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The Ultimate Free things to do in New York City this summer

free things to do new york city tips (2)

The best free concerts, outdoor movie screenings, festivals and activities you can enjoy from mid June through end of August.

Monday June 20th

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Bryant Park; 5pm

The summer kicks off with HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Series’ first movie screening. Spots almost always fill up on the lawn for the popular event, so make like a certain Matthew Broderick character and slip out of work to have some fun.

Tuesday, June 21

Concerts in the Park Van Cortlandt Park; 8pm
You don’t have to have a fancy suit, or, for the matter, a dime, to attend this show from the New York Philharmonic. The acclaimed orchestra is set to perform music by Mozart, Rossini and R. Strauss.

Wednesday, June 22

The Metropolitan Opera’s Summer Recital Series Rumsey Playfield, Central Park; 8pm

You probably love the city’s SummerStage series for all of the dance-worthy outdoor concerts it presents, but in this case you can feel cultured as the Met Opera’s soprano Angel Blue brings her heavenly voice to the stage.

Thursday, June 23

Alvvays + Ducktails + Big Thief Prospect Park Bandshell; 6pm

Forget the beach: ride the wave of sweet indie pop all evening long when Alvvays takes Prospect Park Bandshell as part of Celebrate Brooklyn. New Jersey’s psych-pop outfit Ducktails and Brooklyn’s folky rock group Big Thief open.

Friday, June 24

Swedish Midsummer Festival Robert F Wagner Park; 5pm

Grab your floral crown and head to Battery Park for this annual picnic and cultural festival that brings the traditional nordic celebration to the city, complete with a fiddler playing folk music a leaves-covered midsummer pole.

Saturday, June 25

Taming the Shrew Delacorte Theater, Central Park; 8pm

Shakespeare’s famed, if controversial, romantic comedy about strong-headed couple Petruchio and Katherina is presented alfresco with an entirely female cast.

Sunday, June 26

Pride Parade Starts at 36th street and Fifth Ave; Noon

Celebrate the vibrant and essential LGBTQ community living in New York City and beyond with this annual march of floats, dancers, performers and every-day folks wearing their pride on their sleeves (or bare torso).

Monday, June 27

Indigo Girls + Lucy Wainwright Roche Rumsey Field, Central Park; 6pm

For decades folk-rock duo Indigo Girls have inspired a cult-like international following—whether you’re a long time fan of their sweet harmonies or just consider it a “Rite of Passage” to see them live in Central Park. Lucy Wainwright Roche (daughter of Loudon Wainwright III and Suzzy Roche, sister of Rufus and Martha) opens.

Tuesday, June 28

Brooklyn Botanic Garden; 10am-5:30pm

Every Tuesday the Brooklyn Botanic Garden opens its gates to visitors sans admission. Here you can smell the sweetness of thousands of rose buds, appreciate the serenity of the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden and learn about New York’s vegetation with the Native Flora Garden.

Wednesday June 29

Kayaking on the Hudson River Downtown Boathouse, Pier 26; 5pm-7pm

After a long day of the office you deserve to stretch those arms and take in some amazing views of the city’s riverside with a free kayak ride. All summer long Downtown Boathouse is providing the vessels from Tue-Thu, 5pm to 7pm.

Thursday June 30th

Ping Pong Bryant Park; 11am-8pm

Ready for a midday break? Unleash your table tennis skills for a full 10 minutes with an opponent at Bryant Park’s state-of-the-art Ping Pong tables—it’s free to play and you can borrow paddles and balls for your reservation time.

Friday, July 1

Stargazing The Fountain (at Lincoln Center); sundown-11pm

Every Friday and Saturday the Amateur Astronomer’s Association sets up their telescopes in Lincoln Center—if the clouds cooperate you’ll be able to see Jupiter, Saturn and Mars tonight.

Saturday, July 2

Target First Saturday Brooklyn Museum of Art, 5pm-11pm

One of the city’s best museum’s doesn’t just wave the admission price the first Saturday of every month—they make a celebration of it. Clink glasses over cocktails (happy hour until 6pm) and take in special performances, participate in workshops and learn something with special lectures and Q&As.

Sunday, July 3

Governor’s Island Free ferry rides from Battery Maritime Building at 10am and 11am; from Pier 6, Brooklyn at 11am and 11:30am.

