You keep telling people you want to “do something” this weekend. Something that doesn’t involve going to the same brunch spot and folding laundry while you sing Dream Girls at your dog. But it turns out that doing things on weekends takes research, and lots of verbs like “make” “do” “try” and “go.”
If you’re serious about getting out of your apartment for at least a couple of hours, hopefully this guide will make it a little easier. You’ll find mini-itineraries for various locations around the city, each with a few restaurant or bar suggestions, plus other, non-food-related things to do nearby.
SOUTH STREET SEAPORT: SKATING & DRINKS
Pier 17 is the East Side’s version of Hudson Yards (a mall with a view and real estate agents trying to convince everyone they should live nearby). But the main difference is that Pier 17 has a rooftop for outdoor concerts in the summer and ice skating in the winter. This is the only place in the city where you can waddle across a rooftop made of ice while looking out at the Brooklyn Bridge, and it’s one of a few ice skating options in Manhattan where you can avoid the tourist obstacle course that is Rock Center.
After you skate at Pier 17, get a snack and a drink at Bar Wayo on the ground floor of the same complex. They serve things like mini lobster rolls and an especially good wagyu burger that comes like a French Dip with a long roll and jus on the side. For something that’s decidedly un-mall-like, walk across the street to Fish Market, a sports bar and Chinese restaurant where people casually eat lobster while the bartender gives out shots of whiskey as if the world is ending. Also, while you’re in the Seaport, be aware of the massive McNally Jackson bookstore, in case you need to buy your boss a niche historical biography as a last-minute gift.
ridgewood: Breweries & Pizza
NYC doesn’t have the open space and relaxed scooter laws of some other cities like Seattle, Denver, or Boston. And that’s partly why breweries here aren’t as much of a thing. But if you want to usher a group of beer-drinking adults around NYC, start in Ridgewood, where there are three great breweries within two blocks of the Halsey L Stop.
Start with Evil Twin, which is within sprinting distance from the subway. Anyone who takes beer seriously will have heard of this place, since it’s the first and only brewery from a famous Danish company. The space looks like a greenhouse, and it’s an extremely pleasant place to hang out with a group on a Saturday afternoon. There’s a taco truck parked outside, but you can also bring whatever outside food you want (we like to pick up a few pies from Houdini Kitchen Laboratory nearby). Next, walk two blocks to Queens Brewery and play some games. It’s also BYOF, but unlike Evil Twin, there’s corn hole, a stage for live music, and wooden tables long enough to fit in Hogwarts’ Great Hall. End the afternoon at Bridge And Tunnel, a much smaller brewery with barrel tables stocked with things like mini foosball and Rock’em Sock’em Robots. This brewery mostly focuses on unusual flavor combinations like stouts brewed with oysters, lobster saisons, or chocolate sours, so it’s a good place to try something you may have never had before (or never thought could exist as alcohol).
MIDTOWN: Inevitable Winter Activities & Eating Really Good Food
We aren’t going to suggest any specific plans in Midtown. Because, well, your cousin from Rochester has already made them for you. Instead, here are a few impressive restaurants you can rely on this winter when you inevitably end up at a Broadway show, a museum, or a $20,000 window display.
If you’re on a date (presumably not with your cousin from Rochester) and want to prove you have the taste of someone who watches black and white films with regularity, go catch some jazz at Tomi Jazz. This is a Japanese small plates spot that’s hidden, intimate, and cool (with no cover during the week), and it feels like the antithesis of Midtown. For something casual before a show or a trip to MoMA, we love Bengal Tiger, an Indian restaurant where you can get three courses, naan, and rice for $21. Or, if you want to fully embrace tourist life (but still eat like a dutchess), go to Le Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte, a somewhat kitschy French place with a few locations in Europe and a cult following. The only option here is a set-menu involving salad and two helpings of steak frites with an incredibly buttery chicken-liver sauce, and it’ll make any out-of-town relative want to revive their travel blog.
Jackson Heights & Corona: Momos And Science Stuff
If science museums were records, The New York Hall Of Science would be the B Side to the Natural History Museum’s A Side. That’s not to say the Hall Of Science isn’t great. After all, The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was a B-side. This museum is generally less crowded than other big tourist spots in Manhattan and it’s filled with over 400 interactive displays. There’s a maker space lab that’s open to the public every Saturday from 1:30-5pm where you can play with 3D printers, plaster casting, and a bunch of woodworking stuff. The events here are definitely not just for children, and they’re all free with your general admission ticket (which costs $16 for adults). We promise that The Hall Of Science is more exciting on a rainy day than staying in your bed and telling yourself you’ll only watch one more Seinfeld episode for five hours straight.
