RECOMMENDED: The most up-to-date 150 weekend activities in NYC
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.
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 and old-fashioned hats—and one of the best collections of food vendors in Manhattan. Delicious new stalls include Williamsburg darling Pies 'n' Thighs, artisanal ice cream parlor Ample Hills Creamery and boozy cupcakery Prohibition Bakery. Look out for surprising booths, like Compass Yoga, which will assess your posture and align in you a suitable pose for $1.
This "lightship"—a floating lighthouse once used by the Coast Guard—sank and spent three years underwater before she was salvaged and converted into a floating bar. Now docked near Chelsea Piers, this nautical beer garden attracts formidable weeknight and weekend throngs of would-be revelers. After May 1, you can drink on deck—that is, if you can find room on the beer-soaked boat, jetty or the prime real estate: the jetty roof. If you're fortunate enough to nab a seat, order a burger.
This city-owned garden in the north Bronx retains the same horticultural traditions from 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.
The Hell's Kitchen Flea Market welcomes a mini fleet of mobile eateries back for the Gourmet Food Truck Bazaar. The lineup has yet to be confirmed, but city staples like Calexico, the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck and the Treats Truck have all parked there in the past. We advise arriving early to make a first pass at the secondhand wares and avoid missing out on the limited quantities of grub.
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.
Crispy on the outside and smooth as butter inside, the taro-and-turnip cakes at this dim sum palace are sweet with thick oyster sauce, and only on the weekends from noon to 3pm.
This no-frills ballroom is the locus of Greenpoint’s indie-rock scene, but on occasional Saturday nights, the 1914 hall reverts back to its original (and still daytime) identity as the Polish National Home, hosting Polish dance parties with plenty of canned Frankie Yankovic. No matter who’s in attendance, $3.50 Jack and Cokes and $5 noshes (pierogi, kielbasa and cheese blintzes) are available.
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.
Join a social sports team
You've thought about it, now do it: Put down that PS3 controller and join an outdoor league. ZogSports co-ed sports leagues, one of NYC's biggest rec groups, hosts coed softball, soccer and touch-football leagues in the spring. 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.
Get out of the city
Dia:Beacon doesn't have a monopoly on arty day trips. In the Hudson River Valley, Storm King Art Center boasts more than 100 post-1945 sculptures—many of them monumental in stature—on 500 acres of land. Stroll at your leisure or rent a bike ($10 per hour, minimum two hours; full day $40). On May 12, the exhibit "Light and Landscape" opens; it features 20 pieces that play with the idea of natural light, ranging from videos and installations in the institution's museum to site-specific works by Peter Coffin, Katie Holten and William Lamson. Coach USA Short Line runs one service a day between Port Authority Bus Terminal (625 Eighth Ave between 40th and 42nd Sts; 212-564-8484, coachusa.com/shortline; departs NYC 10am, departs Storm King 5:02pm; $44) and Storm King on the Mountainville Line.
It may take a while to get to, but the Bartow-Pell’s beautiful and serene formal garden and lawn, featuring a picturesque fountain and wrought-iron benches, is the perfect place to find solace away from the city. Once you’ve finished reclining in verdant surroundings, tour the mansion (Wed, Sat, Sun noon–4pm; $5), home to a 19th-century merchant family.
Just down the street from contemporary-art hub MoMA PS1, outdoor graffiti museum 5Pointz proves that the beauty and grit of New York City isn’t always found in conventional places. Nearly every inch of this five-story, 200,000-square-foot factory’s exterior has been covered and re-covered in murals by a rotating cast of artists. You can call ahead to arrange a guided tour, or just show up and pull out your camera.
