Want to get this column in your inbox? Sign up here.
Hello Summer readers!
We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming* to bring you news about free museums, gardens and more!
This week we heard that New York library-card holders are now able to visit 33 cultural organizations, across all five boroughs, for free! (To be crystal clear, that “New York” includes libraries in Brooklyn and Queens.)
Before we break down all the participating spots by category, here’s some fine print you should know about:
• Reservations must be made in advance, online
• Only one free visit per museum per year
• You can only reserve a pass two months out, and can’t hold more than two reservations at once
• There’s a limited number of passes released each month, so no calendar stacking
• And no cancellations once you retrieve your pass. More detail on all this here.
But it’s worth a little work to get your free culture fix, right?
* Tejal and our regular column of fun neighborhood-based plans will return next week. Sign up here to receive it!
For the Artists
• The Brooklyn Museum’s great strengths are capturing the cultural moment and catering to the borough community. Right now, check Cecilia Vicuña’s exploration of memory and resilience among native people in her exhibit on Andean quipus, cords marked with knots to record figures and memories.
• Design, design, design. Visit Cooper Hewitt to learn about the science of color or design for accessibility. As you might expect, their shop is extra cool.
• The Drawing Center in SoHo celebrates art in its most basic form, connecting drawing to other media from architecture to food, political movements and choreography. Don’t miss Inka Essenhigh’s site-specific wall drawing entitled, “Manhattanhenge.”
• In a Gilded Age mansion off Central Park, the Frick houses the Rembrandts, Vermeers and Whistlers of the world. Be quiet here and don’t touch — this is a place for Serious People.
• On and around a spiral ramp, the Guggenheim displays the wonky “nonobjective” artists from the turn of the 20th century and beyond: Kandinsky, Brancusi, Cézanne… Plus a special exhibit on Giacometti’s skinny, heavy-footed metal figures.
• How can photography change the world? The International Center of Photography in Lower Manhattan displays socially minded visual works, including a temporary exhibition of women artists’ representations of identity through fractured, layered images.
• Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heavenly Bodies exhibit on Fifth Avenue to see the Catholic Church’s influence on fashion over time (Check out our guide to the whole museum here). Then make the trek to the Cloisters for more relics uptown.
• The Museum of Modern Art is the queen of contemporary art museums, currently featuring Bodys Isek Kingelez’s “City Dreams,” an Afrofuturist exhibit of African city models, rendered in utopian miniature. And PS1, MoMA’s even more experimental offshoot in Long Island City currently has a 20-foot hammock in its courtyard (And make sure to catch Sue Coe inside.)
• The Noguchi in Queens was the first museum in America to be conceived and installed by the artist whose work it would display. That’s Isamu Noguchi, a 20th-century sculptor who loved to play with light, as you’ll see inside the space he designed. Bonus: It’s just across from Socrates Sculpture Park, so make it a double feature.
•Isamu Noguchi is the 20th-century sculptor who designed a museum dedicated to his own work. At The Noguchi Museum in Queens, see his prolific work, illuminated innovatively, thanks to Noguchi’s fascination with light. Bonus: it’s just across from Socrates Sculpture Park, so make it a double feature.
• The Rubin’s focus on Himalayan art and spiritual practices makes it a serene outpost in the middle of Chelsea. Astrology, shrines and meditation are all covered here. Make sure to check out the exhibit on anxiety and Tibetan prayer flags.
• Scope works in the Sculpture Center’s building in Long Island City, or go to see their site-specific installation at Hunters Point South Park (always for free). Aluminum canoes painted to resemble national flags are intended to evoke a conversation on how identities and communities are built. Is it where you’ve been, where you are, or where you’re going?
• A Tibetan monastery on Staten Island is worth a pilgrimage. The Tibetan Museum complex includes a fish pond, meditation cells and rotating exhibitions on Himalayan culture.
• Yes, the temporary exhibits at the Queens Museum can awe. But patrons of all ages will stop, stare and even gape as soon as they walk into the room housing the massive panorama of New York. On a scale of 1:1200, the miniature city took more than 100 people and three years to build. Nothing — including tiny airplanes flying in and out of La Guardia — was overlooked.
• The Whitney is all about American art, and while they say their 20th-century collection is their gem, we say it’s the new building by the High Line. Their multiple floors of outdoor roof space by the river are scattered with whimsical sculptural works. The food’s good too.
For the Kids
• Located in Crown Heights, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum boasts of being the first museum in the country expressly dedicated to children (it was established in 1899). Toddlers will love the intricate splash table.
