101 things to do in the summer in New York City

Check out the best things to do in the summer, including street fairs, block parties, festivals, outdoor bars, alfresco screenings, beaches and more!

Press your whites, dig out your sunglasses and start planning the next few months with our guide to the essential things to do in the summer, both beloved annual series and future classics. Read on for the top outdoor partiessummer concertsfestivalsstreet fairsrooftop barsbeaches and more to hit up between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

RECOMMENDED: Summer in New York guide

Hang out in Williamsburg’s new Havemeyer Park

Before the redevelopment of the former Domino Sugar factory begins, part of the area is being transformed into a 55,000-square-foot public space with a grassy lawn, terraced seating, an open-air library and reading room enclosed with walls made of plants, an urban farm by North Brooklyn Farms (northbrooklynfarms.com) and the Brooklyn Bike Park, the first (ahem, legal) mountain bike course in BK. The course is being built by Dellavalle Designs with volunteers from the New York City Mountain Bike Association (nycmtb.com) and managed by Ride Brooklyn, designed to allow beginners to get a taste of pump tracks (a series of mini hills), riding over obstacles (rocks, logs) and developing basic skills. Rentals (including helmets) are available, but are free for kids and during special events. Expect programming for the whole park to get going as the summer progresses, with free outdoor movie screenings, the occasional musical performance in a temporary bandshell, and yoga, pilates and jazzercise classes. North Brooklyn Farms is also planning tours, monthly supper clubs and Harvest Your Own Dinner events. For now, check @bbbyrdd on Twitter for information on opening dates and the launch of a dedicated Havemeyer Park website.

Drink and dine at SmorgasBar in South Street Seaport

Critics' pick

Smorgasburg expands with a boozy seasonal offshoot at the South Street Seaport, outfitted with a 300-seat beer garden and eight ’burg vendors. From Memorial Day weekend through October, a dozen market favorites—including Brooklyn Oyster Party, Asia Dog, Landhaus and Pizza Moto—hawk their goods at a Front Street marketplace. Two makeshift bars—set inside and atop old shipping containers—service the 300-seat beer garden, pouring brews like Captain Lawrence Kölsch and Sixpoint Sweet Action, as well as wines and cocktails. Bartenders fizz up vodka, tequila, bourbon or rum with Brooklyn Soda Works pop (grapefruit-jalapeño-honey). Slushies from Kelvin Natural Slush Co. also get spiked with hooch for an adult icy treat.

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Stay dry in the rain at MoMA

Critics' pick

Every year, it seems, New York hosts a must-see exhibit that warrants standing in line for hours, like Lincoln Center’s screening of The Clock last year, or the Met’s Alexander McQueen exhibit the year before. This year’s feel-good hit of the summer is shaping up to be Random International’s Rain Room, which lets visitors walk between raindrops without getting wet. Sensors detect where people are within the room, and the water stops in the areas where folks are standing.

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Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Mon May 20 - Sun Jul 28

Take your pick from more than 100 SummerStage shows

This cultural behemoth brings a cornucopia of free shows to parks in all five boroughs, from concerts and DJ events to theater, comedy and dance performances. Check out ’60s pop act the Zombies (June 15), hip-hop MC Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def, June 24), soul singer Shuggie Otis (Aug 11), vocal acrobat Bobby McFerrin (Aug 20) and many, many more. Other offerings include a Comedy Central stand-up showcase featuring Nick Kroll and Amy Schumer (June 26), a performance from the acclaimed Martha Graham Dance Company (July 23, 24), and a new hip-hop stage adaptation of King Kong from alt-theater whizzes Randy Weiner and Alfred Preisser (July 30–Aug 22). Check out the complete SummerStage schedule.

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Whoever you are, celebrate Gay Pride NYC

Party at the Pride March, stand up at the Pride Rally, and get down at Pride Week dances and parties. Gay Pride in NYC means anyone and everyone can let their queer flag fly throughout the month, from Queens to Staten Island. If you're amped up about gay rights at this critical moment in U.S. history, be sure to join the Kickoff Rally, to be held this year at Pier 26 on June 28, or raise your voice at the parades held in four of the boroughs throughout June (the Bronx celebrates Pride in July), culminating in the NYC Pride March on June 30. Join the protest action at the Dyke March, the party scene at the Dance on the Pier or any number of other queer events all over town. Raise a glass to those who paved the way, and make a toast to a proud tomorrow. Check out our complete guide to LGBT events for Pride month.

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Start the weekend early at Hester Nights

Critics' pick

Spend Thursday evenings at this gastronome-palooza in the Eventi hotel’s 12,000-square-foot, tree-studded, open-air plaza, strung with twinkling lights. Snacks include Thai street food from Khao Man Gai NY, made-to-order pies from Ludlow Pizza, Vietnamese sandwiches from Food Freaks Banh Mi, and Peruvian empanadas and alfajores from Jessy’s Pastries. Wash them down with a cocktail ($12), a draft Greenport Harbor Spring Turning Saison ($6) or a pitcher ($14) from the on-site Brighton tiki bar. If your hectic workday has caught up with you, chill out with a free flick and gratis popcorn in the Brighton theater (7:30pm). Look for special events, including a New Orleans–themed night on June 6, held in conjunction with the Blue Note Jazz Festival; learn some new moves from a roving dance group and try them out to the music of live bands. Refuel with a crawfish boil or Paul Gerard’s jambalaya balls.

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Eventi Plaza at The Eventi Hotel Thu May 30 - Thu Sep 26 Free

Wander along the unopened section of the High Line

Critics' pick

If you want to stroll along the High Line in its state of nature, you’ll get a final chance during Carol Bove, "Caterpillar," a reservations-only art exhibition. The Rail Yards, the last undeveloped section of the elevated park (between 30th and 34th Sts), is set to open as a landscaped public green space sometime in 2014. But first, Brooklyn artist Carol Bove is taking over; seven abstract spiral sculptures dot the 300-yard stretch of abandoned railroad tracks, a landscape that has given way to wild bushes and grasses. Admission is free, but advance reservations (at carolbovecaterpillar.eventbrite.com) are required. Enter at 34th St between Eleventh and Twelfth Aves.

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The High Line Through Sat Jul 13 Free

Stake out a spot at Bryant Park’s film fest

Critics' pick

Make sure your summer bucket list includes this Monday-night staple, which takes place in a verdant setting flanked by the grand New York Library building and twinkling skyscrapers. There are no 21st-century blockbusters here; the most recently made films this season are opening night’s Tootsie (June 17) and the series closer, E.T. (Aug 19), both from 1982. Of the ten movies, we’re marking classics Invasion of the Body Snatchers (June 24) and The African Queen (July 22) in our planners. Expect long lines and cramped conditions, but we’re sure you’re adept at carving out your own space—you live in New York, after all. The lawn opens at 5pm, and is accessible only via Sixth Avenue behind the screen. We recommend swinging by Grand Central’s food market beforehand to stock up on nibbles.

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Midtown West Free

Enjoy Governors Island; try not to think about Hammock Grove

Critics' pick

We cannot wait until large swaths of the southern part of the isle are opened to the public, including Hammock Grove—it bears repeating: a grove of hammocks!—but wait we must. The new sections will be ready in October, when the island is closed to the general public. Still, there are plenty of diversions to warrant a trip. The annual Figment festival will return on June 8. The centerpiece will be architects Jason Klimoski and Lesley Chang’s Head in the Clouds, a pavilion made from 53,000 recycled milk jugs and water bottles assembled into more than 100 pillowy segments, which combine to give a cloudlike appearance from afar. Enter the interior to recline on soft foam seating and admire the vivid blues (each container will be filled with colored water). Other returning events include the Jazz Age Lawn Party (June 15, 16, Aug 17, 18), the Volkswagen Traffic Jam (Aug 25), music performances presented by Rite of Summer (July 13, Aug 10, Sept 1) and the NYC Unicycle Festival (Aug 31, Sept 1). And though few details are available, the Trust for Governors Island announced that a “French festival of vintage carnival rides and carousels” will debut in Nolan Park sometime in July. Consider our heads turned—what hammocks?

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Governors Island Free

Hear the streets come alive with the sound of music during Make Music New York

Critics' pick

The first official day of summer gets off to a tuneful start, with musicians swarming sidewalks, parks and other outdoor spots to serenade New Yorkers in all five boroughs throughout the day. Notable shows this year include a performance of Song Reader (Beck’s all-sheet-music album, released in 2012) at a block party outside Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater and Tilt Brass playing R. Murray Schafer’s Music for Wilderness around, fittingly, the Central Park Lake. For a complete schedule and map, see makemusicny.org.

