Free things to do in New York City in the summer? I know that it sounds like an oxymoron. Let’s face it, the words “free” and “New York City” are rarely used in the same sentence, but visitors to the city are often surprised both at how expensive it can be ($400 for a hotel room?) as well as the number of free things there are to do and see around New York, especially come summer when the weather is usually sunny and urban dwellers are itching to escape from their cubicles and cramped apartments as often as possible.
For those looking to save money and experience some of the best of what New York City has to offer, here are 10 free things to do in New York City this summer.
1) Explore Governors Island
Originally developed as a military base, in recent years Governors Island has been an unpopulated 172-acre island sitting enticingly close to the tip of Manhattan (and even closer to Brooklyn). Then, in 2003, the island was sold to New York City from the federal government, and the island was opened up for free to the public for access to its amazing views and open parkland.
The island itself is made up of bike lanes, parks, the remains of the military base and even the homes that the military families lived in, which are all ripe for exploration. You can rent bikes at a kiosk just down the hill from the ferry dock, and the rest of the island is easily accessible by foot. Head to Picnic Point at the far tip of the island for views of the harbor and open space to have lunch or throw a frisbee around.
Throughout the summer there are free events every weekend, including the FIGMENT NYC art festival (June 8- 9), the Bang on a Can music festival (July 13), and even a bocce tournament (August 24) and unicycle festival (August 31) to round out everyone’s needs.
2) See Free Music Outside
Music lovers in New York know that one of the best times in the city to see live music (often free) is during the summer when the many ongoing music festivals around the city begin, offering everything from indie rock, classical, jazz and world music on a daily basis. Here are a few of the biggest and best of the lineups.
Central Park SummerStage
This year’s SuumerStage lineup is eclectic as ever, with performances from Fela Kuti (June 23), Lights (Canada Day: June 29), and a Metropolitan Opera recital (July 16).
Prospect Park Bandshell Celebrate Brooklyn Series
Of course one of the best music festivals in the city is in Brooklyn — Prospect Park’s bandshell to be exact. I’ve been going to concerts here every summer, and they easily have one of the best lineup in the city, and this year is no exception.
This year they kick things off with a performance by Patty Griffin (June 5), followed by shows by Big Boi (June 20), Amadou & Mariam (June 21), Ladysmith Black Mambazo (June 28), Os Mutantes (June 29), Belle and Sebastian (July 11), Jamie Lidell and Dan Deacon (August 2), Eddie Palmieri (August 3), and They Might be Giants (August 10).