Time your visit to Manhattan wisely and you'll get the best entertainment…for free.
Whenever my friends and family want to come visit me in New York, the first piece of advice I give them is always the same. It's my one simple money-saving tip that never fails: Come in the summer.
True, it's sweaty and a bit crowded here then, but as soon as Memorial Day rolls around, many of the classic NYC experiences—ones you'd typically dish out big bucks for—are suddenly available for no cost. Free concerts, plays, and food fests litter our summer calendar, open to locals and visitors alike.
Mark your calendar for these five freebies, starting in June.
Shakespeare in the Park
The NYC Public Theater's annual production of two of the Bard's plays have featured celebs like Anne Hathaway, Denzel Washington, and Kevin Kline. This year, The Winter's Tale and The Merchant of Venice runs from June 9–Aug. 1. Queue up in the morning, on the day of, at Central Park's Delacorte Theater to pick up tickets to the evening show.
Night at the Museums
On Tuesday, June 8, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., bustling Fifth Avenue shuts down to traffic, musicians and artists set up along the sidewalks, and nine of the city's most enticing museums—including the Metropolitan and Guggenheim —offer free admission at the annual Museum Mile Festival. Entrance lines can be long, but don't lose patience: They move pretty quickly.
All the best barbecue restaurants in the city—and many from across the country—come dish up their best at the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, held this year on June 12–13, in Madison Square Park. Admission to the fest, with live music and cooking demos, is free, and loaded tasting plates are a bargain $8.
Check out the moves
This year, in its 25th annual season, SummerStage Dance will put on thirteen free performances in everything from ballet, modern, jazz, and hip hop. The best part? Prior to most shows, the pro dancers give free lessons. This season runs from June 4–Aug. 14 (summerstage.org/dance).
Rock out by the waterfront
Every Friday evening, from June 26–Aug. 6, up-and-coming acts play free concerts on Pier 17 at the Seaport Music Series. I've discovered some great bands here—and the views of lower Manhattan from the pier are spectacular.