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Shakespeare in the Park is a local New York City favorite every summer. Not only does Shakespeare in the Park include high caliber plays in Central Park, but tickets to these plays are completely free!

New York City is a tourist's dream come true with a huge variety of attractions and things to do, but for discerning tourists ready to experience life as a native New Yorker, there is no better destination than Shakespeare in the Park.

The first half of this summer season was the production of Shakespeare's As You Like It and recently ended on June 30th. As You Like It got rave reviews from fans who say the acting was superb, the sets and costumes exciting and the venue - as always - idyllic. The upcoming play at Shakespeare in the Park is Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, directed by Daniel Sullivan and will be playing from July 23-August 25.

Native New Yorkers know all about this great local event already, but what about tourists and travelers who want an inside look at the Big Apple? Shakespeare in the Park in New York City is a special experience that you won't find anywhere else, and we can tell you exactly what you need to know to enjoy it.

What to Know About Tickets - Every year Shakespeare in the Park hands out tens of thousands of tickets each summer. That sounds like a ton of tickets, but the crazy thing is there are always way more people who want tickets than there are seats. There are four ways you can get tickets to Shakespeare in the Park:

  1. Sign Up For Virtual Ticketing: The Virtual Ticketing system that Shakespeare in the Park provides allows you to sign up online to receive tickets. Each single person is allowed to ask for two tickets. This method is not foolproof, however, because the tickets are given out in a random lottery style so not everyone who signs up will receive tickets. The seats available through the Virtual Ticketing system are also not always the best seats in the house, though there really aren't any terrible seats at the Delacorte Theater, anyway.
  2. Donate To the Cause: Obviously this makes your tickets not-free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park, but if you are a supporter of the arts and would like to donate to a good cause anyway, keep in mind that supporters of Shakespeare in the Park do receive reserved seats to the show.
  3. Find a Line in the Burroughs: Shakespeare in the Park offers tickets out to people in the Burroughs on specific dates (click the link above for dates). While supplies last you can get free ticket vouchers in Manhattan, Queens, The Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island handed out between 1pm and 3pm. Vouchers are good for tickets at the box office on the day of the show.
  4. Camp Out at Central Park: This is our favorite way to get tickets to Shakespeare in the Park because it is possibly just as much a part of the tradition as going to see the actual play! People arrive to wait for tickets at an absurdly early hour toting camp chairs and picnic food to enjoy the wait. The park itself doesn't open until 6am and the police carefully patrol the area before then, but eager theater patrons have been known to line up earlier than that anyway and wait on the east side of Central Park West. Usually it's easier to get tickets toward the beginning of the season when people aren't raving about the show yet, but even then it's a good call to start lining up before 10am. The theater actually starts handing out tickets at 1pm, but the number of available tickets rarely accommodates the whole line. But don't be put off by this long-term waiting game! The line is situated in the pleasant forest-y setting of Central Park and can often feel like a block party if you go with the right people and the right attitudes.

What to Know About the Play - Getting tickets obviously seems like the toughest part about an adventure to NYC's Shakespeare in the Park, but there are still a few things to know about what happens after you get your free tickets.

  1. Bring Some Snacks and Water: Unlike many theaters where you might usually watch fine theater, the Delacorte Theater in Central Park is an outdoor theater and you are allowed to bring whatever snacks you like! There is no glass allowed, but you can bring alcohol in plastic containers. Whatever you do, make sure to bring some water. It is the summer in New York and temperatures can get pretty hot. A cool drink is a great way to keep yourself hydrated and enjoying the experience.
  2. If It Rains: Shakespeare in the Park is susceptible to the weather but will never cancel a show before 8pm. Even if it's raining at 7:30pm, don't give up hope! If it clears up by the time the play is supposed to start, the show will go on. That being said, do make sure to check the weather ahead of time - if a show does get cancelled for weather reasons, tickets are non-transferable.
  3. Into the Woods: This summer's second production will be Into the Woods, a famous and much-loved musical by Sondheim and Lapine. The plot of the musical centers on well-known fairy tales, but never fails to throw in an unexpected twist. Get caught up in the lives of the characters as they go in and out of the woods in efforts to make their wishes come true. While the show is fine for children, adults will get the most enjoyment from the dark humor and thought-provoking story line.

Locals and visitors alike love going to Shakespeare in the Park and let's face it - there is nowhere else you can get such high-quality and exciting live entertainment for free! So if you're going to be traveling in NYC this summer, be sure to block out a day to enjoy a picnic in line at the park and a fun evening showing of Into the Woods. After all, "when in Rome..." well, you get the gist!