This post lists the many great things to do in NYC in August, including a top 10 list, free events, family-friendly activities and things to do at night. For even more suggestions, see our comprehensive guide to Things to Do in NYC as well as our New York City Summer Guide.
- Top 10 Things to Do
- Free Things to Do
- Nighttime Activities
- How’s the Weather
- Free Tours by Foot
This is our list of the ten best events/attractions in New York City in August. Many of these are family-friendly, free and perfect for day or night.
If you are considering visiting many of NYC’s top attractions, consider buying a tourist discount pass, which could save you a lot of money. Our post comparing NYC Tourist Passes can help you see if a pass is right for you. Also, bus tour companies, including hop-on-hop-off buses, also offer discounts and deals.
(1) Get out on the water! (family-friendly)
Cool off with cool views of New York City. It doesn’t cost much to get out into the beautiful NYC Harbor. Take a New York harbor cruise for FREE on the Staten Island Ferry. You can ride the ferry day or night- why not do both! It departs from Lower Manhattan, so you might enjoy pairing your free boat ride with one of our pay-what-you-like Lower Manhattan Tours.
Also, check out the many New York Boat Tours and Excursions you can take, such as the Circle Line and other affordable, fun cruises. Consider taking a ride on the East River Ferry which costs the same as a subway ride but with a much nicer view.
(2) Harlem Day – August 19 (family-friendly)
This day-long festival is the culmination of Harlem Week. Head up to Harlem to see live music of all genres from Jazz, R&B Musical Theatre, Hip Hop, and Gospel. There will be arts & crafts, fashion shows, and local food.
(3) Jazz Age Lawn Party – August 25 & 26 (family-friendly)
You don’t need to dress in your finest flapper dress or seersucker suit to come out and enjoy fabulous music by the Dreamland Orchestra. There will be a Charleston dance contest (along with lessons), food, 1920s cars, croquet, and fun for the kiddies. Get the low-down at their website. This is a ticketed event and is held on Governors Island.
Even if you don’t feel like a lawn party, make time to visit Governors Island. Our post on Governors Island can give you directions and other important details about this one of a kind place.
(4) See a concert
August has some amazing performers arriving in NYC. Here are just a few to see. You can also see some great free music at Summerstage and Prospect Bandshell (see below in our FREE section).
- Smashing Pumpkins – Aug 1 Madison Square Garden
- JAY-Z and BEYONCÉ – Aug 2 at Metlife Stadium
- Rod Stewart – Aug 7 at Madison Square Garden
- Beach Boys – Aug 17 at Coney Island Amphitheater
If you didn’t already know, Madison Square Garden offers an All Access Tour where you can see behind the scenes.
(5) See a Baseball Game (family-friendly)
- Mets: Aug 2-8, 20-26 (information here)
- Yankees: Aug 1, 9-12, 14-19, 27-31 (Information here)
TIP: You can get a free ticket to either a Mets or Yankees game with the Freestyle Pass. The classic tour of Yankee Stadium is also available with both the New York Pass and the Explorer Pass. For more information, check our post about New York tourist passes.
(6) Soar to the top of a skyscraper (family-friendly)
In summer, the city’s tallest observation decks stay open late. The Empire State Building is open until 2 am, and the Top of the Rock and One World Trade Center Observatory are both open until midnight.
If you aren’t sure which view is best for you, read our post about the pros and cons of each of them. There are also free options and you can find them in our post, Where to get the best free skyline views of NYC.
(7) NYC Restaurant Week – August 1-18
Restaurant Week (which starts in late July) gives you the chance to try NYC’s top restaurants at a fraction of their normal prices. This year, two-course lunches are priced at $26 and three-course dinners are $42. Reservations can be made after July 9th when the participating restaurants are announced. Use the tips in our post on Restaurant Week to get a seating at the restaurant of your choice.