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Various locations Fri Jun 21 Free

Walk on art at the Met

Critics' pick

Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi supplies this year’s summer installation in the Met’s stunning roof garden. Best known for contemporary updates on the miniature painting that flourished on the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal era (1526–1857), Qureshi has created a site-specific work on the floor of the terrace that visitors are invited to walk on as they inspect it. Intricate floral patterns blossom from bloody pools of rich red paint. Mull over the piece’s commentary on the modern world with a stiff drink Friday and Saturday evenings (5:30–8pm), when cocktails are served.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art Tue May 21 - Sun Nov 3

Celebrate good times at the Prospect Park Bandshell

Critics' pick

The friendly rival to SummerStage is Celebrate Brooklyn!, which was programming great free concerts before Kings County became the borough du jour (and, dare we say, will continue to do so after BK becomes passé). For the 35th season it’s laying on a delightfully eclectic lineup of shows. Austin-based alt-country singer Patty Griffin opens the series (June 14), which cheerfully skips through hip-hop heavyweight Big Boi (June 20), Malian guitar duo Amadou & Mariam (June 21), folkies the Waterboys (July 19), Brooklyn country-soul rockers the Lone Bellow (July 20), a genre-busting evening with Jamie Lidell and Dan Deacon (Aug 2), and “Birdhouse in Your Soul” hit makers They Might Be Giants (Aug 10). For a change of pace, don’t miss two screenings paired with live music: 1931’s Dracula (July 13), set to a Philip Glass score, and Beasts of the Southern Wild (Aug 8). If you can pony up more than the $3 suggested admission, splurge on one of the benefit concerts: the Roots and Jim James (June 18; $41), Belle and Sebastian (July 11; $42.50), Robert Plant (July 27; $40, reserved seating $80) and Beck (Aug 4; $50).

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Prospect Park

Cruise around the city on a Citibike

Never worry about cycle theft again with this new bike-share program that's perfect for making quick trips. Starting May 27 for annual members (and June 2 for the rest of us), 6,000 seriously sturdy two-wheelers will become available at 330 stations along a corridor that runs downtown from 60th Street, across the East River and infto central Brooklyn. A pass affords you unlimited 30–45 minute trips—but beware, staying out longer incurs a penalty ($2.50–$12). To see how the ride handles, take a trial run with a gratis day pass, given out after free Street Skills classes at Bicycle Habitat in Soho or Red Lantern Bicycles in Fort Greene (locations, dates and times vary; visit bikenewyork.org for details; registration required). citibikenyc.com. Passes: day $9.95, week $25, annual $95.

Stroll, cycle or zip along car-free avenues during Summer Streets

Critics' pick

For this three-Saturday event, nearly seven miles of NYC turf—from the Brooklyn Bridge all the way to Central Park—will be cleared of vehicles, creating a pedestrian paradise complete with food and entertainment. This edition’s offerings are still being finalized, but previous years have included free bike rentals, a rock-climbing wall, a zip line and picnics along the route. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for outdoor art installations. To avoid traffic all summer, try these car-free bike paths.

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Park Ave at 72nd St to Centre St at Brooklyn Bridge Sun Aug 4 - Sun Aug 18 Free

Warm up dancing to DJs, cool down under the water cannon

Critics' pick

Boozy alfresco daytime dance party Warm Up ($18, advance $15) held in MoMA PS1’s courtyard is back for a round of 11 shows this summer. The series kicks off with one of Detroit techno’s founding fathers, Juan Atkins (June 29), and there’s another elder statesman headlining later, acid house kingpin A Guy Called Gerald of “Voodoo Ray” fame (July 27). House heads should check out local hotshot duo the Martinez Brothers (July 6), Kode9 should keep fans of envelope-pushing dubstep happy (July 20), King Britt is on a bill with hip-hop artist J. Cole and rapper Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire (Aug 17), and avant-pop trio Liars pitches in with a live set (Aug 31). As if that sampling of the lineup weren’t enough, this season’s architectural installation is Party Wall. Made using leftovers from an Ithaca skateboard manufacturer, the towering structure has the obligatory wading pools and a water cannon. The whole shebang is weighted down with pillow-shaped balloons of water that will be illuminated at night. Are you ready to snap up tickets when they go on sale June 5? Good.

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Long Island City

Plug into the electric atmosphere at the 2013 US Open

Critics' pick

To the tennis fan, the US Open is better than Christmas. The enthusiastic (but not barbaric) crowd, the delightful getups, the impressive feats of grace and athleticism unfolding under a wide-open summertime sky, all that sporty grunting… There is nothing quite like it. The big questions this year: Will top-ranked Serbian player Novak Djokovic’s bad ankle lead to his demise? Will number-two Andy Murray rise to the top? Can Serena Williams replicate last year’s victory? Is Feliciano López too handsome, or just handsome enough?

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USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Until Mon Sep 8

Learn some new moves at Midsummer Night Swing

Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park transforms into an open-air ballroom for the 25th straight year. Don't be intimidated by the old-timers showing you up on the dance floor, every evening opens with a 45-minute introductory lesson. And while you may struggle to master the steps to salsa dancing led by the Spanish Harlem Orchestra (June 28) or a toe-tapping set by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on opening night (June 25), we bet you'll have more success flailing wildly during Jonathan Toubin's high-energy soul night (July 5) or grooving at the Loser's Lounge evening of disco (July 11).

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Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center 13 Jul 2013

Commune with carnivores at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party

Critics' pick

Head to Madison Square Park for the 11th edition of this smoked- and grilled-meat blowout. Top pit masters from restaurants all over the country—including Blue Smoke, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Texas’s famed Salt Lick and more—will dish out exceptional ’cue for $9 a plate. Live music from bluesy songstress Marcia Ball (June 8) and rootsy rockers the Dirty Guv’nahs (June 9) will accompany the gluttony. FastPasses (which grant you $100 to spend and access to express lines for two eaters) sold out quickly last year, so plan ahead if you want to skip the queue.

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Madison Square Park Saturday June 13 2015 - Sunday June 14 2015 Free

Escape the sweltering sidewalks at a breezy rooftop bar

Critics' pick

We don't know why, if hot air rises, rooftop bars aren't sweatboxes; but then we're journalists (and drinkers), not scientists. Our favorite spot for imbibing above ground level is Gallow Green, a dreamy, overgrown rooftop with trellises woven with flowers and weathered wooden tables, which sits atop a warehouse that operates as the McKittrick Hotel for the wildly popular Sleep No More. We recommend going with friends and sharing a punch bowl in the abandoned antique railcar, the best seats in the house. For more drinks and views, check out our comprehensive roundup of rooftop bars.

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Chelsea

See Jeff Koons bestride the art world like a colossus

Rival megadealers Larry Gagosian and David Zwirner are sharing the wealth with concurrent shows of new works by Jeff Koons. In “Gazing Ball,” at the Zwirner space, deep-purple orbs balance precariously on white sculptures of classical figures, balloonlike snowmen and mailboxes. Over at Gagosian, Koons debuts new series of paintings, sculptures, and three twists on his crowd-pleasing balloon animals: Balloon Swan (Blue), Balloon Rabbit (Yellow) and Balloon Monkey (Red).

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Remember the Bard sayeth, "How poor are they who have not patience," so suck it up and wait in line for Shakespeare in the Park

Critics' pick

Each year, the Public Theater’s festival brings droves of culture lovers to Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. First up this year is The Comedy of Errors (May 28–June 30), one of the Bard’s sillier farces, starring company vets Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family) and Hamish Linklater (The Big C). The big news this year is a musical adaptation of battle-of-the-sexes comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost (July 23–Aug 18) from Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman, who last collaborated on the very fun Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Free tickets (two per person) are distributed at both theaters at 1pm on the day of the performance. It's usually good to begin waiting around 9am, although the line can start forming as early as 6am when big-name stars are on the bill. You can also enter an online lottery for tickets. Check out our tips for snagging tickets to Shakespeare in the Park.

