Best summer music festivals in NYC
June to early October
For New York music fans, SummerStage is the gold standard for outdoor summer concerts. The City Parks Foundation–backed series, which celebrates its 33rd anniversary this year, is a juggernaut among warm-weather concert presenters, booking everything from classic New York hip-hop artists in outer borough NYC parks to big-name indie-rock bands on the Central Park mainstage.
The annual Randalls Island event is the one of the best big local fests, hosting top talent from an array of genres over three days. Catch the new generation of hip-hop stars (Lil Uzi Vert, Brockhampton), pop sounds of every ilk (from moody Halsey to grandiose synth-poppers CHVRCHES), riotous punk (The Menzingers, Japandroids) and more. The headliners are Jack White, Eminem and Travis Scott.
Unlike SummerStage, which spreads out across the five boroughs, all BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! shows take place at the beautiful bandshell in Prospect Park, a scenic amphitheater surrounded by trees. Catching one of these gigs is guaranteed to be a highlight of your summer, whether you're seeing a buzzy indie-rock band, a classic soul or funk group, or one of the best hip-hop artists around. This year's season opens with Chicago rapper Common.
Those keen on catching summer concerts in NYC have a ton of options. Northside Festival takes a slightly different approach from GovBall and Panorama, presenting shows at several venues around Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The result is a diverse experience that hosts rising local acts alongside big names. Looks for this year's lineup to mix indoor and outdoor gigs with a slate of beloved acts.
Hosted by local hip-hop radio champ Hot 97, this annual blowout unites hip-hop's biggest names with notable up-and-comers. Summer Jam, entering its 25th year, is a bellwether for hip-hop and pop at large, often booking notable acts at the height of their powers. Brooklyn's own Notorious B.I.G. topped the bill in 1995, while DJ Khaled, Fat Joe, Remy Ma and others took the top spots in 2017. Miss the yearly celebration and risk being left out of the loop.
Hosted by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the annual River to River Festival features over a week's worth of music, dance, theatre and visual-arts programming at a number of downtown venues, including the South Street Seaport, Rockefeller Park and Governors Island.
June 16, 17
This Croton, NY, fest—hosted by the Pete Seeger–founded environmental organization Clearwater—returned last year after a brief hiatus with a bang. Thrown with sustainability and eco-living in mind, this fest features Americana roots music ranging from the contemporary to the traditional alongside dancing and other family-oriented entertainment. This year Jeff Tweedy, Ani DiFranco and Rhiannon Giddens top the bill.
June 30–September 1
MoMA PS1 Warm Up boasts almost two decades of packing the Long Island City museum's courtyard with music aficionados and sun-worshiping revelers. Based on last year's highlights, which featured experimental underground artists like Yves Tumor alongside the year's biggest stars (Cardi B), we can't wait for this year's series to kick off.
July 24–August 12
For the 48th year of Lincoln Center Out of Doors, expect more of the same. That is, another year of intriguingly diverse music, dance and spoken word performances. Over three weeks, the fest brings internationally-acclaimed talent to the plazas of Lincoln Center. Best of all? All the performances are absolutely free.
Coachella is the bash that really kicks the festival season into gear. So it makes sense that its organizers, Goldenvoice, finally brought a big fest to the Big Apple. This year's third edition features the Weeknd, Janet Jackson and the Killers topping the bill, with a ton of strong supporting acts that include rising avant dance producer Yaeji and indie-pop songwriter Japanese Breakfast.
August 25, 26
Afropunk Festival takes over Brooklyn's Commodore Barry Park for two days of tunes and art that celebrates black music in all its many forms. Last year its absolutely packed bill made it the fest of the summer—can it repeat the feat? Look for acts that range from punk to soul, as well as food trucks, live artwork and more.
August 31–September 2
Look out New York City dance clubs: Electric Zoo 2018 Festival is poised to take over Labor Day weekend, bringing hoards of EDM fans to Randalls Island for the event's 10th summer. The festival has become an unmissable attraction on the electronic-dance-music circuit, featuring a wide range of artists both top name and underground. Get on your dancing shoes and best festival clothing and enjoy the tunes.
Hosted by Founders Entertainment, the folks behind GovBall, Meadows Festival touches down in Citi Field with a star-studded lineup of internationally renowned acts and buzzy local support. Last year they ranged from top-charting headliners Jay-Z and Red Hot Chili Peppers to smaller acts like indie-pop songwriter Sky Ferreira and crossover jazz outfit BADBADNOTGOOD. Meadows returns in 2018 for its third year.