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Things to do in NYC today

The best things to do in NYC today involves free and cheap activities, awesome concerts and more

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
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It’s rare to be in the greatest city on earth and not have plans, but if you’re stumped for things to do in NYC today, consider us your entertainment saviors. Daily, there are awesome events to stream and new attractions to see, but if you’re searching for something really specific like new happenings at the city’s top destinations or something low-budget—like free things to do—we have everything you need listed right here.

RECOMMENDED: Full NYC events calendar

Things to do in NYC today

  • Art
  • Art

"Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure" at the Starrett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea has an advantage that many other shows do not have—it was organized and curated by Basquiat's family (with famed architect David Adjaye and design firm Pentagram), who have done a painstaking job of showing both the famous artist's intimate side and his genius. The exhibit, which features more than 200 rarely seen works, isn't merely Basquiat's work hung on walls, it immerses viewers in creatively designed spaces to give a sense of place and context. It's broken up into distinct and vibrant categories—"1960," "KINGS COUNTY," "WORLD FAMOUS," "IDEAL" "ART GALLERY,"  "PALLADIUM," and "PLACE JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT"—that viewers can float through. Basquiat's work is front and center of it all, but certain highlights make his work come alive as if it had just been painted. Visitors can take another step to fully immerse themselves by scanning a Spotify code to access a playlist of music the artist listened to.

 

  • Attractions

The city's playground, Coney Island, NY, has been the center of seaside amusement since before the turn of the 20th century and over the years, it has been romanticized in film and music—beloved for its exciting rides and wacky attractions for children and the nostalgic memories it brings to adults. It saw years of neglect, sure, but the arrival of the Luna Park amusement park restored the area’s lively nature. Today, hundreds of thousands of people visit what has become one of the top New York beaches offering a range of fun things to do in summer. From movie nights to concerts and the wild Mermaid Parade, there’s truly an activity for everyone. The summer destination is one of the best day trips from NYC, so when you go, hit must-visit stops like Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand for a bite, attend a crazy Coney Island Cyclone game and check out New York City's only aquarium.

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  • Theater

The theater season always heats up in the spring, as many of the best Broadway shows jockey to open in time to be considered for Tony Awards. Between now and the end of April, 18 productions are scheduled to open on the Great White Way, including multiple shows that had originally been scheduled to open in 2020 and as well as a couple of transfers from recent Off Broadway runs. Along with new plays and musicals, the 2022 spring crop on Broadway features many revivals—including works by Wiliam Shakespeare, Thornton Wilder, David Mamet and Ntozake Shange—and stars including Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig, Billy Crystal, Phylicia Rashad, Beanie Feldstein, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and a double Parker of Sarah Jessica and Mary-Louise.

  • Art
  • Art

The Whitney Biennial has been a long time coming. Originally meant to open in 2021, the 80th edition combines three years of planning as well as 63 artists and collectives to present an event that has been described as both "dynamic" and timely by its curators. "Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Kept," is broken up into two experiences on the fifth and sixth floors of the Meatpacking District building. Each one presents a completely different atmosphere—on the sixth floor is a cavernous, labyrinth-like gallery, and on the fifth floor is an open and airy room where works are displayed together. 

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  • Things to do
  • Greenwich Village

The Force is strong with Star Wars fans at Fever's latest exhibition called "The Fans Strike Back," a showing of 600 items all made by those who love the iconic space opera. The exhibit claims to be the largest Star Wars Fan exhibit with collectibles and figurines, life-size figures and famous costumes, more than 50 one-of-a-kind sculptures, armor, lightsabers, blasters, helmets, masks and more. While everything on view isn't officially licensed, visitors still get the full Star Wars experience. It is all fan-made which makes it even more impressive—fans' passion and love for the Star Wars universe is made evident through these items.

 

  • Things to do
  • The Bronx

An immersive experience with massive, ultra-realistic dinosaurs that takes place on the grounds of the Bronx Zoo is back! Dinosaur Safari asks visitors to the zoo to traverse a path filled with 52 life-sized dinos and pterosaurs through a wooded area, where they will see the largest flying animal to ever live (the Quetzalcoatlus) and, of course, the Tyrannosaurus rex and the vegetarian Omeisaurus that stretches an impressive 60 feet long. When it first opened in 2019, it was a ride that used shuttles to introduce people to the dinos. Now, it's a 1/4 mile-long walk-through experience with 52 dinos rather than 40.