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Central Park Free

Discover the LES during sunlight hours

We all pigeonhole neighborhoods—midtown’s for work, the West Village strolling, Williamsburg hipster-trolling, and the Lower East Side exists purely for after-dark pleasures. The DayLife street fair plans to shine the warm light of truth on that misconception by AstroTurfing three city blocks and bringing local shops, restaurants, music venues and games out into the street. To celebrate the 125th anniversary of Katz’s Delicatessen, the main event will be an official Major League Eating pastrami-scarfing contest at 2pm. For the love of all that’s holy, don’t enter—save room for treats from 30 roving pushcarts courtesy of neighborhood favorites such as Mission Chinese Food and the Meatball Shop. There will also be a live-music stage set up in front of Tammany Hall and programmed by the Living Room. Pencil in two more editions of the festival in 2013, on September 15 and October 27. Visit lowereastsideny.com for more information. Noon–5pm.

Wave your freak flag at the Mermaid Parade

Critics' pick

And we mean literally: Wave the flag you earned by donating to the Kickstarter campaign that hopes to fund this season’s installment of the annual art parade. Coney Island USA’s event passed the 30-year mark in 2012, but we’re in danger of missing the procession of glitter-covered seminude revelers, aquatically adorned floats and classic cruisers due to TBS (That Bitch Sandy). At time of writing, almost three quarters of the $100,000 needed before June 3 had been raised. Chip in $5 and you’ll get access to a kick-ass freak flag design and instructions for how to make it. Take it to the parade and expect a lot of high fives.

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From W 21st St and Surf Ave to the Boardwalk at W 15th St Saturday June 20 2015 Free

Hang out in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Critics' pick

Next year, expect to see the article “101 things to do in this waterfront development.” A small sampling of the warm-weather delights: Hang out in Picnic Peninsula and grill on one of the 22 no-permit-required barbecues, play a game of tetherball, cool off in the pop-up pool (opening TBA), take a ride on Jane’s Carousel ($2), lick a salted-crack-caramel ice-cream cone from the Ample Hills Creamery concession at Pier 5, or fill your belly every Sunday at Smorgasburg. Then there’s always the free programming, including Syfy Movies with a View series (Thu 9pm, July 11–Aug 9), the Books Beneath the Bridge reading series (Mon 7pm, July 8–Aug 12), a performance by the Metropolitan Opera (July 19 7pm), the Bard on Pier 1 (A Midsummer Night’s Dream June 7–9, Much Ado About Nothing June 28–30; 7pm) a marathon reading of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” (June 2 3pm), kayaking (select Thu 5:30–6:45pm; Sat 10am–3pm; June 13–Aug 31), morning yoga (Mon 7:30am, July 1–Aug 19) and sunset Pilates (Wed 7pm, June 26–Sept 25). And the biggest perk for any park? The outdoor drinkery, Brooklyn Bridge Wine Bar at the Pier 1. 

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Brooklyn Heights Free

Sing us a song, you're the piano man (or women)

Critics' pick

Itching to show off your Scott Joplin–like skills—or at least your “Chopsticks” chops? For 16 days, service organization Sing for Hope will scatter 88 artist-decorated pianos (one for each key, get it?) in outdoor public locations throughout the five boroughs. Passersby are encouraged to pull up a bench and tickle the ivories. At the end of the project, the instruments will be donated to schools, hospitals and other community institutions that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to buy one.

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Various locations Sat Jun 1 - Sun Jun 16 Free

Hit the biggest arena show of the season

Critics' pick

Kid Rock may have trashed the hefty price tag on Jay-Z and JT’s Legends of the Summer tour, but that didn’t stop tickets from selling out almost immediately. (High-priced seats are still available.) If you’ve got one, consider yourself lucky: This is arguably the arena-music event of the season, with Timberlake in triumphant mode after his long-awaited comeback, and Hov—well, he’s always triumphant. We assume he’ll be in especially good spirits at his hometown’s big-time ballpark.

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Yankee Stadium Fri Jul 19 - Sat Jul 20

See a free flick with Rooftop Films

New York is packed to the gills with gratis screenings in the summer, but few compare to the indie programming and unique locations of this warm-weather favorite, and between now and closing night on August 17, there are 12 complimentary events to complement the ticketed portion of the series. See Ken Burns’s The Central Park Five (June 18) in, rather appropriately, Dag Hammarskjold Plaza; Bending Steel (July 8), about a budding strongman, lights up Coney Island beach at West 12th Street; and Brasslands (July 13), in Brookfield Place Plaza, documents a Balkan music festival. The latter is followed by live performances of local favorites Zlatne Uste, Slavic Soul Party! and Raya Brass Band. Visit rooftopfilms.com for a complete schedule.

Jazz Age Lawn Party

Critics' pick

Bust out your flapper gear (or buy some) and brush up on The Great Gatsby: For this outdoor bash, part of Governors Island is transformed into a Prohibition-era soiree, complete with old-timey touches like ’20s motorcars and functional antique gramophones. Over two weekends, you can catch Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra playing jazz staples, as well as performances by dance group Dreamland Follies and musicians Gelber & Manning. Between sets, snag cool duds and goods from vintage collectors and artisans, and sip era-appropriate cocktails.

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Governors Island Saturday June 13 2015 - Sunday August 16 2015

See the best show in town

Critics' pick

Dave Malloy’s musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, adapted from a brief section of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, wowed us last year when it opened at Ars Nova. It’s returned at Kazino, a sumptuous pop-up venue in the Meatpacking District that doubles as a Russian supper club, and it’s swept us off our feet again. An eight-piece band is scattered throughout the room, while the luxuriously costumed cast mingles with an audience seated at cabaret-style tables. The price of admission (which includes a modest dinner and a shot of booze) is worth every kopeck. Inventive and thoughtful, knowingly sincere, this is theater like no other in New York.

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Kazino Through Sun Sep 1

See the Brazilian Beyoncé during Brasil Summerfest

Samba in the sunshine at South Street Seaport, then shake your rump to the latest baile-funk and hip-hop sounds at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, Drom and other after-dark spots. It’s all part of Brasil Summerfest, a movable feast of traditional and contemporary sounds and styles, starting July 20 at Central Park SummerStage with the U.S. debut of Gaby Amarantos, often called “the Brazilian Beyoncé.” Visit facebook.com/brasilsummerfest for the complete schedule.

Vote for The NeverEnding Story to close SummerScreen

Critics' pick

This alfresco film fest is back, showing a grab bag of ’90s nostalgia picks (so Williamsburg, right?), including Can’t Hardly Wait (July 10), The Craft (July 24) and Speed (Aug 7); ’80s comedy classics Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (July 17) and The Goonies (July 31); and a to-be-determined fan favorite (Aug 14). (You can cast your vote for High Fidelity, The Big Lebowski, The NeverEnding Story or another flick at facebook.com/summerscreen.) Each evening also features live music beginning at 6pm and food trucks such as Coolhaus and PizzaMoto; discreet BYO boozing is optional.

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Greenpoint Free

Go fishing for grub at a new outdoor food festival

Critics' pick

Chow down by the Hudson at New Fish City, where local eateries serve dishes that top out at $10. Choose from lobster-roll destinations Luke’s Lobster and Red Hook Lobster Pound; Southern Italian seaside cooking spot Esca; Littleneck, known for its Northeast clam-shack grub; and more. There are two sessions, but we advise waiting until the evening, when a pop-up beer garden pours craft brews.

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Brookfield Place Plaza 13 Jun 2013 Free

Stretch out in Prospect Park, listen to Chairlift and watch short films at Tropfest

Critics' pick

From humble beginnings in Sydney in 1993, Tropfest has grown into a series of events spread across nine countries. Now, it’s the largest short-film fest in the world, and it landed with a splash last year in Bryant Park for its inaugural NYC edition. For its sophomore outing, the shindig is moving to Prospect Park’s Nethermead. The free event, hosted by Liev “Sabretooth” Schreiber, will need the space: In addition to a full day of screenings (judged by a panel including author Malcolm Gladwell, WNYC’s Leonard Lopate and actor-producer Fisher Stevens), there’ll be live performances from such Brooklyn-appropriate names as Chairlift, Neon Indian (DJ set), Bear in Heaven, Ghost Beach and People Get Ready. Though Tropfest is free, reservations are recommended. Visit tropfestnewyork2013.eventbrite.com to save a spot.

