History of Summertime Festivals in NYC

History of Summertime Festivals in NYC

New York City is a veritable hotspot for arts and culture in the summertime. No matter your artistic passions, at least one of the countless, long-running cultural organizations in the city will have something to appeal to your interests. Add one (or all) of the below festivals to your calendar and share in the excitement! Who knows — some of the best performers in the country may be just a short walk from your doorstep.

Celebrate Brooklyn!

First launched in the summer of 1979 by Brooklyn residents, Celebrate Brooklyn! is one of New York City’s longest-running outdoors performing arts festivals. This multi-day summer concert series highlights the best, brightest, and most promising Brooklynite musicians of the year. Since its founding, the festival has showcased over 2,000 artists, many of whom used the appearance as a springboard towards greater success. The festival spotlights internationally-celebrated and emerging artists from all musical genres, including but not limited to classical, jazz, pop, alt, hip-hop and regional American. This year’s lineup features notable performers such as Patti LaBelle, Courtney Barnett, Shareef Keyes & the Groove, and Iron & Wine. Attendees should note that while the festival itself is and has always been free, certain performances are charity benefits and have an associated cost.

Celebrate Brooklyn! starts Tuesday, June 4.

Shakespeare in the Park

Shakespeare in the Park wasn’t always such a summertime staple in Central Park. When director-producer Joseph Staff initially launched the program, he did so with the not-so-hidden disapproval of the then-parks commissioner, Robert Moses. Moses didn’t have a problem with theatre productions in the park per se, but he was firmly against the lawn erosion that audience members were beginning to cause on the grass in front of Turtle Pond. He demanded that Papp charge a fee to cover the cost of sod and lawn care — but Papp refused to charge for the performances, stubbornly maintaining that the theatre should be free to any who cared to see it. A long legal battle ensued between the two parties and ultimately ended in Papp’s favor. Surprisingly, the clash reportedly left Moses with a deep respect for Papp and led the commissioner to request the funds the director needed to build a proper theater in the park.

Since then, Shakespeare in the Park has developed into one of New York City’s most beloved summertime arts offerings. It has entertained over five million people throughout its run, and in past years even featured standout actors like Meryl Streep, James Earl Jones, and Al Pacino.

Interested? You can find the dates for 2019’s productions below. Remember — while entry is free, you’ll need to claim tickets beforehand to reserve a seat!

Much Ado About Nothing: May 21 – June 23

Coriolanus: July 16 – August 11

Hercules: August 21 – September 8

Mostly Mozart

Founded by Jay K. Hoffman, William W. Lockwood Jr., Schuyler G. Chapin, and George F. Schutz in August of 1966, the Mostly Mozart festival was initially intended to provide freelance classical musicians with work opportunities during the summer off-season. Then and now, the event’s in-house orchestra pulls its members from notable classical ensembles across the country; its performers hail from high-profile orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and more.

The focus of Mostly Mozart has expanded since its early years. While the festival primarily offers concerts that feature its in-house orchestra, it also features solo classical artists, dance pieces, panel discussions, and film screenings. Most events occur at the David Geffen Hall at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, but other venues include and are not limited to Rose Theater, Merkin Concert Hall, the Walter Reade Theater, and the David Rubenstein Atrium.

In 2019, the Mostly Mozart festival will run from July 10th through August 10th; tickets for various events available for purchase online.

Midsummer Night Swing

Midsummer Night Swing is a three-week extravaganza of dance, music, and culture. Held at Damrosch Park at the Lincoln Center, this long-running annual event offers new and experienced dancers alike the chance to learn how to swing, disco, salsa, ballroom step, and more. Each night follows a similar pattern: attendees arrive in the early evening for a formal lesson on the dance featured that night, and then spend the next few hours dancing the night away. The fun doesn’t always stop with formal steps, either; in recent years, organizers have even begun handing out wireless headsets and facilitating post-dance silent discos on certain nights!

This year, dancers can enjoy live music from celebrated musicians such as Bobby Valentin, Eyal Vilner Big Band, Curles Turner & Uptown Swing, and Bria Skonberg, among others. This is a ticketed event; attendees can buy four dance passes for $60, six dance passes for $84, a season pass for $170, or advance tickets for select evenings at $18 apiece.

Midsummer Night Swing will run from Tuesday, June 25 until Saturday, July 13th.


Want more artsy events on your calendar? Check out our blog post on the Coolest Pop-Up Museums in NYC!

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!

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.

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!