Your weekend plans begin here, with a couple of dozen FREE and cheap things to do this three-day Labor Day Weekend. Four days if you start today.
There is FREE opera at the Met Opera Summer HD Festival, FREE Shakespeare in Bryant Park, the FREE annual North River Tugboat Race, street fairs and festivals celebrating the cultures of the Caribbean, Brazil, Japan and Indonesia, and a lot more.
There’s so much to see and do in NYC and never enough time to see and do it all.
All events are FREE and family-friendly, unless otherwise noted.
The NYC on the Cheap motto is get more NYC for less money.
Let’s hope the weather cooperates with outdoor events, but if it doesn’t, here are some rainy day activities in NYC, besides re-arranging your sock drawer.
Unless otherwise noted, street fairs are 10am to 6pm.
Know before you go:
Save money on Broadway shows during Broadway Week 2019, with half-price tickets to top musicals and dramas.
This is your annual pppportunity to get BOGO tickets to nearly two dozen shows, including Aladdin, The Lion King, Frozen, Tootsie and Beautiful: The Carol King Musical
Tickets are now on sale for performances Sept. 3-16, and the most popular shows to sell out fast.
Ending on Labor Day
Ten nights of FREE Metropolitan Opera performances on a giant screen in Lincoln Center Plaza end on Monday.
This 11th anniversary Met Opera Summer HD Festival features performances from the Met’s Live in HD series of cinema and TV transmissions, including such favorites as Aida and Carmen.
As always, the series began with the screening of a film with a connection to opera. This year, it was Funny Face, starring screen legends Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn, with opera-quality songs by George and Ira Gershwin.
See starting times and the schedule for the final five days, today through Monday, here.
- At the Museum of the City of New York, Fifth Ave. at 103rd St., through Sept. 2.
Take a break at the South Street Seaport to see the latest Lincoln vehicles, the Aviator and Corsair SUVs, both on display in cooling and soothing summery white.
There are FREE frozen snacks and fruit-infused water, and the chance to learn about what goes into the design of a luxury vehicle, meditation tips, and more.
Also check out the Nautilus outdoor art display sponsored by Lincoln and an art design partner. These are colorful interactive poles with sensors that emit a soothing sound when you tough them.
- FREE, through Monday, Sept. 2, at Pier 17, Noon to 8pm daily.
What to do in NYC today, Thursday
Boukman Eksperyans ushered in a musical revolution with its Grammy-nominated debut album, Voudou Adjae. This brilliant release introduced the world to the group’s high-energy sound that fuses traditional Haitian and Caribbean rhythms with rock and reggae.
Since their emergence on the scene, Boukman has continued to produce critically acclaimed albums and mesmerize audiences around the world—from Haiti (where they draw tens of thousands of fans per show) to the Caribbean, throughout North America, Canada, Europe, Japan, and Africa—both as a headlining act and alongside Wyclef Jean, Femi Kuti, and Baba Maal. This innovative blend of French Creole lyrics, Haitian carnival percussion, and Hendrix-style guitar will have you on your feet all night long.
- This FREE concert is 7:30PM at the David Rubenstein Atrium.
- Seating is first come first served
What to do Friday or Saturday
Japan Performing Arts, Inc. is bringing the Japanese summer experience of Bon Odori dances to Governors Island.
During the Obon summer holiday every August, people dance Bon Odori at festivals all over Japan.
This FREE event on Governors Island is notable for bringing Japan’s Big Three Bon Odori dances into one venue, including Nishimonai Bon Odori from Akita, Gujo Odori from Gifu, and Awa Odori from Tokushima. There will be hands-on Bon Odori dance sessions, food and more.
Friday, August 30 – performance on Outlook Hill, 7:30-9 PM.
Saturday, August 31 – programs in Nolan Park from noon to 8 PM, and another performance on Outlook Hill, 7:30-9 PM.
Sample Japanese specialties from vendors including:
- T-Swirl Crepe (Crepes)
- Fuji Yakisoba X Otafuku Foods (Fried Noodles & Okonomiyaki – “Japanese Pizza”)
- VartexEducation (Shaved Ice)
- Wasan Brookyn (Ramen)
- Karlsballs (Takoyaki)
What to do in NYC Friday, Saturday or Sunday
Shakespeare in Bryant Park
- August 30 – September 1 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), 7pm-9pm.
- If you miss it this weekend, it’s back next weekend, and September 5 – 7 (Thursday, Friday and Saturday), 7pm-9pm.
What to do Saturday in NYC
Before it was called the Hudson River, it was called the North River, and this annual event honors the history of the river as an important commercial “highway”.
