Free NY


Central Park Summerstage, which actually takes place all over the city, is in full swing. The concert festival runs through September 23 in parks in all five boroughs, and all are free (except a few benefit performances).

Here are some of the free ones:

July 30: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Central Park Rumsey Playfield off 72nd Street, 7p.m.

August 14: DJ Spinna Celebrates Earth, Wind & Fire, East River Park, 4p.m.

August 28: Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, including the Randy Weston African Rhythm Sextet and Samuel Coleman: Tompkins Square Park, 7p.m.

August 31: Chicago the Musical: 20th Anniversity Concert, Central Park Rumsey Playfield, 8p.m.


Museum Mile Festival

The annual Museum Mile festival takes place on June 14th this year, offering free admission to the world’s finest museums and art collections. This year, the Guggenheim Museum, El Museo del Barrio, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cooper-Hewitt, the Jewish Museum, Neue Galerie and the Museum of the City of NY will take part. Meanwhile, outside activities include face painting and live music.

6-9p.m., rain or shine, Tuesday, 6/14

Free Family Day at Wyckoff Farmhouse

The Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum is celebrating a free family day on February 16th. While public tours on Fridays and Saturdays are usually geared for an adult audience, a special kid-friendly tour will take place this day, featuring scavenger hunts and other child-friendly activities. The event will repeat the 3rd Saturday of each month through August 20, 2016.

Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum, 5816 Clarendon Road, Brooklyn, 1-4 p.m.


The No Pants Subway Ride

An annual event, The No Pants Subway ride takes place sometime in January. Hundreds of random passengers board the subway at different stops in the dead of winter. They don’t know each other, or act like they don’t, and all wear winter gear: coats, scarves, gloves and hats__the only thing missing is their pants.

The event started as a prank with just seven participants, and has since grown into a national and international event, with dozens of cities participating.

No Pants Subway Ride: January 10, 2016. Google “No Pants Subway Ride” for more details.


Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

On December 2, the annual lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree takes place in…guess where? The 78-foot tall, 10-ton Norway spruce will be illuminated between 7pm and 9pm, with a high-kick exhibition from the Rockettes and a surprise celebrity performance (which in past years have included Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett). While there, you can take a spin around the skating rink (but that will cost you). If you can’t make it that evening, the tree will be on display through January 7, 2016.

7pm, Rockefeller Center, 49th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue.


Thrill the World NYC

The 2015 Thrill the World event is set for October 24th at 6p.m. This tribute to Michael Jackson’s Thriller video and dance will take place at the Celebration of Whimsy Theatre with a Zombie Masquerade Ball theme. A free zombie crawl to Phebe’s Bar and Grill (359 Bowery) will immediately follow the Thriller Dance Participation, which cost $40 and includes two Thriller Dance classes. Zombie makeup is also available.

October 24, 21 Clinton Street, 2 to 6p.m.


Atlantic Antic

Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue will host one of the city’s grandest street fairs on September 27th–the 40th annual “Atlantic Antic.” More than 500 food, craft and other vendors will offer their wares, along with ten stages featuring an impressive, varied musical lineup, primarily of up-and-coming local talent. Brooklyn-brewed beer will also be on tap.

Sunday, 9/27, all day, Atlantic Ave/Barclays Center subway stop.


Blues BBQ Festival

Back for its 16th season, this free, Southern-style festival brings such top blues musicians as the Otis Taylor Band, Jarekus  Singleton and Vaneese Thomas to the Tribeca waterfront. Enjoy the music while feasting on varied barbeque offerings delivered by some of NYC’s leading barbeque  restaurants. The event will take place rain or shine.

August 22, 2015: Pier 26, West and North Moore Streets, Manhattan


July 4th at Coney

Where’s the best place to be on July 4th? Coney Island, of course! During the day attend Nathan’s 2015 Hot Dog Eating Contest, where Joey Chestnut will defend his title for the 9th year in a row (last year he ate 61!). Women’s champ Miki Sudo, who ate 34 last year, defends her title as well. 11am: Women’s Contest; 12:30 p.m.: Men’s contest.

Make sure to stay through the evening for the best fireworks display in New York City, right over the boardwalk and beach! (9:45pm-10:30pm)

Mermaid Parade

Yes it’s almost time again for New York’s freakiest fun outdoor event–the Mermaid Parade! Watch glittering, semi-nude marchers, mermaids and a celebrity king and queen stroll down Surf Avenue. Since its launch in 1983, the event has grown from a small gathering to a must see festival with thousands of attendees. If you’d like to participate in the parade, register at the Coney Island web site (, then get your  glitz on!

June 21, 1p.m., Surf Avenue and 21st Street to Steeplechase Plaza, Brooklyn, New York


Easter Parade

On the avenue…Fifth Avenue…

Yes, it’s the annual Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival! Show off your spiffiest hat or costume as you stroll down Fifth Avenue between 49th and 57th Street on a sunny (hopefully) Sunday afternoon. Be a part of the tradition!

April 5, 2015, 10a.m. to 4p.m.

