19 best spots in NYC for outdoor music this summer

Posted On Tue, May 9, 2023 By

Posted On Tue, May 9, 2023 By In City Living, Events, Features

The summer is one of the most lively times of the year in New York City, with fun events everywhere you look. The season is especially exciting for music lovers who can enjoy an extensive selection of both free and ticketed shows at outdoor venues across the five boroughs. We’ve rounded up the best open-air spots hosting concerts in the coming months, from a jam-packed season at Forest Hills Stadium in celebration of its 100th anniversary to Lincoln Center’s botanically-transformed campus for its three-month-long arts festival.

Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, Spring Festival 2022, Image courtesy of Jordan Rathkopf 

1. Brooklyn Conservatory of Music’s Open Stages 2023
On Saturday, May 13 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., the streets of Park Slope will be filled with the sound of music. Hosted by the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, this year’s Open Stages event will feature more than 150 artists who will perform at schoolyards, stoops, parks, and local cafes throughout the neighborhood. Past acts for the beloved spring music festival include Grammy Award-winners, marching bands, hip-hop artists, and musicians of all kinds. The day will close with a celebratory concert from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Steinway Artists Aaron Diehl and Orrin Evans perform at Bryant Park. Image courtesy of Chris Lee

2. Bryant Park Picnic Performances
For this year’s Bryant Park Picnic Performances presented by Bank of America, Bryant Park will host 26 live music, dance, and theater events that are all free to the public. Running from June 1 through September 14, the season includes performances by the New York City Opera of Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème on June 1, Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville on August 18, and Charles Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet on September 8. Other events include a three-part folk festival, an up-and-coming bands music festival, and much more. Last summer more than 75,000 people attended the performance series, while close to half a million watched the performances online via livestream.

3. BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!
BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!, the free summer-long outdoor concert performance series, is coming back to Brooklyn for its 45th year. Hosted at Prospect Park’s Lena Horne Bandshell, the festival presents global music icons, jazz artists, indie bands, dance troupes, and film projects, and has even presented a virtual reality performance. Since its first season in the summer of 1979, the festival’s main goal has been to enhance the quality of life for festival visitors by offering art and music that highlights Brooklyn’s diversity. All BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! performances are free. The festival’s full lineup can be found here.

4. Chelsea Music Festival
Taking place from Saturday, June 24 through Thursday, June 29, the Chelsea Music Festival is hosting Songs for the Earth. This year’s theme celebrates the natural world and features performers who will promote ecological awareness through music, art, and culinary presentations. Events include chamber music, orchestral music, jazz, and several educational events.

5. NYC Parks Free Summer Concerts
Talented musicians from all around the world will be performing in public parks all across the city this summer. Highlights include performances by the New York Scandia Symphony at Fort Tryon Park in Manhattan and concerts in J. Hood Wright Park and the Bronx’s Soundview Park. A full list of this year’s programming can be found here.

Image courtesy of Hudson Yards

6. Backyard at Hudson Yards
Starting on June 21, Hudson Yard’s Public Square & Gardens will feature weekly live music on the Wells Fargo Stage. This season’s lineup includes performances by Geese on June 21, Thuy on June 28, and The 502s on August 2, with more performers to be announced in the coming weeks. Hudson Yards will also offer free daily programming and events for all, including live sports games, movie nights on a 30-foot big screen, DJ nights, children’s music classes directed by Mozart for Munchkins, fitness classes, food trucks, and more.

Image courtesy of Amaury Laporte on Flickr

7. Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage
SummerStage is returning to New York City for its 37th year, with 80 free and benefit concerts hosted at 13 neighborhood parks throughout the five boroughs. This summer’s festival will celebrate all of the elements of hip hop in honor of the genre’s 50th anniversary, featuring up-and-coming rappers as well as legends like Grandmaster Flash. SummerStage’s schedule also includes jazz, indie rock, salsa, and contemporary dance performances by both new and renowned artists. The park’s participating in this year’s SummerStage include Brooklyn’s Herbert Von King Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park, Manhattan’s Tompkins Square Park and the festival’s flagship venue at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, Queens’ Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the Bronx’s Crotona Park, and Staten Island’s Stapleton Waterfront Park. You can view this year’s lineup here.

8. Electric Zoo Music Festival 2023
From September 1 through 3, the Electric Zoo Music Festival is returning to the city for another year. The highly-anticipated festival is one of NYC’s largest and features artists from across electronic music’s many sub-genres. The festival is hosted at Randall’s Island Park. Tickets can be purchased here.

Image courtesy of Jordan Uhl on Flickr

9. Governors Ball 2023
Located in Queens’ Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Gov Ball is returning to NYC for its 12th year. The renowned music festival sees thousands of people travel to the city from far and wide to catch some of the world’s most famous musicians as they take the stage. The festival’s 2023 lineup features more than 60 performers, with this year’s headliners including Lizzo on June 9, Odesza on June 10, and Kendrick Lamar on June 11. The festival is working with the beloved Queens Night Market and will feature many of the market’s vendors who will operate at Gov Ball. Gov Ball tickets can be purchased here.

Summer for the City 2022. Photo credit: Lawrence Sumulong

10. Lincoln Center’s Summer for the City
Lincoln Center’s three-month-long arts festival is returning to the Upper West Side for a second year after a successful debut last summer. The iconic campus will be transformed into a botanical-inspired oasis, with hundreds of free events and thousands of artists featured across 16 acres of open space from June to August. For the first time in Lincoln Center’s history, the campus’s outdoor spaces will be reimagined by creative director and designer Clint Ramos. Most “Summer for the City” events will be free on a first-come, first-served basis with select indoor performances available for choose-what-you-pay prices.

