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Destination Guide

New York offers a dizzying array of entertainment options. So much so that the enormous number of choices often overwhelms even the most jaded New Yorker.

After all, walking down Fifth Avenue or St. Marks Place (two streets as different as they can be) entertains New Yorkers far more than most Hollywood movies. However, if one seeks a movie (or perhaps a film), from the Sony IMAX to Cinema Classics, New York does not disappoint. Many days, visitors may choose between a $70 Broadway extravaganza or one of the citys many free parades. Adventurous theatergoers eschew Broadway for off and off-off Broadway while those seeking to express themselves haunt the citys many nightclubs. Meanwhile, divas and drag queens prove nightly that cabaret is not a thing of the past.

Sinatra is wise when he sings "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere..." The worlds best performers know that without success in the Big Apple, they aren't really successful. Thus, Ricky Martin shakes his hips at Madison Square Garden and Celine Dion croons at Radio City Music Hall. From the Mets latest diva to Irving Plazas hottest band, the best of the best make it look easy.

All the while, art museums and galleries mount shows, street performers entertain in the parks, Gus the Polar Bear swims the backstroke and rollerbladers enjoy the sunshine while basking in the citys spectacle.

Commonly, visitors and residents alike choose their entertainment based on budget. Happily, the city bursts with options whether one is a prince or a pauper.

Those without means will find summertime particularly rich with options. From park concerts by the New York Philharmonic to Shakespeare in Central Park, free culture is everywhere.

Year round, most museums offer a day of free admission during the week. Many other galleries and museums are free all the time. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is technically free, although they push you for an optional donation. Even without a concert, from Belvedere Castle to Sheeps Meadow, Central Park itself provides much amusement to its visitors.

Downtown, with its traditionally youthful edge, offers numerous free choices. The Luna Lounge, Arlenes Grocery and The Sidewalk Cafe are three venues overflowing with every kind of band trying to make it in this big, bad city. Some are better than others. The Void is a bar where a video screen is center stage. This "Warhol-Factory" flavored bar shows movies like Kubricks "A Clockwork Orange" and Coppolas "Rumble Fish." Reels of "bugged out" short films loop to techno, house, hip-hop and electronica. Submit yours. You just might see it alongside a gem by "grand daddy designer," Charles Eames. The risk is even riskier at the hot new art gallery Zao, where the interior design and outdoor space are worth the trip alone.

Great jazz happens literally all night long at Smalls. Its B.Y.O.B policy makes it one of the best deals in the world. Attend to The Amato Opera and then to a heavy, rock show at CBGBs. They're on the same street.

Art films from all over the world play at The Film Forum, while big budget, Hollywood movies show for $3.50 at The Encore Worldwide. Theres comedy on select nights at the Luna Lounge and all types of performance at Symphony Space. Bowling at Bowlmore Lanes and spending a day at the Bronx Zoo are longstanding New York City pastimes.

S.O.Bs showcases world music, while Izzy Bar and The Knitting Factory provide a mixed bag of music, spoken word and art. De La Guardia and Blue Man Group are totally funky, yet accessible, ongoing Off Broadway shows. The historic Zeigfield Theater mesmerizes moviegoers no matter what it shows, and long-running Off Broadway show The Fantasticks plays to a new generation of romantics. Inside and out, the Guggenheim will blow your mind, while ice-skating at Wollman rink is a great way to see Central Park.

In the summer months, Lincoln Center presents its Festival, which showcases innovative performances from around the world for a reasonable price.

When money is no object, the sky isn't the limit in New York.

See well known bands up close at the Bowery Ballroom or Woody Allen play his clarinet Mondays at the Carlyle Hotel. The legendary Bobby Short still packs them in as well. World-class comedians perform at Dangerfields and Carolines while The Mingus Big Band knocks them dead at Fez. In addition to being a museum, The Museum of Modern Art is a performance and cinema mecca. Meanwhile club Twilo provides the complete techno experience. The Rangers and Knicks defeat their rivals at Madison Square Garden, and The Metropolitan Opera and The New York City Ballet dazzle at Lincoln Center. The Lion King roars on Broadway and reigns supreme as the Great White Ways most coveted ticket.

Drew Partikian