The best spots for free outdoor music in NYC this summer

April 24, 2024

American Symphony Orchestra at Bryant Park on 9/7/2023. Photo by Chris Lee.

While there is an endless variety of ticketed shows throughout the five boroughs, it’s nice not to empty your bank account to enjoy a live performance. We’ve put together a list of the best spots in NYC to catch outdoor music this summer for free, from stoops and schoolyards in Park Slope during the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music’s Open Stages festival to Bryant Park’s lawn to watch the New York City Opera.

Photo by Ryan Muir

Bryant Park Picnic Performances

From May 31 through September 13, the beloved Picnic Performances are returning to Bryant Park Presented by Bank of America, this year’s event series includes a lineup of 25 free live music, dance, and theater performances, providing viewers with an unparalleled viewing experience of musicians representing world-class institutions like Carnegie Hall, the New York City Opera, the Harlem Stage, and more.

The season kicks off with a two-night celebration of Giacomo Puccini by the New York City Opera on May 31 and June 1, with a stacked schedule of dance performances, a celebration of music from James Bond, a two-day indie rock and soul music festival, and more.

Summer for the City in 2023. Photo by Sachyn Mital.

Lincoln Center’s Summer for the City

Summer for the City is returning to Lincoln Center for its third annual season, running from June 12 through August 10. During the festival, Lincoln Center’s campus is transformed into a welcoming oasis where New Yorkers and visitors can relax and enjoy free live music performances. This year’s theme is “Life, Liberty, and Happiness,” which will be embodied through programming highlighting how active participation in the arts helps grow strong community bonds.

There’s a ton in store for this year’s festival, including new commissions, a dynamic concert series with the Festival Orchestra of Lincoln Center, a week-long celebration of Indian cultural traditions during India Week, a contemporary concert series, and much, much more.

Brooklyn Conservatory of Music’s Open Stages

On May 11, the streets of Park Slope will come alive with live music on stoops, schoolyards, parks, and local cafes all throughout the neighborhood. Past performers have included Grammy Award-winners, marching bands, hip-hop artists, and more. Open Stages is free and open to the public, but those interested in further supporting BKCM can donate here.

Image courtesy of Eden, Janine and Jim on Flickr

Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage

Capital One’s SummerStage festival, one of the most widely accessible outdoor arts festivals, is returning to NYC for its 38th year. The annual program brings free performances to city parks in all five boroughs, from June 1 through October 20. Neighborhood parks hosting shows this season include Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, Tompkins Square Park in the East Village, Herbert Von King Park in Bed-Stuy, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, and many more.

This year’s lineup features established and emerging artists from across the globe touching on a plethora of genres including jazz, hip-hop, indie rock, salsa, reggae, Afrobeats, soul, pop, global, and contemporary dance, just to name a few. A full schedule can be found here.

Naumberg Orchestral Concerts

This summer, Naumberg Orchestral Concerts is celebrating 119 years of offering free classical music to New Yorkers. Hosted in Central Park’s iconic Naumberg Bandshell, the event series is the oldest continuously running free outdoor classical music concert. Tickets are not required, and all seating is free on a first-come, first-served basis. For those who can’t make it in person, each performance will be broadcast live and streamed on WQXR. Learn more about this season’s lineup here.

Image courtesy of Hudson Yards

Backyard at Hudson Yards

Free live music is returning to Hudson Yards this summer. Presented by Wells Fargo, this year’s lineup of Backyard at Hudson Yards includes Keke Palmer, David Archuleta, Brynn Cartelli, Chayce Beckham, Ray Bull, and more. For the first time this year, Hudson Yards will feature performances from the Public Theater’s Mobile Unit and interactive story-time events with the New York Public Library.

Hudson Yards will also offer screenings of blockbuster movies and live sports on a 30-foot big screen, interactive family concerts by Mozart for Munchkins, and outdoor dining. Learn more about the event series here.

Image courtesy of Alexa Hoyer

Sounds at Sunset in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Taking place on Fridays at Pier 3 Plaza, Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Sounds at Sunset series returns to offer free live music, featuring local and international performers. Guests can enjoy live music and a beautiful sunset to start the weekend. The series begins on June 21 with a Steely Dan Happy Hour, led by tribute band The Royal Scam. On June 28 and September 30, trumpeter, conductor, composer, and arranger Igmar Thomas will host jam sessions, and on July 12, world-famous kora player Yacouba Sissoko and his band SIYA will take attendees on a musical journey through West African songs and stories. More information on the lineup can be found here.

TSQ Live in Times Square

Every summer, the Times Square Alliance hosts TSQ Live, a series of more than 80 free, open-air performances around Times Square’s public plazas. Running from May through September, this year’s lineup includes performances from world-renowned organizations like Carnegie Hall Citywide and Jazz at Lincoln Center, as well as DJ sets, dance workshops, and much more. For the first time this year, TSQ is issuing an open call, inviting performers to apply for a spot in the lineup and perform on the big stage. Those interested in applying can learn more here.

Image courtesy of Hudson River Park

Hudson River Park

Hudson River Park’s summer season kicks off on May 18, bringing with it a slew of exciting events, including live music. On Wednesdays from June 5 through August 28, Pier 84 hosts live jazz starting at 7 p.m., featuring free performances by local jazz legends. On Thursdays from June 6 through June 29, Pier 97 will host weekly performances by blues artists from around the five boroughs.

On Fridays from May 31 through June 28, Pier 45 hosts Sunset on the Hudson, a showcase of emerging queer and BIPOC NYC-based artists from a wide variety of genres who perform with the stunning sunset as their backdrop. Guests are encouraged to bring their own picnics.

On August 10, Pier 76 is hosting a Blues BBQ Festival, inviting guests to enjoy some delicious food and listen to incredible blues artists perform. This year’s festival will include a second stage featuring artists curated by the Jazz Foundation of America. A full schedule of programming can be found here.

NYC Parks Free Summer Concerts

In addition to serving as an essential space for outdoor recreation and relaxation, NYC’s public parks also serve as venues for talented musicians from around the world. This summer, world-class performers will captivate audiences in parks across the five boroughs, including the Metropolitan Opera at Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria. A full schedule of free summer programming can be found here.

Photo by Julia Drummond, Courtesy of BRIC

BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!

NYC’s longest-running, free, outdoor performing arts festival is back for another action-packed season. Hosted every year at the Lena Horne Bandshell in Prospect Park, BRIC Celebrates Brooklyn! features a lineup of free live performances by both emerging and established artists spanning a plethora of genres. This year’s festival runs from June 8 through August 24 and a full schedule can be found here.

Union Pool

North Williamsburg’s Union Pool, a neighborhood-favorite bar and music venue, revealed its lineup for its 12th annual “Summer Thunder” series of free concerts. The concerts begin on Sunday, June 2 at 2 p.m. with art rock band Guerilla Toss. Other performers include Joe Bataan, Mary Timony, King Congo Powers, Ayanna Heaven, and more. Learn more abour the lineup here.

Little Island

Pier 15’s Little Island is set to be a hotspot for live entertainment once again this summer season. The island’s summer programming organizers have learned how to better operate the space during its hectic schedule, and for the first time this summer, organizers have focused on commissioning entirely new works for its 687-seat main amphitheater.

While shows on the larger stage are ticketed events, Little Island’s smaller performance area, “The Glade,” will host free live shows all summer long. The lineup for the 200-seat space is not yet finalized, but each week will be curated by a different artist, according to Gothamist.

Editor’s note: This article will continue to be updated as more lineups for outdoor shows are announced.


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