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It’s the most diverse county in the world and the best tourism destination in the United States, so it’s no surprise that Queens is overflowing with wonderful Valentine’s Day activities and bargains. In fact, local chances for romance and fun related to this international holiday are so numerous that they run for more than two weeks and include everything from live music to a “love run,” hotel getaways, and even a blood drive for the do-gooders. Another photo and many more details are on the jump page.

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It only happens once a year, but there are three chances to celebrate it in Queens this weekend. This Saturday, Socrates Sculpture Park will welcome the new season with a Summer Solstice Celebration featuring various art workshops, face-painting, a nature-inspired ritual performed by urban shaman Mama Donna, a picnic, and of course, a wonderful Manhattan skyline. Plus, Norte Maar will present site-specific sound performances encompassing the entire park. These artists will create unique sound platforms through traditional instrumentation, amplification of objects, juxtaposition of voices, and experimental electronic sound. The same day but over in Jamaica, King Manor Museum will host ice-cream making, huge bubble creating, sun-inspired art and crafts, and historic games for children. Then on Sunday, the Queens Botanical Gardens will host its Festival de las Flores/Summer Solstice Celebration with purveyors of the beautiful Colombian craft of creating silletos or large medallions composed of flowers. Attendees can also enjoy live music and dance, craft and food vendors, bilingual story reading, face painting, botanical crafts, a petting zoo, and old-fashioned games for the children.

Details: Summer Solstice Celebration, Socrates Sculpture Park, 32-01 Vernon Boulevard, Long Island City, June 21st, 5 pm to dusk, free.

Bonus details: Summer Solstice Festival, King Manor Museum, 150-03 Jamaica Avenue, Jamaica, June 22nd, noon to 4 pm, free.

More bonus details: Festival de la Flores/Summer Solstice Celebration, Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main Street, Flushing, June 22nd, noon to 5 pm, free with admission.

Top photo: Socrates Sculpture Park; bottom photo: Its in Queens

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Update: Please note that this lecture is sold out. However, Andy Brennan will participate in another cider event at The Queens Kickshaw in Astoria during NY Cider Week: www.thequeenskickshaw.com Plus, the next King Manor lecture is about Abraham Lincoln in November: http://bit.ly/1aqQola

Apple cider was an extremely popular beverage in the U.S. from colonial days to the mid-19th century. Served hot or cold, fermented or fresh, it was safer to drink than water, and much easier and cheaper to produce than beer or wine. Queens was a center of cider production during these times as it was the birthplace of the Newtown Pippin, a fleshy-but-tart green and yellow apple that is still cultivated for cider today. No place was juicier than the King Manor in Jamaica, where the King family produced over 500 gallons of cider some years. With urbanization, industrialization and waves of beer- and whiskey-loving immigrants from Germany, Eastern Europe and Ireland in the late 19th century, cider’s popularity fell. But recently, cider production has made a comeback, especially in New York State. This Sunday, Andy Brennan from the Aaron Burr Cidery will offer a free lecture on cider at King Manor. Of course, he will enhance his presentation with plenty of samples.

Details: The History of Cider-Making in New York, King Manor Museum, 150-03 Jamaica Avenue, Jamaica, October 13th, 3 pm, free.

Photo by Love Your Reflection

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It’s New York State Museum Week, and the living is easy, especially in Queens. Starting today through June 16, five local cultural venues will offer discounts and promotional offers to visitors. Mention “Museum Week” and receive a complimentary collectible at the Louis Armstrong House Museum (while supplies last) along with a 10 percent discount in the gift store. Bring a friend for free with two-for-one admission at the Noguchi (above), King Manor and Moving Image museums. At the Queens Botanical Gardens, there will be half-off admission. Meanwhile, the Queens County Farm Museum will offer free tours. Statewide, participants include about 250 venues, stretching from Manhattan’s 5th Avenue, where El Museo del Barrio will have free admission on June 11, to the Hyde Collection in upstate Glens Falls, where visitors will receive a free poster.

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Image Source: Bridge and Tunnel Club

The King Manor takes its name from Rufus King, a member of the Continental Congress, a framer and signer of the U.S. Constitution, one of the first senators from New York State, the ambassador to Great Britain under four presidents and an outspoken abolitionist. However, many powerful, capable and impressive women also inhabited this now-historic house in Jamaica. On March 2 as part of Women’s History Month, Dr. Laura Fishman, former chair of York College’s Department of History and Philosophy, will present a lecture on the ladies of the King Manor Association and its involvement in the Women’s Club Movement. Founded in 1900, this group of dynamic members of the fairer sex broke gender barriers with their civic engagement and efforts at social reform and suffrage.

The King Manor Association and the Women’s Club Movement
King Manor Museum
Rufus King Park, Jamaica Avenue and 153rd Street, Jamaica
Saturday, March 2
3pm – 4pm | Free with suggested $5 donation