Shakespeare In the Park is a bucket list item for anyone that adores the performing arts and it is one of the absolute best things to do for free in New York City! We had the privilege of seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream last season and the new season has just begun with Othello and Twelfth Night.
The Delacorte is a charming open-air outdoor theater located in Central Park. From the right viewpoint, Belvedere Castle overlooks the stage unknowingly completing the set design. This public theater has hosted these large scale productions since 1962 “every summer for free for everyone.” It’s not uncommon for the top rated cast to include notable actors, directors, choreographers, and set designers. We had the pleasure of watching the talented Phylicia Rashad in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Othello is being directed by Tony Award Winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson.
As Shakespeare intended, these plays are highly influenced by the current times. Political themes can easily transcend time and are funny for every generation. You will not be bored by these adaptations.
We scored our tickets the old-fashioned way- by standing on line for several hours. Waiting on line is no guarantee that you’ll make the limited cut off, so arrive early. Tickets begin distribution at noon until they run out. Seats are limited. Be prepared to arrive at 6:00am if you really want a shot. “The show must go on,” so don’t be deterred by light rain. (You may even have a better chance at tickets.)
Acquiring tickets is an adventure by itself! Tickets are only distributed the day of the event. It can easily be an all day event acquiring tickets and then getting ready for an evening show.
- The Public Theater has a lottery for ticket vouchers on the day of the show.
- You can try to win them via lottery using the Today Tix app on your phone, tablet or desktop.
- If you live a little further away, a limited number of vouchers for specific performances are distributed at locations in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Here’s the distribution list.
- If you deplore lines and/or lotteries and you have the funds, you can reserve a seat as a supporter for a mere $500.
- Delacorte Theater, Central Park, enter at 81st St and Central Park West or 79th Street & 5th Avenue
- The 81st St entrance is close to the Museum of Natural History!
- The Shows are on various nights at 8pm. See the Calendar for exact dates.
- Tickets always limited to two per person
- The show goes on even in light rain, but no umbrellas, bring a poncho
- No photography or recording is allowed during the performance
- You must register for a Public Theater Patron ID to get tickets
- You are allowed to bring food/beverages into the theater as long as everything fits under the seat. However, no glass containers are allowed inside the theater.
- Shakespeare tends to take his time telling stories. Shows can easily run 2 hours and 50 minutes with an intermission. Not a bad idea to bring a seat cushion if you have one.
Family Adventure Rating ♥♥♥♥
Cost– The cost of this adventure is mostly in transportation. The tickets are free, but getting there is up to you. If you don’t live nearby, you should probably factor in the cost of food and/or entertainment while you wait between getting the tickets and enjoying the show. You can really be frugal by bringing at least one picnic meal and enjoying the variety of things to do/see in Central Park. Note: There is a small souvenir stand outside the theater if you can’t resist a tee shirt or the like. The purchases help keep the theater tickets free so don’t be aghast at the prices.
Parking & Transportation-The Delacorte Theater is easily accessible from the subway (B, C and 6 lines), as well as the bus (M2, M3, M4, M10 and M79 lines). Once at Central Park, the footpath will lead you to the Delacorte Theater. If you travel by car there are several parking garages in the area, but make sure to get a reservation in advance.
Location– This is a terrific location! If you’re not familiar with NYC and Central Park, you probably wouldn’t believe you could enjoy an open-air theater and hear a pin drop on stage. There’s so much to do in Manhattan and Central Park is an amazing place to explore.
Day Trip or Overnight– This is a day trip, but you’re welcome to make it a longer stay. If you’re not too keen on traveling late at night, you might want to consider making it an overnight. The theater lets out around 11pm.
Experience– This is one of the best theater experiences I have had. These performances are top notch. You will be amazed at the set design and costuming. For a “free show in the park” it is surprisingly professional and spectacular. It is easy to see why so many notable professionals take the time to get involved with this public theater. For my daughter and I, this was a special treat that we both could appreciate. I’m not certain my young son would have enjoyed it as much as we did (hence he was left home). However, there are many kids/teenagers that enjoy theater, so who you bring is up to your discretion. (Just remember, you worked your tail off to get these tickets and I’m sure you want your companions to appreciate them.)
Combination– Yes, you can easily combine this adventure with others! To prevent utter exhaustion, try to stay in the area. The American Museum of Natural History is real close to the theater. You will also find the Stone Arch, Diana Ross Playground, Belvedere Castle, Central Park Conservatory, Shakespeare Garden, and the New York Historical Society nearby in Central Park.