Flowers in NYC: The Best Places to See the City in Bloom

Flowers in NYC: The Best Places to See the City in Bloom

New York City is known for its bustle, its glam, its excitement, and…its flowers? That’s right — in springtime, our concrete jungle becomes a hotspot for garden enthusiasts. Is one of the city’s best bloom-spotting attractions in your backyard? Read on to find out!

 

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

If you’ve never been to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in spring, you’re missing out. As the weather warms, the garden boasts no less than 17 varieties of blooming cherry blossoms. Those blooms aren’t the only draw; visitors can find and enjoy the sights and smells of exotic and domestic flowers alike in the garden’s plant collections and specialty gardens. If you’re looking for a dash of culture with your springtime flowers, check out the Steinhardt Conservatory! This horticultural center encompasses the C.V. Starr Bonsai Museum, an aquatic plant house, an art gallery, and three climate-themed plant pavilions.

 

Central Park Conservatory

If you’re a fan of European formal gardens, the Central Park Conservatory is a must-see. This quiet, six-acre corner of the Park boasts three sections adhering to the English, French, and Italian styles of formal gardening, respectively. It’s a peaceful haven for flower enthusiasts who want to enjoy a meditative moment of admiration. Wilder blooms can also be spotted along Central Park’s less-formal walking trails and green spaces.

 

Queens Botanical Garden

What’s spring without a little fun? New flowers pop up and bloom near-daily in this 39-acre plot, making the Queens Botanical Garden a prime weekend destination for nature-loving families. The garden hosts several events to celebrate new blooms throughout the season, including its family-centric Arbor Day Festival. This high-energy event offers kids the chance to do arts and crafts, visit a petting zoo, play in a bouncy castle, and more! Adults can enjoy a quieter spring season by walking through the Queen’s Botanical Garden’s arboretum, visiting its art gallery, or exploring its rose, herb, perennial, and bee gardens.

 

New York Botanical Garden

Want a tech-friendly take on flower-spotting? The New York Botanical Garden has you covered. If you love azaleas, daffodils, roses, or cherry trees and don’t want to miss seeing any or all in peak blossom, check out the NYBG’s plant trackers! These trackers offer flower enthusiasts a quick glimpse of how far into bloom these springtime staples are from the comfort of their homes. Don’t cap your visit to peak season, though. NYBG hosts a series of events to highlight its plants, including an indoors orchard show!

 

Wave Hill

Wave Hill might be small, but its snowdrop populations are unparalleled. This 28-acre park is a quintessential New York garden spot tucked away in the Bronx; it has wildflower greens, woodland paths, and lovely vistas.

 

Narrows Botanical Garden

Founded in the mid-nineties by two Bay Ridge residents, the Narrows Botanical Garden is living proof that local engagement can make positivity bloom within a community. The garden is home to several tree groves, a butterfly garden, a turtle sanctuary, and flocks of birds. Interestingly, the Narrows only includes plants native to New York. Today, the park is still maintained by Bay Ridge residents. It has a delightful view of the Bay and the Statue of Liberty.

 

The High Line

Springtime isn’t only for delicate flowers. The Highline encompasses a collection of hardy New England perennials, shrubs, and trees. Its Lilafee Barrenwort — a tough plant with rich, spring-blooming purple flowers — is particularly beautiful this time of year. The most exciting time for the High Line, however, is its annual spring cutback. Unlike other gardens, landscapers for the High Line allow winter-dried stalks to remain in place as habitat for native wildlife. In the spring, the High Line invites hundreds of local volunteers to join their gardeners in cutting back plants by hand to allow for compost and new growth. It’s an experience that garden enthusiasts won’t want to miss!

 

So, what are you waiting for? Shake off that winter chill and get hopping; there’s a ton to enjoy at these NYC gardens!

 

Want more insights about New York’s hidden treasures? Check out our post on NYC’s Most Overlooked Landmarks!

The 7 Best NYC Outdoor Brunches to Enjoy in Spring & Summer

The 7 Best NYC Outdoor Brunches to Enjoy in Spring & Summer

What’s better than a delicious mid-morning brunch in New York City? That’s easy — a mid-morning brunch that can be enjoyed during the peak of Spring! Below, we list a few of our must-go brunch places. These top-notch restaurants span the cuisine gamut, but they have one common characteristic — they all offer an outdoors dining experience.

