New York City, NY

7 Things to Do Outdoors in New York in Spring 2021

Ioana Andrei

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Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

We're used to our former must-sees happening online by now. With many of us still under siege, we're going to the ballet on Vimeo, booking museum tours on Eventbrite, and pressing play on plays while co-spectating on Zoom.

(Side note - have dictionaries changed the definition of "zoom" yet?)

As we've seen in 2020, falling infection rates cue a loosening of restrictions. In New York City, indoor dining has opened up to 50% capacity starting March 19, and concert and sports venues are expected to start at 20% capacity from April 1st.

If you're ready to dip your toe in New York water, here's a top 7 list of real-life activities you can do in the city right now.

1. Central Park

There is no New York list without Central Park.

Whether you're strolling by yourself or on a socially distanced walk, the park shares a beat in the pulse of the city. It also happens to be the main bit of greenery in the concrete jungle we've been bound to for a year.

So, go on, get your green on.

If you're heading down Literary Walk, check out artist Meredith Bergmann's sculpture of feminist pioneers Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

The Wollman Rink is open for socially distanced ice skating, on 59th Street. You can buy your tickets online or in cash.

You should also visit the Conservatory Garden up on 105th Street. Flowers are starting to bloom and it's a lot quieter than the rest of the park as it's a cycle and runner-free zone.

2. MoMa

As it states on its homepage, "There's nothing like being here."

If you've been to MoMa pre-pandemic, you might spot a few differences.

A highlight of its current exhibition is "Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America". This is a product of 11 artists, designers, and architects that looked at intersections of race and design. One of the artists, Amanda Williams, has her own exhibition starting at Moma in April 2021 - "Embodied Sensations".

If you're around MoMa's PS1 campus in Queens, go see artist Niki de Saint Phalle's "Structures for Life".

"Innovation was key to Saint Phalle’s process: from beginning to end, she envisioned new ways of inhabiting the world." - MoMa on Niki de Saint Phalle

3. Outdoor food markets

Is it just me, or is this one of the guilty pleasures of city life? There's something about eating from a recycled carton, away from a dining table, that makes me enjoy market food even more.

A couple of gems you don't want to miss...

Union Square Greenmarket is open 8 am - 6 pm every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Supporting local farmers while practicing safety rules, it can provide you with a hearty meal or some fresh greens to cook at home. Either way - a fun stopover on a walk, especially for us foodies.

Chelsea Market in the Meatpacking District is also open for business, albeit at reduced traffic and with strict social distancing measures. Between 8 am and 10 pm, you can check out their food vendors and take a short stroll to 14th Street Park or Chelsea Waterside Park to enjoy your meal. Just be careful of seagulls.

4. Chelsea art galleries

Speaking of Chelsea, remember Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Room? It first came to the David Zwirner Gallery back in 2013. This spring at the Zwirner, you can feast your eyes on Albers and Morandi's "Never Finished" collection on West 20th Street. Special regards to 20th-century painting lovers.

Next, make your way down West 25th Street and visit the Agora Gallery. Its current "Transcending Passages" exhibition features a colorful collection from Miho Nishibe, inspired from "neo-expressionist art, scum art, surrealism, and Japanese contemporary art".

Finally, one you'll want to put on your walking shoes for. The Timothy Taylor gallery on West 19th Street has an eye-watering exhibition from Honor Titus, a self-taught Brooklyn artist. His collection "For Heaven's Sake" is on until Saturday, March 27th.

5. Outdoor music

It may be a minute before we cram against perfect strangers in a 10,000-strong music venue.

In the meantime, let's cherish the beauty of intimate concerts, such as the one offered by The Bailsmen, a gypsy-jazz band playing at Greenwich Village's Dante every Friday at 2 pm.

Another local favorite is Tomi Jazz, on East 53rd Street. Outdoor dining is currently open, accompanied by a live band every day at 6:30 pm and weekends at 12:30.

Loulou, a chic French bistro based in Chelsea, also has live music on most days from 6 pm, with acts including Benny Benack III and Natalie de Ferrari.

And if funk and R&B are your thing, make a reservation with Groove in Greenwich Village. It's got free or $5 tickets to their live shows almost every night.

6. Movie theaters

Until Broadway starts reopening on May 31st, we have movie theaters. Since March 5th, they've been reopening at 25% capacity.

Giving Netflix a run for its money, NYC cinema is bringing movie lovers back to the original "big screen". While your local favorite may not have reopened, here are some that have.

AMC Theatres have opened across Manhattan, with titles including Wonder Woman 1984 and Chaos Walking. The Village East on East 12th Street is currently showing The Courier, Pieces of a Woman, and Judas and the Black Messiah. Hang tight for IPIC, opening on March 31, and Film Forum, opening April 2.

For whoever's eager to take their wheels out for a spin, outdoor movie theaters are open across New York. To name a few, you've got the Brooklyn Drive-In at Brooklyn Army Terminal's pier, the Juicy Lucy BBQ on Staten Island, and the Uptown Drive-In in The Bronx.

7. A creative walk

You don't have to be a tourist to enjoy a city stroll. As one writer wisely said, "the New York you once knew is gone. The one you loved remains" (Glynnis MacNicol). You may never get another chance to examine the city in its current tranquility.

Get yourself to a starting point, uptown or downtown, and explore the avenues.

If you're not easily entertained by squirrels scavenging in half-eaten takeaway, that's alright. There are other ways to get creative with your jaunts.

It's warming up, so grab your newest book obsession and find a quiet bit of green to peruse in. Try the East River Park overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge, Morningside Park in South Harlem, or Bryant Park in Midtown South.

Not into books? Well, if you're the visual type, grab that polaroid camera your parents bought you when you were 14 (or just your smartphone) and look out for breathtaking images to snap on your walk. It's NYC, it shouldn't be too hard.

And if walking ever starts to feel boring, remember - creativity guru Julia Cameron wrote a whole book called "Walking In This World".

"A day at a time, a walk at a time, even a simple step at a time, my sad and tangled life began to sort itself." - Julia Cameron

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My topics of focus include gender equality, mental health and social justice | ioana.a.writes@gmail.com

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