Earth Day

This year’s celebration features exhibits, performances, family activities and a green vehicle show. Sunday, April 19th, noon to 7 p.m., Union Square, NYC


Jewish Chassidic Walking Tours

“What’s really going on with those people?” Some variation of that impolite question is often asked by NYC Jews and non-Jews alike. The answer to that question is revealed in a fascinating, eye-opening tour, where a joke-telling, Southern transplant rabbi opens your eyes and may make you rethink certain stereotypes.

“I think fear of the unknown is the greatest fear,” says Rabbi Beryl Epstein, who came to Crown Heights from “the holy land of Tennessee” at the age of 18, “and misconceptions keep people from being together.” On the tour, he cordially explains why his Chabad Lubavitch sect follows ancient traditions in modern times.

After an intro/pep talk, you will, among other things, take a tour of the main synagogue, see a scribe painstakingly write a Torah scroll, visit a hand-made matzoh factory and finish with a kosher, vegetarian lunch, including matzoh-ball soup, knishes and falafel.

In the matzoh factory, no photos are allowed. Epstein explains that this is not a religious restriction. “The women here emigrated from the Soviet Union almost 40 years ago,” he notes. “As far as they are concerned, the KGB is still on the loose, and will persecute them for making matzo. I can’t convince them otherwise, and they have a fear of cameras.”

After the dough is mixed and rolled, it goes into a 1,200 degree wood and coal burning oven, which cooks it in seconds, and it still comes out charred. “Undercooked we cannot eat,” says Epstein. “Burnt is better.”

The tour hosted recently hosted a group of Amish, who seemed to understand and appreciate Chassidic customs better than the others on the tour. Go figure.

This extensive tour isn’t free: $49 for adults, $24 for children. But hey, you do get a free lunch.

At the end of the tour, one women told Rabbi Epstein “Thanks for sharing this with the goyim.” Oy vey. No, she didn’t look Jewish.

305 Kingston Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, daily except Saturdays


Holiday Season:

Feel that unseasonable freezing weather? Guess what–it’s not that unseasonable. The holidays are upon us, and with them, opportunities to enjoy the unique, free opportunities NYC has to offer:

1) The Winter Garden: Right beside the World Trade Center, the Winter Garden is a huge atrium that offers free holiday performances all through December. They include music by the Turtle Island Quartet, Chanukah music and a condensed staged performance of A Christmas Carol by the New York Classical Theater.

2) Ice Skating in Bryant Park: Save the $18 fee at Rockefeller Center and skate for free in Bryant Park (42nd St. and 6th Avenue). Make sure to bring your own skates–rentals go for $15.

3) Midtown: Normally a place real New Yorkers avoid like the plague, the sights at Christmas are worth the crowd of gawking tourists. From Rockefeller Center’s iconic Christmas tree to the window displays along 5th Avenue, it’s fun to do every 10 years or so__especially if you are entertaining out-of-town guests.


October: Village Halloween Parade

The annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade has become one of the most celebrated events in NYC. Each year, more than 50,000 garish ghouls march up 6th Avenue in outlandish costumes, to the music of live bands__and you can join them.

You have a choice: 1) March right along with them (must be in costume), or 2) watch and cheer them on from the sidewalk. The parade starts at 7p.m on October 31, heading north from 6th between Canal and Spring Streets up to 16th Street.


Free in September

The Fourth Annual Washington Square Music Festival is free and open to the public. It will take place on Sunday, September 14th, and feature great old time string band music and blues. Acts include The Down Hill Strugglers (1pm); Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton (1:45pm), The New Cut Road String Band ((2:30 pm); Radio Jarocho (3:15 pm), and close with a square dance (4pm).

Washington Square Park, 9/14, 1 to 5 p.m.

Hoboken Fall Arts & Music Festival:

A short PATH train ride away, the festival features three stages of music with various performers. The day will include 300 artists, crafters, photographers, sculptors, food vendors, children’s activities and more.

Hoboken restaurants will set up street cafes offering an eclectic variety of international foods, while artists will display their oil paintings, watercolors, acrylics, sculpture, photography and more.

Washington Street, between Observer Highway and 7th Street, September 28, 11am to 6pm.


Summer HD Festival 2014 in Lincoln Center

A free, ten-day festival screened in Lincoln Center Plaza:

The festival launches Friday, 8/22 at 8pm with a screening of Moonstruck. John Patrick Shanley won an Oscar for best original screenplay, and Cher won a best actress award. Moonstuck features a powerful, night at the opera scene filmed in Lincoln Center.

Other highlights of the festival include Puccini’s La Boheme, with Kristine Opolais as the frail Mimi (Sat 8/23, 8pm) and Dvorck’s Rusalka (Thursday 8/28, 7:45pm). The ten-day run concludes on Monday, September 1 with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (7:45p.m.)

Free Broadway in Bryant Park

Live selections from Broadway hit shows:

7-17: Pippin, Chicago, Les Miz; 7-24: Phantom, Piece of My Heart, Bullets Over Broadway

7-31: Rock of Ages, Once, Gentleman’s Guide; 8-7: JerseLivy Boys, Heathers, 50 Shades;  8-14: Matilda, On The Town, Mamma Mia

12:30-1:30 On the Bryant Park Lawn, 42nd and 6th Avenue



The Mermaid Parade

This unique event offers a fun day at Coney Island. Unlike most parades, this one has no ethnic, religious, political or commerical aims. Invented by artists, it is an American version of the summer solstice celebration.

