How to get free Shakespeare in the Park tickets

Get free Shakespeare in the Park tickets by following our tips for seats at Central Park's best outdoor theater

Photograph: Courtesy Shakespeare in the Park

Every summer, people flock to Central Park in New York to score Shakespeare in the Park tickets. This beloved free annual tradition is produced by the Public Theater at the open-air Delacorte Theater. Sure, you could stay at home and stream Shakespeare movies, but the live outdoor theater experience is unique—and certainly one of the best free things to do in NYC. This year’s Shakespeare in the Park productions are Othello, playing May 29 through June 24, and Twelfth Night, playing July 17 through August 19. As has been the case since Shakespeare in the Park began in 1962, the Public distributes free tickets, but only the most dedicated will manage to get seats.

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 Shakespeare in the Park

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1. In Central Park at the Delacorte

Tickets are distributed in front of the Delacorte Theater on a first-come, first-served basis at 12pm on the day of the show, so you’ll have to wait in line—likely for a long time—if you want to get in. But it's worth it.

Before you go, you'll need to register for a Public Theater Patron ID. Click here do that.

Central Park doesn’t open until 6am, and although the Public Theater doesn’t condone it, it is legal to camp out before then by the park entrance at Central Park West and 81st Street. A line monitor from the Public will escort any early birds in when the park opens. We recommend this option only for the very desperate; otherwise, arrive no later than 10am—though we recommend much earlier—to give yourself a chance at tickets. 

In order to endure the hours-long wait, you’ll need a chair or a blanket, something to occupy yourself and probably something to eat. Make sure to bring an umbrella in case it rains—but don’t worry, shows are very rarely rained out. Also, there will probably be a smaller turnout if it's drizzling, which will increase your chances of snagging a ticket.

Tickets are limited to two per person, and the number of available tickets varies from day to day. There’s no cutting, saving spots or leaving the line for any extended length of time. Patrolling Public Theater staff will ask you to give up your spot in line if you breach any of these rules. There are separate lines for senior citizens (65 and older) who require accessible seating and for patrons with disabilities. (For the latter, attestation to the need for accessible seating is required.)

There is a standby line at the Delacorte each night for tickets that have gone unclaimed. If you're lucky, you may be able to scoop up seats half an hour before the show, though you'll want to get there a while before then to secure a decent position in line.

2. Via the mobile lottery

The Public continues its partnership with TodayTix, which offers an exclusive mobile lottery for Free Shakespeare in the Park (replacing the virtual lottery from previous years). Tickets are assigned by random draw on the TodayTix app on each date that there is a public performance at the Delacorte Theater. You can enter the lottery for one or two tickets between midnight to noon on the day of the show; if you win, you'll be notified between noon and 2:15pm, and must confirm your tickets through the app within 45 minutes. Winners can pick up their tickets at Delacorte between 5pm and 7:30pm; unclaimed tickets are forfeited to the standby line.

3. Downtown at the Public Theater

Visit Shakespeare in the Park's home base, the Public Theater, to enter the in-person lottery that is held on every show day. Sign-up starts at 11am and the drawing is at noon. (If you're rich and don't want to leave anything to chance, you can guarantee yourself a ticket by making a tax-deductable donation of $500 or more to the Public Theater. That will earn you a single reserved seat for either play of the summer season, but only a limited number of such tickets are available.)

4. In the outer boroughs

Vouchers are made available in boroughs other than Manhattan on specific days between 12pm and 2pm (if supplies last that long). These vouchers can then be exchanged for tickets at the Delacorte between 5:30pm and 7:30pm. Visit the Public's website for a complete distribution schedule.

Othello plays May 29–June 24. Twelfth Night plays July 17–August 19.

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Comments

9 comments
Christine

I had been to Shakespeare in the Park for many years. It has changed. Over 10 years ago was the last time I tried to get tickets. Drove in from across the GWB and I found parking at 0530 am. Waited in my car. Just before 6am I started walking towards the park. People started coming down the sidewalk from different paths. I fell in line and shortly after we all stopped in our places a man ahead of me started to threaten me, physically. He said I had cut in line. He had been in line on the sidewalk from 3 am. I stayed calm and no one around him seemed to be as committed to violence or speaking to me, which is odd. If I really cut in I would leave. I could not tell if the nut was telling me the truth. Finally the cops came and they said the man was right, that people had "unofficially" lined up outside the park first and then were allowed in. The cops wanted to know if I wanted to pressed charges on the threats, which I really did not want to do. So I went to what was now the back of the line. Guess what? Neither of us got tickets! (I thought he was going to start screaming.) Unless you have many days to keep trying, make one early bird effort and don't go alone. Me, I'm older now and intend to try joining the Public Theater at a level that provides a ticket.

Nina

I'd rather pay 10, 20 or even 30$ than stand in line all night, and then stand in line again half a day. it's stupid, crazy and does not worth it. So many other things to enjoy in NYC!

Javier Vázquez

Good morning, I'm from México and I'm going to NY next month and I really want to go to one of these performances. Is there any way to get tickets on-line or something lie that? Greetings from Yucatán, México. Javier V.

Kevin

It's HARD to get tickets. I tried 6 different times for Into the Woods last year. Finally on a potentially rainy Wednesday I was able to score two tickets, not next to each other, far house right. BUT, I got in!! Try both online and real line if you can.

noedir

We are from Brazil, we have much difficulty understanding English, better not watch?

malkin

Amusing that the only comments here are from people asking "how do I get tickets" at the bottom of an article detailing exactly how to get tickets.

alberta king

Hello, I will be visiting New York City June 19th and 20. I was hoping to Shakespeare in the past with my daughter and girlfriend(3). I live in Atlanta Georgia and would like to know how to get tickets for those days.

Heather Manhire -Dover

I am an English teacher from the UK,Shakespeare is taught as a part of our curriculum.It would be fascinating to watch an open air performance of his works by a cast of American actors.Is there an opportunity for visitors to New York in July to purchase tickets?