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Prospect Park, Nethermead 22 Jun 2013 Free

Go to the beach, high five a parks employee

Hurricane Sandy threatened to put the kibosh on idyllic summer days of crashing waves, sun-drenched picnics and walks in the surf. Thankfully, the parks department has been hard at work rebuilding the devastated and debris-littered oceanfront areas. With the exception of Fort Tilden in storm-battered Breezy Point, all of the city’s public beaches will reopen on Memorial Day. Work on your tan at family-friendly standby Coney Island Beach, foodie and Ramones favorite Rockaway Beach or Orchard Beach, a mile-long stretch that’s been dubbed “The Riviera of New York.” Suck it, Sandy. Visit nycparks.gov for details. Beaches are open for swimming May 25–Sept 2.

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Explore Bushwick

Critics' pick

If you’ve always fancied a nose round this postindustrial neighborhood but weren’t sure where to start, begin at Bushwick Open Studios, a three-day fest that puts the nabe’s creative side on display. Start at the hubs set up in galleries and storefronts to help direct visitors to what’s on offer, but here’s a couple of choice events to hit: The launch party at Shea Stadium (May 31 8pm–2am) features local bands Eula, Air Waves, Lodro and Darlings, plus a Brooklyn Brewery open bar (8–9pm); premier arts venue 3rd Ward hosts an exhibit of more than 30 Brooklyn-based and international artists (Fri 7:30–11pm; Sat, Sun noon–7pm; May 31–June 16); the music continues with live, local combos performing at Don Pedro (May 31 8pm–2am) and Lone Wolf (1089 Broadway at Dodworth St, Bushwick, Brooklyn; 718-455-2028; June 1 7pm–3am), while DJs cater to the late-night electronic-dance-music fan at Bossa Nova Civic Club (June 2 10pm–4am); finally, catch the the closing blowout CinemaSunday, a video-art screening party and backyard barbecue at Bat Haus (279 Starr St between St. Nicholas and Wyckoff Aves, Bushwick, Brooklyn; 347-790-9204, batha.us; June 2 6pm–1am). Various venues, visit artsinbushwick.org for details.

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Various locations Sun Jun 2 - Mon Jun 3 Free

Check out new outdoor venue Pier 26

Critics' pick

Promotions powerhouse Bowery Presents are programming this new part of Hudson River Park. So far, four acts have been announced: English ska legends the Specials (July 17; $40, advance $35), two sold-out dates for barnstormers fun. (July 22, 23), a pair of shows by rockers the Gaslight Anthem (July 26, 28; $40, advance $35) and Maroon 5–alike OneRepublic (Aug 10; $45, advance $40).

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Experience dinner and a movie the Monkey Town way

Critics' pick

If you enjoy unique experiences, make sure to catch Monkey Town 3 this summer, a reboot of the Williamsburg bar and restaurant that shuttered in 2010. Each performance at art-and-technology space Eyebeam invites 32 people into a suspended white cube of screens (you have to duck to get to the seating inside), onto which a two-hour-15-minutes program of multichannel video art is projected. During the screening, you’ll enjoy a multicourse meal cooked by a rotating lineup of chefs, including duo Max Sussman and Katy Peetz on Wednesdays and Thursdays (check out all the chefs and their menus on the website). Monkey Town has also lined up a few special nights of live music or live art. While a few details are still being confirmed, an announcement should be made on June 1. We implore you to be ready. Visit monkeytown3.com for more information and to buy tickets.

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Eyebeam Art and Technology Center 11 Aug 2013

Save a buck seeing priceless art works during the Museum Mile Festival

Critics' pick

A 23-block stretch of Fifth Avenue becomes a car-free promenade when ten of the city’s most prestigious art institutions—including the Guggenheim, the Met and the Museum of the City of New York—open their doors to the public free of charge for three hours. The crowds at this annual culturefest can be daunting—more than 50,000 people are expected to show up—but don’t get overwhelmed; plan to get there early if you want to see big-name shows. Musical performances, including string quartets and jazz ensembles, will enhance your walk from one museum to the next.

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Fifth Ave from 82nd to 105th Sts Tuesday June 9 2015 Free

Camp out in lower Manhattan for the River to River festival

Lower Manhattan erupts in hundreds of free cultural and musical events for a month each summer thanks to this massive festival. Of the many amazing concerts, art installations, dance and theatrical performances this year, highlights include the Bang on a Can Marathon, the beloved all-day alt-classical-music session (June 16); Roadside Attraction, a new site-specific theater piece from the boundary-busting Third Rail Projects (June 23–26, July 1, 2); a collaborative work from legendary performance artist Laurie Anderson and musician Bill Laswell (June 18, 19); pieces from renowned choreographers Stephen Petronio (June 29) and Luciana Achugar (July 2); and Ecstatic Summer, a genre-spanning concert put on by members of Deerhoof, Akron/Family, Bon Iver, the National and more (June 29, 30). Whew! Visit rivertorivernyc.com for details.

Start the weekend right

Critics' pick

Impresarios Jules Kim and Katie Longmyer are back for season three of their globe-trotting Select Summer Fridays wingding high above the Meatpacking District—specifically, on the roof of the Standard Hotel. Resident DJ Project Matt and top local spinners—including Tiki Disco boys Lloydski and Andy Pry (June 7), and Cosmo Baker (June 14)—ply their trade while you snack on crêpes and quaff cocktails in the open air. Though the party is free, entrance is at the doorman’s discretion—so leave those never-nude shorts at home. The action ends at sundown.

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Le Bain Fri May 24 - Fri Sep 6 Free

Prepare your nipple chafing quips for the Del Close Marathon

Critics' pick

Legendary Chicago improv director and instructor Del Close inspired an impressive array of big-name comedians (Bill Murray, John Belushi, Tina Fey). This 15th annual toast to the late guru, started by the Upright Citizens Brigade, includes 390 shows, featuring popular UCB staples (ASSSSCAT 3000, Death by Roo Roo), celebs (founding UCB member Amy Poehler, Horatio Sanz, The Office’s Ellie Kemper) and troupes from around the globe (Helsinki, Finland’s VSOP). Visit delclosemarathon.com for a complete schedule.

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Various locations Fri Jun 28 - Mon Jul 1

Make a Restaurant Week resie on July 8

Critics' pick

For four weeks this summer, some of the city’s finer restaurants dish out three-course prix-fixe lunches for around $24; some places also offer dinner for $35. Not surprisingly, the event is immensely popular, so you’ll need to make reservations well in advance. Bookings open July 8, visit nycgo.com/restaurantweek.

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Various locations Mon Jul 22 - Fri Aug 16

See Shakespeare in a more civilized environment than a park

Tired of weathering the elements just to get your fix of Billy's iambic pentameter? Then make haste to this contemporary stage revival of Shakespeare’s timeless romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, starring Hollywood pretty boy Orlando Bloom. It marks the Broadway debut of the Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean star, who will play Montague to Tony nominee Condola Rashad’s Capulet. In David Leveaux’s modernized staging, the star-crossed lovers are divided by racial tensions (didn’t West Side Story already cover that…?), though they’ll still employ the Bard’s original language. It’s the play’s first time on the Great White Way in 36 years, so get those hankies ready.

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Richard Rodgers Theatre Sat Dec 7 - Sun Dec 8

Go canoeing with the Bronx River Alliance

There are plenty of free kayaking and canoeing options in New York in the summer—but you may find yourself waiting in line for hours at some of the more popular options. Head uptown to take part in the Bronx River Alliance’s programming and discover a resurgent part of New York’s natural landscape. Three-hour canoe trips (Depart from various locations, visit bronxriver.org for details; $25, reservations required) embark on select Saturdays throughout the summer. The Upper River Paddle launches from the recently regenerated Shoelace Park (Bronx Blvd at 219th St) and passes through the Bronx River Forest, the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo. If that sounds like a bit too much trouble, just turn up on Saturdays to hop in one of Rocking the Boats free, first-come, first-served rowboats (rockingtheboat.org; Sat noon; free; May 25–Aug 31). Landlubbers can also join free guided walks and cycle along the greenway.

Follow the beat to Tiki Disco

Critics' pick

Among ready-to-party New Yorkers, one of the summer’s fave shindigs is this beer-swillin’ get down, with Eli Escobar, Lloydski and Andy Pry serving the rhythmic motion-inducing goodness. The wingding returns to the backyard of Bushwick pizza palace Roberta’s and Rockaway burger shack Rippers (with a free shuttle transporting any put-out Williamsburg and Bushwick dwellers), and adds a third location this year, the swell postindustrial setting of Queens’ Knockdown Center, a former manufacturing plant and multimedia art space in Queens.

