New York: Summer 2013 free events calendar

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Run, bike, or waddle. Summer Streets are yours. Photo: NYCDOT
Run, bike, or waddle. Summer Streets are yours. Photo: NYCDOT

There’s no season we love more than summer in New York, because for every minute we spend melting on the subway platform, there are many blissful moments of fun (and free!) revelry. Good moods abound, and parks and streets radiate the buzz that is summer in the city.

Here, 25 free events in New York City this summer that we’re particularly excited about:

Street scenes

From parades to festivals to block parties, New Yorkers like to party in the streets.

1. Pride Weekend
June 28-30
Various locations

As is the case with most things New York, the Pride celebration here is one of the biggest in the world. The parade marches down Fifth Avenue on Sunday, June 30, but festivities fill the weekend, including Dance on the Pier, Rapture on the River and Pride (Poolside). And in this critical year there’s a lot to celebrate, so be sure to come out and join in the fun.

2. Independence Day
July 4
Hudson River or Coney Island

There is little that feels more American than the smell of hot dogs, the boom of fireworks or the Fourth of July. The big Macy’s fireworks show lights up the sky over the Hudson, with various access points from 24th Street on up to 54th Street. A hint if you choose to go: Head farther downtown (below 12th Street), where the crowds will be (slightly) smaller. Wherever you go, get there early and bring along blankets for sitting and food for eating.

If you prefer the hot dog aspect of the day, head out to Coney Island to cheer on the big eaters in Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. The fun starts at noon, but arrive early to stake out your spot (and a hot dog).

3. Bastille Day
July 14
60th Street between 5th and Lexington Avenues or Smith Street, Brooklyn

France’s answer to Independence Day has several festivities of its own. Manhattan‘s party, on 60th Street from Fifth Avenue to Lexington Avenue, becomes a veritable Franco-wonderland, replete with cheeses, éclairs and crêpes (oh my!), plus crafts, live music and much more. Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, you can expect costumes, music and fabulous eats at the Bar Tabac Bastille Day celebration in Cobble Hill.

4. New Museum Block Party
July 20, 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Sara D. Roosevelt Park

Experience art firsthand at this all-day extravaganza with performance art, interactive projects and workshops, plus free public tours of the museum.

5. Harlem Week
July 27 to August 30
Various locations in Harlem

Talk about understatement: Harlem Week lasts a month! Head Uptown for Gospel concerts, a jazzmobile, a fashion showcase, a basketball classic and much more.

6. Summer Streets
Dates and locations to be announced

For a few Saturdays every summer, New Yorkers receive a special gift: their streets. Traffic is diverted so that cyclists can cycle, runners can run and everyone else can walk, skip and cartwheel down the center of the street. Expect fun and games at stops along the way (last year saw a zip line and climbing wall).

Dance and sing

Whether you’re keen to cut a rug, groove in place or just sit and watch, outdoor music brings delights, especially the free kind.

Bust out your best garden party duds for the Jazz Age Lawn Party. Photo: Suzanne Russo

Bust out your best garden party duds for the Jazz Age Lawn Party. Photo: Suzanne Russo

7. Celebrate Brooklyn
Throughout summer
Prospect Park Bandshell

All summer long, Prospect Park is alive and humming (literally). This year’s lineup includes Shaggy, They Might Be Giants and a live performance of the score from Beasts of the Southern Wild.

8. Midsummer Night’s Swing
June 24 to July 13
Lincoln Center

For 25 years now, live bands have filled the stellar space outside Lincoln Center with jazz, salsa, swing and disco, so that the good people of summer can jump, jive and jitterbug to their hearts’ content. Skip the $17 admission (which includes a lesson at 6:30 p.m. and admission to the dance floor) to shake and shimmy for free outside the ticketed area.

9. Jazz Age Lawn Party
August 17-18
Governors Island

A live concert and so much more, this 1920s-themed fête is the event of the summer (for this New Yorker, at least). Picture the old-fashioned splendor that is always Governors Island, now aglow with dashing costumes, games and all that jazz courtesy of Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra. A ticket ($30 in advance) gets you into the main area with access to dance floor, vintage clothing booths and food and drink offerings, but you can just as easily pack a picnic, claim a spot on the lawn and enjoy the festivities for free.

10. Summerstage
Throughout summer
Various locations

Mambo, hip-hop and everything in between. No matter your music preference, Summerstage will have something for you. Free concerts take place in Central Park and other parks throughout the boroughs.

11. Sweet Spot Festival
Select Saturdays through September 22
Jackie Robinson Park or Pier 1

The whole family can partake in this celebration of Harlem culture. In addition to vintage shopping, rotating shows include a reggae party and a roller skating jam.

That’s Entertainment

High culture, out of doors.

lincoln center out of doors

Rock out at Lincoln Center Out of Doors. Photo: Ian Muttoo

12. New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks
July 10-16
Various locations

Now’s your chance to hear the famed New York Philharmonic, Cheapos. The orchestra spends a week playing at one location in each borough (Prospect Park, Brooklyn; Cunningham Park, Queens; College of Staten Island; Central Park, Manhattan; Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx). There’s something extra magical about classical music under a blanket of stars.

13. Lincoln Center Out of Doors
July 24 to August 11
Lincoln Center

Once the dancers have had their fill, Lincoln Center opens the floor to all array of entertainment, from Afrobeat with Red Hot + FELA to the jazzy Kronos Quartet to funky Ozomatli. This year also includes the 30th Annual Roots of American Music Festival.

