With the return of warmer weather and longer days, Manhattan’s event calendars are springing to life. Outdoor celebrations invite exploration of the city’s parks and natural areas, while arts festivals bring creators and enthusiasts together in venues large and small. We’ve collected twenty of the season’s hottest tickets; whether you’re a foodie or a family type, a film buff or a flower lover, there’s something here that’s sure to appeal to you.
The “concrete jungle” is getting a new burst of flora at Arlo Blooms. The courtyard at Arlo SoHo has been transformed into an eco-friendly botanical garden, bursting with color for a one-of-a-kind experience. Enjoy a meal in one of the Tiny Jungles Greenhouses, complete with greenery draped from above, string lighting and dimly-lit lanterns, creating the perfect ambiance for an unforgettable meal or cocktail gathering.
Macy’s Flower Show: March 24-April 7
Welcome spring with a spectacular, otherworldly botanical display. Macy’s annual Flower Show has been delighting and inspiring visitors for more than 70 years, and this year’s theme “Journey to Paradisios — Operation: Inspiration” brings a futuristic note to the long-running tradition. With over 5,000 types of plants, flowers, and trees on display in eight themed areas, the Flower Show is a must-see whether you’re an avid gardener or a confirmed black thumb.
Downtown Urban Arts Festival: Throughout April and May
This five-week, multidisciplinary festival brings together innovative voices in theater, film, poetry, and more. Helmed by Tony-nominated artistic director Reg E. Gaines, DUAF presents cutting-edge work in both small, intimate venues and larger locales. Performances are still being announced; get up-to-the-minute listings at duafnyc.org.
Pillow Fight NYC: April 6
Need to work out a little aggression, make a human connection, or just spend a little time being silly? Grab a pillow (no feathers, please!) and head to Greenwich Village for the Washington Square Pillow Fight. From 3pm to 6pm, you’re free to smack, squeal, and swoop through the park, pillow or stuffed animal in hand, and (gently) whack a few strangers in the head.
MoCCA Arts Festival: April 6-7
This two-day event is Manhattan’s largest independent comics, cartoon, and animation arts festival, drawing over 7,000 visitors annually to experience the work of 400 exhibiting artists. Workshops, lectures, and film screenings round out the program at Metropolitan West (639 W 46th Street) and Ink48 (653 11th Avenue). Sponsored by the Society of Illustrators, this event offers serious enthusiasts and collectors a welcome alternative to hyper-crowded, celebrity-focused comics conventions. Find a schedule and advance tickets at societyillustrators.org.
The Met Roof Garden: Opens April 16
Sculptor Alicja Kwade’s site-specific installation ParaPivot is the highlight of the Cantor Roof Garden this spring and summer. This pair of abstract sculptures, described by the artist as “a kind of planetary system,” is her first institutional solo exhibition in New York. The Roof Garden Cafe offers a sweeping view of the City, and on Friday and Saturday nights it transforms into a martini bar with unparalleled atmosphere. Find hours of operation and more information at metmuseum.org.
International Auto Show: April 19-28
Whether you’re a serious gearhead or just a Fast and the Furious fan, this annual expo of 34 auto manufacturers and 100+ other exhibitors will get your blood pumping. The Javits Convention Center (11th Avenue between 34th and 39th Streets) features performance cars, luxury vehicles, and futuristic auto concepts. See what’s new and what’s on the horizon in vehicle technology. Presale tickets and more info are at autoshowny.com.
Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival, April 21
More of a gathering than a traditional parade, this loosely organized annual event invites New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds to show off their festive costumes and other spring finery. Join the party along Fifth Avenue between 49th and 57th Streets from about 10am to 4pm. Better yet, bring your own homemade “bonnet” and join the march!
AIANY Earth Day Cruise: April 22
Explore issues of urban ecology and meet leading thinkers in sustainable design at this inaugural collaboration between AIANY and Classic Harbor Line. You’ll circumnavigate Manhattan and delve into green infrastructure designed to improve the health of the city’s marine environment while building resilience to storm surge and sea level rise. Ticket price includes a complimentary beverage and a menu of locally sourced hors d’oeuvres. Learn more at calendar.aiany.org.
Tribeca Film Festival: April 24-May 5
One of the world’s foremost events for independent film, Tribeca Film Festival provides filmmakers in all genres the opportunity to release their work to a global audience. With an estimated three million attendees annually, it hosts premieres of documentaries, music films, short films, and theatrical releases (including Danny Boyle’s Yesterday as this year’s closer). Matinee passes start at $55 for six daytime shows. See a full lineup at tribecafilm.com.