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21 Jul 2013 Free

Try a new flea market in Long Island City

Big news, market fans: Queens is getting its very own waterfront destination. LIC Flea & Food (licflea.com) is set to open June 15 (Sat, Sun 10am–6pm) in a 24,000-square-foot parking lot at 46th Avenue and 5th Street. Three vendors have been confirmed so far: Malu Ice Cream (malulic.com), Italian restaurant Manducatis Rustica (manducatisrustica.com) and art gallery Matted, and approximately 60 other local businesses are expected to be on board for the launch. Follow @licflea or like facebook.com/licflea for updates and start scheduling an epic weekend waterfront crawl: The East River Ferry alights near the market in Long Island City and also makes stops at the Williamsburg Waterfront, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Governors Island.

Make Tuesdays the new Thursdays

Critics' pick

Saturdays are for amateurs, Sundays are for pros,Thursdays are the new Fridays: So what happened to the mellow after-work Thursday tipple?!? We’re happy to report it’s moved to the Hudson Square Music and Wine Festival on Tuesdays (5–7:30pm). The lineup for this concert series is, on the whole, globe-trotting and eclectic, but City Winery appears to be making a play for Anglophiles with Dave Davies of the Kinks (June 4), the English Beat (June 18) and A Tribute to Early Elton John (Aug 6) all filling summer evenings with free music. Whoever’s providing the soundtrack, you’ll want either a cold Radeberger ($6) or a house white ($7) or red ($9) in hand.

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Downtown Free

Introduce yourself to New York on Nametag Day

Critics' pick

Say hello to a stranger—even if that stranger is just a volunteer for Nametag Day, an idea to make city life a little less callous and a bit more amiable. The group has already beat its fund-raising benchmark of $3,500—enough for 30,000 stickers—so a team of volunteers will be in Union Square and at least seven other locations (depending on how many people offer their time and how many name tags the group can rustle up). Watch a video of a dry run, feel the warmth of the smiles, and donate or volunteer at nametagday.com—you never know how many lives you might brighten in the process.

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Various locations 01 Jun 2013 Free

Catch the headliners at Governors Ball

Critics' pick

Pulling off a successful blockbuster outdoor music fest around these parts is tough (RIP, All Points West), but it looks like the Gov Ball is going to do it; three-day passes are sold out, as the response to 2013’s lineup has been much more enthusiastic than in years past. It helps that the Randalls Island–set bonanza has nabbed some of the biggest names in rock (Kings of Leon) and hip-hop (Kanye West)—plus, erm, Guns N’ Roses. But we’re just as excited to catch lower-billed, of-the-moment acts like envelope-pushing indie-rock outfit Deerhunter, L.A. rap phenom Kendrick Lamar and dance-inducing electropopsters Crystal Castles, among others.

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Randalls Island Park Fri Jun 7 - Sun Jun 9

Play musical chairs in Bryant Park

Critics' pick

Last year, close to 400 people converged on the lawn to compete in the classic party game, using the park’s iconic green chairs. Now it’s been turned into an annual event, with comedian Sara Barron returning as host. There will be 20 circles of chairs, with 30 people to a circle, all vying for a place in the final playoff. Just remember to bring your A-game: The grand prize includes a pair of Southwest Airlines tickets (whatever), one of Bryant Park’s green lawn chairs (want!) and a plaque in the park (immortality—yes!). Fair warning: We detected a take-no-prisoners attitude at last year’s event; see for yourself with our video. If you think you’ve got what it takes, sign up at bryantpark.org/musicalchairs.

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Midtown West Free

Welcome Big Mark and his Action Park to the Coney Island boardwalk

Slated to debut Memorial Day weekend, new amusement destination Big Mark's Action Park aims to complement Coney Island’s kitschy, throwback vibe while offering modern touches. Most of the rides ($5–$25) and attractions were selected with high action and a low carbon footprint in mind; look for a wind tunnel designed to simulate skydiving, a zip line spanning the length of a city block, rock-climbing walls and hot-air-balloon rides. The now-defunct Mega Whirl, a ride that was destroyed by Sandy, will find new life as a tropical-themed bar. And if you’re not in the mood for a hot dog (especially post–wind tunnel), the park plans to offer a variety of international, health-conscious fare. Visit facebook.com/bigmarksactionpark for more information, and for more delights of the Brooklyn shore, check out our Coney Island and Luna Park guide.

Put a big red circle in your planner around New Amsterdam Market’s one confirmed summer date

Critics' pick

The smartly curated outdoor local-food bazaar is in limbo. The outdoor market was always intended as a prelude to a permanent indoor market in the Fulton Fish Market and New Amsterdam building, but that vision is competing with other commercial development. While founder Robert LaValva is weighing his options (which include walking away from the site), there is one market currently scheduled for this year on June 23 (11am–5pm), with more than 50 vendors confirmed. Visit the bread pavilion for freshly baked loafs made from local grains, and a dairy bar with treats made with locally produced milk. In addition, Anton Nocito of P&H Soda will mark the release of his cookbook, Make Your Own Soda, by creating a one-off beverage with Gomberg of the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys. You could wait for more announcements, but honestly, just block out the time and go.

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Financial District Free

Take your chances at the New York International Fringe Festival

Each August, New York straps itself in for this annual theater megafest, in which scrappy performers and troupes from around the world descend on the city, raw talent (or lack thereof) in tow. Choosing between the nearly 200 shows on offer is a game of theatrical Russian roulette: You never know which alternamusical, one-woman confessional or puppet ballet will be the next underground hit, and which will be a self-indulgent flop. But hey—it’s cheap!—with tickets available for $18 (advance $15). Visit fringenyc.org for more information.

Blow your tiny mind at the World Science Festival

Critics' pick

This fun four-day affair combines scientific innovation with cutting-edge arts and culture. Special guests this year include James Watson, one of the discoverers of DNA structure, and actor and science lover Alan Alda. Take in talks on the multiverse, whales, infinity and how the human mind responds to beauty. At the fest’s open-to-all Innovation Square in MetroTech Plaza in downtown Brooklyn, you can check out everything from flying robots to super-evaporated cocktails.

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Locations vary Wednesday May 27 2015 - Sunday May 31 2015

Try a new outdoor activity for free

Critics' pick

Spend some time in the sun learning a new sport (or trying a gratis session of your favorite) with Outdoor Rise, a free weeklong program sponsored by adventure-travel company Discover Outdoors. Start the day with yoga (daily 8–9:15am) in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow, or splash around during a kayaking (June 17, 19, 21 noon–1pm) or stand-up paddleboarding session (June 17, 19, 21 1:30–2:30pm) with the Manhattan Kayaking Company at Pier 66. A bouldering class will be offered at Rat Rock in Central Park (enter at Columbus Circle; June 18 6–7:30pm) and at Pier 46, you can try your hand at fishing (June 18, 20 6–8pm). If you prefer straight-up, no-nonsense locomotion, sign up for the bike ride that follows the Manhattan waterfront and starts at Pier 84’s Bike and Roll (June 23 10:30am–5:30pm), or meet at Grand Central Terminal to take the Metro-North to Breakneck Ridge (round-trip $26), where you’ll hike five miles, scrambling to make it to the summit to watch the sunset (June 21 4–10pm). There’s also a range of talks to spark your wanderlust; visit outdoorrise.com for details and to book your place in each activity.

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Various locations 23 Jun 2013 Free

Watch chorus boys and girls grin and bare it

Critics' pick

More than 200 chorus boys and girls take it all off in annual frisky fund-raiser Broadway Bares for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. This year's show, directed by Nick Kenkel, is inspired by the fruited plains, amber waves and other double entendre–worthy landscapes of these here United States. For more information, go to broadwaycares.org.

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Roseland Ballroom Until Sun Jun 23

Dress appropriately for "PUNK: Chaos to Couture" at the Met

Critics' pick

The Met’s Costume Institute—responsible for 2011’s blockbuster “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” exhibit—investigates the aesthetics of punk culture and how it has influenced designers like Vivienne Westwood, Laura Mulleavy (Rodarte), Karl Lagerfeld (Chanel) and Gianna Versace. Expect to hear plenty of the Ramones, the Sex Pistols and the Clash while you check out 100 garments ranging from shredded, safety-pinned ’70s outfits to contemporary couture. Fair warning: Don't turn up in a faux-hawk if you're a celeb, the press will have a field day.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art 14 Aug 2013

Get involved at Socrates Sculpture Park

Critics' pick

In the most recent incarnation of Hans Ulrich Obrist's exhibition do it (outside), that’s taken place in 50-plus venues around the world, Obrist recruited more than 60 international artists (Ai Weiwei, David Lynch and Joan Jonas among them) to write instructions for creating all manner of works, which in turn have been interpreted by other artists and put on display alongside the directions. You’re invited to visit the park and act out the performative pieces yourself.