Once you finish all the wholesome-but-germy science museum activities, you might want to wash your hands. And, after that, get on the 7 Train for about 15 minutes and get off in Jackson Heights. Your first order of business is to eat some Nepali momos - this neighborhood has a ton of really good ones, but we especially like the food at Lhasa Fast Food, Phayul, and Nepali Bhanchha Ghar(all of which are near the Roosevelt Avenue train station). For more great recommendations of everything from arepas to daal, check out our full guide to the neighborhood here.
UWS: Korean wraps & lincoln center
New York is full of secrets (that’s why its hair is so big). One of those secrets is that there’s a space above Grand Central that Metro-North used to use as a jail. Another is that you can get $32 tickets to new shows at Lincoln Center if you’re between the ages of 21 and 35. All you have to do is sign up (for free) here.
Once you’ve done that, try to get tickets for a Saturday show, and spend a day on the Upper West Side. If it’s at all bearable outside, walk over to Riverside Park. There’s a stretch running from 59th to 71st that used to have a big railroad going through it, but now it has 100% fewer railroad cars, and 100% more seats around grass-lined paths that look kind of like boardwalks. Bring a book and some cheese, and contemplate how long it would take you to swim to Hoboken. Maybe, like, half an hour? Excluding freak-out time.
For breakfast or lunch, Momofuku Bang Bar is one of the most exciting options around, and their flatbread sandwiches are worth a walk to Columbus Circle. Yes, it’s located in the Time Warner Center, a.k.a. the vertical mall on 59th Street, and no, you can’t really sit down there. But the important thing is that the wraps are really good. For drinks before your show, go to Vanguard Wine Bar. For dinner, Blue Ribbon is a good upscale choice - but if you want something more causal, try Inti (a Peruvian restaurant on 10th) or Yakitori Totto.
Jersey City: pizza & murals
If you haven’t been to Razza yet, you need to get on that as soon as possible. The thin-crust pies here are somehow crispy and soft in the all the right places - and the excellent toppings are mostly locally-sourced from around New Jersey. You’re probably going to have to wait for a table, so you should plan on arriving a little before they open at 5:30pm to put your name in. While you count down the hours until then, check out some other Jersey City spots.
The Liberty State Park waterfront gives you one of the best views of the Manhattan skyline, from an angle you might not get to see all the time. This area has a bunch of public events on weekends, so look at their site to make sure there’s no 5k happening (unless you want that 3.1 mile run to be part of your Saturday). Jersey City also has one of the biggest publicly-sponsored mural programs in the area, and there’s a whole map you can follow for 66 of them.
If you still have time before your table at Razza is ready, go hang out at a bar nearby. Dullboy, Light Horse Tavern, and Lo-Fidelity all work for groups. There’s also a Barcade if you’re with people who prefer to play games while they drink.
gowanus: Climbing & Shuffleboard
If Step Brothers taught us anything, it was that you shouldn’t live with your parents in your 40s, and that more space means more room for activities. In terms of the latter, Gowanus is a perfect example.
There’s a lot to do in Gowanus, and plenty of square footage to do it in. For example, you can go climbing at Brooklyn Boulders. This is a particularly good Saturday plan if you’re feeling any combination of adventurous, not-hungover, and interested in pretending you’re closer to real mountains than an institution called The Transit Museum. They have $39 day passes and a bunch of different classes you can sign up for (including intro to climbing, yoga, and “climber core”).
Afterwards, do something that doesn’t involve getting chalk on your hands. For a drink, Lavender Lake and Threes Brewing are fun, and you can feel free to bring all the contacts in your phone - both spots are big enough for a medium-sized wedding reception. If you’re looking for dinner and feeling tired-edging-on-hangry, try Ghenet, a relaxed neighborhood spot with really good Ethiopian food. Or get Korean barbecue at Insa. Important: they also have karaoke.
Scaling artificial rocks in a flattering harness isn’t for everyone. If you’d rather spend your afternoon drinking blood orange margaritas and playing a resort sport, Royal Palms Shuffleboard is for you. We’d just recommend making a reservation ahead of time. For an evening activity, go see a show at Littlefield or The Bell House - there are great comedy events, live music, and dance parties almost every night, and tickets are usually in the $20 range.
Upper east side: DESIGN WORKSHOPS & CHEEsE
If you’ve spent more than a week in NYC, there’s a pretty solid chance you’ve been to The Met before. But you may not have made it to the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum yet. It’s located in the old Andrew Carnegie Mansion right by Central Park, which means it’s more beautiful and historic than 75% of the buildings you probably see on your normal commute.
