Free in NYC


by Alyssa Grossman, 02/15/2012

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There's always something exciting to do and see around the five boroughs that doesn't cost a dime. See our weekly picks below, and visit our calendar and special offers section for more free events.

February 15–21

Wednesday, February 15
The very nature of nature is interpreted artistically in an exhibition at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Steinhardt Conservatory Gallery. Terrarium, up through February 26, showcases both lifelike artworks and actual living plants. Artist Jae Hi Ahn specializes in reimagining man-made materials in mixed-media and print forms, mimicking Mother Nature's own creations, while Brooklyn Botanic Garden curator Jennifer Williams designs glass-encased mini environments featuring ferns, mosses, orchids and carnivorous plants. Admission to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is free weekdays through March 11 and on Saturday year-round from 10am to noon.

Thursday, February 16
Social Hour: Frederick Douglass Memorial
The Charles A. Dana Discovery Center hosts artist Algernon Miller, who will discuss the inspiration behind his design for Central Park's newly dedicated monument at Frederick Douglass Memorial Circle. In 1994, City residents asked the Central Park Conservancy design staff for a redesign of the simple site, off the northwest corner of the park. Community-based design workshops preceded a New York City Department of Cultural Affairs' Percent for Art competition, which Miller won in 2003 along with sculptor Gabriel Koren, who created a bronze statue of Douglass. Other design features of the renovated circle, located at the meeting point of Central Park West, Central Park North and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, include a bronze water wall and paving inspired by African-American quilt patterns. Following the session, Miller, a Harlem resident, will lead guests on a tour of the Circle. The event, which is geared toward those 18 and older, is from 6:30 to 8pm. 

Friday, February 17
NYU Steinhardt/Blue Note Jazz Series: Kenny Barron in Conversation with Dave Schroeder
Barnes & Noble welcomes renowned jazz pianist and composer Kenny Barron for an in-store appearance and discussion. The artist's musical résumé includes work with James Moody, Dizzy Gillespie and Buddy Rich—and that's just in his early years as a performer. Now with nine Grammy nominations and a long discography to his name (including the well-received The Traveler, released in 2008) Barron joins host Dave Schroeder at 4pm to discuss highlights of his career and sign CDs.

Saturday, February 18
Brooklyn Brewery Tour
Historically speaking, Brooklyn was destined to become a brewing hotspot. The borough's beer-centric past dates back to the 19th century, when German immigrants brought with them ages-old brewing techniques and opened breweries in droves before national competition eventually forced them to shut down a little more than a century later. Fast-forward to 1984, the year Associated Press correspondent Steve Hindy returned to the City after a six-year reporting gig in the Middle East, armed with home-brewing techniques he learned there as well as a desire to revive the brewery tradition. Today, the Williamsburg brewery's Brooklyn Lager (and other varieties) can be found in bars throughout New York City, in 26 states and 20 countries. And the operation is expanding to double its current output. Brooklyn Brewery hosts free tours every Saturday: between 1 and 5pm (starting on the hour), learn about the past, present and future of the company. (You just have to be 21 or older or accompanied by a parent or guardian.) After, grab a seat at one of the indoor picnic tables and, if you're of age, sample some of the brewery's wildly popular creations. (Beer tokens are available for $5 apiece or at five for $20.) The bar sells snacks, but outside food is also welcome.

Sunday, February 19
Revolutionary New York Walking Tour
The Urban Park Rangers lead walks through New York City parks that educate visitors about their natural environments as well as their connections to NYC history and architecture. On this tour of Van Cortland Park, Urban Park Ranger Grant Wheeler will explain the story behind the green space and the role it played in the American Revolutionary War. Once grain fields, the land served as an outpost of the Stockbridge Militia during the war and was the site of a 1778 conflict with the Queen's Rangers. Guests will visit the site of the skirmish (marked by a memorial) and can take a tour the 1748 Van Cortland House, the oldest building in the Bronx. Wheeler will discuss the tactics of Washington, Rochambeau and Lafayette and the social and political climate of New York at the time as hikers travel from one tour spot to the next. Participants should meet at the Van Cortlandt Nature Center at 1pm.

Monday, February 20
Outdoor Adventures in Willowbrook Park
As part of the Staten Island Museum's Outdoor Adventures series, children ages 8 to 13 are invited to bundle up and head to Willowbrook Park for a morning of exploration. The quiet expanse provides the perfect backdrop for venturing through the frozen (or at least chilly) swamp-forest and discovering the wildlife and plants that haven't retreated for the season. Those who want to participate should meet guide Seth Wollney at the Archery Range parking lot at 10am.

Tuesday, February 21
International Tourist Guide Day
Spend the day discovering the secrets of NYC with the Guides Association of New York City. In honor of International Tourist Guide Day, guests can come to the Official NYC Information Center (810 Seventh Ave.) and sign up for an hour-long themed tour, including New York City Subway Art, Roosevelt Island Tram Tour, Chinatown and Rockefeller Center. The celebratory day was created in 1990 with only 15 participating countries and has since grown to more than 60 locations. Tours will depart from the Official NYC Information Center approximately every 15 minutes from 9:30am to 12:45pm. Participants will be required to pay for any required public transportation, and tours will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.

related venues/(5)

  1. 1
    Brooklyn Botanic Garden
    1000 Washington Ave.
    Brooklyn – Prospect Heights
    NY 11225
  2. 2
    Barnes & Noble 82nd & Broadway
    2289 Broadway
    Manhattan – Upper West Side
  3. 3
    Brooklyn Brewery
    79 N. 11th St.
    Brooklyn – Williamsburg
    NY 11211
  1. 4
    Van Cortlandt Park
    Broadway and Jerome Ave.
    Bronx – Woodlawn/Little Ireland
    NY 10467
  2. 5
    Willowbrook Park
    1 Eton Pl.
    Staten Island
    NY 10314

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