)
- Sell tickets directly from your site
While you do need three separate plugins. It is possible to manage this without resorting to coding or custom CSS.
It’s hard to say exactly which is best – it depends on your level of experience! But, we can say which one gave us the best experience personally.
We loved using Modern Events Calendar Lite the best. Everything was just a little easier, looks a little better and took us a bit less time.
The Events Calendar is also pretty good for a free option, but you may need to pair it with other plugins. We’d recommend the short-codes plugin to give you better display options. Also recommend the event ticket plugin to give you on site ticket processing if that’s what you need.
Your mileage may vary however. If you’re a developer and need a wider range of customisation and options… Have a look at Events Manager and WP Event Manager. Both of these seem to have developers in mind.
All-in-one events was a bit of a mixed bag. We could only recommend it if you need ongoing support and want to sign up for a premium service. Otherwise there might be a use for it in situations where you don’t have back-end access to your web host.
Finally, are you are using a premium and compatible theme already? For people using themes like Avada, then just go with The Events Calendar. The inbuilt support you have there already, plus the free ticketing feature is great.