Cooper Hewitt runs Saturday design programs that are all completely free and family-friendly. Draw your own light fixture or make a miniature 3D landscape, and remember why you didn’t go into design (or why you did). There’s also an exhibit called “The Immersion Room” which allows you to project different famous designs onto the walls and ceilings, and draw on top of them like you did in your parents’ basement when you were 7.
Adult tickets to the museum cost $16 if you buy them online, but they also do pay-what-you-wish admission from 6pm-9pm on Saturday nights. In case you want to go to dinner afterward, some casual spots in the area are Naruto Ramen and Earl’s Beer and Cheese (which is more like a beer bar with good food). For something a bit fancier, try Korali Estiatorio on 3rd Avenue for Greek food.
BELMONT: ARTHUR AVE & THE BOTANICAL GARDEN
If you’re in the mood to watch a bird land on a branch and wonder why nature is a mother but not a sister, go to the Botanical Garden in the Bronx. You could easily spend most of your day here - they have seasonal activities like a walk through 250 pine trees, a train show that runs until the end of January, and something called “world of plants” where you get to pretend you live in a place where tropical rainforests are standard.
Afterwards, eat dinner around Arthur Avenue (and not on a bench where someone has definitely tried to domesticate a chipmunk). Zero Otto Nove and Antonio’s both serve good Italian food and work well for groups.
CHELSEA: FISH TACOS & ART
Gallery exhibits change nearly as often as a Type A person’s Brita filter. Which is to say, every few months. So even if you’ve done the Chelsea gallery thing before, you’re bound to see something new on a repeat trip. Still, you’re more likely to enjoy it if you’re not starving, so it’s probably a good idea to start with brunch. For a sit-down meal, we like Cookshop - but if you want something quicker, go to Los Mariscos in Chelsea Market for the best fish tacos in Manhattan.
Then, start to make your way down either 21st or 24th Street (between 10th and 11th Avenues). Both blocks are lined with shows, and popping into them will feel a little like art trick-or-treating. If you want a few specific spots to check out, try Gagosian, Metro Pictures, and Gladstone galleries. They’re all open from 10am-6pm on Saturdays, and they have regularly-rotating contemporary installations.
Scientists are still trying to figure out why standing with your arms crossed (a.k.a. the classic I’m-looking-at-some-art pose) is so exhausting, but what we know for sure is that after a while, you’ll probably be ready for another meal. If you want tapas in a niceish space, Tia Pol and El Quinto Pino are both great. If you’re feeling pizza and a more relaxed atmosphere, Ovest is just a few blocks north of most of the galleries. It has chewy-crusted pies and a pretty large selection of wines by the glass.
INDUSTRY CITY: SAKE TASTING & MINI GOLF
When tech startups inevitably create their own utopian villages around the world, they’ll probably look a bit like Industry City: a complex of warehouses in Brooklyn with expensive drip coffee, indoor mini golf, and an ice skating rink. You don’t need to work and/or live there (yet) - just go visit on a Saturday. They do a lot of family programming on weekends, so you’ll probably see some kids around. But also know that they have frozen drinks and an arcade space with Dance Dance Revolution.
While you’re in the area, stop by Brooklyn Kura, the only NYC brewery where you can get craft sake by the glass. Its tap room is only open on weekends, and their Saturday hours are 1-9pm. They have some outdoor seating, and a few different housemade sake varieties (including one called Occidental that tastes a little like bananas). There are also snacks and cheese boards on the menu, but don’t expect to have a full meal here.
It’s possible you’ll be slightly drunk on sake at this point - and/or just in need of something that isn’t rice wine. Conveniently, there’s a full food hall in Industry City, and our favorite things there are the doner kebab sandwich from Kotti, the al pastor tacos from Taco Mix (originally located in East Harlem), and the ice cream from Blue Marble. Or you could always walk about 15 minutes south to one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city: Tacos El Bronco in Sunset Park.
LONG ISLAND CITY: ART & HOT DOGS
Our favorite museums to visit in LIC are MoMA PS1 and the Noguchi Museum. But, if you’re like us, you’re going to want to eat something before you cross your arms and stare at a sculpture made entirely from spoons. We have a whole list of restaurants we like in the neighborhood, but LIC Market and Jackson’s are best for brunch.
If you want to cut out the middle man and just make one stop, MoMA PS1 has its very own Greek all-day cafe called Mina’s. The dips and small plates are so good that we’d tell someone to eat here even if they weren’t staying for the art. But you should. Especially because museum admission is free with proof of NYC residency.
Another museum option is the Noguchi Museum. Their Saturday hours are 11am-6pm, and it costs $10 to get in ($5 for students). It’s pretty small, so if you want to keep the party going we’d suggest walking about a block to the Socrates Sculpture Park - it’s completely outdoors, completely free, and it has great views of the East River.