Shakespeare in the Park Tickets

NOTE: The Shakespeare in the Park series has been canceled for 2020, but check back next year for details.

This post is about the 5 ways you can get a FREE ticket to see a Shakespeare play in Central Park, including practical information like directions to the theater and how to prepare for this most memorable evening! 




Shakespeare in The Park

For over 50 years, every summer, on several nights a week, Shakespeare plays are performed for the public for free at the charming Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

The 2020 season features Richard II (May 19 – June 21, 2020) followed by a musical adaptation of As You Like It (July 14 – August 8, 2020). Click on the show you want to see to find out which specific nights it is playing.

Tickets are given out by a lottery system for THAT NIGHT’s performance, so it’s best to be flexible if you want to see a performance. 

The 5 ways to get Shakespeare in the Park tickets are:

1.  Enter the digital lottery via their app on your smartphone or laptop.

2.  Wait on the line at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

3.  Enter the in-person lottery at the Public Theater in the East Village.

4.  On specific days, wait on line at a location in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens or Staten Island.

5.  Stand-by at the Delacorte Theater just before showtime.

Below is in-depth information about each of these 5 methods. 

If you do get tickets, be sure to check our Good To Know section with some of the rules of attending the play.


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1) Lottery Via Mobile Device App 

As a traveler on the move, the app lottery can be a great time saver. You will need a mobile device and either wi-fi access or enough data to use your device.

On each public performance date, a limited number of tickets for that night’s performance will be distributed via mobile lottery through TodayTix (affiliate disclosure).

TodayTix is also a great resource for discounted Broadway show tickets.

You can enter the lottery between 12:00 am (midnight) and 12:00 pm (noon) on the day of each public performance. Each winner will get two (2) tickets to that night’s performance.

Step 1:  Download the TodayTix app in the App Store or Google Play Store.  

Step 2: Open the app and scroll down to find “Free Shakespeare in the Park”. Enter the lottery for two free tickets.

Make sure your name and e-mail address are correct and that TodayTix push notifications are turned on, so you can receive confirmation of lottery status. 

On the confirmation screen, you may double or triple your odds by sharing your entry via Facebook and Twitter.

Step 3:  To find out if you won, wait for notification between 12 pm and 2:15 pm on the day of the show. 

You must confirm your winning tickets in the TodayTix app within 45 minutes of being notified.

Step 4: Pick up your tickets starting at 5:00 pm at the Delacorte Theater Box Office. Tickets not claimed by 7:30 pm will be forfeited.


2) Wait in Line at the Delacorte Theater 

It’s a Shakespeare in the Park lineNew Yorker rite of passage to have waited online for Shakespeare in the Park tickets at least once in their lives. 

Though you will be waiting for several hours, it can actually be a fun experience! 

Here is how it works:

  • The line officially begins at 6:00 am when the park opens. Do not try to enter Central Park before this time- the area is patrolled.
  • The theater begins disbursing tickets at 12:00 pm (noon) for that night’s performance only.
  • Each person in line can get 2 tickets.  They are for that night only-there are no exchanges for other days.
  • Children under 5 do not need a ticket.  They can sit on parents’ laps.
  • The line for tickets starts at 81st Street and Central Park West (red arrow on map).  The closest subways are the B or C subway to 81st Street. (For advice on using the subway and buses, see our post on how to get around New York).
  • Click on this Google Map link providing directions to Delacorte Theatre and ticket line from anywhere in New York City.


Where to Get Free Tickets to Shakespeare in the Park


Advice and survival tips for the waiting on the ticket line

  • Some people get in line as early as 6 am, but you can usually get tickets by arriving at 8 or 9 am.  If a major celebrity is in the show, get in line even earlier.
  • Try for tickets during the first week of the performances. There will be less demand for seats as people wait for reviews to come out before committing to waiting on line.
  • Be willing to attend a show on a rainy day. Many people won’t bother to come out to get tickets increasing your chances.
  • Bring a blanket to sit on. There are benches in some spots in line, but you may not be near one.
  • The wait can be long (6 hours if you get in line first).  Bring snacks, drinks, and something to do while you sit there.
  • You are not supposed to get out of the line or take turns waiting with others in your group. Bathroom breaks are ok. Make friends with the people in line next to you and ask them to hold your spot!
  • Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Watch this video to see what the line is like! 