Every weekend starting in May, the New York Outrigger Club offers up to three free training sessions for the six-man Polynesian canoe. The lesson begins on land, where you'll familiarize yourself with the boat and its history, learning stroke work, safety protocols, and calls and commands; then you'll get 30 to 45 minutes of practice on the water with three expert shipmates who'll steer you in the right direction. Sessions are limited to six people each, so e-mail ahead to book your space. The club provides everything you need—boats, paddles and life vests—but it's up to you to bring drinking water, sunscreen and a lock for the provided locker. Grass skirts optional.
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 hosts hour-long guided meditation classes.
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. Discount tickets are available at the TKTS Booth in Duffy Square (47th Street and Broadway). Or try the TKTS South Street Seaport Booth (at the corner of Front and John Streets) or TKTS Downtown Brooklyn (One MetroTech Center, at the corner of Jay Street and Myrtle Aves). More centrally, TDF has added a "Play Only" window at the Times Square booth under the red steps. All booths accept credit cards. For hours and details, visit tdf.org. An excellent Broadway-discount clearing house is nytix.com. There you can find tickets up to 45 percent off, as well as super buy-one-get-one-discounted deals.
The Jewish Museum, housed in the 1908 Warburg Mansion, contains a fascinating collection of more than 28,000 works of art, artifacts and media installations. The two-floor permanent exhibition, “Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey,” examines how Judaism has survived and explores various Jewish identities throughout history. There is also a permanent exhibit specifically for children: The Café Weissman serves contemporary kosher fare.
Williamsburg's craft-beer facility offers free, reservation-only general tours on Saturday and Sunday (see website for details). Post tour, join the crowds purchasing tokens for beer (one beer for $5 or six for $20) to taste the standard and seasonal styles on tap.
The decor at Johnny's, a 45-year-old City Island institution is reminiscent of a school cafeteria—including the long lines. The attraction here is inexpensive seafood and shameless deep-fat-frying: filet of sole, red snapper, whiting, smelts, mini–lobster tails, shrimp, scallops, soft-shell crabs, clams, oysters and squid. Any of it comes freshly breaded and mercilessly fried for about $10. The Clam Bar, meanwhile, offers shucked-before-your-eyes littlenecks and cherrystones for $10 a dozen. On a nice day, grab your grub and drink, head out to the picnic tables and enjoy the view of Long Island Sound.
Need a cheap date idea? Look no further than free Friday- and Saturday-night concerts at the ultra-bohemian BAMcaf. 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.
Don some tartan and tweed and hop the Ikea ferry to Red Hook for the freshest lobster in Brooklyn and a whiff of the salty sea. From 5 to 9pm on Saturdays, you can tie on a bib, plunk down $25, and a 1.5-pound lobster, farm-fresh corn, and coleslaw or potato salad are yours to inhale.
One of a small number of farmhouses surviving from Brooklyn's Dutch settlement period, Lefferts Historic House now serves as a museum, documenting Brooklyn family life during the 1820s. Period rooms are furnished to reflect the era, while craft activities and demonstration gardens and fields help visitors understand the changes in the borough's landscape since the 19th century.
Calling all foodies and fashionistas: Grab your wallet and skedaddle over to this much-anticipated marketplace, which is a triumvirate of food, retail and eco-minded sustainability projects. The bazaar’s 22 vendors are showcasing their goods in brightly painted, repurposed shipping containers that serve as retail outlets and restaurants. Support local businesses and art foundations, like the Pratt Design Incubator, which is shilling Holstee recycled wallets ($25) and Alder printed silk scarves ($144). Chomp on Mazie’s Bites crispy fried-fish tacos (two for $10) or Cuzin’s Duzin three-piece mini doughnut samplers ($1), then slip into Honeysuckle and Hearts vintage gems, including a 1970s lace maxidress ($98) and a pink long-sleeved romper ($45). Dekalb Market’s extensive one-acre property is also home to Dekalb Farm, and while the locally grown fruits and veggies from the Brooklyn Grange and Newton Farm Cooperative are sadly not for sale, you can learn how to cultivate your own produce at 3rd Ward’s free monthly workshop on urban agriculture.
