Between Dear Evan Hansen tickets, admission to the Whitney and catching your favorite authors at 92Y, keeping up with the city’s happenings can cost a small fortune. Fortunately, summer is easily the best time to get cultured on the cheap. Here are seven ways to indulge your highbrow taste without spending a dime.

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river to river festival free culture NY
Darial Sneed

River to River Festival

For 12 straight days, this annual summer fest brings over 100 performances to venues like Governors Island and Pier A Harbor House. The always-eclectic lineup includes things like contemporary dance, a multimedia opera and large-scale art exhibitions, with a focus on diverse voices (and unexpected locations).

make music new york free culture NY
Make Music New York

Make Music New York

On June 21 (the longest day of the year), the city turns into one giant, free music festival, with more than 1,000 (!) events taking over rooftops, gardens and other public spaces. Keep an eye out for a traveling Ella Fitzgerald sing-along in Harlem, free guitar lessons in Union Square and even opportunities to record a “track” with professional producers at a mobile recording studio.

live at the archway free culture NY
Noemie Trusty

Live at the Archway

Head to the foot of the Manhattan Bridge every Thursday through September for genre-spanning music (from Afrobeat to Japanese pop), lively dance performances (from flamenco to hip-hop), pop-up galleries featuring local artists and even an interactive circus (it involves Hula-Hoops).

ny philharmonic concerts in the parks free culture NY
New York Philharmonic

New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks

There’s an outdoor show practically every night in the summer, but the beloved classical series might include some of our favorites. Tonight, pack a picnic and head to Prospect Park, then bliss out to a program that includes songs from An American in Paris and West Side Story.

lincoln center out of doors free culture NY
Lincoln Center/Facebook

Lincoln Center Out of Doors

The arts mecca is worth visiting year-round, but its alfresco summer fest is not to be missed. This year’s lineup kicks off with a celebration of the greatest albums by women (a collaboration with NPR Music), with Ronnie Spector, Lizzo, Gaby Moreno and other badass ladies.

met opera summer recital free culture NY
Metropolitan Opera

Met Opera Summer Recital Series

Turn off the Bieber and treat your ears to something a little more refined: The Met Opera brings some of its most talented singers to all five boroughs throughout June, setting the stage in gorgeous outdoor spaces like Socrates Sculpture Park and Crotona Park.

nyc poetry festival free culture NY
NYC Poetry Festival/Facebook

New York City Poetry Festival

Grab a Moleskine and a beret and join fellow verse-lovers on Governors Island for a weekend of readings with writers like Sapphire, Aja Monet, Patrick Phillips and Deborah Landau, plus word-based art installations and poetic film screenings.

ny classical theatre free culture NY
New York Classical Theatre/Facebook

See Free Theater (Besides Shakespeare in the Park)

Look, we all know about Shakespeare in the Park, and while it’s an incredible experience (if you can get tickets), there are plenty of other ways to get your drama fix. Hear songs from Groundhog Day and Waitress at Broadway in Bryant Park, catch the comedy of manners The Rivals with New York Classical Theatre in Central Park or—if only the Bard will do—head to Shakespeare in the Parking Lot

RELATED: Every Single Fun Thing (All 50 of Them) to Do in NYC This Summer

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