Explore the High Life
Everyone knows that the High Line is a wonder of modern urban greenery and should be showed off to tourists of all provenances, but not everyone knows you can score a free guided tour of the elevated park this summer. The organization Friends of the High Line runs the events, starting from the High Line on West 14th Street and wandering through the park. Guides will explain how the unique park came into existence, focusing on the design, public artworks and horticulture that make the structure into an experience, as well as the history of the High Line before it became the city gem it is today. Tours are about an hour long and are wheelchair accessible. Guides suggest paying extra attention to the weather when dressing for the tours and arriving early to guarantee a spot.
Tuesdays, 6:30 p.m.; free. Meet at the entrance to the High Line at W. 14th St. & 10th Ave. For questions, email email@example.com.
Moonlight Ride Through the Park
The environmental action group TIME’S UP has been leading cyclists through the evening glow of Central Park for 20 years, so you’re in good hands, even if you’re a newbie to nighttime riding. The first Friday of every month, weather permitting, a group of bicyclists meet at 10 p.m. at Columbus Circle, and guides in the front and back of the gang bring everyone safely and at a leisurely pace through the tranquil park, hopefully by the light of the moon, if it cooperates. The total journey is about 10 miles and ends back where it started around midnight.
The Park as Art Exhibit
Most residents strolling through Central Park don’t stop to ponder the very design of the place, not to mention the majestic additions of the Belvedere Castle and other landmarks. Luckily, the Central Park Conservancy offers free guided tours to enlighten oblivious observers. At various times over the summer, tours meet outside the Tavern on the Green visitor center, inside the park at 67th Street and Central Park West, and guides take groups on an eye-opening walk that shows off the park’s majestic landscapes and romantic vistas that many would miss on a hasty jog. Groups of seven or more can arrange for custom tours by calling 212-360-2726 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPPER WEST SIDE
Lincoln Center, Outside
The famous institution known for its stately theaters takes its programming into the wilds of the West Side this summer for the Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival. All events at the Damrosch Park Bandshell, Hearst Plaza and Josie Robertson Plaza are free. This year, highlights include a performance from the Chinese American Arts Council Acrobatic Group, From Chinatown with Love, family days with the Bindlestiff Cirkus and the U.S. premiere of Tangle, an interactive, audience-created kid-friendly show from Australian troupe Polyglot Theatre. The event concludes with the 29th annual Roots of American Music Festival Aug.11-12.
July 5-Aug. 12. lcoutofdoors.org.
UPPER WEST SIDE
The Lotus Garden
It’s rare that a private garden opens its gates to the public, but every Sunday, The Lotus Garden allows people inside without a key to view its harmonious collection of fragrant blooms and even a couple of small fish ponds. Situated 20 feet above 97th Street on top of a parking garage, it’s a blissful and unexpected escape from the city.
Sundays, 1-4 p.m.; free. The Lotus Garden, W. 97th St. betw. Broadway & West End Ave., thelotusgarden.org.
Wedding Watching in the Cloisters
Who says you need a formal invitation to watch Jane and John tie the knot? The lush gardens and scenic overlooks of Fort Tryon Park serve as the perfect wedding backdrop, and come just about any weekend afternoon, you can gaze at the gowns and rings. Just stay at arm’s length from the invited guests—nobody likes a wedding crasher—and keep your cell phone on vibrate during the vows. If you get a chance, tell the bride the ceremony was lovely; such compliments are probably half the reason they wed in the park to begin with. Mazel tov!
Traipse into New Jersey by Way of the George Washington Bridge
The East Side has the Brooklyn Bridge, but the George Washington Bridge and the Palisades beyond it beckon just as seductively from the west. We dare you to cross it. Only the south side of the bridge is open to pedestrians, which means you won’t miss out on the sight of Manhattan’s western flank. Cross at sunset and see the city bathed in gold toned hues. It does get windy up there, so you will not regret leaving your air conditioned, hermetically sealed apartment. You might even want to pack a picnic; on the other side is Fort Lee Historic Park, the forested site atop the Palisades where the Continental Army held a position over the Hudson River. Start your adventure at 177th and Cabrini, where you can access the pedestrian walkway from 6 a.m. until midnight.
See the Light Side of the Moon from Inwood Hill Park
When it comes to seeing stars, New Yorkers are more likely to see the red-carpet-walking, Oscar-statue-wielding kind than the fiery masses suspended in the cosmos. The opposite is true, however, at Inwood Hill Park, in Manhattan’s northernmost reaches. At sporadic but frequent stargazing sessions led by NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador Jason Kendall, the starry-eyed will get an opportunity to see if there is a man on the moon, discover constellations and become a little more familiar with the cosmos. In a recent event, stargazers held a Jupiter and Venus conjunction party to see the two bright planets pass within two degrees of each other.
Free Paddling on the Hudson
The Inwood Canoe Club has been run since 1902 by paddling enthusiasts, mostly volunteers, who love the river and want to spread the joy of a day spent skimming the surface of the Hudson. Rivergoers should wear clothes that can get splashed (or soaked) and be able to swim. The club provides kayaks, life vests and paddles free of charge, though insurance is required. The club is at the far west end of Dyckman Street; there is a sign at the marina gate directing visitors to the red boathouse.
Sundays, May 27-Sept. 2, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.; free, $4 insurance required per visit or $15 for the season. Inwood Canoe Club, at the Hudson River at Dyckman St., inwoodcanoeclub.com
Big City, Big Fish
New Yorkers are always looking for ways to feel like adventurers, trapped as we may be in our concrete jungle. The charter company Big City Fish lets you feel like a true captain of the high seas, if only for a day, as it guides clients to the most gigantic fish the Hudson and East Rivers have to offer up. The real captain, Craig Gantner, has been fishing since childhood, and is licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard. He champions catch-and-release, mindful of keeping fish populations plentiful for all customers, and can teach landlubbers the arts of fly and spin fishing, as well as simple pole-and-tackle conventional fishing. Gantner’s boat holds up to four people and can pick up passengers from Manhattan or the Jersey City marina.
Summer Days on the River
Riverside Park’s Summer on the Hudson series gives New Yorkers a chance to get groovy on the river all summer long. The park holds tons of events, from Zumba, yoga, Pilates and tai chi classes to concerts for kids to kayaking, all on a regular basis. There are also the special features of the season, including the Sing for Hope Street Pianos—real pianos are placed around the park and are available for players, both pros and tinkerers, to plunk out tunes for two weeks starting June 1. On several Friday evenings, dance troupes from Harlem will show their stuff and encourage others to join in, teaching kids dance moves as well as confidence. There are also DJ dance parties, French films, a fishing festival, and a number of sports activities and lessons.
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