Your weekend plans begin here, with a couple of dozen FREE and cheap things to do this mid-July weekend, including the final days of dancing under the stars at Midsummer Night Swing, the Bastille Day fair celebrating the French Revolution, City of Water Day celebrating the city’s shoreline, and your last chance to experience Manhattanhenge.
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:
Today and Friday
Manhattanhenge is when the sun sets directly through the center of Manhattan cross streets, lighting both the north and south sides. It occurs just four times a year – twice in May, and again this week.
You can experience it along crosstown streets in Manhattan.
Or, tonight, July 11, head for the Hayden Planetarium for a special program with astrophysicists explaining the phenomenon, and more.
What to do in NYC on Friday
Enjoy FREE concerts Fridays in July and August in Bryant Park.
Tonight it is Le Vent du Nord, an energetic mix of French-Canadian and Celtic dance tunes, traditional songs and original pieces.
- 6pm on the Stage, facing Sixith Avenue
Summer Family Night
This FREE family-friendly concert in Madison Square Park features The Mil’s Trills Songwriting Obstacle Course & Concert. Children will have the chance to construct their very own melodies, lyrics, and rhythms and witness their music become part of one amazing group song performed by the band.
The Songwriting Obstacle Course is optional, from 5:30-6:30 PM. The concert is 6:45-7:30 PM. Eataly & Melt Bakery will be on site selling tasty ice-cream sandwiches, beer & wine.
- 5:30pm to 7:30pm on the Western Gravel.
- More details here.
The iconic Nora Ephron rom-com starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan is being celebrated at Katz’s Delicatessen, site of that iconic scene in which Sally fakes an orgasm.
On Friday, July 12th, there’s an orgasm scene reenactment contest.
Then, on July 24th, Katz’s is partnering with Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Brooklyn for a one-night screening of the movie, including bites from Katz’s via pastrami and corned beef carving stations at the theater.
If you want what she’s having (or had), Katz’s also is selling a $135 When Harry Met Sally package, which includes Harry’s order (pastrami on rye), Sally’s order (turkey sandwich), t-shirt, tote bag, and pins.
Boo hoo! This is the end of three weeks of dancing outdoor under the stars to live bands in Lincoln Center, at Midsummer Night Swing.
This weekend features bands playing Tango tonight, New Orleans jazz and Blues tomorrow and Big Band on Saturday.
There’s a FREE dance lesson each night with ticketed admission for the dance band. Bands perform 7:30pm to 10pm.
As always, Midsummer Night Swing winds up with the blockbuster Harlem Renaissance Orchestra playing 30s and 40s music, and Saturday afternoon is a FREE dance lesson just for kids.
See you on the dance floor.
What to Do Saturday in NYC
The annual City of Water Day celebrates the 1,600 miles of shoreline around New York City with a full day of FREE family-friendly events in all five boroughs, and beyond.
Tour a tugboat, row a boat, identify fish and other wildlife, learn to kayak, join a coastal cleanup, participate in science experiments, lean to fish, learn about the organizations that protect our water and waterways, and more.
There are more than 50 FREE events from Inwood at the northern tip of Manhattan to Governors Island, along the Brooklyn shoreline to Jamaica Bay, Westchester County and New Jersey, with multiple ways to get into the water, with or without a paddle.
Get out on the water on City of Water Day.
What to do Sunday in NYC
Bastille Day celebration is New York’s largest annual fête of French culture, on Sunday, July 14th.
Again this year there are FREE live performances by French and American groups, including Can Can dancers, activities for children and families, wine and Champagne tastings, a special film screening, and more than 60 booths showcasing the best of French food and Francophile culture.
Car lovers will be able to get up close to classic models of Citroën. the popular French automobile. This year’s rally celebrates the 100th anniversary of Citroën.
- FREE, Noon to 5pm on East 60th Street between Fifth and Lexington Avenues.
Learn to dance like a pro at these Salsa, Cha-Cha and Bachata lessons and group social dances led by master teachers from the Piel Canela Dance and Music School and featuring DJ Ray Colon.
- 6pm to 9:30pm at Hudson River Park, Pier I, at 70th St.
What to Do Saturday and Sunday in NYC
See teams including from Audi Sport, BMW Andretti, Nissan eDam, Venturi, Panasonic Jaguar, Virgin and Mahindra race for the season trophy, in a special course designed through the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.
There’s also a family-friendly game area, including the chance to drive a raceccar yourself, virtually, of course.
Since these are all-electric vehicles, it’s also a glimpse at the future of zero-emission driving, because so much of what is learned on racetracks leads to our driveways.
Take a Dip
NYC has FREE outdoor swimming pools in every borough. They open today for the 2019 season and are open daily 11am to 7pm through mid-September.
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.