New York City is home to a unique blend of cultures that offers a diverse range of entertainment options to ESL students. From iconic buildings to museums, theaters to parks, the Big Apple has something for everyone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week–it’s no wonder they call it “The City That Never Sleeps.”
At Speak Up USA, we encourage our students to take advantage of this wide array cultural and entertainment offerings. Doing so will improve not only your English, but also your social life and cultural awareness. While by no means an exhaustive list, we hope the following five suggestions will inspire you to get of your comfort zone, meet some new people, and gain confidence in your English speaking and listening skills.
1. Watch a Broadway Show
For over 100 years, Broadway has been the epicenter of the theater world, drawing millions of people here every year. Interestingly, musicals provide an added benefit to English learners—many ESL students find it easier to understand English when sung lyrically. When putting words to music, songwriters emphasize the cadence and rhythm of words and phrases. Don’t worry if you can’t make out every word—just enjoy the music. You might be surprised by how much your subconscious can absorb!
Here is a list of a few famous Broadway shows:
• The Lion King
• The Phantom of the Opera
• Jersey Boys
2. Dine out
New York City is a melting pot of cultures, and that diversity extends to the city’s culinary scene. New Yorkers are notorious for eating out, whether grabbing a quick from street carts to exquisite meals at Michelin-rated restaurants. One can learn about new dishes, go on romantic dates, have a drink or meet a group of friends for lunch or dinner. Added bonus: keeping the table talk in English will go a long way in improving your spoken English. Don’t forget to tip your server! (In the U.S., a 20% gratuity is customary for good service).
3. Take a Stroll Through a Park
Although New York City is notorious for being a concrete jungle, many green spaces abound throughout the five boroughs. These sanctuaries provide New Yorkers respite from the everyday hustle-and-bustle. There’s nothing like a little nature to promote tranquility and peace. The most visited—and famous—park in New York City is Central Park. Many free events are hosted there to entertain visitors on a regular basis. Some of the activities include paddleboating, attending film festivals, watching Shakespeare in the Park, and picnicking with family, friends, and/or classmates.
The park’s activity schedule changes according to the month and season. While Central Park is the biggest park of Manhattan, other parks are also frequently visited because of the events they offer and their peaceful environment.
Check out some of the ones below.
• Riverside Park, located in the Upper West Side
• Jackie Robinson Park, located in Harlem
• Morningside Park, located in Harlem
• Bryant Park, located in Midtown
• Inwood Hill Park, located in Inwood
4. Visit a Museum
New York museums represent the best of local, regional and international artists. ESL students can observe artwork and artifacts from all over the world, affording the opportunity to learn about art history, fashion, scientific historical artifacts, and much more. These museums are sure to stimulate conversation, so get talking!
The most famous museum in NYC would have to be The Metropolitan Museum of Art aka The Met. Its historical art spans from over five thousand years ago to the present day. Different exhibitions are held on a seasonal basis, so be sure to check out https://www.metmuseum.org/ for additional information.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), opened on November 7, 1929, has garnered an incredible reputation throughout the years thanks to the remarkable variety of art on display. https://www.moma.org/.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention the The American Museum of Natural History (https://www.amnh.org/) and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum https://www.guggenheim.org/.
On a budget? ESL students looking for free museums are encouraged to check out the following:
• American Folk Art Museum
• BRIC House
• Bronx Museum of the Arts
• Bushwick Street Art Collective
• The Cloisters Museum and Garden
5. Check Out a Live Comedy Show
Life in New York can be hectic and fast-paced. Maybe that’s why NYC became the comedy capital of the world. After all, what better stress-reliever than laughing it up among friends in a cozy comedy club? When it comes to relieving stress, laughter just might be the best medicine.
The most famous popular form of live comedy in New York is stand up–just a man or woman and a microphone, weaving together funny stories, one-liners, or a combination of both. A few of the most popular comedy clubs for stand up in New York City include:
• The Comedy Cellar
• Gotham Comedy Club
• Stand Up New York
• The Stand
• Many more
Group improvisation is a form of live comedy whereby an ensemble creates funny stories and characters “off the cuff” (improvised on the spot), often based on suggestions from the audience. The most well-respected imrov theater companies include:
• Upright Citizens Brigade https://ucbcomedy.com/
• The Peoples Improv Theater https://thepit-nyc.com/
• The Magnet Theater https://magnettheater.com
The city is your oyster. Get shucking!