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Astoria Free

Watch artists make masterpieces by the sea

The humble beach diversion gets an artistic makeover at Creative Time’s second annual Sandcastle Competition in Far Rockaway. Artists (and their teams) are invited to spend an afternoon fashioning great works; while you lounge, listen to a DJ and sample the goods from the boardwalk’s lauded food vendors. Last year, Tom Sachs’s group dug a hole bound for China, team Marie Lorenz built a coliseum, while winners Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw, pictured, er…not sure what it is—a human fountain?—but it looks cool! And after the winners have been chosen and feted, it’s time for an after-party. This edition is tentatively scheduled for the beginning of August on Rockaway Beach in the general vicinity of 80th Street; visit creativetime.org or follow the Twitter handle @creativetimenyc nearer the time for details.

Spend a summer Sunday dancing in Gowanus Grove for one last season

Critics' pick

Before new property development swallows the outdoor lot by the canal, make sure to hit up at least one of this season’s Mister Sunday outdoor parties. Impresarios and residents Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin create a relaxed, kid-friendly vibe in the afternoon, spinning a good-time soundtrack to games of Ping-Pong and plates of tacos by food truck Country Boys. As dusk arrives, the energy ramps up and a fun, sweaty mass of people dance under the disco ball hung in the poplar tree grove. While we’d bet that the Mister Sunday parties will continue after the venue closes, it’s still worth enjoying the party in this soon-to-be-gone setting. E-mail mister@mistersaturdaynight.com to get on the reduced-admission list.

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Gowanus Grove Sun (end date TBA)

Experience a Polynesian festival

Critics' pick

The Hawaiian Airlines Liberty Challenge brings in top teams of paddlers to race outriggers (a canoe with a buoyancy arm attached to one side) around New York Harbor. For the 17th annual competition, host organization New York Outrigger is throwing a free all-day affair on Pier 26 at Hudson River Park by the start and finish line. While crews are sweating through the 15-mile course, sample traditional Polynesian culture at a lei-making class and dance lesson, or see how an outrigger handles out on the water. If that whets your appetite, head to one of NYO’s free novice sessions on weekends starting June 1 (assuming Sandy-related repairs of the group’s Pier 66 home base have been completed); visit newyorkoutrigger.org/novices for updates and to register.

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Pier 26 22 Jun 2013 Free

Get chills at Film Forum’s Son of Summer Festival of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction

Critics' pick

Sometimes, even a movie theater's air conditioning isn't enough to cool you down during the height of summer. If only there was a way to send chills down your spine…. Thankfully, the venerable downtown movie house is reviving its cinematic salute to creepy, geeky fare for the first time in 17 years. Expect a few new prints and celeb appearances (both TBA at press time) at the four-week series, which includes showings of Alien, Evil Dead 2, Ghostbusters, Starship Troopers, Plan 9 from Outer Space!, a 3-D presentation of The Creature from the Black Lagoon and many more wide-ranging titles.

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Downtown

Pay fealty to B.B. King at the Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival

Critics' pick

Now in its third year, the Lowdown Hudson Blues Festival sets up in Brookfield Place Plaza for an electrifying two-night stand (6–9:30pm). Topping the first night’s bill is none other than legendary guitarist and vocalist B.B. King; closing out night two is the veteran California rock band Los Lobos, whose 1992 album, Kiko, is as classic as it gets.

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Battery Park City Free

Marvel at how time flies during Harlem Week

Times flies when you're having fun, which is presumably the excuse this annual festival gives for stretching its free programming over a month. We're not complaining, though, there's a bounty of cultural riches to enjoy uptown. For instance, A Great Day in Harlem in U.S. Grant National Memorial Park (July 28 1–8:30pm) includes an international gospel showcase; the Studio Museum in Harlem resurrects Uptown Fridays, an evening of free tours and music (Fri 6–9pm Aug 2–30); Jazzmobile hosts cool-kid concerts every Wednesday back in Grant Memorial Park (July 31–Aug 21, 7pm) and puts on a one-off engagement on Central Park's Great Hill (Aug 17 4–7pm). And then there's the Entertainer's Basketball Classic at the world-renowned Rucker Park (Frederick Douglass Blvd at 155th St; ebcsports.com; July 31–Aug 15, Mon–Fri 6–10pm)—who knows which star might drop by. (Is this a video of Kevin Durant at Rucker Park? Yes—yes it is.) Visit harlemweek.com for a complete schedule.

See "AIDS in New York: The First Five Years" at N-YHS

Critics' pick

This summer’s main exhibition at New-York Historical Society puts the early days of a ravaging epidemic on display, exploring its impact on the culture and life of Gotham. Using posters, photos, and troves of information from the archives of the New York Public Library, NYU and the National Archive of LGBT History, “AIDS in New York” looks back on a time when few knew how to handle the disease or where to turn for help.

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New-York Historical Society 15 Sep 2013

Don't get lost, Little Red, in Paul McCarthy's fairy-tale forest

Critics' pick

If you’re uptown and looking to escape to another world, head to the Park Avenue Armory. In the last year alone, its Drill Hall has been transformed into the surface of the Red Planet (for Tom Sachs’s Space Program: Mars) and a giant swing set (Ann Hamilton’s The Event of a Thread). Now, artist Paul McCarthy is turning the 55,000-square-foot space into a dark (read: not kid-friendly) fairy-tale forest, drawing inspiration from the brothers Grimm and American mythology. The installation will include tall trees, two warped suburban houses, and immersive film and sound. If this expansive experience doesn't scratch your McCarthy itch, make for Hauser & Wirth's two exhibitions, “Paul McCarthy: Life Cast” (through July 26) and “Paul McCarthy: Sculptures” (through June 1).

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Park Avenue Armory 04 Aug 2013

Celebrate 40 years of Hip-Hop at 5 Pointz

Critics' pick

It’s been four decades since DJ Kool Herc’s Bronx block parties helped ignite a new genre of music and a global movement. This season, 5 Pointz Aerosol Art Center hosts “Summer 2013: Celebrating 40 Years of Hip-Hop,” a four-month tribute to both the graffiti hub’s decade in existence and the culture that inspires it. Throughout the season, Bronx street-art crew Zimad TD4 will curate rotating gallery exhibits; influential first-generation DJ and producer Marley Marl will spin old-school house on Saturdays; and local MCs, including 5 Pointz’ resident beat-box instructor Grey Matter, will battle.

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Long Island City Free

Prick up your ears at the New York Musical Theatre Festival

Like the Fringe Fest, this annual festival is one of the city’s essential incubators for new theater. Since its inception in 2004, many shows have gone on to Broadway and Off Broadway glory, such as [title of show] and Next to Normal. This year’s lineup is a grab bag of 30 fully staged works, ranging from heartfelt to campy. Best bets include Volleygirls, an underdog story about a scrappy all-lady volleyball team; Icarus, which situates the Greek fallen-from-the-sky myth in a 1930s carnival; and Homo the Musical!, chronicling an extraterrestrial from—you guessed it—Planet Homo, who touches down in a Bible Belt suburb…with dancing! No guarantees here, people. But don’t you want to say you caught the next big thing on the ground floor? Visit nymf.org for a complete schedule.

Lie on the grass and listen to the NY Phil

Critics' pick

The Philharmonic goes green, taking a spin through parks in five boroughs in six days: Prospect Park Long Meadow (July 10); Queens’ Cunningham Park (July 11); Central Park, Great Lawn (July 13, 15); College of Staten Island Center for the Arts (July 14); and Van Cortlandt Park (July 16). Alan Gilbert leads the ensemble through a lively program of Respighi and Tchaikovsky, while we revel in the merlot warmth within us and the starry skies above us.

