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50 things to do in New York City on a Saturday

Make the most of your Saturday with these urban adventures.

Visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Every Saturday from 10am to noon, go and smell the flowers for free. This 52-acre park is home to the climate-controlled Steinhardt Conservatory (which houses plant life from three different temperate zones), as well as gardens devoted to fragrances and plants mentioned in Shakespeare's plays. If you want some fauna to go with your flora, check out the ducks in the picturesque Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. 900 Washington Ave at Eastern Pkwy, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-623-7200, bbg.org). 10am--noon; free.

Tour the Plaza Hotel
Take a 45-minute guided peek into the luxurious Plaza (including some areas normally off-limits to tourists) on this tour led by art and architecture critic-cum-author Francis Morrone. (Call ahead; reservations are required.) The Plaza Hotel, 768 Fifth Ave at Central Park South (212-546-5477, fairmont.com/theplaza). Sat 3pm; $15, seniors and students $10.

Check out Hell's Kitchen Flea Market
Secondhand items reign at this market, which features more than 50 vendors shilling designer clothing, vintage vases and plates, and everything in between. It gets crowded quickly, so come early for a first pass at the vendors' wares. W 39th St between Ninth and Tenth Aves (212-243-5343, hellskitchenfleamarket.com). Sat, Sun 9am--6pm.

Try capoeira
Step into the roda (circle) at a beginner's capoeira class with Brazilian professor Tiba. With the percussionists and singers accompanying the class, you might actually think you're in Brazil. The Ailey School, 405 W 55th St at Ninth Ave (212-405-9500). 2:30--4pm; $17.

Take drawing classes in the park
Sketch the Hudson and its gardens with artist Larry Dobens in these casual walk-up lessons; colored pencils and paper are provided. South Cove, Battery Park off South End Ave (212-267-9700, bpcparks.org). 10:30am--noon; free.

Shop at Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene
You'll be spared the sight of sock vendors at this Fort Greene bazaar: The space outside of Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School features a quirky roster of items, including antiques, vintage clothes, records, art and jewelry. Hungry for more than merch? Blue Marble organic ice cream and Whimsy & Spice cookies should sate your appetite. Lafayette Ave between Clermont and Vanderbilt Aves, Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Sat, Sun 10am--5pm; free.

Go to Wave Hill House in the Bronx for free
This city-owned garden in the north Bronx retains the same horticultural traditions from when it was a private estate. You'll find some of the area's most meticulously groomed gardens, plus stunning, sweeping views of the Hudson River and the New Jersey Palisades. Wake up early to take advantage of free admission between 9am and noon every Saturday. 675 W 252nd St (gate at Independence Ave and 249th St), Bronx (718-549-3200, wavehill.org). Apr 15--Oct 14 9am--5:30pm; Oct 15--Apr 14 9am--4:30pm. $6.

Drink during the day at the Sunburnt Cow and
This convivial Down Under duo provides the perfect excuse to get the party started early: $18 all-you-can-drink brunch. The Sunburnt Cow (137 Ave C between 8th and 9th Sts; 212-529-0005, thesunburntcow.com) caters to Alphabet City lushes, and Bondi Beach (153 Rivington St between Clinton and Suffolk Sts; 212-253-5311, bondiroad.com) keeps the Fosters flowing on the LES.

Fill up on free samples at Union Square Greenmarket
At this outdoor produce mart, you'll find yourself shopping elbow to elbow with top chefs, perusing regionally grown culinary pleasures from more than 140 different producers each week. You'll want to keep coming back until you've sampled them all. Union Square between 16th and 17th Sts (212-788-7476, cenyc.org/greenmarket)


Prospect Park

Go bird-watching in Brooklyn
The National Audubon Society classifies Prospect Park as an Important Birding Area for the many species, like warblers and robins, that migrate through. Learn how to spot them on these open walks; binoculars are provided. Prospect Park Audubon Center, Ocean Ave at Lincoln Rd, Prospect--Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn (718-287-3400, ext 114; prospectpark.org/audubon). Noon--1:30pm; free.

