Fodor's New York City 2016 - Fodor's (2015)
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Financial District | New York Harbor | TriBeCa
Updated by Jessica Colley
Lower Manhattan, or “all the way downtown” in the parlance of New Yorkers emphatically giving directions to tourists, has long been where the action—and transaction—is. Originally the Dutch trading post called New Amsterdam (1626–47), this neighborhood is home to historic, cobblestone streets next to soaring skyscrapers. This mix of old and new, the bustle of Wall Street, and a concentration of city landmarks all lure visitors to the southern tip of Manhattan.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
Visit the Financial District during the weekend and you might feel like a lone explorer in a canyon of buildings; even on weeknights the decibel level of the neighborhood reduces significantly after about 6. Weekdays, however, the sidewalks bustle so much that you can expect to be jostled if you stand still too long. End your visit by watching the sunset over the Hudson River.
The sights of the New York Harbor are some of the most quintessential of New York, but be prepared for long lines for Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, especially on weekends. TriBeCa is one of the quieter neighborhoods in Manhattan, being mostly residential. There are pleasant shops, restaurants, and local bars, but the neighborhood tends not to be a tourist attraction unless the film festival is going on.
COFFEE AND QUICK BITES
Hudson Eats at Brookfield Place.
The upscale food court and terrace in the Brookfield Place complex has the best of NYC’s fast and casual food options ranging from Blue Ribbon Sushi to Black Seed Bagels to Dos Toros Tacos and more. | West St. between Vesey and Liberty sts., Financial District | www.brookfieldplaceny.com | Station: E to World Trade Center; R to Cortlandt St.
La Colombe Torrefaction.
In this loftlike space just below Canal Street, expect excellent espresso drinks and impressive latte art. Unlike other coffee shops plagued by laptops and customers clad in headphones, La Colombe does not have Wi-Fi. | 319 Church St., at Lispenard St., TriBeCa | 212/343–1515 | www.lacolombe.com | Station: A, C, E to Canal St.
This is one of the few places left in the city that still serves hand-rolled, kettle-boiled New York bagels. Baked throughout the day, the bagels can be eaten with a shmear of scallion cream cheese or filled with Nova Scotia salmon. Coffee is from La Colombe. | 146 Chambers St., Financial District | 212/608–5844 | www.zuckersbagels.com | Station: 1, 2, 3 to Chambers St.
Visiting the National 9/11 Memorial
Riding the Staten Island Ferry
Touring Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
Snapping a photo in front of Wall Street’s bull
Strolling through Hudson River Park
BEST FOR KIDS
Castle Clinton and Battery Park
South Street Seaport Museum
Many subway lines connect to the Financial District. The Fulton Street station is serviced by eight different subway lines (2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z) and puts you within walking distance of City Hall, South Street Seaport, and the World Trade Center site. To get to the Brooklyn Bridge, take the 4, 5, or 6 to Brooklyn Bridge–City Hall.
For sights around New York Harbor, take the R to Whitehall Street, or the 4 or 5 to Bowling Green. (Note that you can also reach the Harbor area via the 1 train to South Ferry; it also stops in the heart of TriBeCa, at Franklin Street.)
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Little from Manhattan’s colonial era is left in Lower Manhattan (apart from a precious few structures built in the 1700s), but you can still sense history in the South Street Seaport’s 19th-century brick facades and in pedestrianized Stone Street’s picnic tables. There’s life to be found within the skyscraper canyons of Wall Street and lower Broadway, as locals move into the neighborhood and fill the barstools in candlelit watering holes. Bounded by the East and Hudson rivers to the east and west, respectively, and by Chambers Street and Battery Park to the north and south, the Financial District is best appreciated by getting lost in its streets.
You’ll want to see what’s here, but above all you’ll want to see what’s not, most notably in that empty gulf among skyscrapers: the World Trade Center site where two 1-acre pools represent the footprints of the fallen Twin Towers.
9/11 Memorial Museum.
To one side of the reflecting pools of the 9/11 Memorial is the glass atrium of the Memorial Museum. The museum descends some 70 feet down to the bedrock the Twin Towers were built on, and displays a collection of donated artifacts, memorabilia, photographs, and various recordings, as well as an exhibition that takes visitors through the history of events leading up to the attack and its aftermath. There’s also a memorial wall with portraits of those who died, pieces of the Towers’ structural columns and foundation, and remnants of the “Survivors Stairs,” which allowed hundreds of people to escape the buildings. Current access the museum and the Memorial is from the intersection of Liberty and Greenwich streets, the intersection of Liberty and West, or the intersection of West and Fulton. Admission to the museum includes the 9/11 Memorial. | 180 Greenwich St., Financial District | 212/266–5211 | www.911memorial.org/museum | $24 (free Tues. 5–8 pm) | Sun.–Thurs. 9–8, Fri. and Sat. 9–9 | Station: 1 to Rector St.; R to Rector St.; 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z to Fulton St.; E to World Trade Center.
Jutting out at the southernmost point of Manhattan, tree-filled Battery Park is a respite from the narrow, winding, and (on weekdays) jam-packed streets of the Financial District. Even if you don’t plan to stay for long, carve out a few minutes of sightseeing time to sit on a bench and take in the view, which includes the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. On clear days you can see all the way to Port Elizabeth’s cranes, which seem to mimic Lady Liberty’s stance; to Governors Island, a former Coast Guard installation now managed by the National Park Service; a hilly Staten Island in the distance; and the old railway terminal in Liberty State Park, on the mainland in Jersey City, New Jersey. Looking away from the water and toward Lower Manhattan’s skyscrapers, there’s a feeling that you’re at the beginning of the city, and a sense of all the possibility it possesses just a few blocks in.
The park’s main structure is Castle Clinton National Monument, the ticket office site and takeoff point for ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. This monument was once 200 feet off the southern tip of the island located in what was called the Southwest Battery, and was erected during the War of 1812 to defend the city. (The East Battery sits across the harbor on Governors Island.) As dirt and debris from construction were dumped into the harbor, the island expanded, eventually engulfing the landmark. Later, from 1855 to 1890, it served as America’s first official immigration center (Ellis Island opened in 1892).
Inside Battery Park are several monuments and statues, including The Sphere, which for three decades stood on the plaza at the World Trade Center as a symbol of peace. Damaged but still intact after the collapse of the towers, it serves as a temporary memorial to those who lost their lives.
The southern link in a chain of parks connecting Battery Park north to Chambers Street, Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park has a flat, tidy lawn and wide benches from which to view the harbor or the stream of runners and in-line skaters on the promenade. A brick structure at the southeast section of Battery Park has public bathrooms and a restaurant with additional views from its flat roof. | Battery Park | 212/417–2000 | www.nycgovparks.org/parks/batterypark | Station: 4, 5 to Bowling Green; 1 to South Ferry.
Fodor’s Choice | Brooklyn Bridge.
“A drive-through cathedral” is how the journalist James Wolcott described the Brooklyn Bridge, one of New York’s noblest and most recognized landmarks, perhaps rivaling Walt Whitman’s comment that it was “The best, most effective medicine my soul has yet partaken.” The bridge stretches over the East River, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. A walk across its promenade—a boardwalk elevated above the roadway, shared by pedestrians, in-line skaters, and cyclists—takes about 40 minutes and delivers exhilarating views. If you start from Lower Manhattan, you’ll end up in the heart of Brooklyn Heights (you can also take the subway to the Brooklyn side and walk back towards Manhattan). It’s worth noting that on weekends when the weather is nice, the path can get pretty congested; it’s most magical, and quietest, early in the morning or during sunset when the city lights come to life. | East River Dr., Lower Manhattan | Station: 4, 5, 6 to Brooklyn Bridge–City Hall; J, Z to Chambers St.; A, C to High St. (in Brooklyn).
New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
Unfortunately you can’t tour it, but it’s certainly worth ogling. At the intersection of Wall and Broad streets, the exchange is impossible to miss. The Neoclassical building, designed by architect George B. Post, opened on April 22, 1903. It has six Corinthian columns supporting a pediment with a sculpture titled Integrity Protecting the Works of Man, featuring a tribute to the then-sources of American prosperity: Agriculture and Mining to the left of Integrity; Science, Industry, and Invention to the right. The Exchange was one of the world’s first air-conditioned buildings. | 11 Wall St., Financial District | 212/656–3000 | www.nyse.com | Station: 1 to Rector St.; R to Rector St.; 2, 3, 4, 5 to Wall St.; J, Z to Broad St.
One World Observatory.
Be whisked to the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, in the world’s fastest elevators for incredible views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and beyond. The observatory occupies three floors of One World Trade Center and the experience includes panoramic exhibits and personal stories about the construction and bedrock of this monumental building, and a dramatic 2-minute video of time-lapse photography and bird’s-eye views. There are three dining options on the 101st floor, including a casual café and a sit-down restaurant. | One World Trade Center, 285 Fulton St., Financial District | 844/698–1776 | www.oneworldobservatory.com | $32 | May–Labor Day, daily 9 am–midnight; Labor Day–May, daily 9–8 | Station: E to World Trade Center; R to Cortlandt St.
World Trade Center Site (Ground Zero).
Thousands come each year to connect with events that unfolded here, and more than a decade later visitors at last have an official memorial to see in addition to the site itself. On September 11, 2001, terrorist hijackers steered two jets into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, setting them ablaze and causing their collapse, killing 2,753 people and injuring countless others. The 16 acres of fenced-in rubble and debris that slowly evolved into a construction zone quickly became a memorial unto itself, a place where visitors and those who lost loved ones could mourn and reflect on what was the single most deadly foreign attack to happen on American soil.
The memorial plaza is bordered by four distinct new skyscrapers: the 1,776-foot World Trade Center One (the former “Freedom Tower”), and Towers 2, 3, and 4 all designed by famous architects. The site also includes a transportation hub designed by Santiago Calatrava. Tower 1 opened in late 2014 and Tower 4 in late 2013. The 9/11 Memorial Museum Store is at 20 Vesey Street; all proceeds go to developing and sustaining the memorial and museum. | Between Trinity and West Sts. and Vesey and Liberty Sts., Financial District | www.wtc.com | Station: N, R to Cortlandt St.; E to World Trade Center; 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C to Fulton St.
Tribute WTC Visitor Center.
This project of the September 11th Families’ Association opened five years after 9/11 to put the events of that day into context—at the time, there was little to see beyond a big construction site. The four rooms of exhibits, which include a wall with hundreds of photographs of those lost on that day, are a good complement to the broader mission of the separate Memorial and Museum. Same-day tickets for daily walking tours, which are meant for adults and children age 10 and up, are available from the Center. The tour route includes a visit to the Memorial as well as other major 9/11 sites. Next door to Tribute WTC is Ten House, the firehouse closest to Ground Zero, which was nearly destroyed on 9/11. | 120 Liberty St., Financial District | 866/737–1184 | www.tributewtc.org | $20 (for tour of 9/11 Memorial and access to 9/11 Tribute Center) | Mon.–Sat. 10–6, Sun. 10–5 (last tickets sold 30 minutes before closing); walking tours Sun.–Thurs. 11–3, Fri. and Sat. 10:30–3 | Station: 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z to Fulton St.; E to World Trade Center; N, R to Cortlandt St.
Fodor’s Choice | 9/11 Memorial.
Finished just in time for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the somber Memorial, designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker, reflects none of the setbacks and complications to the building process that have arisen in the years since the tragedy. Central to the memorial and museum are recessed, 30-foot waterfalls that sit on the footprint where the Twin Towers once stood. Every minute, some 60,000 gallons of water cascade down the sides and then down into smaller square holes in the center of the pools. The pools are each nearly an acre in size, and they are said to be the largest man-made waterfalls in North America.
Edging the Memorial pools at the plaza level are bronze panels inscribed with the names of the 2,983 people who were killed in the terror attacks at the World Trade Center site, in Flight 93’s crash in Pennsylvania, at the Pentagon, and the six people who died in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Because the names are arranged by affiliation rather than alphabetically, it can be difficult to locate particular names—visit the memorial’s website or use the on-site kiosks to find out where to find a particular name. At night, the names are illuminated by lights shining up from underneath the panels. Visitors are allowed to place tribute items in front of the Memorial pools as well as on the name panels.
In the plaza are more than 400 swamp white-oak trees harvested from within a 500-mile radius of the site, as well as from Pennsylvania and near Washington, D.C. There’s also a single Callery pear tree known as the “survivor tree,” which was revived and replanted here after being damaged during the 9/11 attacks.
180 Greenwich St., Financial District | 212/266–5211 for reservation help | www.911memorial.org | Free | Memorial open daily, 7:30 am–9 pm | Station: N, R to Cortlandt St.; 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z to Fulton St.; E to World Trade Center.
South Street Seaport Historic District.
Had this charming cobblestone corner of the city not been declared a historic district in 1977, the city’s largest concentration of early-19th-century commercial buildings would have been destroyed. Today, the area is largely filled with tourists, and if you’ve been to Boston’s Quincy Market or Baltimore’s Harborplace, you may feel a flash of déjà vu—the same company leased, restored, and adapted the existing buildings, with the result being the blend of a quasi-authentic historic district with a slightly homogenous shopping mall.
At the intersection of Fulton and Water streets, the gateway to the seaport, is the Titanic Memorial, a small white lighthouse that commemorates the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912. Beyond the lighthouse, Fulton Street turns into a busy pedestrian mall. On the south side of Fulton is the seaport’s architectural centerpiece, Schermerhorn Row, a red-brick terrace of Georgian- and Federal-style warehouses and countinghouses built from 1811 to 1812. Some upper floors house gallery space, and the ground floors are occupied by shops, bars, and restaurants. Cross South Street, once known as the Street of Ships, runs under an elevated stretch of FDR Drive to Pier 16, where historic ships are docked, including the Pioneer, a 102-foot schooner built in 1885; the Peking, the second-largest sailing bark in existence; the iron-hulled Wavertree; and the lightship Ambrose. The Pier 16 ticket booth provides information and sells tickets to the museum, ships, tours, and exhibits. Pier 16 is the departure point for various seasonal cruises.
