Free Summer Events in New York City

By: Josh –
Last Updated: June 26, 2018

Below is a list and information on the city's very best summer events, including plays, food and street fairs. All events are FREE. To submit your free summer event, send us a quick email including the event name, location, dates, times and a brief paragraph or a flyer describing the event. If the event passes our “cheapdar” and seems to be something our readers may be interested in, it shouldn’t take long for your event to be posted.

Shakespeare in the Park

Othello runs May 29th - June 24th and Twelfth Night runs July 17th - August 19th, 8pm

For the 2018 season, the Public Theater presents Othello and Twelth Night. These are AMAZING shows, usually with a few famous faces on the stage, and a great way to see some great theater. Tickets can only be reserved on the day of the show and you must pick them up at the theater in Central Park, so get there early. Lines have started as early as 6am. They also now have a virtual lottery for tickets on the day of each performance. Submit your ticket request before noon on the day of the show and skip the lines. Those who will be given tickets will be notified via email. You can get guaranteed two tickets by making a $500 donation to the Public Theater, but that is far from cheap.

Taste of Times Square

June 4th. 5pm to 9pm (just in time for dinner!)

Tons of top NYC restaurants will be offering great food at this outdoor food and music festival. There will even be live entertainment and special musical guests. The event is free, but dishes vary from $1 to $5. Not too shabby for gourmet dishes! But get there early. All the best dishes will go fast.

Museum Mile Festival

Tuesday June 12th. 6pm - 9pm

You know all those amazing NYC museums that you keep swearing you’ll check out one of these days? I think the Museum Mile Festival on June 9, 2015 should be that day! Nine museums, including the Met, the Guggenheim, Cooper Hewitt design museum and the Museum of New York City, are open to the public FREE from 6pm to 9pm. Plus the streets are closed to traffic and there’s a ton of live bands, entertainment and street artists along 5th Avenue between 82nd and 105th. There’s even a ton of art activities for kids. If you’ve thought about checking out any of these museums, this is a great way to get a little taste. 

Coney Island Mermaid Parade

June 16th. 1pm

The Mermaid Parade is another “only in New York” tradition to celebrate the sand, sea and the start of summer. People (barely) dressed in mermaid, fish and other under-the-sea costumes crowd the streets to celebrate King Neptune and the Mermaid Queen at this annual festival. This over the top parade attracts all sorts of street performers, artists, and general craziness that is sure to make for a fun day!

The parade starts at W 21st St and Surf Ave but go totheir websitefor more information on the route and the best places to see the parade. 

Solstice in Times Square

June 21st. 7:30am - 8:30pm

What better way to welcome the summer sun than a sun salutation at Summer Solstice Yoga in Times Square? This is an all day FREE event for Yogis of all levels to start summer off right. They have a full day of classes with any type of yoga you can think of, plus get a goody bag full of free swag and coupons for tons of yoga studios, spas, and gyms around the city. But remember, you must register in advance.

Nathan’s Coney Island Hotdog Eating Contest

July 4th. 12pm

What goes better with fireworks than hotdogs? The Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest is a New York Tradition. Watch the professionals stuff their faces full of hotdogs, and enjoy all that Coney Island has to offer. But if you want to actually SEE, you may want to get there early. The contest takes place at Stillwell Ave at Surf Ave in Coney Island.

Uptown Shakespeare in the Park

July 7th - July 29th. Tuesdays - Sundays. 8:30pm. The Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park.

The Classical Theatre of Harlem (Ty Jones, Producing Artistic Director) presents “Antigone,” inspired by Paul Roche’s adaptation from the classic Greek tragedy by Sophocles. Back for its sixth season of free theater performances and affectionately known as the Uptown Shakespeare in the Park, the Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH) is thrilled to return to Marcus Garvey Park this summer, presenting a work that showcases the strength and voices of audacious women responding to rigid societal inequities. 

Broadway in Bryant Park

July 12th - August 16th. Thursdays at the Bryant Park Lawn, 12:30pm - 1:30pm

Check out the biggest hits from some of Broadway’s most popular shows. There are often contests to win free Broadway tickets at these events.

City of Water Day Festival

July 14th. 10am – 4pm

Want to take a FREE harbor boat tour? We’ve found the perfect event for you. The City of Water Day festival, founded to celebrate the New York Harbor, offers free ferry rides to and from Governors Island and Liberty State park. There’s also live music, great food vendors, and tons of activities for kids. So get on out and enjoy the New York City waterfront!

Bastille Day

Sunday July 15th. 12pm - 5pm

Celebrate French culture (and eat a TON of French food) at this outdoor street fair. Stop by for everything from wine and cheese tastings and crepes to authentic French music and art on 60th St between 5th Ave and Lexington Ave. Oui! Oui!

Come Out and Play Festival

Saturday July 21st. Family Day 1pm - 5pm and After Dark 7pm - 10pm

Just because we’re adults, doesn’t mean we don’t like to play games . For one day and one night this summer, the Come Out and Play festival presents original games in DUMBO. Come Out and Play Family Day offers game for people of all ages. Come Out and Play AFTER DARK  (for those 18 and older) will turn the streets of DUMBO into one giant playground with social and arcade-style games.

Summer Streets

The first three Saturdays of August. 7am - 1pm

Any runner knows that variety is the spice of life. How many times can you REALLY run around Central Park and not be bored out of your mind? Summer Streets is the answer to your summer workout blues. Police shut down Park Ave from Central Park to Brooklyn Bridge and walkers, joggers, bikers and skaters are free to roam the streets without the threat of getting run over by a taxi. There are usually a few sponsors out there with some free goodies and music as well as free yoga and other classes. It’s like a concrete oasis.

Housing Works Hester Street Fair

September 8th. 11am - 6pm

The Hester Street Fair is excited to bring the best vintage to the Lower East Side alongside our official co-hosts, Housing Works Thrift Shop! We will set up a lounge with a curated selection of vintage clothing, accessories, comics, books, and records. We’ve also gathered some of our favorite local vintage dealers in the area. Stop by for the rare finds, great food, and stay to learn how you can get involved with Housing Work’s direct actions and advocacy efforts.