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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

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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

  • Things to do
  • City Life

The futuristic-looking Little Island park, set upon massive pylons in the Hudson River, is now open. If you want to go between noon at 10pm, high-traffic times, you'll need to reserve a free entry on its website first. The new space is open until 1am daily, so there will be plenty of time to check it out, according to reps. Once visitors walk through the vaulted opening of Little Island, they walk into an open lawn and get a 360-degree view of the park, where they see a gradient of colors and plantings that change as the elevation changes, from shrubs and vines to 40-foot trees. Visitors can opt to walk up to Little Island’s highest points via walkways, or they can do a bit of light scrambling up boulders, much like at The Hills on Governors Island. Once at the top, parkgoers will get incredible views of Manhattan, the river and across to New Jersey. There are also three main lawns that visitors can sunbathe on and a secret garden full of only white blooms—from birch trees and crepe myrtles to roses and anemones that you can get to by walking through an arched trellis.

  • Things to do
  • City Life

Collective Governors Island is a luxury glamping retreat on the west side of the island with sweeping views of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. The retreat was open last summer and provided a rare, in-city escape for New Yorkers during that summer of outdoor social distancing. The six-acre retreat, which is reachable via private water taxi for guests, has added a slew of new offerings for the 2021 season to complement the yoga and pilates offered last year. Two new culinary experiences will be available to guests looking to get up-close-and-personal with some seafood. “The Art of Oyster Shucking” will teach participants how to select, shuck and serve oysters while “Mastering Poaching Lobsters” will show you the ins and outs of preparing, poaching and serving whole lobsters. Both experiences are $60. Other new offerings include classes on how to saber a champagne bottle, a custom rosé tasting and a live sound meditation. 

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  • Restaurants
  • Eating

Refreshing agave-based spirits and tasty tacos are now being served onboard a three-story boat in the Hudson River. La Barca Cantina, the only Mexican restaurant on a boat in NYC, has reopened to the public with a summer street food-inspired menu that'll get the party started for you and your friends. Based at Pier 81, next to its sister-restaurant North River Lobster Company, La Barca spans three levels with an expansive outdoor top deck with a bar and table seating, a bi-level interior space with two bars, table seating and booth-like tables—perfect for large groups. Even better, it takes short cruises multiple times per day, five days a week, offering up sweeping views of the NYC skyline. (It's a must to reserve a table for cocktails at sunset.) 

  • Things to do
  • City Life

The Classic Harbor Line's Evening Jazz Cruise Aboard Manhattan is a 1.5-hour cruise at sunset set to live jazz. The evening begins by taking a seat inside the '20s-style Yacht Manhattan—made extra cozy with ample pillows and corner tables—and ordering a glass of champagne, which is included in the ticket price (everyone gets one beer, glass of sparkling/still wine, soft drink, still or sparkling water on the house). You cruise around the island, going due south, to the live jazz sounds of the Boat Band, led by Michael McGarril on the starboard side and pass the west side of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. 

To have your own little evening jazz cruise, tickets are $104 per person for two to three guests or $86 per person for four or more guests — on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings in May. (Sunday won't be offered in June, however). Departure times depend on the sunset time, but are generally either at 6:30pm or 7pm, with an occasional 6pm:

Starting Saturday, June 5, Classic Harbor Line’s Live Jazz City Lights or Sunset Sail in NY Harbor begin. For this trip, the live jazz sail leaves at 6:45pm for a two-hour jaunt down to the tip of Manhattan on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is $96 per person, also inclusive of one beverage. The 1.5-hour City Lights Jazz Sail is on Saturdays at 9:15pm and is $78 per person, and includes one beverage as well. You can reserve your trip at classicharborline.com or call the Classic Harbor Line NYC phone number (212) 627-1825.

