Festival-goers sit on blankets and chairs in the grass surrounded by trees and buildings in front of a screen during the Bryant Park Film Festival in New York City in the early evening.

Best Outdoor Events in NYC in the Summer

Festival-goers sit on blankets and chairs in the grass surrounded by trees and buildings in front of a screen during the Bryant Park Film Festival in New York City in the early evening.

Best Outdoor Events in NYC in the Summer

Use this NYC summer guide to festivals, music shows, live outdoor theater, sports events and more to make the most of your time in this lively summer city.

One of the greatest things about New York City‘s cultural wealth is that much of it can be enjoyed outside. The city’s outdoor venues are tailor-made for the enthusiastic crowds who flock to the city for events, concerts, plays, and unforgettably fun festivals. When you’re planning a summer trip to NYC, make a note of these can’t-miss outdoor events.

Bryant Park Film Festival

Film buffs aren’t limited to theaters to watch movies on the big screen during the summer in New York. Join the crowds that gather under the trees and stars at the Bryant Park Film Festival. It takes place every summer from mid-June to late August on Monday nights and features classic films that have endured the test of time.

Held on Bryant Park’s lawn, the festival typically includes family-friendly films, such as “The Muppets Take Manhattan” and “King Kong,” as well as those for more mature audiences, such as “Wall Street” and “Dirty Dancing.” Each film kicks off with a classic Warner Brothers cartoon and a funny little dance performed by film festival devotees. You can buy food at the Fountain Terrace as well as blankets for sitting on the lawn.

Egg Rolls, Egg Creams, and Empanadas Festival

Food and fun are two staples every visitor to New York expects to find in large quantities. The annual Egg Rolls, Egg Creams, and Empanadas Festival more than delivers on that expectation. The magnificent melting pot that is NYC cooks up delicious dishes and delightful performances at this event that celebrates the Chinese, Jewish, and Puerto Rican cultures that took root in the neighborhood known as Chinatown. The buoyant block party typically takes place on a Sunday afternoon in June and is anchored by the Museum at Eldridge Street.

A pile of empanadas sit on display at the Egg Rolls, Egg Creams, and Empanadas Festival in New York City on a warm summer morning.
Source: Ruben’s Empanadas by Jazz Guy Used under CC BY 2.0

Lincoln Center Out of Doors

From late July through mid-August, Lincoln Center presents free music, spoken word, and dance performances in Damrosch Park at the annual Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival. Past performers have included Angelique Kidjo, Bonnie Raitt, and the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Festivals within the festival, such as Roots of American Music: Americanafest NYC, are a hallmark of Lincoln Center Out of Doors.

A trio of male musicians wearing black play electric guitar in front of a crowd of people at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival in New York City on a summer evening.
Source: ING_7923 by Kathryn used under CC BY 2.0

The Mermaid Parade

As one of New York City’s most colorful and creative summer events, the Coney Island Mermaid Parade encourages celebrants to don mythological, marine, and especially mermaid-themed costumes for the celebration. It’s a sea of colorful hair, glitter, fins, fish-shaped floats, scales, shells, sea creatures, and imagination as the parade makes its way along Coney Island’s Surf Avenue before turning south on West 17th Street to the boardwalk. After passing the judges’ reviewing stands, the parade ends at the beach, which then officially opens for summer swimming.

A young man and woman dressed up as merpeople, specifically Ariel holding Flounder and King Triton from the Little Mermaid, stand in front of a group of party-goers at The Coney Island Mermaid Parade in New York City on a bright summer morning.
Source: Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2014 by Jennivere Kenlon used under CC BY 2.0

SummerStage

Sixteen parks across New York City’s five boroughs host more than 100 free performances every summer during SummerStage, the city’s largest free outdoor performing arts festival. Relax and enjoy live music, theater, and dance performances by world-class entertainers from early June through late August. Performers have ranged from George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic to the Metropolitan Opera.

A crowd of young people lift their hands up and clap to the music at SummerStage, a free outdoor music festival in New York City.
Source: Beats in the Park by R Mendez used under CC BY 2.0

Shakespeare in the Park

Every year, from late May through mid-August, Shakespeare in the Park offers two free productions of Shakespeare’s most popular plays at the Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. The outdoor stage hosts performances featuring stars from Broadway and television in classics like “Julius Caesar” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Summer Streets

Thousands of cyclists, runners, and walkers take to the streets of New York during three Saturdays in August, when nearly seven miles of streets are devoted to the annual Summer Streets event. From 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Summer Streets stretches from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park via Park Avenue, which is closed to auto traffic. The event features dozens of attractions, including an inflatable water park and a zip line. A limited number of bikes are available for free use.

Rear view of a group of bicyclists wearing helmets and bike gear while biking down the streets of New York City during Summer Streets on a warm summer morning.
Source: Photo by eastmidtown used under CC BY 2.0

U.S. Open Tennis Championships

One of the world’s most exciting sporting events takes place from late August through early September when the U.S. Open Tennis Championships comes to town. Watch tennis superstars such as Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Venus and Serena Williams swing into action at the annual battle of the backhands and slice serves. The U.S. Open is played on courts around the city, including Arthur Ashe Stadium — part of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park — in Queens.

Tennis professional Serena Williams, dressed in pink, is pictured after hitting the tennis ball at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in New York City on a summer afternoon.
Source: Serena by emmett.hume used under CC BY 2.0

Governor’s Ball Music Festival

Held on Randall’s Island in early June, the Governor’s Ball Music Festival has attracted throngs of enthusiastic music fans since its debut in 2011. It has featured big name performers such as Chance the Rapper, Lorde, Wiz Khalifa, Beck, Lana Del Rey, The Black Keys, and The Strokes. Randall’s Island is accessible via car, shuttle, subway, bus, ferry, and by foot. Tickets range from general admission to luxury suites, cabanas, and VIP access.

Which of New York City’s sizzling summer events lit your vacation on fire? Share your best experiences with us on Facebook.

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