 

Believe us, brunch doesn’t get much better than this. Try out one (or all) of these fantastic restaurants this spring!

 

Claro

Brooklyn

With its casual atmosphere and morning-patio ambiance, Claro pairs the comfortable welcome of a friend’s backyard with the culinary expertise of a high-tier restaurant. All of Claro’s cheese and sausages are crafted in-house, and it’s not rare to see a chef grilling away on the back patio. Bring a friend or three; this restaurant sports a counter bar, tables and enough green space to make even a fast-paced New York morning feel relaxed. Best of all? Claro takes reservations.  

 

Price Point: $$

Menu Highlights: Offerings change daily, but we recommend the huevos oaxaqueños and mezcal-based cocktails!

 

Gottino Enoteca Salumeria

West Village

Who says that a wine bar can’t pull off brunch? Gottino adds a delicious Italian flair to its midmorning meal, crafting a menu that would make any jaded foodie ask for seconds, grazi. Best of all, springtime visitors can enjoy a meal at one of the restaurant’s outdoor tables. With a charming wooden fence, soft hanging lights, and delicate greenery, Gottino’s outdoor ambiance isn’t one to miss.

 

Price Point: $$

Menu Highlights: We recommend Gottino’s Uova al Tegame — sunny-side eggs with pancetta and sage. Keep a lookout for daily specials, too!

 

Llama Inn

Williamsburg

Sure, you might have tried Peruvian food — but if you haven’t experienced Llama Inn’s brunch, you’re sorely missing out. This charming restaurant is upscale and fun, with a beautiful rooftop patio that any springtime diner will love. The outdoor space’s sharp modern aesthetic is softened into quirky charm by colorful throw pillows and cozy seating.

 

Price Point: $$$

Menu Highlights: Set aside the pancakes for once. Why not try the tacu tacu with adobo sauce, pork sausage, fried egg, and avocado?

 

Esme

Greenpoint

Esme’s outdoor patio is a delight; a plethora of well-maintained plants bring life and peaceful ambiance to the space, counterbalancing the bustle of the city outside. Cloth drapes stretch overhead, allowing for both natural sunlight and airflow while still keeping harsh sunlight off of diners. Long tables and intimate two-person rounds allow parties large and small alike to enjoy their creative takes on classic brunch plates. Be warned, though — Esme’s brunch is only on weekends. The good news? They take reservations.

 

Price Point: $$

Menu Highlights: You’ve never had French toast quite like this. Try Esme’s Savory Parmesan French Toast with tomato-braised kale and slow-poached eggs!

 

Hudson Clearwater

West Village

Enjoy the best of American brunch in Hudson Clearwater’s garden patio. This space uses brick, wrought iron, and climbing ivy to create a tucked-away aesthetic that is equal parts charming and quiet. Two-person wrought-iron tables populate the space and contribute to the patio’s intimate ambiance. It’s a great spot for a comfortable brunch, but you may not want to invite more than a few friends if you care to eat outside. Keep in mind; brunch is only available on weekends from 9 AM to 3 PM.

 

Price Point: $$

Menu Highlights: Enjoy some southern charm on a New York morning! Order Hudson Clearwater’s Southern eggs benedict — poached eggs with house-cured ham, sauteed spinach, jalapeno hollandaise, and a biscuit.

 

Sunday in Brooklyn

Williamsburg

Want to enjoy mid-morning brunch on a tucked-away rooftop? Look no further — you can while away a pleasant Sunday in Brooklyn…at Sunday in Brooklyn. This delightful restaurant may not be the place for large parties to gather, but it’s a fantastic spot for an outdoor brunch with friends or a midmorning date. Be warned — the restaurant can get crowded from time to time, but the food and ambiance is well-worth the wait.

 

Price Point: $$$

Menu Highlights: You may have had pancakes — but have you had Sunday’s malted pancakes with hazelnut maple praline and brown butter?

