What to do on Saturday in New York City: 50 great ideas

Explore outdoor markets, see Broadway shows on the cheap, and discover other ideas for what to do on Saturday

Photograph: Michael Kirby
Brooklyn Flea

Take advantage of your day off by checking out our ideas for what to do on Saturday, including stops at lush gardens, classic museums and more. For other NYC essentials, consult the 50 best New York attractions and our continually updated guide to the greatest things to do this weekend in New York City.

1–10

Browse the Brooklyn Flea

This Kings County bazaar hosts hundreds of vendors selling antiques, vintage clothes, records, art, jewelry and more. On Saturdays, the Flea hunkers down in its original location, outside of Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School (between Clermont and Vanderbilt Aves, Fort Greene; 10am–5pm; Apr–Nov); on Sundays, it sets up shop along the Williamsburg Waterfront (110 Kent Ave at North 8th St, Williamsburg; 10am–5pm; Apr–Nov). In the cold season, the Flea escapes indoors to One Hanson Place (1 Hanson Pl at Ashland Pl, Fort Greene; Sat, Sun 10am–5pm; Dec–Mar). If you feel peckish while you’re shopping, look out for vendors like Blue Marble and Whimsy & Spice. brooklynflea.com; free.

…or eat your way through Smorgasburg

Piggybacking on the runaway success of the Brooklyn Flea, founders Eric Demby and Jonathan Butler unveiled this food-only market—a glutton’s paradise packed with up to 100 vendors. Along with Greenmarket stalls and flea stalwarts like Porchetta, the gastro-bazaar features a flurry of side projects from restaurant-world vets. On Saturdays, visit the original hub on the Williamsburg waterfront (27 North 6th St between Kent Ave and the East River; Sat, Sun 11am–6pm, Apr–Nov); on Sundays, check out its more recent outpost at the Tobacco Warehouse in Dumbo, under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge (26 New Dock St at Water St; Sun 11am–6pm, Apr–Nov). In the winter, you can find some Smorgasburg vendors in the Winter Flea in Fort Greene (One Hanson Place, 1 Hanson Pl at Ashland Pl; Sat, Sun 10am–6pm through December, 10am–5pm Jan–Mar). brooklynflea.com; free.

Stroll around Central Park’s Conservatory Garden

The skinfest in the Sheep Meadow isn’t the only thing worth eyeballing in Central Park come spring. The Conservatory Garden is a flowering paradise, with some varietals like the Lenten rose blooming as early as mid-March. For an extensive tour, download the Central Park Conservancy’s Bloom Guide from its website and rent a bike from Bike & Roll.

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Central Park Free

Tour a new Queens brewery

Queens, a borough that was full of beer makers before Prohibition, returns to its frothy roots with its first full-scale brewery in decades. The 30-barrel brew house SingleCut Beersmiths has a taproom outfitted with lagering tanks on the brewery floor, a stage for live music and refillable growlers for purchase ($15–$30). SingleCut hosts free tasting tours each Saturday, when you can sample the brewed-in-Astoria beers, including the 19-33 Lagrrr!, a German pilsner, and the PNW Mahogany Ale, a hoppy red ale. Free.

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Astoria

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. Same-day discount tickets are also available at the TKTS Booth in Duffy Square (W 47th St and Broadway). At the TKTS Booth in Downtown Brooklyn (One MetroTech Center, at the corner of Jay St and Myrtle Ave), you can nab tickets for matinee shows on the day before the performance. More centrally, TDF has added a “Play Only” window at the Duffy Square booth under the red steps. All booths accept credit cards. For hours and details, visit tdf.org/tkts.

Snag free admission to the Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum, housed in the 1908 Warburg Mansion, contains a fascinating collection of more than 26,000 works of art and artifacts. A two-floor permanent exhibition, “Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey,” examines how Judaism has survived and traces the evolution of modern Jewish identity. The reason for the fee waive? Saturday is the Sabbath, so some parts of the museum (children’s exhibits, the in-museum café, audio tours) aren’t available. There’s still plenty to see, however—especially since you’re not shelling out the $12 you’d have to the rest of the week. $12, Saturdays free.

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Upper East Side

Cut loose at Mister Saturday Night

Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin’s bimonthly party, held at spaces throughout the city, is devoted to the outer reaches of house, disco and techno. The duo’s ethos is one of community and coming together, along with, of course, hard-grooving fun. Past guest DJs have included Four Tet, Greg Wilson and Floating Points. Click here to read our interview with Carter and Harkin. Locations vary; visit mistersaturdaynight.com for more information. Prices vary.

