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An Insider’s Guide to the Best Festivals in New York

New York City has broken its own tourism records for eight years running, and it’s little wonder why.

The Big Apple is a melting pot of culture, art, history, and personality. Festivals in New York reflect the same diversity, providing hubs for creativity, inclusivity, and some of the best cultural experiences in the world.

But with so many events taking place year-round, it can be hard to nail down your New York festival schedule. This is particularly true if you’ve just moved into the area.

Here’s your insider guide to the best festivals in New York.

Tribeca Film Festival

Founded in 2002 by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro, and Craig Hatkoff, the Tribeca Film Festival has played a key part in restoring the vitality of the Tribeca neighborhood following the events of 9/11.

As well as a vibrant film lineup the festival features panel discussions, a music lounge, and an artists’ awards program.

If you consider yourself a film buff, this is the festival for you.

Ninth Avenue Food Festival

The Ninth Avenue Food Festival is one of New York’s oldest and largest continuing food festivals. Its focus is on promoting Hell’s Kitchen locals. Bar Bacon, City Sandwich, and Poseidon Bakery are just a few of the regular vendors on hand.

Along with an array of different drinks and cuisines, the festival also features live entertainment. Dinner with a show has never sounded so good!

If the way to your heart is through your stomach, this is sure to be one of your favorite festivals in New York.

Battery Dance Festival

The Battery Dance Festival is New York’s longest-running free public dance festival. Established in 1982 by Battery Dance, today the festival attracts a combined audience of over 12,000 people.

Every year exceptional local dancers and choreographers present their own original works. They do so alongside professional companies from Europe, Asia, South America, the Caribbean, and Africa.

The festival emphasizes inclusion and diversity, making it a great way to experience the multicultural spirit of the city.

New York City Wine & Food Festival

Every October New York City plays host to a weekend-long eating and drinking extravaganza.

Whether you’re an avid foodie or an occasional Instagrammer, this festival has something for everyone. Chef demos, walk-around tastings, and sit-down dinners are just a few of the events offered.

Afropunk Festival

For two days in August, Afropunk Festival descends on Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn.

This is an annual festival that celebrates black arts culture through music, film, skate, and art. Check out music acts, see the live artwork, and celebrate arts genres that reflect African-American culture.

Since its inception in 2005, Afropunk has gone global, attracting more than 90,000 patrons worldwide. Afropunk Brooklyn is where it all started making it not only one of the best festivals in New York, but also one of the most historic.

Shakespeare in the Park

Shakespeare in the Park tops just about every list of great free things to do in New York City and for a good reason. There’s nothing quite like seeing Bard’s plays come to life against the natural splendor of Central Park.

Produced by the Public Theater, Shakespeare in the Park offers large-scale productions of William Shakespeare plays to the public, free of charge.

A spectacle in their own right, the plays also often feature internationally renowned actors. Casts have included Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and John Lithgow to name a few.

Museum Mile Festival

For one day a year, the museums along Museum Mile open their doors for free to over 50,000 attendees.

Initially started to encourage new museum audiences and to support the arts during the 1970s fiscal crisis, the Museum Mile Festival has since become renowned the world over. Thousands of tourists make the trip to attend the festival every year.

Along with the museums themselves, the festival also takes over 5th Avenue. The street is closed off to traffic and lined with live performances, art, and entertainment.

Summer Stage

Summer Stage is a series of performances running from June to August across all five boroughs of New York.

Stage plays, concerts, performance art, and more, Summer Stage is one of New York’s largest and most lively arts festivals.

This is also the festival that spawns festivals. The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival runs within the main festival and features boundary-pushing contemporary Jazz talent over four days.

The Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series also falls under the Summer Stage umbrella. It features a series of arias and duets from a selection of operas performed across a variety of stages.

Celebrate Brooklyn!

Celebrate Brooklyn! is one of New York’s longest-running outdoor performing arts festivals. If your hectic schedule only allows for one festival experience per year make it this one.

Celebrate Brooklyn! kicked off in 1979 as a way to revitalize Prospect Park. Today it attracts upwards of 250,000 attendees and plays host to the best local talent in Brooklyn.

The music ranges from classical to alt-rock; jazz to hip-hop. If you’re a music aficionado of any kind, then Celebrate Brooklyn! is your Mecca.

The Best of New York

New York is a city full of culture, talent, and diversity. Whether you’re a foodie, a music-lover, an artist, or a theatre nerd, New York’s festival scene has something for everyone.

Hitting up any of the festivals on this list is sure to have New York taking up space in your heart in no time.

Have you recently moved to Long Island or are planning to move to the area? Check out these classic fairs and festivals your whole family will love.