 

Narcissa

East Village

Let’s bring a little more lunch into brunch, shall we? Narcissa offers some fantastic American plates for those who want a little less breakfast in their late morning meals, along with several brunch-dedicated cocktails. The restaurant also maintains an enormous patio spaced with charming wood furniture. Well-placed trees and plants create a garden-like outdoors ambiance, while decorative hanging lights and paper ornaments add a delightful flair to the space.

 

Price Point: $$

Menu Highlights: Bring the bacon to brunch; the Steakhouse Burger piles bacon, shropshire blue, spinach, jalapeno, and garlic mayo high on the plate.

 

All of these spots are well-worth a visit. Check out our blog if you want more neat tips on how to snag a reservation at some of the most exclusive restaurants in NYC or find the coolest comedy clubs in the city!

The Best Places in NYC to Watch Game of Thrones, Final Season

The Best Places in NYC to Watch Game of Thrones, Final Season

New Yorkers may be ready for spring in the city, but Winter is fast approaching – for the HBO series Game of Thrones, that is. The eighth and final season returns to the small screen on April 14th, and plenty of New Yorkers are looking to travel back to Westeros with their fellow fans.

 

Whether you just want to venture out for the premiere or make watching with friends a weekly habit, here are four spots to catch the show which offer special drinks, reserved watching areas, and all around revelry that would make the show’s original master of excess, Tyrion Lannister, proud.

Liquor Lab

If mixology is your thing, head to SoHo’s Liquor Lab and make like wine-swilling Queen Cersei. For the Game of Thrones premiere, the Lab has planned one of their signature hands-on cocktail creation experiences at the Game of Thrones cocktails and watch party, which includes teaching attendees how to mix up three show-inspired cocktails – The Rains of Castamere, North of the Wall and the Search for the Grey Lady. Pizza and snacks will also be served as you create.

 

Junoon

This Michelin-starred Indian restaurant has developed nine in-house Game of Thrones-themed cocktails over the years including the Jon Snow, said to be dark and mysterious, which arrives in a sea of spiced smoke, the Arya Stark, which appears innocent but comes with a kick, and the Mother of Dragons, which comes with its own citrus peel dragon head garnish. The bartender at Junoon, Hemant Pathak, will debut a 10th themed cocktail at the premiere — rumor has it, it’s dragon glass related.

 

Parklife

If you are really ready to be outside, show up at this self-described oasis in Brooklyn which has 4,000 square feet of outdoor space, drinks and food on April 14th at 7:30pm. Watch the Season 7 finale followed by the premiere under the stars at 9pm. Check back to see if the whole season will be screened, and enjoy your Game of Thrones drama in the outdoors as the weather warms up.

 

The Bedford

The night may be long and full of terrors in Westeros, but at The Bedford in Williamsburg you’ll find a rustic haven to watch the show every Sunday. The upscale pub, known for casual neighborhood dining, occupies a former garage. The restaurant has a carefully curated wine list, cocktails and a back dining room with a projector screen to make sure attendees can catch every minute of the final season.

 

No matter where you choose to catch Game of Thrones’s final season’s action, these venues make it possible to have a hand to hold and a shoulder to cry on, as well as a drink in hand. To paraphrase one of the show’s most infamous lines: if you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.

 

Looking for NYC activities with no series finale? Read our guides to the best live comedy, pub trivia, and free music in the five boroughs!

NYC’s Most Exclusive Restaurants (and How to Get a Reservation)

NYC’s Most Exclusive Restaurants (and How to Get a Reservation)

New York City is a global mecca for art, fashion, entertainment, and just about every cultural delight, especially food. It’s safe to say no other city in the world has a higher density of eateries than NYC. It’s well-known as a foodie’s paradise with every sort of dining from pizza shacks to casual eateries to fine luxury dining. Foodies who want to go all out and head to the most exclusive New York restaurants are usually surprised to find that their name may have to remain on a waiting list for months! This list of some of NYC’s most elegant restaurants will give you an idea of what to expect from a high-end restaurant in terms of menu, atmosphere — and making reservations.

