Top 10 Things to Do in August in NYC

This post gives you the inside scoop on the top 10 things to do in New York City in August in 2017.  August in New York can be hot – temperature wise but also “hot” as in happening and the place to be. August is a month for festivals, free concerts, cultural parades, free movies in parks and more. For tourists, August is a great month to be in New York City especially on weekends, as the city clears out of locals and some activities are less crowded. On the other hand, there are more tourists, so keep that in mind when planning your itinerary.  For ideas in other areas of the Big Apple, check out our definitive guide of things to do in NYC.

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TIP:  If you are looking to save money on attractions, think about getting a tourist pass. For some help deciding, read our post “Which is the best tourist pass?


This list of top 10 things to do in August contains both beloved, annual August events and some events unique to this year.  Most are free, and many are family friendly. So…let’s start the countdown! 



1.  Get out on the water!  (various prices)

Cool off with cool views of New York City. It doesn’t cost much to get out into the beautiful NYC Harbor. Here are the many ways to catch a breeze

  • Take a New York harbor cruise for FREE on Staten Island Ferry . You can ride the ferry day or night- why not do both! It’s free and the skyline is quite different looking during the day and night.
  • Check out the many New York Boat Tours and Excursions such as the Circle Line and other affordable, fun  cruises.
  • For the same price as a subway ($2.75) ride the East River Ferry.  You can take a 40 minute ride from Wall Street to Midtown Manhattan in the East River. You can also hop off at any of the stops along the way and explore Brooklyn neighborhoods like DUMBO and Williamsburg.  
  • If you want to see beautiful sands and clean ocean, take the ferry to Rockaway. There are plenty of other beaches in New York that may surprise you with how clean they are!


2.  Free Shakespeare in Central Park 

This annual festival starts in mid-July but continues through the 1st half of August. If you are here in August, this is a unique event you should  consider trying to get tickets for. It takes some logistical planning but it truly is worth the effort. Here are some tips on how to get Shakespeare in the Park tickets.

Tip: To find out everything you need to know about Central Park including maps, activities, tours and more see our Comprehensive Guide of things to do in Central Park. 


3.  Broadway in Bryant Park  August 3 & 10, 2017   Free

Bring a blanket to Bryant Park and see the stars of  current on and off Broadway shows perform. Get more information here.  If you prefer to see a full show but not pay full price there are several ways get discount tickets to Broadway shows. You can use the TKTS Discount Theatre Tickets Booths or try some of the other ways to Get Cheap Broadway Tickets.

While you are in Midtown, there is so much to see and do. Our guide to Times Square and the surrounding area can help you figure out where to start! We also have self-guided tours  and pay what you like tours of Midtown Manhattan.



4.    Summer Streets  Saturdays, August 5, 12, 19 from  7 am-1 pm  Free Summer Streets

Every August, New York City closes off main thoroughfares to  vehicular traffic – in other words NO CARS!  ALmost 7 miles of open streets with 5 rest stops are free to roam on anything that will move except vehicles. Bikes, rollerblades, skateboards, scooters and your own two feet can see the city from a totally new perspective. This is fun for New Yorkers and visitors alike. More information here. 

You might want  to consider renting a bike. Read Best Bike Rentals in New York City and see if a rental is right for you. Or take advantage of NYC’s shared bike system, Citibike Share


5.  Harlem Week   August 1 – 26, 2017  Mostly free.

Lucky for August tourists, Harlem Week lasts all month! It celebrates the local history and culture through tributes, performances, movies, a festival for the kiddies, and sports events. For more information and a schedule of activities, click here.

Tip: To learn about Harlem’s history, come along on our one of our Harlem Tours. We have a walking tour, a food tour and can steer you in the direction of a Gospel service and much more in the neighborhood.  Feel free to use out Things to Do in Harlem post where you can find information about the neighborhood. 


6.   Cultural Festivals

The list of cultural festivals in August is endless. Here are our top picks:

Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat Festival – August 12 – 13, 2017  Free 

A great excuse to check out the borough of Queens!  It’s a race of 170 dragon-boat teams on the very big Meadows Lake, in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens.  Besides boats there will be traditional dance, martial arts, music, folk art, and Chinese food. More information can be found here.

Tip: If Queens seems a bit far out of town for you, consider taking our pay-what-you-like Chinatown tour. You can also use our self-guided Chinatown tour.

Giglio Feast of Saint Antonio   August 10 – 13, 2017  Free

This traditional festival celebrates Italian culture at it’s best. There will be plenty of food, music and traditional dance. On Sunday, you can see a moving stage holding a 12-piece band play while an 80-foot statue is paraded through East Harlem, which was once a very large Italian enclave and still an outpost of Little Italy. Find out more information here. 

Tip: If you want to stick with the more famous Italian enclaves in the world, join us for our SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown Tour  and check out our list of  Little Italy Restaurants and Other Things to See.


 7.   NYC Restaurant Week   August 1 – 18, 2017   

Restaurant week

Cost: $29 for 3-course lunch (not including beverages, tax, tip). 

