Ellis Island. Image via Save Ellis Island.
In a place that’s been culturally diverse since its inception, New York City is the perfect place for cultural celebrations of all kinds. Beginning in 1892, Ellis Island provided immigrants the opportunity to come live in New York City and the city has been rich with vibrant celebrations and cultural diversity ever since.
Bastille Day, also known as La Fete Nationale, is the celebration of the anniversary of the French storming the Bastille on July 14, 1789. In New York City, it is also an homage to French Culture: a day for those of French heritage or for people who want to celebrate the beauty of French cuisine and culture. Between French shops and food, here are ten ways to celebrate the holiday in New York City (aside from Bastille Day on 60th Street, New York’s largest public celebration of France’s Independence Day).
10. French Restaurant Week
When anyone mentions culture, food is usually the first thing that pops into mind. To honor all of the amazing contributions the French have made to food, 42 restaurants are participating in French Restaurant Week in New York City. Notable participants include Le Cirque, La Ripaille, and Le Rivage.
The annual event began in 2011 and is operating with Open Table. The event offers easy, fixed-price menu options that range from an affordable $18 to the more pricey option of $178.90. French Restaurant Week started on July 6th and will go until the 16th.
9. Bastille Day Ball
Organized by the Committee of French Speaking Societies, the annual Bastille Day Ball hosts over a thousand attendees every year. The tradition began in 1924, 93 years ago and is the only official Bastille Day Ball in New York City.
The ball will take place from 6PM to midnight on July 13th at Club 404 on Tenth Avenue. Music will be provided by the French DJ, DJ Olivier Meiji and the French Heart Jazz Band, and attendees have the opportunity to win a raffle for a trip to Paris.
8. Smith Street Festival and Petanque Tournament
Organized by Bar Tabac, the annual Smith Street Festival and Petanque Tournament will be held on July 16th from noon until ten. The event is one of New York City’s most well-attended Bastille Day celebrations and often brings in crowds of 20,000 people.
Petanque is a French variation of Bocce Ball. The tournament will consist of 72 teams with three players, as it has been done for the past fifteen years in what has become one of the largest Petanque tournaments in North America. Local businesses will set up booths for attendees to peruse and purchase from, and Bar Tabac will offer great food.
The French Bistro, Cafe Du Soleil, on Broadway is also joining in the festivities on the Upper West Side. In addition to participating in French Restaurant Week, Cafe Du Soleil will be hosting a petanque tournament with live music and food. The event will take place on Friday, July 14th at noon on the cafe’s beach terrace.
7. Visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
While celebrating Bastille Day in New York City, it’s important to remember the history involved with the celebration. Although the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island might be considered touristy to some New Yorkers, a visit to both destinations is a great way to learn about the history of French immigrants and the amazing culture they brought with them when they chose New York City as their home.
The Statue of Liberty, in all of her massive glory, is a reminder of the bond between France and the United States, as she was a gift from the French. Whether it’s on Bastille Day or at another time, a visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty provide a great historic background of just how diverse this city is. If you’ve already visited Ellis Island, Untapped Cities provides a hauntingly fantastic tour of the abandoned Ellis Island Hospital.
6. Bastille Day French Wine and Cheese at Murray’s Cheese Shop
What would Bastille day be without a little wine and cheese? Murray’s Cheese Shop is briFromageromage, the French cheesemaking tradition, to New Yorkers on Bleeker Street this Friday. The event will begin at 6:30 PM and ends at 8:00 PM.
The cost for the event is ninety dollars and guests will have a wide range of cheeses from goat cheeses to creamy blues and each cheese is paired with French wine.
5. French Sweets and Macaroon Boutiques
If French sweets are on your mind, New York City is home to many famous shops that are known for their macaroons, French chocolate, and treats. Some of them include Jacques Torres Chocolate, Richart Chocolates at Gastronomie 491, and Maison du Chocolat.
No matter what part of the city you live in, there is sure to be macaroons and French sweets available nearby. If one shop doesn’t satisfy your craving, make a day out of stopping by every macaroon shop you can find. These places will definitely hit the mark.
4. Films on the Green French Cinema
Now in its 10th year, Films on the Green, a free outdoor French film festival produced annually in New York City parks, will present French cinema through the eyes of curators, filmmakers and actors, including Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, James Ivory, Saul Williams, Isabella Rossellini, Wanda Sykes, Laurie Anderson, Matthew Weiner, Matías Piñeiro, and Amy Hargreaves.
The films are free, subtitled and open to the public. For a full list of movies, see here for the upcoming line-up and schedule.
3. The Albertine Reading Room and Book Shop
The Albertine Reading Room and Bookshop is currently the only French bookstore in New York City. The store opened in 2014 and it’s located in the Cultural Services of the French Embassy on Fifth Avenue.
The Albertine is full of French inspiration and even features constellations on the ceiling that was inspired by palazzo of Lorenzo de Medici mural that was created in France and moved to New York City. If you’re looking for a quiet venue to celebrate Bastille Day or want to read about the culture and history of France, the Albertine Reading Room is the perfect place to go.
2. Bastille Day Block Party at Maison Harlem
Maison Harlem, the French restaurant on Saint Nichols Avenue, is hosting a Bastille Day Block Party with Bang Tidy on July 16th from 12 to 7 PM. The entire block will be closed for a day of celebration and fun, which will include music, shopping, food, and face and nail painting.
1. France Run in Central Park
Mark your calendars on August 20th because the French Run doesn’t take place during Bastille Week. Even so, it still encompasses the spirit of the holiday by bringing people together and celebrating all the different cultures in the running community. The 8km France Run, hosted by the New York Road Runners, will take place in Central Park.
Although it recently met full capacity, watching a race can be just as fun (if not more fun) as participating in it. France Race would like readers to know that during the race, “champagne isn’t a substitute for Gatorade, and crepes aren’t a substitute to bagels and pretzels as some people have come to expect.” Instead, the France Race intends to be as inclusive as possible while accepting and celebrating more than just French culture.
With so many options, people with all types of personalities and interests New Yorkers are sure to find a way celebrate Bastille Day that works for them. Vive La France!
Next, check out Our Top 10 Favorite Macaroon Boutiques in NYC and NYC Micro Neighborhoods: Little France in Carrol Gardens, Brooklyn. Get in touch with the author @LitByLiterature.