 

Le Bernardin – Midtown Manhattan

With a long list of accolades including a four-star rating by the New York Times, this French seafood restaurant originated in Paris, making the entrées truly authentic. The talented French-born chef Eric Ripert is at the helm cooking up fresh and simple seafood cuisine. Feasting on peerless dishes like baked lobster, royal osetra caviar, and geoduck sashimi is the ultimate foodie luxury. The food is the reason for more James Beard awards than any other NYC restaurant and includes Outstanding Restaurant, Outstanding Chef and Outstanding Wine. In 2012, a redesign earned the space numerous design awards.

Le Bernardin accepts reservations online or by phone, beginning on the first day of each month for the following month, and is closed on Sundays. Be prepared for a long wait, but one well worth it.

 

Rao’s – East Harlem

Located in Spanish Harlem, Rao’s Italian restaurant has existed since 1896. The food is authentic Italian, of course, and the whole atmosphere is old school New York. It’s the red sauce that carries the show: it’s considered by many to be the best in the world and is sold on store shelves nationwide. The restaurant itself boasts several wildly delicious entrées like steak pizzaiola and Italian meatloaf, but the huge meatballs are the main draw, and diners can enjoy them in meatball sliders, on top of spaghetti muffins, and served as cocktail meatballs.

It’s almost impossible to get a table at Rao’s because years ago, as their popularity grew, the owners realized that valued, long-time customers were having difficulty getting reservations. Their answer was to give the regulars first dibs on tables. Consequently, it can take an immeasurable amount of time to swing a spot at Rao’s. Start calling your most connected contacts now.

 

The Chef’s Table At Brooklyn Fare – Midtown West

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. Turns out that’s true about restaurants, and the Chef’s Table proves it. It’s a small place in an ordinary looking part of Brooklyn and is in reality, a converted kitchen that only seats 16 people. This scarcity combined with their divine menu of Japanese Food with a French twist puts this restaurant on the hard-to-get-reservations list. Chef Cesar Ramirez is the mastermind behind delicacies like truffle ravioli and brandade, and his talent earned him a James Beard award and a Michelin 3-star rating. Chef Cesar’s tasting menu takes over two hours to complete but satisfied patrons will be more than willing to take their time to savor it.

Reservations can be made online or by phone Monday-Friday from 10:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and fill up far in advance. Expect several months of waiting before your seat is available.

 

Atera – Tribeca

Chef Matt Lightner has brought a taste of the Pacific Northwest to the Big Apple with his buzz-worthy restaurant in Tribeca called Atera. The atmosphere is very inviting, with modern décor and a chill-worthy downstairs lounge area. Still, it’s the food that’s the main draw. They have a two and a half-hour long tasting menu that’s seasonal and evolving and includes fresh, locally sourced produce. Each dish is creatively put together to perfection and will make the taste buds sing for joy.

Make reservations at least six weeks in advance to dine at Atera. They can only be made online.

 

Looking for world-class eats on a budget? Visit New York’s ethnic enclaves in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Jackson Heights, Queens and Arthur Avenue in The Bronx for incredible food that won’t require a jacket and tie, just a hearty appetite.

NYC’s Best Comedy Clubs

NYC’s Best Comedy Clubs

This city is filled with venues and event spaces, but there’s no hallowed hall quite like a comedy club. Whether seeing a legendary headliner or a night of up-and-comers, there are countless spots in the city where laughs reign supreme. These are our 5 favorite places to laugh it up in the city that never sleeps.

Comedy Cellar

For those who don’t mind seeing their comedic idols (way) up close, this intimate Greenwich Village club might be the best attraction in the city. The smallness of the venue works to its advantage, with comic luminaries like Dave Chappelle, Todd Barry, Aziz Ansari and many more getting up close and personal with uproariously laughing crowds. With a showcase format, no set lasts longer than 20 minutes, and celebrity drop-ins happen often. When you’re at the Cellar, you never know who will stop by.

Upright Citizens Brigade Theater

The home of comedy innovation nationwide, Upright Citizens Brigade theater was founded in 1999 with a focus on the best in improv. More than a venue, UCB also hosts a full comedy school with classes taught by pros experienced in getting big laughs on TV and film. If you’re more at home in the seats than onstage, the UCB Theater features affordable high-quality shows at each of its NYC locations in the East Village and Hell’s Kitchen. Whether stand-up, sketches or full-on improvised scenes, UCB is always the place for what’s new and exciting in comedy before it hits the big or small screen.

