Free Culture in the Park!

One of the great things about New York City are all the world renowned cultural institutions we have. Between the nation’s premier dance, orchestra and opera companies, one could easily break the bank attempting to experience them all! Fortunately, many of these institutions do a bit of community outreach, particularly over the summer. That’s right, I’m talking free concerts open to anyone and everyone!

Both the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera each feature one free park concert in each borough. It’s the perfect opportunity to pack a picnic and gather with a few thousand of your closest friends to enjoy  a lovely little performance. I had the true joy of joining some CouchSurfers to experience the Philharmonic in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on Friday; what a great opportunity to enjoy great company and great music (which, admittedly, felt more like background music, as we didn’t have the acoustics of Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall going for us!). They played a 90 minute program which was followed by a nice little fireworks display!

NY Philharmonic at Prospect Park
The New York Philharmonic performs at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park

Of course, free parkside culture isn’t just limited to these events. There are a plethora of other cultural events taking place as part of both the River to River Festival and Central Park’s SummerStage. Heck even Broadway show’s get into the mix with free performances on Thursdays at lunchtime in midtown’s Bryant Park!

Finally, it wouldn’t be summer in New York without the ultimate free cultural activity…one which people will wait in line for over 12 hours just to get a free ticket to! I speak, of course, of Shakespeare in the Park, the Public Theater’s offering of two free shows (only one of which is usually Shakespeare…this year is an exception) performed at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. They tend to pack these shows with big stars (like Al Pacino, in this year’s Merchant of Venice, or Meryl Streepe, who did Mother Courage and Her Children a few years back), of course guaranteeing high demand! Free tickets are handed out at 1:00pm every day there is a performance and the first however many people there are tickets available for will get ones. That means that people line up really early  to get them…we’re talking upwards of 1:00am! That’s 12 whole hours of standing in line! Best of all? The line is a bit of a New York tradition! What can I say? We like it weird…

As with any free event in a city as large as New York, things get crowded pretty quickly, so it’s best to arrive early. And for the latest on free happenings around the city, check out Time Out New York.

Got any experiences about standing in line for Shakespeare in the Park or any other free cultural events in New York (or afar)? Share them in the comments below!


By Aaron

Hey there! I'm Aaron and this is my travel site, where I document my adventures to all corners of the world. My love for travel started at the ripe old age of four, when a midlife crisis uprooted my family to Ecuador for five years. Since then, I've been to countries on 4 different continents. When I'm not blissfully on the road, I reside in New York City, where I become the ultimate travel junkie and spend my days dreaming up my next great adventure! Read More...

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