The paraders wear hand made costumes__or next to nothing. Floats from community partners are included (New York Acquarium, Luna Park, etc), as well as mermaids, muscle car clubs and a celebrity king and queen (former royalty has included Moby and Laurie Anderson).

June 21, 1pm, Coney Island (Surf Avenue from West 21st Street to West 12th Street)


Drums Along the Hudson

Drums Along the Hudson, A Native American Festival, will take place June 1 in Upper Manhattan. The event will be led by Louis Mofsie and the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers.

This multicultural family oriented event combines Native American music, crafts and international cuisine. The environmental theme includes free valet parking for anyone who rides their bike to the event.

June 1, Inwood Hill Park (218th Street and Indian Road, four blocs west of Broadway), 11a.m. to 6 p.m, free


Bike Expo New York

The most attended consumer bike show in the nation, Bike Expo will take place early May in the two day period leading up to the TD Five Boro Bike Tour. Admission is free, and more than 50,000 cyclists are expected to meet and talk with each other as well as over 100 exhibitors, who will showcase the latest gear. Demos, giveaways, panel discussions, contests and entertainment will be sprinkled through the two day event.

Attendees will range from serious bikers to those who can’t even ride one (free lessons are available). Complementary valet parking will also be provided.

May 2 and May 3, Basketball City (Pier 36 at 299 South Street)


Macy’s Flower Show

Macy’s The Secret Garden Flower Show is being held from March 23 through April 6. See spectacular arrangements of flowers from around the world, as well as scheduled events for free. Macy’s Herald Square, 34th Street and 6th Avenue.


The Beatles: A 50th Anniversary Photography Celebration

The curator of this free exhibit is John Lennon’s son Julian. Twenty-five rare photos of the the Fab Four touring the United States are on display. The exhibit runs from Saturday 2-8 through Friday 2-28.

Morrison Hotel Gallery, 116 Prince Street, Soho, NYC (212-941-8770)


Free Kids’ Ice Skating Lessons

Children learn the basic elements of ice skating. This is a 10 week free program (including use of equipment). Ages 5 to 7 only. The program begins on January 15, 2014. Space is limited and advanced registration is required.

Central Park: Lasker Pool and Rink; 212-348-4867


Google’s Winter Wonderlab

Google is allowing you to experience life in a snow globe, setting up an igloo-shaped glass atrium in a new retail space at the Bryant Park Skating Rink.

“Winter Wonderland is a fun and interactive way for the public to experience all kinds of Google’s gadgets,” says Gina Scigliano, Google’s communications manager. “Just in time for the holidays.”

You can not only frolic and dance inside the white igloo complete with fake snow, but send a slow-mo video of the experience as a digital card to friends__all for free!

According to Scigliano, you can also shop, watch videos, listen to music and surf the web. Yep, just like not leaving home!

Bryant Park (5th Avenue/42nd Street), through December 30, 2013.


Don’t You Owe MoMA a Visit?

Every Friday between 4pm and 8pm, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) opens its doors for free. The midtown museum displays some of the most iconic pieces in art history, including Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

MoMA is currently offering its “To Save and Project” festival featuring recently restored movies, including “I Was a Captive of Nazi Germany” starring Isobel Lillian Steele, a young American who went to Germany to study music in the 1930s. The film documents her arrest and imprisonment on trumped up charges, made in an era when the major movie studios purposefully ignored the rise of Hitler to maintain their profitable market in Nazi Germany.

To Save and Project runs through November 12th.

On a lighter note, MoMA offers a fun exhibit it calls The Rain Room. The room contains a field of water falling from the ceiling that stops when it detects a human presence underneath it and projects the illusion of you being in the rain, inviting visitors to be part of the art itself.

MoMA, 11 West 53rd Street, Fridays through 2013.


The Brazilian Day Festival, September 2, 2013:

This lively celebration of Brazil’s Independence Day and the nation’s culture  in NYC in now in its 28th year. Festivities include Brazilian music, dance, food and more. The all day event begins at 10 a.m., and features legendary instrumentalist Armandinho Macedo as well as other Brazilian musicians.

While the main stage is located on East 46th Street between 5th and Madison Avenue, the festival runs throughout the surrounding “Little Brazil” area.


Free Summer Concerts:

There are free concerts throughout NYC all summer. Among the highlights:

Central Park Summer Stage includes The Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital on Tuesday, July 16th at 8 p.m., and The Martha Graham Dance Company, Wednesday, July 24th at 8 p.m.

Central Park, 5th Avenue off East 72nd Street.

Celebrate Brooklyn has a few concerts each week. Ones that are free include BeBe Winans on Thursday, 7-25, The Eddie Palmieri Salsa Orchestra on Saturday, August 3rd and They Might Be Giants on Saturday, August 10th. Most concerts begin at 7:30 p.m.

Prospect Park; Park Slope, Brooklyn–(Prospect Park West off 9th Street.)