3) In-Person Lottery at the Public Theater 

Go to the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street at Astor Place and gabout_public_photoet a voucher at 11:30 am on the day of a performance.

Names are drawn from the voucher pool at 12:00 pm so you know within a half-hour if you’ve gotten a ticket.

Click here to find out more about the in-person lottery. There are a very limited number of tickets given out this way.

Each person can submit two vouchers, and each voucher is good for one ticket. 

Those selected must redeem the voucher for a ticket between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm at the Delacorte Theater Box Office under the name and address used for registration.

If you do not pick up your tickets by  7:00 pm, they will be released to the stand-by line.


4) Ticket Distribution in the Outer Boroughs 

On specific dates (check their website), a limited number of vouchers for that night’s performance are distributed at a designated location in one of New York’s five boroughs.

For example, one day will be designated as a Brooklyn location ticket voucher distribution site. 

There is still the regular line by Central Park, but the location in Brooklyn will have some tickets.

Ticket vouchers will be distributed between 12:00 pm noon and 2:00 pm until they run out.

The lines for these outer-borough distributions can be long, but not nearly as long as in Central Park. 

If you decide to choose Brooklyn, see our post about things to do in Brooklyn.


5) Standby Tickets

New York theatre shakespeare in the park

As a last resort, try the standby line which starts to form at 6 pm at the Delacorte Box Office.

If there are any unclaimed tickets, they are distributed just before 8 pm.

There is a limit of 1 standby ticket per person.

If you do get tickets, be sure to check our Good To Know section with some of the rules of attending the play.

If you don’t succeed, why not take a walk around the park? There are so many night activities in NYC, you’ve got a lot to choose from.  

See our post about things to do in NYC at night for lots of ideas. Also, see below for more summer fun.


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Getting there: The closest subways are the B or C subway to 81st Street. (For advice on using the subway and buses, see our post on how to get around New York).

Click on this Google Map link providing directions to Delacorte Theater from anywhere in the city. 

Food and drink:  You can bring food and drinks into the theater with you, as long as nothing is in a glass container.

Bathrooms:  There are decent bathrooms available at the Delacorte Theater.

In case of bad weather: Performances are never canceled for weather before 8 pm when the show starts. If the weather is bad at showtime, there will be a delay.

If the bad weather continues past 8 pm, they may cancel the performance. Note: If a performance is canceled due to weather you do not receive a ticket for another day.  

Make sure you check the forecast before you go wait in line! Click on the links to get weather information for JuneJuly, and August.

No large bags/backpacks allowed: Anything you bring with you must fit under your seat, which is fairly small.

If you have large backpacks, shopping bags or anything other than a small purse or very small backpack, you can store it for a few hours at very cheap rates.

See our post on where to store luggage in NYC.


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If you don’t get tickets, don’t worry. Summertime in NYC offers you hundreds of events to choose from! 

Our New York City summer guide is a great place to start. Then take a look at our posts for things to do in MayJuneJuly, and August.

These posts include a top ten list, night activities, family-friendly events and lots of things to do for free!

We also have a master post on things to do in NYC for any time of the year and the definitive post on NYC tourist attractions.

For other ways to save money, consider getting a tourist pass. Our post comparing NYC tourist discount cards can help you decide.


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About the author

Born and raised just across the Hudson River in NJ, Stephen became a licensed NYC tour guide in 2010 and has led and organized thousands of tours since then.

He has researched and written dozens of articles with insider NYC tips, and created a podcast, titled "NYC Travel Tips & Hacks".