Free This Week


by Alyson Penn, 12/17/2014

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

Wednesday, December 17
Visit the New York Botanical Garden
Where: New York Botanical Garden 
When: 10am–6pm
With over 250 acres of green space and more than a million plants, the New York Botanical Garden is one of the City's premier natural-world attractions. Take in the winter flora by strolling the grounds, which are free on Wednesdays. Plants and trees in season include conifers in the arboretum, bay laurel and hops in the herb garden and camellias along the Ladies' Border. If you're looking for something more than just tranquil surroundings, consider paying for the all-access pass so you can visit the garden's main current exhibition, the Holiday Train Show, in the glassy Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Now in its 23rd incarnation, the display consists of miniature locomotives zipping through NYC landmarks made from plants, trees and foliage, including replicas of the Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center and Statue of Liberty.  

Thursday, December 18
Takashi Murakami: In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow
Where: Gagosian Gallery (West 24th Street)
When: 10am–6pm
Tokyo-based artist (and former Louis Vuitton collaborator) Takashi Murakami presents colorful paintings and sculptures at a new exhibition, titled In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, in one of the Gagosian's Chelsea locations. Inspired by the devastating 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the works reflect the artist's interest in exploring his native country's reaction to the aftermath—with an abstract expressionist sensibility. The result is a typically wild, frenetic collection that showcases Murakami's meld of classical Japanese painting with pop art, anime and other forms.

Friday, December 19
Gingerbread Lane
Where: New York Hall of Science
When: 2–5pm
The New York Hall of Science, NYC's only hands-on science center, offers free admission on Fridays from 2pm to 5pm and more than 450 displays in their 100,000-square-foot space—plus an outdoor rocket park and science-themed playground. Their current holiday-themed exhibition, Gingerbread Lane, sets mouthwatering gingerbread houses in a whimsical edible village (the largest in the world, according to Guinness World Records). Manhattan-based chef Jon Lovitch spent the entire year designing and baking the display. December weekends see holiday activities at the institution, including holiday-lantern crafting and—naturally—a gingerbread-house workshop.

Saturday, December 20
Super Sábado
Where: El Museo del Barrio
When: 11am–6pm
Beginning at noon (though museum doors open an hour earlier) the Latino cultural institution hosts an afternoon full of kid-friendly activities, such as crown making, festive music performance and Three Kings Day storytelling. Adults needn't feel left out, either: see French-Venezuelan artist Marisol's first museum retrospective, Marisol: Sculptures and Works on Paper, and the Playing with Fire: Political Interventions, Dissident Acts, and Mischievous Actions exhibition, which features works from El Museo's permanent collection. Before or after, try to make time to walk around the surrounding East Harlem neighborhood, which features a colorful community garden and a Graffiti Hall of Fame

Sunday, December 21
Make Music Winter
Where: Citywide
When: Various times
Make Music New York presents its fourth annual winter event: a series of "participatory musical parades" in different locations across the five boroughs. Artist Tom Peyton will host an evening procession requiring no instruments in Midtown Manhattan, while composer Hiroya Miura is asking for brass musicians and bagpipers to march with him during the afternoon in Queens—just two of 13 blaring performances throughout the City. 

Monday, December 22
Frantic! Comedy Show 
Where: The Stand
When: 10pm
The downstairs of this gourmet Gramercy restaurant operates as a nightly comedy club, attracting big names such as Hannibal Buress and Gilbert Gottfried. Every Monday night actor-comedian Aaron Berg hosts a show featuring the club's regulars. The Christmas edition features Jessica Kirkson, Mark Normand and Pete Lee, among others. The event is free but ticketed; confirm your spot at the

Tuesday, December 23
Le Petit Zen Art Workshop 
Where: Poe Park Visitor Center
When: 2–3:30pm
Create small works of art in black and white every Tuesday this winter at the Poe Park Visitor Center. Participants will learn to craft small pieces of art, like Zentangles (unplanned, abstract art, accomplished by repetition of a pattern), using minimal amounts of color. This is event is for adults only—and sounds very soothing. 

related venues/(5)

  1. 1
    New York Botanical Garden
    2900 Southern Blvd.
    Bronx – Bedford Park
    NY 10458
  2. 2
    Gagosian Gallery
    522 W 21st St
    NY 10011
  3. 3
    New York Hall of Science
    47-01 111th St.
    Queens – Corona
    NY 11368
  1. 4
    El Museo del Barrio
    1230 Fifth Ave.
    Manhattan – East Harlem/El Barrio
    NY 10029
  2. 5
    The Stand Restaurant and Comedy Club
    239 Third Ave., ground fl.
    Manhattan – Gramercy
    NY 10003

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