Posted by: cgratton | February 10, 2009

Bright Lights, Big City

In a few days I’m hitting the road and taking a much-needed long weekend in New York City.  Sick of the snowy sidewalks and subpar nightlife scene here in Storrs, Conn., I’m packing up my car and flooring it out of here immediately after my classes on Thursday.  It may not be much warmer there, but New York is scorching hot in terms of the multitudes of things to do.  And many of these things are FREE, which is music to my ears these days.  Daily listings of free events, exhibits and nightlife deals are posted on New York Magazine’s website (the most comprehensive and easy-to-use searching tool for NYC happenings I’ve found so far). It’s actually surprising how many free things go on each day in New York, but in reality, all restaurants, bars and entertainment venues are hurting just as badly as we are, so giving free (or almost free) stuff only helps them survive the fierce competition in the Big Apple.

Here are some of my tried and tested favorites:

Wine Tastings. Several bars, restaurants and wine shops offer free wine tastings on weekend afternoons. Chambers Street Wines on the West Side and Mister Wright on the Upper East Side are two of these wine shops that give free tastings between 4 and 7 p.m. on Saturday nights (Mister Wright does this on Thursday and Fridays, too).  The wine reps are extremely knowledgeable and give you the entire background behind each wine you try.

Just walk in to sample some free vino

Just walk in to sample some free vino

The Brandy Library Lounge, a lounge that looks like the backdrop to “Masterpiece Theater”–leather-bound books lining mahogany shelves, plush, leather armchairs and couches, a roaring fireplace–is another that offers free tastings of scotches and brandies every Saturday from 5-8 p.m.  Although a little pretentious and stuffy, this whiskey lounge gives free, expensive alcohol and who doesn’t agree with that philosophy?  Another thing, you must be 25 to enter, and although they were a little lax on this policy when I went in, others may not be so lucky.

As warm an atmosphere as a sip of scotch

As warm an atmosphere as a sip of scotch

Museums. Although most museums do charge for admission, almost all have student discounts.  And even some exhibits, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Valentine’s Day special Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, have “suggested ticket prices.”  Although I think you should contribute something to view the amazing art, the fact still stands that you’re getting in for pretty much nothing.

The American Museum of Natural History is also one of these “name your own price” museums.  A more interactive museum than the Met or Guggenheim, AMNH is brimming with interesting things to see.  The Polar Rink, a synthetic, state of the art ice rink is also open for the season, and for only  $10 you can continue your experience with a skate around a 17-foot polar bear statue.  Definitely better than skating with the masses in Rockefeller.

There are also an IMAX theater and a Planetarium with daily shows sure to wow any viewer.  These also have student discounts and are totally worth it for the experience.

Central Park. Always free, always beautiful.  And, with the weather finally warming up, a stroll through the park is an option once again, just be sure to bundle up.  There’s also a free skating rink here!

Hopefully more snow will be melted upon my arrival

Hopefully more snow will be melted upon my arrival

These and a multitude of other options await me this weekend.  And I will definitely be on the lookout for more money-saving ways to enjoy New York!


  1. Very nice! Your blog is a very informative. I’m greedy. I want even more links.

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