This guide is all about things to do in New York in the summer.
We include a Top 10 list, loads of free things to do, concerts, festivals, special events, and family-friendly activities.
TOP 10 SUMMER ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS
This is a Top 10 list of things to do in New York City in the summer.
Keep in mind, that 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, 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 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 tours, cruises, 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 cruise.
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 at 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.
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 tours (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 of 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. Attend 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.
- Madison Square Garden
- Barclays Center (in Downtown Brooklyn)
- Prudential Center
- Beacon Theater
- Bowery Ballroom
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 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!
- Soccer - Red Bulls
- Tennis - U.S. Open. One of the four major Grand Slam tennis tournaments. Runs between late August - earlier September.
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 family-friendly activities.
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:
- Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tours
- Sightseeing Cruises
- Statue of Liberty
- Empire State Building
- Top of the Rock
- One World Trade Center Observatory
- National September 11th Memorial and Museum
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!
FREE THINGS TO DO IN SUMMER
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, Dance and Art Series
- Shakespeare in the Park - Top-notch productions of Shakespeare, held outdoors Thursday, June 8 through Sunday, August 6 in Central Park.
- Broadway in Bryant Park - Stars from Broadway shows put on brief performances in the park every Thursday at 12:30 pm.
- River to River Festival - Art installations, dance, poetry, and more for two weeks starting mid-June in various parks along the Hudson River.
- Lincoln Center’s Summer for the City - From June 14–August 12, 2023, see hundreds of music, movies, and art performances.
- Battery Dance Festival - This outdoor festival is from August 12-18, 2023, 7:00 – 9:00 pm at Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City.
- Hudson River Park Dance Festival - June 8 and 9 at 7 pm. On other nights of the week, you can join dance parties and classes in various venues.
Free NYC Outdoor Concert Series
- Backyard at Hudson Yards Every Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. from June 21- August 9, 2023, in the Public Square & Gardens.
- Bryant Park Picnic Performances Multiple nights each week, from June 1 to September 14, 2023, at 7 pm, see music, dance, and theater events.
- Celebrate Brooklyn! June 7-August 24, 2023, see bands playing pop, funk, alternative, country, jazz, and hip-hop in Prospect Park.
- Charlie Parker Jazz Festival August 25 to August 27, 2023, a gathering of veteran musicians and rising stars who celebrate jazz.
- Good Morning America in Central Park Every Friday at 7 am, from May to September, see star-studded performers in Rumsey Playfield in Central Park.
- Hudson River Park Music Series June to August, see jazz, blues, and other genres several nights a week in various venues.
- Metropolitan Opera Recital Series June 20-30, 2023, five opera concerts in each of New York's five boroughs.
- Metropolitan Opera Summer Festival Watch live performances occurring inside Lincoln Center, on a huge HD screen just outside.
- Naumburg Orchestral Concerts Five classical music concerts in the Naumberg Bandshell in Central Park.
- New York Philharmonic in the Park June 13-18, 2023, prestigious classical music performances at parks in each of the 5 boroughs.
- Summer on the Hudson: Amplified Sundays Every Sunday in July hear world music at Pier I in Riverside Park.
- SummerStage Famous concert series in Central Park from June through August. Expect fantastic music of all genres.
- TSQ Live in Times Square May 2-Sept 29, 2023, in Times Square includes music, DJ sets, comedy, dance, and more.
- Today Show Concert Series Short concerts early in the morning by top pop stars outside the show's taping studio at Rockefeller Center.
- Washington Square Music Festival - Tuesdays in June; classical chamber music in Washington Square Park.
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 occurring 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 Monday evenings from June 12 through August 14, 2023. Movies start at 8 pm.
This is an especially popular event, so go early to grab a spot on the lawn! Bring a picnic basket too!
Listed in order by the night of the week
- Bryant Park Movie Night June 12 through August 14, 2023. Classics and current films in Midtown Manhattan.
- Outdoor Cinema in Socrates Park July-August. International movies in this beautiful park in Queens.
- Hudson RiverFlicks Wednesdays July-August. Iconic New York movies at Pier 63 in Chelsea.
- Summer on the Hudson: Pier I July - August. Family-friendly films in Riverside Park.
- Movies with a View - July - August, 2023 in Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 1 in DUMBO.
- 50th Mixtape -Dates not announced for 2023, but usually June-September. Arthouse double features at Lincoln Center.
- Hudson RiverFlicks Fridays for Kids - Fridays; July-August at Pier 46 in Greenwich Village.
- Movies at the Intrepid Flight Deck June 30, Pirates of the Caribbean, July 28 Crimson Tide, August 25. Top Gun Maverick on the Intrepid Aircraft Carrier.
Multiple nights of the week:
- Movies Under the Stars - May 19 to July 5, 2023, outdoor movie screenings at parks all over the city!
- Central Park Film Festival - last week of August on the lawn near the Sheep Meadow in Central Park.
- Films on the Green - June-September. French films are shown in various parks throughout the city.
- Coney Island Flicks - Dates to be annouced. July-August. Four free screenings at Coney Island for kids. Spend the day at Coney Island first!
Free Summer 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
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 Coney Island tour to have a 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. We
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 NYC's observatory decks to see which is the best for you.
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 Square, Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village, and the East Village.
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.
Read our post on Governors Island for information on open hours, how to get there, and what activities are offered.
They have a full program of free exhibits and some paid events like the 1920s Jazz Lawn Party. You can ride rental bikes, go kayaking for free and have a picnic.
Be sure to explore The Hills with incredible views of the Statue of Liberty.
In the warmer months, the Amateur Astronomers Association brings high-powered telescopes to various parks and invites 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.
THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS
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 the 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.
As 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!
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 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 than stand in a crowded subway car!
Our post on 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
Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO, Brooklyn, has summer-only activities for families including free kayaking, multiple playgrounds, and a pop-up pool.
Not to be missed is Jane's Carousel with its amazing colorful horses and a skyline view of Lower Manhattan.
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 StoryTime.
Our post on things to do with kids in NYC has a list of more playgrounds as well as other family-friendly activities.
SUMMER FESTIVALS, PARADES & SPECIAL EVENTS IN NYC
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
- Independence Day & Macy's 4th of July Fireworks
- Bastille Day
- Go Africa Carnival in Harlem
- City of Water Day
- Harlem Meer Performance Festival
- Restaurant Week
- Harlem Week Festival
- Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival
- Summer Streets
- Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit
- New York City Unicycle Festival
- Atlantic Antic in Brooklyn Heights
- San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy
- West Indian-American Day Parade
PACKING GUIDE FOR SUMMER IN NEW YORK CITY
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.
- NYC Weather in May
- NYC Weather in June
- NYC Weather in July
- NYC Weather in August
- NYC Weather in September
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 midweight 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!
THINGS TO DO IN THE SUMMER MONTHS
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 do at night.