Free and Low-Cost Activities Available This Summer to New Yorkers and Their Families

Andrew J. Lanza

July 25, 2012

Senator Andrew Lanza today outlined some of the free and low-cost, family-friendly cultural activities occurring throughout the five boroughs this summer. There are countless opportunities for New Yorkers and visitors to experience the creativity that makes New York City a great place to live, work and visit. New York City offers hundreds of events, exhibits and performances that are free or low-cost to the public.


The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership presents “Performing the Streets”
The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership and the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance present “Performing the Streets.” On Fridays in June, visit Downtown Brooklyn for outdoor performances at Albee Square (Fulton St & Bond St) and Renaissance Plaza (between Jay St & Adams St, adjacent to the Marriott Hotel). Times vary. FREE.

New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks
The 2012 New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks will return for the 47th season with five free outdoor concerts taking place on The Great Lawn in Central Park, Manhattan (July 12 and 17); Prospect Park, Brooklyn (July 11); Cunningham Park, Queens (July 13); and Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx (July 16). In addition, the New York Philharmonic Brass will give a Free Indoor Concert at the Center for the Arts, College of Staten Island, CUNY (July 15). Citywide. FREE.

River to River Festival
Each summer, the River to River Festival activates more than 25 indoor and outdoor locations in Lower Manhattan and Governors Island with music, dance, theater, visual art, film, and participatory experiences by renowned and emerging artists from all over the world. This years highlights include composer Julian Wachners “Inverted Sky,” in which kites resembling banknotes and shaped as butterflies will circulate in Rockefeller Park on July 2, and New York Classical Theatre Companys performance of Shakespeares “Twelfth Night,” presented at the historic Castle Clinton on Saturday, July 14. Events locations and times vary. FREE.

Theatreworks USA
Since 1989, Theatreworks USA has administered a Free Summer Theatre Program to provide youth and their families with performances that entertain and educate. This summer, they will distribute more than 15,000 free tickets to their production of Skippyjon Jones, a one hour musical recommended for children ages 4 and up. July 17 to Friday, August 17, Monday through Friday 10:30 AM and 1:00 PM; Sundays 2:00 PM and 4:30 PM. Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street, Manhattan. FREE.

Chashama presents Abstract Theater Works
Chashama supports artists in New York City by repurposing vacant properties as exhibition space in all five boroughs. This July, Chashama and The Vacant Lot Theater Company present “A Child’s Drawing of a Monster,” six abstract theater works by Erik Ehn in a Long Island City garage. July 12, 13 and 14 at 8:00 PM; July 15 at 7:00 PM; July 18, 19, 20 and 21 at 8:00 PM. 26-15 Jackson Ave., Queens. FREE.

SummerStage: Free Summer Concerts in Parks Citywide
The City Parks Foundation presents dozens of concerts in parks throughout the five boroughs. Event locations and times vary. A sampling of programs is below. FREE.

  • Our Latin Thing: A Tribute to the Fania All Stars and Felix Hernandezs Rhythm Revue
    Our Latin Thing, an ensemble of singers and musicians from New Yorks top Latin bands, pays tribute to the legendary group, the Fania All-Stars. Thursday, June 28 at 7:00 PM. Soundview Park, Bronx. FREE.
  • Harlem Meer Performance Festival
    Susan Pereira & Sabor Brasil perform Brazilian jazz as part of the Central Park Conservancys weekly Harlem Meer Performance Festival in the beautiful north end of the park. Central Park, Manhattan. Sunday, July 8 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. FREE.
  • Whitley and The Hard Times Band at Astoria Park
    Local favorites Whitley and The Hard Times Band play the music of Ray Charles in the Queens Waterfront Concert Series. Thursday, July 19 from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM. Astoria Park, Queens. FREE.
  • Keith Murray and The Beatnuts at Tappen Park
    Two New York rap icons—rapper Keith Murray and hip hop group the Beatnuts—perform in Stapleton. Tuesday, July 31 at 7:00 PM. Tappen Park, Staten Island. FREE.
  • Metropolitan Opera presents Five Borough Recital Series
    The Metropolitan Operas annual concert series in New York City parks is one of the most beloved summer traditions in the city. This year, the Summer Recital Series returns with six performances in the parks of all five boroughs. The series kicks off with a concert at Central Park SummerStage on Wednesday, July 25 at 8:00 PM, featuring rising opera stars soprano Danielle de Niese, bass-baritone John Del Carlo, and tenor Dimitri Pittas. FREE.