To the north is Pier 17, a former multilevel dockside shopping mall that is currently undergoing redevelopment and is expected to open in 2016 with a new rooftop space, restaurants, outdoor bars, and an ampitheater. Pier 17 used to be the home of the Fulton Fish Market, which first opened in South Manhattan in 1807; starting in 1939 it was housed in the New Market Building, just north of the Seaport, but that closed in 2005 when operations were moved to a new 400,000-square-foot facility in Hunt’s Point in the Bronx. | South Street Seaport | 212/732–8257 for event and shopping info | www.southstreetseaport.com | Station: 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z to Fulton St.
Stone Street Historic District.
Amid skyscrapers, the low-rise, two-block oasis of bars and restaurants along historic Stone Street feels more like a village than the center of the financial universe. In the summer, tables spill out into the cobblestone street and the mood is convivial, especially on Thursday and Friday nights. This was Manhattan’s first paved street and today the cluster of buildings along here, with South William and Pearl streets, and Coenties Alley, make up the Stone Street Historic District. | Stone, S. William, and Pearl sts., and Coenties Alley, Financial District | Station: R to Whitehall St.; 4,5 to Bowling Green.
Perhaps most recognized as the home of Arturo Di Modica’s 7,000-pound, bronze Charging Bull statue (1989), Bowling Green, at the foot of Broadway, became New York’s first public park in 1733. Legend has it that before that, this was the siteupon which Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from the Native Americans, in 1626, supposedly for what amounted to 24 U.S. dollars. On July 9, 1776, a few hours after citizens learned about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, rioters toppled a statue of British King George III that had occupied the spot for 11 years; much of the statue’s lead was melted down into bullets. In 1783, when the occupying British forces fled the city, they defiantly hoisted a Union Jack on a greased, uncleated flagpole so it couldn’t be lowered; patriot John Van Arsdale drove his own cleats into the pole to replace the flag with the Stars and Stripes. The copper-top subway entrance here is the original one, built in 1904–05. | Broadway at Whitehall St., Financial District | Station: 4, 5 to Bowling Green.
What once marked the northernmost point of Manhattan today houses the office of the mayor and serves as a gathering place for demonstrators voicing concerns and the news crews that cover their stories. This is the oldest City Hall in the country, a striking (but surprisingly small) building dating back to 1803. If the history of local politics and architecture is your thing, free tours are available (sign up in advance online). Tours begin outside. Indoors, highlights include the Victorian-style City Council Chamber, the Rotunda where President Lincoln lay in state in 1865 under a soaring dome supported by 10 Corinthian columns, and the Governor’s Room, an elegantly preserved space with intricate portraits of historic figures and a writing table that George Washington used in 1789 when New York was the U.S. capital. If nothing else, take a moment to snap a photo of the columned exterior and see the small but lovely City Hall Park, bound by Broadway to the west and Chambers Street to the north. This park is an underrated place to stop and take a breath away from the typical congestion of Lower Manhattan. | City Hall Park, Financial District | 212/788–2656 for tour reservations | www.nyc.gov/html/artcom/html/tours/city_hall.shtml | Free | Tours available some weekdays (reserve online or by phone) | Station: 2, 3 to Park Pl.; R to City Hall; 4, 5, 6 to Brooklyn Bridge–City Hall; A, C to Chambers St.; J, Z to Chambers St.
The Gangs of Five Points
In the mid-19th century, the Five Points area was perhaps the city’s most notorious and dangerous neighborhood. The confluence of five streets—Mulberry, Anthony (now Worth), Cross (now Park), Orange (now Baxter), and Little Water (no longer in existence)—had been built over a drainage pond that had been filled in the 1820s. When buildings began to sink into the mosquito-filled muck, middle-class residents abandoned their homes. Buildings were then chopped into tiny apartments that were rented to the poorest of the poor, who at this point were newly emancipated slaves and Irish immigrants fleeing famine. Newspaper accounts at the time tell of daily robberies and other violent crimes. With corrupt political leaders like William Marcy “Boss” Tweed more concerned with lining their pockets than patrolling the streets, keeping order was left to the club-wielding hooligans portrayed in Gangs of New York. The neighborhood, finally razed in the 1880s to make way for Columbus Park, has left a lasting legacy: In the music halls where different ethnic groups grudgingly came together, the Irish jig and the African-American shuffle combined to form a new type of fancy footwork called tap dancing. Today, this is the heart of Chinatown. Residents gather in Columbus Park for Tai Chi in the morning and rowdy board games in the afternoon.
Federal Hall National Memorial.
It’s a museum now, but this site has quite a notable claim: George Washington was sworn in here as the first president of the United States, in 1789, when the building was the Federal Hall of the new nation. The museum within covers 400 years of New York City’s history, with a focus on the life and times of what is now the city’s Financial District. You can spot this building easily—it was modeled on the Parthenon, and a statue of George Washington is planted quite obtrusively on the steps. Free guided tours are available 10–3 on weekdays. | 26 Wall St., at Nassau St., Financial District | 212/825–6990 | www.nps.gov/feha | Free | Weekdays 9–5 | Station: 2, 3 to Wall St.; J, Z to Broad St.
Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
With its imposing mix of sandstone, limestone, and ironwork, the Federal Reserve looks the way a bank ought to: strong and impregnable. The gold ingots in the subterranean vaults here are worth roughly $350 billion—reputedly a third of the world’s gold reserves. Forty-five-minute tours (conducted twice a day and requiring reservations made at least five days in advance) include a visit to the gold vault, the trading desk, and “FedWorks,” a multimedia exhibit center where you can track hypothetical trades. Visitors must show an officially issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport, and pass through scanning equipment to enter the building. The Fed advises arriving 20 minutes before your tour to accommodate security screening. Photography is not permitted. | 33 Liberty St., between William and Nassau sts.,Financial District | 212/720–6130 | www.newyorkfed.org | Tours weekdays at 1 and 2 (reservations required) | Station: 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z to Fulton St.
Fraunces Tavern Museum.
This former tavern, where General George Washington celebrated the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, is now a museum covering two floors above a restaurant and bar. Here, in his pre-presidential days, Washington bid an emotional farewell to his officers upon the British evacuation of New York. Today, this historic landmark has two fully furnished period rooms—including the Long Room, site of Washington’s address—and other modest displays of 18th- and 19th-century American history. You’ll find more tourists and Wall Street types than revolutionaries in the tavern and restaurant on the ground floor these days, but a cozy colonial atmosphere and decent hearty meal are also available. | 54 Pearl St., at Broad St., Financial District | 212/425–1778 | www.frauncestavernmuseum.org | $7 | Daily noon–5 | Station: R to Whitehall St.; 4, 5 to Bowling Green; 1 to South Ferry; J, Z to Broad St.
Museum of American Finance.
Pre-9/11, a visit to the New York Stock Exchange was the ultimate high; the energy of the floor and the proximity to so much power couldn’t be beat. Post-9/11 security prohibits tours of the Exchange but you can still get a feel—albeit a less exhilarating feel—for what makes the financial world go ‘round (and sometimes down) by visiting this museum. Located in the grandiose former banking hall of the Bank of New York, this Smithsonian affiliate is home to artifacts of the financial market’s history; interactive exhibits on the financial markets, banking, entrepreneurship, and Alexander Hamilton; and well-executed temporary exhibits. | 48 Wall St., at William St., Financial District | 212/908–4110 | www.moaf.org | $8 | Tues.–Sat. 10–4 | Station: 2, 3 to Wall St.
Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.
In a granite 85-foot hexagon at the southern end of Battery Park City, this museum pays tribute to the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Architects Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo built the museum in the shape of a Star of David, with three floors of exhibits demonstrating the dynamism of 20th-century Jewish culture. Visitors enter through a gallery that provides context for the early-20th-century artifacts on the first floor: an elaborate screen hand-painted for the fall harvest festival of Sukkoth, tools used by Jewish tradesmen, and wedding invitations. Original documentary films play throughout the museum. The second floor details the rise of Nazism and anti-Semitism, and the ravages of the Holocaust. A gallery covers the doomed final voyage of the SS St. Louis, a ship that crossed the Atlantic twice in 1939, carrying German Jewish refugees in search of safe haven. Signs of hope are also on display, including a trumpet that Louis Bannet (the “Dutch Louis Armstrong”) played for three years in the Auschwitz-Birkenau inmate orchestra. The third floor covers postwar Jewish life. Recent temporary exhibits explore the history of American Jews who tried to rescue European Jews leading up to and during the Holocaust, as well as the rich Jewish history of Oswiecim, the town the Germans called Auschwitz. The museum’s east wing has a theater, memorial garden, library, galleries, and café. A free audio guide, with narration by Meryl Streep and Itzhak Perlman, is available at the admissions desk. | 36 Battery Pl., Battery Park City, Financial District | 646/437–4202 | www.mjhnyc.org | $12 (free Wed. 4–8) | Thurs. and Sun.–Tues. 10–5:45, Wed. 10–8, Fri. and eve of Jewish holidays 10–3 | Station: 4, 5 to Bowling Green; 1 to Rector St.; R to Rector St.
National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution).
Massive granite columns rise to a pediment topped by a double row of statues at the impressive Beaux Arts Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House (1907), which is home to the New York branch of this Smithsonian museum (the other branch is in Washington, D.C.). Inside, the egg-shape stairwell and rotunda embellished with shipping-theme murals (completed in the 1930s) are also worth a pause. The permanent exhibit, “Infinity of Nations,” is an encyclopedic survey of Native cultures from throughout the Americas, with 700 objects from ancient times to present day. The venue also presents changing exhibits, videos and films, dance, music, and storytelling programs. | 1 Bowling Green, between State and Whitehall sts., Financial District | 212/514–3700 | www.nmai.si.edu | Free | Mon.–Wed. and Fri.–Sun. 10–5, Thurs. 10–8 | Station: 4, 5 to Bowling Green; 1 to Rector St.; R to Whitehall St.; J, Z to Broad St.; 4, 5 to Wall St.
Why get a crick in your neck—or worse, risk looking like a tourist—while appreciating New York City’s famous skyline, when you can visit the Skyscraper Museum instead? At this small museum that shares a building with the Ritz Carlton in Battery Park City, you can appreciate highly detailed hand-carved miniature wood models of Midtown and Lower Manhattan; explore the past, present, and future of the skyscraper—from New York City’s Empire State Building to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (taller than the Empire State Building and Chicago’s Sears Tower combined); and examine both the history of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center and the ongoing reconstructionat Ground Zero. Expect models of current or future buildings, videos, drawings, floor plans, talks, and exhibits that reveal the influence of history, real estate, and individuals on shaping city skylines. | 39 Battery Pl., across from Museum of Jewish Heritage, Financial District | 212/968–1961 | www.skyscraper.org | $5 | Wed.–Sun. noon–6 | Station: 4, 5 to Bowling Green.
St. Paul’s Chapel.
For more than a year after the World Trade Center attacks, the chapel’s fence served as a shrine for visitors seeking solace. People from around the world left tokens of grief and support, or signed one of the large dropcloths that hung from the fence. After serving as a 24-hour refuge where rescue and recovery workers could eat, pray, rest, and receive counseling, the chapel, which amazingly suffered no damage, reopened to the public in fall 2002. The powerful ongoing exhibit, titled “Unwavering Spirit: Hope & Healing at Ground Zero,” honors the efforts of rescue workers in the months after September 11 with photos, drawings, banners, and other items sent to them as memorials. Open since 1766, St. Paul’s is the oldest public building in continuous use in Manhattan. | 209 Broadway, at Fulton St., Financial District | 212/602–0800 | www.trinitywallstreet.org/about/st-pauls | Mon.–Sat. 10–6, Sun. 7 am–9 pm | Station: 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z to Fulton St.; E to World Trade Center.
Trinity Wall Street Church.
Alexander Hamilton is buried under a white-stone pyramid in this church’s graveyard, not far from a monument commemorating steamboat inventor Robert Fulton (buried in the Livingston family vault with his wife). The church (the third on this site) was designed in 1846 by Richard Upjohn. Its most notable feature is the set of enormous bronze doors designed by Richard Morris Hunt to recall Lorenzo Ghiberti’s doors for the Baptistery in Florence, Italy. Trinity Root, a 12½-foot-high, 3-ton sculpture by Steven Tobin cast from the sycamore tree struck by debris on 9/11 behind St. Paul’s Chapel, was installed in front of the church in 2005. A museum inside outlines the church’s history. | 74 Trinity Pl., entrance at Broadway and the head of Wall St., Financial District | 212/602–0800 | www.trinitywallstreet.org | Weekdays 7–6, Sat. 8–4, Sun. 7–4; museum: weekdays 9–5:30, weekends 9–3:45 | Station: 2, 3, 4, 5 to Wall St.; 1, N, R to Rector St.; J, Z to Broad St.
Until 40 Wall Street stole the title in 1930, the 792-foot Woolworth Building, opened in 1913, was the world’s tallest building. For security purposes, the spectacular lobby is no longer open to the public on a daily basis, though special open house events and architecture tours are available sporadically. The lobby is home to a stained-glass skylight and sculptures set into the portals to the left and right: one represents an elderly F. W. Woolworth counting his nickels and dimes; another depicts the architect, Cass Gilbert, cradling in his arms a model of his creation. | 233 Broadway, between Park Pl. and Barclay St., Financial District | Station: 2, 3 to Park Pl.; N, R to City Hall; E to World Trade Center.
NEW YORK HARBOR
The southern tip of Manhattan has often served as a microcosm for a city that offers as many first shots as it does second chances, so it’s appropriate that the key point of departure for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island is here. This experience should never be dismissed as too touristy. Unlike any other, the excursionis a reminder that New York is a city of immigrants and survivors.
