Ahh, don't you just love spring in New York? The warm weather (or the tease of warm weather) is making us pumped for all the awesome things to do outside this year, so we decided to share our favorite alfresco events happening now through September. From free things to do to super-fun games and activities taking place at the city's greatest parks, it's time to stock up on sunblock and get your ass outside!
1. Dance in Bryant Park
Learn how to bust out the Charleston, the fox-trot and the jitterbug with accompaniment from three live bands. Come back every Wednesday night through June to learn different dance styles, from bachata to swing, and don’t forget about the park’s free Shakespeare performances, Ping-Pong tournaments, mini-golf and more. The Fountain Terrace, 40th St to 42nd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves (bryantpark.org). Wednesdays through June 22; 6–9pm; free.
2. Watch the America’s Cup race
Legendary international sailing competition—America’s Cup—sails into the New York Harbor for the first time in nearly 100 years. Check out The Event Village at Brookfield place, where you can not only watch the race in real time, but partake in various forms of entertainment, food vendors and sponsored activities. Brookfield Place Plaza, 230 Vesey St (americascup.com). Sat 7, Sun 8 at 2pm; free.
3. Check out Understanding at Brooklyn Bridge Park
Spring showers bring new public artworks to the city, and this one is sky-high. Artist Martin Creed’s 50-foot-tall, ruby-red work of art is installed on Pier 6, with giant letters that rotate at varying speeds, spelling out the word understanding. An ode to human communication, it’s only one of the many exciting (and free) things to check out in the park’s sprawling space, including Movies with a View, the Books Beneath the Bridge reading series and outdoor fitness classes. East River at Atlantic Ave and Furman St, Brooklyn (brooklynbridgepark.org). Through Oct 23; free.
4. Enjoy some outdoor art
During Frieze Art Fair, folks flock to Randalls Island Park for this dreamy display of works from 130 international galleries—and the view of Manhattan ain’t bad either. Take the ferry or the bus over to the island (buy advance tickets online if you can), and plan to spend some serious time immersing yourself in the imaginative projects found both indoors and out. Hear discussions from artists and curators such as Andrea Crespo and the Museum of Modern Art’s Paola Antonelli; explore soundscapes, including Liz Magic Laser’s ventriloquist staging of a conversation between Donald Trump and a reporter; and take in fantastical projects like Alex Da Corte’s inflatable balloon installation imitating the island, which you’ll have to look to the sky to see. frieze.com. Thu 5–Sun 8 at various times; $10–$45.
5. Hit up an awesome street fair
Lower East Side flea—Hester Street Fair—hosts one of the best collections of food vendors in Manhattan, with more upstarts joining the fray each week. Standouts from recent years include Adirondack Creamery, an upstate outfit that makes ice cream using local dairy, and Wonder City Coffee & Donut Bar stand—a spin-off of the Brindle Room’s morning java service. Hester St at Essex St (hesterstreetfair.com). Every Saturday, May 14–Oct 13 at 11am; free.
6. Join the Brooklyn Bike Rave
It’s biking season, so get those jorts on and make your way to the Greenpoint waterfront to join a fun community ride. Adorn your bike and yourself with glow sticks and a speaker to jam to tunes from Newtown Radio as you and hundreds of others cruise along the bike path on a seven-and-a-half-mile ride to Dumbo to help raise funds for the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway. Meet at Commercial St and Dupont St (brooklyngreenway.org). May 14 at 7–10pm; $48.4.
7. Do yoga in Bryant Park
Whether you’re a die-hard yogi or a noob searching for vinyasa, folks of all fitness levels are welcome to find Zen beneath the trees in Bryant Park. The outdoor hub is launching its 13th season of yoga, presented by sportswear brand Athleta, during which instructors from Yoga Journal help you perfect poses while you focus on deep breathing. If yoga isn’t your beat, there are several other workouts from cardio to Tai Chi to try this summer. Upper Terrace, 41 W 40th St between Fifth and Sixth Avenues (bryantpark.org). Every Tuesday starting May 17–Sept 22; 10am–11am. The Lawn at Bryant Park every Thursday from 6–7pm.
