Free Summer Fun in Big Apple

 By Jesse Grossman ’15 and Diana Grinberg ’15

Although New York City is one of the most expensive cities in the world, there are plenty of ways to have fun without spending too much money this summer, including everything from music to Shakespeare productions to food festivals.

Since 1979, Celebrate Brooklyn has taken place at Prospect Park’s Bandshell in Park Slope. Celebrate, a concert series which holds shows rain or shine, that has had performances from renowned artists such as Bob Dylan and rapper Ghostface Killah.

“The Celebrate Brooklyn experience is centered around bringing cultures and neighborhoods together,” said Jack Walsh, the Director of Performing Arts for the concert series. “The relaxing vibe of Celebrate Brooklyn is one of a kind. To be able to picnic, relax, and spend time with friends and family is a true Brooklyn experience and a true summer experience.”

Shows are held from June 4 to August 9 mainly on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The benefit concerts, which cost $40 to fund the free shows, feature better-known artists like Jack Johnson and The National. The rest are free, but that does not mean you will get a bad show. In the lineup for this year’s free shows are rapper Talib Kweli, indie rock singer St. Vincent, and folk singer Amos Lee.

“I like the concerts because they are free and easily accessible,” said Michael Taormina. “Having no price draws in a huge crows, especially because it’s summer.”

Central Park SummerStage is another free summer festival that has been around for almost thirty years. Annually held at Rumsey Playfield in Manhattan, this year’s SummerStage mainly has different types of rock bands ranging from indie to alternative to folk. There are six shows starting May 20 and ending July 29. The lineup features Counting Crowes and Beck, among others.

“I’ve only been to one free concert, and the experience was great,” said Olivia Baerga ‘15. “You don’t have to worry about buying tickets months in advance or spending a lot of money on decent seats.”

Doors open an hour to an hour and a half before the shows, and it is open seating.

“The whole experience is just a lot more laid back than that of typical concerts,” added Amy Donovan ’15. “Lying on the grass with friends and listening to music is so much more relxing than being in music halls with hundreds of other people.”

New York is a center for diversity and culture, and one of the best ways to explore different ways of living is through food. There are a variety of food festivals focusing on assorted cultures. In September, the Atlantic Antic is held for ten blocks on Atlantic Avenue. According to, the festival has offerings of trendy restaurants and boutiques, and it features live music stages that showcase free performances from various cultural genres. Smorgasburg is a food festival at two locations, at East River Park in Williamsburg and at Pier 5 in Brooklyn Bridge Park every weekend all summer. This market features a variety of unique vendors from all over the city. The Big Apple BBQ is a celebration for America’s food, barbecue, in Madison Square Park on June 7.

The Delacorte, located in Central Park, is another theater home to free musicals, concerts, and plays, and has had over 5 million visitors since its opening. Most notably, Shakespeare in the Park has been a mainstay at the theater since 1962. Shakespeare’s most well known pieces have been covered, with everything from Much Ado About Nothing to Othello. Even though actors such as Al Pacino, Anne Hathaway, and Meryl Streep have performed at the New York Shakespeare Festival, it is free of charge and runs on a first come, first served basis.

“It’s incredible how many cool things are offered to New Yorkers,” said Arianna John, ’16. “Who knew you could watch Anne Hathaway perform a few feet away from you without having to pay a dime for anything?”

Living in New York City has its ups and downs financially. One the one hand, it may cost over $200 to see a concert at Madison Square Garden or a show on Broadway, but you can also see great shows for free at Prospect or Central Park and get some delicious food as well, it just takes a little bit of searching.

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