The Best of the Fests: Your Manhattan Festival Guide for 2012

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New York City is teeming with cultural offerings, so much that it can be difficult at times to organize all of the things you want to do, see, taste and experience in Manhattan. Sometimes you might stumble upon a great street fair with a particularly good gyro, while other times, you’ll plan and plot out your visit to a fest like the Armory Show or DOC NYC.

Before embarking on your year of festival-going, use this guide to discover the best offerings—from food to science to performance—on this side of the city.
—Compiled by staff

SPRING
Seventh annual Coffee and Tea Festival NYC (Feb. 25–26)
Caffeine junkies can get their fix at the Coffee and Tea Festival at 7 W, at West 34th Street and Fifth Avenue. This festival is a must-attend for coffee snobs and tea connoisseurs. Coffee and tea experts will discuss their beverages of choice in special forums; Yoon Hee Kim, founder of TeaClassics and Hancha Tea, will discuss the green teas of East Asia, while Michael Schwartz, the first kombucha manufacturer in New York City, will talk about the history of the trendy drink. On Saturday at 6 p.m., a special preview of the new show Coffee the Musical will take place. The first 1,500 people to come each day will receive a goodie bag filled with fun tea stuff!
For more information, visit www.coffeeandteafestival.com.

The Modern Beethoven: A Philharmonic Festival (March 1–20)
The New York Philharmonic has brought classical music to music lovers for years. Beethoven produced some of the best music humankind has heard, and the musicians at the New York Philharmonic will pay homage to the composer with nine shows during March. Three performances will take place each week featuring two symphonies per show.
For more information, visit nyphil.org.

New York City Vegetarian Food Festival 2012 (March 3–4)
At this two-day celebration of health and wellness will be samples of vegetarian dishes from New York City’s top vegetarian restaurants and food vendors. There will also be live entertainment and activities. The festival will take place at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 W. 18th St.
For more information, visit nycvegfoodfest.com.

The Armory Show (March 8–11)
Contemporary and modern art from around the world come to New York every March for the Armory Show at Piers 92 and 94. This year, the Armory Show celebrates 14 years as New York City’s leading international modern art fair. There are two sections in this year’s Armory Show: contemporary and modern. The contemporary section on Pier 94 features 120 leading international exhibitors; 19 invited exhibitors in Armory Focus: The Nordic Countries; 11 exhibitors in the inaugural Solo Projects; and seven organizations participating in the not-for-profit section. The Armory Show Modern, a section dedicated to international dealers specializing in historically significant modern art, presents 71 exhibitors representing nine countries. During the festival, there will be art tours and chances to meet with exhibitors and artists.
For more information, visit thearmoryshow.com.

New York Antiquarian Book Fair 2012 (April 12–15)
Let your inner bibliophile out at this event. The festival takes place at the Park Avenue Armory on 67th Street. Admission is $20 per day, $30 for two-day passes or $40 for three-day passes. Look for all types of literature, including first editions, manuscripts and illustrated books, here.
For more information, visit nybookfair.com.

Tribeca Film Festival (April 18–29)
The little fest that could, the Tribeca Film Festival has morphed from a means to draw crowds and tourists back to Downtown Manhattan after 9/11 into a sprawling, major destination film festival. In addition to the festival is the year-round nonprofit arts organization Tribeca Film Institute, ready and willing to aid struggling filmmakers. This year marks its 10th anniversary of programming (and parties!), and the fest promises its usual eclectic array of indies and Hollywood star power, not least of which is festival founder Robert De Niro—all bigger and better than ever before.
For more information, visit tribecafilm.com.

Hudson River Pageant 2012 (May 12)
Earth Celebrations hosts its fourth annual Hudson River Pageant to raise awareness of climate change and help restore the Hudson River. The pageant will include a parade of interestingly costumed people directing a procession of giant puppets. Free costume and puppet workshops will take place from March through May, where teens and adults will create marine life-inspired puppets and costumes for the pageant. The River Spirits Initiation will mark the beginning of the parade at 1 p.m. at the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park West at Vesey Street, ending at the Hudson River Park with a boat dance and harmonic chant concert. Other activities include a global water dance, an oyster planting ceremony and a live fish release into the Hudson River. Bring out your inner water spirit and nature freak and join this free procession to save the fragile natural environment of New York City.
For more information, visit earthcelebrations.com.

World Science Festival (May 30–June 3)
With a board as diverse as actor Alan Alda and Elegant Universe author and physics professor Brian Greene, the World Science Festival is where science is not only accessible but fun. Started in 2008 as part of the Science Festival Foundation, events have ranged from a staged reading of Alda’s latest theater offering, Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, to live music with the lecture “Biorhythm: Music and the Body.” The World Science Festival is especially known for offering a roster of children’s programs, like a ride around the Hudson River on the schooner Mystic Whaler and the youth and family street fair, in which Washington Square Park became a science wonderland complete with a smell and discovery lab.
For more information, visit worldsciencefestival.com.

