Harlem Annual Free Events
From film to fashion shows, Harlem is the place to see and do everything. And many of the Harlem’s biggest events recur annually, offering a chance to experience them again and again, year after year. Whether you’re planning a visit next week or next year, the calendar below will help you determine which of Harlem’s big, annual events will be occurring during your stay—along with more information on what each one is all about.
Three Kings Day Parade and Celebration
El Museo del Barrio
El Museo del Barrio hosts the annual Three Kings Day Parade and Celebration—by far the largest and longest-running Three Kings Day celebration in the City. It’s also one of the only New York City parades populated almost entirely by children! Paraders will join camels, sheep, a donkey, colorful puppets, brightly-dressed community leaders posing as the Three Kings, and thousands of spectators for a festive day replete with music and gift giveaways.
Museum Mile Festival
Nine of the country’s finest museums offer free admission amid a festive car-free block party with live music, street performers and activities for kids. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art at one end of the mile to El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem at the other, here’s your chance for a bargain crash course in New York City culture. Rain or shine.
The Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic
The Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic is New York City’s oldest and most famous bike race, the Harlem Cycling classic has been a fixture in Harlem for 37 years. Every year the even takes place around Marcus Garvey Park. Each year the event is bigger and bigger, last year Rockstar Games was the primary sponsor, with live TV coverage on NYC Life (Channel 25). The Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic was created with the purpose of getting children on bikes for exercise; introducing them to a healthy lifestyle; providing a productive outlet to harness their energy; and teaching safety, responsibility, and sportsmanship. Along with the professional races, the event features kids races and community races. Rain or shine.
New York Family Arts Festival
The Riverside Theatre
The annual New York Family Arts Festival at The Riverside (Church) Theatre brings together hundreds of families to witness and interact with dozens of artists from a diverse range of cultures. Launched in 1999 to address an acute need for family oriented, multicultural, and affordable summer arts programming in our neighborhood, the Festival takes place during the month of June each summer. The Festival includes arts from all disciplines-dance, music, drama, and visual arts-and celebrates the traditions of the many cultures of New York City – all events are free.
SummerStage (through September)
Mount Morris Park
Since 2007, Mount Morris Park SummerStage has been a sure bet for great live music in a picturesque setting and new dome at 5th Avenue between 124th and 123rd Streets—for free. The offerings of the annual outdoor concert series span all genres: past performers over the years have included Taj Mahal, and Q-Tip. The lawn fills quickly, so arrive early. Rain or shine.
Harlem Book Fair
The Vision of the Harlem Book Fair does it’s work under the banner of literacy awareness, affirming HBF as the nation’s largest African American literary event celebrating family literacy, community empowerment, and community cooperation. Occurring annually for more than a decade—Harlem Book Fair lasts for a approximately a week. The event brings together the premier talents and top minds from the literary world of politics, the arts, journalism, television and everything in between. Last year’s panels and special guests included Terrie Williams, Sonia Sanchez, Gloria Browne-Marshall, Bernice McFadden and Queen Afua. Making it even more of a must-do: most of the festivities are free.
Harlem Relay For Life
A birthday is a special day on the calendar for just about anybody—but it’s a particularly meaningful milestone to cancer survivors and their families. The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Harlem and East Harlem offers survivors and their loved ones a chance to celebrate all the additional candles on their cakes since diagnosis at Riverbank State Park Making it even more of a must-do: most of the festivities are free.
The Harlem Summerstage, the events started on Thursdays in August and ends Thursday, September. The Harlem Summerstage 2012 events are in the heart of Harlem with events every Thursday from 5 pm to 7 pm in front of the Harlem State Office Building on the north east corner of 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd., (aka 7th Avenue).
Harlem SummstageLorraine Glover, a former employee of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), was asked to take over the production of the Harlem Jazz and Blues Show in 1999, to which she added the word “SummerStage” making it the Harlem SummerStage . The presentation and production of the Harlem SummerStage became a labor of love for her. She enjoys giving back to the community, having a place where young and old can come out to enjoy a first-class musical show and above all, be safe!