Pay what you wish at the Guggenheim

Critics' pick

From 5:45 to 7:45pm, the Gugg’s regular admission price is reduced from $18 to whatever the hell you want. Frank Lloyd Wright’s concrete edifice became the home of the eponymous philanthropist’s collection in 1959; today, the iconic spiral is considered as much a work of art as the paintings it houses. (It’s also one of our top 50 New York attractions.) In addition to pieces by masters such as Manet, Picasso and Chagall, the institution holds the most Kandinskys in the U.S., as well as one of the largest collections of Robert Mapplethorpes in the world. $22, seniors and students with ID $18, members and children under 12 accompanied by an adult free. Sat 5:45–7:45pm pay what you wish.

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Upper East Side

Have a great breakfast taco at Whirlybird

An indie musician and an Ecuadoran chef are the unlikely masterminds behind this Williamsburg café, which sells only coffee and Austin-inspired breakfast tacos. We prefer the No. 1: a mound of fluffy scrambled eggs laced with Oaxacan cheese and (for a buck more) piquant nibs of chorizo. They come wrapped in a crisp and tender griddled corn tortilla, then topped with a tangy, slow-simmered tomato-and-bell-pepper salsa. A topping of crumbled jalapeño-flavored potato chips provides texture and a gentle burn. For more great egg breakfasts, click here.

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Williamsburg

See free music at BAMcafé Live

Need a cheap date idea? Look no further than free Friday and Saturday night concerts at the bohemian BAMcafé. 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. Free.

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Fort Greene Free

11–20

Fill up on free samples at the 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.

Relax on the High Line

Opened in 2009, this outdoor park sits on the elevated infrastructure built on Manhattan’s West Side in the 1930s. Today, sumptuous gardens and outdoor sculpture adorn the magnificent walkway, which is also an excellent place to enjoy views of the Hudson River, plus public art projects scattered along the route. In the warmer months, top-notch NYC food vendors ply their wares above 15th Street; grab a hot dog from Bark, coffee from Blue Bottle or an artisanal Popsicle from La Newyorkina. Keep an eye out for the opening of the final section of the park, between 30th and 34th Streets, sometime in 2014. Check out our complete guide to events on the elevated park, plus things to do nearby.

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Meatpacking District Free

Shake it at the Soul Clap and Dance-Off

If all-night house, techno or bass music sessions aren’t your thing, try DJ and nightlife impresario Jonathan Toubin’s monthly affair for a decidedly nonelectronic mix of rare 45s that range from rip-roaring rock to soul movers and groovers. The shindig also includes a late-night dance contest at 1am—as good a reason as any to join the drunken shimmy-shake antics. newyorknighttrain.com/soulclap. $6.

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Williamsburg

Go to Wave Hill House for free

This city-owned garden in the Riverdale section of the Bronx retains the same horticultural traditions as 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.

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Riverdale–Kingsbridge

Hoist a stein at Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden

Prost! There are plenty of mingle-friendly picnic tables at this authentic Czech beer garden, where you can sample cheap, robust platters of sausage and a rotating selection of beers from around the globe ($6 for a mug or $16 for a pitcher). Though the huge, tree-canopied garden is open year-round (in winter, the area is tented and heated), summer is the prime time to soak up some rays over a cold one.

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Astoria

…or Berry Park

This Williamsburg beer hall is a bi-level behemoth, with a 3,500-square-foot ground floor and a roof deck that’s almost as large. Choose between one of the 15 brews on tap (mostly German and Belgian drafts), then take in outdoor views of Manhattan and nearby McCarren Park. Thanks to a retractable hood, the roof deck is open year-round.

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Williamsburg

…or Loreley

The well-shaded biergarten in the back is a day-drinking mecca, lined with communal wood tables that provide ample opportunity to chat up strangers. On spring and summer weekends, the tightly packed garden stays buzzing throughout the day and night. A dozen German drafts are served in bulky liter steins ($14–$16), though slower drinkers might sip their way through 11 Kranz Kölsches served in 0.2-liter glasses on a traditional tray ($30). Its sister location in Williamsburg offers a similar list of Teutonic brews on draft and by the bottle. 7 Rivington St between Bowery and Chrystie St (212-253-7077) • Loreley Williamsburg, 64 Frost St at Meeker Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-599-0025) • loreleynyc.com.