Restaurants in New York City can range in price from $3 per person to $300 a person. Restaurant Week gives you the chance to try NYC’s top restaurants at a fraction of their normal prices. While you won’t pay as little as $3, you will pay under $30 for lunch at some of the very best, highly rated restaurants in New York City. And you have more than a week to indulge yourself.   Be sure to use our detailed post of Insider tips to making the most of Restaurant Week!

If you are looking for other types of dining experiences, you can try one of our pay-what-you-like food tours (cost of food not included). Also, here are our recommendations for some classic New York City foods:


8.   Jazz Age Lawn Party   August 26 & 27  

Tickets start at $45 per adult. Children under 12 free.

Located on Governors Island along Colonels Row, take a step back in time to a carefree era of the 1920s. You don’t need to dress in your finest flapper dress or seersucker suit to come out and enjoy fabulous music by the Dreamland Orchestra.  There will be a Charleston dance contest (along with lessons), food, 1920s cars, croquet, and fun for the kiddies. Get the low-down at their website.

Our in-depth post on Governors Island can give you directions and other important details about this one of a kind place.


9.  Central Park Conservancy Film Festival   August 21 – August 26  Free Movies in Central Park

If you are thinking “Why would I spend my limited time in New York watching a movie when I can do this at home?”  Here’s why: many of the movies scheduled take place in New York City! What could be more magical than watching Woody Allen’s Manhattan while sitting in Central Park which is so central to the movie itself ?!

Tickets are not required. Movies start at 8 pm but show up at least an hour before to stake out a spot on the grass. Bring something to sit on, do not bring alcohol and you are in for a memorable night at the movies! 

Click here for more information. The two locations and scheduled movies are as follows: 

  • Marcus Garvey Park  located in Harlem. Enter the park on Fifth Avenue at 124th Street. 
    • Monday, August 21  – Annie – (PG)
    • Tuesday, August 22  – The Wiz – (G) 

Tip: If you have never been to Harlem, join us on one of our Harlem Tours one of our tours and learn the fascinating history.

  • Central Park  – in the park between Sheep Meadow and the 72nd Street Cross Drive
    • Wednesday, August 23  – The Great Gatsby  (PG-13)
    • Thursday, August 24 – Saturday Night Fever (R)
    • Friday, August 25 – The Godfather (R)
    • Saturday, August 26  – Spider-Man 3 (PG-13)

Tip: We also have several  pay-what-you-like tours of Central Park  including a pay-what-you-wish audio tour. Also feel free to take a look at our Comprehensive Guide of things to do in Central Park.


10.  Warm Up  Dance Party at MoMA PS 1  Saturdays in August from 12 pm to 9 pm  

Tickets are $18 in advance and $22 on the day of the event. 

As the outpost of the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS 1 holds its summer series called Warm Up, introducing the best in new experimental live music. There are the hottest DJs in town and dancing in the outdoor courtyard. Be amongst the hipsters at this unique New York City gathering. 

For much more detail on who is jamming that day, who is spinning the vinyl, and to purchase tickets, click here.  MoMA PS 1 is located at 22-25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City. Use this Google link to get exact directions from your departure point.

If you don’t already know about visiting the Museum of Modern Art for FREE, see our post about MoMA’s Free Entry to the Museum of Modern Art.


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Outdoor Movie Screenings  Various locations and dates  Free

Practically every night of the summer months  you can find a free, outdoor movie screening.  Here are the best series. 

  • Bryant Park Movie Night — Go early if you want a spot on the lawn and watch some great films surrounded by the city’s shimmering lights.
  • Movies with a View — Every Thursday, you can see a free movie in Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1’s. Movies start at sunset but arrive early as the open lawn fills up quickly.
  • Movies Under the Stars — Many of the parks around NYC host nightly, outdoor screenings of famous films — all of which are free!


Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge Brooklyn Bridge evening

The Brooklyn Bridge can be walked over 24 hours a day. We definitely do not recommend you taking a 4am stroll. But for those who want some guidance to enjoy the Bridge when the sun goes down,  join us for our combined  911 Memorial and Brooklyn Bridge Night Tour.  It runs Tuesday, Fridays and Sundays at 7:30 pm (19:30) from March through October.


Take a late night free boat ride

Many people don’t realize that the free Staten Island Ferry runs quite late. The skyline is quite different looking at night with the city lit up and sparkling. Our guide to the  Staten Island Ferry will tell you everything you need to know to have a smooth journey and has other suggestions of what you can do nearby after your boat ride.  The Staten Island Ferry isn’t the only boat operating on the waters around NYC. Check out our guide to choosing the best boat tour in the Big Apple, with several offering proper nighttime sightseeing options.


Soar to the top of a skyscraper

In summer, the tallest buildings with observatory decks stay open later than you would think.  Getting a 360 degree view of New York City glittering at night is something special. The top three city’s skyscraper observation decks are: the Empire State Building (until 2 am);  the Top of the Rock (until midnight); and and One World Trade Center Observatory (summertime until Sept. 4 until midnight). It’s not easy to decide which of the three decks you want to choose, so read our post about the pros and cons of each of them.  There are also free options. Read our post on where to get the best free skyline views of NYC.


