2021 OHNY Weekend: Partner Guide

Manhattan West, Credit: Michael Lee

OHNY Weekend is New York City’s largest annual design festival, when hundreds of places across the five boroughs—many of which are not typically accessible—open their doors to the public for a behind the scenes peek at what makes the place special or noteworthy. A significant virtual component of online talks, tours, and podcasts complement in-person experiences.

OHNY Partners and Volunteers make the Weekend possible. Partners are organizations and individuals that create or provide access to experiences designed to help the public connect with places that are significant to the past, present, or future of New York City. The event has been an annual fixture on the city’s cultural calendar since 2003. It is organized by Open House New York, a non-profit organization that advocates for a more open and inclusive city and greater civic participation in the forces that shape New York.

Since its founding, the Weekend has provided access to thousands of places with architectural, historical, and cultural significance. It also provides an inside look at the city’s infrastructure and systems, both manmade and natural, to spotlight how nearly 9 million people live, work, and move across the five boroughs and beyond. More recently, OHNY has expanded the lens to racial, ethnic, community, civic, economic, and environmental issues that define quality of place and quality of life, for better and worse, in New York. The through line of this evolution is the power of place—whether a single room in a building, the waste and water treatment systems of an entire borough, or the pylons beneath the shoreline surface of the Harbor.

Weekend Partners, both organizations and individuals, share a commitment to engaging broad audiences of New Yorkers and visitors who are united by a curiosity and love for the city. Partners organize a range of experiences during the Weekend, including leading in-person or virtual group tours, storytelling sessions, or talks, creating self-guided tours or producing various formats of online content, either live or on demand. By creating experiences, Partners are the key to the openness, access, and exploration that makes the Weekend so special!

Open a space to the public:
Invite people in to explore and experience a space or special place in the city. If the place is typically open to the public, consider opening it at a different time of day. OHNY recommends that you have a staff member or expert available to answer questions from visitors about the space, and/or provide a handout about its history, design, or significance for visitors to read on their own.

Offer tours:
For facilitated tours, invite a staff member or expert to give tours to the public. This could be a studio tour, a production facility, part of the city’s infrastructure, public space, commercial or residential building, or important sites in a business district or other area—whether longstanding or currently in construction. If the space is normally open to the public or already has public tours, develop a behind-the-scenes peek for the Weekend.For self-guided tours, develop written, audio, or visual content for audiences to explore and learn at their own pace. Content can include written directions and information, a map with specific areas or spots highlighted, or an audio walkthrough or podcast.

Host a panel, discussion, or Q&A session:
Convene leaders, designers, historians, experts, curators, and/or users for a discussion about specific features or aspects of the place for broad public audiences. Open up the session for audience Q&A.

Produce a podcast:
Make a recording of a story or narrative about a particular place or institution, which can either be used to supplement in-person visits, or to bring the Weekend home to anyone unable to see these NYC treasures.

Produce a performance:
Offer limited runs of performances for OHNY visitors. Or provide access to pre-recorded performances online.

Host an exhibition:
Open up an ongoing or site-specific exhibition during OHNY Weekend. If admission is typically charged, waive fees for Weekend participants and/or offer behind-the-scenes tour or talk with an expert involved with its creation.

Screen a film:
Share a video about your place or filmed on-location for audiences to enjoy on-demand. Or screen it live on-site during the Weekend.

Hold a storytelling session:
Tell a story about your place or a person of central importance to it and New York City’s past, present, or future. If it’s a live storytelling session happening on-site or available online, consider recording it for broader access.

Create an experience aimed at kids and their families:
OHNY welcomes all types of activities for children during the Weekend. These will be identified as Family-Friendly experiences in OHNY promotions.

Create a new format! The city’s the limit.

OHNY Weekend offers a combination of in-person and virtual experiences, generally as follows:

Open Access
The public is permitted to visit during set hours on one or both days of OHNY Weekend. For Open Access, all experiences are free and partners typically arrange for an expert to welcome the public and share insights about distinguishing features, characteristics, or a particular story, whether little known or beloved by many. All in-person, open access experiences-indoors AND outdoors-require masks and proof of vaccination.

Advanced Reservations
Required when there are significant security or space constraints, and the public is unable to explore unattended. There are typically used when capacity is strictly limited, and the public must sign up in advance for a set time and pay a fee ($5) to OHNY. OHNY handles all registrations and promotions and Partners must arrange for an on-site expert to lead or supervise the public. All in-person, advance reservations experiences-indoors AND outdoors-require masks and proof of vaccination.