Snack on taro-and-turnip cakes at Golden Unicorn
Crispy on the outside and smooth as butter inside, the taro-and-turnip cakes at this dim sum palace are sweet with thick tamarind sauce, and available only on the weekends from noon to 3pm. 18 East Broadway between Catherine and Market Sts (212-941-0911, goldenunicornrestaurant.com)

Dance to Polish music at the Polish National Home in Greenpoint
This no-frills ballroom is the locus of Greenpoint's indie-rock scene, but on occasional Saturday nights, the 1914 hall reverts back to its original (and still daytime) identity as the Polish National Home, hosting Polish dance parties with plenty of canned Frankie Yankovic. No matter who's in attendance, $3.50 Jack and Cokes and $5 noshes (pierogi, kielbasa and cheese blintzes) are available. 261 Driggs Ave at Eckford St, Greenpoint, Brooklyn (718-387-0505, warsawconcerts.com). 10pm; free.

Recycle your clothes
Do a good deed for the earth and create some much-needed closet space by donating used garb at one of five Saturday Greenmarkets: Union Square, Inwood, Grand Army Plaza, Fort Greene and McCarren Park. Your unwanted Hammer pants will be sold to someone else or recycled, and because your donation is to the Council on the Environment, Inc., it's tax deductible. Spend the rest of your day filling up your closet with new clothes. Visit cenyc.org/recycling for locations and times.

Tour High Line
Head to the High Line for a free guided walking tour of the first section of the park. The walk passes through the Gansevoort woodland, Washington and Chelsea grasslands and the Diller--Von Furstenberg water feature. Meet at Gansevoort St stairs, Gansevoort St at Washington St (thehighline.org). Sat 11am; free, limited to first 20 people.

Go to a beer tasting at Captain Lawrence
Travel to Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in nearby Pleasantville every Saturday for a free tour, and tastings of beers like the hoppy Captain's Reserve. 99 Castleton St at Marble Ave, Pleasantville, NY (914-741-2337, captainlawrencebrewing.com). Noon--6pm; free.

Take a mock country retreat to Bartow-Pell Mansion Mansion
It may take a while to get to, but the Bartow-Pell's beautiful and serene formal garden and lawn, featuring a picturesque fountain and wrought-iron benches, is the perfect place to find solace away from the city. Once you've finished reclining in verdant surroundings, tour the mansion (Wed, Sat, Sun noon--4pm; $5), home to a 19th-century merchant family. 895 Shore Rd at Pelham Bay Park, Bronx (718-885-1461, bartowpellmansionmuseum.org). Daily 8:30am--dusk; admission to grounds free, tour and mansion entry fees vary.

See improv at...
* Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre

Ten bucks buys a wealth of laughs: At 7:30pm, Chicago-style improvisers, including Kay Cannon (30 Rock), Scott Adsit (30 Rock), Christina Gausas (Conan), Tami Sagher (30 Rock) and Laura Krafft (Colbert), gather to play in "Let's Have a Ball." At 9pm, the stage is turned over to "Death by Roo Roo: Your F*cked Up Family." The improvisers in this late-night-friendly team play it fast and loose, exploring a different family dysfunction garnered from audience interviews. 307 W 26th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-366-9176, ucbtheatre.com)

* Peoples Improv Theater
If bickering siblings aren't your thing, head to the Peoples Improv Theater for some Chicago-style improv, raw sketch comedy and other funny delights. 154 W 29th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves, second floor (212-563-7488, thepit-nyc.com). $5--$10.

* Magnet Theater
"The 4Track" unspools Saturdays at 9pm and costs only $7. Four of the Magnet's top improvisers spin one word into four big scenes featuring characters whose worlds eventually collide. 254 W 29th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves; 212-244-8824, magnettheater.com)

Drink hot chocolate at City Bakery
At pastry genius Maury Rubin's loft-size City Bakery, the incredibly rich hot chocolate with fat, house-made marshmallows and the moist "melted" chocolate-chip cookies are a must when the temp drops. 3 W 18th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (212-366-1414, thecitybakery.com)

Staten Island Zoo

Take Ping-Pong lessons at the New York Table Tennis Federation
Ever doubted how seriously some people regard table tennis? Stop by this spacious basement club in Chinatown. (Picture the secret-army training scene in Enter the Dragon, but with paddles instead of swords.) Although it caters to more serious players, beginners are welcome. The nine tables are in fairly constant use, but wait times are short (most games are played to 11 points). Head instructor Robert Chen gives lessons at a weekend workshop, Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 2pm ($20). 384 Broadway between Walker and White Sts (646-772-2922, nyttf.com). $10 per person, $6 per half hour.

