I still haven't shaken off the sticker shock of New York City, even though I've been living here since 2004. My Midwestern frugal instincts still bristle at $8 beers and $100-plus Broadway tickets.
But thankfully, I've learned a thing or two since I moved here about sussing out the freebies.
Earlier this month I divulged June's Five Best Values…and that got me thinking: Some of my all-time favorite NYC memories have taken place at free events. So here are five more free summer events worth checking out.
1. My first love in New York is still my favorite. I first caught the Siren Music Festival in 2003, when I arrived here as an intern (i.e. completely, entirely penniless). One Saturday, I wandered down to Coney Island to sightsee, and by chance, this concert series was going on that very day. I caught Modest Mouse, they were incredible, and I was hooked. Now, this is my don't-miss event every year. (I also love the excuse to make the hour-long subway trek to Coney Island, Brooklyn, my favorite wealth of kitsch in the world.) This year's festival, on July 17, will feature Matt and Kim—and more, soon to be announced at the official site.
2. Of all the things visitors love to do in NYC, seeing a Broadway show may be the priciest. Luckily, you can get a taste of the Great White Way for free at Broadway in Bryant Park. From 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Thursdays throughout the summer, the casts of four or so musicals perform a medley of songs from their show. Pick up lunch beforehand. My favorite cheap-eats spot near Bryant Park is Zeytinz: zeytinz.com. Broadway in Bryant Park
3. Every Monday evening, from June 21 – August 23, as part of the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, free classic movies are shown alfresco. The lawn opens at 5 p.m., and viewers bring blankets and picnic before the show starts at 8 o'clock. It's a great time to relax in my favorite vantage point of Midtown: the Empire State Building looms on one side, with the New York Public Library, old gold-and-black Bryant Park Hotel, and sloping, shiny Grace Building on the others. This summer's slate kicks off with Goldfinger, starring my man Sean Connery. bryantpark.org
4. On July 13–14, the New York Philharmonic performs a free evening concert on Central Park's Great Lawn. Music begins at 8 p.m., but get there early to snag some real-estate on the lawn; space fills up quickly. And stay 'til the end; there's always a fireworks show.
5. The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival features two days of free music in the neighborhoods where Parker lived and worked. On August 28, blues pianist McCoy Tyne plays in Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park, followed by saxophonist James Moody playing on August 29 in the East Village's Tompkins Square Park. summerstage.org
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