The often oppressive heat demands distraction for visitors to New York in August – and gratefully this year is set to see a great line-up of events taking place across the city throughout the month.
With many of the Big Apple’s permanent residents heading out of the city in August, it’s a month that allows visitors more opportunities than usual to take part in experiences that are often unpleasantly busy or simply sold out. Included in this mix are the many events that run through August, ranging from festivals to lawn parties to exhibitions. We’ve picked out 10 of the best events to look out for in NYC this August.
One of New York City’s longest-running, free, outdoor performing arts festivals, Celebrate Brooklyn allows New Yorkers to come back again and again to appreciate or discover a new genre, acclaimed artist, or world culture night after night. During its over 40-year run, the event has presented celebrated global music icons, legendary jazz artists, chart-topping indie bands, gravity-defying dance troupes, large-scale film projects and even a virtual reality performance, becoming one of the city’s foremost cultural attractions and a beloved summer tradition.
Lena Horne Bandshell, Prospect Park, Brooklyn / Through 24 August
‘Van Gogh’s Cypresses’ exhibition
One of the world’s most prestigious art museums, this summer the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be playing host to an exhibition of works by legendary Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh that focuses on trees. Delivering a unique perspective on a theme synonymous with the artist’s fiercely original power of expression, the exhibition features some 40 works showcasing the distinctive flamelike evergreens that are found in the South of France, where Van Gogh spent two years of his prolific career. Highlights include the artist’s iconic 1889 oil paintings Wheat Field with Cypresses and The Starry Night.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Avenue / Through 27 August 2023
Shakespeare in the Park
All the world’s a stage once again this summer at what has become a time-honoured tradition in the vast green expanse of Central Park. First held in 1962, the series offers free, large-scale outdoor productions of works by William Shakespeare (as well as the occasional musical or non-Shakespearean drama), often featuring renowned actors including the likes of Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Al Pacino, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Denzel Washington, all set against a backdrop of the park’s natural splendour. This year will see just one production being staged: Hamlet, directed by Kenny Leon.
Delacorte Theater, Central Park / Through 6 August
Created to promote the district of Harlem’s rich African-American, African, Caribbean, Hispanic, and European heritage, as well as its arts, culture, religion, business, entertainment, and sports, this month-long celebration draws packed crowds to one of New York’s most vibrant neighbourhoods. Now in its 49th year, the 2023 event is centred around the theme titled ’Inspiration. Impact. Legacy.’ and will see live music and dance performances, as well as dining and shopping opportunities, plus much more.
Venues across Harlem / 9-20 August 2023
‘Listen Until You Hear’ exhibition
The Manhattan branch of the eponymous Swedish photography museum, Fotografiska is playing host to an exhibition featuring photography, film, sculpture and performance by a diverse mix of six artists into Autumn 2023. Together, the artists have collectively created an exploratory forum for visitors to consider the idea of “visual listening,” a concept where they are asked to not only listen with their ears, but to connect more deeply with their own body and to be more aware of their relationship with others.
Fotografiska, 281 Park Avenue South / Through 22 October 2023
Harlem Meer Performance Festival
An eagerly-awaited annual community fixture since the opening of the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in 1993, after three decades of bringing the best local music and dance talent to Central Park, the Harlem Meer Summer Festival is expanding for 2023. Revellers can expect a variety of multicultural musical performance, as well as the chance to get your heart rate up with a line-up of movement classes. All shows take place on Sundays from 2pm to 4pm and are free to enter, with all ages welcome.
Charles A. Dana Discovery Center plaza, Central Park / Through 20 August
Jazz Age Lawn Party
Now celebrating its 18th year, this Prohibition-era-inspired gathering is one of New York’s most original summer events, attracting thousands of revellers who come together to relive and discover the music and zeitgeist of the 1920s – all dressed for the occasion in traditional attire from that era. Highlights include live jazz music across two stages, special guest performers, a sprawling dance floor, vintage clothing vendors, croquet, a 1920s motor car exhibition, a pop-up barber shop. Carnival games, a beer garden, and gourmet food trucks.
Governors Island / 12-13 August 2023
‘Georgia O’Keeffe: To See Takes Time’ exhibition
Taking place at another distinguished New York cultural institution, MOMA’s retrospective on iconic artist Georgia O’Keefe will run through mid-August. Best known for her flower paintings, O’Keeffe also made extraordinary series of works in charcoal, pencil, watercolour, and pastel. Reuniting works on paper that are often seen individually, along with key paintings, this exhibition offers a rare glimpse of the artist’s working methods and her unique ability to revisit and rework the same subjects – developing, repeating, and transforming motifs that lie between observation and abstraction.
The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street / Through 12 August
A celebration of black music and culture, Afropunk returns for 2023 – but with a change of venue. This year, the two-day event moves from its usual spot in Commodore Barry Park to Greenpoint’s Skyline Drive-In, where it is once again expected to draw large crowds. Shining a spotlight on all aspects of black creativity including film, fashion and art, the focal point of the event is its live music, with this year’s line-up including headliners like R&B crooner Jazmine Sullivan and rapper-producer Flying Lotus.
Skyline Drive In, 1 Oak Street, Brooklyn / 26-27 August 2023
When it comes to food, there’s never a bad time to be in New York, with the city home to some of the world’s greatest and most diverse cuisine. But if you happen to be around during the biannual New York Restaurant Week (which takes place once in winter and once in summer) then you’re in for an even bigger treat than usual. For almost an entire month, hundreds of the city’s eateries participate in specially curated menus and cheap deals, all designed to showcase New York’s unrivalled position at the summit of the international ‘food chain’.
Venues across NYC / 24 July – 20 August 2023
By Paul Joseph