Central Park

Ah, spring in New York. It's time to emerge from hibernation and savor the mild weather before the oppressive summer heat sets in. If you really want to embrace this season in the Big Apple, you don't have to spend a fortune. Here are six activities -- all under $45 -- that will bring you outdoors and into the city for less.

Explore Governor’s Island

A ferry ride ($2) is all it takes to get to this mini oasis away from the bustle of Manhattan. Here, you can bike, zip down a giant slide, or kick back in hammocks and enjoy skyline views. There’s a lineup of events this spring and summer to dive into, including the Holi Hai festival of colors on May 6 (free), a Family Fun Day full of kid-friendly activities on May 28 (free), and later in the summer, the 1920s-themed Jazz Age Lawn Party on June 10 and 11 ($45 for early bird tickets).

Stargaze at the High Line

Who said you can’t see stars in the city? Head to this public park set on one of the West side’s historic freight rail lines, which runs from Gansevoort to 34th Street between 10th and 12th avenues, and you can gaze at the cosmos through high powered telescopes for free, every Tuesday now through October from dusk until 30 minutes before the park closes at 10 p.m. (and 11 p.m. from June to September). Enter at the 14th street entrance; the scopes are at the Diller-von Furstenberg Sundeck.

Stroll Through Contemporary Art at the Whitney

A snapshot of American life is on display through June 11 at the museum’s Whitney Biennial, the longest-running survey of American art. You can reflect on a showcase of work from 63 contemporary artists that tackle of-the-moment issues. General admission ($22 for adults) gets you into all exhibitions at the museum.

See the Blooms at New York Botanical Garden

'Tis the season for cherry blossoms, daffodils, and azaleas at these gardens in the Bronx. They’ll have a Mother’s Day Garden Party on May 13 and 14 with live music, games, and plenty of space to picnic among the azaleas. You can opt to reserve a catered brunch in the Garden Terrace Room for $90 if you’re feeling fancy, but general admission ($28 for adults, $25 for students and seniors, $12 for children) gets you admission to the conservatory, art gallery, and all garden exhibitions. Don’t miss the whimsical glass blown sculptures from Dale Chihuly, open until October 29.

Catch a Free Outdoor Movie

Skip the $20 cineplex movie tickets and catch a free screening on the lawn at Randall’s Island, which can be accessed for the price of a ticket on the M35 bus (it leaves from the Northeast corner of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue; fare costs the same as a subway ride -- $2.75). "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” airs May 28 and “Aladdin” June 11.

Eat Your Way Around Town:

The best way to get a taste of New York’s melting pot of flavors? Food festivals -- and there are a lot of good eats this season.

  • Smorgasburg: Dive into Brooklyn at this open-air food market via 100 local vendors, who serve creative concoctions like ramen burgers and dragon-fruit ice cream bowls. It’s free to enter and is open Saturday at East River State Park in Williamsburg, or Sunday in Prospect Park.
  • Taste of Tribeca: Bring your appetite to Tribeca's food festival on May 20, where more than 65 of the neighborhood’s best restaurants will be serving up dishes. A $45 advance ticket gets you a tasting card to any six vendors, and bonus: it raises money for local public schools (so you can feel good about stuffing your face from 11:30 to 3:00 p.m.). The festival takes place on Duane Street between Greenwich and Hudson.
  • Chocolate Fest: Dessert has its day on May 7 at the Upper East Side’s Buttenweiser Hall, where for $35 you can sample chocolatey ice cream, bon bons, and cheese pairings.
  •  Coffee and Tea Festival: There’s no quicker way to get to know New York than by drinking the stuff that powers us day in and day out -- coffee. You can get your caffeine fix at the June 11 at the Brooklyn Expo Center (they’re holding the first-ever “iced” version of the event, which usually serves hot brews in winter).
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