Coney Island Mermaid Parade:

Combine Mardi Gras with the Village Halloween Parade and you’ll get some idea what awaits you here. What began in 1983 with a sparse, somewhat freakish crowd has grown to a half million onlookers of all ages and backgrounds cheering the marchers and those on colorful floats, with nude mermaids merrily waving.

Hail the 2013 Mermaid and Merman King and Queen of the Parade, which in recent years has included David Byrne, Moby and Queen Latifah. Then grab a bite at Nathan’s and frolic in the ocean!

Saturday, June 22–Coney Island’s Surf Avenue, West 21 Street to West 15th Street.


Brooklyn Botanical Gardens– Cherry Blossoms

BBG’s hundreds of cherry trees make a spectacular show! They bloom over a five week period, usually beginning in late March, but the unseasonal cold weather will probably delay the first blooms until early April.

The pink and white garden extravaganza ends with the Sakura Matsuri Festival, a two day fair that includes a fashion show, Japanese dance performers and tours, on the weekend of Saturday, April 27th.

The festival is free with garden admission. The modest suggested fee is $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and free for those 12 and under.

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, 990 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 6pm; weekdays 8am to 6p.m.


March 16, 2013: St. Patrick’s Day Parade:

No, that’s not a typo– the St Patrick’s Day Parade will be held on March 16 this year on Fifth Avenue from 44th Street up to 86th Street. Come early to get a good spot along the parade route and join over two million others honoring American veterans with marching bands from every branch of the U.S. Military. BYOB.

Free Walking Tours–Grand Central Station:

The neighborhood surrounding Grand Central Terminal is more than a transportation hub. The Grand Central Partnership conducts 90-minute guided walking tours led by urban historians every Friday in 2013.

You will gaze at the architectural wonders surrounding the landmark terminal, including the Chrysler Building and discover the secrets of the terminal’s winding passageways.
Grand Central Terminal, every Friday at 12:30 p.m.

Free in December:

Yes, we all know about strolling around Rockefeller Center, seeing the mammoth tree, walking up to FAO Schwartz, and all the other holiday events that involve wading through thousands of slow-moving tourists. Lincoln Center is another popular destination for world-class performing arts at holiday time, often at world class prices. But do you know that right next door is Julliard, where many of these performers started out–and that offer shows for free?

Among the numerous performances offered in December are two standouts:

1) A Double Bill of One Act Operas by Britten and Vaughn Williams, at the Rosemary and Meredith Wilson Theater at Julliard. Britten’s Curlew River features members of the Julliard Orchestra and Chorus, while Williams’ Riders to the Sea has Adam Nielsen on piano and the Julliard Chorus. The performance is on Tuesday, December 11 at 8p.m.

2) New Dances Edition 2012 brings together four of today’s notable choreographers, including Camille Brown, who is artistic director of her own company and Susan Shields, a principal dancer from the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company. The performance will be held on Friday, December 14 at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater.

For more info on free tickets to these and other events, contact Julliard at 212-799-5000.

Free in November:

Ok, the New York Marathon (previously listed here) has been canceled at the last minute, due to the fallout from Hurricane Sandy and the fact that the runners would take the brunt of the hate caused by diverting generators to the Marathon instead of for the use of people in NYC who are still without power. Mayor Bloomberg thought this race would “boost the spirits” of those without power, homes or food. How wrong he was.

But cheer up, there is another November events that will provide a different kind of excitement:

The Saint Catherine’s Day Hat Parade: The Milliners Guild will hold its fifth annual parade in honor of St. Catherine, the patron saint of hatmakers. The march will commence at the Millenery Center Synagogue (don’t ask) on Sixth Avenue between 38th and 39th Street, where a rabbi will bless the Saint Catherine parade (only in NY). From their they (you?) will proudly march to Bryant Park wearing an exciting hat. Yankee, Met and Net caps don’t count. Thursday, November 15th.

Free in October:

Czech in the City: Entertainment, traditional Czech food and beer tasting at the 14th Annual Czech Street Festival: October 6, noon-5pm, East 72nd Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue.

Harvest Festival: A pumpkin patch, music, face painting, and free health screenings: October 20, 10:30 a.m–1p.m. Pier One at Old Fulton and Water Streets, Brooklyn.
Free Museum Day, Saturday, 9/25:

That’s right, you can visit any of 40 top NYC museums for free. It’s the annual Smithsonian Institution Museum Day. Simply print out an admission card from the Smithsonian web site to present for free admission to participating NYC institutions.

Late Summer/Early Fall Free Music

Gowanus All Stars:
Country, folk, rock and pop. Led by Spike Prigger, local “roots’rockers” play classics by Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and others.
The Rock Shop, 2349 Fourth Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn. Mon, 8/27, 8pm

Tune In Tuesdays:
Emily McNamara host nights of show tunes in a campy weekly variety show. Bar-Tini Lounge, 642 Tenth Avenue (45th-46th Streets); every Tuesday until October 30, 10:30pm

Free Early August Music–(From Reader Bob G):

“Lots of great free music across NYC in August. Legendary soul singer Bettye Levette at Madison Square Park on Wednesday August 8; multi talented country, folk and blues singer and instrumentalist Lyle Lovett at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park on Saturday August 11.”