Fodor’s Choice | Ellis Island.
Between 1892 and 1924 approximately 12 million men, women, and children first set foot on U.S. soil at the Ellis Island federal immigration facility. By the time the facility closed in 1954, it had processed ancestors of more than 40% of Americans living today. The island’s main building, now a national monument, is now known as the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, and tells the story not just of Ellis Island but of immigration from the colonial era to the present day, though numerous galleries containing artifacts, photographs, and taped oral histories. The centerpiece of the museum is the white-tile Registry Room (also known as the Great Hall). It feels dignified and cavernous today, but photographs show that it took on a multitude of configurations through the years, always packed with humanity. While you’re there, take a look out the Registry Room’s tall, arched windows and try to imagine what passed through immigrants’ minds as they viewed Lower Manhattan’s skyline to one side and the Statue of Liberty to the other.
Because there’s so much to take in, it’s a good idea to make use of the museum’s interpretive tools. Check at the visitor desk for free film tickets, ranger tour times, and special programs. The audio tour (included in the price of your ferry ticket) takes you through the exhibits, providing thorough, engaging commentary interspersed with recordings of immigrants themselves recalling their experiences.
Along with the Registry Room, the museum’s features include the ground level Peopling of America Center, a major expansion to the Ellis Island Museum that explores immigration to the United States before, and after, Ellis Island was a portal for immigrants. Interpretative graphics and poignant audio stories give first-hand accounts of the immigrant’s journey—from making the trip and arriving in the United States to their struggle and survival after they arrived. There’s also the American Family Immigration Center, where you can search Ellis Island’s records for your own ancestors; the American Flag of Faces, an interactive display filled with a montage of images of immigrants submitted online (submit yours at FlagofFaces.org). Outside is the American Immigrant Wall of Honor, which has the names of more than 600,000 immigrant Americans against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.
There is no admission fee for either the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island, but the ferry ride (which goes round trip from Battery Park to Liberty Island to Ellis Island), costs $18. Ferries leave from Battery Park every 30 to 40 minutes depending on the time of year (buy your tickets online at www.statuecruises.com). There are often long lines, so arrive early, especially if you have a reserved-time ticket. There is a pleasant indoor/outdoor café on Ellis Island. | Financial District | 212/561–4588 Ellis Island, 212/561–4500 Wall of Honor information, 877/523–9849 ferry | www.ellisisland.org | Free; ferry $18 round-trip (includes Liberty Island) | Daily 9–5:15; last ferry at 3:30, extended hrs in summer.
Fodor’s Choice | Governors Island.
Governors Island is open to the public from May to October: get there via a short, free ferry ride. It’s essentially a big, charming park that looks like a small New England town—it’s popular with locals for biking and running trails, festivals, art shows, concerts, and family programs. Wouter Van Twiller, a representative for Holland, supposedly purchased the island for his private use, in 1637, from Native Americans for two ax heads, a string of beads, and a handful of nails. It was confiscated by the Dutch a year later, and for the next decade its ownership switched back and forth between the Dutch and British until the Brits gained firm control of it in the 1670s. The island was officially named in 1784 for His Majesty’s Governorsand used by the American military until the 1960s, when the Coast Guard took it over. After their facilities were abandoned in 1995, the island was purchased by the public in 2002 and started welcoming visitors in 2003. The ferry to the island departs from the Battery Maritime Building. It is a favorite summertime excursion for New Yorkers. | Battery Maritime Building (for ferry), 10 South St., Financial District | www.govisland.com | Free | May–Oct., Fri. 10–5, weekends 10–7 | Station: 1 to South Ferry; 4, 5 to Bowling Green; R to Whitehall St.
Fodor’s Choice | Staten Island Ferry.
Every day, some 70,000 people ride the free ferry to Staten Island, one of the city’s outer boroughs, and you should be one of them. Without paying a cent, you get phenomenal views of the Lower Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island during the 25-minute boat ride across New York Harbor. Youalso pass tugboats, freighters, and cruise ships—a reminder that this is very much still a working harbor. The boat embarks every 15 to 30 minutes from the Whitehall Terminal at Whitehall and South streets, near the east end of Battery Park. You must disembark once you reach the opposite terminal, but you can just get back in line to board again if you don’t plan to stay. | Battery Park, Financial District | 212/639–9675 | www.siferry.com | Free | Station: 1 to South Ferry; R to Whitehall St.; 4, 5 to Bowling Green.
Fodor’s Choice | The Statue of Liberty.
For millions of immigrants, the first glimpse of America was the Statue of Liberty, growing from a vaguely defined figure on the horizon into a towering, stately colossus. Visitors approaching Liberty Island on the ferry from Battery Park may experience a similar sense of wonder.
Liberty Enlightening the World, as the statue is officially named, was presented to the United States in 1886 as a gift from France. The 152-foot-tall figure was sculpted by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi and erected around an iron skeleton engineered by Gustave Eiffel. It stands atop an 89-foot pedestal designed by Richard Morris Hunt, with Emma Lazarus’s sonnet “The New Colossus” (“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”) inscribed on a bronze plaque at the base. Over the course of time the statue has become precisely what its creators dreamed it would be: the single-most powerful symbol of American ideals and, as such, one of the world’s great monumental sculptures. Inside the statue’s pedestal is a museum that’s everything it should be: informative, entertaining, and quickly viewed. Highlights include the original flame (which was replaced because of water damage), full-scale replicas of Lady Liberty’s face and one of her feet, Bartholdi’s alternate designs for the statue, and a model of Eiffel’s intricate framework. You’re allowed access to the museum only as part of one of the free tours of the promenade (which surrounds the base of the pedestal) or the observatory (at the pedestal’s top).
There is no admission fee for either the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island, but the ferry ride (which goes round-trip from Battery Park to Liberty Island to Ellis Island) costs $18. Ferries leave from Battery Park every 30 to 40 minutes depending on the time of year (buy your tickets online at www.statuecruises.com). There are often long lines, so arrive early, especially if you have a reserved-time ticket. There is a pleasant indoor/outdoor café on Liberty Island.
The tours are limited to 3,000 participants a day. The only way to guarantee entry to the pedestal (which includes the museum) is with an advance purchase of a Reserve Ticket with Monument or Pedestal Pass, which should be purchased at least a few days and ideally longer before your visit (they can be reserved up to 180 days in advance by phone or online). No tickets are sold on the island; however, tickets are sold daily at Castle Clinton Monument in Battery Park, and at Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Visitors who are unable to acquire a Reserve Ticket with Monument Pass can still be issued a No Monument Access Pass, allowing them to walk around the island on the ground level without access to the monument. Approximately 240 people are allowed to visit the crown each day via a set of narrow, double-helix stairs. Tickets are available online, but are usually sold out up to three or four months ahead of the visit, so book early. If you can’t get tickets to the crown, you can get a good look at the statue’s inner structure on the observatory tour. From the observatory itself there are fine views of the harbor and an up-close view of Lady Liberty. If you’re on one of the tours, you’ll go through a security check more thorough than any airport screening, and you’ll have to deposit any bags in a locker. | Liberty Island, Suite 210, Financial District | 212/363–3200, 877/523–9849 ticket reservations | www.libertyellisfoundation.org | Free; ferry $18 round-trip (includes Ellis Island), crown tickets extra $3 | Daily 9:30–5; last ferry at 3:30, extended hrs in summer.
Tucked on the west side, south of Canal Street, residential TriBeCa (the Triangle Below Canal Street) has a quieter vibe than most other Manhattan neighborhoods. Walk the photogenic streets, especially the stretch of Federal rowhouses on Harrison Street, and you’ll understand why so many celebrities own apartments here. The two-block-long Staple Street, with its connecting overhead walkway, is a favorite of urban cinematographers. Although TriBeCa’s money is often hidden behind grand cast-iron facades, you can get a taste of it at posh neighborhood restaurants, cocktail bars, and boutiques, or at the star-studded TriBeCa Film Festival in spring.
Fodor’s Choice | Hudson River Park.
The quiet places of New York City are treasured by locals, and one of the best options is Hudson River Park, a 5-mile path from Battery Place to 59th Street. This riverside stretch has been renovated into a landscaped park, incorporating the piers that jut out into the Hudson, with walking and cycling paths, a seasonal minigolf course, dog runs, and skate parks. The TriBeCa portion consists of Piers 25 and 26 and has picnic spaces, playgrounds, and a sand volleyball court. The areas adjacent to the West Village (Piers 45 and 46) and near Chelsea (Piers 63 and 64) are equally attractive, with lots of green spaces. | TriBeCa | 212/627–2020 | www.hudsonriverpark.org | Station: 1 to Franklin St. for TriBeCa section of the park.
This gallery shows new and established conceptual artists. Past exhibits have included Claude Wampler’s Pomerania—a series of photographs, sculptures, video, and drawings examining the artist’s relationship with her pet Pomeranian. | 54 Franklin St., between Broadway and Lafayette Ave., TriBeCa | 212/727–3323 | www.postmastersart.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 11–6, Thurs. 11–8 | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.
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SoHo | NoLIta | Little Italy | Chinatown
Updated by Jessica Colley
SoHo, NoLIta, Little Italy, and Chinatown are all jam-packed with humanity, all the more perfect for people-watching as you shop, nibble, and wander. Parts of SoHo and NoLIta are destinations for super-trendy shopping as well as popular chains and department stores: the boutiques are often overpriced but undeniably glamorous (and sometimes you can snag a great sale). Little Italy and Chinatown are more about local shopping and Instagram-worthy food shops and stalls.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
If you’re coming to SoHo and NoLIta to shop, there’s no need to rush out the door—most shops don’t open until 10 or 11 am, and many stay open until the early evening. If art is your thing, avoid Sunday, because most galleries are closed. SoHo, with national chains lining its section of Broadway, is almost always a madhouse on weekend afternoons (unless it’s raining), but weekdays are somewhat less frenetic. NoLIta, with less traffic, fewer chains, and more boutiques, is calmer and less crowded.
Little Italy is a small area nowadays, having lost ground to a growing Chinatown. Note that foodwise, most of the checkered-tablecloth spots in Little Italy itself are touristy, with mediocre food.
If you’re visiting New York in mid-September, you’ll time it right for the the Feast of San Gennaro—a huge street fair in honor of the patron saint of Naples—along with thousands of others, who enjoy exploring the many food and souvenir booths and playing games of chance. Given that few ItalianAmericans live in the area anymore, it’s not exactly like visiting old Napoli, but it is a fun way to spend an hour or two.
Chinatown bustles with local shoppers pretty much any time of day, but there are more tourists on the weekends, when it gets so busy there isn’t much room on the sidewalk.
Browsing boutiques and people-watching in SoHo and NoLIta
Ogling the out-of-the-ordinary produce and seafood in Chinatown
Gallery hopping in SoHo
Eating dim sum in Chinatown
Sipping a cocktail in NoLIta
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
SoHo (South of Houston) is bounded by Houston Street, Canal Street, 6th Avenue, and Lafayette Street. To the east, NoLIta (North of Little Italy) is contained by Houston, the Bowery, Kenmare, and Lafayette. Plenty of subways service the area: take the 6, C, or E to Spring Street; the N or R to Prince Street; or the B, D, F, or M to Broadway–Lafayette Street. For Chinatown, farther south, take the 6, J, N, Q, R, or Z to Canal Street, or the B or D to Grand Street.
COFFEE AND QUICK BITES
Aroma Espresso Bar.
With large corner windows perfect for observing the well-dressed tide of humanity crossing West Houston, this busy branch of the international chain serves sandwiches, soups, and pastries as well as a ;arge selection of beverages, caffeinated and otherwise. | 145 Greene St., at West Houston St. | 212/533–1094 | www.aroma.us | Station: B, D, F, M to Broadway/Lafayette St.; N, R to Prince St.
Once Upon a Tart.
A place with a great name that has the goods to back it up. At lunch the sweet items on the menu are joined by soups, sandwiches, and savory tarts. | 135 Sullivan St., between W. Houston and Prince sts. | 212/387–8869 | www.onceuponatart.com | Station: C, E to Spring St.
Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich Deli.
Predating the banh mi craze by perhaps a decade, this storefront keeps hungry gallery-hoppers, shoppers, and locals happy with its complicated and delicious sandwiches, all served on baguettes. Try the No. 1: pâté, cucumbers, a tangy sauce, peppers, and shredded vegetables. It’s one of the best deals in town. | 369 Broome St., between Mott and Elizabeth sts. | 212/219–8341 | www.vietnamese-sandwich.com | Station: J, Z to Bowery; 6 to Spring St.; B, D to Grand St.
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Once the epicenter of the New York art scene, SoHo today is now more synomous with shopping. A bit of bohemia still exists on the cobblestone side streets, where there are charming restaurants with sidewalk seating and some of the art galleries that haven’t scattered elsewhere. The main thoroughfares tend to have sidewalks full of tables with handmade jewelry, leather belts, hats, and purses. If you take the time to look, there’s a local vibe here beneath the glitzy boutiques—elderly residents speaking Italian on the corners around Sullivan Street and Thompson Street reveal the neighborhood’s Italian past.
SoHo and NoLIta Architecture
There are plenty of beautiful people in SoHo and NoLIta, but tilt your eyes up, beyond the turn-of-the-20th-century lampposts adorned with cast-iron curlicues, and discover some of New York’s most impressive architecture. SoHo has one of the world’s greatest concentrations of cast-iron buildings, created in response to fires that wiped out much of Lower Manhattan in the mid-18th century. Look down, and see Belgian brick cobblestones lining some of the streets. Along Broadway and the neighboring streets of SoHo, you see “vault lights” in the sidewalk: starting in the 1850s, these glass lenses were set into sidewalks to permit daylight to reach basements.