Celebrate Brooklyn!
2012 marks the 34th year of Celebrate Brooklyn!, a performing arts program of BRIC Arts | Media | Bklyn that brings free music, film, and dance performances to the Prospect Park Bandshell. Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Events through Saturday, August 11. Times vary. FREE.

Hot Summer Nights at Kingsborough Community College
Kingsborough Community College presents a series of summer concerts at its outdoor bandshell, with iconic views of the New York waterfront. On Saturday, July 21, relive the Big Band era with a Summertime Swing performance by The Danny Repole Swing Band. All events take place at 8:00 PM. Kingsborough Outdoor Bandshell, 2001 Oriental Boulevard, Brooklyn. FREE.


Poppenhusen Institute presents July Summer Concert Series
Each Sunday in July, enjoy a concert in the garden of the Poppenhusen Institute. On Sunday, July 29, Rick St. James performs “A Rod Stewart Tribute.” College Point, Queens. Sundays in July at 4:00 PM. Entrance fee $1 per person.

Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Free Outdoor Summer Concert Series at MetroTech
Each Thursday through August 9, BAM hosts a free concert in Downtown Brooklyns MetroTech Center. Blitz the Ambassador, one of hip hops most respected and conscientious artists, performs on August 2. Thursdays at 12:00 PM. MetroTech, Brooklyn. FREE.

Performances in Parks Citywide
In addition to larger music festivals, the Parks Department is hosting dozens of artists to standalone performances. Some of the many concerts taking place include:

  • Rolie Polie Guacamole Final Performance at Fort Greene Park
    Childrens rock band Rolie Polie Guacamole which plays their last concert of the season. Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn. Wednesday, August 15, 10:00 AM. FREE.
  • Staten Island Starlight Concerts
    The Borough President’s Starlight Concert features throwback acts Rave On and Alive n’ Kickin. Thursday, August 9, 7:30 PM–10:00 PM. Westerleigh Park, between Springfield Ave, Willard Ave, Staten Island. FREE.

Oval Lawn Series and Mad. Sq. Kids at Madison Square Park
The Madison Square Park Conservancy celebrates its 10th year hosting free outdoor concerts for adults and children alike. The Mad. Sq. Music: Oval Lawn Series features acclaimed artists from jazz to blue grass to soul, and occurs Wednesday evenings through August 8 (times vary).  Mad. Sq. Kids, a series of outdoor performances for children and families, takes place Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10:30 AM, through August 9. Madison Square Park, Manhattan. FREE. 


Summer Streets presented by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT)
Part bike tour, part walking tour, part block party, Summer Streets is an annual celebration of New York Citys most valuable public space–our streets. On three Saturdays this August, nearly seven consecutive miles of NYCs streets will be opened for New Yorkers and visitors alike to play, walk and bike. The route extends from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park, with easy side travel options to the Hudson River Greenway, Harlem, Brooklyn and Governors Island, and will feature a broad range of outdoor activities for all ages, including the distribution of free bike helmets and other giveaways, a zip line stretching 160-ft. at Duane and Centre streets, a 25-ft. high rock climbing wall at Spring and Lafayette streets; and free dance and exercise classes, among others. Saturdays, August 4, 11, and 18 from 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Route stretches from East 72nd Street and Park Avenue to Foley Square, Manhattan. All activities are FREE.


Weekend Walks
DOT is once again partnering with community groups in every borough to present Weekend Walks. These temporary pedestrian streets expand the doorsteps of local businesses and cultural institutions while promoting healthy, safe, and fun recreation. Hosted by local community groups and merchants, each Weekend Walk features a range of family-friendly activities, from music performances to arts and crafts to classes and youth programming. This year, 18 community groups have planned dozens of weekends filled with fun activities from now until October. For a list of locations and dates, visit or call 311. All activities are FREE.


Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide (SPARC) Public Events

The New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Aging have partnered to present SPARC: Seniors Partnering with Artists Citywide, a community arts engagement program placing 50 artists-in-residence at senior centers across the five boroughs. With funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, SPARC artists have engaged seniors in a diverse range of creative projects–from music and dance to ceramics, magic and photography. Throughout the months of June and July, visit free public events at senior centers featuring work by SPARC resident artists and senior participants.

Ukulele Orchestra at the Jalopy Theatre
SPARC artist-in-residence Khabu Young and senior participants from the St. Charles Jubilee Senior Center perform as a ukulele orchestra at the Jalopy Theatre. Wednesday, June 27, 5:00 PM. Jalopy Theatre, 315 Columbia Street, Brooklyn. FREE.

