Cheap Cultural Activities Near NYC

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Now that the stress of final exams is behind us, it is time to take full advantage of that wonderful and vast stretch of guiltless leisure time also known as winter break. While wintertime is arguably the season that suits Manhattan best, it is also an opportunity to get away from all that touristy, holiday traffic and explore what lies beyond the bridges and tunnels of New York City.

In the first of three guides, we’ve picked eight cultural activities around the outer boroughs that are all affordable, easily accessible, and promise to be (mostly) hipster-free.

Brooklyn: Coney Island

While Coney Island is better known for its kitschy Boardwalk and olde Brooklyn amusements, the New York Aquarium at Coney Island is a great year round destination—if you don’t mind the smell of fish. Visitors have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the aquarium’s sea stars during feeding times. The Pacific Walruses never disappoint.

Back on Surf Avenue, Coney Island’s main drag, grab a bite at Nathan’s Famous—remember you are, after all, visiting the birthplace of the hot-dog—and then head over to the Coney Island Museum for a brief history of the area that costs less than your hot-dog.

Nearest subway: D/Q/N/F train to Stillwell Avenue.

New York Aquarium at Coney Island
Surf Avenue and West 8th Street; 718.265.FISH
Winter Hours
(Nov 2-April 2): 10am-4:30pm daily
Cost: $13

Nathan’s Famous
1310 Surf Avenue; 718.946.2202
Hours:
Nathan’s is open year-round
Cost: $3.15 (originally 5 cents in 1916)

Coney Island Museum
1208 Surf Avenue; 718.372.5159
Hours:
Saturdays and Sundays only, 12pm-5pm
Cost: $.99

Queens: Astoria

If you’ve ever been moved by a motion picture or are fascinated by the art of digital media, you’ll want to pay a visit to the Museum of the Moving Image. Tune into the Pinewood Dialogues that have recently included Tim Burton, Judd Apatow, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Jerry Lewis. Historical theater furnishings, early technical equipment, and vintage advertisements are among their large collection of image artifacts. Check out their website for a calendar of upcoming movie screenings.

Queens is known for being an ethnically diverse enclave, and popular destination for any kind of Greek cultural adventure. In Astoria, indulge in some authentic Greek cuisine with a stop at Opa Souvlaki for an inexpensive but delicious gyro. Check out our comprehensive guide to all things Greca in this outer borough.

Museum of the Moving Image
35 Avenue at 36th Street; 718.784.4520
Hours: Tuesday to Friday, 10am-3pm;
Holiday Hours: From Saturday, December 26, through Sunday, January 3, 2010, the museum will be open daily (including New Years Day) from 10am-5pm.
Nearest subway: R/V train to Steinway
Cost: $7

Opa Souvlaki
2844 31st Street; 718.728.3638
Hours: Monday to Friday, 11am-1am; also open Saturday
Nearest subway: N/W train to 30th Avenue/Astoria
Cost: $9-$15

Queens: Long Island City

The story of the Socrates Sculpture Park has all the elements of a New York City success story. Up until 1986, the site was an illegal dumping ground and riverside landfill when a group of artists and local community members decided to transform it into an outdoor exhibition space and garden. The art atmosphere in Long Island City is pervasive, and a short walk from the sculpture garden is the Noguchi Museum, a series of thirteen galleries within a preserved factory building dedicated to the works of Isamu Noguchi, the Japanese-born American sculptor.

Post cultural amblings, stop by Sweetleaf Café for a cup of Stumptown coffee (named the “Best coffee in the world” by NPR). Also check out oM’s guide to a French-inspired tour of Long Island City.

Nearest subway: N/W train to Broadway; F train to Queensburdge-21st Street

Noguchi Museum
9-01 33rd Rd (at Vernon Blvd); 718.204.7088
Hours: Wednesday to Friday, 11am-5pm; Saturday and Sunday, 11am-6pm; Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Cost:
$5 for students with i.d.

Socrates Sculpture Park
32-01 Vernon Boulevard at Broadway; 718.956.1819
Hours: Monday to Friday, 10am until sunset
Cost: Free

Sweetleaf Coffee & Tea
10-93 Jackson Avenue; 917.832.6726
Hours: Monday to Friday, 7:30am-7pm; Saturday 8am-7pm; Sunday 10am-6pm
Cost:
$1.75 for a regular cup of joe

Sooo, what are you still doing here? Go!

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  • The Museum of the Moving Image is totally awesome, and more people should visit. Good to know though is that they’re currently expanding, so parts of the museum are closed: “Museum of the Moving Image is expanding! During construction, the Museum’s interactive exhibition, Behind the Screen, is open. Screenings and additional programs are continuing off-site.”

  • I agree with Lauren, it’s definitely worth the trip to the Museum of the Moving Image. My favorite attraction there is the giant zoetrope!

    Great article Caitlin; I always enjoy reading them.

  • Visiting these beautiful and yet affordable places can make you feel relaxed and lessen the pressure of the final exams.

  • Visiting these beautiful and yet affordable places can make you feel relaxed and lessen the pressure of the final exams.

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