Free Things to do in New York
Tour New York with a resident who shares your interests through the city's highly
successful Big Apple Greeters program (212-669-2896).
Call the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-NYC-VISIT (212-397-8222
outside the United States and Canada) to request a Visitors Guide with free coupons
and special packages to save you money on hotels, restaurants, sightseeing and shopping.
Go back to a simpler time at the Queens Country Farm Museum, a historic homestead
Explore thought-provoking exhibitions at the breathtaking, beaux arts New York Public
Library (212-869-8084), and enjoy free concerts, outdoor movies and other special
events in adjacent Bryant Park (212-983-4142).
Explore the greenhouses and gardens of Wave Hill, a 28-acre former estate overlooking
the Hudson River in the Bronx (free during the week and Saturdays before noon, otherwise
$4 adults, $2 seniors/students, 718-549-3200).
Find out who's buried in Grant's Tomb National Monument, and see exhibitions focusing
on the Civil War and the life of General Ulysses S. Grant (212-666-1640).
Taste the Big Apple at its sweetest at the Union Square Green Market, where you
can sample fresh fruit, vegetables, baked goods, cider and much more (212-477-3220).
Stop and smell the roses at The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and learn about botany
and garden lore at special exhibitions in the conservatory (718-622-4433).
See the World's largest (when finished) Gothic Cathedral, St. John the Divine, near
Columbia University (212-316-7540), and explore its Biblical garden and children's
Chelsea Piers Sports and
Rising out of the ruins of four abandoned west-side piers is the Chelsea Piers Sports
and Entertainment Complex, a $100 million development offering a wide range of athletic
activities. Covering piers 59 through 62 and the connecting headhouse alongside
the West Side Highway between 18th and 23rd Streets, the Chelsea Piers spared no
expense in constructing an impressive state-of-the-art sports mega-center.
The Field House
The 70,000 square ft. Field House is located in the headhouse between Piers 61 and
62. It contains a 23,000-square ft. gymnastics training area (the largest in the
city), 2 basketball courts, 4 batting cages, a rock climbing wall, and 2 artificial
turf fields that can accommodate indoor soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse. The
gymnastics area offers organized programs for children and adults. The Field House
offers organized leagues at varying levels of play in soccer, lacrosse, field hockey,
and basketball. Call (212) 336-6500 for more information.
Also located in the headhouse is Silver Screen Studios, where the TV series "Law
and Order" is filmed. The Studio has expanded and comprises 300,000 square
ft. of sound-stage and support space.
All forms of skating are offered at the Chelsea Piers: ice, roller, and in-line.
Pier 61 is the home of the Sky Rink, which previously was located atop an office
building on West 33rd Street. This latest incarnation includes two full-size ice
skating rinks and a viewing area with seating capacity for 1,800 people. The Sky
Rink offers adult and youth hockey leagues, figure skating, skating instruction,
and open skating time. Call (212) 336-6100 for more details.
Pier 62 is the home of two outdoor, regulation sized skating rinks that can accommodate
both in-line and roller skating. Here, too, the Chelsea Piers offers instruction
and adult and youth roller hockey leagues. Call (212) 336-6200 for more info.
The Golf Club
The Golf Club at Chelsea Piers consists of a 200-yard driving range occupying the
full length of Pier 59. Golfers hit from 52 hitting stalls which are stacked four
stories high. The stalls are covered and heated, so you can play in virtually any
weather. You can forget about any fantasy you might have about putting a few golf
balls in the Hudson River, though, since the range is surrounded by 15 story tall
The Golf Club bills itself as the most technologically advanced driving range and
teaching facility in the United States. The hi-tech video and slow motion equipment
in the four teaching stalls and the automated ball tee-up system certainly make
this a credible claim. Each time you hit a ball, the rubber tee retracts into the
ground and then emerges with another ball already teed up. You can regulate the
tee height to simulate anything from a chip shot to a tee shot. Like everything
else at the Chelsea Piers, the Golf Club is expensive. Range time is booked by the
hour, not the number of balls hit. Don't worry though the tee system dishes up balls
as fast as you can hit them.
Final verdict: the Golf Club is a must see for every golfer in Manhattan. We suggest
you check it out the next time your regular game is rained out or when you get a
late night golf craving (the Club is open until 11 p.m.). Call (212) 336-6400 for
The Sports Center
Completed in February, the Sports Center offers a lengthy list of facilities: Manhattan's
largest cardiovascular and strength training facility, a 1/4 mile indoor running
track, aerobic studios, a 6-lane 25-yard indoor pool, basketball and sand volleyball
courts, a boxing ring, and a 46- foot rock climbing wall. They also offer the usual
yuppie stuff: a juice bar, a physiology lab for fitness testing, massages, and a
sports medicine center run by NYU. All of this is indoors, except for a sun deck
overlooking the Hudson River.
Call (212) 336-6000 for more information.
A major drawback of the Complex is its location along the Hudson River. The nearest
subway stops are more than half a mile away on 23rd Street. The best way to get
there via public transportation is to transfer to the M23 cross town bus, which
runs along 23rd street and makes a stop at the main entrance of the Piers. The Complex
has ample parking for about $5.
Things to do under $10
Catch a fish in the newly stocked Harlem Meer (pond) at the north end of Central
Park (fishing poles provided, 212-794-6564). Or rent a rowboat for a scenic paddle
in the shadow of Manhattan's magnificent skyscrapers ($10 an hour, 212-517-2233);
or glide the ice at the Wollman Skating Rink in winter ($6.50 adults, $3 children,
skate rentals $3.25, 212-517-4800).