Ghost Stories by Emily Wexler and the Grace Agard Harewood Senior Center Patchwork Dance Ensemble
Senior participants of SPARC dance workshops with artist-in-residence Emily Wexler perform an original dance composition inspired by personal histories and life experiences. Thursday, June 28, 2:00 PM-3:00 PM. Grace Agard Harewood Senior Center, 966 Fulton Street, Brooklyn. FREE.

Visual Arts Exhibition at the Ridgewood Older Adults Center
An exhibition featuring original collage and other visual art works by the seniors of the Ridgewood Older Adults Center. Created with SPARC artists-in-residence Andrea Burgay and Abigail Weg. Thursday, June 28, 4:00 PM-7:00 PM. Ridgewood Older Adults Center, 59-14 70th Avenue; Ridgewood, Queens. FREE.

Photography Exhibition at Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal Senior Center
A special exhibition featuring original photographs by seniors from the Benjamin Rosenthal Street Senior Center created with SPARC artist-in-residence Ka-Man Tse. Through Friday, June 29. Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal Senior Center, 45-25 Kissena Blvd, Flushing, Queens. FREE.

Outdoor Ceramics Exhibition at the Glenwood Senior Center
SPARC artist-in-residence Lee Johnson and the senior participants of his multifaceted ceramic arts and blogging program display a series of ceramic works including miniature glasses modeled on Dixie cups. The miniature glasses are also on sale on Etsy(dot)com, with all proceeds returning to the Glenwood Senior Center. Friday, June 29, 3:00 PM-6:00 PM. Glenwood Senior Center, 5701 Avenue H, Brooklyn. FREE.


Japanese Folk Arts Presentation
Join the seniors of the New Lane Senior Center and SPARC artist-in-residence Hiroko Otani for an exhibition of original origami and calligraphy works and a special performance of Japanese folk dance and music. Friday, July 6, 9:30 AM-11:30AM. New Lane Senior Center, 70 New Lane, Staten Island. FREE.


Chair, Music, Boogie! Dance Performance
SPARC choreographers Dina Denis and Adrianne Rogers and their senior participants present a performance of dances using chairs for support and inspired by yoga principles. Monday, July 9 at 1:30 PM. Benjamin Selfhelp Rosenthal Senior Center, 45-25 Kissena Blvd; Flushing, Queens. FREE.

Fragments: From Flora to Sea
The City Hall Senior Center and SPARC artist-in-residence Weng San Sit are pleased to present Fragments: From Flora to Sea an exhibition of photographs by senior participants in the SPARC program. Each image featured represents fragments of the seniors lives and inspirations. Thursday, July 12, 11:00 AM-1:00 PM. City Hall Senior Center, 100 Gold Street, Manhattan. FREE.

Stories and Songs: A Tellabration
Led by SPARC artist-in-residence Bob Basey, seniors at the Forever Young Senior Center exhibit their artistic projects, invite community members to share personal stories about their experiences on Staten Island, and lead a sing-along of classics and longtime favorites. Friday, July 13, 10:30 AM-12:00 PM. Forever Young Senior Center, 330 St. Marks Place, Staten Island. FREE.

Share the Stage: A Choral Concert
Led by SPARC artist-in-residence Gina Crusco, seniors of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Senior Center perform selected American classics in a choral concert. Sunday, July 22, 2:00 PM-3:00 PM. Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Senior Center, 54 Nagle Avenue, Manhattan. FREE.

Art Book Showing
Join the seniors of VISIONS at Selis Manor and SPARC artist-in-residence Jesse Tobin for an exhibition of artistic books created during workshops held this spring. Wednesday, July 25, 3:30 PM–4:30 PM. Visions at Selis Manor, 135 West 23rd Street; Manhattan. FREE.

Sketchbook Showing at the Stanley Isaacs Neighborhood Center
Senior artists, joined by SPARC artist-in-residence Maura McGurk, will display their sketchbooks. These creative projects include mixed-media narratives which tell a story, as well as “traditional” sketchbooks full of sketches and drawings from life. Refreshments will be served. Tuesday, July 31, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM. Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center, 415 East 93rd Street, Manhattan. FREE.



Summer Movie Series at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
The Intrepids annual film festival takes place on the deck of the aircraft carrier docked in the Hudson River every Friday. This summers features include: Spider Man (July 13), Star Trek (July 20), The Muppets (July 27), Jurassic Park (August 3), and The Goonies (August 17). The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, 700 West 46th Street, Manhattan. Doors open at 7:30 PM and seating is first-come, first-served. FREE.