Head to Pour Wines for free wine and sake samples
On Saturday afternoons, this Upper West Side vino shop provides free samples of international and domestic varietals and sakes, the perfect pregame to whatever you're doing later. 321 Amsterdam Ave at 75th St (212-501-7687, pourwines.com). 4--7pm; free.

See tons of graffiti art at 5 Pointz
Some of the city's most inspiring art isn't in a museum or gallery space. Head to 5 Pointz for an amazing outdoor art exhibit that includes a block's worth of graffiti-covered buildings. While you're there, check out 5 Pointz Aerosol Art Center, which houses more than 350 murals. Jackson Ave at Davis St, Long Island City, Queens (5ptz.com). Mon--Fri by appointment; Sat, Sun noon. Free.

Get down at R&B Night at the Den
An intimate, red-accented bote on the ground floor of a brownstone, the Den lures both Harlemites and downtowners with an innovative cocktail menu, upscale vibe and new-school R&B music beginning at 11pm, which is guaranteed to make you sweat through your fanciest togs. 2150 Fifth Ave between 131st and 132nd Sts (212-234-3045, thedenharlem.com). 11pm; $5.

Spy exotic creatures at the Staten Island Zoo
New York's "biggest little zoo" is an eight-acre haven for southern and eastern African leopards, mandrills, lizards, antelope and lemurs. Face snakes head-on in the "Fear Zone," part of the zoo's newly renovated Reptile Wing. If even the thought makes you squeamish, head to the children's center and feed domesticated animals such as donkeys, goats, pigs and deer. 614 Broadway at Frost Ave and Victory Blvd, Staten Island (718-442-3100 statenislandzoo.org). $8.

Take meditation classes at the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art
In 1947, Jacques Marchais did the city a good turn by opening her Tibetan art collection to the public. Since then, the museum has been housed in two Himalayan-temple-style stone buildings, surrounded by serene gardens. On Saturday mornings, the Venerable Thupten Phuntsok hosts hour-long guided meditation classes. 338 Lighthouse Ave off Richmond Rd, Staten Island (718-987-3500, tibetanmuseum.org). 11:30am; $15.

Catch a gig at Village Vanguard
After three decades, this basement club's stage—a small but mighty step up—still hosts the crme de la crme of mainstream jazz talent (Gary Bartz, Mark Turner, Roy Hargrove). Plenty of history has been made here: John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Bill Evans have grooved in this hallowed hall. 178 Seventh Ave South between Perry and W 11th Sts (212-255-4037, villagevanguard.com). Doors open at 8pm.

Brew your own beer
Want to impress your friends with a super-exclusive batch of brews? Stop by Brooklyn Flea on Saturdays and nab Brooklyn Brew Shop's starter kit ($40). Once you've got the supplies, all you need is a stove, a stockpot, a strainer, bottles with swing-top caps, and six weeks—four for the brew to ferment, and two for it to condition (i.e., get bubbly). Brooklyn Flea, 176 Lafayette Ave between Clermont and Vanderbilt Aves, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (brooklynbrewshop.com)

Women and trans people get free Zipcar rides home
To catch a ride, women—and now, people who identify as trans or genderqueer—can call a dispatcher and give their location and destination. The dispatcher then lets the rider know how soon she can expect the arrival of her chauffer duo, at least one of which will be female. Wait times average ten minutes. For information on the benefit party or to volunteer, visit rightrides.org. For a ride, call 718-964-7781. Midnight--3am; free.

Target First Saturdays

See a Broadway matinee for cheap
This classic weekend-afternoon activity allows plenty of time to explore the Theater District. Even better: Rush tickets to Broadway and Off Broadway shows are available for as little as $20 apiece. Go to the theater's box office on the day of the performance to check. Discount tickets are available at the TKTS Booth in Duffy Square(47th Street and Broadway). Or try the TKTS South Street Seaport Booth(at the corner of Front and John Streets) or TKTS Downtown Brooklyn(One MetroTech Center, at the corner of Jay Street and Myrtle Aves). More centrally, TDF has added a "Play Only" window at the Times Square booth under the red steps. All booths accept credit cards. For hours and details, visit tdf.org. An excellent Broadway-discount clearing house is nytix.com. There you can find tickets up to 45 percent off, as well as super buy-one-get-one-discounted deals.

Snag free admission to the Jewish Museum
This unique museum encompasses 4,000 years of art and Jewish culture. Start by delving into its permanent exhibit, "Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey." There, you'll follow the story of the Jewish people through at least 800 art forms, including paintings, sculpture, radio-and-television programs and hip-hop showcases. 1109 Fifth Ave at 92nd St (212-423-3200, thejewishmuseum.org). 11am--5:45pm.

