Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

Hello, sunshine! Hello, cookouts! Hello, parades! Hello, walks! Hello, flowers in bloom! Hi, this spring’s essential outdoor activities, nice to meet you.

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  • Photograph: Jonathan Aprea

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Picnic in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 5

  • Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Visit 5 Pointz

  • Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Stretch out in Socrates Sculpture Park

  • Photograph: Ilenia Martini

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Hang out at the High Line

  • Photograph: Courtesy Madison Square Park Conservancy

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    See things another way at "Topsy-Turvy: A Camera Obscure Installation"

  • Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Wear green at the St. Patrick's Day Parade

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson, Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nels

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Stop and smell the cherry blossoms at Hanami

  • Photograph: Doug McNeall

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Ride the Cyclone at Luna Park

  • Photograph: Syd London

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Wear a bonnet at the Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival

  • Photograph: Courtesy New York Yankees

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Take yourself out to the ball game on MLB Opening Day

  • Photograph: Courtesy of the Wednesday Night Skate group

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Roll with your homies at Wednesday Night Skate

  • Photograph: Paul Hardwick

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Go wild at Pillow Fight NYC

  • Photograph: Phyllis B. Dooney

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Wear Tartan at the New York Tartan Day Parade

  • Photograph: Sam Horine

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Paint the town at the Phagwah Parade and Festival of Colors: Holi NYC

  • Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Ride during Bike Month

  • Photograph: Ilenia Martini

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Brainstorm at Ideas City 2013

  • Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Take the Great Saunter around Manhattan

  • Photograph: Zenith Richards

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Get fit at the Central Park Circuit

  • Photograph: Arthur Fink

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Shake what your Mama gave you at the New York Dance Parade

  • Photograph: Courtesy of www.flickr.com/David_Reeves

    Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

    Instagram your heart out during Manhattanhenge

Photograph: Jonathan Aprea

Outdoor activities in New York for spring 2013

Picnic in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 5

Stow that duvet-down coat, it’s time to take a stroll in the fresh air during the Goldilocks of seasons (i.e., not too hot, not too cold). We’ve found 20 essential outdoor activities for you to enjoy, such as a new spot to have a park barbecue in Brooklyn, and where to try free yoga, tai chi, kayaking and art in Long Island City.


RECOMMENDED: Spring in New York guide


Picnic in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 5

  • Critics choice
  • Free

This new five-acre development opened in December, and we’re predicting that its Picnic Peninsula will be one of this season’s hottest hangs, with its views of lower Manhattan, reclaimed-wood tables and 22 barbecue grills (no permit required). It also boasts two tetherball poles at its northern end—a backyard pastime that’s overdue for a kickball- or cornhole-like resurgence. The quay’s other draws include fishing stations and three 200,000-square-foot synthetic-turf fields suitable for soccer, lacrosse, cricket, rugby, Ultimate Frisbee and more. Spring permits for the sports grounds are all taken, so join a group such as BBP’s soccer league (Wed 7–11pm; Wed 6–May 29; $130) if you want to get cleats on the green. You can apply now for a summer permit (June–Aug; $25) at https://nyceventpermits.nyc.gov/bbp; fall permits (Sept–Nov; $25) will be available starting May 1. Free.

  1. Enter at Furman and Joralemon Sts, Brooklyn Heights
  2. Daily 6am–1am
More info

Visit 5 Pointz

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice
  • Free

The Institute of Higher Burning hosted an ambitious season of programming in 2012, and continues in the same vein  beginning May 4 with a full lineup of parties, scratch battles and live art. Until then you can explore the premises and catch a spray-painting demo on a guided tour (next dates: Sat 23, Sun 3 2–3:30pm; $35; sidetour.com) with curator Jonathan Cohen (aerosol master Meres One). Free hourly sojourns are also being offered March 9 as part of the Armory Show adjunct Armory Arts Week (2–6pm; armoryartsweek.com). Free.

  1. 45-46 Davis St, (at Jackson Ave)
More info

Stretch out in Socrates Sculpture Park

  • Free

Instead of holding downward-facing dog mere inches from your neighbor’s rear at an overcrowded studio, bring a mat and stretch out in the fresh air at this outdoor oasis. The open-air sculpture museum offers free yoga (Sat 9:30–10:30am, 11am–noon; Sun 10–11am) and tai chi (Sun 11am–noon) classes beginning in May. And for those who aren’t content with appreciating the water views from the shore, gratis kayaking is available on weekends beginning in mid-May. The formerly abandoned riverside landfill also hosts performances and special events; on May 12 check out the opening of the “do it (outside)” exhibition (2–6pm; through July 7), for which 50 international artists (including Ai Weiwei and Joan Jonas) provided instructions for other creatives to interpret. See the resulting works and performances, and follow the guidelines the artists left for the exhibit’s viewers. Free.

