I love some of the major tourist sights in New York – I always try to go up the Empire State Building on my first night – but I always like to make sure I find out what free events are going on around the city. There are literally hundreds, so here’s my pick for July:
1) Watch the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks display
It wouldn’t be the Fourth of July in New York City without the annual Macy’s fireworks show, which made its debut in 1976 to commemorate the nation’s bicentennial. The iconic display will return to the East River this year; fireworks will be set off from the Brooklyn Bridge and from barges in the water below. The best viewing spots will be from Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and along the east side of Lower Manhattan. If you plan on heading to where the action is, arrive by 5pm to snag a good spot (the light show starts at 9pm).
2) See a Central Park SummerStage performance
Every year, New York’s largest free performing arts festival, brings free performances to 18 parks throughout the city’s five boroughs every June to August. To celebrate their 30th anniversary this year, it has extended the season from May to October, and added more than 20 free shows in Central Park and 14 neighborhood parks across the city. What will you go and see? We almost saw The Felice Brothers when we were in town, but ended up sailing on the Schooner Adirondack instead!
3) Watch a fashion show along the Hudson
This all-day show, presented by Fashion Avenue News Magazine, will feature two dozen designers and 150 models strutting on an outdoor catwalk at Riverbank State Park. Styles on display will range from couture to ready-to-wear, teen and even resort wear. (It’s summertime, after all.)
4) Check out the Global Fashion Capitals exhibition at the Museum at FIT
Browse over 70 garments and accessories on show while you learn about the history and making of the ‘fashion city’, from the four main destinations – ‘swinging’ London, Milan, New York and Paris – as well as 16 emerging fashion hubs, such as Seoul, Shanghai, Berlin, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Sao Paulo, Mumbai and Stockholm.
5) Enjoy City of Water Day
Organised by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, the City of Water Day Festival taking place on Governor’s Island, New York and in Maxwell Place Park, Hoboken, is a day-long family focused celebration of the city’s waterfront potential, offering people the chance to participate in fun, water-related activities and boat tours.
6) Have a water fight!
Load up your water guns and make your way to Central Park’s Great Lawn to participate in the city’s largest water fight, which includes thousands of participants. Expect to cool off and have a great time, but be sure to follow the rules: no water balloons allowed.
7) Go to the Swedish Midsummer Festival
Celebrate the longest day of the year, Swedish style at this annual event held in Battery Park in Lower Manhattan where you’ll have fun decorating a midsummer pole, making flower wreaths, playing games and dancing to traditional Scandinavian music. There’s also lots of delicious food from New York’s finest Swedish restaurants and food purveyors to try out, including FIKA, The Shop at Scandinavia House, Nordic Preserves, Smörgås Chef/Crepes du Nord, Sockerbit Sweet & Swedish, Red Rooster as well as Gigino’s.
8) Watch a famous hot dog eating contest!
Joey Chestnut of San Jose, CA holds the world record for eating 69 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and Buns in 10 minutes, while Miki Sudo of Las Vegas, NV won her first title in last year’s championship where she consumed 34 Hot Dogs and Buns in 10 minutes. Head to Coney Island to watch Joey compete for his ninth straight title this year, and Miki defend her title as Female Champion.
9) Discover the art in Madison Square Park
Enjoy an immersive experience when you walk underneath New York-based artist, Teresita Fernandes’ fascinating installation. Consisting of beautiful canopies of golden mirror-polished disks designed to look like foliage suspended above the pathways around the park’s central Oval Lawn, the idea is that sunlight will filter through and bounce off the disks to create abstract flickering effects around you as you walk.
10) Explore a hidden garden
The beautiful Gardens at St Luke in the Fields on Hudson Street make the perfect escape from the Saturday SoHo shopping crowds. It’s really easy to just walk on past this pretty hidden world, filled with flowers and sunlight – and home to 100 rare birds no less! And although in theory they are private gardens belonging to the next-door Church of St Luke in the Fields, they’re very much open to the public each day from dawn until dusk.
Also… here’s a tried-and-tested activity idea for foodies.
(Lead photo: Grace Chu for Timeout)