Tour the Brooklyn Brewery
Brooklyn's famed brewery opens its doors on weekend afternoons, with free 20-minute tours available. Post tour, join the crowds purchasing tokens for beer (one beer for $4 or six for $20) to taste the standard and seasonal styles on tap. 79 North 11th St between Berry St and Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-486-7422, brooklynbrewery.com). Sat 1--5pm, Sun 1--4pm; free.

Watch English soccer
Are Sunday NFL games a ritual? It's time to get into the other type of football. The matches start a little earlier in the day (expect kickoffs between 9am and noon), but they provide a reasonable excuse for heading to a bar as soon as you wake up. A good starting point for newbies is Nevada Smith's(74 Third Ave between 11th and 12th Sts; 212-982-2591)—you can hear the boisterous, die-hard soccer fans chanting team anthems blocks away. Another popular spot for footie enthusiasts is Kinsale Tavern (1672 Third Ave between 93rd and 94th Sts, 212-348-4370)

Check out an awesome gay night: Club 57 at Providence
The three-level bash from Brandon Voss and Tony Fornabaio offers three DJs, live performances and three distinct vibes, with Richie Rich and Zoe Murphy hosting upstairs and down. And did we mention hot guys? There are plenty. 311 W 57th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-307-0062)

Try seafood on City Island
A small-town vibe pervades City Island, which has a population of less than 5,000 and provided the backdrop for films such as Margot at the Wedding and A Bronx Tale. You won't have to sacrifice big-city tastes for an evening in the quasiburbs, though, and and the trolley takes you everywhere you need to go. City Island is known for its delicious seafood. We recommend retro cafeteria Johnny's (2 City Island Ave at the waterfront, 718-885-2086) at the end of the main road.For dessert, stop for some ice cream at Lickety Split (295 City Island Ave between Hawkins and Fordham Sts, 718-885-9654). Visit the galleries and import shops (see City Island business directory), and don't miss the eerie nighttime views of nearby Hart Island, the former site of an insane asylum and missile base. 6 to Pelham Bay Park, then take the BX29 to City Island.

See free music at BAMcaf Live
Need a cheap date idea? Look no further than free Friday- and Saturday-night concerts at the ultra-bohemian BAMcaf. Performers span a range of genres—jazz, R&B, world beat, pop—and the acoustics are excellent. The one drawback? It's popular, so show up early to snag a seat or you'll have to snuggle by the bar. Find out who's performing at bam.org. 30 Lafayette Ave between Ashland Pl and St. Felix St, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-636-4100)

Eat like a New Englander at Red Hook Lobster Pound
Don some tartan and tweed and hop the Ikea ferry to Red Hook for the freshest lobster in Brooklyn and a whiff of the salty sea. From 5 to 9pm on Saturdays, you can tie on a bib, plunk down $25, and a 1.5-pound lobster, farm-fresh corn, and coleslaw or potato salad are yours to inhale. 284 Van Brunt St between Verona St and Vistation Pl, Red Hook, Brooklyn (646-326-7650, redhooklobsterpound.com)

Get down at the Rub...
Cosmo Baker, DJ Ayres, DJ Eleven and their guests massage the crowd with high-grade soul, hip-hop, dancehall, house, rock—just about anything that's got the funk—at this extremely popular hoedown. For more info, go to itstherub.com. Southpaw, 125 Fifth Ave between Sterling and St. Johns Pls, Park Slope (718-230-0236, spsounds.com)

...or Target First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum
Brooklyn's premier institution is a less-crowded alternative to Manhattan's bigger-name spaces, plus it's totally free once a month on Saturdays. Among the museum's many assets is a 4,000-piece Egyptian collection, which includes a gilded-ebony statue of Amenhotep III and, on the ceiling, a large-scale rendering of an ancient map of the cosmos. Masterworks by Czanne, Monet and Degas, part of an impressive European art collection, are displayed in the museum's recently renovated Beaux-Arts Court. 200 Eastern Pkwy at Washington Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-638-5000, brooklynmuseum.org)

Streb Lab for Action Mechanics

Visit Lefferts Historic House
One of a small number of farmhouses surviving from Brooklyn's Dutch settlement period, Lefferts Historic House now serves as a museum, documenting Brooklyn family life during the 1820s. Period rooms are furnished to reflect the era, while craft activities and demonstration gardens and fields help visitors understand the changes in the borough's landscape since the 19th century. Flatbush Ave at Empire Blvd, Prospect park, Brooklyn (prospectpark.org). Noon--4pm; free.