The King of Greene Street, at 72–76 Greene, between Grand and Canal, is a five-story, Renaissance-style 1873 building with a magnificent projecting porch of Corinthian columns and pilasters. These days it’s unmistakably painted in high-gloss ivory. Over at 28–30 Greene Street is the Queen of Greene Street, a graceful 1873 cast-iron beauty that exemplifies the Second Empire style with its dormers, columns, window arches, projecting central bays, and roof.
The Haughwout Building, at 488–492 Broadway, north of Broome, is best known for what’s no longer inside—the world’s first commercial passenger elevator, invented by Elisha Graves Otis. The building’s exterior is worth a look, though: nicknamed the “Parthenon of Cast Iron,” the five-story, Venetian palazzo–style structure was built in 1857 to house department-store merchant E. V. Haughwout’s china, silver, and glassware store. Each window is framed by Corinthian columns and rounded arches.
Built in 1904, the Little Singer Building, at 561 Broadway, is a masterpiece of cast-iron styling, its delicate facade covered with curlicues of wrought iron. The L-shape building’s second facade is around the corner on Prince Street.
Charlton Street, not technically in SoHo but across 6th Avenue in the West Village, is Manhattan’s longest stretch of Federal-style red-brick rowhouses from the 1820s and ‘30s. The high stoops, paneled front doors, leaded-glass windows, and narrow dormer windows are all intact. King and Vandam streets also have historic houses. Much of this area was the site of a mansion called Richmond Hill, and in the late 18th century the surrounding area was a beautiful wild meadow from where you could see the nearby “hamlet” of Greenwich Village.
Over in Little Italy/NoLIta, the magnificent old Police Headquarters building at 240 Centre Street, between Broome and Grand, might be familiar from Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. The 1909 Edwardian baroque–style structure with its striking copper dome was the headquarters of the New York City Police Department until 1973. Designed to “impress both the officer and the prisoner with the majesty of the law,” it was converted into luxury condos in 1988 and is known today as the Police Building Apartments.
The 1885 Romanesque Revival Puck Building, at 295 Lafayette Street, on the southeast corner of Houston, is a former magazine headquarters and now a busy event space—look for the statue of Puck just over the door.
Donald Judd House.
A 5-story cast-iron building from 1870, 101 Spring Street was the New York home and studio of artist Donald Judd. While the neighborhood used to be home to many single-use, cast-iron buildings, this is the only one that remains—and is a designated historic building. Judd bought it in 1968, and today, guided 90-minute tours explore Judd’s living and working spaces and include art installations as they were arranged by Judd prior to his death in 1994 (note: climbing stairs is required). | 101 Spring St. | 212/219–2747 | www.juddfoundation.org | $25 | Tues.–Sat., by guided tour only | Station: N, R to Prince St.; 6 to Spring St.
At this nonprofit organization the focus is on drawings—contemporary and historical. Works shown in the three galleries often push the envelope on what’s considered drawing; many projects are commissioned by the center. | 35 Wooster St., between Broome and Grand sts., SoHo | 212/219–2166 | www.drawingcenter.org | $5 | Wed. and Fri.–Sun. noon–6, Thurs. noon–8 | Station: 1 to Canal St.; A, C, E to Canal St.; 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.
Leslie + Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.
Founded in the late 1980s, this museum has roots in the collection of its founders, Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman. The well-curated exhibits are usually photographic, with much of it sexually charged or at least homoerotic. | 26 Wooster St., between Grand and Canal sts., SoHo | 212/431–2609 | www.leslielohman.org | Free | Tues.–Sun. noon–6 (Thurs. until 8) | Station: 1 to Canal St.; A, C, E to Canal St.; 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.
New York City Fire Museum.
In the former headquarters of Engine 30, a handsome Beaux Arts building dating from 1904, retired firefighters volunteer their time in the morning and early afternoon to answer visitors’ questions. The collection of firefighting tools from the 18th century to the present includes hand-pulled and horse-drawn engines, speaking trumpets, pumps, and uniforms. A memorial exhibit with photos, paintings, children’s artwork, and found objects relating to the September 11 attacks is also on view—a poignant reminder and tribute to the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11. | 278 Spring St., between Hudson and Varick sts., SoHo | 212/691–1303 | www.nycfiremuseum.org | $8 | Daily 10–5 | Station: C, E to Spring St.; 1 to Houston St.
New York Earth Room.
Noted “earthworks” artist Walter De Maria’s 1977 avant-garde installation consists of 140 tons of gently sculpted soil (22 inches deep). It fills 3,600 square feet of a second-floor gallery maintained by the Dia Art Foundation since 1980. As the New York Timesput it in 1999, “a loamy smell definitely permeates the space.” You can’t touch or walk on the dirt, nor can you take its photo. If you like this installation, check out De Maria’s equally odd and impressive work, The Broken Kilometer, an 18.75-ton installation that consists of five columns of a total of 1,000 meter-long brass rods, which cover the wood floors of an open loft space. It’s a few blocks away at 393 West Broadway, and has the same hours as the Earth Room. | 141 Wooster St., 2nd fl., between W. Houston and Prince sts., SoHo | 212/989–5566 | www.diaart.org/sites/main/earthroom | Free | Mid-Sept.–mid-June, Wed.–Sun. noon–3 and 3:30–6 | Station: N, R to Prince St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.
Ronald Feldman Fine Arts.
Founded in 1971 and in SoHo since the 1980s, this gallery represents more than 30 international contemporary artists; exhibits include contemporary painting, sculpture, installations, drawings, and prints.The space also hosts performances andhas a large selection of Andy Warhol prints, paintings, and drawings. | 31 Mercer St., between Grand and Canal sts., SoHo | 212/226–3232 | www.feldmangallery.com | Free | Winter, Tues.–Sat. 10–6; summer, Mon.–Thurs. 10–6, Fri. 10–3 | Station: 1 to Canal St.; A, C, E to Canal St.; 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.
This contemporary gallery represents some of the artistic spirit of old SoHo: walk down this pretty stretch of Sullivan Street on any given evening and you may find a film screening, fashion show, or photograhy exhibition inside. This multipurpose space is also home to a 75-seat theater and hosts events showcasing film, fashion, and art in many forms. Check the online calendar for event details. | 138 Sullivan St., between Prince and W. Houston sts. | 212/228–2810 | www.sohodigart.com | Tues.-Sat. 1-5 | Station: C, E to Spring St.; 1 to Houston St.
Many locals would say that the spirit of old SoHo is somewhat alive in NoLIta, a charming neighborhood with an artistic spirit, independently run boutiques and restaurants, and a local vibe. The streets here are less frantic and crowded than either SoHo or Chinatown, and each block could provide hours of fun shopping in small shops, nursing a cappuccino at a sidewalk café, or lingering over a meal surrounded by creative New Yorkers. This is downtown, so the prices aren’t cheap, but the quality is high and the experience unique.
St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral.
If you’ve seen The Godfather, you’ve had a peek inside New York’s first Roman Catholic cathedral—the interior shots of the infamous baptism scene were filmed here. Dedicated in 1815, this church lost its designation as the seat of New York’s bishop when the current St. Patrick’s opened uptown, in 1879. The unadorned exterior of the cathedral gives no hint of the splendors within, which include an 1868 Henry Erben pipe organ. The interior dates from the 1860s, after a large fire gutted most of the original design. The enormous marble altar surrounded by hand-carved niches (reredos) houses an extraordinary collection of sacred statuary and other Gothic exuberance. Sunday Mass in English is at 9:15 and 12:45. | 263 Mulberry St., corner of Mott and Prince sts., NoLIta | 212/226–8075 | www.oldcathedral.org | Daily 8–5 (hrs vary) | Station: N, R to Prince St.; 6 to Bleecker St.
Just east of Broadway, the tangle of pedestrian-friendly blocks surrounding Mulberry Street between NoLIta and bustling Canal Street are still a cheerful salute to all things Italian, although Little Itay has been whittled down by the spread of nearby Chinatown. There are red, green, and white street decorations on permanent display and specialty grocers and cannelloni makers dish up delights, though it’s all a bit touristy these days and if it’s a great Italian meal you want, look elsewhere. Still, Little Italy is fun to walk around, and several of the classic food stores on Grand Street are worth a stop if you’re after an edible souvenir. If you’re looking for a bigger and more bustling Little Italy, head up to Arthur Avenue in the Bronxand you’ll find several good, affordable restaurants and a cornucopia of authentic Italian goods, all of them marketed to New Yorkers and tourists alike.
Every September, Mulberry Street becomes the giant Feast of San Gennaro, a crowded 11-day festival that sizzles with the smell of sausages and onions (don’t miss John Fasullo’s braciole, an iconic sandwich filled with filet of pork roasted over a coal pit and topped with peppers and onions).
Most Precious Blood Church.
The National Shrine of San Gennaro, a replica of the grotto at Lourdes, is the high point of Most Precious Blood Church’s richly painted interior. The church becomes a focal point during the annual Feast of San Gennaro. Sunday Mass is in English at 9 and noon. | 113 Baxter St., between Canal and Hester sts., Little Italy | 212/226–6427 | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.
Chinatown is a living, breathing, anything-but-quiet ethnic enclave with vibrant streets full of food shops selling vegetables and fish (some still alive and squirming), Chinese restaurants and bakeries, massage parlors, Buddhist temples, herbalists, and barbershops. A quarter of the city’s nearly 700,000 Chinese residents live here, in a neighborhood that started as a 7-block area, but now covers some 40-plus blocks above and below Canal Street (encroaching on what was once a thriving Little Italy). Head to Mott Street, south of Canal, Chinatown’s main thoroughfare, where the first Chinese immigrants (mostly men) settled in tenements in the late 1880s. Walk carefully, as the sidewalks can be slick from the ice underneath the eels, blue crabs, snapper, and shrimp that seem to look back at you as you pass by. You can create a movable feast here with soup dumplings, Peking duck, a yellow custard cake, and a jasmine bubble tea—each at a different place in the neighborhood. A city tourist-information kiosk on a traffic island where Canal, Baxter, and Walker streets meet can help you with tours, and also has a map that’s very useful for unraveling the tangled streets in the area.
People-watching is the thing to do in this park. If you swing by in the morning, you’ll see men and women practicing tai chi; the afternoons bring intense games of mahjong. In the mid-19th century the park was known as Five Points—the point where Mulberry Street, Anthony (now Worth) Street, Cross (now Park) Street, Orange (now Baxter) Street, and Little Water Street (no longer in existence) intersected—and was notoriously ruled by dangerous Irish gangs. In the 1880s a neighborhood-improvement campaign brought about the park’s creation. | Chinatown | www.nycgovparks.org/parks/M015 | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.
Ten streets converge at this labyrinthine intersection crisscrossed at odd angles by pedestrian walkways. Standing on an island in this busy area is the Kimlau Arch, named for Ralph Kimlau, a bomber pilot who died in World War II; the arch is dedicated to all ChineseAmericans who “lost their Lives in Defense of Freedom and Democracy.” A statue on the square’s eastern edge pays tribute to a Qing Dynasty official named Lin Zxeu, the Fujianese minister who sparked the Opium War by banning the drug. | Chatham Sq., Bowery and E. Broadway, Chinatown | www.nycgovparks.org/parks/kimlausquare | Station: 4, 5, 6 to Brooklyn Bridge–City Hall; J, Z to Chambers St.
Mahayana Buddhist Temple.
This pleasant and bright Buddhist temple is at a very busy corner, at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge Arch on the Bowery. There’s an excellent gift shop on the second floor. Before its reincarnation as a place of worship in 1997, this was the Rosemary, a movie theater showing a mix of kung fu and porn. | 133 Canal St., at the Bowery, Chinatown | 212/925–8787 | en.mahayana.us | Donations accepted | Daily 8–6 | Station: B, D to Grand St.
The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA).
Founded in 1980, this museum is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of the Chinese people and their descendants in the United States. Its current building, which opened in 2009 near the boundary between Chinatown and Little Italy (technically, many would say it’s in Little Italy), was designed by Maya Lin, architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. MOCA’s permanent exhibit on ChineseAmerican history,”With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America,” includes artworks, personal and domestic artifacts, historical documentation, and films. Chinese laundry tools, a traditional general store, and antique business signs are some of the unique objects on display. Rotating exhibits, some of which examine the sometimes turbulent relations between Asian Americans and the rest of the country, are on display in the second gallery. MOCA sponsors workshops, walking tours, lectures, and family events. | 215 Centre St., between Grand and Howard sts., Chinatown | 212/619–4785 | www.mocanyc.org | $10 | Tues., Wed., and Fri.–Sun. 11–6, Thurs. 11–9 | Station: 6, J, N, Q, R, Z to Canal St.
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East Village | Lower East Side
Updated by Jessica Colley
Vibant, bold, and bohemian: the streets of the East Village and the Lower East Side are some of the most electric in New York City. Both neighborhoods have a deep immigrant past, and have evolved into nighttime destinations where you can dance until dawn any day of the week. This area of downtown is tamer than it used to be (as the arrival of Whole Foods and several glass-and-chrome condos attests), but there’s definitely still a gritty edge in the dive bars, sultry live music venues, and experimental restaurants. Spend some time wandering these bohemain side streets, and you’ll be struck by the funky pastiche of ethnicities whose imprints are visible in the neighborhood’s restaurants, shops, and of course, people.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
Houston Street runs east–west and neatly divides the East Village (north of Houston) and the Lower East Side (south of Houston). The eastern boundary of the East Village and Lower East Side is the East River; the western boundary is 4th Avenue and the Bowery. So many communities converge in these neighborhoods that each block seems like a neighborhood unto itself.
The East Village lets loose on weekend nights, when nightlife-seekers converge on the area, filling up the bars and spilling out onto the sidewalks. Weekday evenings are less frenetic, with more of a local vibe—although the term “local” around here always means a large number of students from New York University. Daytime is great for shopping in local boutiques, and brunch on weekends around here generally means lines for hot spots like Prune and Back Forty, which fill with patrons lingering over coffee.
