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Things to do this summer in NYC

Get your planner ready for an action-packed summer with Time Out’s picks for the best festivals, cultural events and more
Jazz Age Lawn Party
Photograph: Walter Wlodarczyk
By Time Out editors |

It's time to get out there and explore all that summer in New York has to offer. Dress up in some skimpy under-the-sea garb for Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade, or partake in a Charleston competition at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governors Island. If you want less of a party and more of a cultural fix, be sure to attend the Museum Mile Festival where some of the city’s best museums are open free of charge.

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

Things to do

Museum Mile Festival

A 23-block stretch of Fifth Avenue becomes a car-free promenade when ten of the city’s most prestigious art institutions—including the Guggenheim, the Met and the Museum of the City of New York—open their doors to the public free of charge for three hours. The crowds at this annual culturefest can be daunting—more than 50,000 people are expected to show up—but don’t get overwhelmed; plan to get there early if you want to see big-name shows. Musical performances, including string quartets and jazz ensembles, will enhance your walk from one museum to the next. Fifth Ave from 82nd to 105th Sts.

Things to do, Classes and workshops

Jazz Age Lawn Party

Brush up on your Fitzgerald and Hemingway in time for this outdoor bash, where part of Governors Island is transformed into a Prohibition-era soiree. Over two separate weekends, you can Charleston to Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra playing jazz staples, while donning your finest flapper garb and Zoot suits. Then Lindy Hop over to the bar for decade-appropriate cocktails (that promise to taste better than bathtub gin).

Music, Music festivals

Make Music New York

Musicians flood NYC's public spaces during this daylong, citywide, entirely free festival. The full lineup of events and happenings spanning the five boroughs will be announced in late May. Highlights for 2013 include a session of Beck's 2012 sheet music album at a block party surrounding Joe's Pub, 22 mass single–instrument participatory concerts,144 singers in rowboats at the Central Park Lake and punk bands taking over Staten Island.

Things to do, Festivals

Mermaid Parade

Glitter-covered seminude revelers, aquatically adorned floats and classic cruisers fill Surf Avenue for this annual art parade. The party has grown quite a bit over its three decades and now draws an audience of more than half a million, with well past a thousand marchers; including local muscle-car clubs, a celebrity King and Queen, and floats from the NY Aquarium and Luna Park. From W 21st St and Surf Ave to the Boardwalk at W 17th St, Coney Island, Brooklyn.

Things to do, Festivals

West Indian-American Day Carnival

This Caribbean celebration, known for having lively music and lots of skin, is never short on costumed stilt dancers, floats blaring soca and calypso music, and plenty of flags from countries such as Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Look for vendors stationed along Eastern Parkway selling island eats like jerk chicken, curry goat and oxtail. Early risers can preparty at J’ouvert (pronounced “joo-VAY”), a predawn festival in which revelers throw powdered paint at each other. Head to Grand Army Plaza around 4am when the high jinks really get going. Eastern Pkwy from Schenectady Ave to Flatbush Ave, Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

More to explore