GOMAG.COM
Hot Town in the City
by Sharyn Jackson
July 9, 2008

ASSERT YOUR INDEPENDENCE

It's all about the USA this year (and every year) as Macy's and the New York Pops ring in our 230th birthday with their 4th of July Fireworks show entitled "It's About Us." The classic display promises to wow onlookers from FDR drive, Brooklyn Heights Promenade and the Seaport, but the best viewing point is Jersey City's Liberty State Park, where the pyrotechnics illuminate Lady Liberty before your eyes. Call the fireworks hotline, 212-494-4495, for viewing locations.

If the Pops aren't quite your speed, the River to River Festival may have just what you need. This downtown summer-long festival brings entertainment to the parks and cultural spaces from the East to the Hudson River. Celebrate Independence Day with a 2am candlelight walking tour of Revolutionary New York ($25, frauncestavern.org) or a free concert by Scottish rockers Belle & Sebastian (free, 3:30pm, Battery Park, downtownny.com/live/events). Check rivertorivernyc.com for more events.

ROCK OUT

Summer is the time for free music in New York! While downtown, stop by South Street Seaport for the Seaport Music Festival featuring the Sugar Hill Gang (July 20), Bio Ritmo (Aug 2) and Ted Leo & The Pharmacists (Aug 25). Seaportmusicfestival.com has the lineup.

Morning person? Start your Fridays with the Good Morning America Concert Series in Bryant Park. The 7am concerts are broadcast on ABC, but early risers have the advantage of seeing luminaries like Prince (June 16), Mary J. Blige (June 23) and the Pussycat Dolls (June 30) in the flesh. Check bryantpark.org for more.

Indie fans rejoice: the Siren Music Festival returns to Coney Island July 15 with some of the best rock bands and DJs in the world (along with 100,000 of their greatest fans). At press time, the ever-expanding lineup in this all-day festival includes Art Brut, Celebration, Tapes 'n Tapes and The Cribs. Villagevoice.com/siren will keep you updated.

The mother of all free performing arts festivals, Central Park Summerstage takes up residence at Rumsey Playfield this summer, with appearances by such notables as Broadway songstress Audra McDonald (June 29), author Joan Didion (June 30), comedian Amy Poehler (July 19) and neo-soul singer Goapele (July 29). Folk lesbian fave Ani DiFranco also plays a benefit concert on July 13. Tickets are $36 (ticketmaster.com). See summerstage.org for more events.

Central Park is also home to a wide variety of other free music festivals. Enjoy the sounds of the New York Philharmonic with all the comforts of a summer night's picnic. This year's program offers Tchaikovsky and Dvorak (July 12), and Prokofiev and Beethoven (July 18). The Metropolitan Opera is keeping the parks green this summer with an all-Verdi concert series. The Great Lawn serves as the stage for La Traviata (Aug 22) and Rigoletto (Aug 23). If you can't find a spot on the übercrowded lawn, the Met may be coming to another park near you. The concerts will visit all five boroughs and New Jersey. For more music events throughout the summer, check centralparknyc.org.

COME AND MEET THOSE DANCING FEET

Now that the music's got you in the mood, dance the night away with NYC's LGBT Community Center at two fun and fabulous annual benefits in the surf and sun. First, kick your heels to the beats of Junior Vasquez on a dance floor built directly over the Great South Bay in Fire Island Pines for Dancing on the Bay (July 2). Next, head out to East Hampton and mingle with the stars (last year brought out the likes of Kim Cattrall, Jim McGreevey and Mario Cantone) for Dancing on the Beach (July 22). For ticket and location info call 212-620-7310 or visit gaycenter.org.

Lincoln Center's popular summer dance festival, Midsummer Night Swing ($15, lessons 6:30pm, dancing 7:30pm, June 20-July 22, lincolncenter.org), returns for its 18th year, offering more swing, salsa, tango, western and disco to get your booty shaking. Don't miss Gay Pride Dance Night alongside Lincoln Center's famous fountain (June 21). DJ Brenda Black, disco singer Martha Wash and all-female dance group Sister Funk are just some of the entertainment.

Not much of a triple threat? Watch the pros do it right at Broadway in Bryant Park (free, Thursdays, 12:30-1:30pm, July 6-Aug 10, bryantpark.org), as the most popular shows on and off Broadway perform their biggest hits during your lunch break. Don't miss highlights from new musicals such as The Drowsy Chaperone (July 13) and The Wedding Singer (July 27). Other lunchtime programs include Piano in the Park, Mon–Fri, 12–1:45pm, thru Aug 25; Afternoon Arias, Tues–Fri, 12:30–1:30pm, Aug 15–18; Word for Word, Wednesdays 12:30–1:30pm, thru Aug 23.

AND, ACTION!

Once in Bryant Park, stick around for the main event, the HBO Summer Film Series. Get there early with your picnic basket and board games in tow. Then await those familiar chords of… the HBO song!  Perhaps the most bizarre but fun collective activity in all New York, nothing says Monday night like dancing to the creepy tune as the sun goes down over Bryant Park. What's more, you've got a great classic film to follow the momentary freak-out. The series opens with Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (June 19). Check byrantpark.org for the lineup.