The Lower East Side does not tend to be an early-riser destination any day of the week. Although there’s plenty to see during the day, nightfall offers a more exciting vision: blocks that were previously empty rows of pulled-down gates transform into clusters of throbbing bars. On the trendy streets around Rivington and Stanton, stores, bars, and cafés buzz all week.
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
For the East Village, take the N or R subway line to 8th Street–New York University (NYU), the 6 to Astor Place, or the L to 3rd Avenue. To reach Alphabet City, take the L to 1st Avenue or the F to 2nd Avenue. For the Lower East Side, head southeast from the 2nd Avenue stop on the F, or take the F, M, J, or Z to the Delancey Street–Essex Street stop.
People-watching on St. Marks Place or at Tompkins Square Park
Shopping at boutiques and vintage clothing stores
Visiting the Lower East Side Tenement Museum
COFFEE AND QUICK BITES
Il Laboratorio del Gelato.
Seasonal flavors make this gelato la crème de la crème. There are 48 flavors offered each day. | 188 Ludlow St., at E. Houston St., Lower East Side | 212/343–9922 | www.laboratoriodelgelato.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
Given Katz’s location and its equally lost-in-time vibe, this deli goes as well with visits to the Tenement Museum as a Cel-Ray soda goes with pastrami. | 205 E. Houston St., at Ludlow St., Lower East Side | 212/254–2246 | www.katzsdelicatessen.com | Station: F to 2nd Ave.
This Italian bakery has been churning out cookies, coffee, and elaborate cakes and tarts since 1894—and the late hours it keeps only sweetens the deal. The fruit-topped minicheesecakes are always a good idea. | 342 E. 11th St., between 1st and 2nd aves., East Village | 212/674–7070 | www.venierospastry.com | Station: L to 1st Ave.
Many opposites coexist peacefully in the East Village: dive bars and craft cocktail dens, Ukranian diners and the latest chef-driven restaurant, stylish boutiques and counterculture stores. Known for its nightlife, the East Village has become increasingly more upscale in recent years with St. Marks Place trading in its gritty scene for a hodgepodge of students, well-earning postgrads, and Japanese expats. At its roots, the neighborhood is a community of artists, activists, and social dissenters—and though this is still the essential vibe here, the finish is much more polished these days.
East of 1st Avenue is Alphabet City, once the city’s seedy drug haunt but now an ever more gentrified neighborhood. There is still a young, artistic vibe in and around Tompkins Square Park.
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The north–south avenues east of 1st Avenue, from Houston Street to 14th Street, are all labeled with letters, not numbers, which gives this area its nickname: Alphabet City. Avenues A, B, and C are full of restaurants, cafés, stores, and bars that run from the low-rent and scruffy to the pricey and polished—the streets are more mixed than in other neighborhoods downtown. Parts of avenues A and B run along Tompkins Square Park. A close-knit Puerto Rican community makes its home around Avenue C, also called “Loisaida”(a Spanglish creation meaning “Lower East Side”). Although it’s still filled with many Latino shops and bodegas, it’s also now home to some trendy restaurants and bars. Avenue D remains rough around the edges—in part because of the uninterrupted row of projects that are on its east side. The East River Park, farther east, provides some nice views of Williamsburg and other parts of Brooklyn. To reach the park, cross Avenue D and take one of the pedestrian bridges that crosses FDR Drive at East 10th or East 5th Street, or cross the road at East Houston Street. | East Village | Station: L to 1st Ave.; F to 2nd Ave.
East Village Architecture
The East Village’s reputation for quirkiness is evinced not only by its residents and sites but also in the many incongruous structures that somehow coexist so easily that they often go unnoticed. Keep your eyes open as you explore the streets. You never know what might turn up: the Hells Angels’ Headquarters, for example, tucked into a residential block of 3rd Street between 1st and 2nd avenues, surrounded by a bevy of show-stopping bikes; the architectural “joke” on New York City atop the Red Square building on Houston Street at Norfolk, where a statue of Lenin points to the sky and a clock has lost its notion of time; or the shingled Cape Cod–style house perched on the apartment building at the northwest corner of Houston and 1st Avenue, one of the city’s many unique rooftop retreats (it’s best viewed from the east). Two privately owned, nearly hidden but airy “marble” cemeteries (New York Marble Cemetery and the New York City Marble Cemetery) established in the 1830s on 2nd Avenue between 2nd and 3rd streets hold the remains of thousands in underground, marble-lined vaults thought to prevent the spread of disease in a time marked by cholera epidemics. The gardens are surrounded by 12-foot walls made of Tuckahoe marble, and are entered through wrought-iron gates. Although rarely open to the public, they can be visited by appointment.
St. Marks Place.
The longtime hub of the edgy East Village, St. Marks Place is the name given to idiosyncratic East 8th Street between 3rd Avenue and Avenue A. During the 1950s, beatniks Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac lived and wrote in the area; the 1960s brought Bill Graham’s Fillmore East (nearby, at 105 2nd Avenue), and Andy Warhol’s Dom and the Electric Circus nightclub (both at nos. 19–25), where the Velvet Underground performed. The studded, pink-haired, and shaved-head punk scene followed, and there’s a good chance of still seeing some pierced rockers and teenage Goths on the block. Trash & Vaudeville, the punk store at No. 4, is the real deal—it’s been open since 1971. Farther down, at No. 33, is where the punk store Manic Panic first foisted its lurid hair dyes and make-up on the world. At No. 57 stood the short-lived Club 57, a church basement that attracted such 80s stalwarts as Keith Haring, Ann Magnuson, Klaus Nomi, Kenny Scharf, and Fab Five Freddy.
These days, there’s not much cutting edge left. Some of the grungy facades lead to luxury condos, and the area has become a Little Japan, with several ramen and dumpling shops, some sake bars, and lots of young Japanese students. The blocks between 2nd and 3rd avenues can feel like a shopping arcade, crammed with body-piercing and tattoo salons, and shops selling cheap jewelry, sunglasses, incense, and out-there sloganed T-shirts. The cafés and bars from here over to Avenue A attract customers late into the night—prices for a drink are lower than in other downtown neighborhoods. | 8th St., between 3rd Ave. and Ave. A, East Village | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; N, R to 8th St.–NYU.
Tompkins Square Park.
This leafy park fills up with locals year-round, partaking in picnics and drum circles, and making use of the playground and the dog run. Free Wi-Fi (strongest on the north side of the park) joins the shade, benches, and an elegant 1891 water fountain (donated by a teetotaling benefactor) as some of the best amenities here. There are movie screenings and music gatherings throughout the summer, a year-round farmers market on Sunday, and an annual Halloween dog costume event. But it wasn’t always so rosy in the park: in 1988, police followed then-mayor David Dinkins’s orders to evict the many homeless who had set up makeshift homes here, and homeless rights and anti-gentrification activists fought back with sticks and bottles. The park was reclaimed and reopened in 1992 with a midnight curfew, still in effect today. | From 7th to 10th St., between Aves. A and B, East Village | www.nycgovparks.org/parks/tompkinssquarepark | Station: 6 to Astor Pl., L to 1st Ave.
Astor Place Subway Station.
At the beginning of the 20th century almost all of the city’s Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) subway entrances resembled the one here—an ornate cast-iron replica of a Beaux Arts kiosk marking the subway entrance for the uptown 6 train. This traffic-island entrance, which was—and still is—the stop to get to the venerable Cooper Union college, is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Inside, plaques of beaver emblems line the tiled station walls, a reference to the fur trade that contributed to John Jacob Astor’s fortune. Milton Glaser, the Cooper Union graduate who originated the “I [heart] NY” logo, designed the station’s murals. | Traffic island at 8th St. and 4th Ave., East Village | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.
Run by Kathy Grayson, the former director of the highly influential Deitch Projects, this contemporary-arts gallery generally hosts two simultaneous shows a month. Its artists lean more toward the up-and-coming rather than the establishment. The on-site Hole Shop carries lots of quirky zines, posters, books, and art objects. | 312 Bowery, between Bleecker and E. Houston sts., East Village | 212/466–1100 | www.theholenyc.com | Wed.–Sun. noon–7 | Station: 6 to Bleecker St.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.
Merchant’s House Museum.
Built in 1832, this red-brick house, combining Federal and Greek Revival styles, provides a glimpse into the domestic life of the period 30 years before the Civil War. Retired merchant Seabury Tredwell and his descendants lived here from 1835 until 1933. The home became a museum in 1936, with the original furnishings and architectural features preserved; family memorabilia are also on display. The fourth-floor servants’ bedroom, where the Tredwell family’s Irish servants slept and did some of their work, offers a rare and intimate look at the lives of Irish domestics in the mid-1800s. A guided tour is offered at 2pm. | 29 E. 4th St., between the Bowery and Lafayette St., East Village | 212/777–1089 | www.merchantshouse.org | $10 | Thurs.–Mon. noon–5; guided tours Thurs.–Mon. at 2 | Station: N, R to 8th St.–NYU; 6 to Astor Pl.; B, D, F, M to Broadway–Lafayette St.
Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space.
Opened in late 2012, this self-described “living archive of urban activism” covers the vexatious postwar period in New York, during which the city’s public housing was often woefully mismanaged and hundreds of apartments lay abandoned and crumbling. Zines, photographs, and videos fill the small exhibit space inside a tenement’s storefront and its basement. Squatters, community gardens, the Tompkins Square riots, and the renaissance of bicycling in the city are all given their due, as is Occupy Wall Street. Tours of community gardens, activist landmarks, and other squats, both legal and otherwise, are also run by the museum. | C-Squat, 155 Ave. C, between 9th and 10th sts., East Village | 973/818–8495 | www.morusnyc.org | $5 suggested donation; tours $20 | Thurs.–Sun. and Tues. 11–7 | Station: L to 1st Ave.
St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery.
This charming 1799 fieldstone country church, which is Episcopalian, stands on what was once Governor Peter Stuyvesant’s bouwerie, or farm. It’s Manhattan’s second-oldest church, and both Stuyvesant and Commodore Matthew Perry are buried in vaults here. Check out the gorgeous modern stained-glass windows on the balcony, which replaced the more traditional windows (like those on the ground level) after a fire in the late ‘70s. Over the years St. Mark’s has hosted many avant-garde arts events, including readings by poet Carl Sandburg and dance performances by Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. The tradition of art partnerships has continued with Danspace, the Poetry Project, New York Theatre Ballet, and LocoMotion, which give performances throughout the year. Services are held Sunday at 11. | 131 E. 10th St., at 2nd Ave., East Village | 212/674–6377 | www.stmarksbowery.org | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; L to 3rd Ave.; N, R to 8th St.-NYU.
This diagonal slicing through the block bounded by 2nd and 3rd avenues and East 9th and 10th streets is unique in Manhattan: it’s the oldest street laid out precisely along an east–west axis. Among the handsome 19th-century red-brick rowhouses are the Federal-style Stuyvesant-Fish House at No. 21, built as a wedding gift for a great-great-granddaughter of the Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant, and Renwick Triangle, an attractive group of Anglo-Italianate brick and brownstone residences, that face Stuyvesant and East 10th streets. | | New York | Station: 6 to Astor Pl; N, R to 8th St.-NYU.
From the late 19th century through the end of World War II, tens of thousands of Ukrainians made their way to New York City—and particulaly to “Little Ukraine,” as much of the East Village was known. This museum, which opened in 2005, examines Ukrainian Americans’ dual heritage, with a permanent collection made up of folk art, fine art, and documentary materials about the immigrants’ lives. Ceramics, jewelry, hundreds of brilliantly colored Easter eggs, and an extensive collection of Ukrainian costumes and textiles are the highlights. If you’re feeling like a little Ukrainian food to continue the experience, the nearby Veselka diner awaits. | 222 E. 6th St., between 2nd and 3rd aves., East Village | 212/228–0110 | www.ukrainianmuseum.org | $8 | Wed.–Sun. 11:30–5 | Station: 6 to Astor Pl.; N, R to 8th St.-NYU.
LOWER EAST SIDE
The Lower East Side (or simply LES) is a center of all things cool: arts and nightlife, restaurants and cafés, boutiques and cool hair salons. What was once the “Gateway to America” (and home of waves of Irish, German, Jewish, Hispanic, and Chinese immigrants) is now a quickly gentrifying neighborhood where modern high-rises, the ultracontemporary New Museum, and low-key restaurants exist in the same corner of Manhattan.
On Saturday night, the scene can be as raucous as in a college town, especially on Rivington and Orchard streets, but Ludlow Street, one block east of Orchard, has become the main drag for twentysomethings with attitude, its boutiques wedged between bars and small restaurants.
The best time to experience the neighborhood’s past is by day. The excellent Lower East Side Tenement Museum movingly captures the immigrant legacy of tough times and survival instincts. You might not find many pickles being sold from barrels anymore, but this remains a good place to nosh on typical Jewish food from Katz’s Delicatessen or Russ & Daughters.
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Fodor’s Choice | Lower East Side Tenement Museum.
Step back in time and into the partially restored 1863 tenement building at 97 Orchard Street, where you can squeeze through the preserved apartments of immigrants, learn about the struggles of past generations, and gain historical perspective on the still contentious topic of immigration. This is America’s first urban living-history museum dedicated to the life of immigrants. The museum itself is only accessible by guided tour, each run at various times each day and limited to 15 people, so it’s a good idea to buy tickets in advance. The building tour called “Hard Times” visits the homes of Natalie Gumpertz, a German-Jewish dressmaker (dating from 1878), and Adolph and Rosaria Baldizzi, Catholic immigrants from Sicily (1935). “Sweatshop Workers” visits the Levines’ garment shop/apartment and the home of the Rogarshevsky family from Eastern Europe (1918). “Irish Outsiders” explores the life of the Moores, an Irish American family living in the building in 1869, and shows a re-created tenement backyard. “Shop Life” looks at the various businesses run on the street level here, including a German-style bar, a kosher butcher, an auctioneer, and, in the 1970s, a discount underwear store. A two-hour extended experience tour with a chance for in-depth discussion is given every day, as are walking tours of the neighborhood. Note that most tours don’t allow kids under 5. | 103 Orchard St., at Delancey St., Lower East Side | 212/982–8420 | www.tenement.org | Most tours $25 | Fri.–Wed. 10–6:30, Thurs. 10–8:30; last tour at 5 | Station: B, D to Grand St.; F to Delancey St.; J, M, Z to Essex St.