Thanks Bob!

Free in July:

Grand Central Terminal Tour: Every Friday at the sculpture court at 120 Park Avenue and 42nd Street, regular Grand Central Terminal tours are given to locals and tourists alike, showing the hidden treasures of the legendary terminal and its surroundings. July 6, 13, 20 and 27th.

Union Square Walking Tour: Meet in front of the Lincoln Statue, Union Square Park and East 16st at 2pm on any Saturday, and follow guides who lead you to spots where nation-changing rallies, strikes and visits from historic figures took place well before this landmark was chiefly known for its Greenmarket.
July 7, 14, 21 and 28th.
Free in May-June:

Annual Ninth Avenue International Food Festival:
May 19-20, noon to 5pm. Tons of great food and drink, plus games, handcrafted jewelry, arts and crafts, and live stage entertainment of international music and dance at 9th and 55th Street. No entrance fee.

Museum Mile Festival:
Tuesday, June 12th. Nine of the city’s (and nation’s) finest museums open their doors for free from 6pm to 8pm for a mile long block party. The music and art filled celebration fills the streets, sidewalks and museums on Fifth Avenue from 82nd Street up to 105th Street.

Free in NYC in April::

Tartan Day Parade: This little-known, fun celebration/parade includes thousands of bagpipers marching up 6th Avenue, along with vigorous drummers.
Saturday, April 14th, from 45th Street to 55th Street. The parade will start at 2 p.m.

Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival: With over 200 trees in bloom, flowering cherries take center stage during this weekend celebrating Japanese culture with over 60 events and performances. These include taiko drumming, flowering arranging, tea ceremonies and traditional Japanese music and dance.
Saturday April 28 and Sunday April 29, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., 600 Washington Avenue. B or Q train to Prospect Park Station, 2 or 3 train to Eastern Parkway Station.

Free Live TV:

Sure, it’s almost impossible to get tickets to The Jon Stewart Show or SNL. But if you want to be a member of a live studio audience, there are a number of shows taped in NYC that require short or no waits. For example:

-The David Letterman Show: Stand by tickets are available by calling 212-247-6497 starting at 11am on the day of the taping you wish to attend. Your name will be taken and placed on a stand by list. You then be asked to check in to the theater approximately one hour before taping.
You may also ask for tickets in person. Reps in the lobby will process your request Monday through Thursday, from 9:30am to 12 noon.
1697 Broadway, between 52nd and 53rd Streets.

-The People’s Court: Tapes Tuesday through Thursday at 10 am and 2pm. You can request tickets one month in advance by simply calling 888-780-8587 or e-mailing [email protected] Bonus: Judge Marilyn Milian greets the courtroom audience and answers your legal questions! 401 Fifth Avenue (37th Street)

March 1st=Free Arts:

1) Phillip Lopate: Living in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Philharmonic partners with the Brooklyn Public Library to host writer Phillip Lopate with the Brooklyn Phil Chamber Players for a concert exploring the borough’s development over the past 200 years. Music will include a selection of great Brooklyn composers, from Gershwin to Copeland. 6:30pm to 8 p.m. Call 718-488-5700 for details.

2) TCM host Robert Osborne and filmmaker Spike Lee present a free screening of “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The presentation is part of Turner Movie Classics Road to Hollywood tour in celebration of the TCM Classic Film Festival in April in Hollywood. At the Ziegfield Theater, 7:30 p.m. Log on to to get your free tickets.
1) Brooklyn Museum: Free first Saturday of the month. Includings wine tastings, DJ parties and more. 200 Eastern Parkway at Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

2) Museum of Modern Art: Free admission on Fridays from 4pm to 8pm.
11 West 53rd Street.

3) FIT Museum: Rotating exhibits by students as well as an extensive collection of 50,000 garments dating from the 18th century. 7th Avenue and 27th Street, free daily.
Central Park Doesn’t Close Up for Winter

Yes it’s cold, but don’t be a wimp–bundle up and enjoy the free events offered by the Central Park Conservatory:

On Wednesday, Jan 4th, a “Views From the Past” tour takes you through the heart of Central Park, showing how its designers, Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, made their grand vision a reality. Meet outside the Dairy Shop, mid-park and 65th at lunchtime (12:30–1:30pm)

On Monday, January 16th, the Conservatory celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday with a Senaca Village tour. Senaca Village was Manhattan’s first known community of African-American property owners on land that became Central Park. Meet inside the park at 85th Street and Central Park West. 12:30–1:30pm.

On Friday, January 20, The Art of the Park tour strolls from Tavern on the Green to Belvedere Castle, checking out the park’s pastoral landscapes and vistas. Meet at Tavern on the Green; the tour runs from 12:30pm to 2pm.

Home for the Holidays?

If you have guests in for the holiday season (or if you just want to go yourself) there are numerous free sights to enjoy from now through the end of the year:

–The Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center: Yeah it’s a bit corny, but it’s classic New York and makes you feel like you’re a kid again (which may or may not be a good thing).  While you’re there, watch the ice skaters below. Or watch the tourists watch the tree and the skaters. Or even better, skate yourself (at this rink, Central Park or Brooklyn’s Prospect Park).