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Fly through the air at the España-Streb Trapeze Academy

Bored of the treadmill? Get a full-body workout and an adrenaline rush at Brooklyn’s first indoor trapeze school, where students can learn how to perform high-flying maneuvers. Several classes are offered, including the open-level adult fly class. A beginner session will set you back only $37.50—not bad for taking your first step toward becoming the next Dick Grayson. See website for schedule and rates.

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Williamsburg

Kayak for free

New York City isn’t surrounded by water for nothing. During the warmer months, organizations across Gotham offer gratis kayaking time to any and all, from Red Hook to Long Island City. We’ve put together a list of spots where you can swing a paddle by your lonesome or go out on group treks, all free of charge.

Sip the best coffee in the city

The perfect cup of joe: It’s one of NYC’s most coveted titles. New York’s dizzying landscape of coffeeshops, baristas and cafés may make you want to give up and settle for a bodega-sourced buzz, but we’ve cut through the noise to bring you this list of the best java joints and espresso bars in town. Click here to read more.

21–30

Shop and eat outside at the Hester Street Fair

This pretty, tree-lined Lower East Side market packs in shoppers every weekend with a killer combination of stylish vintage wares—retro jewelry, antique decor, old-fashioned hats—and one of the best collections of food vendors in Manhattan. Delicious stalls have included Williamsburg darling Pies ’n’ Thighs, artisanal ice-cream parlor Ample Hills Creamery and boozy cupcakery Prohibition Bakery. hesterstreetfair.com; Apr–Oct.

Snap analog pics with Lomography

What started with a group of Austrian students discovering a small Russian camera in the 1990s resulted in a company, community and movement based around taking creative snapshots with analog cameras. This one-stop shop hosts workshops for those looking to learn more—or get inspired. Just $10 ($7 if you’re a student) will get you a loaner camera and a roll of film. Visit the website for upcoming workshops.

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West Village

Get back to nature at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Those searching for a little peace and quiet would do well to spend a few hours at this verdant oasis near Prospect Park, one of our top 50 New York attractions. The garden was founded in 1910 and features thousands of types of flora, laid out over 52 acres. In the spring, check out the Sakura Matsuri Festival, during which more than 70 trees are in bloom along the Cherry Esplanade. We also recommend serene spots like the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, the first Japanese-inspired garden built in the U.S., and the Shakespeare Garden, which is brimming with plants (such as primrose and crocuses) mentioned in the Bard’s works. Saturday is the day to go: You can score free admission from 10am to noon. $10, seniors and students $5, children under 12 free; Sat 10am–noon free.

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Crown Heights

Try your luck at Le Bingo

Join wisecracking drag queen Linda Simpson and her rotating cast of lovely spokesmodels at this weekly bingo throwdown at Le Poisson Rouge, in which you can win everything from novelty prizes to cold, hard cash. Each night’s drink specials are decided by the “Wheel of Chance.” Free admission, bingo card $2.

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Le Poisson Rouge Friday March 27 2015 - Saturday June 27 2015

Catch the next big thing at Catch

This bimonthly Saturday performance and video series hosted by Jeff Larson and Andrew Dinwiddie is an avant-garde variety night that’s eminently fun and accessible. Catch generally features in-development pieces by artists such as choreographer Jillian Peña, experimental theater company the Debate Society and folk-pop outfit You Won’t. Visit catchseries.org. $10–$15.

Lose your inhibitions at Le Scandal Cabaret

Bonnie Dunn, the MC-chanteuse behind this burlesque-circuit stalwart, presides over a lively mix of stand-up, magic, acrobatics and high-concept strip. The city’s longest-running girlie revue, Le Scandal is still looking young, hot and ready to party. lescandal.com. $25 plus $15 minimum.

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Laurie Beechman Theatre at the West Bank Café Sat at 10:30pm

See top-notch improv at Trike

Nick Kanellis and Peter McNerney’s weekly show at the Magnet is one of the more artfully constructed improv offerings out there. Each Saturday, the duo meld playful physicality and expert scenework to deliver an impressively detailed story. $7.

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Magnet Theater Sat at 10:30pm

Play in the park

Forgot to pack a frisbee? Don’t sweat it—plenty of New York green spaces have activities on offer. Gather some friends for pétanque at Bryant Park, show off your Ping-Pong serve at Tompkins Square Park, or test your wits in a chess game at Washington Square Park. Click here to read our roundup of outdoor games, and to find out just what kubb is, exactly.

