This weekend, October 16th & 17th, Open House New York returns with a lineup of 200 things to do across all five boroughs. First launched in 2001, the annual OHNY weekend gives New Yorkers a chance to access off-limits sights and delve deeper into iconic landmarks with a series of tours, talks, and open hours. This year, for its 20th anniversary, OHNY is back with a mix of in-person and virtual events, plus new COVID-19 protocols (bring your vaccination card, ID, and mask). Also new this year is OHNY’s weekend hub at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where there will be food trucks, pop-up eateries, tours, demos, and more. Here are our picks for the best open access sites during OHNY weekend 2021.
1. 1014 Fifth Avenue
In a constantly changing city like New York, architects and urban planners must make choices about what to do with historic buildings. 1014 Fifth Avenue is one such building — one of the few remaining Beaux-Arts townhouses on Museum Mile — and its future is being debated.
During OHNY 2021, the former Goethe House New York German cultural center and ambassador’s home will offer guided walking tours, lectures, and talks by architects and historians through the Upper East Side. Our very own Justin Rivers, Untapped New York’s Chief Experience Officer will host the tour “Inside 1014 Fifth Avenue & The Hidden Histories of Fifth Avenue’s Gilded Age Mansion” three times over the weekend. 1014 Fifth Avenue will be open between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
2. Brooklyn Grange
One of New York City’s leading rooftop farms, Brooklyn Grange grows over 100,000 pounds of organic produce on its three rooftop farms every year. Launched in 2010 with a farm in Long Island City, the Brooklyn Grange now operates 5.6 acres, with additional farms in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Sunset Park. They sell their produce at markets, via retailers, and through a CSA program and donate 30% of it to low-income community members.
For Open House New York weekend 2021, their Long Island City farm will host the inaugural BG Queens Fall Fest to celebrate the harvest. It will include a special edition of their weekly farmer’s market with family-friendly activities like pumpkin painting, honey tasting, live performances, and educational tours. It will be open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday.
2. Brooklyn Navy Yard: Kings County Distillery
One of the best distilleries to visit in Brooklyn, Kings County Distillery is actually the longest operating whiskey distillery in Brooklyn and was the first whiskey distillery founded in New York since Prohibition. The distillery is located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and produces single malt whiskey, rye, bourbon, and specialty products like moonshine and chocolate whiskey.
For OHNY 2021, Kings County Distillery will be offering tours and tastings every half hour from 1 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. on Saturday and from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sunday. Advance registration is required.
4. Bohemian National Hall
The Bohemian National Hall is a remaining testament to the 19th-century social halls where immigrant culture flourished in New York City. Built in 1896, the Renaissance Revival building has been a touchstone for Czech and Slovak culture for over a century. Today it shares space with the Czech Consulate, the Czech Center New York, and the Bohemian Benevolent & Literary Association. It was designed by architect William C. Frohne, who also designed the clubhouse of the German American Shooting Society in the East Village.
For OHNY 2021, the Bohemian National Hall will be open from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday, with tours given every 15 minutes on a walk-up, first-come-first-served basis.
5. Central Park Blockhouse
Did you know that the oldest structure inside Central Park actually predates the park itself? In 1858, New York City held a design competition for the creation of Central Park, but the Blockhouse dates back to the War of 1812, when it was built as a fortification against the invading British soldiers. It’s located in a rocky outcropping in the park’s North Woods.
During OHNY 2021, you can get a rare glimpse at this off-limits site thanks to the Central Park Conservancy. The Blockhouse will be unlocked and open to the public from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday. There will be guides on hand to answer questions and explain the site’s history.
6. Manhattan Borough President’s Map Display
Borough presidents are responsible for maintaining a database of maps of their borough, mainly for the purpose of updating the map with addresses of new buildings, preparing for street improvements, and verifying information about existing buildings and monuments. But they also safeguard historic maps, including the 1820 map of Manhattan by John Randall that will be on display for OHNY. The massive map encompasses 92 panels and measures approximately 16 feet by 60 feet. It was the first map to plot the 1811 “Commissioner’s Plan” that laid out Manhattan’s street grid.
The Manhattan borough president’s Map Room is typically only open by appointment from Monday to Friday, but for Open House New York 2021 it will be exceptionally open on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Manhattan residents will be able to register for a chance to win a digital print of the map.
Mmuseumm is one of the tiniest museums and one of two elevator museums in New York City. Housed inside a freight elevator in Tribeca, it displays everyday objects with the aim of inspiring discussions about current events happening around the world. This year’s exhibition features objects interrogating power in our society.
Normally open with $10 timed tickets on select dates, Mmuseumm will be free and open to the public for OHNY 2021 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
8. Noguchi Museum
A hidden gem in Queens, the Noguchi Museum is the first museum in the U.S. created by a living artist to display his own work. Isamu Noguchi not only conceived the museum but designed it and installed the works. In addition to one of the most peaceful sculpture gardens in New York City, the museum houses (and sells) the Japanese-American artist’s iconic Akari lanterns.
The Noguchi Museum will be open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday for OHNY 2021. Tickets cost $5 (a 50% discount from the normal admission fee) and must be reserved in advance.
9. Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre
Originally brought to the U.S. in 1876 for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre ended up in Central Park in 1877 and has been home to a traveling marionette company since 1947. It still puts on marionette shows beloved by kids visiting Central Park.
For OHNY 2021, the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre will be open to the public for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, its staff will offer guided tours of the space, explaining what it’s like to be a professional puppeteer, and will give special performances at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on both days.
10. Wyckoff House Museum
One of a handful of historical farms you can visit in New York City, the Wyckoff House in Brooklyn claims the title of the oldest house in New York City and state. It was built between 1652 and 1819 in a mashup of Dutch colonial style and Flemish Medieval Survival style. It’s surrounded by 1.5 acres of gardens, which includes a colonial kitchen garden and farm.
Unfortunately, the interiors of the Wyckoff House will not be accessible due to damage sustained during Hurricane Ida, but a self-guided audio tour will explain the history and architecture of the site as well as the legacy of the family who built it and their ties to the native Lenape people and enslaved African Americans. On Saturday, the home will host Farmhouse Family Day with outdoor activities in the garden for kids.
Next, check out 14 new public art installations in NYC this month!