Piggybacking on the runaway success of the Brooklyn Flea (still held in Fort Greene on Saturdays and in Williamsburg on Sundays), founders Eric Demby and Jonathan Butler unveiled this food-only Saturday market—a glutton’s paradise packed with more than 100 vendors. Along with Greenmarket stalls and flea stalwarts like Porchetta, the gastro-bazaar features a flurry of side projects from restaurant-world vets. King’s Crumb, brought to you by a trio with ties to Momofuku Noodle Bar and Prime Meats, doles out lard-and-buttermilk biscuits cloaked in homemade clotted cream and seasonal jams, plus sweet tea dashed with Angostura bitters. And Pies ’n’ Thighs baker Cecile Dyer channels the county fair with Nana's frozen bananas, which are coated in a thick chocolate armor and sprinkled with sea salt and other fancy toppings. But don’t overlook the vendors without boldfaced-name connections: Upstarts like Mimi and Coco NY—serving Japanese teriyaki balls—and City 'Lasses—with its fortifying Switzels (old-timey West Indian drinks made with blackstrap molasses, ginger, lemon and honey)—more than hold their own.
From 5:45-7:45pm, the Gug's regular admission price is reduced from $18 to whatever the hell you want. The museum is as famous for its landmark building—designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and restored for its 50th birthday in 2009—as for its impressive collection and daring temporary shows. In addition to works by Manet, Picasso, Chagall and Bourgeois, it holds the largest collection of Kandinskys in the U.S.
Before becoming a weeklong gold mine, Jacques Torres attracted a cult of pastry lovers who woke up at the crack of dawn for his goodies, once sold only on Saturday mornings at his Water Street chocolate shop. These days, the sweet stuff is easier to snag at his full bakery across the street, but there's still an allure to the first batch of the day. In addition to Gallic goodies like croissants, brioches and tarts, Almondine serves American-inspired sweets like cheesecake, strawberry shortcake and chocolate blackout cake with peanut butter.
An indie musician and an Ecuadoran chef are the unlikely masterminds behind this Austin-inspired Williamsburg café, which sells only coffee and two varieties of breakfast tacos. We preferred the #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 provide texture and a gentle burn. For more great egg breakfasts, click here.
You may think it's a haughty version of bocce, but you'd be wrong. Get the inside track on the game with a free lesson from a member of the La Boule New Yorkaise club (labouleny.com) at the Bryant Park courts. Just stroll up and find the instructor in the club's T-shirt, and he or she will school you on the basic rules in around 15 minutes. You're free to stay and play with the clubs's equipment as long as you like (although it does get busy during lunch) and receive further insights on strategy and tactics.
Avoid the crowds in Central and Prospect Parks by taking a stroll through Manhattan's verdant southernmost tip. The green space is home to two gardens: The seven-year-old Bosque, which covers three acres and features 140 London plane trees; and the Gardens of Remembrance, where you can see more than 100 different types of perennials. Stop for a bite at one of the food kiosks dotted throughout the park: An outpost of Zak Pelaccio's Asian-inflected BBQ joint Fatty 'Cue opened there in 2011, along with Fatty Snack, which offers treats like shaved ice ($3), cookies ($3) and milkshakes ($5).
Last year, the Scream Zone annex expanded Luna Park with two modern roller coasters, the Soaring Eagle and the Steeplechase, as well as the Sling Shot, which hurls two people 150 feet high into the air, and a spinning disc called the Zenobio. But for our money, the rickety Cyclone remains the scariest, especially because it celebrates its 85th birthday this summer.
Opened in 2009, this highly anticipated outdoor park sits on the elevated infrastructure built on Manhattan's West Side in the 1930s. Today, sumptuous gardens and outdoor sculpture adorn this magnificent walkway, which is also an excellent place to enjoy a view of the Hudson River. Check out our complete guide to events on the elevated park, plus things to do nearby.