New York City is a veritable hotspot for arts and culture in the summertime. No matter your artistic passions, at least one of the countless, long-running cultural organizations in the city will have something to appeal to your interests. Add one (or all) of the below festivals to your calendar and share in the excitement! Who knows — some of the best performers in the country may be just a short walk from your doorstep.
First launched in the summer of 1979 by Brooklyn residents, Celebrate Brooklyn! is one of New York City’s longest-running outdoors performing arts festivals. This multi-day summer concert series highlights the best, brightest, and most promising Brooklynite musicians of the year. Since its founding, the festival has showcased over 2,000 artists, many of whom used the appearance as a springboard towards greater success. The festival spotlights internationally-celebrated and emerging artists from all musical genres, including but not limited to classical, jazz, pop, alt, hip-hop and regional American. This year’s lineup features notable performers such as Patti LaBelle, Courtney Barnett, Shareef Keyes & the Groove, and Iron & Wine. Attendees should note that while the festival itself is and has always been free, certain performances are charity benefits and have an associated cost.
Celebrate Brooklyn! starts Tuesday, June 4.
Shakespeare in the Park
Shakespeare in the Park wasn’t always such a summertime staple in Central Park. When director-producer Joseph Staff initially launched the program, he did so with the not-so-hidden disapproval of the then-parks commissioner, Robert Moses. Moses didn’t have a problem with theatre productions in the park per se, but he was firmly against the lawn erosion that audience members were beginning to cause on the grass in front of Turtle Pond. He demanded that Papp charge a fee to cover the cost of sod and lawn care — but Papp refused to charge for the performances, stubbornly maintaining that the theatre should be free to any who cared to see it. A long legal battle ensued between the two parties and ultimately ended in Papp’s favor. Surprisingly, the clash reportedly left Moses with a deep respect for Papp and led the commissioner to request the funds the director needed to build a proper theater in the park.
Since then, Shakespeare in the Park has developed into one of New York City’s most beloved summertime arts offerings. It has entertained over five million people throughout its run, and in past years even featured standout actors like Meryl Streep, James Earl Jones, and Al Pacino.
Interested? You can find the dates for 2019’s productions below. Remember — while entry is free, you’ll need to claim tickets beforehand to reserve a seat!
Much Ado About Nothing: May 21 – June 23
Coriolanus: July 16 – August 11
Hercules: August 21 – September 8
Founded by Jay K. Hoffman, William W. Lockwood Jr., Schuyler G. Chapin, and George F. Schutz in August of 1966, the Mostly Mozart festival was initially intended to provide freelance classical musicians with work opportunities during the summer off-season. Then and now, the event’s in-house orchestra pulls its members from notable classical ensembles across the country; its performers hail from high-profile orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and more.
The focus of Mostly Mozart has expanded since its early years. While the festival primarily offers concerts that feature its in-house orchestra, it also features solo classical artists, dance pieces, panel discussions, and film screenings. Most events occur at the David Geffen Hall at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, but other venues include and are not limited to Rose Theater, Merkin Concert Hall, the Walter Reade Theater, and the David Rubenstein Atrium.
In 2019, the Mostly Mozart festival will run from July 10th through August 10th; tickets for various events available for purchase online.
Midsummer Night Swing
Midsummer Night Swing is a three-week extravaganza of dance, music, and culture. Held at Damrosch Park at the Lincoln Center, this long-running annual event offers new and experienced dancers alike the chance to learn how to swing, disco, salsa, ballroom step, and more. Each night follows a similar pattern: attendees arrive in the early evening for a formal lesson on the dance featured that night, and then spend the next few hours dancing the night away. The fun doesn’t always stop with formal steps, either; in recent years, organizers have even begun handing out wireless headsets and facilitating post-dance silent discos on certain nights!
This year, dancers can enjoy live music from celebrated musicians such as Bobby Valentin, Eyal Vilner Big Band, Curles Turner & Uptown Swing, and Bria Skonberg, among others. This is a ticketed event; attendees can buy four dance passes for $60, six dance passes for $84, a season pass for $170, or advance tickets for select evenings at $18 apiece.
Midsummer Night Swing will run from Tuesday, June 25 until Saturday, July 13th.
Want more artsy events on your calendar? Check out our blog post on the Coolest Pop-Up Museums in NYC!
The best things in life are indeed free, and no event proves that as well as a free concert. This being the city that never sleeps, almost every night of 2019 in NYC will feature a no-cost world-class concert experience for music lovers of all stripes. After we’re done ringing in the new year, there’s no reason to press pause on having a good time out in the city. Here are 4 hot spots to find live music that won’t put any stress on your wallet.
Lost in Music Pop-Up (201 Mulberry Street)
New Yorkers are no strangers to the coolest pop-up experiences, so when Sony opened Lost in Music this past fall, the free and immersive tech and music showcase was right at home. From now until February, visitors to this spot in SoHo can check out a walkthrough audio zone that has to be seen (and heard) to be believed. But come around on Fridays for the headlining event: live performances from artists like A$AP Ferg, Zara Larsson, and Lauren Jauregui, with many more still to come. The shows are simulcast live on YouTube, but as any music fan knows, you just gotta be there!
Bar Chord (1008 Cortelyou Road)
Music lovers who are a little more analog-inclined might look to Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn, where Bar Chord serves up great drinks with live music most days of the week at no extra charge. There’s a weekly Jazz Jam on Sunday nights, and a visit on any other night can find you jamming to salsa, hard rock, country and everything in between without a strobe light in sight. Right off the F train, the good times on offer make a trip to the Ditmas Park neighborhood in Brooklyn well worth it, no matter which corner of the city you’re hailing from.
