101 things to do in NYC in spring 2012

Your guide to New York's vernal pleasures.

  • 41. Roller-skate in Central Park

  • Photograph: Gore Vidal's The Best Man

    42. Catch election fever on Broadway. Pictured: Eric McCormack, who appears in The Best Man on Broadway

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

    44. Bet on ponies. Pictured: Aqueduct Racetrack

  • Photograph: Syd London

    45. Quaff a mint julep. Pictured: The Bell House Kentucky Derby party 2011

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

    46. Ride off into the sunset on horseback. Pictured: Kensington Stables

  • Photograph: BFD Productions

    47. Buy some booze, then watch a film at the LES Film Festival

  • Photograph: Michael Alexander

    48. Salute Stevie Nicks. Pictured: A Night of a Thousand Stevies 2011

  • 49. See a show. Pictured: Feist

  • Photograph: Robert Benson

    50. Marvel at "The Orchid Show: Patrick Blanc's Vertical Gardens"

41. Roller-skate in Central Park

41. 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 Skater Association's skate circle. Bring your own quads and bust a move with people of all ages to disco classics, contemporary hits and 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 just watch the old hands do their thing. Make sure to scan the crowd as well—you may spot singer-songwriter M. Ward, who told TONY that watching the skaters is one of his favorite things to do in NYC. Skate circle at midpark, enter at Central Park West and W 72nd St or Fifth Ave and E 72nd St (cpdsa.org). Sat, Sun 2:45--6:45pm; free. Beginning in early April, weather permitting.

42. Catch election fever on Broadway
Gore Vidal's 1960 presidential-campaign drama, The Best Man (Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W 45th St between Broadway and Eighth Ave; 212-329-6200, thebestmanonbroadway.com; Previews begin Mar 6), makes a timely return, especially for Republicans: The last time the play was on the Great White Way, George W. Bush took office. Politics aside, we can all get behind the starry cast, which includes Candice Bergen, John Larroquette, Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones. For more seasonal recommendations, including the revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, the ascension of Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park to Broadway and the Pulitzer Prize--winning Harvey starring Jim Parsons, gaze upon 20 theater shows this spring.

43. Take your pick of gratis culture in FiDi
Sample a cultural smorgasbord at the World Financial Center: This season, go see Adrin Villar Rojas's site-specific outdoor sculpture Before my Birth (Mar 1--29)—his work A person loved me is also on view at the New Museum's triennial. Attend during the first week and time your visit to coincide with New York Classical Theatre's presentation of three one-act comedies by Molire (Mar 1--4, 6--11 6--11pm). Later in the month, the two-night film series "Spotlight on Independent Film" screens Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey (Mar 27 at 7:30pm) and New York gem Metropolitan (Mar 28 at 7:30pm), with appearances by special guests at both. For something more active, wait until DJ Rekha, of the long-running Southeast Asian--inflected party Basement Bhangra, rocks the Bollywood Dance Party (Apr 24 at 7:30pm), which begins with a lesson to help you learn some steps. 220 Vesey St at West St (212-417-7050, artsworldfinancialcenter.com). Times vary; free.

44. Bet on ponies
Corral your crew and head to the races for a day of equine-inspired revelry at Aqueduct Racetrack (110--00 Rockaway Blvd at 110th St, South Ozone Park, Queens; 718-641-4700, nyra.com; races Wed--Sun 12:50pm; through Apr 22). This year's most important races are the Gotham Stakes on March 3 and the Wood Memorial (New York's major warmup for the Kentucky Derby) on April 7. Admission to both the grandstand and the clubhouse is free (though you may want to bring some cash to pay your bookie). Starting April 27, the action moves to Belmont Park (2150 Hempstead Tpke between 125th St and Belmont Park Rd, Elmont, NY; 516-488-6000, nyra.com; Wed--Sun 1pm; grandstand $3, clubhouse $5; Apr 27--July 15), and the price goes up a whopping three bucks. In planning your race-day wardrobe, keep in mind that there is a "tradition of elegance" at the track. You don't have to dress to the nines, but an ascot never hurt anyone.