–Holiday Windows: Take your out-of-town visitors to see the elaborate Christmas window displays at Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdales, Barneys and Macys. You may or may not thank me for this, but they will.

–Holiday Lights at the Bronx Zoo: This one isn’t free, but it’s reasonable. Lighted paths with over 140 illuminated animal sculptures, live reindeer, music and storytelling make this a unique, winter wonderland-type experience. Opens every night from December 15th to January 6th. Tickets are $10 for adults and $50 for children (just kidding–$6 for the youngsters).

Beer in November and Through the Year!
This Tuesday (11-8) and every Tuesday thereafter, Bierkraft in Park Slope, Brooklyn offers free beer tastings at 7 p.m., as well as complementary hor d’oevres. This Tuesday you can sample beer from the Peak Organic Brewing Company of Portland, Maine. This includes Fall Summer Ale (an amber brew that combines pine, spice and citrus flavors) Winter Session Ale (a dark wheat beer) and IPA (a pale ale).

If you care to stay for dinner, that’s not free, but it’s worthwhile, including gourmet sandwiches that may include applewood smoked Berkshire ham or pastrami-spiced brisket. Which you can wash down with your free beer!

191 Fifth Avenue, betw. Union Street and Berkeley Place, Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Free Events in mid-October:

Edgar Allen Poe Cottage: Post-Restoration Tours:

Sunday, October 16th: The American poet and writer spent his final years living in this Bronx farmhouse, where he penned Annabelle Lee and other works. The nearly 200-year old cottage has been closed for restorations and is now reopened for a free tour. 1pm, Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY, 718-881-8900

Central Park History Tour

Tuesday, October 18: Learn about Central Park’s early history with a tour run by the Central Park Conservancy, beginning at 12:30 pm outside the Central Park Dairy Gift Shop. (Central Park West, 79th Street Entrance).

Free Concerts in Early October:

Madison Square Park, October 1, 3pm–5pm: John Hammond and Suzie Vinnick; October 8, 3pm-5pm: Nora Jane Struthers and the Bootleggers; Jean Rohe Trio (the park is located between 5th Avenue and Madison, 23rd to 26th Streets)

Free in New York–September:

September 15-25: The Feast of San Gennaro:

This event brings more than one million people to the streets of Little Italy. Street festivities include food stands, entertainment, parades and a cannoli-eating contest. The event climaxes with a candlelight procession carrying the Statue of San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples.

Tuesday, September 6: Central Park Walking Tour–“Amble Through the Bramble.” Belevedere Castle, mid-park and 79th Street.

Monday to Friday, September 6th through 9th: Free Piano in the Park, with Daryl Sherman. 12:30 pm, Bryant Park, Upper Terrace, 6th Avenue and 42nd Street.


Summer–Free Outdoor Theater:

How do you like your Shakespeare? Or should I ask, do you like waiting on line to see stars perform, or not waiting on line to see great Shakepeare in New York Grittier surroundings?:

1) Shakespeare in the Park: The big one, offering two spectacular shows in Central Park each summer. This year it’s “All’s Well That Ends Well” and “Measure for Measure” in repertory. 8p.m. Delacorte Theater. When? Check the following web site. But whenever you’re reading this–Get on line now.

2) Shakespeare in the Parking Lot: Same playwright, slightly different venue. Come see “Love’s Labour’s Lost” Thursday through Saturday, July 8-24, and Julius Caesar July 29-August 14, same three nights. Municipal Parking Lot, Broome and Ludlow Streets, 212- 877-0099


Summer–Free Outdoor Movies:

Bryant Park Summer Festival: Catch a movie under the stars every Monday. Highlights include Cool Hand Luke, Airplane and Dirty Harry.
June 27-August 23, 5pm, Bryant Park, 5th Avenue and 42nd Street

Summer on the Hudson: Movies Under the Stars: This year’s theme is “Terror Through the Decades”, and will include Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Birds. July 13-August 17, dusk, Riverside Park South, Pier 1, Hudson River and 70th Street

Coney Island on the Beach: The Monday night series will feature Brooklyn and New York City based movies, including Saturday Night Fever and Annie Hall. July 11-August 29th, dusk, Luna Park 1000 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn

Free in NYC, 3rd week of June The Mermaid Parade: Raunchier and more fun than the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, Coney Island’s one of a kind Mermaid Parade includes wild floats, alluring mermaids and mermen (not Ethel), antique cars and other sights for sore eyes. The parade begins at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 18th, Surf Avenue, Coney Island (last stop on the D, F, and other subway lines).