Concerts At One (75 Broadway)
Visitors to Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan (right off Wall Street) are usually there to see a National Historic Landmark, one of the gems of New York City. Those who show up on a Thursday afternoon at 1 pm, however, are treated to a free classical music show inside the hallowed walls of the church. The Monday editions are held at nearby St. Paul’s Chapel, so twice a week tourists and NYC natives alike can take in a refined bit of culture, free of charge.
SummerStage (various locations)
While temperatures drop, it may seem like a long time away but this summerlong, citywide festival of free shows is always worth the wait. While the best-known venue is Central Park, there are annually around 15-18 city parks across all five boroughs that participate, putting on top-notch performances. Last year’s slate of performers included the Metropolitan Opera, old-school rappers EPMD and Big Daddy Kane, and enough jazz, classical, and world music vibrations to make fans of any genre get up and dance. 2019’s lineup will be announced in the spring, so keep your summer calendars at the ready!
New York is truly a city constantly in flux. Among the most exciting recent changes to the NYC landscape have been spaces fallen into disuse and reimagined into homes for the most thrilling music the world has to offer. These are the city’s latest and greatest major music venues, each borne from an old building transformed into something more vibrant and new.
The latest venue opened by Bowery Presents (owners of the Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, Terminal 5 and others), this former steelworks factory in East Williamsburg has been converted into the mid-sized concert hall of Brooklynite’s dreams. No longer will trips into Manhattan be necessary to see the likes of Elvis Costello, MGMT, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor on their NYC tour stops. The site’s repurposed metal fixtures, exposed pipes, and rugged factory-grade windows and ceiling fans are a reminder of what once was while giving big-name bands the Brooklyn edge they’re looking for when they swing into town.
Forest Hills Stadium
Named for the cozy Queens neighborhood it calls home, Forest Hills Stadium has a history matched by few venues in the five boroughs. Once host to shows by Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, and countless other megastars, the stadium fell into disuse by the 1990s, necessitating a full renovation to get it back to its past glory. That happened in 2013, and reopened with a rousing show by Mumford and Sons to signal that Queens was once again a destination for music’s hottest acts.
The crown jewel of Flatbush Avenue, the Kings Theatre finally reopened in 2015 after a meticulous renovation. Formerly a vaudeville theater turned movie house, crowds came from around Flatbush and surrounding neighborhoods to enjoy the regal building until it was shut down in 1977. A renovation plan approved in 2010 and completed in 2015 restored the Theatre to its rightful place among the city’s finest seated music halls, even serving as host for Mayor de Blasio’s State of the City Address in 2018.
NYC style isn’t restricted to the bands that pass through town. Read our guide to 5 Architectural Styles that Define NYC or Public Artworks that New Yorkers Must See to Believe for more on the aesthetics of the city.
New York is finally starting to thaw out from a nasty, wet, snowy winter. The days of warm afternoons and late sunsets are upon us again, and that means that plenty of fun happenings are taking place, whatever you’re into. Here are some exciting events where you can best take advantage of the turn of the season.
Governor’s Ball Music Festival
For the young and the young at heart, there’s nothing like an outdoor music festival to make the best of the warm weather. This year’s Governor’s Ball (June 2-4) boasts a star-studded lineup with headliners including the red-hot Chance the Rapper, perennial indie favorites Phoenix, and the return of 90s rock legends Tool to the NYC area after 11 years. Not to mention an undercard of over 60 bands representing every genre from dance-pop to experimental hip-hop, rock and soul. Single-day tickets are available too if you don’t feel like making a weekend of it.
Hanami Cherry Blossom Festival
Long a favorite destination for Brooklynites, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden pulls out all the stops at their yearly Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival (April 29-30). The stunning cherry blossoms promise to be in full glorious bloom while you stroll through the picturesque grounds taking it all in. The Festival also includes several exhibitions of historic Japanese culture including Taiko drummers, samurai sword displays, a Japanese tea room, and art gallery. There’s also a flea market so you can take a little bit of the celebration home with you.
Affordable Art Fair
Whether you want to pick up something to class up your apartment or just enjoy the scenery, the Affordable Art Fair (March 29-April 2) has something you’ll enjoy. Over 70 artists from Buenos Aires to Tokyo will be there to exhibit their works, with prices a touch cheaper than the usual art-world fare. Even if you’re not the type to drop more than $100 on some museum-quality artwork, feel free to grab a cocktail and take a stroll through the gallery. At $18 a ticket, it’s cheaper than a trip to MoMA. Workshops for kids are also available, so feel free to bring the whole family.
Five Boro Craft Beer Fest
The NYC craft beer scene is one of the most robust in the country, and the vendors at the Five Boro Craft Beer Fest (May 12) will be more than happy to show you why. Beer mavens from local breweries ranging from the renowned Brooklyn Brewery to up and comers like Long Island City’s Big Alice Brewing will be at the Bushwick fest to meet and greet and, most importantly, imbibe. All-you-can-drink 2 ounce tastings, a home brew contest, and live music make this an event no beer lover will be willing to skip.
NYC Taste of the Nation
If you’re looking to give back a little while you enjoy yourself, you can indulge while helping a great cause at NYC Taste of the Nation (April 24). Benefitting No Kid Hungry, a national charity devoted to ending childhood hunger, this festival brings together over 50 chefs and bartenders to curate a wide-ranging culinary experience. Sample different dishes as well as unique attractions like the Candy Carnival and Donut Derby. You won’t leave hungry, and your ticket will help ensure that kids around the city won’t be, either.