by Aileen Marshall
New York City has been called the “Capital of the World.” There are so many exciting things to see and do here. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the most expensive cities to live in or to visit. That makes it tough for those of us in the academic sector, who do not make the salaries of the one percent. However, come the hot summer days, there is a wide range of outdoor activities that are either free or inexpensive.
Probably the most well-known are the free concerts on the Great Lawn in Central Park. The New York Philharmonic will present its usual two concerts this year on July 13 and July 16, 2012. Concerts start at 8:00 p.m. and there are fireworks afterward. These concerts are famous for people picnicking on the Great Lawn, usually with wine and cheese. One can enter the park at 79th or 85th Street and Fifth Avenue, and if you are more interested in hearing the concert, arrive early to get a place up front. The more serious picnickers are toward the south end. More information about these concerts can be found at http://www.nyphil.org/.
Another great Central Park event series is SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield, with a wide range of music, dance, and spoken word productions. Most events are free, but there are a few benefit concerts put on throughout the summer. Enter the park at 69th Street and Fifth Avenue and follow the path to Rumsey Playfield. For some of the more popular artists, a line forms in front of the gate well beforehand. There are bleacher seats in back, with Astroturf up front, sometimes set up with folding chairs. You can bring in food, but no glass bottles, and there are also food vendors inside. For a complete schedule, go to http://www.cityparksfoundation.org/summerstage.
One of the best Central Park activities is Shakespeare in the Park. Produced by The Public Theater and presented at the Delacorte Theater in the park, this year’s plays will be As You Like It, from June 5 through June 30, 2012, and Into the Woods, from July 23 through August 25, 2012. Tickets, although free, can be obtained by standing in line in front of the Delacorte Theater from 1:00 p.m., or on the website. These are very good productions that usually draw a crowd. I once saw Jimmy Smits on the stage and Tom Hanks in the audience. The complete schedule can be found at http://www.shakespeareinthepark.org.
Lincoln Center hosts some very fun and inexpensive events in the summer. Lincoln Center Out of Doors presents a range of international music and dance events, with special events for children. This free series runs from July 25 through August 12, 2012. Performers run the gamut from Nile Rodgers to Tom Paxton and many others. Midsummer Night Swing is a run of dance events with everything from salsa to disco from June 6 through July 14. There are group dance lessons at 6:00 p.m. and live music at 7:30 p.m. Certain events require a $17 ticket but others are free! Both series are on the Josie Robertson Plaza at Lincoln Center. More information can be found at http://www.lincolncenter.org.
On Monday nights, HBO sponsors a summer film series in Bryant Park. The movies this year range from All About Eve to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Blankets and food are allowed. The lawn opens at 5:00 p.m., but there is usually a crowd gathered well in advance to get a spot. The movies begin at sunset, and they show an old Warner Brothers cartoon beforehand. People will cheer for Porky Pig’s famous sign off “….That’s all folks!” The complete schedule is at www.bryantpark.org. At both the Central Park Great Lawn concerts and the Bryant Park Film Festival, it is traditional to have some members of your group arrive early to secure a spot, and have some predetermined arrangement of balloons or a flag for the rest of the group to find.
Another great summer venue is Hudson River Park. It runs for five miles along the Hudson River and hosts a plethora of summer events, all free. On Pier 84 on West 14th Street, The Moon Dance series features a live band on Sunday nights, with styles ranging from swing to tango. Dance lessons are given at 6:30 p.m. and the bands start at 7:00 p.m. The RiverRocks series, also on Pier 84, focuses on up-and-coming musicians. The River Flicks events feature two series of outdoor movies. The Wednesday night movies are held on Pier 63 from July 11 through August 23, 2012. The theme this year is “Blockbusters” including movies such as Moneyball and Bridesmaids. The Friday night movies are more family-oriented, including such fare as Hugo and Back to the Future. These are shown on Pier 46, at Charles and West Streets. Both movie series start at sunset, and free popcorn is available if you get there early. Some seating is provided, or you can bring a blanket to sit on. The RiverFlicks events are usually not as crowded as the Bryant Park movies. More information can be found at http://www.hudsonriverpark.org.
Two good websites to find information about these and other events in the city are: http://www.newyorkled.com and http://newyork.citysearch.com. The NewYorkled site also includes a complete calendar of the city’s many street fairs. With all of these options available, you can have a great summer in the city without going broke.