Summer is finally in the air here in New York City, and thus commences the portion of the year when we spend as much time as possible outside of our non-air conditioned, or air conditioned but very expensive, apartments. Luckily for us, New Yorkers love to get their outdoors on. The city boasts some of the best parks in the world, and it’s bursting with fun activities en plein air when we want to get a little fancier than just lying on a green patch and soaking up Vitamin D (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Best of all? Many of them don’t cost a thing. Here are some of my personal favorite freebies for the fair-weather months. Now grab yourself an iced coffee (or a frozen daquiri…) and hit the town! Winter is coming eventually, so you have three months to make it count.
Outdoor movies: New York is always a pretty film-happy town — whether it comes to watching movies or making them right here in the city — but summer is when the cinephiles really come out to play. From hotel roofs and harbors to parks in every borough, spanning decades and genres, there are very few nights in the summer when you can’t find yourself a movie playing in the outdoors. Thrillist has put together a handy guide, which they update as more schedules are announced. Some of my past favorites (who have yet to announce this year’s line-ups, unfortunately. Update: Bryant Park just released theirs! And it’s awesome.) include Bryant Park (pretty and conveniently located near French pastries) and South Street Seaport (get there early if you want a seat, and bring cash for the food trucks).
Concerts: As previous posts have established, there are few things we love more in the summertime than listening to music outdoors. We could shell out big bucks for Governors Ball, or we could see awesome acts for free (take a guess as to which way we’re leaning this year). Central Park SummerStage and Celebrate Brooklyn are the big kahunas when it comes to free outdoor music events (both groups charge for a few of their benefit shows, but the vast majority of them are free). This year SummerStage is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and they’re pulling out all the stops with shows in all five boroughs and acts from our favs Lake Street Dive to the Metropolitan Opera. Celebrate Brooklyn, which puts on shows in the Prospect Park Bandshell, has a kickass line-up this season: Chaka Khan, Punch Brothers, The New Pornographers, the list goes on and on. And if you’re feeling truly classy, don’t miss the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, which brings world-renowned musicians to some of the city’s cozier parks.
The theater, the theater: I dedicated a huge chunk of my college experience to outdoor or site-specific Shakespeare (and Shakespeare-related) productions, so there is a special spot in my heart for performances of the Bard on a green. Shakespeare in the Park is the biggie, putting up world-class productions in Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. Now while these shows are free, they do charge a significant admission in terms of time; if you want any hope of getting tickets, you’re going to be getting up at the crack of dawn or camping out overnight. For a slightly chiller (and less time-consuming) Shakespearical experience, there’s Shakespeare in the Square, a group of NYU grads that performs in Washington Square Park, and Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, which does shows in an East Village parking lot (as the name might suggest) as well as in Bryant Park. And if Shakespeare isn’t your jam but adorable and talented actors attempting to do sports is, make your way to the Great Lawn for Broadway softball, presented by the Broadway Show League, and watch your favorite Tony-worthy shows duke it out for the awards that really matter: home runs and bragging rights.
Get your tourist on: Now, normally we would rather endure Medieval torture than any sort of tourist activity come the high season. But there are two exceptions to this rule, both of which are best suited to sunshine and, that’s right folks, completely free. The Staten Island Ferry offers beautiful views (including Lady Liberty herself) along with food and beer; just make sure you avoid peak commute times. And walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is a quintessential New York experience, one that is particularly lovely if Smorgasburg awaits at the other end. Both are on my bucket list — for life, for New York, and for this summer.
Just plain silly: A giant game of musical chairs. A swing dance flash mob. A bubble fight. When the mercury gets high, New York gets…silly. Maybe it’s the heat making us stir-crazy, or maybe it’s just our inner kids coming out in this season of Mr. Softee trucks and hydrant fountains. Whatever the cause, we are totally on board.