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New York City Summer Guide

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This guide is all about things to do in New York in the summer, updated for 2021. We include a Top 10 list, loads of free things to do, concerts, festivals, special events, and family-friendly activities.



TOP 10 

This is a Top 10 list of things to do in New York City in the summer.  Keep in mind, there are hundreds of things to do in NYC in the summer months. It is not easy to choose just 10 things to do for this list!

Be sure to read through this entire post for all the other super fun things you can do during your summer visit. 

For those on a budget, you'll appreciate the countless free activities from outdoor festivals, concerts, and movies, theater, sports and more.

However, some of the best things to do in summer in NYC charge a fee, so we recommend that you consider looking into buying a tourist discount pass.

These passes include free entry to popular attractions and activities that are perfect for a summer trip.

There are several different types of passes, so be sure to read our comparison post to learn about how you can save the most money on your trip.

Also check out our posts on pay-what-you-like walking tours,  bus tourscruises, and top NYC attractions.

1. Take a Sightseeing tour

Summer is ideal for taking a sightseeing tour, be it a walking tour,  bus tour, or sightseeing cruises.

We offer approximately 40 different walking tours that operate on a pay-what-you-like basis. You can join our tours for free and at the end of the tour, you decide what the tour was worth or what you can afford (even free).

Check out our homepage or look at our schedule to see what we have available when you are here. 



 We also offer food tours, bike tours, and special theme tours. 

If you like to move at your own pace, our downloadable PDFs of self-guided tours are free and can be used any time.

For under $2, you can take one of our GPS-led audio tours any time day or night.

2. See New York at Night

Evening temperatures are comfortable to explore NYC at night. We have special evening tours that only run in the summer, like our Sunset on the High Line as well as our 911 Memorial and Brooklyn Bridge Night Tour.


911 Memorial


Check our full list of pay-what-you-wish guided night tours to see what's on.

Our free self-guided downloadable tours, as well as our GPS-enabled audio tours, can be used any time of day or night! 

3. Get out on the Water

There are many reasons to take a boat ride or cruise in the summer. It's a nice way to stay cool and see some amazing skylines of NYC. 

Boat rides are fun for kids as well. You can learn more in our family-friendly section below.



There are also lots of night cruises and party boats where you can dance on the outer decks with the sparkling skyline as a backdrop.

To find out about the many options available see our post Which New York Boat Tour or Cruise is Best?  

If you are on a budget, there are several free boat rides, including the Staten Island Ferry. Check our post on other free New York boat rides.

4. Stroll through Central Park 

This pastoral landscape is simply gorgeous in the summer. Whether you lie out in the sun on the Sheep Meadow or find a shady tree to sit under, Central Park will not disappoint.



We offer a few different pay-what-you-wish Central Park walking tours and Central Park bike tour (bike rental costs extra).

If you want to explore at your own pace, try our GPS-led audio tour or our self-guided tour of Central Park.

5. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge Day or Night

Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge should be on your list of "must-do" activities in NYC. Summer is a fine time to cross it!

During the day it can get a bit hot on the bridge, so consider joining our  911 Memorial and Brooklyn Bridge Night Tour for a cooler, and more informative walk.



We also have a GPS-led audio tour for the Brooklyn Bridge to guide you on your walk.

Use our guide to walking the Brooklyn Bridge, to make your walk unforgettable. 

Our guide to things to do in Brooklyn will come in handy once on the other side of the bridge.

6. See a Concert

In summer, you will have no problem finding live music of a genre that you like at a price point you like - including free! 

The most popular free concert series is Summerstage in Central Park. For more free concerts, see our free things to do section below.



Click here to see who is playing when you are in NYC. Also, check these major venues to see their performance schedules.

To see who is playing during a particular month, see our posts of things to do by month.

7. Head to the Beach

Most people don't think of the beach when they think of New York City, but there are some nice beaches if you want to enjoy the cool breezes and waves.



There are a few beaches we recommend, so read our post on New  York Beaches. They are all easily reached by subway, ferry and a shuttle bus from Williamsburg! 

We recommend Coney Island because you can spend some time on the sand during the day followed by a have a fun evening at Luna Park, a concert, or even minor league baseball.

TIP: If traveling by subway, you might want to look at our post on how to navigate the NYC subway system.

8. Attend a Sporting Event

Summer and sports go hand in hand. You are in luck if you love baseball, tennis, and soccer!



