The Best Free Concerts in Central Park at SummerStage

This post is about SummerStage, a series of free concerts held in Central Park every summer, and is updated for 2021.

We include information about how to attend a show, a list of who is performing, and other free music options throughout NYC.

 


SUMMERSTAGE

Every summer since 1986, a series of free concerts called SummerStage has been held in Central Park

Though most of the shows are in Central Park, there are also concerts scheduled in over 15 additional parks throughout the 5 boroughs.

The SummerStage line-up is diverse and includes everything from afro-punk, Latin jazz, soul, hip-hop, avant-garde, and good old rock and roll.

They also have stand-up comedy, dance performances, and sometimes Broadway musical performances. 

A few shows require paid tickets, but those are benefit shows to raise money to keep the rest of the concerts free.

If you are heading to a show, why not make time beforehand to explore Central Park? 

Consider joining us on one of our pay-what-you-wish toursWe also have a GPS-led Audio Tour of Central Park which you can take any time. 

Central Park Walking Tour Video


Where is SummerStage?

The stage is located in Central Park at Rumsey Playfield near 5th Avenue and 72nd Street.

Where is Summerstage NYC


How To Get There

The easiest way to get there is to take the subway.  Take the 6 train to “68th St-Hunter College” station and enter the park at Fifth Ave and 72nd St.  

You can use this Google Maps link to get exact directions from your point of departure to Summerstage. 

To learn more about using the subway check our guides


Are Tickets Needed?

No tickets are necessary if it is a free show. Admission is given on a first-come, first-served basis, so entry is not guaranteed.

Benefit shows require a ticket. These shows cost around $50-65.

Some extra spectacular with multiple top performers, shows may cost $100 and up.


When Should I Arrive?  

  • Free weekends shows – gates open 90 minutes prior to the show-time
  • Free weekday shows – gates open 60 minutes prior to show-time
  • Benefit concert times vary

Food and Beverages

  • At the free shows, food and non-alcoholic beverages are permitted
  • However, glass bottles, coolers, and alcohol are not permitted
  • You can purchase food and drink at the concert 

Items Not Allowed in Concerts

Summerstage

Your bags will be searched on entry. You cannot bring:

  • alcoholic beverages
  • any kind of glass bottle
  • ice coolers
  • pets
  • bicycles
  • video cameras
  • recording devices
  • flash cameras

TIP: If you have large bags, a bicycle, luggage, or anything else you cant bring into the concert, you can find inexpensive hourly storage in the area.

See our post about where to store luggage and more in NYC.

 


LINE-UP OF PERFORMERS IN 2021

The 2021 line-up is awesome! Opening night is June 17th and features Wynton Marsalis, jazz genius!

All shows are free unless ticket prices are listed.

Not only are there shows in Central Park, but also in Harlem at Marcus Garvey Park and at Coney Island in Brooklyn!

Many of these performers have played SummerStage year after year since its inception. Our recommendations are in italics.

Shows in Central Park

  • June 17: Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis
  • June 20: Chris Botti. (Two shows at 3PM and 8PM). Advanced tickets $75 – $125
  • June 24: Film Screening of “Monsoon Wedding”
  • June 27: George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. (Two shows at 2:30PM and 7:30PM). Advanced tickets $75 – $125
  • July 11: Galactic featuring Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph. (Two shows at 2:30PM and 7:30PM). Advanced tickets $45 – $85
  • July 24: Sun Ra Arkestra and Sistazz of the Nitty Gritty
  • July 25: Dance IS! featuring Parsons Dance, A.I.M., and more
  • July 31: The Originals
  • August 1: Tito Nieves
  • August 8: Met Opera Summer Recital
  • August 14: Marc Rebillet, DJ Premier and Brady Watt
  • August 15: Armand Hammer & The Alchemist 
  • August 21: Antibalas
  • August 24: Lake Street Dive. Advanced tickets $50-$55
  • September 4: Dom Salvador Sextet September 11: Erica Campbell
  • September 13: Machine Gun Kelly (sold-out)
  • September 17: Dawes. Advanced tickets $45
  • September 19: Patti Smith and her band
  • September 21: Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco Advanced tickets $45

Shows in Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem

  • June 19: Summer of Soul screening with Questlove and Friends 
  • August 28: Charlie Parker with Strings: The Donald Harrison Quartet and the Harlem Symphony Orchestra 
  • August 29: Willie Jones III – A Charlie Parker Centennial Celebration 

Our Guide to Harlem might come in handy if you attend one of these shows.

Shows in Coney Island, Brooklyn

  • July 17: Gloria Gaynor 
  • July 18: La India
  • August 7: Funk Flex Birthday Party with Ginuwine
  • August 29: Invincible: A Glorious Tribute to Mike Jackson 

Check out our Self-Guided Tour of Coney Island. It’s worth a visit even if you don’t go to see a show.

 

See the SummerStage website for exact times and other details.

If you can’t make the live shows, many of the 2021 SummerStage shows will be live-streamed via SummerStage Anywhere.

 


MORE FREE MUSIC 

Look at our guide to Summer in NYC and our monthly posts:

Also, see our post on hundreds of free things to do in New York.

Don’t forget that NYC Street & Subway Performers are always free! 


Related Posts:

 

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”.