NYC & Company & Rooftop Films present Summer Outdoor Movie Screenings across the Five Boroughs 
The Bronx Terminal Market, Coney Island Flicks on the Beach, Dekalb Market, Queens Museum of Art, Socrates Sculpture Park, Richmond County Bank Ballpark, and Tompkins Square Park will all host free outdoor screenings of classic movies, blockbuster hits, independent documentaries, short films and more. Now through Thursday, September 27. Most screenings are FREE.

New York City Parks Summer Movie Series
Bring a picnic basket and enjoy a movie on the big screen with friends, family, and neighbors in parks throughout the five boroughs.         

  • Grab a blanket and gather up your family for an outdoor showing of Hoodwinked Too at Brooklyns McCarren Park. Friday, July 5 at 8:00 PM. North 12th and Lorimer Streets, Brooklyn. FREE.
  • St. Marys Park presents the blockbuster film Transformers. Sunday, July 7 at 8:00 PM. 145th Street and St. Anns Avenue, Bronx. FREE.
  • Catch the irreverent family comedy Hop in Highland Park. Friday, July 13 at 8:00 PM. Highland Blvd. and Jamaica Ave., Queens. FREE.
  • The HBO film series in Bryant Park will be featuring the classic comedy All About Eve, August 13 at 5:00 PM. Other featured films will include: The Wizard of Oz, On the Waterfront, Roman Holiday, The Maltese Falcon, Rebel Without a Cause, The Adventures of Robin Hood, All About Eve, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Between 5th and 6th Avenues, West 40th and West 42nd Streets, Manhattan. FREE.
  • Bring the whole family to Cunningham Park to watch Happy Feet 2. Thursday, August 23 at 8:00 PM. 196th Street and Union Turnpike (in Cunningham Park), Queens. FREE.


Public Art Fund Exhibitions
The Public Art Fund presents five dynamic art exhibitions this summer. Paola Pivis How I Roll features a 6-seater airplane in Central Parks Doris C. Freeman Plaza (through August 26). Oscar Tuazons People, a site-specific installation in Brooklyn Bridge Park, will open on July 19. Common Ground is a group exhibition in City Hall Park. A Promise is a Cloud explores ideas of transformation in Brooklyns MetroTech. And Rob Pruitts ode to Andy Warhol, The Andy Monument, will be at the north end of Union Square through Labor Day (September 3). FREE.


Times Square Moment
A cutting-edge new public art program turns the screens in world famous Times Square into a gallery of video art. Each night starting at 11:57 PM, a 3 minute video clip will play as a countdown to midnight. The program features the work of a different video artist each month. Throughout June, Seoungho Chos Buoy, a tribute to the California desert, will be broadcast from the screens nightly.  Times Square, Manhattan. FREE.

Mad. Sq. Art displays Charles Longs “Pet Sounds”
Madison Square Park
s public art program, Mad. Sq.Art, is currently exhibiting Pet Sounds, an interactive, mixed-media installation by artist Charles Long. Brightly colored railings snake around the Parks expansive Oval Lawn, converging and growing into bright colorful blobs that elude definition. On display now through Sunday, September 9. Broadway and Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. FREE.

Christian Marclays The Clock Comes to Lincoln Center
Artist Christian Marclays critically acclaimed piece “The Clock’’ is coming to Lincoln Centers David Rubenstein Atrium, where it will be shown for free. July 13 through August 1, Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM, and continuously from Fridays at 8:00 AM through Sundays at 10:00 PM. Not shown Mondays. David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, 61 West 62nd Street. FREE.

2nd Annual Model to Monument
The Art Students League of New York Department presents the 2nd annual Model to Monument exhibition, in partnership with the New York City Parks Department. Pieces by League students will be on display in Riverside Park. 59th to 72nd Streets, Riverside Park South, Manhattan. Through May 2013. FREE. 

Art at Bay Too
A few steps from the ferry terminal on Staten Island, this 4,300 sq. ft. gallery, donated by Muss Development Inc., is open every weekend through the end of July. The gallery features nearly 60 artists working in a variety of media. The space will also host a live music performance on Saturday, July 14 for the Staten Island Art Walk, and a literary reading on Sunday, July 15. 60 Bay Street, Staten Island. FREE.

Blue Star Museums
A program of the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families and the Department of Defense, Blue Star Museums offers free admission to more than 1,600 museums nationwide to active duty military service members and their families. This year, nearly 50 cultural institutions in all five boroughs are participating in the Blue Star Museums initiative. Now through Labor Day (September 3). FREE.

