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Playing it cool in New York City

Gotham’s winter celebration of arts and parks features over 500 events in five boroughs-- many of them free!
Image: New York
New Yorkers brave single digit temperatures to sled down a hill in the East Meadow of Central Park during the annual Winter FestivalChip East / REUTERS

As a New Yorker, I never, not for a second, cease to be amazed and overwhelmed by the amount of things to see, do, taste, and experience in my own backyard. I’ve deduced that one must be nearly crazed, breathless, and surely without a fulltime job in order to truly take advantage of New York City’s vast pot pourri of cultural offerings, and even then I’d wager there’d be literally thousands of events left unattended.

Choices even for the choosy

The most recent organized effort to cull arts, cultural, and outdoor goings under one canopy is “Cool New York,” a winter festival featuring a head-spinning amount of events—some 500, which are scattered among the five boroughs. Having just kicked off on Jan. 9, 2004, the city-sponsored fest lasts until Feb. 2, 2004 and offers everything under the winter sun for locals and visitors alike.

Cool New York ( has a roster of events that fall loosely into many categories, including arts, dance, historic exhibits, walking tours, films, museums, gardens. Perhaps the best news of all is that a generous portion of these specially organized events are free to the public, and there for the taking. And, with so many events to choose from, you can be certain to find at least a few that pique your interest. Here are some free ones that caught our eye:

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (
    Look Again! Unlocks the history, meaning, and cross-cultural connections between works of art in the museum; for ages 5-12; Saturdays 11am & 2pm, Sundays 11am.
  • Harlem Theater CompanyFrank Silvera Writers’ Workshop Foundation (
    Reading and critique of new plays by emerging young playwrights. This is the 32nd year the company has held this open forum for feedback; every Monday at 7:30pm.
  • China Institute in America (
    Lion Dance featuring costumed acrobats and martial artists moving to drum and gong beats to herald in the Year of the Monkey; Jan. 25, 2004 at 1pm.
  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden (
    Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration with chorale and youth ensemble performances; Jan. 19, 2004, 11am-4:30pm.
  • New York Public Library, Schomberg Center
    African American Jazz Caucus (
    Big band jazz concert by students from nation’s historically black colleges and universities; Jan. 25, 2004 at 3pm.
  • Salt Marsh Center, Marine Park, Brooklyn
    People of all ages will learn the basics of orienteering from Urban Park Rangers; Jan. 31, 2004; 1-3pm.

To order a brochure or for more information about Cool New York events, and their dates and times, go to: Or, if you’re in New York City, just dial 311 for complete festival information.

{Editor’s Note: Have you ever been to New York City or attended a city-wide festival? Do you have an instructive anecdote, tip or horror story to share? We’d love to hear it and possibly reprint it in our letters to the editor column. Simply click here to send a letter to our editors.}