• At the Children’s Museum of the Arts, kids are urged to paint the walls. Or step up to the clay bar. Anything they want, actually, just as long as they tap their imagination to do so. Adults are welcomed to join in the fun. We recommend arriving early to this Village museum, especially on the rainy days (kids wake up early, but you know that).
• Historic Richmond Town was founded as Staten Island’s Historical Society, and has done quite the job of keeping colonial history alive. At the city’s oldest working family farm and in one of the country’s oldest original houses, come for experiential programs that include apprenticeships in weaving, carving and more.
• Stationed on its namesake World War II aircraft carrier, The Intrepid Museum displays everything from a rainbow of planes on its flight deck to authentic charts in its captain’s quarters. Oh, a prototype NASA space shuttle and a missile submarine will also meet you on the Far West Side of Manhattan.
• The Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling in Upper Manhattan is designed to teach 3- to 8-year-old children about their community through art and storytelling. (Closed Monday through Wednesday.)
For the History Buffs
• With locations in both Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights, the Brooklyn Historical Society aims to keep ever-changing Brooklyn connected to its historical foundations. A multimedia waterfront exhibition and artifacts from bygone Brooklyn businesses are currently on view.
• Tour the Louis Armstrong House in Corona, Queens, and look into the intimate space of one of our country’s greatest artists. For a thorough experience, plan your visit during a jazz performance in the garden (though this may cost extra).
• At The Morgan Library & Museum, the library of J.P. Morgan’s father is full of ancient texts, precious artworks, rare manuscripts and Americana. Until September 23, you can catch Wayne Thiebaud’s delightful pastel renderings of food.
• The Museum of the City of New York, another outpost on Museum Mile, explores the history of our city through rotating exhibitions, offering deep dives on everything from urban design to historical people of note. Their exhibition “Rebel Women: Defying Victorianism” is particularly enticing.
• The photographs of a World War II Polish ghetto, now showing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, are a “can’t-miss” exhibit, according to a Times review. It’s just one element of the large, multimedia museum devoted to the Holocaust.
• Inside a defunct subway station in Brooklyn, learn about the transit systems that have been serving, delaying and bringing our city together for over a century. The New York Transit Museum spans a full block underground, with vintage cars galore. Wonderful for children too.
• The Queens Historical Society was initially founded to preserve the Kingsland Homestead, a Long Island Half-House structure in Flushing. Now, you can visit the Victorian-style period room inside that house, and exhibitions on immigrant life and the history of the borough.
• At the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, inside the old Custom House in the financial district, see artifacts from American Indian tribes and dip into contemporary installations by native people.
For the Gardeners
• A meander among the lush and diverse plantings at The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a not-to-be-missed New York outing. Broad walkways connect a variety of exquisite gardens and indoor pavilions chock-full of plants, shrubs and trees. For those visitors who’d like a bit of structure to learn about the seasonal blooms, free guided tours are offered around midday most days.
• Want to paint, get close to nature, or maybe just nap? Visit Wave Hill in Riverdale, “it’s like the Botanical Garden. But quieter.” The 28-acre public garden and cultural center is open year-round, but closed on Mondays.
• Once you get the card, let it work overtime: It also lets you stream movies for free.
• And, lest we forget, your library card also lets you borrow books. See some of our summer picks here.
Extra Extra — Free!
• Until 7 p.m. today, 75,000 bird renderings are flying through the Grand Central Terminal, designed to honor the birds saved from oil spills by the International Bird Rescue. Whoever said there’s no nature in Midtown?
• A full day of free fitness activities occurs every Thursday in Union Square. Today there’s dance cardio, a group run and sunset yoga.
• Fairway Market is giving away free picnic baskets on Saturday at Flatiron Plaza. Where you lay your blanket is up to you.
• Opening on the Lower East Side next week is Skip/Salvage, a group exhibition of contemporary collage and sculptural works made of found objects in (or inspired by) New York City.
“Your column is very quickly gaining ground as my favorite. Thank you so much for all the info, and especially for the focus on multicultural events and issues. Bravo.” — Private Practice
Private Practice, we’re blushing. You aren’t Margot’s mom, are you?
Next week we’re going to a neighborhood that feels like leaving the city. What are your “I can’t believe it’s still N.Y.C.” spots? Tell us at email@example.com, and also share any other tips or suggestions on what you like to do or see.
You can also check out our previous ideas — many are still going strong.