Check out a street fair
Not surprisingly, Saturday is a big day for street fairs, and New York's got a lot of them. Check out list of the best markets in NYC.

Take it back to the '80s at Canal Room
If your idea of heaven is a place on earth incorporating Pat Benatar, neon headbands and spandex, you'll love this weekly party featuring spirited '80s cover band Rubix Cube. The crowd gets into the action, helped along by $5 Buds and $3 Pretty in Pinks shots. Check out backtotheeightiesshow.com for more details. 285 West Broadway at Canal St (212-941-8100).

Play pickup soccer
The Uncoordinated Soccer Club (e-mail coachpaul@zyya.com), costs $40 for a year of Saturday matches at J.J. Walker Field (Clarkson St between Hudson and Varick Sts). For pickup, try "the Cage" (FDR Dr at Grand St) and Prospect Park(info at meetup.com/prospect-park-soccer). Handbook Conditioning for Soccer says the average player runs 5.6 to 7 miles in a 90-minute match: Play midfield and burn those calories!

Take a trapeze workshop
Bored of the treadmill? Get a full-body workout and adrenaline rush at Brooklyn's first indoor trapeze school, where students learn how to perform high-flying maneuvers. Several classes are offered, including the open-level adult fly class (Sat 10am, 5:15pm). Streb Lab for Action Mechanics, 51 North 1st St between Kent and Wythe Aves, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-384-6491, streb.org). $47 per class, ten-class card $425.

Gashole: Hole-o-Matic! with Karen Mack and Michael Holland
The duo known as Gashole resurrects the lost art of the medley in this monthly all-request edition of its gleefully goofy, shamelessly entertaining neolounge act (with an emphasis on pop tunes from the '70s and '80s). Everybody has fun; everybody Wangs Chung. 61 Christopher St at Seventh Ave South (212-255-5438, gashole.net). 7pm; $15 plus two-drink minimum.

Pay what you wish at the Guggenheim
From 5:45-7:45pm, the Gug's regular admission price is reduced from $18 to whatever the hell you want. The museum is as famous for its landmark building—designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and restored for its 50th birthday in 2009—as for its impressive collection and daring temporary shows. In addition to works by Manet, Picasso, Chagall and Bourgeois, it holds the largest collection of Kandinskys in the U.S. 1071 Fifth Ave at 89th St (212-423-3500, guggenheim.org).

Wake up early for fresh croissants at Almondine Bakery
Before becoming a weeklong gold mine, Jacques Torres attracted a cult of pastry lovers who woke up at the crack of dawn for his goodies, once sold only on Saturday mornings at his Water Street chocolate shop. These days, the sweet stuff is easier to snag at his full bakery across the street, but there's still an allure to the first batch of the day. In addition to Gallic goodies like croissants, brioches and tarts, Almondine serves American-inspired sweets like cheesecake, strawberry shortcake and chocolate blackout cake with peanut butter. 85 Water St between Main and Dock Sts, Dumbo, Brooklyn (718-797-5026, almondinebakery.com)

Bargain hunt at Gabay's
You won't ever pay full price at Bergdorf again (if you could even afford to in the first place). This East Village shop gets most of its goods from fine department stores' surplus, and then slaps them with insane discounts. Look for lots of Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs and Chanel. 225 First Ave between 13th and 14th Sts (212-254-3180, gabaysoutlet.com). Mon--Sat 10am--7pm, Sun 11am--7pm.

Eat at Shopsins
If you work during the week, Saturday is your only shot to snag a seat at the legendary eatery that churns out kitchen-sink dishes for a 12-year-old's palate, such as pumpkin-pistachio--peanut-butter--cinnamon pancakes and chicken-burrito soup. Diners marvel at the wacky fare on a 200-item menu and then bide their time; many sit on the floor while waiting for one of 20 seats. Bizarro brilliance can be found in salty, toothsome macaroni-and-cheese pancakes and habanero-spiced fried chicken, but some offerings (like the Che—poached eggs over a quesadilla) should be avoided at all costs. Essex Street Market, 120 Essex St between Delancey and Rivington Sts (shopsins.com). Tue--Sat 9am--2pm. Cash only.