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  • Music
  • Music

Legendary record producer Clive Davis is officially the subject of an entirely new gallery aptly named the Clive Davis Gallery at New York University. The university's prestigious Tisch School of the Arts hosted the opening of the new space last week at 370 Jay Street, by NYU's downtown Brooklyn campus. The new gallery is home to a permanent exhibition on the lower level that explores the musical guru's historical career, celebrating the various artists that Davis, a Brooklyn native, has worked with throughout the years. The inaugural exhibit that visitors can peruse through now "tells the story of the development of the contemporary music recording industry through the career of Clive Davis," reads the website. You'll notice an actual timeline that kicks off with Davis' years at Columbia Records, his branching out into different musical genres by founding Arista Records and his relationship with MTV.

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

The days of ice skating at Rockefeller Center are over—a groovy roller skating rink is opening in its place this April with live DJs, concerts and performances as well as lessons. Flipper's Roller Boogie Palace, an iconic West Hollywood roller rink that became a "mecca of uninhibited fun," will operate a new roller rink between April 15 through October, according to Rock Center's owner, Tishman Speyer. The rink is smaller than the traditional ice rink at Rockefeller Center. Instead of keeping that size, it'll have space for the public to watch the skaters at rinkside from tables and chairs and from the Esplanades and Plaza on the upper level. The roller rink will come with a lot of fun too, including DJ sets, live music performances, concerts, roller boogie nights, food, a viewing deck and a store at the Channel Gardens that'll sell gear and merch from Flipper's.

 

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

The luxurious Italian wellness spa QC NY (by QC Terme Spas and Resorts) is finally open to the public, bringing the elegance and rejuvenation of a European spa to Governors Island, but with New York City flavor. When you check in, you're given everything you'll need—a bag containing flip flops, a towel, a robe and a key for your locker—and a chance to sign up for a 25-, 50-, or 75-minute massage ($100-$250). Then, you are set free to roam the spa, which is full of relaxation rooms (each with its own meticulously curated personality, scent, and music), themed saunas, Vichy showers, infrared beds, foot baths, hydro jets, steam baths and other amazingly lush experiences.  

  • Museums
  • Music
  • Midtown West

If you loved the music and cool jazz scene in Disney and Pixar's movie Soul, you'll want to make a beeline to The National Jazz Museum in Harlem, which has been transformed into the film's Half Note jazz club. Showcasing incredible artifacts from major players in Harlem's jazz scene, including Duke Ellington’s white grand piano, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis' tenor saxophone, a player piano and a working 78rpm Victrola, "The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure" highlights the many different cultures and creators who influenced this genre. 

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Perspective is everything. At least, this is certainly the case with this year's Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden. Floral designer (to the stars!) Jeff Leatham is back with his kaleidoscope-themed designs for the second time after the pandemic cut his 2020 show short. Like a kaleidoscope, this year's show may be the same theme as last year's, but it presents a different perspective than before. (Luckily, the same highly Instagrammable rainbow tunnel is back!)

 

  • Art
  • East Harlem

Head to the Museum of the City of New York to see 100 photographs selected from the more than 1,000 images recently gifted to the Museum by the Joy of Giving Something (JGS), a non-profit organization dedicated to the photographic arts. Images range from documentary-style to quirky and from architectural to atmospheric. “Celebrating the City” features works by more than 30 creators new to the MCNY collection, including multiple images from Helen Levitt’s dynamic and celebrated street photography; Sylvia Plachy’s playful and eccentric examination of the people, animals, and moments of NYC; and Michael Spano’s slice-of-life city shots spanning the 1990s and 2000s. Other key figures in 20th-century photography are incorporated into the show, including Ilse Bing, Bruce Davidson, Mitch Epstein, Elliott Erwitt, Robert Frank, William Kline, Saul Leiter, Alfred Stieglitz, Rosalind Solomon, and Paul Strand, to name a few—all capturing indelible, sometimes implausible, intimate, and often incredible moments of the city. You'll even see a llama in Times Square, fireworks over the Brooklyn Bridge, polar bears playing in a pool at the zoo as well as subways, skylines, shadows, and stolen moments.