Challenge your senses at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, where you can see masterpieces
of 20th century art housed in Frank Lloyd Wright's astounding spiral structure ($7
adults, $4 students/seniors, children free, pay-what-you-wish Fridays from 6-8 p.m.,
Roam endless galleries showcasing the world's most extraordinary art at theMetropolitan
Museum of Art (suggested donation: $7 adults, $3.50 students/seniors, children under
12 free, 212-879-5500).
Enjoy workshops, lectures and exhibitions on natural and cultural history at the
Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences ($2.50 adults, $1.50 students/children/seniors,
718-727-1135), or go back in time at the Historic Richmond Town Restoration ($4
adults, $2.50 seniors and students, under 6 free, 718-351-1611). Get there on the
world-famous Staten Island Ferry, which is free, and includes spectacular views
of New York Harbor and the lower Manhattan skyline (718-390-5253).
Bask in the serenity of the medieval Cloisters (a satellite of the Metropolitan
Museum of Art) at Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan ($7 adults, $3.50 students/seniors,
children free, 212-923-3700).
Have a bowl of noodles in Chinatown, and explore the thriving district of exotic
shops and restaurants along Canal and Mott Streets (about $4 for the noodles).
Watch millions of years of the earth's existence unfold at the American Museum of
Natural History, including the world's most exciting, extensive dinosaur halls ($6
adults, $4 students/seniors, $3 children, 212-769-5100).
Don a special headset for the world's most advanced 3-D movies, shown on a screen
more than eight stories high, at the Sony IMAX Theatre (admission $9 adults, $6
children 12 and under, $7.50 seniors, 212-336-5000).
Other things to do
Looking for a birthday party full of fun, adventure, the beauty of wildlife and
even the excitement of a safari? The Bronx Zoo offers birthday adventures complete
with visits the JungleWorld, the Reptile House and the Himalayan Highlands, plus
age-appropriate activities, party masks, birthday songs, and crafts. Each party
also includes refreshments, birthday cake and a take-home t-shirt and party pack
for the birthday child. For kids age 8-12, you can also consider an overnight Zoo
Pajama Party in the Congo Gorilla Forest. To learn more, call 718-220-6854.
The price tag of $17,500 for a slumber party for 15 is pretty steep for most parents,
but it is almost guaranteed to build the memories of a lifetime, with scavenger
hunts, video-games and the chance to watch any movie you like on the famed 5th Avenue
toy emporium's 5-foot screen. The party begins as guests are greeted by a FAO Schwarz
Toy Soldier, an animated Clocktower chimes "Welcome to Our World of Toys",
and a cast of unusual characters enthrall and amuse the party-goers. For details
call 212.644.9410 ext. 4182.
NYC Fire Museum
Many kids are fascinated by firefighting, making NYC's Fire Museum the perfect place
for a party! Birthday parties are held for children between the ages of 4 - 8 on
Saturday and Sunday at 10:30AM and 1:30PM (each party is scheduled to last an hour
and 45 minutes). The first fifteen minutes are free play with dress up, puzzles
and fire-themed toys, allowing time for guests to arrive late. Then the museum's
firefighters gather the kids together to discuss safety tips, discover the artifact
show and tell collection, and read an age-appropriate story. The birthday bash also
includes a scavenger hunt, creation of a personalized fire truck, games and a marching
band. A fire-themed birthday cake and juice, "One Alarm" loot bags and
colorful balloons are all included. To arrange your event, call (212) 691-1303 ext.
New York Aquarium
A birthday party event at the New York Aquarium includes a guided tour, artifact
handling, a children's art activity and more, making this a celebration you will
not want to miss! Ages 5+ only with a maximum 16 children per party. Prices are
$240 for non-members; $220 for members. Call (718) 265-2673 for details and reservations.
New York City's Best Bars
New York has an endless number of watering holes. We are frequently asked which
is our favorite and quite frankly, it is hard to say. There are many places around
town that are terrific, but no single place is right for every one or every occasion.
The following list, compiled after much discussion among The NYC Insider staff,
is a start, and includes what we consider the best there is in many key categories.
Best People Watching
The Royalton Hotel, 44 West 44th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenue)
Philippe Stark's nifty design (note the unusual facilities in the restrooms) helps
attract a steady stream of fashion folks, beautiful people and endless wannabes.
Relax in a comfy chair, order an aperitif, and watch the show!
Best Place for a Scotch and a Cigar
Bull & Bear
Waldorf-Astoria, 301 Park Avenue (near 49th Street)
Everything about this place denotes old-money affluence and masculinity. Note the
electronic stock tickertape on the back wall. If you are looking for a clubby atmosphere,
this is the place for you.
Best Selection of Beers
The Kinsale Tavern
Third Avenue between 93rd and 94th Streets
The first thing you will notice upon entering the Kinsale is a huge offering of
beers: 151 are available and 35 are kept on tap at all times. This generous selection
combined with the friendly and authentic Irish staff and pleasant pub food makes
the Kinsale one of our favorite spots.
SoHo Kitchen & Bar
103 Greene Street (between Prince and Spring Street)
A close friend and oeniphile introduced us to this place several years ago and we
have been heading back regularly ever since. Try tasting several different wines
by choosing one of their many "flights" of wine, or make your selection
of a full bottle from their extensive wine list.
Hogs and Heifers
859 Washington Street
As the hour gets later and later, this place gets wilder and wilder. The women dancing
on the bar and the moose head dripping with brassieres should give you some sense
of what this (mostly yuppie) crowd considers fun.