NYC Culture: What’s Open Now and What Are Opening Plans

After months of coronavirus quarantine, we are all ready to get back out in New York City. The city has moved to its final phase of reopening, but recent guidance from Governor Cuomo is pushing back indoor activity. We’ve got the latest plans for city museums plus some more ideas for IRL activities for culture-starved New Yorkers.

New-York Historical Society. Photo by Kay Hickman.

Museums. The new normal will involve face coverings, reduced hours, and limited capacities. You’ll need a timed ticket for entry to most places. The New-York Historical Society will reopen in phases, beginning on Friday, August 14th. A special free outdoor exhibition, Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine, will kick things off with documentation of the experiences of New Yorkers across the five boroughs during the height of the pandemic. September 11th is the target date for reopening indoors.

(Left) Timeline: Issey Miyake (Japanese, born 1938). “Flying Saucer” Dress, spring/summer 1994. Courtesy of Issey Miyake. (Right) Interruption: Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo (Spanish, 1871–1949). “Delphos” Dress, ca. 1930. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Promised Gift of Sandy Schreier (L.2018.61.29a–c).

The Met Museum is planning to reopen on Saturday, August 29th. Alas, all tours, talks, concerts, events, and the Met Gala are canceled for 2020. The Costume Institute’s About Time: Fashion and Duration exhibition is scheduled to open on October 29th. The Cloisters is scheduled to open shortly after the main branch; the Met Breuer is closed for good. That building will be taken over by The Frick Collection as Frick Madison, opening as a temporary exhibition space in early 2021. The move is necessitated by renovations at the Frick’s home—the first major fix up in 85 years. Other institutions are awaiting further guidance; the Museum of Illusions had to push back plans to reopen this week; Poster House is looking to Thursday, August 20 for its return. Fotografiska New York also had to change its reopening date, but the exhibitions have been announced, including “ROAR,” a timely look at the power of protest. The Museum of the City of New York also had to delay its reopening, although it has unveiled the first phase of an outdoor installation sharing NYC’s stories of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the uprising against police violence. (The installation will serve as a starting point for a new exhibition later this year.)

Zoos and Gardens. The Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, and Bronx Zoo are all back as of Friday, July 24th; they’re joined by the New York Aquarium on Friday as well. The New York Botanical Garden sprawls across 250 acres, helping facilitate social distancing. Public access to the garden returns on Tuesday, July 28th, with only outdoor spaces open. Reserve a timed ticket in advance. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is reopening on Friday, August 7th. Advance timed-entry tickets will be required for all visitors; ticket reservations open on Monday, July 27. Four special Welcome Weeks will start things off and feature free admission.

Governors Island has opened back up again, accessible from 10am-6pm on the weekdays and extended to 7pm on the weekends. Manhattan ferries run daily from the Battery Maritime Building at 10 South St. There will be Brooklyn access as well, leaving from Atlantic Basin in Red Hook, although they’ll be available on the weekends only. (A third way of travel will be a dedicated weekend shuttle from Wall Street/Pier 11 that will run roughly every 30 minutes beginning July 18, ferry.nyc.) The High Line is back as well, via free timed-entry tickets. Reservations are opened every two weeks on Mondays, for the subsequent two weeks. A limited number of walk-up passes will also be available at the entrance, but advance planning is recommended. Traffic will only flow in one direction, starting at Gansevoort Street. The 28 acres of gardens and woodland at Wave Hill were established on the grounds of an 1843 Bronx estate to serve as a respite and a showcase for horticulture. It reopens to the public on Thursday, July 30th, with initial hours Thursday through Sunday, noon to 5:30pm. You can reserve online for the following Thursday-Sunday opening every Monday. The visitor parking lot will not be open and shuttle service is temporarily suspended due to social distancing requirements.

Storm King is open as well, although visits are restricted to the outdoor parts of the grounds. Timed entry is required, with the window for arrival between 10am and 3pm. Tickets are released in two-week blocks.

Attractions. The Empire State Building is the first of the city’s observation decks to come back. It’s open now and welcoming visitors at 20% capacity—a nice opportunity to enjoy the views without the crowds. EDGE, the Western Hemisphere’s highest outdoor observation deck, has set a target of Sunday, August 16th.

Boat Rides. As of this week you can again take a tour with Circle Line, which is selling limited tickets to ensure social distancing (Hornblower boats are out again as well). AIA New York | Center for Architecture is resuming its architectural boat tours. A minimum three-guest booking is required. Liberty Island is back open now and Statue Cruises is once again plying New York Harbor, although the interior of the statue, the museum, and Ellis Island all remain closed.

Jonathan Blanc/NYPL.

Walking Tours. With limited capacity, walking tours are back on, and the Guides Association of New York is making a big effort to ensure safety. Untapped Cities is doing the same and expanding their outdoor offerings, which are available now. The Tenement Museum’s reopening is on hold, but their next move is to re-start neighborhood walking tours.

Live Performances. “Piano in Bryant Park,” is back. Audiences are encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing while seated in the park’s iconic bistro chairs. Piano in Bryant Park, which showcases the finest ragtime, stride, and jazz pianists, takes place Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 12:30 to 2:30pm through August. Pianist-composer Deanna Witkowski tickles the ivories next week. Outdoor live shows and open mics are back on at favorite Astoria performance venue Q.E.D. Enjoy it all safely and socially distant in the back yard, complete with frozen margaritas and frosé. Hours Friday 5-10pm, Saturday noon-10pm, and Sunday noon-5pm. The East Village’s Drom is serving up meals and live music—their sidewalk acoustic series runs every night but Sunday, when they’re closed. Comedy club The Stand is open with dinners, drinks, and pop up stand-up performances. Out in Brooklyn, Littlefield Live at Parklife is bringing a mix of film and performance to a socially distant, outdoor space. David Cross is performing next week, but limited capacity means he’s already sold out.

There’s even an in-person talk, after many months of virtual fare. Sunday afternoon look to Revolution Books, which hosts a sidewalk talk by revolutionary Carl Dix, discussing a change in the system.


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