(8) Free Shakespeare in Central Park – August 1-19
This annual festival starts in mid-July but continues through August, with star-studded performances of Twelfth Night. It takes some logistical planning but it truly is worth the effort. Our post on How to get Shakespeare in the Park tickets is a necessity if you want to get a leg up in scoring these desirable tickets.
TIP: To find out everything you need to know about Central Park including maps, activities, tours and more see our Comprehensive Guide of things to do in Central Park.
(9) Giglio Feast of Saint Antonio – August 11 & 12 (family-friendly)
This traditional festival in East Harlem celebrates Italian culture with plenty of food, music, and traditional dance. The Giglio is an 80-foot-tall, three-ton statue which will be paraded down the streets along with a moving stage holding a 12-piece band. Find out more information here.
Tip: If you want to stick with the more famous Italian enclaves in the world, join us for our SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown Tour and check out our list of Little Italy Restaurants and Other Things to See.
(10) Dragon Boat Festival – August 11 & 12 (family-friendly)
A great excuse to check out the borough of Queens! It’s a race of 170 dragon-boat teams on the very big Meadows Lake, in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. Besides boats, there will be traditional dance, martial arts, music, folk art, and Chinese food. More information can be found here.
Below are just a few of the hundreds of free things you can do in NYC during August. Some of the events in the top ten section above, like riding the Staten Island Ferry, celebrating Harlem Day or watching the Dragon Boat Festival.
For year-round free things to do see our comprehensive post about Free Things to Do in NYC.
Broadway in Bryant Park (family-friendly)
Bring a blanket to Bryant Park and see the stars of current on and off-Broadway shows perform. Get more information here. If you prefer to see a full show but not pay full price there are several ways get discount tickets to Broadway shows. You can use the TKTS Discount Theatre Tickets Booths or try some of the other ways to Get Cheap Broadway Tickets.
While you are in Midtown, consider joining us on one of our pay what you like tours of Midtown Manhattan. If you prefer, explore on your own with our downloadable self-guided tour of the area or try out our GPS Audio Tour!
Summer Streets (family-friendly)
Every Sunday in August from 7 am-1 pm, New York City closes off main thoroughfares to vehicular traffic – in other words, NO CARS! Almost 7 miles of open streets with 5 rest stops are free to roam on anything that will move except vehicles. This is the PERFECT time to rent a bike and see the city from a totally new perspective. For good deals on rentals, see our post Best Bike Rentals in New York City.
Kayak under the Brooklyn Bridge (family-friendly)
Head over to Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO and enjoy a free 20-minute kayak ride. It’s quite safe and unlike anything you have done before. See the Brooklyn Bridge from underneath! Click here for more information.
A great way to complement your kayaking is to join us on our 9:30 am pay-what-you-like Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO Tour which runs every day at 9:30 am and finishes right near the Kayak Launch Pier in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Good Morning America Concert Series
Great for early birds and lovers of top pop stars! This year the August schedule is August 3-Kelsea Ballerini, August 10- The Chainsmokers, August 17- Leon Bridges, August 24- Luis Fonsi, and August 31- Alesso. To find out more about attending or possibly getting VIP tickets, see our post Good Morning America Summer Concert Series VIP Tickets. To see a taping of Good Morning America, see our post on how to attend a live TV show taping.
Many of the activities included in our top 10 section above can be enjoyed at night as well such as attending a concert, seeing Shakespeare in the Park or seeing a baseball game. Here are a few more ideas on how to spend a great night in New York City.
For even more ideas, see our post Things to Do in New York City at Night.
Take a Night Bus Tour
A night tour on an open-top double-decker bus is a wonderful way to see more of the city while giving your feet a break from all that walking! With so many tours out there, you may want to read our post comparing New York City bus tours as you might decide this is a good way to spend your night in New York. Many tourist passes include a Night Bus Tour, so you may want to look at our post comparing NYC Tourist Passes before buying tickets.
Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge (family-friendly)
The Brooklyn Bridge can be walked over 24 hours a day. We definitely do not recommend you taking a 4 am stroll. But for those who want some guidance to enjoy the Bridge when the sun goes down, join us for our combined 911 Memorial and Brooklyn Bridge Night Tour. It runs Tuesday, Fridays and Sundays at 7:30 pm from March through October.