Times Square Yoga: Three instructors from local yoga studios will lead the crowd through various poses on Tuesday, June 21, trying for the ultimate: to find a calm center and inner peace in the most bustling intersection in the United States!
Free in NYC, Tuesday, June 14
The Museum Mile Festival:

The nation’s top-rated museums offer free admission and a car-free party along Fifth Avenue, with live music, street performers and tons of activities for kids. From The Metropolitan Museum of Art at one end of the mile to El Museo del Barrio at the other, here’s your chance to take in New York City culture gratis. Be forewarned: the crowds will be huge. This year’s festival begins at 5:45pm, rain or shine.
Free in NYC, Early June:

The City Parks Foundation kicks off its annual free concert series on Tuesday, June 7th with renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who will play with his Silk Road Ensemble as well a contigent of NYC 6th graders. Ma has won 16 Grammys and played at President Obama’s Inaugural–Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, enter at 5th Avenue and 69th Street.
Free in NYC, Memorial Day Weekend:

The public beaches open this weekend (starting Sat, 5-28), from Coney Island up through Rockaway Beach, and it’s all free. Let’s hope they have enough lifeguards this year! Coney in the West 20s remains a secret treasure; clean and never crowded yet within walking distance of Nathan’s restaurant and all the Coney rides and attractions.

Memorial Day Parades will take place on Monday, 5-30 all over the city. The largest is the Little Neck-Douglaston parade in Queens, while the 144 year old Brooklyn Memorial Parade begins at 3rd Avenue and 87th Street. Come out and watch–the veterans deserve and will appreciate it.

Free in NYC, Third Week May:

Algonquin Seaport Theater New Play Readings: The new theater at the Seaport, which hosts stage plays, children’s theater and live music, will present staged readings of new one act plays on Tuesday, May 17th. Among the works presented will be my one act comedy Kiss Her Goodbye. Admission is free. 6:30 p.m. (89 South Street, inside the Seaport Mall, 2nd Floor; Fulton Street subway station)
Free in NYC, Second Week May:

Bryant Park Ping Pong: Test your ping pong skills at state of the art tables. Paddles and balls provided free of charge. (Ping-Pong Court at Bryant Park, 5th Avenue/40th Street, Tues 5-10–Thurs 5-12, 11am-7pm)

Bryant Park Tai Chi: Tai chi is instructed by members of the Tai Chi Chuan Center (Fountain Terrace in Bryant Park, Thursday 5-12, 7:30am-8:30am)

Birding Tours of Bryant Park: Discover the varieties of birds that call Bryant Park home (Fountain Terrace at Bryant Park, Thursday, 5-12, 5pm-6pm)
Free in NYC, Late April/Early May:

Annual Sakura Matsuri and Cherry Blossom Watch at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden:

This weekend, (April 30-May 1), the Rites Of Spring celebration of Japanese culture includes flowering cherry trees as well as 60 other events and performances, including traditional Japanese drumming, dance and bonsai pruning. Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, 1000 Washington Street, Bklyn, NY

Annual Kite Making Workshop at Socrates Sculpture Park

This free, hands-on event welcomes children and adults to build and decorate a kite out of recycled materials, and then fly it in the park. All materials and supplies will be provided. Socrates Sculpture Park, 3201 Vernon Blvd, Queens, N.Y.

Free in NYC in April:

Earth Day: From April 21-23 Battery Park City will host Earth Day events, including bird watching, poetry readings and film screenings. At Times Square, a public celebration of Earth Day will feature entertainment and interactive exhibits.

Easter Parade: On April 24, the parade will begin at 10am at St Patrick’s Cathedral at 5th Avenue and 47th and continue up Fifth Avenue. It’s a fun event–and it’s free!


From subscriber Lou Russo (Thanks, Lou):

The still FREE Staten Island Ferry ride which puts you close enough to smell souvlaki on Lady Liberty’s breath, is still a really wonderful experience, even romantic, especially on a nice day or warm Summer night when you can sit outside on the deck.
But please don’t tell anyone, ok?


Free at the BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) Cafe:

Friday, 3/18: Liliana Araujo, rising Brazilian music star

Saturday, 3/19: Sofia Rei, Argentinian singer tries American jazz

Friday 3/25: Barbez: Rock meets avant jazz

Saturday 3/26: The Respect Sextext: electro-acoustic improv band

All shows begin at 9 p.m. BAM, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn


The First Signs of Spring:

With the temperatures expected to approach 50 degrees this week, this presents a great opportunity to emerge from your cacoon and explore lesser known but worthwhile NYC outdoor destinations:

–Wave Hill, in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, was once a private home for Teddy Roosevelt. Mark Twain also lived here at the beginning of the 20th Century. A peaceful setting with majestic gardens, Wave Hill offers hiking trails and a breathtaking view of the Hudson River. 675 West 252nd Street, the Bronx. By car, or take the “1” train to the 231st Street stop, then take the Bx7 or Bx10 bus.

–Historic Greenwood Cemetery is the final resting place of NYC notables from Boss Tweed to Leonard Bernstein. Every Wednesday a two-hour trolley tour offers a guide to the history and the bird life of Greenwood as well as great views of the Manhattan skyline. 777 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn. (R train to 25th Street stop.)

Free and Noteworthy, First Half February:

Monday, February 7th:

The City Pond Winter Film Festival at Bryant Park (that’s right, outdoors in winter!) shows seasonal films for free on a 900-square-foot, rink-side screen. Monday’s screening is Blades of Glory, starring Will Ferrell. Watch the movie while ice skating, or having hot chocolate on the Upper Terrace. 6:30pm at Bryant Park.