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  • Art
  • Gramercy

Your eyes will feast on the bold colors, varied textures and patterns that call your attention in this exhibit of Hassan Hajjaj’s photography. The immersive exhibit showcases five series Hajjaj developed over three decades that captures popular culture, street style, hip-hop and haute couture—all of which challenges the viewer through an eclectic confrontation of styles, and invites them to re-examine cultural stereotypes and cliches, Fotografiska says. Hajjaj asked local women to pose wearing his creations (traditional Moroccan djellabas, hijabs, caftans and babouches covered with candy-colored polka dots, leopard prints or counterfeit brand logos) in the streets of the Medina, often parodying the poses typical of
Western models. The title "VOGUE, The Arab Issue" has a double meaning—“issue” refers not only to a copy of the monthly magazine but also to an important topic or problem for debate or discussion, one he also probes in his video Naabz and the series "Hijabs and Handpainted
Portraits."

  • Things to do
  • City Life

A new drive-in has just open in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, offering "killer views of Manhattan's skyline" along with popular movie classics; not surprisingly, it’s called the Skyline Drive-In. Located at 1 Oak Street across the river from downtown Manhattan, the Skyline operates on a site that’s been used for shooting Fendi and Converse ads as well as the opening credits of Saturday Night Live. Each night of the week features a different film, starting at 8pm. Of course, there's a concession stand to get your bucket of popcorn for the show. No car? No worries: Bicycles and foot traffic are welcome, too, and Skyline plans to provide outdoor seating soon. Sound good? You can find more information on tickets and showtimes here.

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  • Art
  • Art

After standing tall for 135 years, the Statue of Liberty is due for a rest—at least, according to artist Zaq Landsberg. Landsberg just erected his own 25-foot-long Statue of Liberty in Morningside Park that lies in the grass—her hand supports her crowned head with a face that looks both peaceful and pained. Honestly, we get it. Lady Liberty is striking a pose we all can identify with right now.  According to Landsberg, the sculpture, which is finished with copper paint and an oxidizing acid to mimic the real statue, takes the pose of the giant reclining Buddha statues in Asia. By merging the two symbols together, it forces the viewer to reconsider what the Statue of Liberty represents, which is what many of us have had to do this past year.

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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
  • Contemporary art
  • The Bronx

Celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's expansive 2021 exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden with outdoor installations across the garden's 250-acre landscape is on now. Four of the projects will be making their NYC debut, the most exciting of which will surely be Infinity Mirrored Room—Illusion Inside the Heart, which will be housed in a cube-shaped structure located out in the open. Featuring mirrored sides, the exterior of the piece will reflect the changing skies while the interior will glow with a seemingly endless array of colored lights. To avoid long lines, timed tickets will be issued to get in. Elsewhere, there is an interactive greenhouse installation, in which visitors will be invited apply stickers picturing coral-colored blossoms throughout the interior—thus taking part in one of Kusama’s signature "obliteration" pieces. Also on view are two new outdoor monumental sculptures, the self-explanatory Dancing Pumpkin and a 13-foot high biomorphic form featuring a polka-dotted face called I Want to Fly to the Universe. The NYBG itself chimes in with special flower bed plantings patterned on Kusama’s paintings and an allée of trees wrapped in polka-dotted fabric.

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  • Art
  • Chelsea

The Rubin Museum of Art's newest exhibit invites you to unplug and free your mind through Tibetan Buddhist art, including 35 traditional objects, including 14 from the Rubin Museum’s collection, with two contemporary works by Nepal-born, Tibetan American artist Tsherin Sherpa. "Awaken" features works from the 7th and 21st centuries including stone, wood, and metal sculptures, traditional Tibetan hanging scroll paintings, illuminated manuscript pages and vibrant contemporary pieces. Through these, the exhibition introduces the central teachings of Tibetan Buddhism as visitors "progress through 10 milestones on the journey from the chaos of ordinary life to the awakened states of awareness." 

  • Things to do
  • City Life

The New York Aquarium's new "Spineless" exhibit about the world of invertebrates including octopuses, squid, sea anemones, jellyfish, and other sea animals that lack backbones is on now. It highlights the ocean’s invertebrates by giving visitors a close-up view of the big-brained giant—a Giant Pacific Octopus—in a pop-up bubble within the animal’s habitat and pulsing jellyfish in three habitats. More than 20 species of animals including squid, cuttlefish, lobsters, crabs, sea anemones, sponges are on view.