For a different perspective on this all-American sport, consider taking a tour of Yankee Stadium! These tours are popular and get great reviews. 

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

9. Take a Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour

Bus tours are an excellent choice for the summer in NYC. On hot and humid days, you can enjoy your tour in the air-conditioning inside.

On a comfortable night, you can sit on the top level of these open-air double-decker buses. They are also a family-friendly activity.

 Our post on the Best Hop-On, Hop-Off NYC Bus Tours can help you decide which is best for you.


10. Look into Getting a Tourist Pass

Visitors who are working with a budget should think about getting a New York City tourist pass.

Tourist Passes can save you quite a lot of money to visit the most popular attractions in the city.



Lots of the best things to do in summer in NYC are included in these passes, like these attractions: 

If you plan to visit even a few of these attractions, you could easily end up saving a lot of money over general admission prices.

There are several different types of passes, so be sure to read our comparison post to learn about how you can save the most money on your trip.

TIP: Our Guide to NYC on a Budget may come in handy! 


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There are just so many things to do for free in NYC in the summer, we have listed the highlights -- which is still quite a long list!

For hundreds of other free things to do, including in the summertime, check out our post on free things to do in NYC.

Also, see our post on free museums and other attractions


Theater, Musicals, Performance and Art Series

  • Shakespeare in the Park - Top-notch productions of Shakespeare, held outdoors in Central Park. A New York tradition for 40+ years!
  • Broadway in Bryant Park -  Stars from Broadway shows put on brief performances in the park every Thursday at 12:30 pm.
  • Out of Doors - at Lincoln Center
  • River to River Festival - Art installations, dance, poetry, and more throughout the summer, in various parks along the Hudson.

Free Concert Series

For even more, check out these two comprehensive lists of concerts: Thrillist list of summer concerts and NYC free concerts throughout the summer.

TIP: Don't forget that NYC has some of the best subway musicians, buskers, and performers. Our post about New York City Street Performers and Subway Music will lead you right to them!


Free Outdoor Movie Screenings

Free, fun and happening almost every night of the summer! Beneath the video is a list of over a dozen outdoor movie screenings.

The most well-known is Bryant Park Movie Night on Mondays from mid-June to mid-August.  This is an especially popular event, so go early to grab a spot on the lawn! Bring a picnic basket too!



Listed by night of the week:

Various nights of the week:


Free Activities  

Here are some of NYC summer's best things you can do without spending a dime!

Take a Free Ferry Ride on the Staten Island Ferry

Whether you ride it during the day or at night, you will get spectacular views of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Use our guide to riding the Staten Island Ferry  to have a smooth journey


Go to Coney Island

Once called America's Playground, this historic neighborhood by the seaside is back in fashion and lots of fun!

Not only is there the sandy beach, ocean and famous boardwalk, but there is also Luna Park, an amusement park that has become a popular NYC destination in the summer.

You can also visit the renovated New York Aquarium. There are plenty of places to eat, including the original Nathan's - known for their famous New York hot dogs and crinkle-cut fries.

Read our post and self-guided tour of Coney Island to have a super fantastic time.

Check out street art!

Some of the best murals, street art, and sticker art can be found in Bushwick in Brooklyn. The Bushwick Collective Street Art Gallery is a great destination.

You can use our guide to Bushwick Brooklyn Walking Tour to explore the area.

Enjoy Stunning Skyline Views

Nothing beats looking at the shimmering skyline on a summer night in NYC. Here are the best places where you can get a free skyline view.

If you can spend a bit of money, you should consider going to one of the three observatory decks where you get views for miles and miles.

Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building both have outdoor decks which are lovely on a summer day or night.

See our post comparing the three observatory decks to see which is the best for you.

Visit Governors Island 

Governors Island, a small recreational island is just 7 minutes by ferry from Lower Manhattan. Governors Island is particularly nice in the summertime.

They have a full program of free exhibits and some paid events like the 1920s Jazz Lawn Party. You can rent bikes, kayak for free, picnic, or explore The Hills with incredible views of the Statue of Liberty.

Read our post on Governors Island for information on open hours, how to get there and what activities are offered. 

People Watch

Summer is prime time in NYC to park yourself on a bench or at a cafe table and watch people coming and going.

The best spots are Times SquareWashington Square Park, Greenwich Village, and the East Village.

Go Stargazing

In the warmer months, the Amateur Astronomers Association bring high-powered telescopes to various parks and invite the public to get a free, close up look at the stars, planets, and moon.

