There is nothing more quintessentially romantic – or New York – than stretching out a cozy picnic blanket on a crisp, green lawn, munching on some French bread, cheese, and grapes, sipping a glass of wine (discreetly though, there are still laws about such things!), gazing up at the twinkling evening stars, holding hands, and listening to one of the finest symphony orchestras in the world play some of the greatest music ever written. And then a toddler belly-flops onto your stomach. Right into the Brie. But believe it or not, this Evening Can Still Be Saved. You just have to plan ahead. Very carefully.

The (Sit)uation:
The first thing to know is that these events get very, very crowded. No matter how hot or steamy or rainy it might be, New Yorkers love to get their culture on. Especially when it’s al fresco. And free.

A waterproof tarp is advised. You can always sit on it, but, in case of showers, true New Yorkers simply pull theirs up and climb underneath. The Show Must Go On applies to audience members, too.

Plan to get to the venue at least two hours in advance of the posted start time. And, no matter how tempting it may be to plant yourself smack in the center of the action, remember, the less people around you, the less folks you’ll subsequently feel obliged to apologize to as your child practices running picnic blanket laps and/or long-distance pretzel flinging. (Think about it; it’s music; why do you need a prime view, anyway?)

Sitting on the edge of the crowd also gets you closer to the public restrooms, which you will be visiting several times over the course of the evening, and allows you to step over fewer irate music lovers as you attempt to make a quick escape with the child who has decided Mahler is really not his/her cup of apple juice.

Survival Kit:
Brings snacks your tods will actually eat – because delivery to that mob scene is not an option. Bring toys they can play with quietly (paper and crayons are always good; so is a book with lots of pictures, or, if your kid is the techie type, an iPad app), but most importantly, something they can cuddle up with and go to sleep on. Because they will. The evening runs late, the music is soothing, and a dozing child is your cue to get with the star-gazing and the hand-holding (and maybe even the wine drinking, too).

Fire in the Sky:
Word of warning: All performances end with a stirring fireworks display. Some youngsters sleep right through the whole thing. Some wake up startled, then gape open-mouthed at the glittery sky.

Some freak out.

If you suspect yours might fall into the latter camp, plan to clean up, pack up, and go as soon as the last note of the scheduled program fades into darkness; maybe even a little earlier. You want to be well on your way out of the park by the time the loud eruptions start. No dawdling. (Another excellent reason to stick to the outskirts.)

Feeling up to the challenge?

This summer, Symphony in the Park is scheduled to play in:
Prospect Park, Brooklyn on July 11
Cunningham Park, Queens on July 12
Central Park, Manhattan on July 13
Van Cortland Park, Bronx on July 17

And several more. For the complete schedule, click here.

For Opera in the Park, go here: It’s just like the symphony. Only with singing.

Rules still apply.

Have your own tip to getting by and enjoying summer symphonies? Let us know in the comments!

— Alina Adams