Five fun ways to spend summer days/nights without spending money.
By Shoshana Greenberg (lyricist/bookwriter)
I've never understood why people flee NYC in the summer. The city is like a playland. This is my 10th summer living in NYC, and over the years I've accumulated a list of must-do free activities that aren't crazy crowded:
1. River Flicks: Movies on the Pier
Many parks have movie nights in the summer, but the pier has always been my favorite summer movie destination. The movies on the pier at Hudson River Park fill up, but get there just an hour or two before showtime and you can have a prime seat. The line-ups include a Wednesday night series for grown ups and a Friday night series for families. Oh, and there's free popcorn for those that enjoy that sort of thing. I'd call settling in to watch a movie as the sun sets over the Hudson a perfect NYC evening.
2. Summer Streets
There's nothing like the feeling of owning Park Avenue as I speed down the MetLife building ramps on my bike. Only a few years old, Summer Streets has quickly become a summer tradition. On the first three Saturdays in August, Park Avenue and connecting streets close from 72nd to the Brooklyn Bridge, so runners, walkers, and bikers can take to the streets. Along the way are free bike helmets, exercise stations, and a Whole Foods snack area where all the snacks are free. One year they even had dumpster pools.
3. Kayaking on the Hudson
I love that NYC summers aren't just on land and that all I have to do to kayak on the Hudson is show up on the weekend, don a life jacket, and hop into a boat, free of charge. And then I'm out on the open water. You can't kayak to New Jersey, but the designated area is rather large, and while they say to come back in 20 minutes, you can stay out longer if there's no wait. 20 minutes, though, feels longer than it sounds, especially if you need to work out those arms.
4. Shakespeare in the Park(ing lot)
I've attended and/or waited in line for Shakespeare in the Park all 10 of my summers here. The only summer I didn't get in was the first (the 2003 production of Henry V) because I didn't realize just how early one had to get in line. I did win a poster in a trivia contest, though, which offered some consolation. It's a beautiful NYC summer tradition, and it continues with Into the Woods later this month (I'll have to wake up really early for that one). But Shakespeare in the Park isn't the only free outdoor theater. There's Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot and, starting this week, a production of Xanadu outside the Old Stone House in Brooklyn, among others.
5. Concerts at the Bandshell
I've given up going to the Philharmonic concerts in Central Park because of the unbearable crowds, but just a little ways south, the Naumburg Bandshell offers concerts on select Tuesday evenings throughout the summer, a tradition dating back to 1905! For classical music lovers, these twilight seranades provide a lovely respite from the NYC bustle. There are only three dates left, so make sure they're on your calendar.