The Best Summer Festivals in New York City

Courtesy of NYC Pride, credit: Christopher Gagliardi
Courtesy of NYC Pride, credit: Christopher Gagliardi
Photo of Julia Goicochea
6 February 2018

Sorry, spring: New York truly comes to life again in summer. From free theater to extravagant music fests to museum crawls, one’s social calendar heats up during the warmer months. Have your sunscreen and comfortable shoes ready—here are the best summer festivals in New York City.

Shakespeare in the Park

Participating in this longtime tradition should be on every local’s bucket list. Since 1962, New Yorkers (over five million, to be exact) have marked the start of summer by the return of Shakespeare in the Park, the city’s premier free theater festival. In 2018, the season kicks off on May 29th and will include performances of Othello and Twelfth Night, plays which have previously starred the likes of James Earl Jones, Christopher Walken, and Anne Hathaway.

Delacorte Theater | © Kathleen Maher / Flickr

Governors Ball Music Festival

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Self-described music snobs should circle June 1st through 3rd, the dates of the 2018 Governors Ball Music Festival, on their calendars now. Top talents including Kanye West, the Strokes, and Chance the Rapper plus trendy food and drinks (think vegan ice cream, gourmet mozzarella sticks, and Korean tacos) have made this fest an unmissable New York event.

Museum Mile Festival

While one can visit Museum Mile any time of year, the Fifth Avenue stretch from 82nd to 105th Streets is especially attractive during the annual Museum Mile Festival. At this 23-block-long block party, you’ll enjoy live music, chalk drawing, and free admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and more leading cultural institutions.

Metropolitan Museum of Art | © anielbaez0 / Pixabay

NYC Pride

Doing the right thing has never been this fun. At NYC Pride, you can stand with the city’s LGBT community at brunch events honoring LGBT business leaders (dress code: “brunch chic”), a family movie night, a world-famous march, and more. Mark your calendars for this year’s celebration, taking place from June 15th to the 24th.

Courtesy of NYC Pride, credit: Hunter Abrams


Trust the more than six million people who’ve enjoyed this free outdoor performing arts festival, and make plans to experience SummerStage today. Performers ranging from indie, comedy, hip-hop, and more genres grace stages across New York City at this summer-long series by City Parks Foundation, whose past lineups have included Father John Misty and Walk the Moon.

Courtesy of SummerStage, credit: Eliana Rowe

Bastille Day on 60th Street

Even too-cool New Yorkers are obsessed with the French, so much so that we celebrate the country’s Independence Day as if it were our own. For one day each July, locals live à la française at Bastille Day on 60th Street, the city’s “largest public celebration of France’s Independence Day.” Join this year’s event to enjoy live music, food and wine, and la vie en rose.

HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival

Library, Park
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HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival
HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival | © André Natta / Flickr
The only thing more movie-worthy than flicks like North by Northwest and King Kong is Byrant Park, the backdrop of HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival’s screenings of these films and others. Free outdoor films, live music, and a BYO-food-and-drink policy round out the offerings at the city’s favorite en masse movie nights.

New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks

The word “festival” doesn’t have to connote rowdy crowds and loud sounds. At the 53-year-old New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks, festival-goers picnic on the lawns of the city’s premier parks while enjoying live classical music. With 8 pm start times, this beloved local pastime may be New York’s only fest that doubles as a date night destination.

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