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NYC’s 11 Best Summer Festivals

May 25, 2012 10:52 AM

(photo: Will Steacy, photo courtesy of

(photo: Will Steacy, photo courtesy of

Summertime in NYC is full of free music, dance and art throughout the five boroughs. Don’t miss out on the biggest–and most fun– cultural events of the season. Here are some of the best. By Sherry Mazzocchi.

More: NYC’s 5 Best Springtime Street Fairs

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(image courtesy the World Science Festival)

The World Science Festival

various locations around the city
New York, NY

More: NYC’s 5 Best Spots For Science Lovers

From May 30th to June 3, some of the most brilliant minds in the arts and sciences gather in the city to talk about the most cutting edge topics in cosmology, neurology, biology—as well as art, dance and music. The highlight of the festival is the Ultimate Science Street Fair in Washington Square Park. On June 3rd, the park will be packed with free interactive exhibits, experiments and games–including a telepathy lab, the science of free-throws, a fragrance lab and lots more.

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(image courtesy BRIC Arts Media)

Celebrate Brooklyn Festival

The Bandshell at Prospect Park
Brooklyn , NY

More: Brooklyn’s 5 Best Live Music Venues

The Celebrate Brooklyn Festival features artists as diverse at the borough itself. Starting on June 5th with the reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, the festival explodes with free concerts, dance, films and theater performances. See jazz pianist Geri Allen, dance to the Balkan Beat Box, experience the Arab street pop of Souad Massi, the Icelandic sounds of Sigur Ros or hang with Lyle Lovett. Get their early on June 28th for Ballet Hispanico.

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(photo: Will Steacy, photo courtesy of


Central Park and other venues
New York, NY

More: NJ Summer Concert Guide

SummerStage, in force from June 5 though Aug. 30th, now takes place all over the city. SummerStage offers 41 events–most of them free — in Central Park alone. On June 20th, comics from The Daily Show will hold “Indecision in the Park” hosted by John Hodgman. Later in the summer, catch the Klezmatics, the Limon Dance Company, the Guthrie Family Reunion and Hezekiah Walker. Don’t miss Buckwheat Zydeco, either.

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(image courtesy of Big Apple Barbeque Block Party)

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party

Madison Square Park
23rd and Madison
New York, NY

More: NYC’s 8 Best BBQ Restaurants

On June 9th and 10, barbeque pit masters from all over the country come to NYC for a gathering of amazing food. Check out Mike Mills’ baby back ribs, Scott Roberts’ beef brisket and Garry Roark’s Pulled Pork. Vegan? Show some Northern Hospitality to the North Carolina band Southern Culture on the Skids.

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(image courtesy of Museum Mile Festival)

Musuem Mile Festival

Fifth Ave. along 105th St. to 82nd St.
New York, NY

More: NYC’s 5 Best Museums For Dates

On June 12, from 6 to 9 pm, pedestrians take over Fifth Ave. and some Manhattan’s greatest institutions open their doors for free. Explore 10 museums, including the Museum for African Art, El Museo Del Barrio, the Jewish Museum and the Met. Check out the magicians, jugglers and a scavenger hunt. Create your own street art, venture into the Imagination Playhouse and rock out to the sounds of Quarteto Rodriguez Cuban Jewish Allstars.

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(image courtesy of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade)

The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

West 21st Street and Surf Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

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Coney Island kicks of the summer season with the Mermaid Day Parade on Saturday, June 23rd. The 30th Anniversary celebration of the sea and its real and mythical creatures is a rare and wonderful showcase of artistic self-expression.

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(image courtesy of the International Arts Festival)

International African Arts Festival

Commodore Barry Park
Navy St. by Park & Flushing Aves.
Brooklyn, NY

From June 30 through July 4th, this festival includes not only music, poetry, dance and a dizzying array of traditional foods, but also a marketplace of one-of-a kind African jewelry, clothing and art. Opening day features a glorious parade down starting at Fulton and Vanderbilt Ave. Stay for the tribute to Miriam Makeba at P.S. 287.

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(image courtesy The Trust for Governors Island)

The City of Water Day

Governors Island
and Liberty State Park
New York, NY

Sometimes we forget that New York City is really an archipelago. The City of Water Day gives New Yorkers access to the water with free boat tours, educational activities, waterfront biking and a spectacular flotilla of hundreds of kayakers, canoers and sailors.

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Lincoln Center Out of Doors

65th St. and Broadway
New York, NY

From July 25th through Aug. 12, the plaza at Lincoln Center is filled with free events for the entire family. On July 26, the Gypsy Roma Urban Balkan Beats make their U.S. debut. August first, catch the Yemen Blues. Come back on Aug. 4th for Accordion Wrestling. The festival ends on a high note with an all-star gathering featuring the music of Gil Scott-Heron.

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(photo: Alex Lopez, image courtesy of

Summer Streets

along Park Ave. from Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park
New York, NY

More: The 3 Best Bars Near Summer Streets

Held during three Saturdays in August, Summer Streets allows New Yorkers to play, walk and bike in the streets without the interference from those large moving heavy metal objects normally found there. From 7 am to 1 pm, the streets are blocked off and bikers and pedestrians also have low-traffic connections to the Hudson River Greeenway, Harlem, Brooklyn and Governor’s Island.

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(image courtesy Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival)

Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival

Meadow Lake
Flushing Meadows-Crorona Park
Queens, NY
On Aug. 4th and 5th, celebrate the fifth moon of the Chinese lunar calendar with amazing food and performances. The largest dragon boat festival in the U.S., more than 120 North American dragon boat teams compete for prizes. The races, along with traditional Chinese dance performances, martial arts and other events make this a fast-paced exciting weekend.


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