July 1, 2009 - The economy may be in a crunch, but this summer, New York City’s cultural organizations are making sure that New Yorkers and visitors have access to the programming that makes being here so great. From museums and public art installations, to science and nature activities and outdoor performance festivals, cultural organizations in every borough are presenting free, suggested donation and low-cost events for the entire family.
Kick off July with The Public Theater’s presentation of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in Central Park starring Anne Hathaway and Audra McDonald, which runs through July 12. Visit Governors Island and view Plot 09: This World and Nearer Ones, a new installation curated by Creative Time, featuring more than 20 international artists. And don’t miss Celebrate Brooklyn!, a dynamic performing arts festival at the Prospect Park Bandshell whose diverse roster of performers hail from across the City and around the world.
All of the aforementioned are free and open to the public, and we’ve included more free and suggested donation summertime cultural events and venues for you to choose from below. Find a complete listing at nyc.gov/nyculture.
Fridays on the Roof at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
There’s something for everyone at the Metropolitan Museum of Art! For a great evening with a date or the kids, the Met’s rooftop is open until 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays, where you can view a 130-foot-long stainless-steel sculpture by Roxy Paine, entitled Maelstrom, while enjoying views of Central Park. While you’re at the Museum, be sure to visit the newly-opened American Wing, see Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum Kabul, which opens July 1, and head to the Uris Center for Education to visit P.S. Art 2009, an exhibition of 60 outstanding works from NYC public school students. Admission is suggested, and there are free talks and tours of the collection throughout the day. 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, Manhattan. For more information, visit metmuseum.org.
Queens Museum of Art
This summer’s exciting exhibitions at the Queens Museum of Art include Red Lines Housing Crisis Learning Center, an eye-opening interpretation of the economic crisis from artist Damon Rich. Explore the threatening spikes and troughs of interest rates in the form of a plywood construction 40 feet long and 14 feet tall, or enter a ghostly looming bust of Frederick Babcock, pioneer of real estate appraisal. Admission is suggested. Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens. Visit queensmuseum.org for more information.
Explore the West Harlem Piers Park
The newly-opened West Harlem Piers park features an exciting new art installation by Harlem-based artist Nari Ward. This evocative interpretation of West Harlem’s history and community was commissioned through the Percent for Art program. Visit Voice, a series of playful steel sculptures inspired by local fishermen, and Signage Barriers, which offers a poignant, streetsign-inspired reflection on the community’s past. 132nd Street and the Hudson River. For more information, visit nyc.gov.
Governors Island | Creative Time presents Plot 09: This World and Nearer Ones
Beginning June 27, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday this summer, visitors can explore beautiful Governor’s Island while taking in Creative Time’s first public art quadrennial, featuring commissioned works by 20 major artists working in film, sculpture, installation and live participatory performance. Admission is free. For more information visit creativetime.org.
Waterpod on the City’s Waterfront
This summer, Waterpod, a new 30-by-100 foot self-sustaining eco-barge that will house four artists, is coming to docks in all five boroughs. Waterpod contains living quarters, a greenhouse, a windmill and a chicken coop, and gives everyone a unique chance to learn about what an alternative eco-future could look like. Created by Queens-based artist Queens-based Mary Mattingly, Waterpod will be docked at the South Street Seaport, Governors Island, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Atlantic Salt Company Pier, the Queens Worlds Fair Marina, and the Bronx Concrete Park. Admission is free. Visit thewaterpod.org for a full schedule.
Cultural Festivals and Outdoor Activities
Back to the Beach on Staten Island
Boogie on the beach at a series of free summer starlight concerts at Midland Beach, and at cultural venues across Staten Island. Performances include a Tribute to Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee at Snug Harbor Cultural Center (July 23), and a Billy Joel Tribute at Alice Austen House (August 13). All events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit statenislandusa.com.
Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell
Join 250,000 of music lovers all summer long at the Prospect Park Bandshell for Celebrate Brooklyn, an annual outdoor performing arts festival featuring local and international artists and ensembles. This year’s performers include Buckwheat Zydeco, the Kronos Quartet, acrobatic ensemble STREB: Invisible Forces, NYC-based retro soul band The Sweet Divines, and Brooklyn’s live disco orchestra Escort conducting a singalong to Prince’s Purple Rain. Most performances are free. For a complete performance schedule, visit briconline.org/celebrate.
Free Performances at the Annual River to River Festival
From June through August, experience dynamic dance and music at venues across lower Manhattan, from the Hudson to the East River. This year, the New York City Opera joins River to River for the first time, performing Mozart’s beloved The Magic Flute (June 25), Massenet's rarely-performed La Navarraise (June 26), and Opera On The Pier (June 27), a concert of opera's most popular melodies. Don’t miss out on programs like The Big Draw, featuring artist-led drawing workshops of powwow-style dancing at the National Museum of the American Indian (July 18), or Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s site-specific performances at Battery Park (August 1 and 2). All events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit rivertorivernyc.com.
Climb Aboard the Bronx Culture Trolley
See what Bronx artists have to offer when you board the Bronx Culture Trolley, providing free travel to the borough’s diverse galleries, museums, restaurants and entertainment venues on the first Wednesday evening of the month. See OBAMA! Reflections at the Bruckner Gallery, or Living and Dreaming, an exhibition of emerging artists at the Bronx Museum of Art. Admission to participating cultural venues on the route is free. Visit bronxarts.org for more information.
Outdoor Cinema 2009 at Socrates Sculpture Park
Socrates Sculpture Park and the Museum of the Moving Image present the 11th annual Outdoor Cinema 2009 every Wednesday evening from July 15 – August 19. Come for a sunset picnic on the grass while enjoying performances from local artists. After dusk, view exceptional international films on a large-format screen - all set against the spectacular backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. Films include Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (July 22) and Tulpan (August 12), set amidst the gorgeous landscapes of Kazhakstan. 32-01 Vernon Boulevard at Broadway, Queens. Visit socratessculpturepark.org for more information.
Flushing Town Hall’s Free Summer Concerts Series
Strap on your dancing shoes and boogie over to Flushing Town Hall for the Summer Concert Series, featuring a wide variety of performers. Do-wop lovers will jive to Warren Tesoro and The Exceptions (July 12), Calypso and Soca fans will enjoy Tribal Legacy (July 26), and for mambo and salsa, there’s Willie Martinez (August 23). All concerts are free. 137-35 Northern Boulevard, Queens. Visit flushingtownhall.org for a full schedule.
New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks
The New York Philharmonic presents its annual free, festive classical music performances at Central Park in Manhattan (July 14 and 17), Prospect Park in Brooklyn (July 15) and Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx (July 16). Admission is free. For program information, visit nyphil.org.
Free Music and Dance at Lincoln Center Out of Doors
Lincoln Center Out of Doors brings music and dance to the streets, featuring performers from around the corner, and around the world. Running from August 5-23, performances include Dancing In The Streets (August 6), Red Baraat Festival! (August 12), Slavic Soul party! (August 14), Harlem Samba (August 20), Frevo Bombastico (August 21), and a closing tribute weekend to Odetta at the Damrosch Park Bandshell (August 22 and 23). Admission is free. Visit lincolncenter.org for more information.
Jazzmobile Summer Festival
It’s summer in the City, and time for Jazzmobile’s renowned annual Mobile Summer Concerts series. This season’s picks include the rollicking Frank Foster Big Band performing at Grant’s Tomb (July 15), saxophonist Ms. Lily White at Roosevelt Island (July 30) and the Duke Ellington Legacy Band, led by Edward Ellington III on 106th Street (August 24). Admission is free. For a full schedule, visit jazzmobile.org.
History Comes to Life with the Noble Maritime Collection
On August 29, head to the Atlantic Salt Company yard and climb aboard the Half Moon, a fully operational replica of the ship Henry Hudson used to explore New York Harbor in 1609. In conjunction with the NYC400 celebration of Henry Hudson’s sail, the Noble Maritime Collection presents a one-day public maritime festival with free tours of historical ships, food, drinks and live performances. 561 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island. Admission is free. Visit nycgo.com/nyc400 for a complete listing of NYC400 events happening throughout the summer.