45. Quaff a mint julep
With the approach of the Kentucky Derby (May 5), our minds instantly turn to hats, horses, and that intoxicating mix of bourbon, sugar, mint and crushed ice. New York's biggest show of pomp is at Eleven Madison Park's glitzy party with Esquire magazine (11 Madison Ave at 24th St; 212-889-0905, elevenmadisonpark.com; May 5 3--7pm; $175, tickets on sale Apr 2), featuring Kentucky-inspired cuisine, mint juleps, a cigar lounge, live bluegrass and coverage of the race. If you prefer to get down and derby, plan on attending the Bell House's free annual shindig (149 7th St between Second and Third Aves, Gowanus, Brooklyn; 718-643-6510, thebellhouseny.com; times TBA; free).

46. Ride off into the sunset on horseback
Trade in your MetroCard for a saddle and reins; two Brooklyn stables offer well-priced options for beginners and seasoned equestrians. Kensington Stables (51 Caton Pl at E 8th St, Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn; 718-972-4588, kensingtonstables.com; one-hour group ride $37, one-hour private ride $57) is great for beginners who want to walk or trot, offering trail rides through Prospect Park, where horses largely keep the same steady pace. For a chance to ride completely off-road, head to Jamaica Bay Riding Academy (7000 Shore Pkwy, Mill Basin, Brooklyn; 718-531-8949, horsebackride.com; 40-minute group ride $37, 50-minute private ride $53), located 15 minutes from Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. It offers 450 acres of wooded trails and 3.5 miles of beachfront riding—you'll soon forget you're in the city.

47. Buy some booze, then watch a film
Now in its second year, the LES Film Festival screens independent, low-budget shorts and feature films; hosts Q&As with filmmakers; and throws in a couple of parties for good measure. Most screenings are programmed thematically—comedy, gay, experimental, docs, animation, nerds(!), to name but a few—and all are BYOB, so there's no need to smuggle in your hip flask. A judging panel that includes Susan Sarandon and Justin Vivian Bond will pick the best in six categories, and the winners will be screened at Landmark's Sunshine Cinema (143 E Houston St between First and Second Aves; landmarktheatres.com). Locations and times vary; see lesfilmfestival.com for details. Mar 6--18; $10.

48. Salute Stevie Nicks
For the 22nd annual Night of a Thousand Stevies, hundreds of Nicks acolytes will gather in their finest leather and lace, many making the pilgrimage from across the U.S. Hosted by cofounder Chi Chi Valenti, a stream of drag queens and downtown darlings like Darlinda Just Darlinda and Machine Dazzle will offer tribute performances throughout the night. This year's theme is Dreams Unwind, drawing inspiration from last year's In Your Dreams album and Fleetwood Mac's Dreams. Highline Ballroom, 431 W 16th St between Ninth and Tenth Aves (212-414-5994, highlineballroom.com). May 11 at 9pm; $25.

49. See a show
Pony up this season for a concert—in the summer you can pay with your time while waiting on line for a free outdoor gig. We recommend buying tickets now to see Andrew W.K. reprise his debut album, I Get Wet, at Webster Hall (125 E 11th St between Third and Fourth Aves; 212-353-1600, websterhall.com; Apr 2 at 7pm; advance $25, at the door $30), or Feist's gala extravaganza at Radio City Music Hall (1260 Sixth Ave at 50th St; 212-247-4777, radiocity.com; May 5 at 8pm; $40--$50). For 18 more hot tickets, check out the season's top music events.

50. Marvel at "The Orchid Show: Patrick Blanc's Vertical Gardens"
The New York Botanical Garden celebrates the tenth anniversary of its annual exotic-flower showcase with an installation by French artist Patrick Blanc, who (along with garden staff) will build living floral walls in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd between Bedford Park Blvd and Mosholu Pkwy, Bronx (718-817-8700, nybg.org). Mar 3--Apr 22; $8--$20.