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The best free things to do in NYC this weekend

Work out your weekend plans with our comprehensive list of free events

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Trying to mastermind a stellar weekend? Save your hard-earned dough with our guide to the best free things to do this weekend by heading out to a free club night, free comedy show or free concert. You could even come up with a great first-date idea!

RECOMMENDED: See all free things to do in NYC

Free things to do in NYC this weekend

  • Dance
  • Contemporary and experimental
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  • Battery Park City

The free annual Battery Dance Festival, formerly known as the Downtown Dance Festival, takes place outdoors at Robert F. Wagner Park, in front of the sparkling New York Harbor. For its 41st edition this year, it is offering both in-person and streaming options. The lineup includes multiple U.S. or world premieres, and the participating companies include visiting groups from Singapore, Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands and Canada. The first seven shows are general admission, but reservations are required for the 6pm finale on August 20 (which is held indoors at the Schimmel Center). Here is a full schedule of the artists and companies that will be performing. Visit the festival's website for additional details. Saturday, August 13 (Young Voices in Dance):Sydney Burtis, The DifferenceZachary Seto, Nostalgic Beings of SynesthesiaCamryn and Courtney Spero, DistanceKate Louissaint, Bird’s EyeLerato Ragontse, In Between ChangeAnya Susan, In ConversationMyles King, The Last FoundryShannon Harkins, Dreams and Nightmares of a Mutant People Sunday, August 14:Dancing Wheels Company, Unconquered WarriorsBallet Nepantla, Let Down and Huasteca SuiteLinotip, Diagonal & CainGaudanse, nanibuPeridance Contemporary Dance Company, Just Above the SurfaceThe Vanaver Caravan, Vanaver Caravan Retrospective Dancing Wheels | Photograph: Courtesy Steven Pisano Monday, August 15 (India Independence Day):Lineup to be announced Tuesday, August 16: Christina Carminucci, The Solidarity Series IV: Free Spirit

  • Theater
  • Shakespeare
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  • Central Park

The summer's second Shakespeare in the Park offering is director Laurie Woolery and songwriter Shaina Taub's enormous musical adaptation of As You Like It, choreographed by Moulin Rouge!'s Tony-winning Sonya Tayeh. The production was originally planned for Summer 2020, and we interviewed Woolery and Taub about it back in 2017, when it was part of the Public's expansive Public Works wing. The principal cast—which includes Rebecca Naomi Jones, Darius de Haas, Ato Blankson-Wood and Taub herself—is joined by huge ensemble casts drawn from community organizations in all five boroughs. Click here to learn how to get free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park.

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  • Theater
  • Shakespeare
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  • Upper West Side

Hudson Classical Theater Company concludes its 2022 summer season of free alfresco classics with a new look at the not-so-great Scots of Shakespeare's tragedy, in which a nobleman and his wife descend into a nightmare of disquiet after planning their monarch's murder. (The company took a previous stab at the play back in 2007.) Reservations are not required.

  • Dance
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  • Hell's Kitchen

The City Parks Foundation's free outdoor festival SummerStage graces various green spaces around the city with dance, music and theater. In the dance department, the offerings include Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Coney Island Amphitheater, July 23), Maimouna Keita African Dance Company (Corporal Thompson Park, August 5), Urban Bush Women (Crotona Park , August 12), excerpts from The Jazz Continuum (Marcus Garvey Park, August 19), a tribute to Greg Tate featuring Burnt Sugar/Danz (Marcus Garvey Park, August 20) and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (Central Park, August 28). Visit the SummerStage website for details. 

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  • Theater
  • Shakespeare
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  • Hell's Kitchen

Hip to Hip Theatre Company moves from park to park with this staging of Shakespeare's tart-tongued romcom about two too-witty longtime foes whose friends plot to get them together. Presented in rep with the company's take on Pericles, the production roams through multiple boroughs but never plays the same spot twice in a row, so consult Hip to Hip's website for details.

  • Theater
  • Shakespeare
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  • Hell's Kitchen

Hip to Hip offers a rare look at one of Shakespeare's weirdest plays (often coattributed to ne'er-do-well George Wilkins): a kind of Ancient Mediterranean Flash Gordon adventure that includes shipwrecks, contests to win a princess’s hand, a pirate abduction, a virgin in a brothel and a guest shot by the goddess Diana. The show is performed in alternation with Much Ado About Nothing at locations throughout the boroughs and Jersey City, so check out the Hip to Hip website for details.

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  • Theater
  • Musicals
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  • Hell's Kitchen

Theater for the New City takes its 46th annual Street Theater Company show on the road, bringing agitprop to outdoor locations throughout the five boroughs. Crystal Field and Peter Dizoza's family-friendly (but corporation-hostile!) satirical musical, directed by Field, celebrates beleaguered educators trying to make a difference at a time when no one seems especially keen to learn anything at all. The cast of 22 is buttressed by giant puppets and moving scenery. Visit TNC's website to find out where the show will be playing when.

  • Theater
  • Puppet shows
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  • Midtown West

Octopus Theatricals reaches out to family audiences throughout New York with a mobile puppet show, bringing its solar-powered stage to Manhattan West, Zuccotti Park and Brooklyn Commons for free lunchtime and afternoon performances in late July and August. The show includes brief marionette plays by Dipika Guha and Jen Silverman and an original musical; theharacters are voiced by theater Andy Groteleuschen, L Morgan Lee, Teresa Avia Lim and Adrianna Mitchell.

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  • Dance
  • Modern
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  • Rockaways

Rockaway Beach's annual outdoor dance festival returns with another free, sandy offering. This year's edition celebrates the natural-world inspirations of the late Trisha Brown with a program that includes multiple early Brown works—staged along the shore from Beach 97th Street to Beach 110th Street, with audiences following the dancers from site to site—and concludes with 1980's Opal Loop (1980), the first piece from her Unstable Molecular Structure cycle. An afterparty follows at the Rockaway Hotel. (Beach Sessions and Rockaway Film Festival also present, as a companion piece, a screening of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson's long 1976 experimental opera Einstein on the Beach on Friday, August 19, at 7:30pm, at the outdoor Arverne Cinema.) 

Romy & Michele's Saturday Afternoon Tea Dance
  • Things to do
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  • East Village

DJ Bright Light Bright Light’s joyous tribute to the still-untouchable heroines of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion delivers a consistent stream of Mariah Carey, Scissor Sisters, Bette Midler and TLC to a merry band of adorable acolytes. Share your favorites on the DJ booth via Post-it and revel in the fact that you look totally cutting edge.

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  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
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  • Governors Island

Get some retail therapy done at FAD Market with New York City’s up-and-coming brands, designers, and small businesses — offering a curated selection of handcrafted jewelry, apparel, stationery, skincare, tableware, home goods, and artisanal food at Governor’s Island this weekend. Shop from vendors such as Yvonne.b, Elaine McGovern Designs, Soldered Curves, and Yahlistic Natural Body Works. Also grab a sweet trea from Little Boxes NYC and play pétanque (a lawn throwing game similar to bocce and boules).

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