I'm not sure if you've figured this out yet, but summer in New York City is hands down the best time of year! Part of the fun for me is just figuring out how to squeeze in time for all the awesome outdoor offerings. One of the coolest options is Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. Twelfth Night is currently playing, but only through this Sunday, July 12th. Anne Hathaway stars in the comedy about the romantic adventures of a pair of twins. Then beginning August 11th-30th they are running, The Bacchae, Euripides', greek tragedy. Shows take place Tuesday-Sunday at 8pm. Tickets are available on a first-come first-served basis on the day of the performance and distributed to the public promptly at 1pm. Last year I saw Hamlet like 4 times so I thought I'd whip up a list of my top tips on how to most easily score these FREE tickets.
1). Arrive early, but not THAT early. People start lining up for tickets to Shakespeare in the Park as early as 6am!!!!, but I wouldn't. I also don't recommend sleeping in the park or going at the crack of dawn unless you're going on a Friday/Saturday night or the weekend a show closes. If you DO decided to camp out for tickets don't go before 6am because they won't allow let you wait on line before then.
In my experience If you show up around 9-10am during the week you should be fine. There were many times I've shown up at 12:30pm, right before the tickets are handed out and I've been ok. Another option if you're in the area is to go to the theater right before the show starts, like 7:30pm and just wait to see if there are any extra tickets. They keep about 10 extra seats for most shows and if people from the "virtual line" haven't don't show up by 7:45pm they release these extra tickets to the public.
2) Go on a Weekday and on days that rain is predicted. Tuesday or Wednesday nights are the best. People get really upset about rain here but organizers don't ever want to cancel the show for bad weather, so unless it's torrential rain you're probably ok for not being rained out. The tickets are non-exchangeable so sometimes people don't want to take the risk of losing a seat if there's rain in the forecast, definitely hit it up the line on these days, it will probably be shorter.
3) Don't Believe the Hype. Everyone always says how hard it is to get these tickets and it's really not that hard. Especially if you've got a few days where you are available to stop by the theater. Do not get upset if you show up and see a million people standing on line, the theater is big and they have a LOT of tickets. You can get tickets to this show without paying the scalpers on Craigslist, I have never gone, waited on line and walked away without a ticket.
4) Use the online waiting list. I haven't had tons of luck with this option but odds are if you hit it up daily you will eventually get a ticket. I have had friends find success with this method. I prefer the scenic route of hanging out in Central Park but if you work during they day this is a great option. The way it works is that you sign up in the morning and then check the website again between 1-6pm and if you've "won" a ticket you will be able to find after 1pm on the same website. Instructions for pickup will be emailed to you.
5) Bring a friend and a blanket. Waiting in the line can be pretty boring although there are a lot of street musicians and performers who hang around to entertain the people waiting. You're also sitting on the sidewalk/ground so bring something comfortable to sit on. Make sure your friend meets up with you at the same time as you arrive though, because staff members are pretty strict about cutting.
6) You can get 2 tickets per person, but ask around for extras. This is a great option if you are trying to get a few extra tickets for your friends who couldn't wait in line. A lot of people think that you only get one ticket per person after waiting in line so they bring their entire party to come sit and wait. These people are usually from out of town and so I always ask them for their extra un-needed tickets and they almost always oblige.
7.) Move to the Upper West Side. I know this is asking a lot of you just to get Shakespeare tickets but the Upper West Side is beautiful. It's full of babies and dogs and awesome free furniture on the street! Being close to the park is amazing and it makes it very easy to stop by a few times in a week and snag some Shakespeare in the park tickets.
The experience of Shakespeare in the Park is phenomenal so I hope you will try and attend. The theater is open air and a ticket gets you a numbered seat, not a spot on the lawn, which is a nice feature compared to other outdoor concerts/shows in NYC. Good luck and have an awesome summer!