Free Fun in NYC

Sometimes the most beautiful sights are right around the corner. For a tranquil spot to clear your deadline-cluttered mind, just check out the Queens Botanical Garden. It’s just a bus ride away (take the Q20 or the Q44 from Union Turnpike and Main Street into Flushing), and absolutely free. Join in on some Tai Chi on the Oak All√©e, or wander through the seasonal displays of foliage. The beautiful and secluded 39-acre garden plays host to a wide array of happenings. Upcoming events include Project Diversity Queens on Friday, September 14, a program of Queens Council on the Arts, featuring an exhibition of drawings, paintings, and sculpture. On Saturday, September 29, Queens Botanical Garden will celebrate the Chinese Moon Festival. Fireworks will follow this multicultural event. And afterwards, be sure to head to Flushing’s Chinatown for some good eats.

Right down the block from the Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street Station, the Museum of Modern Art is a world-renowned institution, touting a nearly unparalleled collection of sculptures, paintings, architecture, and film – and lest we forget, it also has a helicopter on display. Thanks to its sponsor, Target, Fridays are free from 4 to 8 p.m. Brave the long line and crowds – especially on the Painting and Sculpture floors (Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” are crowd favorites), you won’t regret it. If you lack any ideas for this Friday, be sure to catch two incredible exhibitions in their final week. A fine collection of famed American sculptor Richard Serra’s works is on display in “Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years.” Meander through the gargantuan “Torqued Ellipse IV” in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The “Automatic Update” exhibition is also a point of interest, with several interactive installations that are sure to crack a smile. “33 Questions per Minute” by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is a modernized version of the monkey at the typewriter, whose random strikes produce Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Lozano-Hemmer’s software program processes random access words to form questions-33 a minute to be exact. MoMA-goers can type words or questions to become part of the database. Watch the 21 LCD screens for your artistic addition.

Developers are planning to keep the Cyclone, but at the end of this season (September 9), the gritty yet somehow endearing Coney Island will begin its facelift. Best catch Astroland before it turns into a year-round tourist attraction riddled with high-scale condominiums. The outer-space-themed park opened in 1962 and quickly became the city’s playground. It is also the home of the original Nathan’s Hot Dog stand. The Wonder Wheel may look absolutely terrifying, but it’s for old time’s sake. Relive scenes from the cult flick “The Warriors,” minus the gang brawls, of course. Afterwards, chill out on Coney Island’s beach, or if you want to escape the crowds, mosey down the boardwalk to Brighton Beach, past the New York Aquarium. The hour and change-long ride on the F train may be harrowing, but if the Warriors survived it, so can you.

The concrete jungle contains more fauna than simply pigeons, rats, and the occasional squirrel. Admission to the Bronx Zoo is by donation on Wednesdays, meaning you can trade your pocket change in return for 265 acres of wildlife exhibits. Take the Q44 to 180th Street, or the 2 or 5 train to East Tremont Avenue/West Farms Square to watch the sea lions sunbathe, or if you’re lucky, catch them during their feeding time. These guys eat anywhere between 12 to 35 pounds of fish per day, and manage to remain ridiculously charming in the process. But a visit to the zoo isn’t complete without gorillas. The zoo’s famous Congo Gorilla Forest is home to more than 20 lowland gorillas, and the exhibit allows you to come face to face with the majestic animal, begging the question: who’s watching who?

This borough may be the brunt of the city’s jokes, but if you happen to be jones’n for some hiking, lucky you – Staten Island is your best bet in the five boroughs. Even if you don’t like hiking, find an excuse to ride the Staten Island Ferry. The five mile, 25 minute ride (free of course) offers a beautiful view of the New York Harbor, Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. If you happen to hop off the boat and find something else to do on Staten Island, by all means, please let us know