Stargaze with an Astronomer  Every Tuesday in August 

Head over to the one-of-a-kind High Line Park to gaze at the stars, planets, and moon through high-powered telescopes. Experts are on hand to answer  any questions. Arrive by dusk.   If you get there early, you could explore the High Line with our audio tour or on our 2 pm Tuesday guided tour of the High Line and Greenwich Village.


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In the summer there are so many free things to do, it takes a lot of work to narrow down the list to what we think will be the most interesting, affordable and memorable things to do in August. This is the short list. For the long list, see our New York City Summer Guide for even more things to do as well as our Guide to Free Things to Do in NYC.


Free Outdoor Concerts  Various Dates Free

Here’s a list of just some of the great series held around the city. To see who is playing, just each festival’s website.

Summerstage in Central Park – Mostly Free 

When it comes to great events for free, New York City if the place to be. Every year, the list of performers at this festival in Central Park draws famous and and talented performers.  Most performances are free.  See our Summerstage guide to see who’s playing! 

Good Morning America Concert Series   Free

Great for early birds!  People get in line to see top performers as early as 5 am as concerts start at 7 am. This year August’s performers are: August 4 – Linkin Park, August 11 – Bleachers,  August 18 – Eric Church, August 25 – Paramore.  To find out more about attending or possibly getting VIP tickets, see our post Good Morning America Summer Concert Series VIP Tickets. To see a taping of Good Morning America, see our post on how to attend a live TV show taping. 


Visit Governors Island  Governors Island

A playground for kids and grown-ups alike! Many tourists have never heard of this small island just 4 minutes away from Lower Manhattan by a $2 ferry.  This island has a great history, which you can read about on our post Things to Do on Governors Island. 

Find out about the Hills, a new man made landscape feature that rises 70 feet above sea-level and gives visitors spectacular views of  Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor.  You can kayak, ride bikes, take historical tours, see art,make art and…play MINI-GOLF! What could possibly be more fun than playing a round of mini-golf with Lady Liberty watching nearby!  Visit the Island’s official website for information on events and activity hours.

Why not combine your visit to Governors Island with some of these great Lower Manhattan activities:


Kayak under the Brooklyn Bridge  Free 

Head over to Brooklyn Bridge Park in DUMBO and enjoy a free 20 minute kayak ride. It’s quite safe and unlike anything you have done before. See the Brooklyn Bridge from underneath! Click here for more information.  This activity is perfectly timed for our  Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO Tour which runs every day at 9:30 am. Join us on a Saturday for this 3 hour tour which ends right in Brooklyn Bridge Park where the Kayak Launching Pier is located. 


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We have a list of things to do with the entire family including kids and teens at our post, Top 10 Things to Do with Kids in New York City as well as a 3 day itinerary for families. These activities below are only available in the summer months, and some only in August.


RiverFlicks for Kids   Fridays in August at 8:30 pm  

This outdoor series features family-oriented movies.  Movies begin at dusk (generally around 8:30pm). Bring something to sit on, though chairs are not generally welcomed. A towel or sheet is good. No need to worry about the popcorn – it’s free! 

  • 8/4  Sing – PG 
  • 8/11  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – PG-13
  • 8/18  The Karate Kid (1984) – PG 

RiverFLicks is at Hudson River Park at Pier 46, cross at Charles Street in Greenwich Village but far west all the way to the Hudson River (think cool breeze) . Here is a map. For all the information you will need, visit their website.


Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest, Saturday, August 19   12 pm – 4 pm  Free 

Sand Castle Contest

Located at W10th to W12th in Streets (in Brooklyn) between the beach and the boardwalk. Our guide to Coney Island and what to see there has everything you need to know about this historic and super fun in the sun part of New York City. This free family-friendly event is open to amateurs and semi-professional sand sculptors. There is a cash prize but also the prize of knowing that you’ve turned real New York sand into art. On-site registration for Individuals, Groups, and Families opens at noon.  

But you do not have to compete. Come out and watch some incredible sand creations. Then go enjoy Luna Park, the revamped amusement park at Coney Island that brings back the days when Coney Island was called “the playground of America”.  


Enjoy the great outdoors

When visiting Central Park, one would hardly realize it is a man-made, meticulously planned out park. The landscape varies greatly, from woodsy areas to large open lawns with a man-made reservoir and a pond. The architects who created the park definitely had kids in mind. There are endless activities for children in the park, including multiple playgrounds, a petting zoo, a fountain and of course, row boating on the lake.  Click on the link to find maps of Central Park and a long list of Things to Do in Central Park  including many pay-what-you-like tours of Central Park which are suitable for all ages!  We also now have available pay-what-you-wish audio tours including one of Central Park. And last but not least, a favorite with both grown ups and kids are our pay-what-you-wish  Central Park Bike Tours.


Have a fabulous summer!

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Written by Courtney Shapiro