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Arts + Culture

Your Hot Summer in New York City

Venturing to the Big Apple this summer? You're in luck. The city has a stonking line up of culture, gastronomy and fun this season, from swing dancing to stargazing to sailing to the reopened Lady Liberty. Leigh Crandall rounds up 10 must-do activities

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Rent Wheels with CitiBike

Pedaling around the Big Apple gets even easier this May with the launch of CitiBike, an easy-to-use bike rental company. Choose a 24-hour or seven day pass (or opt for an annual membership) then pick your wheels from over 6,000 bikes at 330 stations in Manhattan south of 59th Street, downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Fort Greene and Bed Stuy. And round trips aren’t necessary as renters can return bikes to a different station than the one they picked up from, too. Download their app to find stations with bikes, plan routes and get suggestions of fun things to do in different neighborhoods.

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See the Arts in Central Park

Central Park sees a range of arts events this season. Pack a picnic and head to the Great Lawn on July 13 or 15, when the New York Philharmonic performs works by Tchaikovsky and Respighi, followed by a fireworks display. The 51st season of the Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park program presents performances of The Comedy of Errors starring Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson from May 28 to June 20 and a new, musical production of Love’s Labour’s Lost from July 23 to August 18. Summerstage also brings a host of music and dance performances to Central Park, including She & Him on July 6 and 8, the Metropolitan Opera recital series on July 16 and the Martha Graham Dance Company on July 23 and 24.

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Visit Governor's Island

Governor’s Island reopens for the season on May 25, with a slew of new programming planned including photo exhibits from the New York Historical Society and a pop-up library and outdoor reading area from the Public Library. FIGMENT's design-forward minigolf course returns with new holes created by artists like Adrian Campos and Scott Randall. Fans of the annual Jazz Age Lawn Party (June 15 and 16; August 17 ad 18) should also look for a new French festival with a similarly retro-vibe, featuring vintage carnival rides and carousels opening in mid-July.

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Celebrate Brooklyn

Now in its 35th year, Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park Bandshell sees one of its best and most varied musical lineups yet this summer. Folk crooner Patty Griffin kicks off the concert season on June 5, with highlights including Calexico on June 15, Belle and Sebastian on July 6, Robert Plant on July 27 and Beck on August 4. Dance performances from Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal and a live performance of the score to Beasts of the Southern Wild are also planned. Feeling peckish? Brooklyn’s Farm on Adderley will be serving farm-to-table fare (this season's menu includes beef sliders with grilled onion and pickled shitakes and roasted pork shoulder over grits and green onions). Also new is the “Celebrate Brooklyn Bike Valet," with room for over 400 pairs of wheels and a “bike zone” offering fixes for flats and other minor repairs.

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Cut a Rug at Midsummer Night Swing

This season marks the 25th anniversary of these outdoor dance parties. The lineup includes new names like jump blues band Ray Gelato with the City Rhythm Orchestra, as well as favorites like the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. Held at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park, ticket holders can arrive an hour before performances for free dance lessons (styles change nightly and range from swing to samba to salsa) with live music beginning at 7:30. The season finale on July 13 includes a performance by the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra performing standards from Count Basie, Duke Ellington and more, with dance lessons on the “Lindy Hop” and “Shim Sham”.

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Sail to the Reopened and Revamped Statue of Liberty

Open for just one day since the fall of 2011, Lady Liberty will once again be accessible beginning on Independence Day (ferry tickets and reservations to tour the statue’s crown are already being taken on the national park’s website). You can also take in Liberty Island without the crowds with Classic Harbor Line at Chelsea Piers, who offer daily sails of New York Harbor aboard a 105-foot schooner.

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Take in a Concert (or a few)

If you like music, well, you’ve come to the right city. This summer sees an outstanding variety of performances ranging from multi-day festivals like Governor’s Ball (June 7-9) featuring Kanye West and Kings of Leon to stadium performances by Jay Z and Justin Timberlake (July 19-20) and Beyonce (August 4-5). Make the trip to Long Island’s Jones Beach to catch classic acts like Fleetwood Mac (June 22), Heart (June 27) and Jimmy Buffet (August 20, 22).

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Hit the High Line

A walk along the High Line is a must for any NYC visitor, but this summer offers myriad free activities, too. On Tuesday nights, high-powered telescopes are set up between West 13th and 14th Streets for stargazing, while select Wednesdays feature live Latin music and dancing at sunset at the Chelsea Market Passage. Take a guided nature tour of the walkway or bring the kids for art classes on Saturdays (see the complete schedule of events). When hunger strikes, this season sees plenty of food offerings including savory meats like pulled pork and brisket from Delaney Barbecue’s Smokeline, ice cream sandwiches from Melt Bakery and tortas, tacos, chilaquiles and more from Taco Truck.

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Explore the Arts with MoMA's *Expo 1: New York*

Through Labor Day weekend, MoMA presents Expo 1: New York with works of art that explore environmental, economic and socio-political issues displayed across three venues: MoMA PS1, The Museum of Modern Art and the VW Dome 2 at Rockaway Beach. Standout exhibits include the interactive "Rain Room", a tunnel of falling water that pauses when it senses a person approaching, offering viewers a taste of what it might be like to control the rain.

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Chow Down at a Food Festival

Get the summer smorgasbord started early at Long Island City's Whiskey, Cigar and BBQ Festival on May 18 — $110 buys you four hours of all-you-can-eat BBQ, plus four cigars, whiskey tastings and unlimited Sam Adams brews. Brooklyn's Great GoogaMooga (May 17-19) combines eats with beats, with fare from local favorites like Dumont Burger, Luke's Lobster and Num Pang Sandwich shop paired with performances by bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Flaming Lips. June 8-9 sees the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party take over Madison Square Park, with savory fare smoked by top pitmasters from across the U.S. And suds fans should save the third weekend in July for the NYC Craft Beer Festival, with over 150 craft brews on tap for tasting.