Image courtesy of the Times Square Alliance

11. TSQ Live in Times Square
Running now through Friday, September 29, TSQ Live is a celebration of New York City’s creative community that invites New Yorkers to come and enjoy the arts in and around Times Square. Hosted by the Times Square Alliance, this year’s event will feature more than 80 free outdoor performances at plazas throughout the neighborhood, allowing up-and-coming performers to show their craft on one of the world’s most public stages. TSQ Live will include live DJ sets, concerts, and dance performances from renowned NYC institutions like Carnegie Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Pioneer Works.

Image courtesy of Naumberg Orchestral Concerts

12. Naumberg Orchestral Concerts
Since 1905, Naumberg Orchestral Concerts has shared free classical musical performances with New Yorkers in Central Park’s Naumburg Bandshell, making it the oldest continuously running free outdoor classical music concert. This season is a special one, considering that the Bandshell is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Tickets for the shows are not required, and all seating is free and on a first-come, first-serve basis. All of the concerts will be broadcasted live and streamed on WQXR for those unable to make it to Central Park in person. You can learn more about this season’s full lineup here.

Image courtesy of Liz Ligon

13. Little Island Summer Programming
Free programming is returning to Hudson River Park’s Little Island this summer. Starting on Wednesday, June 7, the island will host many free events including Tony and Grammy Award-winning performers, live DJ sets, drag bingo, dance parties, and weekly artmaking workshops. This year’s programming will include performances by Tony-winner Tonya Pinkins, SNL cast member James Austin Johnson, Grammy award-winner Joshua Henry, and more. A full list of Little Island’s summer programming can be found here.

Terry Waldo & the Gotham City Band. Image courtesy of Angelito Jusay

14. 34th Street Midtown Music
The 34th Street District’s Midtown Music program shares the joy of live music with New Yorkers with outdoor pop-up performances. Performances can be found on Mondays through Saturdays starting at 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4:30 p.m., with locations including Herald Square Plaza, Greeley Square Plaza, 31st Street and Eighth Avenue, and 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue.

Bette Smith. Image courtesy of Max Guliani for Hudson River Park

15. Hudson River Park
Hudson River Park is celebrating its 25th anniversary with an exciting 2023 event season. Presented by the Hudson River Park Friends, the park’s programming includes live music, dance, fitness events, educational events, and more on the Hudson River’s waterfront. The free Hudson River Dance Festival returns to Pier 63 on June 8 and 9, inviting world-class dancers to grace the stage and perform for New Yorkers. Visitors are invited to put on their dancing shoes every Thursday night for Sunset Salsa and Bollywood & Bhangra, nightly dance workshops where you can learn a new move or two. Jazz at Pier 84 will return every Wednesday in Hells Kitchen, as well as Sunset on the Hudson, a weekly concert series that highlights emerging NYC-based artists across a variety of genres.

Image courtesy of Ryan Muir

16. The Rooftop at Pier 17
The Rooftop at Pier 17 offers concertgoers a one-of-a-kind show experience with the dazzling NYC skyline as the backdrop. Over five seasons, The Rooftop has garnered a reputation for its intimate atmosphere, first-class amenities, and hospitality offerings. Highlights for this year’s lineup include Macklemore, T-Pain, and JPEGMAFIA & Danny Brown. The concert season kicks off on Friday, May 12 with Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls and The Interrupters, with special guests Chuck Ragan and Bedouin Soundclash. The full lineup for the summer concert series can be found here.

17. Seaport Sounds
Seaport Sounds, presented by Heineken, is back all summer long. On Thursday nights starting on May 11, local DJs will host live sets from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Pier 17’s Heineken Riverdeck. On Thursday, June 22, Seaports Sounds will host a special Pride Dance Night, encouraging visitors to wear pride colors and get ready to dance. The event is a perfect pregame for later in the night when Trixie Mattel performs at The Rooftop at Pier 17.

Image courtesy of Chris Lavado

18. Forest Hills Stadium
Queens’ Forest Hills Stadium, a legendary NYC venue that once hosted the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Bob Dylan, has a lot in store for concertgoers in celebration of its 100th anniversary season. This year’s lineup features shows by the world’s most famous musicians and comedians, including The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, Kevin Hart, and more. The lineup also features a number of festivals, including Bert Kreischer’s Fully Loaded Comedy Festival, Rock The Bells, and Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Festival. Forest Hills Stadium’s season kicks off on May 20 with the Head in the Clouds Music & Arts Festival, featuring Rich Brian, ITZY, and Beabadoobee.

Live at the Archway September 15, 2017 © Julienne Schaer

19. Live at the Archway
Hosted underneath the Dumbo Archway, one of the city’s only covered outdoor spaces, Live at the Archway is an annual series of free concerts and visual arts events. Since it began in 2015, the summer event series has highlighted a wide variety of music, dance, and visual art styles, with a commitment to reflecting the neighborhood’s diversity. Live at the Archway is presented by the Dumbo Improvement District and curated by Clara Inés Schuhmacher of the Dumbo BID and Jan Bell of the Brooklyn Americana Music Festival


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