Harlem Week (through August)
Don’t let the name fool you—Harlem Week lasts for nearly a month. It makes sense, as seven days is hardly enough time to capture all the history and culture of this vibrant neighborhood. The annual celebration features performances, vendors and tributes at assorted venues. Making it even more of a must-do: most of the festivities are free.
San Gigilo Festival
The Giglio Society of East Harlem is a group of men since 1955 who have dedicated their lives to honor Sant’ Antonio, their beloved saint. Their love and devotion is on display each year during the Annual Italian Festival held in East Harlem, New York. They honor their Patron saint in very much the same fashion as their ancestry did and still do annually today in Brusciano by building a Giglio and dancing it in the streets of Manhattan, N.Y.
Fashion’s Night Out in Harlem
An annual tradition that kicked off in 2009, Fashion’s Night Out in Harlem is every shopaholic’s dream. For one night only, hundreds of stores in Harlem (and in other cities around the country and the world) open their doors to the public after hours for a “retail party” that includes special events and giveaways, all to promote shopping and help increase sales in the retail industry. The event takes place in the evening hours and in past years has included upward of many participating retailers. What’s more, a portion of the proceeds from sales of the event’s official clothing always go to charity. Can you think of a better excuse to shop?
African Day Parade
African Day Parade
Join residents 54 Countries. One Continent plus the The Diaspora representing the 6th Region of the African Union. All Pan-African communities, social and cultural organizations are encouraged to participate in this celebration, as we come together in full force, show our unity, and use this unique opportunity to share our cultures and traditions. Making it even more of a must-do: all festivities are free.
African American Day Parade
African American Day Parade
Join Harlemites to celebrate over 40 years of one of the largest African American Day parade in America. Grand Marshalls in the past have included Governor David Paterson, David Dinkins, Rev. Al Sharpton and Comptroller William Thompson. See a showcase of Positive Achievements, Dignitaries and Celebrities, Queens and Organizations Reflecting African American Culture, with a Salute to Colleges, Organizations and Bands from 12 States. Making it even more of a must-do: all festivities are free.
ING NYC Marathon
This is the big one—a sporting event that often proves to be as much a life-changing experience as a physical challenge. Like all marathons, the New York City race covers 26.2 miles from start to finish—but no other city offers competitors the sights, sounds and sheer excitement of the NYC Marathon’s five-borough course, which extends to the best part of the race in Mount Morris Park in Harlem. Thousands will run, millions will watch.
The Black Nutcracker
The Apollo Theater
For more than 15 years, the Uptown Dance Academy has brought visions of the Sugarplum Fairy, marching toy soldiers and the Mouse King to life with its enduring production of The Black Nutcracker to the Apollo. Distinguished by old-fashioned costumes and magical sets including a one-ton Christmas tree for Clara’s Christmas party and an onstage snowstorm, the company dances dreamily to Tchaikovsky’s timeless music.
Satisfy your shopping list and get into the holiday spirit by visiting one of the many holiday shops that pop up in winter all around Harlem. From the Hudson River to the Harlem River, hundreds of merchants set up shop offering everything from clothing to trinkets. In addition to helping out local merchants, you can finish off your list and perhaps find a little something special for yourself.
The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
St. John Divine
Service of Lessons and Carols, 4 pm: A Festival of Lessons and Carols was first heard at Truro Cathedral in 1880. It has become a mainstay of Christmas for millions of people the world over through the live Christmas Eve broadcast of the service from King’s College in Cambridge every year (except 1930) since 1928. Come hear “the development of the loving purposes of God…” seen “through the windows and words of the Bible” and join with the Cathedral Choir of Girls, Boys & Adults and the Great Organ to hear and sing the great carols and hymns of the season. Festival Eucharist of Christmas, 10:30 pm: A musical prelude will begin the eve at 10 pm, featuring perennial favorite Gothic Brass. The Right Reverend Mark S. Sisk, Bishop of New York, will be the celebrant and preacher. Music will include George Malcolm’s Missa ad Praesepe and carols old and new. Passes are recommended and will be honored until 10:10 PM Christmas Eve.
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