Hudson River Park's Take Me To The River festival offers free films on the piers with their Riverflicks program. Catch the Wednesday series "One Mean Summer" at Pier 54, which includes some R-rated films that "feature the darker side of life," such as Rosemary's Baby (July 12) and Cruel Intentions (Aug 2). Fridays bring "Big Adventures" to Pier 46 for the family crowd, with G and PG selections like March of the Penguins (July 14)and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Aug 18). For the full schedule, visit hudsonriverpark.org/Calendar/RF.htm.

Brooklynites in the know are privy to the dazzling skyline and some incredible film with Rooftop Films—Movies on a Roof in Brooklyn. This innovative free series features new, underground and independent short films and underexposed feature films on the roof of the Old American Can Factory, an artists’ complex in Park Slope/Gowanus. Check rooftopfilms.com for more information.

SPEAKING OF BROOKLYN...

Don't miss the popular monthly outer-borough soiree, Brooklyn Museum Target First Saturdays. July's theme is “Graffiti Block Party,” which celebrates the museum's newly opened Graffiti exhibition and includes music, films, graffiti-art workshops, artist talks and a dance party under the stars (July 1). Admission is free and the fun starts at 5pm. See brooklynmuseum.org/first-saturdays for details.

Prospect Parks' annual performing arts festival Celebrate Brooklyn was launched in 1979 to revitalize the area and to celebrate the multicultural universe that is Kings County. This year, locals (and those Manhattanites daring enough to leave the island) will be treated to performances by Savion Glover (June 24), Toshi Reagon (July 8) and Yo La Tengo (July 13) and to a special screening of the 1931 "camp-horror classic" Dracula, with an original score performed live by Philip Glass and Kronos Quartet (July 27). There is a $3 suggested donation. For the schedule, visit celebratebrooklyn.org/celebrate/schedule.asp.

TRANSPORTING EXPERIENCES

Step back in time on the Upper East Side at the Mt. Vernon House's 18th-century landscaped garden for their Summer Garden Evening Concert Series, replete with period snacks and drinks. The repertoire covers broadsides from the Revolutionary War period, "tavern tunes" and songs from 1820s New York and features instruments like the hammered dulcimer, the limberjack and the lute. Concerts take place Tuesdays in June and July (no concert July 3). Check mvhm.org/pages/events/events/htm for the schedule.

The Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts offers free Garden Jazz and R&B Concerts every other Friday at the beautifully restored Flushing Town Hall, as well as the Queens Jazz Trail Tour in the Flushing Town Hall Trolley ($30). The trolley visits neighborhoods where Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and John Coltrane lived, and includes a guided tour of the newly restored Louis Armstrong House and Museum. Flushingtownhall.org has the details.

Get to know the fine details of your favorite neighborhood or introduce yourself to an undiscovered territory. Big Onion offers walking tours covering everything from Green-Wood Cemetery at twilight (spooky!) to multi-ethnic eating on the Lower East Side (yummy!). Be sure to catch "Before Stonewall" (June 24, 1pm), which takes you on an historical journey through gay NYC (including the haunts of Eleanor Roosevelt!). Tours are $15, bigonion.com.

Join the Public Theater for groundbreaking theatre with the biggest stars and the greenest backdrop: Shakespeare in the Park. This year’s season touches on war and the havoc it wreaks on the nation and the individual with Macbeth, directed by Moises Kaufman (The Laramie Project) and starring Liev Schreiber (June 13-July 9); and the world premiere of Tony Kushner's translation of Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children, starring Meryl Streep (Aug 8-Sep 3).Tickets are free and available the day of the show at the Public and Delacorte Theaters. Visit publictheater.org/view.php?mode=shakespeare for details.

MAKE A SPLASH

If you’re down about the one that got away, remember that there are plenty of other fish in the Meer! Pactice your bait and hook at the Harlem Meer, situated in the northeast corner of Central Park. Your catch may not be human, but the satisfaction of reeling her in and letting her go is therapeutic to anyone on the rebound. Bamboo fishing poles and bait (corn kernels) are provided free of charge at the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center. Call 212-860-1370 for details.

Daring souls take a ride on the mighty Hudson. The Downtown Boathouse offers classes and trips on weeknights, plus free 20-minute kayak sessions on weekends. Kayak, paddle and life jacket provided. Visit downtownboathouse.org for locations and schedules.

THE OLD BALLGAME

If the subway is the only thing that Mets and Yankees fans have in common, then contribute to the peace process this summer and ride one out to Shea or Yankee Stadium. Those lucky enough to snag tickets to the subway series (July 1 & 2 @ Yankee Stadium) will be privy to one of the most unique New York experiences out there: beer-slurping, hot dog-chomping, cheering and cursing New Yorkers at their finest. Mets.mlb.com and yankees.mlb.com have the goods, depending on which team you favor.


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