Experts are there to answer questions. Locations include Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO, Lincoln Center and the High Line.

Take a look at our master post on free things to do in NYC for more ideas.


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Kids will love NYC in the summer! You can keep them entertained with boat or bike rides, playgrounds, and visiting attractions that are kid-friendly. 

Keep in mind that many activities listed throughout this post are family-friendly, especially sports events, festivals, and outdoor movies. So make sure to look through the whole post for additional ideas.

Below is just a fraction of things to do in the summer with children in the city.

Also for more inspiration, look at our comprehensive guide to things to do with kids in NYC


Take a Thrilling Boat Ride!

If you are traveling with tweens or teens, they will probably enjoy a ride on one of the three popular speedboats, The Shark, The Beast, and The Sea Wolf. 

If you were planning on getting tourist passes for the family, the good news is that The Shark and The Beast are included in several tourist passes.

An alternative to a paid boat tour, you can take the Staten Island Ferry which is free, passes by the Statue of Liberty and runs 24 hours a day! 

Also, the East River Ferry is the same price as a subway and an affordable way to spend some time on the water catching. a breeze and great views 

Roam Free in Central Park

Central Park is filled with numerous activities created just for kids -- and most are free! 

In our post, you can find a list of kid-specific locations in the park and head right to the,

For a list of activities for the whole family, see our post on things to do in Central Park.  

Your kids might enjoy taking our family-friendly pay-what-you-wish Central Park bike tour (bike rental costs extra).

Take a Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour

In the summer when temperatures can be high, bus tours are a great way for everyone to cool off while still seeing the city.

Since Hop-on, hop-off bus tours stop at the popular attraction locations, you can use the bus to move from destination to destination and it is a lot more interesting for your child to look out a bus window then stand in a crowded subway car!  

Our post one the best Hop-On, Hop-Off NYC bus tours can help you decide which is best for you and your child. 

Go Wild in a Playground

We've already mentioned Governors Island above and it is ideally suited for kids and adults alike. Here are a few more great places for kids to play.

Washington Square Park - There are a few different playgrounds in the festive park. The large fountain is on and they can splash too!

Bryant Park - Their summer programs include activities just for kids like puppet shows and a kids’ reading room with a StoryTime.

Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO, Brooklyn has summer-only activities for families including free kayaking, multiple playgrounds, and a pop-up pool. 

Our post on things to do with kids in NYC has a list of more playgrounds as well as other family-friendly activities.


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One of the best things to do in NYC in the summer is to attend one of the dozens of free festivals you can find throughout the city. 

There are food festivals, music festivals, art festivals, festivals for kids, and more. There are some notable parades as well.

Here are the best free parades, festivals and special events listed by month.

For more information, just click on the link of the month.


  • Fleet Week 
  • Ethnic Festival in Harlem  
  • Lower East Side Festival of the Arts
  • Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit 
  • Dance Parade
  • Memorial Day Weekend
  • 9th Avenue Food Festival


  • Egg Rolls, Egg Creams, and Empanadas Festival
  • Make Music New York
  • Figment on Randall's Park 
  • Museum Mile
  • Gay Pride Parade
  • Mermaid Parade
  • Annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade
  • Bushwick Block Party



  • Harlem Week Festival 
  • Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
  • Summer Streets
  • Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit 
  • New York City Unicycle Festival



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NYC summers range from pleasant sunny days to downright hot and humid ones. As long as you know what to expect, you can pack appropriately.

Take some time to read our weather guides for the month you will be visiting New York.

Some general guidelines are to pack items you can layer, from tank tops, t-shirts, long sleeve blouses or shirts and one piece of outerwear.

For May and September, a mid-weight jacket is appropriate. For peak summer months, like July and August, a lightweight top layer will likely be enough.

You may want to consider a waterproof slicker as there can be afternoon showers occasionally.

Absolutely pack a swimsuit! NYC beaches are great! Bring a hat for shade during the day, sunglasses and sunscreen.

Last but not least, bring comfortable shoes! NYC is a walkable city. Bring some sandals and a pair of sneakers or other comfortable shoes.

Fortunately, you can get everything you will need right here in NYC! And at very good prices!


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Our monthly posts are updated to include the best things to do during the warmer months and include a top 10 list, free things to do, kid-friendly activities and what to at night.


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About The Author


Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.
Updated: October 3rd, 2021
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