Caroline’s

Parked in the heart of Times Square, this is the appropriately premier landing place when the biggest names in comedy come to NYC. It’s not all boldface names, however: the club frequently hosts rising stars eager to make a name for themselves. In a city like New York, there’s no shortage of talented acts just waiting for their big break, and there’s likely no better environment to enjoy them than at this 300-seat, architecturally significant space on the Great White Way.

The Creek and the Cave

With a name that sounds decidedly dour, you might be forgiven for confusing this locale for the latest farm-to-table eatery in Long Island City. Instead, you’ll find Mexican eats described as “serviceable” and some of NY’s most scrumptious comedy fare. With multiple spaces and an expansive patio, this is the kind of place comedy lovers of all stripes can show up and find something worth laughing at. While you’re in Queens, consider Jackson Heights for dinner before you hit the Creek for a buffet of laughter.

The Stand

The neighborhood that was once home to America’s original humorist happily carries on that tradition in the 21st century. At this Gramercy area club, however, the menu is almost as enticing as the humor. Home to a critically-acclaimed chef serving up high-quality food and cocktails, The Stand promises a night of great eats and belly laughs. Now that they’ve moved to their current location to accommodate larger crowds, rest assured you won’t feel stuffed in when you take your seat. That comes once you’re through with dinner.

New York’s Most Unique Pub Trivia

New York’s Most Unique Pub Trivia

Do you experience sleepless nights wondering about alternative names for the artichoke, the number of stars on the European Union flag, or who invented the rabies vaccination?

For New Yorkers looking for a nerdy spin on the usual night out with friends, trivia is exactly what the doctor ordered. These five locales are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fact-filled nights on the town in all five boroughs. Study (and bottoms) up!

Indian Road Cafe

This rustic eatery is certainly uniquely situated–you’ll find it all the way at the northern tip of Manhattan, on the edge of Inwood Hill Park. 218th Street is home to one of New York’s most fun and fascinating trivia nights, with an appropriately colorful MC known only as Mr. Phil. Prizes for winners include t-shirts, free drinks, gift cards and more. A haven for the truly obsessed, Indian Road hosts a robust online presence for their trivia night, with a detailed scoreboard and standings.

Bar Belly

This Chinatown hotspot might be best known for their creative cocktails and underpriced oysters, but don’t let the chic decor fool you. Every Tuesday this is the venue for one of the city’s most challenging and off-kilter trivia nights, complete with a $100 grand prize. Show up a little early to enjoy their unique happy hour selection before the Q&A crowd gets going.

Parkside Lounge

Looking for even more gaming fun with your trivia? Parkside Lounge on East Houston Street may become your home away from home. Before or after the trivia rounds, partake in any of their other forms of entertainment like a photo booth, Pac-Man and foosball, an old-school jukebox and more. Bring 3 of your brainiest buddies, but no more than that–4 person teams are the strictly followed rule here.

Videology Bar & Cinema

If movies are your thing, arrive early to test your knowledge at Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s Videology: their trivia night is so popular that people are often turned away at the door. It might be tough to find a more appropriate place for movie trivia, as Videology functions as both a bar and an independent cinema, playing cult favorites and obscurities from every era of film. Winners of these trivia rounds can get rounds of free drinks or even a two-hour private party in the screening room!

The Strand Smokehouse

A neighborhood with some impressive future neighbors, Astoria in Queens currently hosts one of the most unique trivia spots in any borough. When the sun goes down, this hotspot for smoked meat and bourbon fills up with an audience hungry for the greatest sustenance of all: knowledge. Winners can earn a $50 tab, a round of shots or even a free day of rock climbing.

Want even more options? The city’s got tons, so you won’t have to rush to find a favorite.. There’s no shortage of quizzical fun to be had any night of the week, and no better competition than the multitude of minds in New York City. Better start studying!

Looking for more NYC nightlife? Read our guide to the Best Free Music Spots or keep it on the hush at one of the city’s Coolest Speakeasies.

