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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.
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) Take a Walking Tour
August is an excellent month to take a walking tour pretty much anywhere in New York City. That being said, if you want to avoid being out in the sun during the middle of the day, we recommend planning to take either a morning or night tour.
We offer pay-what-you-wish walking tours in several neighborhoods throughout the city. Whether you want to see the Brooklyn Bridge, Lower Manhattan, Greenwich Village or Central Park, chances are we provide a tour of the area.
Some of our services are offered daily, but others are only available once a week or less. Please keep this in mind and make your reservations early to avoid missing out.
For more ideas, check our schedule of pay-what-you-wish walking tours.
(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) Attend 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).
If you didn’t already know, Madison Square Garden offers an All Access Tour where you can see behind the scenes.
(5) See a Sports Event! (family-friendly)
Three thrilling sports to choose from this month. We’ve got good old baseball, two of Europe’s best soccer teams, and pre-season American football.
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.
Football (Games played at MetLife Stadium. For instructions on how to get there, click here.)
(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 (kid-friendly)
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. See below for our recommendations of kid-friendly restaurants.
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!
Get Free Tickets with A Tourist Discount Pass
Admittedly, these passes have a cost. However, if you plan well, you will essentially get several tickets to attractions or tours each day for free. Tourist discount passes work by bundling multiple tickets into one price, usually between 20%-50% the retail price.
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.
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 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.
Enjoy Free Admission to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
On August 16, you can visit this highly interactive and engaging museum for free between 5 pm and 9 pm. This museum is housed on an aircraft carrier whose exhibits include a Concorde, submarine & space shuttle and much more. This is a fun way to spend an evening in NYC. This is also a kid-friendly activity. Get details here.
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:
For even more choices see our New York City Summer Guide.
Free Outdoor Concerts
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.
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.
Restaurant Week With the Kids
Although many of the restaurants that will offer discounts during this week typically cater to a more adult audience, there will undoubtedly be a few with menu options for the kids. Our kid-friendly recommendations for 2018 are:
Massoni How do meatballs with garlic knots sound? Follow it up with supremely-made pizzas or classic pasta and you will have a happy family. Room for dessert? Order the cannoli or assorted ice creams. Masoni is located walking distance from the Empire State Building, so why not schedule your lunch on the same day to get an incredible view of New York City!
Sarabeth’s West With its homestyle cooking and family-friendly service, Sarabeth’s is a great place to bring the kids. It is located on the Upper West Side and is within walking distance of the American Museum of Natural History and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.
Tavern on the Green This iconic New York restaurant located in Central Park has an uncomplicated but tasty menu that should satisfy palettes of all ages. And you cannot beat the setting!
TIP: Both Sarabeth’s and Tavern on the Green are right near Central Park. Walk off your meal with one of our pay-what-you-like walking tours of Central Park. Or explore the park with our self-guided tour and GPS-Audio Tour!
For more information and to see how to make reservations, see our Restaurant Week post for more information.
Written by Courtney Shapiro