Huzzah! After a seemingly endless winter, summer is finally here, bringing with it blue skies, temperatures in the triple digits, flip-flops, and lots of music, performing arts, and literary festivals. Our picks for the ten best festivals of the summer follow. By Jessica Allen.
As you’d expect from the name, this festival honors the city’s most populous borough through performances held at the Prospect Park Bandshell. Among the headliners this year are TEEN, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Dance Theater of Harlem, Warpaint, and St. Vincent, who concludes the always popular series. (More than 250,000 people attend each season.) Some performances are free; others require advance tickets. Check the schedule for details. Now through August 9.
The HBO Bryant Park Film Festival turns Mondays into Fundays. Every Monday in July and August you can see a feature film under the stars in midtown Manhattan. This year’s lineup ranges from The Karate Kid to The Shining to Blazing Saddles to National Lampoon’s Vacation. We won’t lie: getting a seat requires hustle and initiative. As soon as the park is opened for the evening’s screening (usually around 5 pm), people run—literally, run—to grab lawn space. Now through August 18.
SummerStage, the city’s largest free performing arts festival, seeks to “enrich the lives of New Yorkers” by exposing them to emerging, contemporary, and traditional artists in an array of genres, from dance to music to drama to literature. In practice, this means inviting more than 100 performers, including Beck (pictured), Andrew Bird, John Leguizamo, and the Urban Bush Women, to do their various things at almost 20 parks across all five boroughs throughout the summer. (Note: some shows require tickets.) Now through August 24.
As part of River to River, an arts festival that began in 2002, well-known and just-getting-started artists present work that interacts with the cityscape of Lower Manhattan. Events include site-specific walks, talks, exhibitions, and performances, each dealing with the concepts of sound and movement. The 35 projects by 90-something artists will be different, no doubt, but they’ll be linked by their desire to provoke and inspire. June 19 through June 29.
Destroying the stereotype that opera is only for the elite, the Metropolitan Opera’s Summer Recital Series brings its talented performers to various parks throughout the five boroughs, ensuring that any and all can enjoy the altos, arias, costumes, and drama that help make this art form so special. Scheduled performers include rising stars Amber Wagner (pictured) and Jamie Barton. The events are free. Bring a blanket, a bottle of wine, and a picnic, and let yourself be transported. June 23 through July 10.
This summer, join 2 million other people in celebrating the diversity, unique history, and culture of Harlem. “Harlem Week” began as a single day in 1974; since then, it’s expanded to include fashion shows, indoor and outdoor concerts, a film festival, gallery tours, panel discussions, college and career fairs, fun runs, and theater performances, all taking place throughout July and August. Indeed, considering this festival’s breadth, “Harlem Summer” might be a more accurate name. See calendar of events for details.
Dust off your dancing shoes and head over to the American Tap Dance Foundation’s Tap City, probably the best-known tap dance festival in the world. You can learn the basics of this fundamental American dance form from internationally renowned teachers during a master class or residency (for adults and kids), or you can attend a performance, such as a one-woman show about Gene Kelly by Patricia Ward Kelly, the dancer’s wife, or see what the future holds at an all-student revue. July 5 through July 12.
Talk about appeasing the masses. Every summer, Lincoln Center Out of Doors invites performers established and emerging to sing, dance, and make music around the city, including at several free performances outside of Lincoln Center. Scheduled performers for this year’s festival, July 20 through August 10, include Rosanne Cash, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and The Devil Makes Three. If you’re looking for something a bit more classical, check out the Mostly Mozart Festival, July 25 through August 25.
For 16 days in August, North America’s largest multi-arts festival will take over the city’s small theaters, to showcase new work by emerging playwrights and performers. The New York International Fringe Festival features more than 1200 shows from more than 200 companies. Several major theatrical performances got their start at the Fringe, including Urinetown, a musical that went to Broadway, and Matt & Ben, a satirical play about Matt Damon and Ben Affleck that helped launch the career of Mindy Kaling. August 8 through August 24.
Spend your Labor Day weekend grooving to the sweet sounds of electronic music with more than 150,000 like-minded souls at Electric Zoo. This electronic music festival features two main stages and several tents, hosting the likes of Knife Party, Laidback Luke, Alesso, and Dada Life. When you’re not nodding your head or feeling heart thump to the beat from some of the world’s best DJs, you can admire Randall Island’s views of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens. August 29 through August 31.