6 Cool, Free Things to Do in NYC Parks this Summer

Manhattan's Parks Set the Stage for Free Concerts, Films & More

The city's green spaces beckon come summertime, offering much more than just open lawns and shady knolls. Parks double as alfresco venues for concerts, film screenings, theatrical performances, and much more. Best of all, many of these special events and activities are free! Discover these 6 top picks for the best free things to do in Manhattan parks this summer.

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    SummerStage in Central Park, more

    ••• Photo Credit: City Parks Foundation

    The expanded, 30th-anniversary SummerStage lineup for 2015 proposes the most exciting roster of free-of-charge summer cultural events in the city. Run by the nonprofit City Parks Foundation since 1986, the SummerStage performing arts festival offers an eclectic program of more than 140 alfresco concerts, dance performances, theater productions, and more, spanning various genres and cultures, and representing both established and emerging artists. The events are scheduled to unfold at 14 parks across NYC's five boroughs, with the biggest blockbuster happenings planned at Central Park's Rumsey Playfield. SummerStage 2015 kicked off in May and wraps up on October 4. See SummerStage in Manhattan: 2015 Lineup Announced for more.

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    Bryant Park Summer Film Festival

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    ••• Photo Credit: Bryant Park Corporation

    One of Manhattan's most-loved outdoor cinema events, the long-running HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, now in its 23rd year, landed in Bryant Park on June 22, 2015. Running on Monday nights through August 24, the lineup of free screenings spans legendary films, kicking off the program with Ghostbusters and winding it down with Back to the Future. Films roll just after sundown (typically between 8pm and 9pm), though the lawn opens at 5pm, so come early to throw down a blanket and secure a good spot. See Bryant Park Summer Film Festival 2015 for more.

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    Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park

    ••• Photo credit: The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park / Joan Marcus

    This beloved summer tradition has brought the Bard to Manhattan's Central Park for more than 50 years. Presented by The Public Theater, the free Shakespeare in the Park productions are predictably one of summer's hottest tickets, proposing a transporting journey from under the stars of Central Park to time-honored Shakespearean worlds. While 2015's production of The Tempest has wrapped up, tickets to Cymbeline are available through August 23. See The Ultimate Guide to NYC's Shakespeare in the Park for more.

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    Free Events and Activities on the High Line

    High Line activities
    ••• Photo credit: Liz Ligon, courtesy of Friends of the High Line

    There are few more pleasant activities in Manhattan than strolling the nearly 1.5-mile-long High Line park. Time your visit right, and you can take advantage of any one of the more than 400 free park-hosted programs and activities held each year. The rich roster of programming, largely concentrated in the summer months, includes assorted walking tours, live performances, kids' activities, and more. See NYC's High Line Park Hosts Free Events and Activities for more.

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    Summer on the Hudson in Riverside Park

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    ••• Photo Credit: Elliot Clearlight

    Running from May through early October, the 2015 edition of the annual Summer on the Hudson festival in Riverside Park brings a summer-long season of 160-plus alfresco arts and cultural events to Manhattan's Hudson River-lined park, stretching from 59th Street to 153rd Street. Expect happenings highlighting music and dance, and, come July and August, a series of movie screenings under the stars. See Summer on the Hudson in Riverside Park for more. 

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    Walking Tours in Central Park

    ••• Photo Credit: Christophe Launay / Aurora Open / Getty Images

    Launched last year, these walking tours—of both the free and ticketed varieties—are designed and executed by the Central Park Conservancy, which claims more than 30 years' experience with the park's restoration and maintenance. Billed as "insider's" tours, the options delve into park history, horticulture, design, ecology, and more, with insights provided by the people responsible for the park's care. Dozens of tour options are available, covering various topics and park locations, and spanning different lengths. See Central Park Walking Tours for more.