Orchid Show: Through April 28
The NYC Botanical Garden’s annual Orchid Show brings together more than 7,000 orchids in a dazzling display of color, shape, and texture. This year’s theme pays homage to Singapore, where the orchid is the national flower and where local horticulturists have made astonishing advances in orchid cultivation. Visitors 21 and over can take advantage of “Orchid Evenings,” where you can stroll through the artfully lit displays after dark while enjoying entertainment by DJs and freestyle dancers. Get more details and tickets at nybg.org.
NY Beer Fest: May 4
Returning to Citi Field for its second year, NY Beer Fest packs 80 breweries pouring 200 beers into a single day of sudsy celebration. Your $50 ticket gets you 4 hours of unlimited tasting from big names like Stone and Oskar Blues plus under-the-radar brewers like Toast and Half Acre. Skipping gluten these days? Stick to cider instead — on-tap offerings include Ace, Down East, and more. See the brewery lineup and pre-order tickets at nybeerfest.com.
PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature: May 6-12
Celebrating its 15th year, New York’s first international literary festival brings together more than 125 artists and writers representing more than 50 nationalities. Attend readings and discussions by literary big names and rising stars alike. Acclaimed novelist Arundhati Roy delivers this year’s keynote lecture at the Apollo Theater on May 12. Find a full lineup and ticket info at worldvoices.pen.org.
Bryant Park Dance Party: Starts May 8
Put on your dancing shoes and get ready to move! Every Wednesday night, join professional dance instructors and live bands for a giant free dance party. You’ll learn classics like swing, tango, and salsa, then have the opportunity to show off your steps with hundreds of new friends. Come down to 6th Avenue and 42nd Street at 6pm, or get a weekly schedule at bryantpark.org.
NYCxDesign: May 10-22
This annual two-week celebration of design attracts hundreds of thousands of attendees and designers from around the world. Showcasing disciplines from sustainable architecture to haute couture, NYCxDesign includes hundreds of events across all five boroughs. A few standouts include FAD Market (a mobile market featuring 50+ designers), A Sense of New York (“an evening of sensory exploration”), and Design Week store tours of the Flatiron District. Admission ranges from free to $500+. Get a full calendar and event map at nycxdesign.com.
Japan Day @ Central Park: May 13
Now in its 11th year, this annual event celebrates Japanese culture and the ties between Japan and New York. The four-mile Japan Run kicks off the festivities for a day of traditional and family-friendly activities, art exhibitions, and a tempting array of Japanese cuisine. From taiko drumming to J-Pop, stage performances provide a powerful soundtrack for the day. Try your hand at creating an origami masterpiece, take a ride on a mini-bullet train, or snap a photo with Hello Kitty! Get a full schedule at japandaynyc.org.
Taste of the Upper West Side: May 17 and 18
Sample the innovative flavors and presentations of more than 80 chefs at this two-day extravaganza. Admission includes unlimited tastings of food, beer, wine, and spirits, plus debuts of highly anticipated new restaurants and signature TasteUWS cocktails. Proceeds benefit the West Side Campaign against Hunger, meaning you’ll be eating and drinking for an excellent cause. Whet your appetite at tasteuws.com.
Made in New York Jazz Gala: May 18
This year, Made in New York celebrates 120 years of George Gershwin with this invitation-only competition and concert. Jazz musicians from around the world vie for one of the Gala’s coveted slots. The Tribeca Performing Arts Center hosts the final competition, featuring five different categories and awards for both professionally judged and audience favorite performers. See a schedule and buy tickets at madeinnyjazz.com.
Dance Parade and Dance Fest: May 18
Taking dance to the streets, Dance Parade features live bands, DJs, and more than 80 groups performing every style from ballet to breakdance. The parade kicks off at 1pm at Broadway and 21st Street, then hooks left at University Place and 8th Street to wind past the grandstand and finish up at Tompkins Square Park. Get there early for the best viewing spot, and let the beat move you — the NYDP (New York Dance Police) gives out “tickets” with free dance class tickets to spectators who aren’t joining in!
Ninth Avenue International Food Festival: May 18 and 19
New York’s oldest and largest continuing food festival unites the diverse food traditions of Hell’s Kitchen and surrounding neighborhoods in one enormous weekend event. Stroll down Ninth Avenue between 42nd and 57th Streets to sample cuisines both familiar and novel, from Spanish tapas to Brazilian arroz com feijão (rice and beans). Plus, enjoy live entertainment, activity booths, and more. Find a vendor list and more at ninthavenuefoodfestival.com.
Shakespeare in the Park: Much Ado About Nothing: Starts May 21
One of New York’s most cherished summer traditions, Shakespeare in the Park returns to the Delacorte Theater in Central Park with Tony Award winner Kenny Leon’s new take on Much Ado About Nothing. This modern production of the classic comedy of romantic confusion and revenge finds the city of Messina celebrating a break from an ongoing war. Line up early for your free ticket, or enter the online ticket lottery ahead of time via the TodayTix app. See seating charts and get more information at centralpark.org.