Winter 2019’s Best Hot Chocolate in NYC

Winter 2019’s Best Hot Chocolate in NYC

It may be frigid on the streets of New York, but inside the many great cafes and restaurants across the city, a delectable chocolate indulgence awaits. For a satisfying mug of divine deliciousness that will thaw you out, the city has many choices. These are our top five favorite spots for a hot chocolate that’s unlike any other.

The City Bakery

The City Bakery is not just a bakery, but also a cafe, wholesaler, caterer, and chocolate shop. Founded in 1990, they’ve since expanded all the way to Japan, but there’s no place like their NYC home for their highly original treats. Dark hot chocolate is their claim to fame: rich, thick, and slightly (but delightfully) bitter, you may be inspired to order a second cup. Be sure to splurge for the large marshmallow.

Max Brenner

For chocolate lovers of all stripes, Max Brenner is a must-see. Willy Wonka might be jealous of their chocolate fountains and whimsical, family-friendly menu. That menu features more than 10 different types of hot chocolate, each is a completely mind-blowing affair in its own right. Notable is their famed “Suckao Experience,” a very concentrated shot of either white or milk hot chocolate. “Suckao” describes the act of literally sucking the drink down with a metal straw. Bring your sweet tooth and don’t be shy about sharing the experience with your friends (and followers)!

Alice’s Tea Cup

The name might imply that this cafe is for tea lovers only, but don’t be fooled. Their selections involve tea most of the time but in all the right ways. Their hot chocolate is infused with teas like Rooibos Bourbon and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne, so those who face a wintertime drink dilemma will be right at home here. Each concoction is unique to Alice’s and wholly memorable in its own right. These boundary-pushing flavor combinations are well worth a try for anyone bored with the usual.

Maman

This French-inspired bakery with 7 locations across Manhattan and Brooklyn has become renowned for their inventive indulgences. Lavender-infused hot chocolate stands out on a menu filled with remarkable treats and favorites. Their nutty chocolate chip cookie, perfect for dipping, made Oprah’s “favorite things list” for 2017. If it’s good enough for Lady O, it’s definitely worth a try.

Sant Ambroeus

Named for a Milanese bishop born in 334 AD, this eatery focuses on “savoring each moment.” Their three Manhattan locations are the height of urban sophistication, with elegant mugs of incredible hot chocolate, or cioccolata calda, to match. Relaxation is the vibe in this Euro-infused experience. Dairy-free options mean there’s no restriction on enjoyment here, either, as all their elegant mugs of hot chocolate come with the milk of your choice – almond, soy, or whole.

It’s time to give up on the powdered stuff in a packet. Be kinder to yourself, it’ll be worth the trip. Take advantage of winter to enjoy the city’s best offerings for hot chocolate: warm your body as well as your soul. In these temperatures, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

 

Looking for more great NYC food and drink? Check out our guides to NYC’s most Instagrammable dessert spots, the Five Coolest Speakeasies in the City, and the best Food Halls in town.

 

4 Places to Enjoy Great Free Music in NYC

4 Places to Enjoy Great Free Music in NYC

The best things in life are indeed free, and no event proves that as well as a free concert. This being the city that never sleeps, almost every night of 2019 in NYC will feature a no-cost world-class concert experience for music lovers of all stripes. After we’re done ringing in the new year, there’s no reason to press pause on having a good time out in the city. Here are 4 hot spots to find live music that won’t put any stress on your wallet.

Lost in Music Pop-Up (201 Mulberry Street)

New Yorkers are no strangers to the coolest pop-up experiences, so when Sony opened Lost in Music this past fall, the free and immersive tech and music showcase was right at home. From now until February, visitors to this spot in SoHo can check out a walkthrough audio zone that has to be seen (and heard) to be believed. But come around on Fridays for the headlining event: live performances from artists like A$AP Ferg, Zara Larsson, and Lauren Jauregui, with many more still to come. The shows are simulcast live on YouTube, but as any music fan knows, you just gotta be there!

Bar Chord (1008 Cortelyou Road)

Music lovers who are a little more analog-inclined might look to Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn, where Bar Chord serves up great drinks with live music most days of the week at no extra charge. There’s a weekly Jazz Jam on Sunday nights, and a visit on any other night can find you jamming to salsa, hard rock, country and everything in between without a strobe light in sight. Right off the F train, the good times on offer make a trip to the Ditmas Park neighborhood in Brooklyn well worth it, no matter which corner of the city you’re hailing from.

