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The 20 events you can’t miss in NYC this summer

Check out our picks of the best parades, outdoor parties, performances and events of the season

Written by
Jillian Anthony
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Summer means the city heats up in a big way, and we couldn’t be more excited. Besides heading to Gotham's best beaches and drinking at its finest rooftop bars, you'll want to make room in your calendar for these amazing music festivals, super-fun outdoor activities and cool cultural offerings. Ready, set, summer!

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do in the summer in NYC

  • Museums

Many of Kahlo’s paintings feature a lush, wild world, one you can get a sense of at this exhibition. You can see a dozen of her paintings and works on paper, as well as a reimagining of the artist’s home and garden at her famed Casa Azul in Mexico City.

May 16–November 1The New York Botanical Garden, Tue–Sun 10am–6pm; $20

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  • Music
  • Music festivals
  • price 4 of 4

Dozens of superstar musicians gather for three days of frolicking on Randalls Island in what has quickly become New York’s premiere music festival. Catch Drake, the Black Keys, Deadmau5, Bjork, Chromeo, Marina and the Diamonds and many more, along with 150,000 other people who are ready to party. Bring sunscreen!

June 5–7; Randall’s Island Park; $105–$260

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  • Music
  • Rock and indie
  • price 2 of 4

This Brooklyn-bred band, led by the euphoric harmonies of rockers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, is an indie-pop revelation. Tonight they share the stage with fellow borough bands and folksy folks Luke Temple and Pavo Pavo for a free concert as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn! festival.

June 13; Prospect Park Bandshell, 7pm; free

  • Things to do
  • Festivals

Travel back in time to the age of Gatsby at this grand affair. Wear your zoot suits and flapper dresses to immerse yourself in a day of gramophone DJs, Charleston contests, delectable cocktails and music from Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra.

June 13 and 14, August 15 and 16, Governors Island, $35–$95

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  • Music
  • Classical and opera

Recline on the Great Lawn in Central Park and hear the city fall silent as the New York Philharmonic Orchestra performs mesmerizing scores. Their two nights of free performances here include songs from Gershwin, Bernstein and Rodgers.

June 17 and 18Great Lawn, Central Park, 8pm; free

  • Things to do

It’s the most colorful day of the year! Celebrate art and mythology beachside with King Neptune, Queen Mermaid and thousands of bedazzled and half-dressed marchers along the boardwalk. And don’t forget to bring some extra glitter.

June 20, Coney Island, 1pm, free

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  • Things to do

Take your improv comedy obsession to new heights at an Upright Citizens Brigade–hosted 56-hour marathon dedicated to Del Close, the grandfather of long-form improv. The lineup has yet to be announced, but last year’s included Ellie Kemper, Bobby Moynihan, Nick Kroll, Ilana Glazer, and of course Amy Poehler, one of the original UCB4.

June 26–28; times, locations and prices vary

  • Things to do
  • Concerts

It’s getting hot out here! Hit this giant Long Island City courtyard for a day under the sun with DJs and bands that know how to get the party started, with different acts every Saturday. Your ticket price includes admission to the museum. 

Saturdays June 27–September 5, MoMA PS1, 3–9pm, $20, $18 advance

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  • Things to do
  • Conventions
If you had to give up cheese or sex for the rest of your life, which would you choose? If you’re hesitating, this fromage fest is for you. The “Fight Club meets Wrestlemania of cheese” invitational features dozens of cheeseheads serving up bite-sized concoctions for you to try. Your ticket gets you unlimited eats, but remember: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

June 27; Larkin Cold Storage, 5–8:30pm; $60–$75

  • LGBTQ+

Our favorite parade of the year paints Fifth Avenue all the colors of the rainbow. More than 50 floats, 300 marching organizations and thousands of spectators come together for a celebration of love, equality and a whole lot of drag queens.

June 28; Fifth Ave, 12pm; free

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Summer on the Hudson Picture Show: Jurassic Park
  • Things to do

Hold on to your butts, because a T-Rex army is invading Manhattan. Watch dinosaurs run amok in a science experiment gone horribly wrong as the sun sets over the Hudson in the warm summer air. And just imagine what Jurassic World has in store.

July 1; Pier 1, 8pm; free

Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks
  • Things to do

Every year the whole of New York comes together to gaze out upon the river and shout, “Amurrica!” Find your perch along the East River, turn toward the Brooklyn Bridge and take in a 25-minute scored pyrotechnics show with more than 40,000 fireworks.

July 4details TBA

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Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton
  • Things to do

Composer Danny Elfman has written many tunes that are now a permanent part of our collective cultural conscious, like the theme songs for The Simpsons, the Batman animated series and Pee-wee’s Playhouse. He’s also scored many works by iconic filmmaker Tim Burton, and tonight you can hear his infectious songs, from “This Is Halloween” to “Beetlejuice,” live onstage featuring an orchestra and choir. Dress up as your favorite character!

July 6, 8–12Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, times vary; $65–$250

Penn and Teller
  • Things to do

The famous magicians are leaving behind the sands of Vegas and storming the Great White Way for a limited time only. They’ll bring along some of the stunts they’re known for, such as stabbing each other, running each other over with heavy machinery and catching bullets in their mouths. You’ll fall over laughing while they do it.

July 7–Aug 16Marquis Theatre, times and prices TBA
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17. Waterfight NYC

Grab your mightiest squirt gun and head to this year’s Waterfight to get a playful reprieve from the summer heat. This year’s details are yet to be announced, but last year’s H2O battle drew thousands of people to the Great Lawn. Stay tuned.

July 25details TBA; free

  • Music
  • price 2 of 4

Former Fleet Foxes member J. Tillman branched out on his own as the folk-rock singer Father John Misty and we’ve all been blessed. In nostalgic songs with lyrics inspired in part by his upbringing in a strict evangelical Christian home, he tells haunting stories of the sinners and saints in us all. With Angel Olson and Summer Moon.

August 5, SummerStage, Central Park, 6pm, $35

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  • Music

This summer celebration of "open-minded, non-conforming" black music and the city’s multicultural landscape is the quintessential Brooklyn festival. This year’s lineup is yet to be announced, but last year’s included Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, The Internet and D’Angelo, so expect some showstoppers.

August 22 and 23Commodore Berry Park, times and prices TBA

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