New York City Essentials
See the best New York has to offer, from world-class art to serene nature.Entertainment Essentials: Best Places to ...
HAVE FUN FOR FREE
Art may be expensive to buy but it’s free to look at. A Chelsea art gallery crawl is great if you’re in the mood for the latest art provocateurs. Most of the galleries are between 20th and 28th streets, west of Ninth Avenue. After you’ve had enough art, head back into central Chelsea and go to super-affordable Thai restaurant Cafe Spice at 199 Eighth Ave. (212-989-1116).
If your tastes are more blue chip, it’s also fun to attend an art auction at Sotheby’s (1334 York Avenue at 72nd Street, 212-606-7000) or Christie’s (20 Rockefeller Plaza, at 49th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, 212-636-2000) and watch the bidding. You can also visit the auction houses and preview the exhibits prior to the actual auction. There’s always a slight electrical buzz and quirky energy at an auction house and you’ll leave thinking you experienced something secret and sacred.
One Step Beyond
Rose Center for Earth and Space, American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street, 212-769-5100
That’s right -- it’s a museum, but there’s serious dancing going on. You can launch your weekend on Friday nights with drinks while kicking up your heels to one of the featured live bands. DJs and VJs also spin the hottest tunes while projecting dynamic visuals at the Rose Center for Earth and Space.
MEET NEW PEOPLE
Green Drinks NYC
Part of Green Drinks International, an average of 500 people show up every month to Green Drinks NYC. It’s a great place to meet people in a relaxed atmosphere. Everyone wears a name tag and strangers will often walk up to you and ask who you are and what you are up to. It’s a welcoming, non-pretentious atmosphere and draws a cross section of smart, environmentally conscious people with common interests in meeting new people and connecting. Meets second Tuesday of each month at different locations. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Evening at an Art Museum
To attract new audiences, many of the museums schedule evening concerts and cocktail parties that have become very popular. It’s a good excuse to dress up a tad and see who you might meet in front of a well-known work of art. Try the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, 212-535-7710) or the Whitney Museum of American Art (Madison Ave at 75th Street, 212-570-3600).
A Music Club on the Lower East Side
If a museum seems too stuffy, drop in to one of the many music clubs on the Lower East Side such as Mercury Lounge (217 East Houston, 212-260-4700) or Max Fish (178 Ludlow St., 212-253-1922). Always a convenient place to meet people and feel like a real New Yorker, you might also catch the next music sensation without realizing it.
TAKE A SIGNIFICANT OTHER
It might seem old fashioned, but there’s nothing more romantic than exploring every nook and cranny of Central Park with your significant other. The Great Lawn is most inviting in summer where you can toss a Frisbee or catch a few rays. Even during the winter, it’s enchanting to explore the many trails, fields and lawns. Stroll around the reservoir for a romantic experience. After you’re done holding hands in the park, grab a bite at the Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle on Central Park West. There’s a restaurant area with tables where you can sit and relax.
TAKE YOUR PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS
Even if your ancestors came to America through another city, Ellis Island is a good way to explore the history of our country and your own family. Between 1892 and 1924, almost 20 million people passed through the 28-acre island. While there, you can search for relatives who came through as you enjoy the stunning views. The ferry ride to and back is the perfect time to talk to your parents or grandparents about the history of your family and how you all got to where you are today.
ENTERTAIN THE KIDS
Chelsea Piers, Between 17th and 23rd Streets along the Hudson River on the West Side of Manhattan
A 30-acre waterfront sports extravaganza that has everything from golf to ice skating to wall climbing. If your kids like sports, they’ll have a blast.
Tada, 15 West 28th St., 3rd Floor (between Broadway and 5th), 212-252-1619
Take your kids to see other kids perform at Tada, a leading producer of youth theater that fosters young talent and allows children to learn the art of theater in professionally directed productions. If your child wants to be the next Annie or Billy Elliott, they can check out the competition.
The Hayden Planetarium at The American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, 212-769-5100
There are trips to the moon and a mind-blowing space show about the universe called Cosmic Collisions narrated by Robert Redford. For kids a bit older, there is the digitally animated, alternative-music show created by hipster Moby. It’s so cool, even adults love the Hayden Planetarium.
BE A TOURIST WITHOUT BEING TOO TOURISTY
Have Dinner in “Little India” on East Sixth Street in Manhattan
The block of Sixth Street between First Avenue and Second Avenue is known to be a great place to go out for reasonably priced, very tasty Indian food. It’s a visual and culinary experience with an eclectic, fun mix of out-of-towners and locals who are in the mood for some curry when they’re not in a terrible hurry.
TAKE A WALKING TOUR
Big Onion Walking Tours offers a smorgasbord of tours including one on the Lower East Side with lots of ethnic food along the way. Even for locals, the tours are fun and informative. Given by Columbia University Ph.D. students, the tours are two hours and two miles of thought-provoking walking and talking. It’s like going out with the old college professors who you had a crush on because they knew how to take you out of the classroom and into the street of life. Except in this case, the tour takes you out of the ordinary streets and peels back the layers of NYC to show you the pulsating history below the surface.
TAKE A DATE
Ice Skating in Central Park
One of the more classic New York activities. Wollman Skating Rink (212-439-6900) is a two-minute walk from the entrance of the park at Central Park South (59th Street) and Sixth Avenue.
Rollerblade up or down the West Side of Manhattan
You can rent Rollerblades, blade boards and skates at Blades (156 West 72nd St., 212-787-3911). The entire west side of Hudson River Park from the 79th street Boat Basin all the way south to Battery Park City is accessible for safe skating, biking and walking. There is no better way to spend a spring day with a new friend. Along the way, there are plenty of benches, piers and parks to relax, snack and take in the scenery.
Outdoor Movie in Bryant Park, 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue
Dinner and a movie have always been a romantic thing to do if you pick the right restaurant and right movie. Well, having dinner with a movie while sitting outside in a dramatic location is even more romantic. NYC has a wide assortment of outdoor film screenings where you can enjoy cinema and nosh on the spread you picked up at the Gourmet Garage. Try summer screenings at Bryant Park -- an eight-acre, urban enclave behind the main branch of the New York Public Library. Get there by 6 or 7 p.m. for the 9 o'clock movies as the lawn will fill up for the screenings of “classic” films. Bring a blanket and snuggle up with your date for a cinematic evening under the stars.
See Something at New York University, surrounding Washington Square in Manhattan
As students head back to school, the ideally-situated campus offers a wide choice of activities and entertainment that the general public can attend. So, go to a school for a date and tap into all that brain power. You can see an art show at the Grey Art Gallery off Washington Square and then grab a falafel at a nearby cafe. Or, check out the university drama or film departments and see what plays or movies are open to the public. It’s New York University -- there’s always something good going on.