Self-Guided Tours
These were extremely popular during the 2020 Weekend and we are excited to offer them in this year’s line-up. Partners typically create a map, posted online or available on-site, for participants to use when exploring. Self-Guided Tours are best suited to outdoor experiences, especially when there is a larger area to explore on foot, by bike, or other modes. Self-guided tours require masks but do not require proof of vaccination.

Virtual Content
Whether pre-recorded or live, virtual content offers much greater access to the public, especially for participants outside of New York or those with limited mobility. Virtual experiences include talk, films, digital exhibitions and beyond. This content can be an imaginary walkthrough time or a peek ahead at somewhere or something currently under construction.

Each year, OHNY curates a limited number of themes to organize and brand Weekend experiences. This year, we are testing a new format by asking Partners to self-identify themes they believe may be a good match for the experience they are offering.

The confirmed Series topics for 2021 are:

  • Radical Knowledge: Libraries as Community Catalysts
    An exploration of how libraries serve as vibrant learning institutions and centers for their communities, and how their physical and virtual spaces enrich civic life.
  • Ports, Planes, Bridges & Trains: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) Centennial
    A commemoration of the PANYNJ’s transformational impact on the New York City metropolitan region over the past 100 years.
  • Neighborhood Anchors
    A spotlight on the places, institutions, and meeting points that define the unique identity and stories of the hundreds of neighborhoods across the five boroughs.
  • Renewing the City
    An examination of the ways residents and organizations are renewing, reviving, and reconnecting with their communities through physical exploration, new connections with people, and celebrating places.
  • Health of the City
    An insider’s exploration of the new pandemic perspective of urban life through a lens of health and wellness.
  • Next Gen NYC
    A series exploring the power of place for the next generation of young urbanists and New Yorkers, developed in partnership with CUNY Recovery Corps and OHNY’s Metropolitan membership.
  • Family Fun
    A series of experiences suitable for the whole family.

The aspiration of an open city is what animates the work of Open House New York-—a city where people and ideas thrive and where each of us has the freedom to pursue the life we choose to live, while collectively sharing the places and spaces that give those lives depth and meaning. This means all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, gender, abilities, or lived experience, and we encourage Partners to consider increasing accessibility as follows:


  • Record or livestream to enable broader audiences to access your program
  • Identify any physical accessibility issues so visitors can plan accordingly (e.g. ADA compliance, gender-neutral bathrooms, elevator and ramp access)

In-person / Virtual

  • Have content translated or a translator available on-site
  • Provide ASL or sign language interpreters
  • Have speakers and tour guides provide preferred gender pronouns on Zoom names or name badges


Provide closed captioning. See below for a list of captioning resources

Free/Do It Yourself Captions

  • Free tools are available for captioning prerecorded videos including Amara, DotSub, and Subtitle Horse.
  • YouTube Caption Editor: YouTube can automatically generate captions to videos using speech recognition technology. While not fully accurate, these captions can be easily corrected in YouTube using their caption editor. Check out the YouTube Help Center Translate Videos & Captions.

Paid Captioning Services

  • Service providers include 3PlayMedia, Automatic Sync Technologies, and cielo24. Additional vendors are listed under “Additional Resources.” Contact vendors directly for pricing.
  • The Described and Captioned Media Program has a comprehensive list of Captioning Service Vendors. To see the full list, go to dcmp.org/learn/10

Zoom Captioning

  • Live captioning is supported in Zoom meetings and webinars. Captions can be typed directly into Zoom or added with a third party software/service integration. Visit the Zoom Help Center for Getting Started with Closed Captioning for more.
  • Automatic speech recognition (ASR) is available for cloud recorded Zoom meetings and webinars. Zoom ASR is not a replacement for captioning and requires editing for accuracy, but ASR can help save a significant amount of time. For more information, see Using Audio Transcription for Cloud Recordings


  • Make it Digestible
    Less is more when it comes to screen time. If you will be hosting a virtual tour or experience, consider making your content digestible. Based on audience feedback, 15-minutes or less is ideal for on-site tours and 45-minutes or less are preferred for virtual programs.
  • Highlight Visuals
    If recording a tour, zoom-in on ornamentation and small details, provide wide shots of the space for context, and include moments of pause for the audience to enjoy the view. If presenting a program, consider including photos, drawings, and archival material.
  • Boost Your Tools
    Interested in recording a tour but don’t have access to video specialists or professional equipment? We welcome professionally recorded tours by video specialists as well as low-cost productions made with little or no prior-recording experience.


These samples from our favorite 2020 Open House New York Weekend programs provide examples on different approaches to producing a tour recording.