You can also combine your walk over the Bridge with the Thursday night free movie screenings in Brooklyn Bridge Park, listed just below.
Free Outdoor Movie Screenings (family-friendly)
Practically every night of the summer months you can find a free, outdoor movie screening. Here are the best series:
- Movies with a View – Every Thursday, you can see a free movie in Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1’s. Movies start at sunset but arrive early as the open lawn fills up quickly.
- Bryant Park Movie Night — Go early if you want a spot on the lawn and watch some great films surrounded by the city’s shimmering lights.
- Movies Under the Stars — Many of the parks around NYC host nightly, outdoor screenings of famous films — all of which are free!
For even more choices see our New York City Summer Guide.
Free Outdoor Concerts
- Summerstage in Central Park Every year, the list of performers at this festival in Central Park draws famous and talented performers. Most performances are free.
- Celebrate Brooklyn! These free concerts are held in Prospect Park in Park Slope. The line-ups are quite impressive considering that they are free. Combine a free show with a stroll around this neighborhood you’ve seen in TV and movies. Our Park Slope and Prospect Park Self-Guided Tour can guide you to the prettiest parts of this charming part of NYC.
Stargaze with an Astronomer
Every Tuesday in August, head to the one-of-a-kind High Line Park to gaze at the stars, planets, and moon through high-powered telescopes. Experts are on hand to answer any questions. Arrive by dusk. There is no charge for this activity. Click here for more information. Learn more about the High Line, with our Guide to the High Line or our GPS audio tour.
In our Top Ten section above, we noted which activities are kid-friendly, such as seeing a baseball game, going to the Jazz Age Lawn Party, or taking a boat ride. Below are a few more free activities for the family in August.
Summer Fun at Coney Island
See our to Guide to Coney Island to find out just how much there is to do at this legendary New York seaside spot. You can go to Luna Park, one of the best amusement parks in the NYC area. Ride the Thunderbolt, a 115-foot-tall roller coaster that reaches up to 55 miles per hour. Don’t worry there are plenty of rides for those weak of heart and toddlers like water rides and the classic Steeplechase.
Afterward, walk along the Boardwalk to the New York Aquarium. Here you can see penguins, harbor seals, otters and more. See the spectacular show at the Sea Lion Celebration.
TIP: Luna Park is included with the NY Pass, while both Luna Park and the Aquarium are included in the Sightseeeing Pass. To see if a tourist pass is right for you, see our post reviewing the various New York City Attraction Passes.
Watch GHOSTBUSTERS on a battleship flight deck – Aug 10
Fun for the entire family, and free of charge, sit on the historic deck of the Intrepid battleship and watch the timeless Ghostbusters. Click here for more information. The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum is among one of the most popular attractions in New York and for good reason. It’s fascinating to both children and adults alike. To find out how to get discounts on tickets, click here.
For die-hard Ghostbusters fans, take a look at our Ghostbusters locations post to find out the locations of the Ghostbusters Apartment, the Firehouse, and several other sites.
Hudson River Flicks Fridays
August is indeed the month for free outside movie watching. If Ghostbusters isn’t up your alley, this free film series has a few more offerings. The movies are shown outdoors at Pier 46 in Greenwich Village. For information on thePier and the movie series, click here.
August 3 – Paddington 2
August 10 – Spice World
August 17 – Karate Kid (1984)
August 24 – Coco
While you are in the Village, take the time to stroll the gorgeous streets and historic sites using our guide, What to See and Do in Greenwich Village. We also have a GPS enabled audio tour you might enjoy.
NYC Children’s Festival August 18
As part of Harlem Week, families from all over the city are invited to a festival made especially just for kids! (Of course, accompanied by an adult). There will be games, arts & crafts, live music, dance, and a parade all in the vibrant Harlem neighborhood.
Written by Courtney Shapiro