Inside this narrow space, artist Kazuko Miyamoto directs crisp and provocative group shows. | 128 Rivington St., between Essex and Norfolk sts., Lower East Side | 212/674–0244 | www.galleryonetwentyeight.org | Station: F to Delancey St.; J, M, Z to Essex St.
International Center of Photography.
Founded in 1974 by photojournalist Cornell Capa (photographer Robert Capa’s brother), this top-notch photography museum and school has a collection of over 150,000 original prints spanning the history of photography from daguerreotypes to large-scale pigment prints. The museum left it’s Midtown space in early 2015 to move downtown, but at press time there were no further details. Check the website for updates. | Lower East Side | 212/857–0000 | www.icp.org.
Museum at Eldridge Street.
The exterior of this Orthodox synagogue, the first to be built by the many Eastern European Jews who settled in the Lower East Side in the late 19th century, is a striking mix of Romanesque, Gothic, and Moorish motifs. Inside is an exceptional hand-carved ark of mahogany and walnut, a sculptured wooden balcony, jewel-tone stained-glass windows, vibrantly painted and stenciled walls, and an enormous brass chandelier. The synagogue can be viewed as part of an hour-long tour, which begins at the small museum downstairs where interactive “touch tables” teach all ages about Eldridge Street and the Lower East Side. The crowning piece of the synagogue’s decades-long restoration is a stained-glass window by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans, which weighs 6,000 pounds and has more than 1,200 pieces of glass. | 12 Eldridge St., between Canal and Division sts., Lower East Side | 212/219–0302 | www.eldridgestreet.org | $12 | Sun.–Thurs. 10–5, Fri. 10–3; tours on the hr | Station: F to East Broadway; B, D to Grand St.
This seven-story, 60,000-square-foot structure—a glimmering metal mesh–clad assemblage of off-center squares—caused a small neighborhood uproar when it was built in 2007, with some residents slow to accept the nontraditional building. Not surprisingly, given the museum’s name and the building, shows are all about contemporary art: previous exhibitions have included the popular “Carsten Höller: Experience,” with a slide connecting the fourth and second floors, and a sensory deprivation tank, among other things. Studio 231, the museum’s adjacent, ground-floor space at 231 Bowery, gives emerging artists the opportunity to create work outside the confines of the main museum building in a studiolike space. If you’re visiting on the weekend, check out the seventh-floor “sky room” and its panoramic view of Lower Manhattan. From 10 to noon on the first Saturday of every month, the museum runs free family-oriented programs and events designed for kids age 3 to 10. Thursday’s pay-what-you-wish night always brings a fun-loving, hipster-heavy crowd out of the woodwork. | 235 Bowery, at Prince St., Lower East Side | 212/219–1222 | www.newmuseum.org | $16 (pay-what-you-wish Thurs. 7–9) | Tues.–Sun. 11–6 (Thurs. until 9) | Station: 6 to Spring St., F to 2nd Ave.
Founded in 1975 in SoHo, and after spending nearly a decade in Chelsea, Sperone Westwater now finds itself a major part of the “artification” of the Lower East Side. In 2010, the gallery moved into this nine-story building, which it commissioned for itself—a vote of confidence in both its Bowery surroundings and the continued importance of its artists, which have included Bruce Nauman, William Wegman, Gerhard Richter, and a host of blue-chip minimalists. The narrow building, designed by Norman Foster, rivals the New Museum (a few doors down) for crisp poise: in 2011 New York’s Municipal Art Society deemed it the best new building of the year. Its Big Red Box, essentially a huge roomlike freight elevator, is a major contributor to the building’s good looks. | 257 Bowery, between E. Houston and Stanton sts., Lower East Side | 212/999–7337 | www.speronewestwater.com | Station: 6 to Spring St., F to 2nd Ave.
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Greenwich Village | West Village
Updated by Jessica Colley
The charming, tree-lined streets of the Village are beloved by New Yorkers (whether they can afford to live there or not) for their cozy restaurants and cafés, chic cocktail bars, and inviting boutiques. Long the home of writers, artists, bohemians, and bon vivants, the Village is made up of Greenwich Village proper (the area surrounding Washington Square Park) and the West Village, between 7th Avenue and the Hudson River. Greenwich Village, in prime New York University (NYU) territory, has lots of young people, while the West Village is primarily residential, with lots of well-to-do couples and families and a substantial community of older gay men and some lesbians. Both sections have a relaxed, downtown vibe and a distinctly New York spin in their bookstores, corner bars, and trendy restaurants.
Halloween in the Village
All things weird and wonderful, all creatures great and small, all things witty and fantastical, New York City has them all—and on All Hallows’ Eve they strut through the streets in New York’s Halloween parade. White-sheeted ghouls feel dull compared with fishnets and leather, sequins and feathers posing and prancing along 6th Avenue in this vibrant display of vanity and insanity.
In 1973 mask-maker and puppeteer Ralph Lee paraded his puppets from house to house, visiting friends and family along the winding streets of his Greenwich Village neighborhood. His merry march quickly outgrew its original, intimate route and now, decades later, it parades up 6th Avenue, from Spring Street to 21st Street, attracting 90,000 creatively costumed exhibitionists, artists, dancers, and musicians, hundreds of enormous puppets, scores of bands, and more than 2 million spectators. Anyone with a costume can join in, no advance registration required, although the enthusiastic interaction between participants and spectators makes it just as much fun simply to watch. It’s a safe “street event” for families and singles alike (though, be aware you will be entering very dense crowds), and a joyful night unlike any other.
The parade lines up along 6th Avenue between Canal and Spring streets from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. The walk actually starts at 7, but it takes about two hours to leave the staging area. It’s best to arrive from the south to avoid the crush of strollers and participants. Get there a few hours early if possible. Costumes are usually handmade, clever, and outrageous, and revelers are happy to strike a pose. The streets are crowded along the route, with the most congestion below 14th Street. Of course, the best way to truly experience the parade is to march, but if you’re not feeling the face paint, it’s possible to volunteer to help carry the puppets. For information visit www.halloween-nyc.com.
People-watching in Washington Square Park
Strolling and window-shopping along the pretty streets of the West Village
Relaxing in one of the many cafés
Walking along Hudson River Park by the water
Eating your way along Bleecker Street
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
A visit to Washington Square Park is a must for people-watching and relaxing on a bench (you might also catch some live music performances). There are lots of restaurants and shops in the neighborhood, though they do tend to be touristy or cater primarily to students.
The West Village—basically from 7th Avenue to the Hudson River—is more residential, and tends to be pretty quiet, with carefully tended, tree-lined streets that are pleasant for a stroll. Upscale boutiques line Bleecker Street and Greenwich Avenue (note that, confusingly, there is also a Greenwich Street in this neighborhood).
The windy streets of the West Village often seem mazelike, even to locals, because most of the streets here are named rather than numbered and they’re not organized on a grid system. Assume that you’re going to get a little bit lost—that’s part of the fun—but don’t hesitate to ask for directions.
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
The West 4th Street subway stop—serviced by the A, B, C, D, E, F, and M lines—puts you in the center of Greenwich Village. Farther west, the 1 train has stops at Houston Street and at Christopher Street–Sheridan Square. The L stops at 8th Avenue, and the A, C, and E trains stop at 14th Street, which is the northern boundary of the West Village.
BEST FOR KIDS
Hudson River Park
Washington Square Park
Taking time out for pizza or dessert
COFFEE AND QUICK BITES
Usually packed, this café dates back to the 1920s, making it one of the oldest coffeehouses in the city. The enormous espresso machine, which may have introduced cappuccino to New York, has served many a Beat poet, politician, folk singer, artist, activist, tourist, and student since then. | 119 MacDougal St., between W. 3rd and Carmine sts. | 212/475–9557 | www.caffereggio.com | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
At this welcoming café, both the pastries and the people-watching are a cut above. | 28 Jane St., between 8th and Greenwich aves., West Village | 212/647–0943 | www.groundedcoffee.com | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.; 1, 2, 3 to 14th St.
Joe (West Village).
The coffee is exquisitely prepared at this small corner café, the first of what is now a small chain. | 141 Waverly Pl., at Gay St., Greenwich Village | 212/924–6750 | www.joenewyork.com | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.; 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.
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Many would argue that Washington Square Park is still the beating heart of downtown, a magnet for all kinds of life—people come here to listen to live music performances, stretch out on a picnic blanket, let the pooch loose at the dog run, or play with kids on the playground, This park is at the core of Greenwich Villge, where you can find just about every sort of person imaginable lounging on a summer day, from skateboarders and students to people who look like they’ve lived in the park for years, playing chess and checkers at the stone tables. This is also a historic part of the neighborhood, with the grand Washington Memorial Arch looking north to two blocks of lovingly preserved Greek Revival and Federal-style townhouses known as “the Row.”
Bountiful doesn’t even begin to describe Greenwich Village’s yield of creative genius. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, abstract expressionist painters Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning congregated here, as did Beat writers Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The 1960s brought folk musicians and poets, notably Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Its bohemian days may be long gone, but there is still a romantic allure lingering along tree-lined streets and at the back of the cafés, behind the frenetic clamor of NYU students and the professional veneer of multimillion-dollar townhouses.
Bleecker Street’s Little Italy
Little Italy can be besieged by slow-moving crowds, touristy shops, and restaurant hosts hollering invitations to dine inside. Bleecker Street between 6th and 7th avenues, on the other hand, with its crowded cafés, bakeries, pizza parlors, and old-world merchants, offers a more pleasurable, equally vital alternative to the traditional tourist trap.
For an authentic Italian bakery experience, stop by Pasticceria Rocco (No. 243) for wonderful cannoli, cream puffs, and cookies packed up, or order an espresso and linger over the treats.
Step into the past at the old-style (and now high-end) butcher shops, such as Ottomanelli & Sons (No. 285) and Faicco’s Pork Store (No. 260), where locals have bought their sausage and custom-cut pork since 1900.
The sweet (or stinky) smell of success is nowhere more evident than at Murray’s Cheese (No. 254). The original shop, opened in 1940 by Murray Greenberg (not Italian), was not much larger than the display case that stocked the stuff. Now it’s a fromage-fiend’s emporium, with everything from imported crackers and bamboo cutting boards to a full-service sandwich counter. Samples of cheese, salami, gelato, and other goodies are frequently served. Educational cheese tasting classes are also held in the upstairs classroom (sign up online in advance).
There are also a few popular pizzerias along this strip; Kesté Pizza & Vino (No. 271) serves Neapolitan pies that some would argue give even Da Michele in Naples a run for its money. It is also the official location in the United States for the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, whose mission is to promote pizzas made in the Neapolitan tradition, using Neapolitan products. Brick-oven favorite John’s Pizzeria (No. 278) is a classic New York pizza joint—pies only, no slices!
Walking the stretch of Bleecker Street between 5th and 7th avenues provides a smattering of just about everything synonymous with Greenwich Village these days: NYU buildings, used-record stores, Italian cafés and food shops, pizza and takeout joints, some nightclubs, and funky boutiques. A lazy afternoon here may consist of sampling some of the city’s best pizza, grabbing an espresso, and people-watching. Notable along the Greenwich Village length of the street is Our Lady of Pompeii Church, at Bleecker and Carmine, where Mother Cabrini, a naturalized Italian immigrant who became the first American citizen to be canonized, often prayed. Foodies love the blocks between 6th and 7th avenues for the specialty purveyors like Murray’s Cheese (at No. 254). West of 7th Avenue, where Bleecker crosses the border into the West Village, things get more upscale, with fashion and home-furnishings boutiques featuring antiques, eyeglasses, handbags, shoes, and designer clothing. | Greenwich Village | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Washington Square Park.
NYU students, street musicians, skateboarders, jugglers, chess players, and those just watching the grand opera of it all generate a maelstrom of activity in this physical and spiritual heart of Greenwich Village. The 9¾-acre park had inauspicious beginnings as a cemetery, principally for yellow-fever victims—an estimated 10,000–22,000 bodies lie below (a headstone was actually unearthed in 2009). At one time, plans to renovate the park called for the removal of the bodies, but local resistance prevented this from happening. In the early 1800s the park was a parade ground and the site of public executions; bodies dangled from a conspicuous Hanging Elm that still stands at the northwest corner of the square. Today that gruesome past is all but forgotten, as playgrounds attract parents with tots in tow, dogs go leash-free inside the popular dog runs, and everyone else seems drawn toward the large central fountain.
