Everyone likes getting the most bang for their buck, but this Fourth of July, NYC is doing you one better: how about spending no bucks all day and capping the night with some fireworks, on the house? At a press conference on June 29, Mayor Bloomberg kicked off the summer by announcing that the City was full of free events that both visitors and locals can participate in. We’ve collected a few for you here: before catching the big show, celebrate your independence by choosing from the many gratis activities the City has to offer—whether you want to hit the water, soak up some culture or just go ape for the holiday. Do what you want! It is a free country, after all.
PLUS: Be sure to check back next week and throughout the summer here, at nycgo.com/free, for more info on the summer’s coolest free events. And for an extended list of free things to do in the City, check our calendar.
AND: For three Saturdays this summer—August 8th, 15th and 22nd—those looking for a fun, active urban adventure can enjoy car-free Summer Streets and ride on one of 150 orange bikes, on loan from NY400 and the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which will be available for participants to borrow along the 6.9 mile route from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park. For more information, visit nyc.gov.
State of the Arts
Nowhere in the United States is freedom of expression more exercised and on display than in New York City. From classical ballet to African dance to a punk subgenre, there’s not much you can’t find in NYC when it comes to artistic interpretation. They’re free to create it, and it’s
free for you to experience it.
38th Annual International African Arts Festival
Guests at this annual Brooklyn event can interact with traditional African dance, music, art and poetry—and maybe even learn a little Swahili. Kids’ activities abound at the festival; holiday highlights include Watoto clowns and stilt dancers the Brooklyn Jumbies. Come and enjoy for free—but feel free to make a donation to this non-profit arts organization.
Conor Oberst performance at the River to River Festival
Battery Park welcomes a folk-rock slice of Americana at 3:30pm: Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band. Oberst (also known as the front man of the band Bright Eyes), a Nebraska native, was named "Best Songwriter" by Rolling Stone in 2008. Get there early—this one will fill up fast.
The parking lot across the street from BAM takes on a whole new life—and indie spirit—this Fourth when the Afro-Punk Skate Park opens at the ongoing Afro-Punk Festival. Kids of all ages can show off their moves on the board or check out free concerts from (very loud) bands like Pure Hell, the first all-African American punk band, formed more than 35 years ago. The skate park is open from noon–8pm, but there’s a Nike SB skate clinic starting at 11am.
What’s the best way to motivate kids to learn? Make them feel like they’re not learning, of course. This Independence Day, the tots can have so much fun they might not even realize they’re getting a lesson in American history or fine arts.
Kids Go Free to ABT’s Independence Day Matinee
If they want to be dancers when they grow up, let them ooh and ahh to their heart’s content at the Metropolitan Opera House this Fourth. For every adult ticket purchased, one child gets in free to savor the magical world of Sylvia, performed by the American Ballet Theatre.
Independence Day Celebration at Historic Richmondtown
Experience the NYC of the Victorian era at this Staten Island museum village, where the little ones can churn (and gobble up) their own ice cream before walking in a parade just for them.
Celebrations at the Farm House
Sign a reproduction of the Declaration of Independence—with a quill pen, no less—and decorate paper hats with feathers at Prospect Park’s Lefferts Historic House Museum. This special kids’ program runs 1–4pm.
The Great Outdoors
Kids and adults alike can enjoy New York City waters and green spaces this holiday—from the western bank of Manhattan to Brooklyn and beyond. Besides, it’s summertime—why stay indoors all day if the weather’s nice?
Kayaking the Hudson
Henry Hudson sailed it 400 years ago, and this Saturday, you can boat it, too. Explore the Hudson River—on kayak, not ship—any time from 9am–6pm. There’s no better way to take in sights of the NYC skyline while simultaneously getting a killer abdominal workout.
Water Taxi Beach at Governors Island
Join in on the beachy fun for free and treat yourself to a cocktail (you have to pay for those) at the latest iteration of Water Taxi Beach (LIC’s sister spot). The venue doesn’t officially open until July 3, which means you can really leave your mark in the sand.
Arrive at the Prospect Park Audubon Center early to join an hour-long tour of the prized Brooklyn landmark. From 3–4pm, an expert guide will teach the group all about the wildlife and history of the area—all the more reason to take pride in your homeland for the holiday.
For more info on events happening this summer in NYC, visit nyc.gov/calendar.