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Light year projection dumbo
Photograph: Courtesy Tomas Eller

The best free things to do in NYC this week

The best free things to do in NYC this week include free swimming at NYC pools, outdoor comedy shows and art exhibits

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 the exhibit of large artworks at the Socrates Sculpture Park or take the ferry to Governors Island for some respite. Also, don't miss a free comedy show being hosted in Google Docs!

RECOMMENDED: Find out more free things to do in NYC

Free things to do in NYC this week

Moynihan Train Hall stan douglas art
Photograph: ©Stan Douglas. Courtesy of the artist, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner. Photo: Nicholas Knight, courtesy Empire State Development and Public Art Fund, NY

1. Go see the 'astonishing' works of art inside Moynihan Train Hall

News Art

In true New York style, the new Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station, which opens Friday, has been decked out with incredible art. Penn Station's $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall features a spacious, light-filled atrium with a 92-foot-high glass skylight and soaring ceilings honoring the design of the original Penn Station, but as with any new transit hub, whether it's a new subway station, airport terminal or a passenger hall like this one, New York calls on its amazing artists to decorate the walls, halls and floors and inspire travelers passing by.

Photograph: Cameron Blaylock

2. Stand inside an interactive light display in the Flatiron District

News Art

There’s a different type of holiday light display on view in the Flatiron this year, and it’s a bit more reflective than your run-of-the-mill Christmas tree or department store window. (Less Elf on a Shelf, more shell shock on a sidewalk.) “Point of Action,” the winner of the seventh annual Flatiron Plaza Holiday Design installation program, is an installation designed by Studio Cooke John along with lighting designer Jimmie Drummond that’s meant to evoke the feeling of seeing other New Yorkers from a distance—something we should all be pretty familiar with after the last year.  The pandemic-inspired, socially-distanced experience invites visitors to contemplate the connections to one another and to think about how we’ll all move forward together. On view through New Year’s Day, the artwork consists of six-foot circles affixed throughout the plaza which create nine different “spotlights” surrounded by vertical metal frames.

Bryant Park Winter Village
Photograph: Courtesy Angela Cranford

3. Ice skating at Bryant Park's Winter Village

News City Life

The Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park—and it's fully open and serving up hot chocolate and wintertime fun right now.

Visiting the park will be different this time since there are numerous health and safety protocols in place now, so we decided to check it out to give you a preview of what you can expect when you go this year. Ice skating is open at Bryant Park, but this year, it's completely outdoors. In the past, skaters and spectators used to be able to keep warm inside tents. Now, they'll have to brave the cold in separate areas for those waiting to get on the ice and those coming off the ice. Additionally, reservations and skate rentals must be made in advance online (rental prices change depending the day and time), and fewer skaters will be on the ice at one time, which is good for skaters looking for a less hectic time on the ice. High-touch surfaces and rental equipment will be sanitized throughout the day. In fact, instead of placing your belongings in a locker, each skater will be given a free drawstring bag to put their shoes in and keep on their backs as they glide across the ice.

 Endale Arch Prospect Park
Photograph: Courtesy Paul Martinka

4. Find the new gorgeous archway in Prospect Park

News City Life

Prospect Park unveiled an incredible, eye-catching update to one of its original arches that uncovered hidden details for the first time in a century. In the fall, the Endale Arch—which provides quick access to Long Meadow from Grand Army Plaza—was reopened after a five-year restoration. The $500,000 project restored the interior of the arch and the exterior stonework, making for an incredible Instagram-worthy scene. Layers of paint and grit were peeled back to show original details, including alternating yellow Berea sandstone and New Jersey brownstone, and white pine and black walnut wood paneling. This design had been hidden for nearly a century.


Light year projection dumbo
Photograph: Courtesy Tomas Eller

5. Watch the massive new light show projected on Manhattan Bridge

News Art

The Manhattan Bridge in Dumbo will light up with massive light projections for all to see through March.On the first Thursday of each month, LIGHT YEAR installations will be on view for the public, who can watch from nearby bars and restaurants with hot drinks in hand. The projections, which will be 65 by 40 feet, can be viewed from the Pearl Street Triangle from dusk to 10pm. The projections are set for the winter months:

  • January 7 — "Evoke"
  • February 4 — "Spatial Empathy"
  • March 4 — "Digital Fairy Tales: Water Stories"

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