Join a social sports team

You’ve thought about it, now do it: Put down that PS3 controller and join an outdoor league. ZogSports coed sports leagues, one of NYC’s biggest rec groups, hosts coed softball, soccer and touch football throughout the year Don’t sweat it if you haven’t swung a bat since T-ball days: When signing up, participants must assess their own skill level—from “extremely casual” newbies to jocks who’ve played high-school or college sports—and are then matched to a compatible division. As a bonus, teams are encouraged to retreat to a nearby bar for postgame drinks, and a portion of the bar tab is donated to charity. Visit zogsports.com for more information. Prices vary.

Discuss great literature at WORD

It’s Saturday morning: Put your foggy mind to better use than trying to figure out why you submitted to karaoke’s mysterious sorcery last night. The second Saturday of the month is reserved for the classics, a genre this neighborhood bookshop holds dear. Past discussions have focused on authors as diverse as Ray Bradbury, Arthur Conan Doyle and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Walk-ins are welcome, though the group usually comprises a decent amount of repeat book junkies. Click here to find out about other book groups in NYC. Free.

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Greenpoint

31–40

Uncover NYC’s musical past with Rock Junket

Music industry vet Bobby Pinn takes you through New York’s rock & roll glory days—or what’s left of them, anyway—on his music-themed Rock Junket tours. The East Village Rock ’n’ Punk tour stops at music landmarks, including the apartment fronts from Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti cover and the club where the Velvet Underground made its NYC debut. 212-209-3370, rockjunket.com. $35.

Enjoy a free flick at Sony Wonder Technology Lab

Every Saturday at 12:15 and 3pm, this education center’s high-def theater hosts gratis screenings of classics and new hits. With only 73 tickets available for each show, you’ll want to call to reserve yours two weeks before the film is scheduled. Free.

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Midtown East Free

Paint, booze, repeat

Find out whether alcohol is a creative boon or bomb for you at the Painting Lounge’s regular BYOB workshops. Inspired by the masters, these no-pressure classes invite attendees to re-create some of art history’s greatest hits. Past facsimiles have included Monet’s The Cliff, Etretat, Sunset; Van Gogh’s The Starry Night; and Lichtenstein’s Drowning Girl. 212-518-1803, paintinglounge.com. $50–$65, includes painting materials.

Explore Brooklyn Bridge Park

The BBP project has transformed a chunk of the Brooklyn waterfront into a nearly 85-acre expanse. Several sections house unique attractions such as Jane’s Carousel, a restored 1920s merry-go-round, and riverside esplanades with gorgeous Manhattan views. Its latest addition, Pier 5, designed specifically for “active recreation”—sporting leagues and events—further cements the space as the city’s premier urban playground.

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Dumbo Free

Find your own kind of circus at Floating Kabarette!

Galapagos Art Space reclaims the circus at this weekly cabaret night, which features an array of burlesque artists, chanteurs and chanteuses, aerialists, trapeze swingers, cabaret acts, vaudevillians and more blowing your mind with their sundry talents. Galapagos’s 1,600-square-foot indoor lake contributes to the surreal mystique. $20.

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Galapagos Art Space Sat at 9:30pm

See competitive theater at #serials@theflea

This late-night competition pairs up-and-coming playwrights with members of the Bats, the Flea’s resident acting company, to create a series of original episodic works. The pieces are pitted against one another to gain the audience’s favor, with the winning productions returning for the next installment. Your ticket is only $10, and it comes with a free beer to boot. Visit theflea.org for more information.

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Tribeca

Roller-skate in Central Park

In the heart of the park, under a grove of blossoming cherry trees, you’ll find the Central Park Dance Skaters Association’s skate circle. Come early April, you can bring your own quads and bust a move with people of all ages to disco classics, contemporary hits, throwback R&B, house and dance music spun by a rotating roster of local DJs. If you’re not a skater, there’s space to dance without colliding with those on wheels or you can just watch the old hands do their thing. Visit cpdsa.org for details. centralparknyc.org

Free your inner bedazzled sex god at Glamdammit

The glittery strains of glam, punk and good ol’ rock & roll androgynously waft their way through the Grand Victory as Twig the Wonderkid and his pals spin tunes by the likes of David Bowie, Queen and the New York Dolls; you can also catch live bands like the Brats and Semi-Precious Weapons, or late-night cabaret acts. Show up between 11pm and midnight, and you’ll be rewarded with a PBR open bar—just the thing to make you feel great about that big red lightning bolt you drew on your face. glamdammit.com. $5.

