July is THE month to be in New York to take advantage of a multitude of free, fun, unique events, festivals and one of a kind experiences. July is the month that New Yorkers wait for all year long. It’s when the crème de la crème of free cultural events begins, most of which run through mid-August. But July is everything summer should be. Including – unfortunately – hot. Be prepared and read our post, New York City Weather in July.
You could do something different every day and night in NYC in July and barely spend a penny (well, hotel, transportation, food and drink not included but we’ve got you covered:
The #1 Free Thing to Do in July and Anytime (Staten Island Ferry)
All of the events listed below are FREE, which means they are pretty popular and might get crowded, so advanced planning before you head over, especially for the number one event in New York City in July which is…
MACY’S 4TH OF JULY FIREWORKS SPECTACULAR
July 4 at 9:20 p.m. Various Locations. The annual Macy’s fireworks display is known worldwide for being one of the biggest fireworks spectaculars, The extravaganza will once again take place from barges along the East River that separates Manhattan from Brooklyn. Fireworks will be launched from barges located along Midtown.
For all the details about where to watch the fireworks, see our comprehensive guide Where to See the Macys Fireworks in New York City. For a slightly less crowded and less spectacular (but still thrilling) display of fireworks check out the Jersey City Freedom & Fireworks Festival which has free live music, a carnival, food trucks, and fireworks at 9 p.m. Liberty State Park with a view of the Statue of Liberty.
NATHAN’S FAMOUS HOT DOG EATING CONTEST
July 4 in Coney Island. Before the fireworks head down to Coney Island to watch champion hot dog eaters snarf down dozens of hot dogs in a matter of minutes as they compete in the world famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. Find out the details here.
While you are down there, here are other Things to do in Coney Island.
SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. This New York tradition takes some planning to get free tickets, so check out our post Tips on how to get Shakespeare in the Park tickets. (See photo below, on the left)
Central Park. Much beloved for decades by New Yorkers, this series of mostly free performances of outstanding music, comedy, theater, dance, lectures, and films during is a highlight of the summer. The series starts in May, so check our Summerstage guide and our picks for the best shows (See photo above on the right)
GOOD MORNING AMERICA CONCERT SERIES
This series is NOT for late risers! People get in line to see top performers as early as 5am as concerts start at 7am to see top musical artists. We get a handful VIP Tickets so see our post on Good Morning America Summer Concert Series VIP Tickets. To see a taping of the TV show, see our post TV Show Taping of GMA. (See photo above in the middle)
CITI CONCERTS BY THE TODAY SHOW
You don’t have to be an early bird to see these concerts performed by top of the chart musicians. The line forms at 11am. To see a live taping of the Today Show any time of the year, check our post on how to see a taping of The Today Show.
OUTDOOR MOVIE SCREENINGS
Locations throughout the city. Actually starting as early as June, there are dozens of free movie series held outdoors at parks throughout different neighborhoods of NYC.
You could spend every night of the week seeing a film for free. Our comprehensive guide New York City Summer Guide lists most of them.
CITY OF WATER DAY July 15 various locations.
Sponsored by the Waterfront Alliance, this day celebrates all things related to water – from art to science to the best part: on-water activities like kayaking and paddle-boarding.
If you can’t make it that day, here are suggestions for other ways to get on the water for free.
HIP-HOP FESTIVAL July 10 – 15
Celebrate hip-hop culture with films, exhibits, speaking panels and attend the closing-day concert at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Find more information here.
RESTAURANT WEEK July 24-August 18th
Though it isn’t free, it is a pretty darn cheap way to experience New York’s top cuisines at 5 star restaurants with a 3 course meal for only $29 and dinner for $42. We’ve got the scoop on how to make reservations before they book up. See our post for all the details.
BASTILLE DAY July 9 from 12pm – 5 pm
Entire block along E. 60th St. from 5th Ave. to Lexington Ave. Every year in honor of France’s day of Independence on July 14 the FIAF (French Institute/Alliance Française) sponsors this street festival. You’ll see lots of red, white and blue, as well as mimes and CanCan dancers. French food will be available to buy, such as crêpes, éclairs, cheese and wine. Bon Apettit! More information here.
INTERNATIONAL AFRICAN ARTS FESTIVAL July 1-4
Commodore Barry Park near DUMBO. Want a true taste of Brooklyn, then come out to this festival that celebrates the African Diaspora as spread throughout the world and as found in Brooklyn.
There’ll be African dance and music, crafts and food, a fashion show, and a kids play zone. More information here.
Written by Courtney Shapiro