Concerts At One (75 Broadway)

Visitors to Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan (right off Wall Street) are usually there to see a National Historic Landmark, one of the gems of New York City. Those who show up on a Thursday afternoon at 1 pm, however, are treated to a free classical music show inside the hallowed walls of the church. The Monday editions are held at nearby St. Paul’s Chapel, so twice a week tourists and NYC natives alike can take in a refined bit of culture, free of charge.

SummerStage (various locations)

While temperatures drop, it may seem like a long time away but this summerlong, citywide festival of free shows is always worth the wait. While the best-known venue is Central Park, there are annually around 15-18 city parks across all five boroughs that participate, putting on top-notch performances. Last year’s slate of performers included the Metropolitan Opera, old-school rappers EPMD and Big Daddy Kane, and enough jazz, classical, and world music vibrations to make fans of any genre get up and dance. 2019’s lineup will be announced in the spring, so keep your summer calendars at the ready!

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Holiday celebrations are in full swing all over NYC, and there’s no better symbol of the season than Rockefeller Center’s famous tree. While it’s recognizable all across the globe, even born and bred New Yorkers may learn a thing or two from this list of fun facts.

  1. It’s got very humble origins

While today’s tree is a glittery example of the bigger-is-better spirit that permeates the city, the first tree in 1931 was raised under a slightly different set of circumstances. The construction workers, happy to be on the job in the midst of the Great Depression, showed their Christmas spirit by pooling money to set up a 20 foot balsam fir which they decorated with homemade garlands and ornaments. It became an official tradition two years later, and with the completion of Rockefeller Center and the resurgence of the city, it became a symbol of the again-prosperous country.

 

  1. Generosity is a rule

The spirit of giving truly lives in this Christmas tradition! Rockefeller Center pays for cutting and transportation, but every year’s tree comes as a donation from property owners who decide to let their tree light up Midtown. Not to end there, every tree since 1973 has also been recycled. Earlier years saw them mulched to be spread in NYC parks, but more recently trees have been turned into wood beams which are then used by Habitat for Humanity as they build homes for low-income Americans.

 

  1. It’s got a suitably big decoration budget

It stands to reason that this major tree requires some serious decorating. It takes a crew of 20 about 9 days to complete the process, and their working materials put even the most enthusiastic home decorator to shame. The string of lights is about 7 miles long-enough to cover the border of Central Park! Along that wire there’s 50,000 LED lights, which use less energy and make the tree even more ‘green.’ Standing atop the mighty spruce is the crowning jewel–specially redesigned by famed architect Daniel Libeskind for 2018. The Swarovski star is made up of 70 spikes with 25,000 crystals and weighs in at an incredible 900 pounds. It reportedly costs about $1.5 million.

 

  1. If it can make it here…

Moving a 70-80 foot tree is no small task, so organizers normally look to nearby New Jersey or Connecticut for ease of getting the massive spruce to Rockefeller Center. That wasn’t the case, however, in 1998. Richfield, Ohio was the home of that year’s choice fir, brought to NYC on the world’s largest transport plane. While that journey was certainly a long one, that airborne trip wasn’t the longest distance the tree has had to travel to Midtown. That honor goes to 1967’s iteration, which hailed from Petawawa Forest in Ontario, Canada. After 550 miles traveled, NYC had their perfect tree. It’s also been delivered on a barge down the Hudson River, meaning whether by air, land or sea, there’s no obstacle to getting the perfect Spruce into Rockefeller Center!

 

  1. Among the skyscrapers

The tree’s height of course varies every year, but organizers generally like to find one within a sweet spot of between 65 to 80 feet. In 1999, however, fresh off the tree’s first airplane flight in history, organizers must have felt the need to top themselves. That was accomplished with the tallest specimen NYC has seen: a whopping 100 foot high Norway Spruce from Killingworth, Connecticut. Cathy and Jim Thomson generously gave this monster over to Rockefeller Center and got to see their pride lit up for the entire city to enjoy. This year’s tree tops out at 72 feet, and will stay up for New Yorkers and tourists alike to enjoy until January 7th.

