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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 sees a movie at Sony IMAX or Cinema Classics, New York does not disappoint. Many days, visitors may choose between a USD70 Broadway extravaganza or one of the city's many free parades. Adventurous theatergoers eschew Broadway for off- and off-off-Broadway while those seeking to express themselves haunt the city's many nightclubs. Meanwhile, divas and drag queens prove nightly that cabaret is not a thing of the past.

Sinatra was wise when he sang, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere...." The world's 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 latest diva at the Metropolitan Opera House to Irving Plaza's hottest band, the best of the best make it all look easy.

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

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 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 Sheep's Meadow, Central Park itself provides numerous amusements for its visitors.

Downtown, with its traditionally youthful edge, offers numerous free choices. The Luna Lounge, Arlene's 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; a "Warhol-Factory" flavored bar, it shows movies like Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" and Coppola's "Rumble Fish." Check out 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 a performance at The Amato Opera and then a heavy rock show at CBGB's. They're on the same street.

Art films from all over the world play at The Film Forum, while Hollywood movies show for USD4 at Cineplex Odeon Worldwide Cinemas. There's comedy on select nights at the Luna Lounge and all types of performances at Symphony Space. Bowling at Bowlmor Lanes and spending a day at the Bronx Zoo are longstanding New York City pastimes.

S.O.B.'s showcases world music, while Izzy Bar and the Knitting Factory provide a mixed bag of music, spoken word and art. De La Guarda 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 reasonable prices.

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 Dangerfield's and Caroline's, 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, the 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. Meanwhile, The Lion King roars on Broadway and reigns supreme as most coveted ticket.



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