  1. 32-01 Vernon Blvd, (at Broadway)
  2. Daily 10am–sunset
More info

Hang out at the High Line

  • Price band: 1/4

From April 19, visitors to the High Line can fuel their stroll along the design-minded, elevated green space with snacks from an all-star lineup of local vendors. Sweet tooths can cool down with La Newyorkina ice pops or Melt Bakery ice-cream sandwiches, while those hankering for a meal can grab Michoacán-style grub from the Taco Truck. To drink, sip on cups of java from Blue Bottle Coffee or glasses of wine, courtesy of the team behind Terroir, at the Porch (from May 16). Check out the High Line's largest ever art installation, Broken Bridge II, a 37-foot sculpture by by West African artist El Anatsui which is on view now. Tuesday night stargazing returns May 7.

  1. High Line Park, (between Little W 12th and 17th Sts), 10011
More info

Wear green at the St. Patrick's Day Parade

  • Critics choice
  • Free

No St. Paddy’s Day in NYC would be complete without staking out a spot at this parade, which makes its 252nd march up Fifth Avenue. (The event is even older than the United States; it was started by a group of homesick Irish conscripts from the British army in 1762.) More than 2 million onlookers are expected to show up for the annual spectacle, whose 2013 grand marshal is Alfred E. Smith IV—philanthropist, former Wall Streeter and great-grandson to former Gotham mayor Al Smith. Fifth Ave from 44th St to 86th St. Subway: B, D, F, M to 42nd St–Bryant Park; 7 to Fifth Ave; 42nd St S, 4, 5, 6, 7 to 42nd St–Grand Central.

  1. Location TBA
  2. Until Mon Mar 17
More info

Stop and smell the cherry blossoms at Hanami

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

The Japanese have a term for appreciating cherry blossoms from bud and bloom to the blankets of fallen petals that eventually accumulate: hanami. This cycle will be on full view as the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s approximately 220 cherry trees show off their floral display. Tours of the collection—the largest of these trees outside of Japan—as well as of the other Japanese plants on the grounds, will take place at 1pm on Wednesdays and 11am on Saturdays during the show.

  1. Brooklyn Botanic Garden 990 Washington Ave, at President St
  2. Until Sun May 18
More info

Wear a bonnet at the Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Sunday best gets new meaning during this annual procession, wherein participants show off elaborately constructed hats—we’re talking noggin-toppers shaped like the NYC skyline or the Coney Island Cyclone, not just a boring old fedora. The tradition started in the mid-1800s, when high-society ladies would promenade in their Easter finery after church, and has since evolved into a showcase for chapeau artistry. Fifth Ave from 49th to 57th Sts.

  1. Location TBA
  2. Sun Apr 20
More info

Take yourself out to the ball game on MLB Opening Day

  • Critics choice

Grab a hot dog (still the best item on the menu) and usher in a rite of spring as the Bronx Bombers open their season against the Red Sox. Or if pinstripes aren't your color, the boys in orange and blue face off against the Padres.

  1. Citi Field Roosevelt Ave, at 126th St
  2. Until Mon Apr 1
More info

Roll with your homies at Wednesday Night Skate

Meet at 7:45pm at the south end of Union Square. At this hump-day social, dozens of skaters cruise around the city for two hours along a different route each week—the group has previously wheeled through Central Park, Queens, Brooklyn and even Jersey. All skill levels are welcome as long as you can stop and turn, and because you'll be rolling on the road, helmets and wrist guards are obligatory. The hobnobbing continues postskate at Mumbles bar and restaurant (179 Third Ave at 17th St; 212-477-6066, mumblesnyc.com), which is also where the gang heads when the event gets rained out.

