A New Era: An Expanded Summer Festival and Sneak Peek at the Harlem Meer Center

The Harlem Meer Performance Festival has been a cultural cornerstone for the community surrounding Central Park’s north end and a mainstay of New York City summer since its creation in 1993. It was founded to celebrate the Central Park Conservancy’s original restoration of the Harlem Meer and the surrounding 225-acre area above 96th Street. Today, the Festival continues to bring music and dance to the shores of the Meer.

This year marks the Festival’s 30th anniversary, and the Conservancy is celebrating with a newly expanded lineup as part of the Harlem Meer Summer Festival. Featuring an abundance of multicultural music performances and an extensive slate of movement classes, the Summer Festival offers entertainment for New Yorkers of all ages. In honor of this lively programming, we’re taking a look back at the Festival’s start as well as what’s to come at the Harlem Meer.


Each year, the Festival is held along the northern shore of the Harlem Meer. An energetic epicenter for regulars from the neighborhood and visitors from all over the City, people come to dance, listen, and commune through music—a result of the Conservancy’s early restoration work around the Meer.

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The construction of the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, located on the north shore of the Meer, rounded out the area’s restoration and served to welcome community members to a newly revitalized space. Its doors opened in 1993 and since then, the Dana Center has hosted activities and events that engage its neighbors, including tours led by Conservancy staff, seasonal festivities, environmental education, and other public programming.

While the neighboring Conservatory Garden opened its doors in 1983, there was still a lot of work that needed to be done in the area. The Conservancy raised the money to build the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center, a hub for visitors to enhance their Park experience with maps, tours, and free educational programming. As soon as the Dana Discovery Center was finished in 1993, it was ready to serve the community and became home to this beloved event.

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New Yorkers gather at the 1994 Harlem Meer Performance Festival.

“The Harlem Meer Performance Festival has been integral to the surrounding community for years. It offers an opportunity to leave behind the stresses of the City and just be in the moment: singing and dancing to local musicians in a beautiful, cared-for greenspace,” says Allan Wong, the Conservancy’s Manager of Public Programs. “A well-maintained park is needed for these types of public programs, and we're so honored to bring music—and now movement classes—to the Meer summer after summer.”


Having attracted a variety of the best local music and dance talent over the past 30 years, this year takes the beloved Harlem Festival to another level. In addition to an exciting slate of music performances, the Festival bring a new lineup of movement classes that are available to the public at no cost.

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For 30 years, the Harlem Meer Performance Festival has attracted a wide array of Park visitors and neighbors that come together to enjoy various forms of music and entertainment. The newly expanded lineup now welcomes even more New Yorkers to the Meer for music and movement events.

Jump into some double Dutch with Double Dutch Dreamz (open to all skill levels) or participate in some family yoga or vinyasa yoga classes with Harlem Yoga. There are also Silver Sneakers (open to seniors only) and funkaerobics dance classes, which combine the thrill of stretching and working out with dance choreography, hosted by Go Hard Dance. And, of course, don’t miss an amazing music performance lineup that includes the award-winning gospel group Sing Harlem, hip-hop group Clean Money Music, Latin pop singer La Pia Paez, and Afro-Puerto Rican bomba and plena band Los Pleneros de la 21.

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Movement classes are now part of the expanded Harlem Meer Summer Festival lineup and include yoga for all ages, double Dutch, Silver Sneakers dance classes, and funkaerobics—all taking place in Harlem’s beautiful backyard.


The Harlem Meer Summer Festival brings a summer of fun and wellbeing to our north end neighbors, and these opportunities will only continue to expand when the new center at the Harlem Meer opens.

Celebrating the Harlem community is at the heart of the Festival, and the Conservancy remains steadfast in its “community-first approach” at the new center as well. Construction continues to progress, and we're excited to unveil it for all to enjoy. The center will offer expanded recreational opportunities, a full-scale ice rink and pool, and much more. Our friends and neighbors remain integral to this transformational project, as we incorporate ongoing input from nearby communities and user groups.

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Construction of the new center at the Harlem Meer is underway. The new facility will provide Park users greater access to different locations in the northern end along with expanded recreational opportunities.

Photo by Timothy Schenck

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Meet Us at the Meer

Explore the Harlem Meer Summer Festival lineup.


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