New York Classical Theatre at Battery Park
New York Classical Theatre presents its tenth anniversary season of free classical theatre out-of-doors! Follow the players through Castle Clinton in Manhattan’s Battery Park in their presentation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, June 23 – July 7. All performances are free. Complete schedule information is available at newyorkclassical.org.
The Public Theater | Shakespeare in the Park
This summer, Shakespeare in the Park kicks off with Twelfth Night, a comedy starring Anne Hathaway and Audra McDonald, following the romantic adventures of Viola and her twin Sebastian, both shipwrecked in the enchanted dukedom of Illyria. Performances take place Tuesday through Sunday at 8pm, through July 10. Tickets are free. The Delacorte Theater in Central Park, Manhattan. Visit publictheater.org for more information.
Chase Latino Cultural Festival Free Events at Queens Theater in the Park
Queens Theater in the Park celebrates its annual Chase Latino Cultural Festival with inspiring programs for all. Aspiring poets can participate in a bilingual reading hosted by Latino poetry collective Grito de Poetas, (August 5) and film lovers can check out The Golden Age (August 5), a documentary exploring the double lives of working immigrants and soccer stars in Corona, Queens. On August 6, Luis Garay and the Buenos Aires Dance Company will present the world premiere of Gag, commissioned by Queens Theatre and the La Guardia Performing Arts Center. This dance exploration of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s definition of the word “gag” draws on gesture, text, live music and a unique use of space to convey the mystery of the inexpressible. Admission to these events, and more, is free. Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens. For complete program information, visit queenstheatre.org.
Science and Nature
See Sea Lions Strut at the New York Aquarium
See the sea lions and otters show off at the New York Aquarium! Every Friday afternoon, admission is by donation from 3pm on. 602 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn. For more information, visit nyaquarium.com.
Explore the Bronx Zoo
Travel through the Serengeti in Africa, in the heart of the Bronx! Meet and greet the new baby aardvarks. Free all day Wednesdays. 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx. For more information, visit bronxzoo.com.
Venues with Free or Suggested Admission
Pay as little as one cent for some of the most exciting exhibitions in the world.
- Alice Austen House
- American Museum of Natural History (permanent collection)
- Brooklyn Museum
- Bronx Museum of the Arts
- Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning: Gallery is free at all times. Ticket prices to performances (music, theater, etc.) are $7 - $10 per ticket.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Museum of the City of New York
- National Museum of the American Indian
- P.S.1: Contemporary Art Center
- Queens Botanical Garden
- Queens Museum of Art
- Sculpture Center
- Snug Harbor Cultural Center
- Studio Museum in Harlem
- Staten Island Museum
Free hours at Cultural Venues
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Free all day every Tuesday, and Saturdays from 10am-noon.
- Brooklyn Children’s Museum: Free Wednesdays, 2-5pm through the month of June, and Fridays, 5-7:30PM, July 10-August 28.
- Bronx Zoo: Every Wednesday is free.
- International Center of Photography: Voluntary contribution every Friday, 5-8pm.
- Jewish Museum: Free every Saturday.
- Museum of Arts and Design: Pay what you wish Thursdays 6-9pm.
- New York Aquarium: Suggested donation Fridays after 3pm.
- New York Botanical Garden: Free all day Wednesdays, and Saturday from 10am-noon.
- Noguchi Museum: Pay what you wish the first Friday of every month.
- Staten Island Children’s Museum: Free Wednesdays 5-8pm, July 8-August 26.
- Staten Island Zoo: Free Wednesdays 2- 4:45pm.
- New York Hall of Science: Through June 30, Free Fridays 2-5pm and Sundays 10-11am.
- Museum of Jewish Heritage: Free every Wednesday 4-8pm.
- Wave Hill Cultural Center: Free Saturdays and Tuesdays, 9am-noon.
- Whitney Museum: Pay what you wish Fridays 6-9pm.