For New Yorkers hailing from the countryside, the hustle and bustle of New York City can sometimes be overwhelming and ignite a longing for home. Sure, the bright lights and high energy of NYC living are what pulled you here, but there’s nothing like the sounds, sights, and flavors of country life to feel just right. The good news is that NYC has something for everyone, including those who want a taste of country life now and again. From contra dancing to folk concerts, from Oklahoma City-style burnt ends to a full-sized working farm, it’s possible (and easy) for country folk to enjoy NYC living without having to sacrifice too much of home. Be sure to bookmark our City Living for Country Folk Guide so that the next time you need a taste of home, this guide is just a click away.
Country Music & Dancing
Recurring, September – June
Church of the Village
201 West 13th Street (West Village)
Country dancing is well loved among city folk, particularly in the Contra Dancing circles that meet every week around town. If you’re in the mood for a little two step, swinging, and spinning, check out the CDNY schedule for their weekly contra dancing and English country dancing set to live musicians. As is to be expected in New York City, the people who attend CDNY events are a diverse group, ranging from curious beginners to pros with decades of practice. What everyone has in common, though, is a great time filled with swinging skirts and smiling faces. Dancers are encouraged to come alone or with a partner – either way you’ll change partners for each song. Check out this video for a glimpse of what you can expect: https://youtu.be/8DKjizj1GEg?t=27s
315 Columbia Street, Brooklyn (Carroll Gardens)
Jalopy Theatre is a concert hall, music school, record label, community center, and home to the folk, roots, bluegrass, country, and blues music scenes in NYC. Started by a husband and wife team in 2006, Jalopy Theatre remains a community-oriented endeavor to support folk music and folk artists. Past performers include Alice Gerrard, Wayne Henderson, and Sam Shepard. You can expect to see established artists playing alongside up-and-comers on any given night. To see a schedule of performances and purchase tickets, see the Jalopy Theatre website.
Recurring, 2nd and 4th Saturdays
Darro Galletto Studios
151 West 46th Street, 11th Fl (Midtown)
Big Apple Ranch offers lessons and open dances every 2nd and 4th Saturday, with two-step lessons starting at 8, line dance lessons starting at 8:30, and then open dancing from 9pm to 1am. Big Apple Ranch is an inclusive organization, welcoming everyone across the gender and sexual orientation spectrum– and as their website says, “Anyone can lead, and anyone can follow.” If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly and diverse environment in which to dance, Big Apple Ranch’s biweekly parties are a great place to start.
April 6-8, 2018
St. Ann’s Church
157 Montague Street, Brooklyn Heights
This annual 3-day festival brings together 30+ bands, jam sessions, film screenings, vocal and instrumental workshops, and dances. Performers are drawn from New York’s local folk scene and from national and international circuits. The Brooklyn Folk Festival aims to be a family-friendly event where people of all ages can have fun. This year’s lineup has already been announced – you can see it (along with lineups from previous years) on the festival website.
July 12-15, 2018
Doubletree at Newark Airport Hotel
128 Frontage Rd, Newark, NJ
Hop on New Jersey Transit over to Newark, NJ for The Big Apple Country Dance Festival which draws country dance enthusiasts from across the nation and is celebrating its 24th anniversary this year. The festival will include group lessons from world-renowned instructors, social dances, showcases of top talent, and competitions including Jack & Jill, Pro/Am, and Strictly. Whether you’re looking to pick up some new moves or you prefer to spectate, the Big Apple Country Dance Festival is the place to be in July.
Food & Drink
44 Berry Street, Brooklyn (Williamsburg)
Mable’s describes itself as “no frills, no attitude, good old-fashioned BBQ,” and this family-owned Oklahoma City-style restaurant lives up to that. Furnished with picnic tables and mismatched chairs, Mable’s is known in particular for their homemade barbecue sauce (a secret recipe) and sliced brisket.
10-43 44th Drive, Long Island City
John Brown cooks up a limited amount of Kansas City style BBQ each day to ensure you’re always getting the freshest food possible. Of course, their burnt ends are the most sought-after, but everything cooked up by John Brown pitmasters is top-notch. With red checkered tablecloths, re-finished wood decor, outdoor seating, and a chalkboard menu, the atmosphere can be described as “down-home and downtown.” John Brown also features live music on a regular basis – check the website for a schedule of performances.
152 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn (Williamsburg)
If you miss your favorite dive bar from back home, Skinny Dennis is the closest you’ll get in NYC. Named for a country musician who was immortalized in the Guy Clark song, “L.A. Freeway” (Here’s to you ol’ Skinny Dennis / The only one I think I will miss / I can hear your low bass singin’ / Sweet and low like a gift you’re bringin’), the motto of this no-frills honky-tonk saloon is “If you don’t love it, leave it.” The Willie Nelson portrait hanging over the bar, the peanut shells littering the floor, and the jukebox full of country music will make you feel right at home.
Date TBA, check the website for updates
Pier 97 (@ West 59th Street), West Side
America’s best blues and roots musicians come together with NYC’s favorite BBQ restaurants for an unforgettable day on the Hudson River. Last year’s performers included The Campbell Brothers and Sugar Ray and the Bluetones; food vendors included Mighty Quinn’s, Dinosaur BBQ, and more. The Blues BBQ Festival typically takes place in August, so look out for this year’s lineup as summer approaches.
Recurring, various days and locations
If you thought farm-fresh food was only possible outside of city limits (or at farm-to-table restaurants), good news: Greenmarket has been bringing locally grown produce to NYC since 1976. The farmers and fishers who sell at Greenmarket come from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and New England, bringing foods that range from wild-caught fish to exotic mushrooms and premium cuts of lamb. For a schedule and a list of Greenmarkets’ 50+ locations, check the website and click here to download a PDF of year-round markets in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.
9 Shore Road, Bronx (Pelham Bay Park)
Bronx Equestrian Center is a full-service facility that offers lessons, special events, and even boarding. Western and English styles of riding are available, and people of all levels of experience are welcome to visit. Enjoy a relaxing ride through the woods of Pelham Bay Park, where you can easily forget that you’re technically within the boundaries of a big city. If you’d like to board your own horse there, you can rest easy knowing she’ll be well taken care of by the expert staff.
d73-50 Little Neck Parkway (Floral Park, Queens)
A day at the Queens County Farm Museum feels like a total escape from the city. The farm dates back to 1697 and is the longest continually-farmed site in New York State. Spanning across 47 acres, it’s also the largest tract of undisturbed farmland within New York City limits. Along with livestock, planting fields, an orchard, and a garden, the site is home to historic farm buildings and a museum. The farm hosts events throughout the year, with its most widely-attended being the Queens County fair in September.
No matter how much you love NYC living, it’s understandable to get homesick every once in a while. Luckily, New York City is full of food, music, and events that will help you feel right at home again. Let us know in the comments if we’re missing any happenings or places worth checking out for a taste of country life in NYC.