Labor Day Weekend Fun!

West Indian Day ParadeWhat to do on a 3-day weekend if you’re staying in town?  The first thing is to make time to take in the West Indian Day Parade  on Monday, September 7th, along Eastern parkway in Brooklyn. This is one of the biggest parades in New York City, so get there early.   There are also several concerts in the days leading up to the parade to get you in the mood.  

On the other two days, I’d say get close to the water, and take advantage of how much we’ve reclaimed our shoreline.

Sculpture, Governor's Island

Sculpture, Governor’s Island

Governor’s Island  has lots to offer:  art exhibits scattered across the island, activities for kids (miniature golf, tree house);  bicycle riding – bring your own or rent one, but be forewarned, there are a lot of bicyclists.  You can learn about the City’s early defense systems at historic Fort Williams, a circular fortification built in 1811 to protect the City’s harbor.  Standing by the fort you can look over at the skylines of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey, and see how they’ve changed.   Don’t worry about getting hungry –  there are lots of food vending trucks.  There are ferries to Governor’s Island leaving from Battery Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park.

If you’re in lower Manhattan, stroll over to and through Battery Park – take a ride on the Seaglass Carousel,  then head over to the South Street Seaport.  Or, you can hop a ferry to Governor’s Island.  

From the Battery, you can also continue up the west side along Hudson River Park  where you’ll find lots of things to do, such as taking a Nature walk or going  fishing on Sunday.  The park runs along the Hudson River up to 57th Street, with passive recreational areas as well as a wide range of sports and other activities

Also on the west side, climb up to the High Line  – I guarantee it will give you a new perspective on the City.

When I moved to Brooklyn, the waterfront now known as Brooklyn Bridge Park  was nothing but dilapidated piers and empty warehouses.   The transformation still astounds me.  What I especially like about the park is that you can just sit and watch the boats sail by, or stroll along the water’s edge and admire the public art or if you’re up for some sports, go over to Pier 2 , that has areas set aside for basketball, handball, soccer and other sports.   You can also bike through the park.

There’s a ferry  that goes from Brooklyn Bridge Park to Governor’s Island, so you can visit both in the same day! 

In addition to it’s regular concerts,  Bargemusic, located at the Fulton Landing end of the park, will be offering a free concert on September 5th at 4:00 

The Queens waterfront I’d save for the evening.  There are two parks that offer stunning views of the Manhattan skyline, but are really designed for more passive activities, such as sunbathing, and don’t have a lot of trees to shade you from the sun. 

Long Island City boasts some fabulous museums – take the LIC Art Bus  which runs on Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 to 6:00 from MOMA PS1  to the  Noguchi Sculpture Center  (galleries will be open but the garden closed) to the Socrates Sculpture Garden .

The Living Pyramid, Agnes Denes

The Living Pyramid, Agnes Denes

The Socrates Sculpture Garden  has a great location on the water, with some lovely small gardens, but there aren’t a lot of trees, so it can get very hot during the day.  Over the weekend, there will be free dance performances in the early evenings, and Agnes Denes sculpture, “The Living Pyramid” will still be on view.

At the other end of Long Island City (Hunters Point) is Gantry Plaza State Park   a small local urban park, with wooden-planked walkways and nicely designed chairs, great for enjoying the views.

While you can bicycle from the Socrates Sculpture Garden to Gantry Plaza, don’t try walking – I have the blisters to prove it.

If you’d rather swim in the ocean, New York City also has several fine beaches:

In the Bronx, you’ll find Orchard Beach – when you’ve finished cavorting in the waves, head over to City Island for some seafood.

Coney Island Cyclone

Coney Island Cyclone

In Brooklyn, you can swim at Brighton Beach  and/or Coney Island , go on the rides at Coney Island, then grab a bite on the boardwalk or at one of the nearby neighborhood restaurants.

In Queens, there’s the Rockaways  for your inner surfer  

Outside the City, Jones Beach is still one of the best. 

And, if you’d rather bike around the City, be sure to download the NYC DOT BIKE MAP  

In case you’re wondering about the Labor Day Parade, it will take place next  Saturday, September 12th , at 10:00 am at 5th Ave & 44th Street.   

Whatever you do, ENJOY!!

Satchmo in Queens

Have you ever wondered what Louis Armstrong’s house looked like?  Well, hightail it to Corona, Queens, where you can take a guided tour of the house he and Lucille lived in from 1943 onwards.  I did, and felt right at home – it has a very comfortable, low key feel – until you see the bathroom, which would make any Las Vegas hotel pale by comparison. You’ll find out lots about this musical giant on the tour: how Armstrong tape recorded just about everything, including his conversations with Lucille, and how he  toured incessantly, playing some 300 concerts a year, all around the world.  Not to mention the 30+ films he acted in!  Armstrong had a close relationship with the neighborhood, especially the kids, whom he’d entertain on his stoop.     You can take a 40-minute guided tour Tuesdays through Sundays  Be sure to leave plenty of time to check out the gift shop, especially the cd’s!

On select Saturdays in July and August, the Museum’s hosting afternoon concerts 

If you’re interested in doing more research, the Museum holds several collections of recordings, photographs, correspondence and instruments that are housed at Queens College, and available to the public by appointment.  

NYC Panorama and the World’s Fair at the Queens Museum

Panorama-Midtown & Queens with Roosevelt Island

Panorama-Midtown & Queens with Roosevelt Island

Sure, everyone knows that the Bronx is up and the Battery is down, but do you know exactly how they line up? Hint, the subway map isn’t gonna tell you.  Instead, get over to the Queens Museum and see the Panorama, a scale model of all 5 boroughs in one room!  It’s a rather amazing sight, giving you a fuller sense of where the different neighborhoods are in relation to each other across the boroughs. I had a lot of fun walking around, figuring out where I had lived and gone to school in the Bronx, and where my current Brooklyn location fits in. Originally constructed for the 1964 World’s Fair, the Panorama was completely updated in 1992. Built to a scale of 1 inch equalling 100 feet, the Panorama has over 895,000 buildings, plus streets, parks and 100 bridges.   You can find more information here 

If you’re a World’s Fair buff (or, if you’ve got wonderful memories of attending it), the Queens Museum has memorabilia from the Fair as part of their permanent exhibitions.   You can find out more about the Museum’s permanent and current exhibitions here