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.
SummerStage in Central Park, more
The SummerStage lineup in its newly renovated facility 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 kicks off in May and wraps up in early October. See SummerStage in Manhattan Lineup for more.
Bryant Park Summer Film Festival
One of Manhattan's most-loved outdoor cinema events, the long-running Movie Nights at Bryant Park, now in its 27th year, landed in Bryant Park in late June. Running on Monday nights through mid-August, the lineup of free screenings spans legendary films. In 2019 movies included Big, Goodfellas, and The Birdcage. 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 for more.
Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park
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. The 2019 productions were Much Ado about Nothing and Coriolanus. See The Ultimate Guide to NYC's Shakespeare in the Park for more.
Free Events and Activities on 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.
Summer on the Hudson in Riverside Park
Running from May through early October, 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.
Walking Tours in Central Park
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.