Free in NYC


by Niko Gelfars, 07/27/2011

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There's always something exciting to do and see around the five boroughs that doesn't cost a dime. See our weekly picks below, and visit our calendar and special offers section for more free events.

July 27–August 2

Wednesday, July 27
Wild Wednesday
Budding naturalists will love this weekly family-friendly program on The High Line, which offers the opportunity to touch and learn about a variety of garden critters and be creative. The "Creature Feature" for July 27 is the butterfly; kids age 4 and up can learn about the ecological importance of this colorful insect, as well as participate in the releasing of young butterflies into the air, to watch as they take their first flight. Squeamish visitors can forgo the bug business and let their imaginations run wild with the Children's Workyard Kit, a mobile crate of building materials that can be used to create unique structures. The event starts at 4pm at the Chelsea Market Passage near West 16th Street.

Thursday, July 28
This interactive music-education program introduces participants of all ages, kids in particular, to the joy of jazz music. Hayes Greenfield—a music producer, composer, saxophonist, educator and filmmaker—leads his band in funky renditions of popular songs while encouraging people to join in and express themselves through call-and-response, improvisational singing and movement. Greenfield's unique ability to engage with schoolchildren has earned raves from leaders in the music industry—including Stanley Crouch, Dr. Billy Taylor and Philip Glass, the latter having called Greenfield a "true pied piper of jazz"—and a Jazz-A-Ma-Tazz CD has won various awards. The event starts at 10:30am at the Tortoise and Hare Statue in Van Cortlandt Park.

Friday, July 29
Measure for Measure
David Esbjornson—best known for directing the premieres of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?—presents his gothic twist on one of William Shakespeare's darkest comedies. Also referred to as a "problem play," Measure for Measure's themes include justice, mercy and truth in a multilayered tale of a man who is sentenced to death for impregnating his fiancé and his sister's attempt to save his life. The performance is part of Shakespeare in the Park, The Public Theater's annual summer program in Central Park, and stars Danai Gurira, Andre Holland and Broadway veteran and two-time Tony winner John Cullum. The show starts at 8pm at the park's Delacorte Theater; visit for details on how to obtain tickets.  

Saturday, July 30
Mad Decent Block Party
Mad Decent Block Party returns for another afternoon and evening of food, games and electronic shenanigans. The party, now in its fourth summer, is open to all ages and features a full lineup of musicians including the intensely percussive Gang Gang Dance, dubstep dynamos Zeds Dead and DJ extraordinaire BAIO (Vampire Weekend's Chris Baio). We expect South Street Seaport's Pier 17 to be packed for the all-day affair (it lasts from noon to 9pm), so partiers should RSVP at for guaranteed entry. 

Sunday, July 31
Harlem Week: A Great Day in Harlem
Since its inception almost 40 years ago, Harlem Week has evolved from a one-day event into a summerlong tribute to the community's magnificent economic, political and cultural history. Kick off the celebration with this day of free and family-friendly activities at General Grant National Memorial in Riverside Park: The Family Unity Day (noon to 4pm), The New York Gospel Caravan (4 to 5pm) and The Urban Fashion Fusion Showcase (5 to 6pm). End the evening with the Concert Under the Stars (6 to 9pm).

Monday, August 1
Cool Hand Luke
Paul Newman stars as Luke, a disorderly convict resentful of authority, in this 1967 classic. Watch for the scene in which Newman eats 50 eggs and for Strother Martin's iconic line "What we've got here is…failure to communicate." Cool Hand Luke plays as part of the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, which presents films every Monday through August. The movie doesn't begin until sunset (between 8 and 9pm), but the lawn opens at 5pm for picnicking and for people to set up their blankets for the show. Film buffs can also whet their cinephilic appetites before the screening at an installment of Bryant Park Word for Word Reel Talks—which feature guest actors, producers, directors, critics and gaffers—from 7 to 8pm in the Bryant Park Reading Room. 

Tuesday, August 2
1st Precinct National Night Out
Head down to the Battery Park City Esplanade Plaza from 6 to 8pm to meet local NYPD officers, auxiliary police, CERT teams, Parks police and, of course, McGruff the Crime Dog at this event held to build unity between law-enforcement officials and the public they protect. Visitors can enjoy rides, cotton candy and other food and drink, as well as check out police equipment, which will be on display.

related venues/(6)

  1. 1
    Riverside Park
    Riverside Drive to Hudson River
    72nd St. to St Clair Pl.
    New York – Upper West Side
    NY 10115
  2. 2
    Van Cortlandt Park
    Broadway and Jerome Ave.
    Bronx – Woodlawn/Little Ireland
    NY 10467
  3. 3
    Delacorte Theater
    Mid-park at 80th St
    Manhattan – Central Park
    NY 10024
  1. 4
    General Grant National Memorial
    Riverside Dr and 122nd St
    Manhattan – Morningside Heights
    NY 10027
  2. 5
    Bryant Park
    Sixth Ave. between 40th and 42nd Sts.
    Manhattan – Midtown West
  3. 6
    Esplanade Plaza
    Battery Park City
    Manhattan – Financial District
    NY 10280

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