The triumphal European-style Washington Memorial Arch stands at the square’s northern flank, marking the start of 5th Avenue. The original wood-and-papier-mâché arch, originally situated a half block north, was erected in 1889 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of George Washington’s presidential inauguration. The arch was reproduced in Tuckahoe marble in 1892, and the statues—Washington as General Accompanied by Fame and Valor on the left, and Washington as Statesman Accompanied by Wisdom and Justice on the right—were added in 1916 and 1918, respectively. | 5th Ave., between Waverly Pl. and 4th St., Greenwich Village | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
A curved, one-block lane lined with small rowhouses, Gay Street was probably named after an early landowner and definitely had nothing to do with gay rights. In the 1930s this tiny thoroughfare and nearby Christopher Street became famous nationwide after Ruth McKenney began to publish somewhat zany autobiographical stories based on what happened when she and her sister moved to No. 14 from Ohio. The stories, first published in the New Yorker, birthed many adaptations, including the 1953 Broadway musical Wonderful Town (revived in 2004) and the 1942 and 1955 movies My Sister Eileen. | Between Christopher St. and Waverly Pl., Greenwich Village | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
This little cul-de-sac off West 10th Street between Greenwich and 6th avenues has 10 diminutive 1848 rowhouses. Around the corner on 6th Avenue is a similar dead-end street, Milligan Place, with five small houses completed in 1852. The houses in both quiet enclaves were originally built for waiters who worked at 5th Avenue’s high-society Brevoort Hotel, long since demolished. Later Patchin Place residents included writers Theodore Dreiser, e. e. cummings, Jane Bowles, and Djuna Barnes. Milligan Place became popular among playwrights, including Eugene O’Neill. | Greenwich Village | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Built from 1833 through 1837, this series of Greek Revival and Federal rowhouses along Washington Square North, between University Place and MacDougal Street, once belonged to merchants and bankers, then to writers and artists such as John Dos Passos and Edward Hopper. Many are now owned by NYU and used for housing and offices. Although the facades remain beautifully preserved, the interiors have been drastically altered over the years. | 1–13 and 19–26 Washington Sq. N, between University Pl. and MacDougal St., Greenwich Village | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
A rarity in Manhattan, this pretty, brick-covered street—really a glorified alley—is lined on one side with the former stables of the houses on the Row on Washington Square North. Although the street is private and owned by New York University, which uses many of the stables for offices, it’s open to pedestrian traffic from 7 am to 11 pm and is a lovely, historic strip for a stroll. | From Washington Sq. N to 8th St., between 5th Ave. and University Pl., Greenwich Village | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.; N, R to 8th St.–NYU.
Small curving streets, peculiar alleys, and historic townhouses—it’s easy to see why the tree-lined streets of the West Village (which are primarily residential) are in such high demand. A stroll here reveals charming cafés, carefully disheveled celebrities out and about, and well-dressed children playing in the parks. Visitors come here to feel like a local, to daydream about a life in New York. Unlike 5th Avenue or SoHo, the pace is slower, allowing shoppers to enjoy the peaceful streets and small-scale stores. This is the place to come for unusual finds as well as global-brand goods. The West Village section of Bleecker Street is a particularly good place to indulge all sorts of shopping appetites; high-fashion foragers prowl the stretch between West 10th Street and 8th Avenue. Hudson Street and Greenwich Avenue are also prime boutique-browsing territories.
Christopher Street has long been the symbolic heart of New York’s gay and lesbian community, though places like Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and parts of Brooklyn attract more gay and lesbian residents these days. On Christopher Street, among cafés, lifestyle boutiques, and clothing shops, is one of the city’s most acclaimed Off-Broadway theaters, the Lucille Lortel, where major playwrights like David Mamet, Eugene Ionesco, and Edward Albee have their own markers in the sidewalk. Nearby, at 51–53 Christopher Street, is the site of the Stonewall Inn and the historic Stonewall riots, one of the signal events in the gay rights movement. Across the street is a green triangle named Christopher Park, where there are commemorative statues of two gay and lesbian couples.
Hudson River Park.
See the listing in TriBeCa.
75½ Bedford Street.
Rising real-estate prices inspired the construction of New York City’s narrowest house—just 9½ feet wide and 32 feet deep—in 1873. Built on a lot that was originally a carriage entrance of the Isaacs-Hendricks House next door, this sliver of a building’s past residents include actor John Barrymore and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. | 75½ Bedford St., between Commerce and Morton sts., West Village | Station: A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
Children’s Museum of the Arts.
The CMA encourages children ages 1 to 15 to get creative through a variety of mediums. Along with the requisite children’s museum offerings like pencils, chalk, and paint, you’ll find a clay bar; a media lab with mounted cameras and a recording studio; a small slide and colorful ball pond that kids can play in; an airy exhibition space with rotating exhibits (and workshops inspired by exhibits); a permanent collection of children’s art from more than 50 countries; and classes in ceramics, origami, animation, filmmaking, and more. Check the website for a busy calendar of events. | 103 Charlton St., between Hudson and Greenwich sts., West Village | 212/274–0986 | www.cmany.org | $11 | Mon. and Wed. noon–5, Thurs. and Fri. noon–6, weekends 10–5 | Station: C, E to Spring St.; 1 to Houston St.
You might have to share a bench in this tiny park with George Segal’s life-size sculptures of a lesbian couple. The painted bronzes, cast in 1980 and titled Gay Liberation, also include a gay male couple, captured mid-chat nearby. | Bordered by W. 4th, Grove, and Christopher sts., West Village | Station: 1 to Christopher St.–Sheridan Sq.; A, B, C, D, E, F, M to W. 4th St.
St. Luke’s Place.
Steeped in New York City history and shaded by graceful gingko trees, this somewhat hard-to find section of Leroy Street has 15 classic Italianate brownstone and brick townhouses (1851–54). Novelist Theodore Dreiser wrote An American Tragedy at No. 16, and poet Marianne Moore resided at No. 14. (Robert De Niro later lived here for decades—in mid-2012 he sold it for $9.5 million.) The colorful (and corrupt) Mayor Jimmy Walker (first elected in 1926) lived at No. 6; the lampposts in front are “mayor’s lamps,” which were sometimes placed in front of the residences of New York mayors. This block is often used as a film location: No. 12 was shown as the Huxtables’ home on The Cosby Show (although on the show it was in Brooklyn), and No. 4 was the setting of the Audrey Hepburn thriller Wait Until Dark. Before 1890 the James J. Walker Park, on the south side of the street near Hudson, was a graveyard where, according to legend, the dauphin of France—the lost son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette—is buried. | Leroy St., between Hudson St. and 7th Ave. S, West Village | Station: 1 to Houston St.
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Meatpacking District | Chelsea
Updated by Jacinta O’Halloran
Chelsea long ago usurped SoHo as the epicenter of New York contemporary art galleries, but the opening of the High Line above 10th Avenue gave a new life to this part of the city. Rising rents have meant fewer small galleries but the opening of the new Whitney Museum of American Art firmly solidifies the area as a major art hub that also has exciting restaurants and boutiques.
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
The A, C, E, L, 1, 2, and 3 trains stop at 14th Street for both the Meatpacking District and Chelsea. The latter neighborhood is further served by the C, E, F, M, and 1 lines at 23rd Street and by the 1 train at 28th Street. PATH trains also stop at 14th Street and 23rd Street.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
Plan your visit to the High Line around food: work up an appetite first by walking downtown along the High Line from 34th Street and thento Chelsea Market, Gansevoort Market, or the food carts pepperingthe southern reaches of the park (from 15th to 17th Street) for a bite, or pick up food on your way to the High Line for a picnic there. There are also seasonal food vendors on the High Line for impromptu snacking.
Chelsea has a dual life: typical gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday 10–6, but at night the neighborhood changes into a party town, with bars (gay and straight) and high-profile nightclubs that don’t rev up until after 11.
To truly appreciate the Meatpacking District, make a 9 pm or later dinner reservation at a hot restaurant, then hit the bars to see the glitterati.
If shopping is your pleasure, weekdays are great; come after noon, though, or find most spots shuttered.
Gallery-hopping in Chelsea
Walking along the High Line
Exploring the Whitney Museum of American Art: the new building has light-filled galleries and wonderful views from the terraces.
Checking out the Meatpacking District’s nightlife
Eating your way through Chelsea Market or Gansevoort Market
Shopping the ultrachic boutiques in the Meatpacking District
BEST FOR KIDS
The High Line
Hudson River Park
COFFEE AND QUICK BITES
Blue Bottle Coffee.
If you’re serious about coffee, fresh-baked pastries, eco-friendly practices, and goodold-fashioned service, stop in at this trendy coffee shop, orits seasonal outpost on the High Line. | 450 W. 15th St., Chelsea | www.bluebottlecoffee.com | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
Care for an apple fritter, a red-velvet doughnut, or an old-fashioned cruller with your coffee? A 5 am sugar fix after a night clubbing in the Meatpacking District? Pull up a stool—it’s open 24/7. | 203 W. 14th St., at 7th Ave., Chelsea | 212/929–0126 | www.donutpub.com | Station: 1, 2, 3 to 14th St.; A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
Ninth Street Espresso.
The Chelsea Market outpost of Ninth Street Espresso is popular all day, though the lines in the morning are longest. The lattes here are liquid gold. | Chelsea Market, 9th Ave., between 15th and 16th sts., Chelsea | 212/228–2930 | www.ninthstreetespresso.com | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
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Concentrated in a few blocks of what is essentially the West Village, between the Hudson River and 9th Avenue, from Little West 12th Street to about West 17th Street, the Meatpacking District used to be the center of the wholesale meat industry for New York City. There are few meat markets left in this now rather quaint, cobblestone area but it’s definitely a figurative meat market at night, when the city’s trendiest frequent the equally trendy restaurants and bars here. The area is also home to some of the city’s swankiest retailers, with high-profile fashion designers and labels like Christian Louboutin, Diane von Furstenberg, Catherine Malandrino, and Honor, as well as lesser known boutiques like Owen, Kilian, and Elizabeth Charles.
Named after a food market that existed here in the 1800s, this 8,000-square-foot food hall—with its carefully curated list of vendors and vine-covered, skylit dining space—is like the younger, cooler, lesser known sister of nearby tourist-mobbed Chelsea Market. Opened in late 2014, the market is slowly filling up with a mix of artisan purveyors selling everything from overstuffed lobster rolls, sweet and savory stuffed brioche-muffin hybrids, and American-style macarons to tacos served from a VW van, homemade bread from Gansevoort Bakery, and a variety of pork-fare from the Pig Guy. When weather permits, the garage door facade rolls up to expose the market to the cobblestone streets outside. | 52 Gansevoort St., between Greenwich and Washington sts., Meatpacking District | 212/247–1701 | www.gansmarket.com | Daily 9–9 | Station: A, C, E, to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
Whitney Museum of American Art.
In early 2015, the Whitney opened the doors of its fabulous new Renzo Piano–designed building in the Meatpacking District, between the High Line (New York’s beloved elevated park) and the Hudson River. Founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s talent and taste were accompanied by the money of two wealthy families, and the Whitney Museum of Art’s collection has always been known for its bold works of 20th- and 21st-century contemporary American art. The new museum has 8 floors (6 accessible to the public) with more than 50,000 square feet of state-of-the-art gallery space, as well as 13,000 square feet of outdoor space with views of the Hudson River, Downtown, and the Meatpacking District. After the opening of the Whitney’s new building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will present exhibitions and special programs at the Whitney’s old location for at least eight years.
Whitney Museum of American Art Highlights
The galleries house rotating exhibitions of postwar and contemporary works from the permanent collection by artists such as Jackson Pollock, Jim Dine, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, Chuck Close, Cindy Sherman, and Roy Lichtenstein.
Notable pieces often on view include Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning (1930), Bellows’s Dempsey and Firpo (1924), Alexander Calder’s beloved Circus, and several of Georgia O’Keeffe’s dazzling flower paintings.
The outdoor terraces on floors 6, 7, and 8 are connected by extrerior stairs and have rotating exhibits as well as stunnings views.
Whitney Museum of American Art Tips
•Free tours of the collection and current exhibitions are offered daily; check the website for more information.
•The Untitled restaurant on the ground floor and the Studio Cafe on the 8th floor are run by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group.
•After 7 pm on Friday the price of admission is pay-what-you-wish.
99 Gansevoort St., between Washington St. and 10th Ave., Meatpacking District | 212/570–3600 | www.whitney.org | $22 | Mon., Wed., Sun. 10:30–6, Thurs.–Sat. 10:30–10 | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
Most of Chelsea’s art galleries are found from about 20th to 27th streets, primarily between 10th and 11th avenues. The range of contemporary art on display includes almost every imaginable medium and style; if it’s going on in the art world, it’ll be in one of the 300 or so galleries here.
This former Nabisco plant—where the first Oreos were baked in 1912—now houses more than three dozen vendors carrying everything from gourmet food and wine, to oils, vinegars, teas, spices, gift baskets, and kitchen supplies; there’s also an Anthropologie store, wine bar, barbershop, shoeshine stand, and one of New York City’s last independent book stores (Posman Books). Renowned specialty purveyors including L’Arte del Gelato, Fat Witch Bakery, Amy’s Bread, Jacques Torres Chocolate, and Ninth Street Espresso flank the interior walkway that stretches between 9th and 10th avenues. Be sure to wander into the 15th Street Arcade, where a bunch of great new kiosks sell everything from fresh minidoughnuts to Korean soups with Japanese noodles, Brooklyn-made caramels, and authentic Mexican street food. The market’s funky industrial design—a tangle of glass and metal for an awning, a factory pipe converted into an indoor waterfall—complements the eclectic assortment of shops. There is some seating inside but if the weather’s nice, take your goodies to the High Line. | 75 9th Ave., between 15th and 16th sts., Chelsea | 212/652–2117 | www.chelseamarket.com | Mon.–Sat. 7–9, Sun. 8–8 | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.
In 2013, Zwirner further solidified his commitment to contemporary art, and his place in the ranks of the most successful galleries in the art world, with this vast, purpose-built, five-story exhibition and project space, created to complement the programming of the gallery’s three existing West 19th Street locations a block away. Zwirner’s galleries show works in all mediums by artists like Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Blinky Palermo, Jeff Koons, Gordon Matta-Clark, Doug Wheeler, and Yayoi Kusama. In 2015, Zwirner presented a large-scale new sculpture created by Richard Serra. | 537 W. 20th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/517–8677 | www.davidzwirner.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
This enterprising modern gallery has two large Chelsea branches (the other is at 522 West 21st Street, between 10th and 11th avenues) and three galleries on the Upper East Side, as well as nine more outposts in cities around the world. Perhaps the most powerful dealer in the business, Gagosian Gallery shows works by heavy hitters such as Pablo Picasso, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Urs Fischer, Richard Serra, and pop-art icon Roy Lichtenstein. | 555 W. 24th St., at 11th Ave., Chelsea | 212/741–1111 | www.gagosian.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
The international roster of artists at this gallery’s two Chelsea locations includes painter Ahmed Alsoudani, sculptor Anish Kapoor, photographer Sharon Lockhart, and multimedia artists Matthew Barney and Cecilia Edefalk. The other location is 530 West 21st Street, between 10th and 11th avenues. | 515 W. 24th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/206–9300 | www.gladstonegallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Hauser & Wirth.
