Before experiencing onstage human talent, spend time with the area’s original divas: the 270 species of birds that inhabit Central Park. Train for a “big year” (what birders call an informal contest to see who can see or hear the most species within a set geographic boundary in one 365-day period) with one of the Central Park Conservancy’s free Discovery Kits, available from the Belvedere Castle Visitor center (midpark, on the 79th St Transverse) between 10am and 3:30pm daily. Kits include binoculars, a field guide, maps and sketching materials. Head to the Ramble during spring and fall for the most variety. Even if you don’t dig ornithology, carrying binoculars through the park has a certain illicit allure of its own. Visit the Conservancy’s website to learn more about free tours. The Ramble, Central Park, midpark from 74th to 79th Sts (centralparknyc.org)
Home to 11 world-class performing-arts organizations, including the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic, Lincoln Center is completing a massive renovation campaign (initially begun in 2009, but construction on Avery Fisher Hall isn’t even scheduled to begin until 2017) that has jolted new energy into the West 60s. Eye-catching architecture and innovative programming have helped break down the walls of this cultural citadel, revealing the dazzling creativity that lies within. You may still get the evil eye from one of the Upper West Side’s graying denizens if you show up in a hoodie, but thanks to tons of free events and options for discount tickets, you’ll at least pay less for the experience.
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