In addition to nose-to-nose pushing competition, there’s a race, and events for the kids include rope tossing.
FREE viewing is available on Pier 84 at W. 44th Street & Hudson River Park starting at 11 a.m.
After tugboats tie up at the pier, kids of all ages can test their mettle in the amateur line-toss competition or try their luck in the ever-popular spinach-eating contest. Stay around for the fun on trophies awarded for winners of best dressed tug crew, best female & male tattoo and best mascot.
- 10am Parade of Tugs from Pier 84 (at 44th Street) to the start line at Pier I at 70th Street in Riverside Park South
- 10:30am Race Starts (runs from Pier I back to Pier 84)
- 11am Nose-to-nose pushing contests & Line-toss competition
- Noon Amateur line-toss & Spinach-eating contests
- 1pm Awards Ceremony
- 2pm Tugs depart
Board a special spectator boat from Circle Line to cruise with the Parade of Boats, and even race alongside the tugs in the big race.
- Tickets are $25, $12 for kids age 3-12 and $20 for seniors.
- Boarding begins at 10:15am and departure is at 10:30am from Pier 83–so you’ll be on the water before the parade.
This is the 34th anniversary Brazilian Day in New York, celebrating the culture of Brazil with music and dancing in the streets, and food. What started with a few hundred people in 1984 has grown since and now attracts more than 1.5 million to the street known as Little Brazil, and the area around it.
- Little Brazil, West 46th. Street. Every year Brazilian Day in New York takes over 25 blocks, all surrounding Little Brazil.
Friday through Monday in NYC
Celebrate all the islands of the Caribbean at this annual Labor Day Weekend festival that includes one of New York City’s biggest and best parades, with music and dancing in the streets.
There also are ticketed events. Everything happens around the Brooklyn Museum
- Reggae. Afrobeats. Soca-Under the Stars
- Summer Jam Youth Fest
- Brassfest-Brooklyn’s Savannah Grass
- Junior Carnival Parade August 31st
- Panorama 2019 August 31st
- Carnival Parade Eastern Parkway
The parade starts on Eastern Parkway near Roger Avenue at about noon, then head toward Grand Army Plaza. Festivities officially end about 6 p.m.
The parade will bring a long column of floats with people dressed in colorful costumes and Caribbean music playing.
Official vendors will sell West Indian food, clothing and goods. Find out more on the West Indian Carnival Association website.
Expect top-level security measures at the parade following years of fatal shootings — including that of Andrew Cuomo’s aide Carey Gabay — at the pre-dawn Jouvert Festival.
NYPD will set up checkpoints to screen for weapons and alcohol and to insure festivities do not begin before 6 a.m. There will also be increased lighting along the parade route.
You can Take the 2, 3, 4, 5, Q and shuttle trains to various points along the parade route, but crowds and the MTA’s holiday schedule might mean the trip takes longer than you’d expect.
- Unless otherwise noted, street fairs are 10am to 6pm.
Washington Square N. Street Fair
- Washington Square North between University and MacDougal
Times Square Summer Expo Street Fair
- Broadway from 47th to 57th St
Yankee Stadium Street Fair
- River Ave between 161st St to 158th St
PopUpNY @ Washington Square Park Food Street Fair Event
- Washington Square North between University Place and MacDougal
- Essex Street and Hester Street, 11am to 6pm
Indonesian Street Festival 12pm-5pm
- 68th St and Fifth Ave, Noon to 5pm
New Village Music Fest 2pm-6pm
- Tompkins Square Park, 7th St between Ave A and B, 2pm to 6pm
Monday, Sept. 2
30th Ave Astoria Labor Day Festival
- 30th Ave between Steinway and 29th St
- Bryant Park Game Area, 1pm to 6pm
Take a Dip
NYC has FREE outdoor swimming pools in every borough. They are open daily 11am to 7pm through mid-September.
NOTE – NYC outdoor pools will stay open until 8pm this weekend, due to the heat wave in NYC
Need more things to do in NYC?
My new book is full of them. 100 Things to be exact.
100 Things to Do in New York City Before You Die is a great guide to discovering the quirky treasures of NYC, or re-discovering some of the most famous spots in the world.
Available online and in bookstores now.
NYC beaches are open for the season through Labor Day Weekend, with lifeguards, food kiosks and fun in the sun, sand and surf.
There are 14 miles of public beaches within the NYC boundaries.
Lifeguards are on duty 10am to 6pm daily, and for the third year in a row, free sunscreen is available at sunscreen stations similar to stations for hand sanitizer.
Here is our guide to the best beaches in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island you can get to by subway.