Amazon’s New Neighbors: Fun Facts and Things to See in Long Island City

Amazon’s New Neighbors: Fun Facts and Things to See in Long Island City

Amazon’s upcoming move to the waterfront neighborhood of Long Island City (LIC) has Queens residents abuzz with anticipation, and they’re not the only ones. Local businesses are prepared to welcome the new arrivals with a growing slate of housing, eating, and retail options.

There’s no doubt that we’ll see plenty of ambitious new projects shaping up alongside HQ2, but LIC already has plenty to offer. Long Island City is an artistic community teeming with countless cultural gems, impressive green spaces, and a solid portfolio of quirky bars, specialty restaurants, and down-to-business coffee shops. It’s currently home to over 150 restaurants, bars, and cafes; more than 39 arts and cultural institutions; five waterfront parks; and 32 hotels, with 43 others in the works. From its spectacular views of Manhattan to its lovely parks, trendy restaurants, and easy access to public transportation, LIC will prove an exceptional home for Amazon’s planned new hires.

 

Cultural Visits:

MoMA PS1: A satellite location of Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the lesser-known MoMA PS1 is located within a weathered school building, boasting an impressive array of contemporary art within a laid back atmosphere. During warmer months, the museum runs its popular Warm Up series, outdoor events presenting the best in live and electronic music. Last year Warm Up hosted more than 75 artists across 10 energy-packed sessions.

Museum of the Moving Image: This museum explores the history of film with interactive exhibitions, and also doubles as a cinema. Events include everything from screenings of contemporary films (including Q&As with special guests) to showings of cult classics.

The Noguchi Museum: This museum specializes in works by artist Isamu Noguchi, an artist and landscape architect who is especially well-known for his sculpture and public works. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of his art, consisting of two floors, as well as an outdoor sculpture garden.

 

Other Must-Sees:

Dutch Kills Green: This 1.5 acre oasis in Queens Plaza, formerly a parking lot, was transformed in 2012 into a green space that houses a native-plant wetlands, a collection of artist-created benches, an amphitheatre, and a bike trail that starts at Pulaski Bridge and takes adventurous riders all the way to Manhattan’s Lower East Side

Gantry Plaza State Park: A 12-acre riverfront park, Gantry Plaza features gardens, fishing piers, sports fields, a playground, a mist fountain, and frequent live music. Most notably, though, the park is known for its incredible views of the midtown Manhattan skyline, the 59th Street Bridge, and the Williamsburg Bridge. Visitors are sure to enjoy strolling around its four piers and manicured gardens.

The Cliffs at LIC: This indoor rock gym is a paragon of flexibility, and not just in the athletes scaling its walls. Climbers can purchase day passes or memberships, and solo climbers can take advantage of auto belays. The gym also offers a number of classes, from rock climbing classes to yoga, pilates, and even AcroYoga. Any level of skill is welcome to take on these “cliffs” near the Queens waterfront.

 

Places to Eat & Drink:

Court Square Diner: Don’t just visit Court Square Diner because it’s one of the city’s last remaining true diners, go there because it serves up a great meal, too. This diner has everything we’ve come to love and expect from such beloved eateries. A sprawling menu, affordable prices, retro decor, and a kitchen that never closes. Absolute perfection.

Dutch Kills: This craft cocktail bar shakes up a huge menu of specialty drinks, and each one is a work of art. It’s big on house-made ingredients (they even make their own grenadine), fresh squeezed juices, and a variety of bitters. While the main attraction is cocktails, the bar also serves a modest selection of wine and beer, as well as a few comfort snacks to soak it all up. Kentucky beer cheese, anyone?

Queens Comfort: Widely considered to be one of New York City’s best brunch spots, Queens Comfort in nearby Astoria is not to be missed. Specializing in comfort food, this place has it all: a menu chock-full of atypical Benedicts, karaoke, live DJs, freestyling MCs, retro movies, and vintage decor. Oh, and it’s BYOB.

 

The best part is….this is just the tiniest of samples. LIC had already been deemed one of the hottest spots for young people pre-Amazon, and while it’s hard to imagine the neighborhood getting any hotter, Amazon’s announcement is sure to add more exciting destinations to the list.