The weather was balmy and the sun had not yet set as I strolled up the stairs towards Lincoln Center for the final evening performance of the former Kirov Ballet, now the Mariinsky. The fountain in the center of the plaza shot water forty feet into the air and children shrieked with joy. I was early for the performance, so when I heard the pulsing sounds of a live tango band, I wandered over to the nearby Midsummer Night Swing to watch couples dancing.
It was a perfect New York evening.
I took my seat at the Metropolitan Opera House and even though I've seen it many times, I felt like a kid as the chandeliers rose and the house lights dimmed. The Russian dancers were mesmerizing. (If the Mariinski returns to NY, race to get tickets.) At intermission, I wondered back out to the Plaza where a giant screen was showing a video of a geisha girl and a man in Western dress moving in slow motion. The fountain was now a burst of white light, and the Midsummer Night stage was illuminated in a necklace of colored lights. Couples danced across the pavement.
This is summer in New York City, a perfect time to come visit. Crash with a friend or find a cheap hotel such as the POD Hotel located midtown on East 51st Street. The rooms are small, but the price is affordable. Or, head downtown to the Jane Hotel also with affordable rooms, and which offers complimentary bicycles for hotel guests.
You already know about our hundreds of ethnic restaurants, fine museums and galleries, Broadway, and endless shopping. But there's plenty more to do in Manhattan. Trust your spirit of culture and adventure and try a few of these:
Free Summer Concerts
The Lincoln Center OutofDoors Festival has more than 100 free performances to fill all the Lincoln Center plazas from now through August 14th - from contemporary dance to bands for soul, funk, R&B jazz, gospel, world, American roots and new music. You'll see everyone from Mavis Staples, and Malkit Singh to Laurie Anderson and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Broadway has ramped up its matinee schedule to accomodate summer tourists. Now you can see shows such as Chicago Thursday at 3 p.m., and Mamma Mia Friday at 2 p.m. Most of these shows will revert to their regular schedule in September, so go now.
A free ferry-ride from Lower Manhattan brings you to Governor's Island, NYC's best-kept secret. This 172-acre park has it all: for history, there are the remains of Fort Jay and Castle Williams; take a walking tours, picnic, check out an art installation, festival, or rent a bicycle, tandem, or quadcycle on the island. On the island's northern tip, there's an artificial beach. Open Friday-Sunday and all Holiday Mondays through September 25.
The High Line
TThe High Line is NYC's new elevated public park running from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues. A brand new section opened this spring, with more seating than the original. Sit on a bench, inhale the fragrant aroma of plantings, and watch the never-ending parade of people.
The Manhattan Waterfront Greenway
This concrete path circumnavigates the island of Manhattan along the waterfront, a 32-mile traffic-free route with dedicated paths for runners and cyclists. Run, bike or simply stroll past acres and acres of parks, piers, harbors, and flowering gardens. Spot the Statue of Liberty and other NYC landmarks.
There's nothing like seeing the Statue of Liberty from the sea. Don't go on one of those oversized tourist boats. Instead, learn to sail on a day-cruise with Hudson River Community Sailing (located at Pier 66, at 26th Street and Chelsea). They offer sailing cruises up and down the Hudson three times a day Mon - Fri and four times a day on weekends. This is a perfect way to learn to sail without a long commitment. Join an instructor and up to three other people on a J-24 sailboat for a two-hour cruise ($80). In this hands-on experience, you'll take the tiller and control the sails or just sit back and soak up the scenery.
New York City offers free kayaking (children and beginners welcome) at the Downtown Boathouse's three locations: Pier 40 (downtown near West Houston Street), Pier 96 (near west 57th Street) and 72nd St. (at the edge of Riverside Park). The all-volunteer crew offers both formal lessons and less-formal instruction in sit-on-top colorful plastic kayaks. Don a life preserver and hop in with your street clothes.