Ah, summer in New York City! It simply can’t be beat—even when you’re beating the heat. Grab a treat from an ice cream truck, nap in Central Park, have a ball on Fire Island, and much, much more. Do you feel that NYC summer groove yet?
From cultural festivals to happening concerts to refreshing swims, the big city offers it all during this time of year. Without further ado, let’s take a look at six summer events in NYC that you absolutely have to attend. You should probably start requesting vacation days…like right now.
1. Experience literary masterpieces at Shakespeare in the Park
All summer long at Delacorte Theater in Central Park
Even if you didn’t forget all those awesome lines from Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and all the other great works, you know Shakespeare is best enjoyed live. Bring some popcorn and soda to the 1800-seat Delacorte Theater in Central Park and enjoy a professionally-performed Shakespeare play—for free!
Free tickets are distributed every day there is a performance starting at 12 p.m. Check the performance calendar in advance, as tickets go fast.
2. Listen to the music at Panorama Music Festival
July 27-29 at Randall Island’s Park
Though Panorama Music Festival just launched in 2016, it’s already one the biggest music festivals in NYC. It’s easy to see why, with some of the biggest names in hip hop, electronic, and rock music coming to perform.
This year’s lineup is stacked. Feature acts include Migos, Gucci Mane, David Byrne, Charlotte Gainsbourg, DJ Python, Jhene Aiko, The War on Drugs, Lil Wayne, and numerous other great groups and individual talents. Clearly, you should be there, too! Grab a shiny glow stick, some retro sunglasses, and whatever other concert gear you need—and go.
3. Dance the night away at Midsummer Night Swing
June 26-July 14 at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Remember this saying: Summer is for dancing. Wait, is that a saying? Regardless, take those words to heart—and head to Midsummer Night Swing during late June and the first half of July.
The dance floor at Lincoln Center opens each night at 6 p.m. There are group dance lessons from 6:30-7:15 p.m., which are then followed by live sets. There’s also a silent disco party that starts at 10 p.m. (it’s quite the scene). Be sure to book your tickets in advance, as they sell quickly.
4. Watch pro eaters at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest
July 4 at noon. at Coney Island USA
Admit it: You’re intrigued by what it takes to win the Mustard Belt. In the men’s competition, Joey Chestnut won the 2017 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest by eating an event-record 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes; in the women’s competition, Miki Sudo won by devouring 41 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Yes, those amounts in that time frame are mind-boggling—which is why the event is a must-attend. The contestants have a unique mix of true grit and highly expandable stomachs that you just won’t find anywhere else.
Even better, you can combine attending the hot dog eating contest with spending a day at Coney Island. Just thinking about all the candy, rollercoasters, and sand to enjoy at Coney Island should have you jumping for joy already.
5. Get out in the streets for the NYC Pride March
June 24 at noon, beginning at 7th Avenue and 16th Street
The NYC Pride March began in 1970, and is now the biggest Pride celebration in the world. In 2017 alone, there were more than 450 marching contingents. Famous celebrities, politicians, activists, and artists are always in attendance.
The 2018 theme, “Defiantly Different”, is about showing power and togetherness in the face of adversity. There are expected to be more than 40,000 marchers and 100-plus colorful floats. Grand marshals include Billie Jean King, Kenita Placide, and Tyler Ford. The march ends at 29th Street and Fifth Avenue, so look for a spot early somewhere along the parade route (or march in it!).
6. See dragons on water at the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
August 11-12 at Flushing Meadows Park
The traditional Chinese Dragon Boat Festival (‘Duanwu’ Festival) commemorates the ancient poet Qu Yuan’s suicide with a spirited aquatic racing competition. In 278 BC, out of concern for his homeland, Qu Yuan jumped into the water and drowned himself. Local fishermen attempted but failed to save him by throwing rice dumplings to feed the fish (so the fish wouldn’t eat the poet). This is the history behind Dragon Boat Racing.
Each year in Queens, this history is remembered with the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival, where roughly 180 dragon-boat teams from around the globe race for glory. While attending, enjoy traditional food, martial arts demonstrations, lion dance performances, and more.