by Mary Armstrong
New York City's Central Park is an ideal place to enjoy a wide variety of music, theater and dance performances.
Central Park is the best place to enjoy some of New York's finest performing artists.
From Bachata to Puccini; from Shakespeare to swingdance, there is a chance you will find something inspiring scheduled during the milder months, often for free. Or on weekend afternoons, especially if it's a nice day, stroll through the park listening; you may come upon a dixieland jazz quartet, a violin ensemble or a group of hip-hop artists performing to the latest radio favorites.
You may even stumble on some old fashioned street theater complete with jugglers and magicians and there is often entertainment especially for children.
Theater in Central Park
New York's Shakespeare festival is a New York institution. Since its inception in 1957 it has been pairing America's favorite actors with the world's favorite Bard.
The Delacorte theater, built in 1962, is the site of the festival each summer.
Line up here every morning it looks like the weather will hold and grab a free pair of tickets when they bigin distributing them at noon.
If you like your theater to be a little more invigorating, try the New York Classical Theater.
Classics like Moliere and Shakespeare are performed on the run. The whole production moves with each scene to a different location, and the audience with it, every 15 to 20 minutes.
Music in Central Park
There are frequent opportunites to enjoy music in Central Park. Each summer both the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic give free performances on Central Park's Great Lawn.
These performances are a tradition for New Yorkers who come early and bring blankets and elaborate picnics. If you forget your binoculars you can still watch the sun set over the Upper Westside and listen to some of the world's most talented musicians.
World music ranging from Afro-Cuban to Latin Jazz is the focus of the Harlem Meer Music Festival performed in the northern section of Central Park on Sundays throughout the summer. All the performances are free and the same casual atmosphere reigns as talented musicians from around the globe entertain listeners.
The SummerStage Festival is the highlight of the summer for many music loving New Yorkers. Contemporary artists as well as classic rock and roll bands play for standing room only audiences. Most performances have a ticket charge, but a few each summer are free.
Dance in Central Park
Central Park Swings holds organized swing dances many Sunday afternoons throughout the summer at the Central Park Bandshell. Any level ability, as well as wallflowers, are welcome to these free events. Nearby an informal roller-disco has been rolling every weekend since roller skates and portable music players became popular.
It's not in Central Park, but nearby Lincoln Center hosts Midsummer Night's Swing in June. Classic swing, jazz and latin orchestras play most evenings.
Tickets for the dance floor range from 20-30 dollars, but listening or dancing just outside its perimeter is free.
If you are a family (or group) of four or more you could enjoy the park on a guided Central Park Bike Tour.
Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2016 Lee W. Nelson