  1. Union Square 14th St to 17th St, between Broadway and Park Ave South
  2. Wed Oct 30
More info

Go wild at Pillow Fight NYC

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Bring your softest weapon of choice (but organizers ask you to leave the feather- and down-stuffed pillows at home to lessen the mess), and join in New York's eighth citywide pillow fight. After you've fended off your cushion-wielding attackers, you'll feel even warmer knowing the surviving pillows will be donated to homeless shelters. For more details, visit newmindspace.com.

Wear Tartan at the New York Tartan Day Parade

  • Critics choice
  • Free

Expect bagpipers, pipe bands, drum corps, men in kilts and lots of plaid at this Scottish-themed march, which draws an estimated 3,000 fanatics every year. The event is part of the larger Tartan Week celebrations, which include musical performances, whiskey tastings and parties, from Mar 29 to Apr 9. Sixth Ave from 45th to 55th Sts. Subway: D, F to 47–50th Sts–Rockefeller Ctr.

  1. Location TBA
  2. Until Sat Apr 5
More info

Paint the town at the Phagwah Parade and Festival of Colors: Holi NYC

Missed out on a snowball fight this winter? There’s still a chance to clobber your friends with a faceful—only this time with brightly hued gulal powder. Since 1990, New Yorkers have been celebrating the Hindu spring festival of Holi in Richmond Hill, Queens, with the Phagwah Parade (richmondhilledc.org; Mar 30 noon; free). Beginning on Liberty Avenue at 133rd Street, a procession of revelers, musicians and floats will head north for paint-pummeling in Smokey Oval Park (125th St at Atlantic Ave; free). The Brooklyn-based Festival of Colors (Location TBA; festivalofcolors.org; Apr 6 noon; $15, advance $12.50) drew more than 1,200 people last year, so prepare for an almighty mess as you color-bomb your pals and dance into the evening to DJs and live bands.

Ride during Bike Month

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Each year, Transportation Alternatives and several biking businesses and nonprofits collaborate to make May the most cycling-friendly time of year. The full schedule is still to be announced, but look out for pedal-powered events such as Bike Expo New York (May 3, 4) and the TD Five Boro Bike Tour (May 5), plus a heap of classes where you can learn to ride or improve your road skills and confidence. Locations and times vary; visit bikemonthnyc.org for details.

  1. Various locations
  2. Until Fri May 31
More info
Festival of Ideas for the New City

Brainstorm at Ideas City 2013

The biennial affair is back, though under a new name, and still trying to meet the challenges of living in a metropolis. Formerly the Festival of Ideas for the New City, this New Museum–organized expo on urban sustainability incorporates a street fair, a brainy conference and a diverse array of projects from more than 200 organizations. NYU Wagner School, the Architectural League of New York, Storefront for Art and Architecture, the Bowery Poetry Club and the Drawing Center all weigh in on this year’s theme: “Untapped Capital.” It’s still too early for a lineup announcement, but the inaugural 2011 edition hosted loads of choice events and initiatives, such as “Murals on the Bowery,” in which 18 rolling metal storefront shutters were painted by internationally renowned artists, and bike tours of the Lower East Side and Chinatown led by young residents. Prices vary (212-219-1222, newmuseum.org/ideascity).

  1. Locations vary
  2. May 1–4; times vary

Take the Great Saunter around Manhattan

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

Not all walks are created equal, and this annual 32-mile trek around the circumference of Manhattan is a standout for sure. The entire jaunt takes about 12 hours, and along the way you'll pass through 20 parks, see dozens of landmarks and make friends with your fellow striders. If you complete the circle, reward yourself with a beer back at the starting point, the Porterhouse at Fraunces Tavern.

  1. The Porterhouse at Fraunces Tavern 58 Pearl St, between Broad and Water Sts, 10004
  2. Until Sat May 3
More info

Shake what your Mama gave you at the New York Dance Parade

  • Critics choice
  • Free

From Broadway at 21st St to St. Marks Pl at Ave A. Subway: N, R to 23rd St. Shake your booty while learning about the cultural history of dance at this march, now in its seventh year. With a chronologically ordered showcase of performances, you’ll be able to trace the evolution of the art form, with references to African dance, medieval Irish step, clogging, samba, ballet, ballroom, swing, hustle, salsa and just about every other way of boogying down. And if you’re not actively getting down, be warned: The New York Dance Police, the parade’s uniformed brigade, may ticket you with coupons to local dance studios. Check out the postparade DanceFest in Tompkins Square Park, where performances will be going on until 7pm.

  1. Various locations
  2. Until Sat May 17
More info


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