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Williamsburg

Spend a day at Spa Castle

This expansive, wonderlandesque Asian-meets-European spa in College Point, Queens, has taken on near-legendary status in NYC. It’s partly thanks to its quirky layout and partly because it attracts a diverse following, from frat boys to families and everyone in between. On its first floor are separate nude bathing and showering areas for men and women. To meander through the rest of the complex, you’ll don special—and super comfy—“uniforms.” On the second and third floors, you’ll find a coed, year-round outdoor water park (bathing suits compulsory) with all manner of heated jets, whirlpools and showers. Inside, there are seven themed saunas; one might have healing minerals in it, while another may feature colored lighting (you select the therapeutic illumination yourself). Bring some friends and make a day of it; once you pay the entry rate, you can have a crazy adventure while snacking on dumplings ($10) and corn ($3) from the on-site food court, or you can go for a shiatsu massage (60mins $75, 90mins $130) and simple scrub (40mins $80), followed by a delicious meal ($12–$20) in the third-floor Korean restaurant. All-day admission Mon–Fri $35; Sat, Sun $45.

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Outer Queens

Play cowboys and cowboys at Big Apple Ranch

Even the greenest cowpokes and cowgirls are welcome to take a twirl on the floor at this beginner-friendly country & western hoedown. The gay party begins with an hour-long lesson to help newbies get up to speed with basic two-step and line dances, including the Georgia Winder and the Bayou City Twister. Dancing shoes with smooth (preferably leather) soles are recommended, so leave your sneakers—and your spurs—at home. bigappleranch.com. $10.

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Chelsea

41–50

Take advantage of happy hour at Allswell

This handsome Williamsburg gastropub—with chandeliers and a wood-beamed ceiling­—isn’t afraid to get down and dirty with a $7 beer-and-shot deal, which includes combos like Tecate with silky Espolón tequila. Patrons who prefer to pace themselves may opt for one of the discounted New York State drafts ($4), such as Greenport Harbor’s refreshing pale ale. If you’re famished, chef Nate Smith (the Spotted Pig) builds his happy-hour burger using a proprietary blend of dry-aged beef from Vermont Quality Meats, nestling the juicy patty on a house-made sesame bun. Just $14 buys the burger, plus thick-cut fries and an ice-cold tall boy of Narragansett Lager.

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Williamsburg

Hop aboard the Metro-North train and take a day trip

Need to get out of town? Leave the city behind for a short vacay from New York on the Metro-North, bound for upstate. In our comprehensive roundup, discover convenient art daycations, back-to-nature excursions and a historic house that’s perfect for fans of Downton Abbey.

Head to Target First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum

Sample a smorgasbord of culture at the Brooklyn Museum’s monthly bash, which includes lectures, live music, dance performances and DJs. Each party takes inspiration from the exhibits on view or, on occasion, neighborhood events. Free.

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Prospect Heights

Get down with topless dudes during JB Saturdays

John Blair and Beto Sutter bring you this popular weekly dance for sexy gay boys who like to take their shirts off (and those who like to party with them). Rotating local and international DJs man the booth. $20, before midnight $15.

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XL Nightclub, Cabaret & Lounge Sat at 10pm

Zoom around on go-karts

Remember those go-kart parks out in the boonies that you’d go to in junior high? The ones where you’d get in trouble for bashing your friends’ vehicles on the track or smoking cigs near the batting cages? Staten Island GoKarts, which claims to be the only go-kart spot in Staten Island and has two courses, feels just like that. 718-982-5576, sigokarts.com. $6 single cart, $9 double cart.

Meditate 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 host an hour-long guided meditation class. $12, members $10.

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Become a cineaste at the IFC Center

Eradicate your big-screen bafflement by nabbing an Auteur membership at IFC Center ($175). In addition to $5 off tickets and complimentary popcorn, benefit from gratis admission to the Weekend Classics series, which programs essentials by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Akira Kurosawa, midnight movies and previews.

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West Village

...and BAM

With tickets reduced to seven bones, BAM Cinema Club’s Movie Buff I membership ($70) pays for itself if you catch 14 flicks per year. But that’s not the only perk—you’ll also get early-ticket access to Q&As with filmmakers (past guests have included Noah Baumbach and Jim Jarmusch ) and exclusive screenings.

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Fort Greene

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KIM
KIM

FOR YOUR INFO...THIS WEBSITE ALSO GIVES SUGGESTIONS FOR OTHER DAYS OF THE WEEK