8. Party with your pooch
Barkfest is a too cute to be true festival that allows you to party with your pup—"Coachella" style. That's right, Pier 97 will be transformed into a spectacular for dogs and their owners filled with interactive games, cool tech demos at the "Innovation Pawvillion," delicious grub and a beer garden. And, of course, live music you can shake your tail to. You can expect appearances by internet-famous pups @MarnieTheDog and @TunaMeltsMyHeart, as well. Hudson River Park, Pier 97. May 22 at 2pm; $40, VIP $55.
9. Watch a play in Central Park
New York’s favorite and totally free outdoor theater—Shakespeare in the Park—is back! This year, Tony-nominated director Phyllida Lloyd presents Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew with an all-female cast (a bold twist of which we think the Bard would approve). Fiery leading lady Katherina is played by the extraordinary Cush Jumbo, who must outwit wild outsider Petruchio, played by the marvelous Janet McTeer. Tickets are distributed every day at the Delacorte Theater at noon. Remember: If you snooze, you lose. Enter at Central Park West and 81st St (212-539-8500, publictheater.org). May 24–June 26 at 8pm; free.
10. Kayak on the Hudson
Manhattan Community Boathouse has two locations along the Hudson River where you can enjoy some time on the water. Head to Pier 96 or the dock at 72nd Street for first-come, first-served sessions perfect for beginners. After you sign a waiver and strap on a life vest, climb into your kayak from the water-level floating dock and float away for 20 minutes. You will get wet, so wear the right clothing (and try not to drink anything)! You can also volunteer to help out at the boathouse as well as become a member by making a donation of $20 or more. Pier 96 at 56th Street in Hudson River Park; Saturdays and Sundays 10am–6pm May 28–October 9, 2016; Monday-Wednesday 5:30–7:30pm June 6–September 4, 2016. 72nd Street north of Pier i Cafe in Riverside Park, Saturday–Sunday 10am–5pm, June 4–September 4, 2016.
11. Find an outdoor adventure in NYC
Tired of the Gotham grind? You don’t need to flee the city to find enjoy the great outdoors—the parks department lets you become a badass outdoorsperson in your own backyard (okay, everyone’s backyard: Central Park). During the annual event Adventures NYC, you can enjoy rock climbing, log rolling, fishing demonstrations and free fitness classes while appreciating the nature that’s right in front of you. Naumberg Bandshell, Central Park, 72nd St at Fifth Ave (nycgovparks.org). June 18 11am–4pm; free.
12. Set sail at sunset
All-aboard a 1920’s style yacht for a special tour of the Hudson that will include a history lesson as well as incredible views of the Manhattan skyline. The $48 ticket will get you aboard and includes one drink along the way. Hudson River Park’s Pier 62; June 15 and August 15; 6:00pm; $48.
13. Watch flicks under the stars
Bring your friends and the popcorn to Brooklyn’s alfresco film fest, SummerScreen, which lets you bask in ’90s nostalgia. Guard your ground, sprawl out on a blanket, and discreetly drink booze (like a sneaky teen) while watching free flicks like Scream (July 6), The Fast and the Furious (July 20) and 10 Things I Hate About You (July 27). Bonus: There’s live music at 6pm and food trucks like Pizza Moto for when you get the munchies. McCarren Park, Bayard St to Nassau Ave between Leonard and North 12th Sts, Brooklyn (summerscreen.org). July 6–Aug 10; Wed at 6pm; free.
14. Battle in a massive water fight
Pray to the ’90s toy gods that your mom didn’t toss your childhood Super Soaker, because you’ll need to pack some serious H2O at Waterfight NYC on the Great Lawn in Central Park. Thousands of New Yorkers duke it out, squirt guns blazing, during this sopping-wet day of fun. Show up in your best swimsuit, but make sure to leave your water balloons at home (Park officials say the debris they leave behind is a big no-no). Midpark between 79th and 85th Sts (facebook.com/waterfightnyc). July TBA; free.
15. See the stars at Lincoln Center
If you think you can’t spot stars in the city, prepare to get schooled. The Amateur Astronomers Association sets up its high-powered telescopes by the fountain at Lincoln Center every Friday and Saturday through the end of July, so come take a look at the planets and the moon and other celestial wonders. Gazing begins at sunset and continues until 11pm. The Fountain at Lincoln Center, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, Fridays and Saturdays at 7pm; free.