Your Guide to SummerStage 2017 in Central Park
When I first moved to NYC in my early 20’s, I kept my summer nights and weekend afternoons filled with outdoor concerts. Much to my surprise, attending these public concerts were much more affordable compared to big name venues, and in fact, many of these summer events were free of charge! After all these years as a resident of New York City, there’s still one series of concerts I make sure not to miss, and that’s City Parks Foundation’s annual SummerStage program. Here’s the scoop on the musical event this year!
SummerStage happens at venues in a variety of parks in New York City, making it the largest free performing arts festival in the area. You’ll discover music of all genres, from jazz to hip hop, opera to folk, and classical to country. With so many different genres to rock out to, or sick back and relax in the sun, there are endless opportunities to discover a new musical favorite!
SummerStage was initially founded in 1986 in the spirit of Central Park’s mission: to serve as a free public resource to help enrich the lives of New Yorkers. Since then, it’s grown tremendously, and is now perhaps the most anticipated part of summer in the city. A few of the shows I’m most looking forward to this year are the Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series (it’s like going to the real opera – for free), The Freedom Party (an old school dance party in the park), and Ginuwine (dating myself as a teenager in the 90’s).
Here are a few tips to go over if you’re attending SummerStage for the first time, or could use a refresher for outdoor concert guidelines:
Give Yourself Time
If you hope to get into the shows for big name performers, show up early. And by early, we mean around 2 hours early!
All events are first come, first served. As an experienced SummerStage goer, I can testify that lines for the big names que up way before showtime. However, if you don’t care so much about who is performing and are more interested in seeing what the hype is all about, I’d suggest picking one of the lesser known artists. This way you’ll be able to walk in before showtime without waiting on long lines. Another option is becoming a SummerStage Member, which allows you and a plus one to skip the line. Memberships start at $150, and can be purchased here.
What to Expect
Be aware that there is a security check before entering the event – which highlights why it’s important to arrive early! There’s a full list of things you’re not able to bring into the space, and it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with it before concert day. Here are a few worth mentioning:
- Large backpacks and luggage
- Glass bottles, cans, and coolers
- Folding chairs and beach umbrellas
- Bikes, roller blades, scooters, and skateboards
- Video cameras and selfie sticks
If you’re a big snacker, there are plenty of spots to grab a bite to eat as you enjoy the performances. In fact, SummerStage has partnered with Smorgasburg and some of the best food vendors of the area, including Big Mozz Pizza, Lonestar Empire, Oaxaca Taquería, Stand Coffee, Blue Marble, and The Good Batch, to bring tasty treat to you. Beer and wine are sold on site as well!
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Another helpful tip: There are no rain dates. This means performances will go on rain or shine, so pack a poncho! If the weather turns severe with torrential thunder and lightning, check SummerStage’s Twitter feed to get the latest updates.
For attendees with small children, remember that strollers are prohibited inside the park unless you’re attending Global Family Day.
The Formal After Party
In addition to singing and dancing along to the sounds of summer in Central park, there’s a formal event worth considering. If you want to do good, feel good, and have an amazing time, consider purchasing a ticket for the City Parks Foundation Gala Concert & Dinner on June 19th from 6:30pm – 10:00pm. The Gala will feature the music of David Bowie and other favorite tunes as the People and Parks Award is presented. The recipient shares the concert’s mission of inspiring New Yorkers to enrich the cultural life of communities through public programs – such as Summer Stage! Ticket packages for the event start at $500, and can be purchased here.