14. Shakespeare in the Park
Through August 18
Delacorte Theater

One of New York’s favorite summer traditions: the Bard, performed live, in Central Park’s lovely Delacorte Theater. Tickets are free, but can be hard to come by. Check out our trusty guide to free Shakespeare in the Park tickets for tips on claiming yours.

15. The Met Summer Recital Series
July 16 to August 1
Various locations

Just like the Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera brings its art to the masses, with six performances throughout the five boroughs. Bring a blanket, a picnic and your best falsetto.

16. New York Classical Theatre
Through July 28
Various locations

Free Shakespeare. In parks. (Minus the Shakespeare in the Park lines.)

17. River to River Festival
June 15 to July 14
Locations vary

Theater, art, dance, city… The R2R Festival has it all. Watch open rehearsals, listen to poetry readings, or get your hands dirty at interactive events. The festival takes place on waterfront spaces (Governors Island, South Street Seaport…) throughout the city.

Films alfresco

It’s a bit overwhelming how many free movie series there are in New York, and each is awesome in its own way. Here’s the rundown.

movies with a view

You don’t know what to watch, movie or scenery in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photo: Courtesy of Movies with a View

18. HBO-Bryant Park Summer Film Festival
Mondays through August 19
Bryant Park

The grand daddy of the summer film fests has the throngs arriving hours early (the lawn opens at 5 p.m.) to score a spot. Movies won’t start until dusk, but the wait is part of the pleasure. It’s fun to strike up conversations with strangers, and we can certainly think of worse places to lounge than Bryant Park. Movies here tend toward the tried-and-true (this year’s season closes with E.T the Extra Terrestrial).

19. RiverFlicks for Grown-ups
Wednesdays, July 10 to August 21
Pier 63, Hudson River Park (enter at W 23rd Street)

For more modern selections, movies on the river are a good bet. This year’s theme is “bands of heroes and bands of singers,” so you’ll see everything from Argo to Pitch Perfect. It’s a good chance to catch up on the blockbusters you missed last winter. Plus, the staff passes out free popcorn while supplies last.

20. RiverFlicks for Kids
Fridays, July 12 to August 23
Pier 46, Hudson River Park (enter at Charles Street)

Don’t let the name fool you. This youthful version of RiverFlicks offers nostalgic kid-friendly favorites like Beetlejuice and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Oh, and more free popcorn.

21. Central Park Film Festival
August 22-26
Central Park just north of Sheep Meadow

Classics for a classic. This five-day film festival tends to go retro in its pickings, and this year the “People’s Park” let the people decide the movies. The winners include West Side Story for Classics night, The Shining for horror night and Raiders of the Lost Ark for adventure night. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and movies start at 8 p.m.

22. SummerScreen
Wednesdays, July 10 to August 14
McCarren Park, Williamsburg

This hipster fest kicks off each evening with live music and food trucks at 6 p.m., followed by a ’90s throwback movie (Can’t Hardly WaitThe Goonies…) at sunset. We’d expect no less from the ‘burg.

23. Syfy Movies with a View at Brooklyn Bridge Park
Thursdays, July 11 to August 29
Pier 1 Harbor View Lawn

And the winner for best scenery goes to… With the Brooklyn Bridge looming off to one side, and lower Manhattan as backdrop, the atmosphere at Brooklyn Bridge seems like something from, well, a movie.  Snag a spot early and be rewarded by not only a seat but fabulous views and DJ tunes (from 6 p.m.) Feature films—this year kicks it off with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and ends with Lost in Translation—are each preceded by a short. 

24. The Intrepid Summer Movie Series
Various dates through August 15
Intrepid Museum, Pier 86 (W 46th Street)

It’s no surprise that this massive aircraft carrier turned museum has the likes of JawsTop Gun and The Karate Kid on the docket this year. Space is limited and priority seating is granted to members, so arrive early (doors open at 7:30 p.m.), and note that there is no admission after 8:30 p.m.

25. Films In Tompkins
Thursdays through August 8
Tompkins Square Park

Somehow the thought of watching Rocky Horror Picture Show in the heart of the East Village just feels right. Gates open at 6 p.m., and musical entertainment starts around then too.

Looking for somewhere to sleep?

While you can catch free theater, concerts and movies outdoors, we wouldn’t recommend trying to sleep under the stars while in New York (Cheapo as that may be).  For our favorite cheap sleeps in the city, check out our guide to budget hotels in New York.

Anything to add? 

Know of any other free events in New York this summer? Feel free to share them in the comment box below.  And if you have any questions about the events listed, ask away!


About the author

Suzanne Russo

About the author: Suzanne Russo thinks of herself as equal parts California Girl and New Yorker. She moved from San Francisco to New York four years ago to pursue her MA in English, and her obsession with all things New York life and history hasn’t dwindled yet. She is a freelance writer, director of the San Francisco-sponsored, New York literary pub crawl, Lit Crawl, and constant wanderer.

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One thought on “New York: Summer 2013 free events calendar”

  1. Please put this free event on your website:

    Coney Island’s Sand Sculpting Contest is free of charge to compete for prizes, enjoy day-long entertainment, and visit information tables/booths. The amateur sculptors, coming from Coney Island and beyond, will compete in five categories: Individual Adult, Individual Child, Adult Group, Child Group, and Mixed (Children and Adults). First, second, and third place winners in each category will be awarded generous cash prizes—$400, $200, and $100. Artists and leaders from the Coney Island community will serve as judges, examining each sculpture and then reaching a consensus on the winning creations.

    To register or reserve space for an information table (no sales or exchange of money), visit


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