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The best free things to do in NYC this week

The best free things to do in NYC this week include free tarot card readings, a sex worker's pop-up exhibit and a flamenco flash mob

Sara Baras headlines Sadler's Wells 2019 Flamenco Festival
Sara Baras headlines Sadler's Wells 2019 Flamenco Festival
By Shaye Weaver and Time Out New York contributors |

It's a busy week with a plethora of activities for the taking. You're gonna need this list of the best free things to do in NYC if you are to have any hope of avoiding serious FOMO. First and foremost, don't miss out on a 1990s-themed party where phones aren't allowed or stop by the new Sex Workers' Pop-Up that aims to destigmatize the job. Also, don't miss a flamenco dance flash mob at Brookfield Place.

RECOMMENDED: Find out more free things to do in NYC

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Free things to do in NYC this week

Installation view of “Third Dimension: Works from The Brant Foundation”
Photograph: Tom Powel Imaging, courtesy The Brant Foundation
Art, Contemporary art

“Third Dimension: Works from The Brant Foundation”

The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, East Village

The Brant Foundation’s NYC location follows up its inaugural presentation of Jean-Michel Basquiat with a selection of paintings and sculptures by a list of name-brand artists, ranging from Pop Art icons such as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg to current art market faves such as Urs Fisher and Nate Lowman.

Photograph: Ali Garber
News, Art

See a giant doodle-like sculpture at Brooklyn Bridge Park

If you happen onto Pier 3 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, you might be forgiven for thinking someone had stretched a gargantuan barbed-wire fence across the view of FiDi (though whether it might be meant to keep residents from Brooklyn in or intruders from Manhattan out is a whole other matter). But fear not: What you're seeing isn’t some displaced part of Trump’s border wall on steroids; it’s an outdoor artwork by the internationally acclaimed British artist, Antony Gormley. Gormley is one of the most famous sculptors in contemporary art, and the piece (titled New York Clearing) isn’t intended to suggest a barricade at all. Instead, Gormley describes it as a “drawing in space,” a looping line meant to contrast the gridded patterns of the New York skyline across the East River. The coiling form is made up of more than 11 miles of square aluminum tubing rising to a height of almost 50 feet, creating intersected views of the surroundings as a result. Interestingly, New York Clearing wasn’t made possible by a local non-profit like the Public Art Fund. Instead it was sponsored by “Connect, BTS,” a five-city, four-continent art project shepherded by…well, BTS, the global boy-band phenomenon from South Korea. London, Berlin, Buenos Ares and Seoul have taken part along with NYC, with each locale hosting a different installation or performance.

Photograph: Marco Vasquez

Critical Darlings

Serafina- Ludlow, Lower East Side

Sip on cheap drinks and nosh on free pizza at this bi-weekly stand-up show with comedy darlings Emma Vernon and Pooja Reddy below the Italian restaurant, Serafina. The line-up of featured comedians changes each week. Past shows have included Ilana Glazer, Allison Leiby, Katie Hannigan, Leah Bonnema, Andre D Thompson, Pedro Gonzalez, Jes Tom, Fumi Abe, Mary Beth Barone, Gastor Almonte and Kate Willett. Tickets are free and there is no drink minimum!

Photograph: Maria Baranova, courtesy Times Square Arts
News, Art

A grocery store where everything is made of plastic bags is coming to Times Square

There’s a new food market opening soon at the Crossroads of the World, and no, it ain't another Wegmans: It’s an art installation titled The Plastic Bag Store, in which everything filling the shelves—produce, meat, boxes of cereal, baked goods and even packaged sushi rolls—is made of discarded single-use plastic bags and containers. It’s the brainchild of Brooklyn artist Robin Frohardt, and the show is meant to coincide with New York State’s ban on plastic bags, which goes into effect on March 1st. Free to visitors, the store will take up space at 20 Times Square, the same building at 47th Street and 7th Avenue that’s home to Hershey’s Chocolate World. Photograph: Maria Baranova, courtesy Times Square Arts Frohardt’s recycled renderings of grocery goods are surprisingly life-like. Her tomatoes and bananas, for example, could be easily mistaken for the real thing at first glance, thanks to small details like the product labels she applies to them. Photograph: Maria Baranova, courtesy Times Square Arts While The Plastic Bag Store may put you in mind of British artist Lucy Sparrow's food sculptures made of felt, Frohardt’s darkly comic work isn’t simply an exercise in trompe l’oeil; it’s a cautionary tale about the deleterious impact of plastic on the environment—a theme that Frohardt will hammer home in a series of puppet performances which will pose the question, What will future generations think about all of this crap we’ve left behind? Photograph: Maria Baranova, court

Calvin Cato
Photograph: Courtesy Mindy Tucker
Comedy, Stand-up

Ed Sullivan on Acid

Freddy's Bar, South Slope

At this long-running stand-up show, host Calvin S. Cato and guests hailing from BET, Comedy Central, MTV and VH1 serve up free laughs and candy, so you can save your money for more important things, like drinking.

MoMA Design Store The Record Shop
Photograph: Courtesy of MoMA Design Store
News, Shopping & Style

Get a free lesson at MoMA's new record store

The MoMA Design Store's new record store pop-up is hosting a series of free events through February, where you can get a sampling of the vinyls it offers, learn how to clean and store your records and more.

Alyssa Meadows
News, City Life

Swim in a massive rooftop jacuzzi overlooking JFK

TWA Hotel just gave us another epic way to embrace a chilly New York winter. Instead of heading to JFK to fly somewhere tropical over the next few months, bring your swimsuit to TWA Hotel’s rooftop infinity pool and lounge in water that's now cranked up to a toasty 95 degrees Fahrenheit. (Germaphobes: If the thought of a hotel jacuzzi freaks you out, heads up that TWA’s rooftop pool water completely purifies itself every 30 minutes, instead of once or twice a day. Phew.) But as of right now, there’s zero charge for visitors to swing by. Even better than a free pool day, they've turned the poolside bar into a "Runway Chalet," a 1960s après ski-themed winter hideaway that’s both heated and tented. The heated infinity edge pool and deck are open from 7am to 11pm every day (weather permitting) so consider heading here after an ice skating sesh at TWA on the tarmac below. The Runway Chalet at The Pool Bar is also open daily, from 11am to 11pm.

midcentury buildings in NYC
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia/Kenlarry
Things to do

The Ford Foundation Atrium

Midtown East

If you need a quick change of scenery from our concrete tundra, duck into this hidden oasis in midtown that just so happens to be open to the public. The Ford Foundation building houses a 12-story atrium that boasts a verdant green space with 39 species of subtropical plants, a reflecting pool and a garden with plants you can touch and smell. Even if it’s only during a few stolen moments between meetings, sneaking away to this paradise will enliven you.

The Museum at FIT
Museums, Fashion and costume

The Museum at FIT


The Fashion Institute of Technology owns one of the largest and most impressive collections of clothing, textiles and accessories in the world, including some 50,000 costumes and fabrics dating from the 5th century to the present. Overseen by fashion historian Valerie Steele, the museum showcases a selection from the permanent collection, as well as temporary exhibitions focusing on individual designers or the role fashion plays in society. It's always free to get in and see its latest exhibition.

Photograph: Courtesy Colin Miller
Things to do

Go ice-skating in NYC

Now that the holiday rush is over, make a bee-line to one of the city's free ice skating rinks, including at Bryant Park. We’ve gone ahead and ranked the top places to go, so whether you want to skate in the shadow of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree or some NYC parks like Central Park, you certainly have a multitude of options.

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