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Locations vary Until Tue Jul 15 Free

Forget those breakers on the subway, see how it's done at the Breakin' Convention

Critics' pick

London’s premier hip-hop dance fest hits the U.S. for the first time, storming the Apollo Theater. Hosted and curated by British dancer-choreographer Jonzi D, Breakin’ boasts film screenings, live graffiti painting, panel discussions, break-dance demos, and lots of mad moves by B-boys and -girls, such as South African soloist Jane Sekonya and Brooklyn’s all-female Decadance crew.

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Apollo Theater Thu Jun 13 - Sun Jun 16

Go all out at, or just dabble in, the Northside Festival

Launched in 2009 by the L Magazine (hi! love your work!) as a grassroots celebration of all things indie and Brooklyn, this boroughcentric throwdown has grown into a multifaceted extravaganza rivaling CMJ with its mix of live music, film and technological entrepreneurship. Buy a music badge (northsidefestival.com; $80, premium $235) and dedicate a full four days to racing between practically every nightspot in Williamsburg and Greenpoint to see Black Flag, Swans, Iceage, Son Volt and dozens of other bands. Alternatively, stop by Williamsburg Walks (Bedford Ave between Metropolitan Ave and North 12th St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; June 8, 15, 22 noon–5pm; free) to explore traffic-free blocks of music, live-art and creative games.

Make a splash during City of Water Day

Critics' pick

Anyone who’s spent time in landlocked parts of the country will tell you that a city without water is like…erm, Phoenix. The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance celebrates NYC’s best accessory at Governors Island and Jersey City’s Liberty State Park, offering activities that remind us just how good we have it. Get gratis access to a plethora of watergoing vessels, including canoes, kayaks and rowboats; or fish, bike or kick back with food and music on dry land. Sign up early to nab a spot on a narrated boat tour of the harbor.

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Location TBA Saturday July 18 2015 Free

Follow New York Classical Theatre's roving performance

We know, we know—those long lines for Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte can be a killer. Consider an alternative form of gratis high-class drama that’s 100 percent less of a time suck. Now in its 14th year, NYCT performs free alfresco classics in locations all over the city. This year, they’re mounting Chekhov’s melancholy comedy The Seagull in Central Park (meet at W 103rd St and Central Park West; Thu–Sun May 28–June 23, 7pm) and Prospect Park (meet at the Rustic Shelter, Park Side Ave at Ocean Ave, Prospect Park, Brooklyn; Tue–Sun June 25–30, 7pm), followed by Shakespeare’s The Tempest in Battery Park (meeting point TBA; Mon–Wed, Fri–Sun July 1–28, 7pm). Wear comfortable shoes—the company’s style of “panoramic theater” means that audiences follow performers from location to location in the course of the show. Visit newyorkclassical.org for more information.

Go with the flow in Randalls Island Park

Critics' pick

This summer, Flow.13 brings five site-specific installations to the southern shore of Randalls Island Park. Rest in the shade of one of Anne Percoco’s New Growth two-dimensional trees, created with images from the Yellow Pages and enlarged to a height of between four and seven feet. You can also hang out at (and sit on) Eto Otitigbe’s 20-foot-wide, undulating, doughnut-shaped structure, Looping Back. Visit flowartnyc.org for more information.

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Randall's Island Free

Browse the wares at the American Crafts Festival

Unless you’re a URL-toting member of the Etsy nation, chances are you had no idea that June is American Crafts Month. Browse the wares of the glue-gunning goddesses of summer for two consecutive weekends at Lincoln Center. Almost 400 hand-selected master crafters will set up shop, offering handmade jewelry, clothing, accessories, home furnishings and every other kind of trinket you can imagine. A fleet of food trucks will offer Mexican, barbecue, French desserts and more, as booth-perusing tends to work up a mighty appetite. Visit craftsatlincoln.org for more information.

Watch Muay Thai fighters rumble

Critics' pick

Over the years, outdoor boxing event Rumble on the River has evolved into a quasi-spiritual, international public beatdown. This summer’s fight features Muay Thai, an ancient Thai precision-fighting style known as “The Art of Eight Limbs” because it utilizes all body parts that have the ability to whack–picture MMA, but without all that awkward “ground work.” For one night only, Pier 84 will host a free match featuring local amateur practitioners of the sport.

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Pier 84 Thu Aug 1 Free

Welcome back New York’s space shuttle

Critics' pick

One of the casualties of Hurricane Sandy was the pavilion housing the Enterprise. But it’s being rebuilt—allowing visitors to once again wander under the shuttle’s wings and ascend to an elevated platform at the nose. New additions include audio of astronauts and NASA mission control, piped into the pavilion’s entrance, and a charred Russian Soyuz space capsule that returned a space tourist, an astronaut and a cosmonaut to earth. Time your visit to coincide with SpaceFest (July 25–28) or one of the museum’s free Friday films, screened on the deck of the Intrepid at 7:30pm. The programming includes the 1979 Star Trek movie (July 26), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Aug 2) and the original Karate Kid (Aug 23).

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Hell's Kitchen

See out summer in a riot of color at the West Indian American Day Carnival

Critics' pick

This Caribbean celebration, known for having lively music and lots of skin, is never short on costumed stilt dancers, floats blaring soca and calypso music, and plenty of flags from countries such as Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. Look for vendors stationed along Eastern Parkway selling island eats like jerk chicken, curry goat and oxtail, to name a few dishes.

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Eastern Pkwy from Schenectady Ave and Flatbush Ave Ext, Crown Heights, Brooklyn Until Mon Sep 1 Free

Remember when BK meant rap at the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Fest

Critics' pick

Duck into Dumbo for this four-day celebration of rap culture, now in its ninth year. See MC competitions; a retrospective on Ralph McDaniels’s famed local TV show, Video Music Box; and other explorations of the genre. BHHF’s big draw, though, is its closing-day block-party-style bash (Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 5, enter at Furman and Joralemon Sts; July 13 noon–8pm; $20–$75), which has performances by good-time stalwart Redman, old-school talent EPMD, Pusha T (half of legendary group the Clipse), rising star Dizzy Wright and other topflight acts. Visit bkhiphopfestival.com for a complete schedule.

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Location TBA 12 Jul 2014

Discover the Bronx’s green side

Here’s a great excuse to break free of the Manhattan–Brooklyn routine and discover what’s going on up in the Boogie Down. The monthly Bronx Urban Farms Trolley Tours ($30, children under 12 free) ferry New Yorkers to and from Midtown West, bound for one of the borough’s community-driven agricultural experiments. On the June 8 edition, muck in at the Roberto Clemente Community Garden, then visit El Flamboyan Community Garden to watch a delegation from Loiza Aldea in Puerto Rico construct a float for the Puerto Rican Day Parade. The September 7 event passes through the Italian culinary destination of Arthur Avenue and ends up at the GreenThumb Harvest Festival. Reservations required, e-mail bronxfoodsummit@gmail.com or call 718-590-3518.

Spend a Saturday idling at the Hester Street Fair

Critics' pick

Few things are as pleasant as spending a few hours at this leafy LES market on a summer’s day. Browse the fashions, like Summer Mizera’s affordable vintage duds, then pick up a tasty bite—we recommend chewy ginger snaps ($10) from Baking Soda Shop—and flop down on the grassy patch in the rear of the market. For a bit more excitement, drop by for a street party held in conjunction with the Bicycle Film Festival (June 29).

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Free

Dig for vinyl in Tribeca

For true audiophiles (ourselves included), there’s nothing quite like spending an afternoon—even one that lands on a lovely June day—sifting through rare records. Cheers, then, to not-for-profit research center and library ARChive of Contemporary Music, which throws a ginormous genre-spanning sale of 20,000 vinyl LPs and 7-inches, CDs, posters and other music ephemera (such as programs from Fillmore East rock shows and original, mint-condition ’60s psychedelic posters). Visit arcmusic.org for more information.

See if Joey Chestnut can become the greatest ever at Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest

Critics' pick

Celebrate our nation’s independence by joining an estimated 40,000 viewers in watching people stuff their faces with franks. (America, ladies and gents.) Reigning champ Joey Chestnut is back in action after winning his sixth contest and tying for the honor of Most Consecutive Wins last year. The flagship location of Nathan’s Famous was hit hard by Sandy and had to close for part of the season. Despite the setback, the company will still make its usual donation of 100,000 hot dogs to the Food Bank for New York City.