SUMMER
Summerstage (June–August)
This festival of dance, music and performance runs throughout the summer in all five boroughs, with its mainstage in Central Park and its Downtown Manhattan camp at East River Park on the Lower East Side and Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. Highlights from 2011 included a production of Henry V produced by the Classical Theatre of Harlem and the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, featuring notables like Madeleine Peyroux and the Archie Shepp Quartet. The best part of the fest? It is the largest free performance arts festival in New York.
For more information, visit summerstage.org.

New York City Pridefest (June 24)
For one Sunday in June, the West Village shuts down for a parade of LGBT advocates and showoffs marching down Seventh Avenue to cheers and catcalls from the sidewalks. In addition to the parade, Hudson Street between Abingdon Square and 14th Street hosts Pridefest, an annual street fair that brings together New Yorkers and out-of-town visitors with the promise of street food, T-shirts and everything else a street fair can offer—but far more fabulous. Funnel cake always tastes better when it’s been sprinkled with tolerance and glitter, and Pridefest has been serving heaping helpings of both for the last 19 years.
For more information, visit nycpride.org.

Bastille Day 2012 (July 15)
Give a kiss to the French on Bastille Day on East 60th Street. Commemorating France’s Independence Day, this event gives New Yorkers the ability to experience French food, music and culture. It’s also a celebration of the favorable relationship between the two countries.
For more information, visit bastilledaynyc.com.

River to River Festival
Lower Manhattan’s largest free festival, presented by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council in partnership with Arts World Financial Center, The Seaport and Battery Park City Authority, River to River is an all-encompassing event that includes film, art, dance and just about any other artistic medium you can imagine. Launched in 2002, this year marks a full decade of events from the East River to the Hudson, a decade that has seen performances from the likes of Patti Smith, Elizabeth Streb’s dance company and poet Ann Lauterbach paying homage to artist Sol LeWitt. This year promises just as many stellar offerings—not to mention a lower profile than many of the summer’s other festivals.
For more information, visit rivertorivernyc.com.

New York City International Fringe Festival (Aug. 10–26)
Get into some demented culture this summer at the Fringe Festival. Celebrating 16 years, FringeNYC showcases more than 200 companies performing for 16 days in more than 20 venues. This multiarts fest includes outlandish performance art, odd dramas, dark comedy sketches, bizarre musicals and much more.
For more information, visit fringenyc.org.

FALL

NYC Apple Day Festival (September)
While one might assume this event is centered on candied apples, pies and ciders, the fest, started by Lower East Side Business Improvement District President Mark Miller in 2008, also celebrates the neighborhood’s roots in this fall fruit. According to the BID, the LES in the 1700s was almost exclusively an apple orchard owned by farmer James De Lancey Sr., and it is this past that gave Orchard Street its name. Last year, the event included a pie-eating competition with a grand prize of $500, in addition to upstate apple growers selling their wares and local restaurants offering apple-centric dishes.

Feast of San Gennaro (Sept. 13–23)
Every September for the last 86 years has found tourists and downtown denizens alike stuffed to the gills at Little Italy’s Feast of San Gennaro, an all-you-can eat offering. In addition to the food, there is live music, cooking demonstrations and eating competitions (instead of hot dogs, there are cannolis!), parades and processions for the festival’s 11-day duration. The whole event is still a homey affair, suffused with a block party vibe that even the masses of tourists can’t dispel. All of New York City comes out for the Feast of San Gennaro—if you haven’t been yet, you may not be a real New Yorker!
For more information, visit sangennaro.org.

The New York Film Festival (Sept. 28–Oct. 14)
The 50th New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center brings together upcoming and essential works by filmmakers from around the world. The films and events are divided into categories such as Main Slate, Masterworks, Special Events, Views from the Avant-Garde, a showcase of non-narrative experimental films and others. Screenings will take place in a number of venues, including Alice Tully Hall and the Walter Reade Theater. The Lincoln Center Film Society selects the films. Every year there is an opening night, a centerpiece and a closing night film; in 2011, the opener was Roman Polanski’s Carnage, the centerpiece was Simon Curtis’ My Week With Marilyn and Alexander Payne’s The Descendants closed it up.
For more information, visit filmlinc.com.

CMJ Music & Film Festival (Oct. 16–20)
For five days and nights, CMJ’s more-marathon-than-festival plays host to over 1,300 performances and dozens of film screenings in 80-plus venues. CMJ has been known to consume serious music fans who buy passes and spend the five days at seminars, panels, parties, premieres and mixers. Despite its huge scale, CMJ is still insular enough to feel like a college campus—its headquarters are actually located at NYU. For a little less than a week, once again enjoy the feeling of living to hear the hottest undiscovered bands play.
For more information, visit cmj.com/marathon.

WINTER

DOC NYC (November)
DOC NYC—a documentary-based film festival operating out of the IFC Center and NYU’s Kimmel Center—has built a reputation for attracting big names and even bigger films. The over 200 special guests who attended the festival last year included documentary film visionaries like D.A. Pennebaker and Barbara Kopple and more mainstream figures like Russell Simmons, Charlotte Rampling and Joe Frazier. Only in its second year in 2011, the fest opened with Werner Herzog’s Into the Abyss and included screenings of popular films like Buck, Project Nim and Page One: Inside the New York Times. For any lover of nonfiction filmmaking, DOC NYC is a jackpot.
For more information, visit docnyc.net.

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