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15 Fun, Free NYC Events, Activities & Things To Do In Summer 2013

From activities to please lovers of the outdoors to events for the artsy, there is no lack of free fun to be found in New York City this summer. Need some ideas as you plan your weekend? We rounded up some of our favorite freebies in the Big Apple this summer.

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Kayaker on the Hudson River
(credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images, FILE)

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Hit the water and head downtown for free kayaking classes on the Hudson. Casual and relaxed lessons are given on Wednesday nights. You don't have to sign up -- just show up. Changing rooms are available so all you need to bring is a bathing suit or t-shirt and shorts. They provide the kayaks on a first come first serve basis. The Downtown Boathouse will be open all summer and close in October.

Celebrate Brooklyn Festival

Celebrate Brooklyn!

The Bandshell at Prospect Park
Brooklyn , NY

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Celebrating its 35th year, the free festival will honor the tradition's deep roots in Brooklyn. Featuring performances by big-name favorites like a capella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, as well as newcomers like Lone Bellow and Javelin. With ballet companies taking the stage and an eclectic range of films being shown, there's plenty of fun to be had at Celebrate Brooklyn. As the website puts it: "From Mavis Staples to The Tiger Lillies to Shaggy to Dan Deacon and Eddie Palmieri, the entire line-up covers dozens of creative canvases and cultures—it's as diverse and dynamic as Brooklyn itself."

Shakespeare in the Park
(credit:Shakespeare in the Park)

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One of New York City's favorite summertime activities, this year's Shakespeare in the Park productions includes The Comedy Of Errors, featuring Jesse Tyler Ferguson. All shows begin at 8:30 p.m. at the Delacorte Theater near 81st street. People line up in the wee hours of the morning to get their free tickets, which are distributed at 1 p.m. (Two per person, on the day of the show). You can also reserve a spot by donating to the event. Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen, Julia Stiles, and Anne Hathaway have all appeared on this stage. Comedy of Errors runs until June 30th. Love's Labor's Lost, A New musical begins July 23.

Stargazing on The High Line

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From dusk to 9:30 or so on Tuesdays, from April to October, amateurs and experts gather for an evening of seeing the stars from one of the nicest parks in Manhattan. Folks from the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York are on hand to help you focus the telescopes, explain the difference between a supergiant and supernova, and understand the night sky. When you're finished gazing, you can do some grazing at one of the nearby food stands, including barbecue from SmokeLine and pretzels from Sigmund's.

Who isn't looking to drop a few pounds for the swimsuit season? Shape Up NYC offers free fitness classes for adults and kids at dozens of locations across all five boroughs every week. There are all types of classes offered including zumba, yoga, aerobics, and kickboxing. To sign-up for classes visit their website to find out where classes are in your area.

Central Park Paws
(credit: Central Park Paws)

Coffee and canines - what's not to love? Bagel Bark, presented by Central Park Paws, is a monthly treat for dog owners. From 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., the event offers free coffee, bagels, and pastries are offered to dog owners who visit the dog park. Check out their website for the next events.

River to River Festival

River to River Festival
River to River Festival 2012 (credit:

This giant, annual summer festival brings a whole lot culture to lower Manhattan. From concerts to art exhibits, from dance performances to day-long music sessions -- the River to River fun is where it's at for culture lovers in New York City. Taking place across 28 different sites, there will be more than 150 events taking place at this month long arts bonanza. Check the website for specific events, but the highlight we're most looking forward to is Ecstatic Summer -- a concert with performances by members of Bon Iver, the National and more -- taking place June 29 and 30.

Bryant Park Outdoor Movie
(credit: Bryant Park)

Grab something to eat at 'wichcraft and stake out your favorite spot on the lawn because this popular summer series is back through August 19th. Get ready to watch Academy Award-winning actresses like Sally Field star in Norma Rae (8/5) and screen legends like Bette Davis play the lead in Hush…Hush, Sweet Caroline (7/15). Gates open at 5 p.m. and admission is free.

The Brooklyn Brewery
(credit:Brooklyn Brewery)

Drink up! On Saturdays and Sundays the Brooklyn Brewery offers free tours for the public. There's no need to make a reservation to learn how your favorite brews are made. Make sure you wear closed-toe shoes so you're toes are protected from any hot liquids that might splash.

Staten Island Ferry
(credit:Staten Island Ferry)

Sure, the Staten Island Ferry's primary purpose is to transport residents to and from the Island of Manhattan. But just think about this: The boat ride is a free, 5 mile (or 25 minute) ride around offering views of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty -- and booze. Kind of romantic, no? Bring a date or bring your friends for a night on the water.

South Street Seaport Museum Exhibit
(credit: American Folk Art Museum)

Admission and tours are free at the American Folk Art Museum. Opening June 11 is Bill Traylor: Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. Bill Traylor was born into slavery c. 1854 and lived on the plantation even after emancipation. Late inhis life, he created more than 1,000 works of art -- now considered some of the most iconic works of 20th century art. The museum also features Free Music Fridays with performances from folk, indie-pop, and other performers.


Admission is free for all visitors at one of New York's most recognizable museums during UNIQLO Free Friday Nights, held every Friday evening from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Tickets for UNIQLO Free Friday Nights are not available in advance. The ticket gets you access to to all of the historic museum's galleries, exhibitions and films.

Governor's Island Picnic Point
(credit: Governor's Island)

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Chock full of history and spots to sunbathe, 2013 highlights at Governors Island include Army Heritage Day and the traditional walking tours. Catch the ferry, leaving from the Battery Maritime Building, to the national monument and spend the day relaxing at the park.  Hit the water for kayaking from Pier 101, or stay high and dry with bicycle rentals, music concert, nature exhibits or hiking tours through former military outposts. Check out our guide to Governor's Island for a look at the exhibits, restaurants and sights available at this city gem.

Summer Streets
Photo Credit: Summer Streets

For three consecutive Saturdays in August 2013, entire streets will be shut down to vehicle traffic and pedestrians will be able to roam free. Ride your bike, roller skate, run, or take a stroll. There are also many activities along the route that you can join. Stay tuned on their website for a list of all the activities. Summer Streets takes place from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm. The route extends from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park along Park Ave.

Broadway on Broadway

Close out the summer with a great free concert in the center of Times Square featuring star-studded musical numbers from your favorite shows on Broadway. "Broadway on Broadway" takes place in early September and will celebrate it 21th anniversary this year - so you can look forward to something special this year including sneak previews of new shows.

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