 

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  • Art
  • Art

This year's Metropolitan Museum of Art Roof Garden Commission features a very familiar friend—Big Bird. That's right, the beloved Sesame Street character with feathers and a beak features prominently in the artwork by Alex Da Corte. Dubbed As Long as the Sun Lasts, the commission stands 26 feet tall and seems to balance Big Bird, who is sitting on the moon holding a ladder, on one side and a modern mobile on the other. The sculpture is kinetic, meaning it moves with the wind. The artwork is simply sublime because it spotlights the wholesome innocence of our favorite feathered friend in a fun, creative way—on top of the most iconic and revered art museum in New York City.

  • Art
  • Civic Center

Brighter Days is a series of six sculptures by Melvin Edwards created from 1970 to 1996 and one in 2020—each one incorporates some form of chain. Sitting in City Hall Park, historical associations are made to slavery and violence. City Park Hall was once the site of the African Burial Ground, a colonial-era cemetery for enslaved and freed individuals of African descent. More recently it became a geographic center of Black Lives Matter protests with the occupation of City Hall. Brighter Days affirms Edwards' optimistic view of our shared future.

 

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  • Restaurants
  • Drinking

The Carreau Club’s co-owners Dana Bunker and Aaron Weeks know how tough bars have had it the past five months since New York City banned indoor gatherings. But while their plans to open a sprawling bar within Industry City this month are on hold, there’s still a bright spot: they used an outdoor space to open the city’s first pétanque bar.

The airy courtyards in the former warehouse space, which is located on the waterfront in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, is now home to a kiosk selling beer, wine and bottled cocktails with sandwiches from M. Wells. They’re open during the week from 3-9pm and weekends noon-10pm. There are four courts where you can hold a drink in one hand while tossing a stainless steel ball in the other.

  • Things to do
  • City Life

While New Yorkers can’t see art in museums and galleries at the moment, they can head to Roosevelt Island to see—and swim alongside—a pool that’s a literal work of art.

Every year on Roosevelt Island, the pool deck at the Manhattan Park waterfront complex, gets a colorful makeover by an artist, per a tradition that began in 2015 by Citi Habitats New Developments and design firm K&Co and Pliskin Architecture

Acclaimed designer Alex Proba was the behind this year’s colorful mural masterpiece.

To check out the installation this year, and cool off, the Manhattan Park Pool Club allows non-residents to purchase memberships or day passes to the pool (weekdays passes cost $30, while weekends run $50 per person.)

 

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  • Things to do
  • City Life

Beloved and inclusive venue, Nowadays, is abiding by the current standards and bringing back its sprawling backyard to the public. Nowadays is like a massive backyard barbecue in Ridgewood, Queens. It’s tough to beat hanging out in the 16,000-square-foot space with string lights, picnic tables, and massive birch and honey locus trees above. This summer, while its live music programming is halted, you and your friends can still head to the summery haven by reservation and a $5 cover (groups up to 10 and families with kids are welcome). At the all-outdoor urban oasis bar you’ll find craft beer, cocktails, natural wine, and non-alcoholic drinks like mate and kombucha. And as for food, its backyard food truck run by Diner by Izakaya will be open with bites including wagyu hamburgers, pork katsu sandwiches, fish & chips, and snacks for a bevy of diets, like a vegan tempeh and lotus root sandwich (with gluten-free buns available), shishito peppers, an edamame and cucumber salad. On Fridays and Saturdays, you’ll also be able to foot-tap to tunes playing all night by Nowadays' community of selectors on their audiophile-approved custom sound system, just no dance floor jiving yet as you’re highly encouraged to stay put at your tables. They're also running an outdoor film series on Tuesday and Wednesdays.

  • Things to do

Chances are you'll be cycling around more than usual. Therefore, we declare summer 2020: The Summer of Cycling. Since New York City has a growing number of bike lanes (including temporary ones opening during the shutdown), great bicycle shops and perfect parks for taking a ride through, it's one of the best things to do outside in NYC, and if you want to venture away from Gotham and plan a getaway, we’ll tell you where to go so you can cycle to your heart's content. 

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