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  • Art
  • Art

The Frick Collection is starting a new chapter after 85 gorgeous years at its 1 East 70th Street mansion. The Frick Madison is open at 945 Madison Avenue—the former home of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Met Breuer—while Henry Clay Frick's mansion undergoes a massive renovation. This new stint will last two years, and while the Brutalist building by Marcel Breuer is a huge departure from the Gilded Age mansion, the space is offering a much different and rare look at the collection, according to museum officials. Unlike at the Frick Mansion, the Breuer building is a clean slate—stark in contrast, which actually helps to attract the viewer's attention to individual works. Eyes aren't busy looking at ornate furniture here. It's all about seeing the smaller details in the artwork that you might have overlooked at the mansion. According to Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Director Ian Wardropper, "It's a different Frick than you’ve ever known."

  • Art
  • Hell's Kitchen

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) is hosting its first global survey exhibition dedicated to the use of clothing as a medium of visual art, March 12 to August 14. The work of 35 international contemporary artists, from established names to emerging voices, will be on display, and you'll see how they made or altered clothing for expressive purposes via sculpture, installation, and performance art to transform dress into a critical tool for exploring issues of subjectivity, identity, and difference.

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  • Art
  • Queens

Follow Lacy’s history as an organizer and socially engaged artist over the course of 50 years in a series of artworks that undo stigmas and subvert oppressive norms across feminism, violence against women, racism, gender identity, and aging. The earliest works in the exhibition are records of Lacy’s solo performances, including "Net Construction (1973)," "Prostitution Notes (1974)" and "Cinderella in a Dragster (1976)," whose confrontational nature established Lacy as a perceptive observer and daring critic of social issues and urban life. These works capture lives society may consider more taboo on the fringe. Later works include "International Dinner Party (1979)"—in which she staged a worldwide dinner as a tribute to Judy Chicago—and "Crystal Quilt (1985-1987)," which demonstrates the experience of how older women are represented in the media. Her newest work, "De tu Puño y Letra, Quito, Ecuador (2014-2015)," is one of the moving pieces. Lacy gathered men in a bullfighting ring in Quito, Ecuador, to record them reading letters by Ecuadorian women on childhood, the body, and domestic and gender-based violence.

  • Things to do
  • Chelsea

The Rubin Museum is offering a unique exhibit that delves into the power of difficult emotions and how to turn them into positive ones—something many of us would benefit from these days. On the third floor of the museum, the Mandala Lab uses fun and interactive tools to explore jealousy/envy, attachment, pride, anger and ignorance and shows visitors how to turn them into wisdom of accomplishment, discernment, equanimity, mirror-like wisdom and all-accommodating wisdom, respectively. The gong orchestra is a fun and beautiful way to get your frustrations out—by taking a mallet and hitting one of eight gongs, you can express anger and then watch it dissipate by submerging the gong into a pool of water. The gongs themselves were designed by musicians like Billy Cobham, Sheila E., Peter Gabriel, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Sarah Hennies, Huang Ruo, Shivamani and Bora Yoon.

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

New York's Roaring '20s 2.0 are back on, with pandemic-relevant restrictions, of course! And with a return to real life and a nostalgia for the 1920s comes a new whiskey distillery, the first to open (legally) in Manhattan since Prohibition, with luxe decor inspired by the decadence of 100 years ago. Great Jones Distilling Co. is Manhattan's first and only legal whiskey distillery in over 100 years. Over six years in the making, the 28,000 square foot venue will feature a fully functioning distillery, a tasting room and several drinking and dining venues, including an underground speakeasy and full restaurant to open this fall. The menus are heralded by Executive Chef Adam Raksin, who formerly worked at Per Se

 

  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

Ms. Kim's, a new K-town karaoke lounge from Korean beauty entrepreneur Anna Kim, combines sophisticated style with sing-alongs. Envisioned during the pandemic, when we all just needed to belt out our frustrations, and spend some much-needed time outside of our homes with friends, Ms. Kim's offers both communal space and soundproof private karaoke rooms, so guests can customize their experience as it suits their needs. 

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  • Things to do
  • Noho

Immersive art exhibit Arcadia Earth has reopened after being closed due to the pandemic, and it looks better than ever! The exhibit aims to inspire visitors artistically and ethically, as it uses 15 rooms to spotlight the environmental challenges that our planet is facing (such as overfishing, food waste, and climate change). This exhibit will not only leave visitors in awe, but it will help support Oceanic Global, an organization devoted to raising awareness around our aquatic ecosystems. In addition, a tree will also be planted for every ticket sold, making it a perfect gift for your eco-conscious friends!

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