Please note that some institutions, including the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Museum of Arts and Design and the Museum of Modern Art, are free year-round to military service members and their families.

Governors Island
Governors Island is open every Saturday, Sunday and Holiday Monday (Memorial Day and Labor Day) through September 30. The island is accessible by a free ferry service from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Building 110
Building 110: LMCCs Arts Center at Governors Island is a multi-disciplinary art space which includes a gallery and studio space. This summer, Building 110 will host exhibitions, performances, open studio events, and tours, as well as programs that are part of the River to River Festival. FREE.


Childrens Museum of the Arts Free Art Island Outpost Program 
Childrens Museum of the Arts Teaching Artists teach courses on everything from painting and drawing to large-scale sculpture. Children and families are encouraged to stop by for these hands-on activities all season long. FREE.


FIGMENT Summer-Long Installations
This summer, FIGMENTs Sculpture Garden and artist-designed Minigolf Course return to the Governors Island Parade grounds. The centerpiece of the installation is an expanded Treehouse. This years Minigolf Course is based on the theme "Arcade." Come join Figment for some hands-on creative fun through Sunday, September 23. FREE.

The City of New York is home to more than 1,200 non-profit cultural organizations. Many institutions offer free hours or suggested admission:


VENUES with FREE or Suggested Admission

  • Alice Austen House Museum
  • American Folk Art Museum
  • American Museum of Natural History (permanent collection only)
  • BRIC Rotunda Gallery
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • Bronx Museum of the Arts
  • Flushing Town Hall: Gallery by suggested donation. 
  • Goethe Institut
  • Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning: Gallery is free at all times.
  • Kentler International Drawing Space
  • King Manor Museum
  • Lefferts Historic House
  • Longwood Art Gallery at Hostos Community College
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art / The Cloisters
  • MoMA PS1
  • El Museo del Barrio
  • Museum of Biblical Art
  • Museum of the City of New York
  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • Old Stone House
  • Queens County Farm Museum
  • Queens Museum of Art
  • Sculpture Center
  • Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens
  • Studio Museum in Harlem
  • Staten Island Museum


Free hours at Cultural Venues

  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Free admission on Saturdays 10 AMNoon, all day Tuesdays, winter weekdays, and Fridays for seniors.
  • Asia Society and Museum: Admission is free to all Friday 69PM (does not apply from July 1 through Labor Day).
  • Brooklyn Childrens Museum: Free every third Thursday from 4–7 PM and the first full weekend of every month from 25 PM, except holiday weekends.
  • Bronx Zoo: Every Wednesday is free.
  • Childrens Museum of the Arts: Pay what you wish on Thursdays, 46PM.
  • Guggenheim Museum: Pay what you wish on Saturdays, 5:457:45 PM.
  • Historic Richmond Town: Free on Fridays, 1PM–5PM.
  • International Center of Photography: Voluntary contribution every Friday, 58 PM.
  • Jewish Museum: Free every Saturday.
  • Lincoln Center David Rubenstein Atrium: Free performances every Thursday at 8:30 PM.
  • Morgan Library and Museum: Free on Fridays, 79PM
  • Museum of Arts and Design: Pay what you wish Thursdays 69 PM.
  • Museum of Chinese in America: Free every Thursday, 11 AM9 PM.
  • Museum of Jewish Heritage: Free every Wednesday 48 PM.
  • Museum of Modern Art: Free Friday Nights, 48 PM.
  • Museum of the Moving Image: Free Friday Nights, 4–8 PM.
  • New Museum: Free Thursday Evenings, 7–9 PM.
  • New York Aquarium: Suggested donation Fridays after 3 PM.
  • New York Botanical Garden: Free all day Wednesdays, and Saturday, 10 AMNoon. 
  • New York Hall of Science: Free Fridays 2–5 PM and Sundays, 10–11 AM.
  • New-York Historical Society: Pay what you wish on Fridays, 6–8 PM.
  • Noguchi Museum: Pay what you wish the first Friday of every month.
  • Staten Island Childrens Museum: Grandparents Free Wednesdays, 58 PM.
  • Staten Island Zoo: Free Wednesdays, 2–4:45 PM.
  • Van Cortlandt House Museum: Free Wednesdays.
  • Wave Hill Cultural Center: Free Saturdays and Tuesdays, 9 AM–Noon.
  • Whitney Museum: Pay what you wish Fridays, 6–9 PM.