All aboard the Governor’s Island ferry—the only way to travel to New York’s favorite frolicking grounds. Pack a picnic and enjoy hours of free art, hammock napping, historic sites and beautiful views. If you sleep in too late don’t worry—after noon the round-trip ticket price is just $2.

Monday, July 4th

Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular East River; 9:20pm

Feel, see and hear one of the most patriotic displays of Independence Day with the 40th annual firework display from Macy’s. The pyrotechnics last for a whopping 30-minutes and can be seen on Manhattan’s East Side as well as from Brooklyn and Queens.

Tuesday, July 5

Comedy Show at Alligator Lounge Alligator Lounge; 9pm

If the summer heat is killing you, cool off with a nice cold one at this weekly stand-up show where local up-and-comers show off their chops. As an added bonus, the bar double down on the free: get a gratis pizza with your drink purchase.

Wednesday, July 6

Scream McCarren Park; 6pm

As part of McCarren Park’s annual SummerScreen series, the ‘90s horror classic with a comedy bent (featuring a young Drew Barrymore, Courtney Cox, Neve Campbell and David Arquette) comes to North Brooklyn.

Thursday, July 7th

Beach Volleyball Pier 6, Brooklyn Bridge Park; 8am-7pm, subject to availability

Feel the sand beneath your toes as you race to spike the ball over the net at the three regulation-sized courts on Pier 6. Just make sure to keep your eye on the ball and not the beautiful lower Manhattan skyline.

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Friday, July 8

Classical Theater of Harlem Presents: Macbeth Richard Rodgers Amphitheater, Marcus Garvey Park; 8pm

Grab a spot by this Harlem outdoor stage for a production of Shakespeare’s tragedy, this time set against the backdrop of Haile Selassie’s rule of Ethiopia in the mid 20th century.

Saturday, July 9

Carla Morrison + Hurray for the Riff Raff + Buscabulla Prospect Park Bandshell; 6pm

Tonight’s offering from Celebrate Brooklyn features Latin musicians from various genres. Hurray for the Riff Raff, which is led by Puerto Rican-American Alynda Lee Segarra, brings the folk-blues, Brooklyn Spanish-language electro-psych pop duo Buscabulla and headlining is Mexico City’s indie pop star Carla Morrison.

Sunday, July 10

Bushwick Flea; 10am

Every sunday this thrifters’ paradise offers live music so you can groove while digging for treasures, which includes second-hand fashions, artwork and more.

Monday, July 11

Abhaya Yoga Brooklyn Bridge Park 7:30am, mandatory pre-class registration begins at 7am

Greet the morning with a sun salutation with this free yoga class on the lawn—the stretches and meditation are sure to make you feel centered and ready to take on the day.

Tuesday, July 12

Movie Trivia Videology; 8:30pm

Calling all movie buffs! One of New York’s most popular nights of trivia is free to play—though it’s certainly more fun if you buy a beer or two. Comedian Maggie Ross hosts as teams go head-to-head over visual rounds, fill-in-the-quotes, and general film knowledge questions. If you’re a champion you’ll even get a free round of drinks. Cheers!

Wednesday, July 13 

The Bronx Zoo The Bronx Zoo; 10am-5pm

Lions, tigers, bears and 6,000 other animals from 650 species await you at one of the world’s biggest urban zoos. The Wildlife Conservation Society 265-acre park gives back to the city with free admission every Wednesday—but bring some money if you want to partake in the cool, extra features like the Wild Asia Monorail and the famed Bug Carousal.

Thursday, July 14th

The Triplets of Belleville Prospect Park Bandshell; 8pm

Celebrate Bastille Day with beautiful and strange Oscar-nominated French animated feature The Triplets of Belleville. The swinging jazz original score—and it’s foley sound effects—will be performed live by the film’s composer Benoît Charest and his 9-piece Orchestre Terrible de Belleville band. Sacrebleu!

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Friday, July 15

Edgar Degas: A Strange New Beauty MoMA; 4pm-8pm

See MoMA’s blockbuster exhibit, featuring the work of famed French impressionist Edgar Degas before it closes (July 24) during the weekly Uniqlo Free Fridays.

Saturday, July 16th 

City of Water Day Governors Island; 10am-4pm

During this ninth annual celebration of the New York and New Jersey waterfront, Governors Island hosts a slew of fun activities, games and educational booths including a cardboard kayak race and boat tours.