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Nathan’s Famous 04 Jul 2013 Free

Then see what Usher does with the Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks

Critics' pick

This year, Macy’s has enlisted the triple threat (singer, dancer, host) to create the concept, music and design for the mother of all pyrotechnic displays. We’re anticipating a series of coordinated explosions that materialize into an animation of Usher moonwalking. Naysayers will argue it’s impossible, but if we’re able to put a man on the moon surely we can summon that same spirit of innovation and fearlessness to create an entertainment extravaganza. Regardless of the final product, we recommend staking out a spot along the Hudson to watch.

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Saturday July 4 2015 Free

Get a burger with a side of art

Critics' pick

Madison Square Park continues its excellent program of public art with Orly Genger's Red, Yellow and Blue. Intricately hand-knotted nautical rope is used to build this outdoor work, which encloses select areas with a series of undulating walls painted the primary colors. At the very least, it's something pretty to hold your gaze while waiting in the interminable Shake Shack line.

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Madison Square Park Through Sun Sep 8 Free

Party in postindustrial environs at the Bushwick Block Party

Critics' pick

Fun-seeking hipsters will flock to the roped-off blocks near the Morgan L train stop for a day of pizza-fueled and alcohol-soaked festivities, soundtracked by live music and DJs. The lineup is still TBA, but to give you an idea of what to expect, Heems and Andrew W.K. headlined last year. Between dancing, sustain the partying with bites from Roberta’s.

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St. Nicholas Ave at Troutman St 27 Jul 2013 Free

Bump, set, spike and show off at an outdoor volleyball court

New York has some great options if you've got a group of friends and a volleyball, including first-come first-served courts in Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6. If you're rolling solo, join the free pickup game at Battery Park City's Esplanade Plaza which go down each Wednesday (6–7:30pm, starts June 5). The coed matches are meant to be fun (no pro spikers, please), and come with scorekeepers and balls for no additional charge. Check out more spots with our roundup of outdoor volleyball courts.

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Put your hands in the air at Electric Zoo

Critics' pick

The outdoor EDM megabash celebrates its fifth anniversary on Randalls Island this Labor Day weekend. And the onslaught of DJs, artists and beat makers is as diverse as ever, touching on stadium-sized trance techno (Tiësto), aggro-dubstep (Excision), Burning Man vibes (Bassnectar), dancehall (Diplo) and the sounds of more than 140 other acts. Nab tickets ($329–$1,199) now—lest you miss the last big blowout of the season. Visit madeevent.com/ElectricZoo for tickets and a complete schedule.

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Randall's Island

Dance and shop at the Sweet Spot Festival

Critics' pick

Harlem's roving monthly dance party and market kicks off the summer with the Freedom Party's Herbert Holler, Elbow Greasy and Redlox behind the decks. Upcoming dates include a reggae night (Aug 17) and a season-closing roller-skating jam (Sept 22). If you're a DIY maker, apply at sweetspotfestival.com to be a vendor at one of their upcoming jamborees.

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Jackie Robinson Park Sun May 26 - Tue Oct 22 Free

Catch a show at Williamsburg Park

Critics' pick

Sure, this successor to the Williamsburg Waterfront stretches the meaning of the term park—no grass to lay on, no shady trees to cool off under—but it’s still a summer concert draw thanks to its big-name bills. Indie-rock stalwarts the Shins kick off the season (May 26; $45), before the Odd Future crew and Meek Mill help to blow out the candles for Hot 97 DJ Peter Rosenberg’s b-day bash (July 20; $42). The season gets groovier from there, with indie-dance forebears New Order (July 24; $50) and the Mad Decent Block Party featuring riotous duo Matt & Kim and Diplo’s Major Lazer (Aug 10; $34).

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Williamsburg

Take a cultural trip with Lincoln Center Festival

This year’s international, multidisciplinary arts fest is focused on cross-cultural and cross-genre collaborations. It begins with Monkey: Journey to the West, an unconventional opera co-conceived by Chinese director Chen Shi-Zheng, and Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett of Gorillaz (July 6–28). John Malkovich helms a French-language production of the steamy Les Liaisons Dangereuses (July 9–14). Charlie Chaplin’s daughter and granddaughter, Victoria Thierrée Chaplin and Aurélia Thierrée, offer language-free acrobatics in Murmurs (July 24–28). And Sinéad O’Connor switches gears from Irish rock to American soul, taking on Sam Cooke and the like in the Gospel Sessions (July 26, 27). Visit lincolncenterfestival.org for a complete schedule.

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Join the French and celebrate Bastille Day—there's a macaron in it for you

Critics' pick

Indulge your inner Francophile during this celebration of France’s independence. Held on three avenue blocks closed to traffic, the fest boasts tasty treats like crêpes and cheeses, Macaron Café macarons ($2) and baked goods from patisserie Financier, as well as sets by accordion players and other musicians, and cultural dances like the cancan.

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Location TBA Sunday July 12 2015 Free

See Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater return to Lincoln Center

Critics' pick

This summer, the legendary NYC dance company takes the stage at Lincoln Center for the first time in more than a decade. Led by artistic director Robert Battle, the troupe will perform a repertory of works by the company’s namesake, as well as Garth Fagan, Jiri Kylian and Ohad Naharin. The centerpiece is the world premiere of acclaimed New York choreographer Ronald K. Brown’s Four Corners, about a group of heavenly beings in possession of the Biblical four winds. Perhaps most impressive of all: Tickets to this sublimity start at a surprisingly affordable $25. Visit alvinailey.org for the schedule.

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Upper West Side

Cool out at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival

Critics' pick

This year's ace uptown-downtown affair jumps off in Harlem on August 23 with "Bird Is the Word," a premiere by saxophone legend Jimmy Heath and his big band. Stellar sax man Kenny Garrett and fascinating vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant top the bill on August 24. And on August 25, down in Tompkins Square Park (near Parker's old roost on Avenue B), honored vets Lee Konitz and Sheila Jordan share a bill with young hotshots Christian Scott and Warren Wolf.

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Tompkins Square Park Friday August 21 2015 - Sunday August 23 2015 Free

Boogie on the Boardwalk

Critics' pick

Summer on the Brooklyn shore sees two crews offering parties. WKCR’s Carter Van Pelt hosts the Coney Island Reggae Beach Party on select Sundays (Boardwalk at W 21st St, Coney Island, Brooklyn; May 26, June 30, July 28, Aug 25 noon–8pm; free), featuring a killer lineup of selectors playing through a bass-heavy sound system. Listen to Van Pelt’s Saturday show, Eastern Standard Time, on WKCR 89.9 FM (Sat 8am–noon) to get the latest information on guest DJs. Alternatively, if you prefer the livelier vibes of classic soulful house, check out the Coney Island Dancers Boardwalk Party (Boardwalk at W 10th St, Coney Island, Brooklyn; visit coneyislanddancers.com for details), which has expanded its schedule to midweek shindigs and is planning more than 50 throwdowns.

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Rockaways Free

Cut a rug by the Hudson

Critics' pick

Ever wanted to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight? We’re sorry to inform you Beelzebub’s washing its hair (we checked), but find another partner and head to Hudson River Park’s MoonDance series to salsa (July 21, 28), swing (July 14, Aug 11) or tango (Aug 4) to music by live bands. Arrive at 6:30pm for a dance lesson led by instructors from Dance Manhattan, before that night’s orchestra strikes up and you get to practice your steps as the sun sets over Jersey—the romantic view should help your partner forgive you for treading on his or her toes.

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Hell's Kitchen Free

Go to the neighborhood film festival for the fabulous but broke

If Tribeca was too rich for your blood, the LES Film Festival is for you. Now in its third year, this ten-day series concentrates on independent, low-budget shorts and feature films, and throws in a couple of parties for good measure. Most screenings ($12) are programmed thematically—animation, docs, made in New York, mind f*ck (yes, you have our attention) to name but a few. A judging panel that includes Judah Friedlander and downtown duo AndrewAndrew will pick the best in six categories and dole out the awards at a free party (Crosby Street Hotel; June 21 6–10pm; reservations required). Look for announcements before June starts regarding the outdoor block party and drive-in (June 16 6–10pm). Visit lesfilmfestival.com for a complete schedule and tickets.

Praise the sun god during Manhattanhenge

Critics' pick

Witness the stunning natural spectacle that occurs when the sun aligns perfectly with Manhattan’s grid: The setting orb will illuminate both sides of every street in the borough four times a year. For the best view, camp out as far east as possible along a broad avenue with views across the island. Check out more pro tips courtesy of He of the Galaxy-Print Vest, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

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Manhattan Until Sat Jul 13 Free

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