Wednesday, February 9th:

The Mannes Orchestra performs a program featuring Mahler (Adagio from Symphony No. 10, Das Lied von der Erde) for free. Guest conductors from the past have included Kurt Masur and Philippe Entremont. Free tickets at the Mannes Box Office (West 85th Street–Amsterdam and Columbus–8 p.m.)


Free and Noteworthy: Second Half January

From 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 14, 21 and 28, The American Folk Art Museum offers free live music in its atrium. You can wander through the galleries while listening to the sounds of Brooklyn’s Spirit Family Reunion, which plays a blend of folk, bluegrass and country.

On Monday, January 17, The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) presents the 25th Annual Tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. Included will be music by The Persuasions and a free screening of Neshoba: The Price of Freedom at 1 p.m. Doors open at 10:30 a.m, with tix available on a first come, first serve basis.


Free and Noteworthy: Second Week January, 2011

Like Marc Anthony and JLo, salsa dancing and New York City belong together. On Sunday, January 9, the Williamburg Salsa Orchestra is putting on a free show at the Brooklyn Bowl. The 11-piece Latin band will not only perform salsa versions of indie hits from such groups as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but there will also be free salsa lessons available starting at noon. The band begins performing at 6p.m., when you must be over the age of 21 to enter: Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y.

The following day (Monday, January 10) offers free music from Julliard School musicians. Each year, they spend their final week of winter break in intensive rehearsal to make certain that Lincoln Center’s Chamberfest is first rate. The series starts Monday with three performances, including Johannes Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in G, and showcases 67 Julliard musicians. Yes, tix are free! 8 p.m., Lincoln Center’s Paul Hall (at the Julliard School), 60 Lincoln Center Plaza (Broadway and 65th), N.Y.C.


Where to Take Holiday Visitors (or use as an excuse to go yourself):

Want to give family and friends a taste of New York without busting your budget–or even spending a penny?

Here’s some free places to visit that we New Yorkers too often take for granted:

1) Staten Island Ferry: Not a luxury liner, but absolutely free and truly New York Gritty This legendary commuter ferry (tell them they feature it at the beginning of the movie Working Girl) offers amazing, close-up views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and lower Manhattan.

2) Chinatown: After your return ferry trip, walk over to Chinatown (ok, cab it if they’re lazy, but let them pay). Tourists love it and if you’re feeling particularly generous, spring for a great communal meal for four that will cost you a grand total of about 25 bucks (yeah I know, Free NY, but ya gotta eat, right?)

3) Riverside Park: Yes, they’ll all want to visit Central Park (and you should), but Riverside Park offers views of the Hudson, the boat basin and a last chance to view the fall foliage in all its glory.

4) The Chrysler Building: And yes, they’ll also want to visit The Empire State Building, but the Chrysler Building is more impressive. There’s no observation deck, but the art deco architecture, marble lobby and wonderful ceiling mural is worth the trip to Lex and 42nd.

5) The New York Public Library: Pair the Chrysler Building visit with a trip to this Beaux-Arts edifice a few blocks away (42nd and 5th), with a steady stream of great exhibits on a variety of topics.


Want to enjoy the vibrant colors of autumn, but not enough to get off your butt and journey to the wilds of Westchester or beyond?

Good news, NewYorkGritties–I’ve got your nature right here!

In the next few weeks, climb to the top of Belvedere Castle in Central Park for a panoramic view of gold, red and yellow leaves that is second to none. The Italian translation of Belvedere? Beautiful view. (mid-park at 79th Street).

Want to stay in the city and avoid the tourists?

Head over to Riverside Park. The ideal way to experience the beauty of the change of season is to hop on your bike and ride northward from 72nd Street and the Hudson. American elms and London plane trees are plentiful throughout the park. Bike past the Boat Basin in the upper West 70s right up to Grant’s Tomb on 122nd Street and beyond.

No bike? Just walk it. Trees, fresh air and the Hudson–not a bad way to unwind. And it’s free!


Weekend approaching, and looking for something outdoorsy, fun and with a real NewYorkGritty feel?

Here’s a great afternoon and evening, for starters.

From 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., the Central Park Dance Skaters do their thing at the Skate Circle in Central Park. If you haven’t seen it, you have to see it! (if you have, you know what I’m talking about).

The skaters include a few Broadway dancers letting off steam and showing off their amazingly athletic dance moves, as the DJ keeps them whipping around the circle to an ever-changing beat.

To get there, enter Central Park at East or West 72nd Street, then follow the road across the park to Skaters Road, just west of the bandshell and east of Strawberry Fields.

Afterward, walk west as far as you can, out of the park and over to West 70th Street and Riverside Boulevard, grab a drink or bite at the Pier 1 Cafe on the water, then stroll out on the pier halfway to Jersey and catch the best sunset view in New York City!

Let me >know how it goes.

One Response to Free NY

  1. johnjam101 says:

    just returned from a brief four hour NYC visit after being away many years.
    two items
    – High Line Park in Chelsea
    – Wo Hop 17 in Chinatown
    thanks NYC.

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