Sunday, July 17

Riis Park Beach Bazaar Riis Park; 11am-9pm

Known by Robert Moses as “The People’s Beach” because it’s accessible by public transportation, this plot of sand in the Far Rockaways is the premier destination for riding the waves, grabbing grub from cool vendors and, on weekends, checking out live music. On this day, check out the Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra.

Monday, July 18th

Books Beneath the Bridge Brooklyn Bridge Park; 7pm

Every summer, Brooklyn Bridge Park works with local independent bookstores to bring special readings—that often include Q&As, signings, and performance—to the scenic park. Today, WORD presents the programming.

Tuesday, July 19

Cornelia Parker, Transitional Object (Psycho Barn) The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 10am-5:30pm

So, maybe this one doesn’t count: Though you do not have to pay the suggested $25 admission price, you do have to donate at least a penny to see the work held in America’s biggest collection. (You can swing one cent, right?) Don’t miss this year’s rooftop installation “Transitional Object (Psycho Barn)”, which brings a 30 foot tall rendition of the barn in Hitchcock’s Psycho to the serene space.

Wednesday, July 20

A Night of Words and Music with Patti Smith Damrosch Park, Lincoln Center; 7:30pm

The annual two-week free cultural-a-thon Lincoln Center Out of Doors kicks off with a performance by poet, award-winning memoirist and the godmother of punk rock Patti Smith.

Thursday, July 21

Purple Rain Brooklyn Bridge Park; 6pm

While the world may have mourned the loss of Prince, his music and talent live on—feel free to sing-along with the flick at this Movies With A View screening.

Friday, July 22

Swimming at McCarren Pool McCarren Park; 11am-3pm, 4pm-7pm

If July has got you soaking in your own sweat, dive right in to this public pool. The 37,571-square-foot oasis gives you plenty of room to practice your backstroke.

Saturday, July 23

Queens Night Market New York Hall of Science; 6pm-midnight

Every Saturday through August 23rd the Flushing Meadows Corona Park grounds next to the New York Hall of Science are dedicated to this open-air market where you’ll find art, accessories, clothes, tasty food and live performances.

Sunday, July 24

Community Rowing Hunts Point Riverside Park; 1pm-6pm

Why should the Hudson and East Rivers have all the fun? The 24-mile-long Bronx River is the city’s only freshwater river—explore it for yourself in a handmade wooden boat every Saturday and Sunday through September 4.

Monday, July 25

Whiplash, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre; 11pm

See some of the city’s best stand-up comedians, including those on the rise and the occasional few big name drop-ins (David Cross, Louis C.K.), at this famed weekly show hosted by Leo Allen.

Tuesday, July 26

Out of Line: Narcissister High Line, 10pm

Brooklyn based artist Narcissister (The New Museum, PS1) brings her performance piece, which combines music, costumes and contemporary dance to explore issues like gender, sexuality and identity. Exact performance location provided after RSVP.

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Wednesday, July 27 

Complexions Contemporary Ballet Rumsey Playfield, Central Park; 7pm

Central Park’s SummerStage trades rock shows for contemporary dance from Complexion Contemporary Ballet and Carolyn Dorfman Dance–two companies capable of making audiences think about the nature of dance, music and its place in our culture.

Thursday, July 28 

Lyfe Jennings Queensbridge Park; 7pm

Talented singer and multi-instrumentalist (guitar, bass, piano), Lyfe Jennings brings his soul and R&B music to the state at Queensbridge Park.

Friday, July 29

Thunderbird American Indians Pow Wow Queens County Farm Museum; 6pm-10pm

At this 38th annual mid-summer pow wow, you can witness a stunning traditional display by American Indian Dancers wearing garb for the occasion. While you’re there, shop crafts and much on American Indian delicacies.

Saturday, July 30

Smorgasburg East River State Park; 11am-6pm

New York’s most famous open-air epicurean extravaganza is back every Saturday at Williamsburg’s East River State Park. Come on an empty stomach and gorge or food from local vendors.

Sunday, July 31

A Great Day in Harlem U.S. Grant National Memorial Park; noon

Harlem Week kicks off with this huge festival which brings tens of thousands to the historic nabe for Gospel music, a fashion show, community activities and other performances that celebrate the rich cultural history of the area.

Monday, August 1 

Hallett Nature Sanctuary Central Park; 2pm-5pm

Take a walk down a winding, rustic trail at the normally closed-to-the-public Hallett Nature Sanctuary, where you’ll come accross native trees, flora and birds.

