Free Happenings at the New York Public Library and Bryant Park

Mardi Gras Celebration at Bryant Park
Mardi Gras Celebration at Bryant Park, February 14, 2014

When we were in New York City over the Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to stop by the offices of the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO).

In the olden days before the internet, you could pick up lots of great tourist information and maps at various international tourism offices in New York.

Walking down Fifth Avenue on our way to JNTO, we passed the main entrance of the New York Public Library and stopped.  I had never been inside the library to see the iconic Reading Room.  We were there.  We had to go in.

It turned out that the Reading Room was closed to the public due to ongoing repairs. I asked the lady at the information desk what other parts of the library we should see, and she encouraged us to sign up for the free building tour.  So we did.

Free Building Tours of the New York Public Library

The tour guide was terrific.  We got to see the Periodicals Room, the Map Room, and learn about the history of the library and the history of New York City.  We never made it to JNTO, but this was a most worthwhile detour.

The New York Public Library offers free one-hour tours at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays (except during the summer.)  Sign up at the reception desk in Astor Hall.

By the way, if you are in New York at Christmastime, the New York Public Library displays an enormous Christmas tree, decorated with beautiful birds.  There were lots of people taking family photos in front of the tree.

Free Ice Skating at Bryant Park

While you are in the vicinity, you might want to try out the free ice skating in Bryant Park, which is right behind the library.  There is a large skating rink and during the holiday season the park is ringed with vendors like a European Christmas market.  If you need to rent skates the cost is $15.  Compare that to Rockefeller Center where admission is $12 for adults, $15 for children, and skate rental is $12.

The rink at Bryant Park is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day from late October through  through March 1, 2015.

Juggling Class and More at Bryant Park

Bryant Park offers lots of other free entertainment:  Ping pong; juggling classes; Tai Chi; fitness club; and more.

Take a ride on Le Carrousel, which plays French cabaret music.  It costs $3 per ride, or $15 for ten tickets.  There is no charge for parents to ride alongside their small children.

On Saturday February 14, 2015 at 1 p.m. there will be a free Mardi Gras celebration at Le Carrousel, featuring a Cajun band and a magician.

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I can’t tell you how many reports I’ve read about the Andaz Fifth Avenue on other miles and points blogs.  They all praise the view of the New York Public Library.

Next time you are passing by, I suggest you go in.

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