Free Things to Do in New York City This Summer

See a number from a Broadway show in Bryant Park, standup comedy at the UCB Theater or live music at Lincoln Center.

Brooklyn Bridge/Thinkstock

When it comes to naming expensive cities, New York often finds itself near the top of the list, which can be an intimidating prospect for travellers. But summertime is an especially budget-friendly season in the Big Apple, when the city is full of events that cost nothing at all.

1. Attend a Books Beneath the Bridge event

Since launching in 2012, Books Beneath the Bridge at Brooklyn Bridge Park (Monday nights through July and August) has lured big names like Paul Auster and Emma Straub. And, with the iconic Brooklyn Bridge in the background, there might not be a more picturesque destination for readings, Q&As and signings.

2. See standup comedy at UCB Theater

Hosted by comedy club veteran Aparna Nancherla (an accomplished comedian whose credits include TBS’ Conan), Upright Citizens Brigade’s free weekly standup show, Whiplash, is a great place to discover some of New York’s best up-and-coming comics (Mondays at 11 p.m. at the UCB Theater in Chelsea). But don’t be surprised if more established jokesters end up taking the mic: Chris Rock, Louis C.K. and many others have made appearances. Get there early for your spot in line.

3. Watch live music and dance during Lincoln Center Out of Doors 

From July 24 to August 12, Lincoln Center offers a ton of free programming, including a concert by country singers Margo Price and Lukas Nelson & The Promise of Real (Willie Nelson’s son’s band) on August 12 and a performance by the Dance Theater of Harlem on August 4 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. July 28 is Family Day, when dance parties and concerts are suitable for all ages.

4. Visit the American Folk Art Museum

For more than five decades, the always-free American Folk Art Museum has dedicated itself to showcasing the works of self-taught creatives. Now until October 14, check out Charting the Divine Plan: The Art of Orra White Hitchcock (1796-163) to view works by one of America’s first female scientific illustrators.

5. Catch a show during Broadway in Bryant Park

For an hour starting at 12:30 p.m. every Thursday in July and August, songs and dances from the most famous shows on Broadway—think Wicked, Jersey Boys and The Lion King—are performed by cast members in beautiful Bryant Park. Bring a blanket and grab a sandwich from one of the many nearby delis for a midday musical break.