Tuesday, August 2

Bryant Park Juggling Bryant Park; 12pm-1pm

Ever wanted to learn a new party trick or unleash your inner clown? Learn how to juggle during this free workshop led by the Bryant Park Jugglers.

Wednesday, August 3

Arriba! Latin Dance Party, High Line, 7pm-9pm

Shake your hips, dip and show off your fancy footwork when this large salsa party turns the High Line into an outdoor dance floor. Performing tonight is Aurora & Zon del Barrio, who promises to bring funk, merengue, bomba and boogalu for the occasion.

Thursday, August 4

NPR Music Live in Concert, Damrosch Park, Lincoln Center; 7pm

Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton of NPR’s “All Thing’s Considered” are joined by Alt.Latino’s Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd for a conversation about music and memorable melodies.

Friday, August 5

Moonlight Bike Ride Columbus Circle; 10pm

Instead of saying TGIF over beers, make friends with a more athletic crowd the first Friday of every month with a leisurely two-hour bike ride around the park, which is guided by experts who know where the best late night sites are. Note: They are happy to stop and look along the way.

Saturday, August 6

Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Over 180 teams gather at the lake in Flushing Meadowns Corona Park on long boats, paddling to the beat of their boat’s drummer at this annual cultural festival inspired by the Hong Kong tradition. On land, you can join in the the fun with performances of Chinese music, martial arts demonstrations and vendors selling Asian cuisine.

Sunday, August 7

Igmar Thomas & the Revive Big Band present: A Journey Through the Legacy of Black Culture, produced by Revive Music Rumsey Playfield; Central Park, 6pm-10pm

Igmar Thomas & the Revive Big Band fuze jazz, soul, blues, R&B and rock and roll in a genre-defying look at African diasporic music and how it has influenced America’s culture.

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Monday, August 8

Side Ponytail Over the Eight ; 7pm

Hosted by comedian Carolyn Busa this weekly stand up show brings the laughs to Williamsburg bar Over the Eight.

Weekly comedy show led by funny woman Carolyn Busa is a side-splitter.

Tuesday, August 9

Troilus & Cressida The Delacorte Theater, Central Park; 8pm

The venerated Public theater stages one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays about romance, war and revenge set in Ancient Greece during the Trojan War.

Wednesday, August 10

Labyrinth + Donny McCaslin Group Prospect Park Bandshell; 7:30pm

For fans of David Bowie still reeling from his death, Celebrate Brooklyn honors the legend with a live performance from The Donny McCaslin Group, the band that backed Bowie on his final record followed by a screening of Labyrinth.

Thursday, August 11

Garden Tour Edible and Medicinal The High Line; 6pm-7:15pm

Did you know there are more than 500 varieties of plants growing in the High Line? Learn about some of the amazing flora during this guided tour which focuses on the species that are edible or have medicinal purposes.

Friday, August 12

Dr. Dog with The Knights Prospect Park Bandshell; 7:30pm

Combining their sounds for a special one-night-only performance is psych-pop ‘60s-inspired Philadelphia band Dr. Dog with New York-based world and classical music orchestra The Knights.

Saturday, August 13

Summer Streets TBA

Every year, for three consecutive Saturdays in August, the city closes 7 miles of street for fun activities. Last year’s lineup included a giant slide, a zip line, and plenty of stops along the way.

Sunday, August 14

Annual Giglio Feast of San Antonio Pleasant Avenue between 114th and 116th streets, East Harlem; 12pm

Over 100 years ago, Italian immigrants who settled in East Harlem began observing and the feast day of Saint Anthony with a big feat and giglio—a giant 75 to 85 feet tall wood structure that include a portrait of the saint’s face. Partake in Italian music, festivities, food and religious observance during this special tradition.

Monday, August 15

Battery Dance Festival Robert F Wagner Park; 6:30pm-8:30pm

Tonight kicks off New York City’s longest running annual public dance festival. Expect to see phenomenal performances from both established and emerging performers.

Tuesday, August 16

Bryant Park Yoga Bryant Park; 10am-11am

With beautiful mats open to use thanks to Athleta and instructors curated by Yoga Journal, you can fully embrace the relaxation and tricky poses knowing you’re in good hands.

Wednesday, August 17

Gandhi, is that you?, Lucky Jacks; 9pm

Laugh away that summer heat at this long running weekly night of stand-up.

