Free Summer Fun!

Text and photos by Erika Schlenker, Hope College ’16

Once you’ve taken your picture at the top of the Empire State Building, marveled at the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal, and walked the Brooklyn Bridge, what is there to do when you decide you’re done being a tourist? You join the natives and take advantage of the city’s free entertainment! Here’s how I’m spending my free time this summer without spending a dime.

Hudson River Park

Hudson River Dance Festival
Hudson River Dance Festival

Hudson River Park is the longest waterfront park in the United States, providing 4.5 miles of recreational space for biking, boating, sports, and much more. Tons of free summer events are held here weekly from salsa dancing, to exercise classes, and movie screenings to concerts. If none of these float your fancy, take 26th St all the way to the water and spend some time in the grass. This is the perfect spot to read, dog watch, or view the sunset over New Jersey.  Browse the events calendar here.

Pro tip: most of the events are in the grass, so bring a blanket to sit on. No chairs allowed.

Good Morning America Summer Concert Series

Walk the Moon
Walk the Moon

Every summer from the end of May to the beginning of September, Good Morning America hosts a free concert series at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park. Anyone can go, though some concerts require a free ticket. Doors open at 6AM and the concert airs live on their show between 7 and 9AM. Some of this year’s performers include: Ed Sheeran, Jason Derulo, Nicki Minaj, and Florida Georgia Line. More info here.

Pro tip: if you love the band, arrive at 5:30AM to get a good spot in front of the stage.

Bryant Park

Romance author panel at the Reading Room
Romance author panel at the Reading Room

Bryant Park’s long list of free summer events cater to a wide variety of interests. Here you can learn a new language, practice art, take writing lessons, play board games, and so much more. My favorite feature is the Reading Room which provides carts of books for guests to browse and read while enjoying the fresh air. Also take advantage of the writer events like readings and panels for a chance to meet published authors. View the event schedule here.

Pro tip: don’t forget sunglasses.

Brighton Beach & Coney Island


The bustle of the city is an exciting adventure on its own, but it’s refreshing to get away for a while. Pack your beach essentials and take the B or Q train to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn and feel like you’re in another world. Swim in the Atlantic Ocean, build a sand castle, have a picnic. Then walk less than a mile west on the boardwalk to Coney Island. The rides are around 6 dollars a pop, but you can explore the amusement parks for free.

Pro tip: unless you don’t mind sand in your shoes, wear open-toed footwear.

These are my favorite summertime happenings, but there are thousands of other things to do. Check out Time Out’s guide to the city for more ideas, or explore the city and make your own fun.


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