This post is about how to get a FREE ticket to see a Shakespeare play in Central Park, updated for 2021.
We include practical information like directions to this outdoor amphitheater and how to prepare for this most memorable evening!
Let's dive in!
- How to Get a Free Ticket
- Other NYC Summer Fun
- Things to Do in Central Park
- Other Things to Do in NYC
- Free Tours by Foot
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 2021 season features Merry Wives, an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor from July 6 through September 18, 2021.
Most years, there were 5 ways to get free Shakespeare in the Park tickets.
For 2021, the process has been adjusted for health circumstances. You can still try for free tickets, and below we outline how to do so.
To attend a performance you must be able to prove that you have been vaccinated or that you have tested negative within a certain time frame prior to the show.
We recommend before entering the lottery that you read the Safe in the Park notice.
In 2021, the only way to get free tickets is to enter a digital lottery in advance of a performance.
You are eligible to enter the lottery for either one (1) or two (2) tickets.
How the Lottery Works
Free tickets will be distributed a week in advance of a performance, as follows:
- Each Tuesday, from 12:01 AM to 12:00 PM, you can enter the lottery to get tickets for the following week's Monday to Wednesday performances.
- Each Friday, from 12:01 AM to 12:00 PM, you can enter the lottery to get tickets for the following week's Thursday to Saturday performances.
For example, on Tuesday, June 29, you can enter the lottery for performances on Tuesday, July 6 and Wednesday, July 7.
Then on Friday, July 2, you can enter the lottery for performances on July 8, 9 and 10.
This process will continue throughout the season, so that each Tuesday you may enter the lottery for the following week's Monday to Wednesday performances and each Friday for the following week's Thursday to Saturday performances.
If this seems a bit confusing, use this Entry Calendar to know when to enter the lottery for which performance.
How to Enter the Lottery
You will better your chances of getting tickets if you follow these steps.
Then, on the day of each lottery (either a Tuesday or a Friday), go to the Goldstar app or website anytime between 12:01 AM and 12:00 PM.
Enter your name and email for any or all of the available performance dates included in that day’s lottery. Be careful to input your information correctly. You don't want to miss out because of a typo!
Entries are chosen at 12:00 PM. You'll be notified if you've won tickets on the same day of the lottery.
Once you have been notified you have won tickets, you have 60 minutes from notification to claim your tickets.
At that time you will be asked to agree to The Public Theater’s Health and Safety Plan.
If you win tickets
1) Your tickets will be delivered digitally to smart mobile devices, such as a smartphone or iPad (with data and/or wifi access)
Only digital tickets are accepted for entry. Printed tickets or other paper ticket options are not accepted.
2) In advance of your performance date, read the Safe in the Park notice, as there are a number of guidelines you must follow to be allowed to attend the performance.
3) Check our Good To Know section below with tips on attending the performance.
Getting there: The closest subways are the A/B/C subways to 81st Street or 72nd Street along Central Park West.
Click on this Google Map link providing directions to Delacorte Theater from anywhere in the city.
For advice on using the subway and buses, see our post on how to get around New York.
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.
No large bags/backpacks allowed: 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.
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.
TIP: Why not set aside some time before the performance to explore Central Park?
After the performance, if you are still looking for other night activities, see our post about things to do in NYC at night for lots of ideas.
Also, see below for more summer fun.
If you don't get tickets, don't worry. Summertime in NYC offers you hundreds of events to choose from!
These posts include a top ten list, night activities, family-friendly events, and lots of things to do for free!
For other ways to save money, consider getting a tourist pass. Our post comparing NYC tourist discount cards can help you decide.