Thursday, August 18

A League of Their Own Brooklyn Bridge Park. 6pm

Part of the park’s “Movies with a View” series, this movie features an all-star cast (Geena Davis, Tom Hanks) in a movie about women baseball players during WWII. There might be no crying in baseball, but it’s okay if this movie leads to a few tears of joy.

Friday, August 19

The Asia Society; 6pm-9pm

Every Friday night, the Asia Society waves it’s admission price. Check out the museum’s current exhibition, a retrospective of the Asian art work originally collected by John D. Rockefeller III and beyond, “In and Out of Context: Asia Society Celebrates the Collects at 60.”

Saturday, August 20

Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest Coney Island Beach; TBA

Every year artists, architects and beach lovers gather in Coney Island to create masterpieces for this annual competition. Create your own sculpture if you feel inspired, or admire complicated intricate structures—years past have included sand sculptures that look like New York City skyscrapers, animals and the Cyclone rollercoaster.

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Sunday, August 21

India Day Parade, Madison Avenue; 12pm

Immigrants from India and the descendents of the Indian diaspora celebrate their heritage by bringing colorful floats, performances and dance to midtown—all or welcome to get in on the fun and learn more about the rich and diverse Indian cultural experience.

Monday, August 22

Life’s a Picnic Grand Central Terminal; 7am-7pm

One of the city’s busiest transportation hubs takes a cue from a simpler, more leisurely summer tradition by bringing covered picnic tables to Grand Central. Pack a meal or buy from the vendors and enjoy live music and performances as you feast away from the boiling heat.

Tuesday, August 23

U.S. Open Qualifying Rounds Arthur Ashe Stadium; 11am

Love tennis, but can’t afford a seat at the U.S. Open? During the qualifying rounds (through the 28th) there’s free entry to watch up-and-coming pros volley for a spot is the international tournament.

Wednesday, August 24

Embrace the Serpent Socrates Sculpture Park; sunset

Come to the beautiful and artistically-minded Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens to see this award-winning Colombian thrilling drama that made waves after it’s 2015 release.

Thursday, August 25

Philadanco Prospect Park; 7pm

The legendary Philadelphia Dance Company, known for its groundbreaking support of black dancers, comes to Brooklyn to perform its signature brand of modern contemporary dance.

Friday August 26

The Bones of J.R. Jones West Harlem Piers Park 7pm-8pm

Start your weekend off right by swaying away the trouble of the week with New York’s Summer on the Hudson: Freshen Up Series. New York State-native, and currently Brooklyn-based, The Bones of J.r. Jones brings folk and blues inspired music to Harlem.

Saturday, August 27

Charlie Parker Jazz Festival: Randy Weston African Rhythms Sextet / Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles / The Artistry of Jazzmeia Horn / Charles Turner III / Master Class: Samuel Coleman Marcus Garvey Park; 2pm-7pm

Every year, the city remembers the legacy of saxophonist Charlie Parker with an assortment of performances from world-class jazz musicians.

Sunday, August 28

Brighton Jubilee Festival Brighton Beach

For nearly 40 years, this sea-side neighborhood has shown its pride for its diverse inhabitants with an annual street fair and block party.

Monday, August 29

Guardians of the Galaxy Forest Park; 7:30pm

You don’t have to travel to outer space to see super hero blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy under the stars—just a blanket and a spot at Forest Park in Queens will do.

Tuesday, August 30

Stargazing The High Line; 6:30pm

The Amateaur Astronomers Association of New York brings their high-powered telescopes and knowledge of the celestial bodies to The High Line.

Wednesday, August 31

Chicago The Musical: 20th Anniversary Show Rumsey Playfield, Central Park; 7pm

All you Funny Ho

7 thoughts on “The Ultimate Free things to do in New York City this summer

  1. Vanilla63

    Great post!
    Does this mean that there is nothing going on in September, as you say until September 20th, but then the post finishes at the end of August. We’re in NY from 2nd – 6th, so would be good to get any great suggestions for then.
    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. tea Post author

      oops … typo. I might add some as we go – so def keep an eye on it.

      Reply
  2. Briggies

    this is amazing! is there a way to synch it with my calendar???

    Reply
  3. Stadtflaneur

    What a great post! Exactly what I was looking for because I’m currently planning a trip to NYC in August. Thank you!

    Reply
  4. Nathalie Pena

    Wow my whole summer is literally planned in this whole post haha. Thank you so much for this post!

    Reply

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