On the site of the former Roxy nightclub and roller rink on West 18th Street, this Hauser & Wirth gallery is the opposite of its narrow townhouse location on the Upper East Side. The space is huge (23,000 square feet), cavernous, and begs for sprawling exhibits and large-scale works. Emerging and established contemporary artists in the powerful Hauser & Wirth fold that show here include Dieter Roth, Paul McCarthy, Eva Hesse, and Jason Rhoades. | 511 W. 18th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/790–3900 | www.hauserwirth.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
The High Line.
Once a railroad track carrying freight trains, this elevated space—running from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District (at the Whitney Museum of Art) to West 34th Street—has been transformed into a wonderful retreat from the hubbub of the city. A long, landscaped “walking park” with plants, curving walkways, picnic tables and benches, public art installations, and views of the Hudson River and the Manhattan skyline, the High Line is now one of the most visited parks in New York City.
The High Line Highlights
One of the main draws of the High Line is the landscaping, which is carefully choreographed and yet wild and untamed at the same time. Visitors can see many of the original species that grew in the rail beds, as well as shrubs, trees, grasses, and perennials chosen for their hardiness and sustainability. The landscape is always changing; check the website before you visit to see what’s in bloom.
Chelsea Market Passage, between 15th and 16th streets, is accented with Spencer Finch’s stained glass art and home to public art displays, videoprograms, music performances, and sit-down events.
A particularly popular feature that illustrates the High Line’s greatest achievement—the ability to see the city with fresh eyes—is the 10th Avenue Square (between 16th and 17th streets). This viewing window with stadium seating and large picture windows frames the ever-moving and -changing city below as art, encouraging viewers to linger, watch, pose, and engage with the city in a new way.
The 25-by-75-foot billboard located within a parking lot next to the High Line at 18th Street and 10th Avenue presents a series of art installations on view for a month at a time.
The High Line Tips
•The best way to fully appreciate the High Line is to walk the full length of the elevated park in one direction (preferably from Gansevoort Street uptown so that you can end with stunning views) and then make the return journey at street level, taking in the Chelsea neighborhood, and eats, below.
•This is an elevated park so you need to look for elevator points along the route if you are traveling with wheelchairs or strollers.
•Chelsea Market and Gansevoort Market are convenient places to pick up fixings for a picnic lunch.
•Well-maintained restrooms are available at 16th Street and Gansevoort.
•The new Whitney Museum of Art is located at the Gansevoort Street base of the High Line; the two make an excellent combination, along with lunch in the area.
10th Ave., from Gansevoort St. to 34th St., Chelsea | 212/206–9922 | www.thehighline.org | Dec.–Mar., daily 7–7; Apr., May, Oct., and Nov., daily 7 am–10 pm; June–Sept., daily 7 am–11 pm | Station: A, C, E to 14th St.; L to 8th Ave.; 1, 2, 3 to 14th St.; 1 to 23rd St. or 28th St.
With galleries in London, Monaco, and Madrid, the Marlborough empire also operates two of the largest and most influential galleries in New York City, as well as a shared annex on the Lower East Side. The Chelsea location (the other is on 57th Street) shows the latest work of modern artists, with a focus on sculptural forms, such as the boldly colorful paintings of Andrew Kuo. Red Grooms, Richard Estes, and Fernando Botero are just a few of the 20th-century luminaries represented. | 545 W. 25th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/463–8634 | www.marlboroughgallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Mary Boone Gallery.
Based in SoHo in the late seventies, when it was a hot showcase for younger artists, the Mary Boone Gallery relocated to midtown (745 5th Avenue, near 58th Street) in 1996 and then opened this additional branch in a former garage in Chelsea in 2000. The Chelsea space allows for large-scale works and dramatic installations. Over the years, Boone has shown and represented artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Julian Schnabel, Ross Bleckner, and Ai Weiwei. Boone continues to show established artists such as Barbara Kruger, Pierre Bismuth, and Eric Fischl, as well as relative newcomers such asJacob Hashimoto, and Hilary Harkness. | 541 W. 24th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/752–2929 | www.maryboonegallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Matthew Marks Gallery.
A hot venue for both the New York and international art crowd, openings at any of the four Matthew Marks galleries are always an interesting scene—there are three other locations along 22nd Street between 10th and 11th avenues. Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone made his U.S. debut here, as did Andreas Gursky. Luigi Ghirri, Darren Almond, Robert Adams, Nan Goldin, Ellsworth Kelly, and a cast of illustrious others also show here. | 523 W. 24th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/243–0200 | www.matthewmarks.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Fodor’s Choice | Museum at FIT.
What this small, three-gallery museum housed in the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) lacks in size, staging, and effects, it more than makes up for in substance and style. You don’t find interactive mannequins, elaborate displays, or overcrowded galleries at the self-declared “most fashionable museum in New York City,” but you do find carefully curated exhibits, an impressive permanent collection that includes more than 50,000 garments and accessories from the 18th century to the present, and dedicated followers and students sketching and leaning in to wow over seams and sequins. The Fashion and Textile History Gallery, on the main floor, provides ongoing historical context with a rotating selection of historically and artistically significant objects from the museum’s permanent collection (exhibits change every six months), but the real draw here is the special exhibitions in the lower level gallery.Recent examples include “Faking It: Originals, Copies, and Counterfeits”; “Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the 70s,” and “Lauren Bacall: The Look.” Gallery FIT, also located on the main floor, is dedicated to student and faculty exhibitions. | 227 W. 27th St., at 7th Ave., Chelsea | 212/217–4558 | www.fitnyc.edu/museum | Free | Tues.–Fri. noon–8, Sat. 10–5 | Station: N, R to 28th St.
Art Galleries in Chelsea
Good art, bad art, edgy art, downright disturbing art—it’s all here waiting to please and provoke in the contemporary art capital of the world. For the uninitiated, the concentration of nearly 300 galleries within a seven-block radius can be overwhelming, and the sometimes cool receptions on entering and the deafening silence, intimidating. Art galleries are not exactly famous for their customerservice, but you don’t need a degree in art appreciation to stare at a canvas or installation.
There’s no required code of conduct, although most galleries are library-quiet and cell phones are seriously frowned-on. Don’t worry, you won’t be pressured to buy anything; staff will probably be doing their best to ignore you.
Galleries are generally open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 to 6. Gallery hop on a Saturday afternoon—the highest-traffic day—if you want company. You can usually find a binder with the artist’s résumé, examples of previous work, and exhibit details (usually including prices) at the front desk;if not, ask. Also ask whether there’s information you can take with you.
You can’t see everything in one afternoon, so if you have specific interests, plan ahead. Find gallery information and current exhibit details by checking the listings in the New Yorker or the weekend section of the New York Times. Learn more about the galleries and the genres and artists they represent at www.artincontext.org.
The impressive roster of artists represented by the Pace Gallery includes a variety of upper-echelon artists, sculptors, and photographers, including Alexander Calder, Tara Donovan, Chuck Close, Sol LeWitt, and Robert Rauschenberg. Pace has three spaces along West 25th Street in Chelsea (in addition to this one, there is No. 508 and No. 510), as well as a Midtown location (at 32 East 57th Street). | 534 W. 25th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/929–7000 | www.thepacegallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Paula Cooper Gallery.
SoHo pioneer Paula Cooper moved to Chelsea in 1996 and enlisted architect Richard Gluckman to transform a warehouse into a dramatic space with tall ceilings and handsome skylights. There are now two galleries (the other is at 521 West 21st Street) that showcase the minimalist works of artists such as Carl Andre, Sam Durant, Hans Haacke, Donald Judd, and Dan Flavin. | 534 W. 21st St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/255–1105 | www.paulacoopergallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Ryan Lee Gallery.
In 2014, the Ryan Lee Gallery moved from its year-old, street-level location a few doors down to this new third-floor, 8,000-square-foot space, thereby doubling its physical space and—thanks to its elevated exhibition space, RLWindow, which can be viewed from the High Line—increasing its visibility by millions. RLWindow shows innovative and experimental projects by contemporary artists; recent exhibits turning heads on the High Line have included video installations from Martín Gutierrez and Zachary Fabri. | 515 W. 26th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/397–0742 | www.ryanleegallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
International cutting-edge artists shown here include up-and-coming New York artist Jacob Kassay, photographer Doug Aitken, and installation artists Karen Kilimnik and Jane and Louise Wilson. In 2013, the gallery moved from its home on West 21st Street to a spot under the High Line at 24th Street, with plans to move back to 21st Street to anchor a new Norman Foster high-rise in late 2015; 303 may retain both locations, so be sure to call and confirm before you visit. | 507 W. 24th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/255–1121 | www.303gallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6; closed Aug. | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Andrea Rosen Gallery.
Artists on the cutting edge, such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres, video-artists Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch, sculptor Andrea Zittel, and painter and installation artist Matthew Ritchie, are on view here. Rosen has a second space, Gallery 2 (at 544 West 24th Street), just down the street from the gallery headquarters, with more experimental shows that place less emphasis on commercial appeal or success. | 525 W. 24th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/627–6000, 212/627–6100 for Gallery 2 | www.andrearosengallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
While many galleries are fleeing Chelsea’s high rents for lesspricey and more artist-friendly neighborhoods like the Lower East Side or the Upper East Side, Casey Kaplan chose to mark its 20th anniversary in 2015 by moving just a few blocks, into a new 10,000-square-foot, two-story storefront spaceon West 27th Street. Kaplan gallery represents contemporary artists from Europe and the Americas. | 121 W. 27th St., between 6th and 7th aves., Chelsea | 212/645–7335 | www.caseykaplangallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: 1 to 28th St.
Cheim & Read.
This prestigious gallery represents artists such as Louise Bourgeois, William Eggleston, Joan Mitchell, Jenny Holzer, Donald Baechler, and Jack Pierson. | 547 W. 25th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/242–7727 | www.cheimread.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
This sports-and-entertainment complex along the Hudson River between 17th and 23rd streets, a phenomenal example of adaptive reuse, is the size of four 80-story buildings laid out flat. There’s pretty much every kind of sports activity going on both inside and out, including golf (check out the multitier, all-weather, outdoor driving range),sailing classes, ice-skating, rock climbing, soccer, bowling, gymnastics, and basketball. Plus there’s a spa, elite sport-specific training, and film studios. Chelsea Piers is also the jumping-off point for some of the city’s various boat tours and dinner cruises. | Piers 59–62, Hudson River from 17th to 23rd sts. (entrance at 23rd St.), Chelsea | 212/336–6666 | www.chelseapiers.com | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Built in 1840 for merchant and developer Don Alonzo Cushman, this string of red-brick beauties between 9th and 10th avenues represents some of the country’sbest examples of Greek Revival rowhouses. Original details include small wreath-encircled attic windows, deeply recessed doorways with brownstone frames, and striking iron balustrades and fences. Note the pineapples, a traditional symbol of welcome, on top of the black iron newels in front of No. 416. | 406–418 W. 20th St., between 9th and 10th aves., Chelsea | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
This large gallery presents challenging installations, including work by many Latin American artists. Look for art by Yoko Ono, Alfredo Jaar, Andy Goldsworthy, Cildo Meireles, Ana Mendieta, Hélio Oiticica, Nalini Malani, and Petah Coyne. | 528 W. 26th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/315–0470 | www.galerielelong.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
This 12-story Queen Anne–style neighborhood landmark (1884) became a hotel in 1905, although it catered to long-term tenants with a tradition of broad-mindedness and creativity. The literary roll call of live-ins is legendary: Mark Twain, Eugene O’Neill, O. Henry, Thomas Wolfe, Tennessee Williams, Vladimir Nabokov, Mary McCarthy, Arthur Miller, Dylan Thomas, William S. Burroughs, Patti Smith, and Robert Mapplethorpe. In 1966 Andy Warhol filmed a group of fellow artists in eight rooms; the footage was included in The Chelsea Girls (1967). Home to about 100 long-term residents, the Chelsea Hotel, as it’s popularly called, stopped accepting guest reservations in 2011 and is currently closed for renovations. | 222 W. 23rd St., between 7th and 8th Aves., Chelsea | www.hotelchelsea.com | Station: 1, 2, C, E to 23rd St.
Jack Shainman Gallery.
Emerging and established artists such as Nick Cave, El Anatsui, Carrie Mae Weems, Tallur L. N.,and Kerry James Marshallare shown here. In 2013, the gallery opened an additional exhibition space in Chelsea (524 West 24th Street), as well as a 30,000-square-foot gallery in a former high school in upstate New York. | 513 W. 20th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/645–1701 | www.jackshainman.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Luhring Augustine Gallery.
Owners Lawrence Luhring and Roland Augustine have been working with established and emerging artists from Europe, Japan, and America since 1985. In 2012, Luhring Augustine opened a Brooklyn outpost (at 25 Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick) for large-scale installations and long-term projects. | 531 W. 24th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/206–9100 | www.luhringaugustine.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
The hottest talent in contemporary art shown here includes Cindy Sherman, Olaf Breuning, Louise Lawlor, Trevor Paglen, T. J. Wilcox, and B. Wurtz. | 519 W. 24th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/206–7100 | www.metropicturesgallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Nancy Hoffman Gallery.
Contemporary painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, and video works by an impressive array of international artists are on display in this light-filled space with high ceilings and a sculpture garden. Artists range from Viola Frey, known for her heroic-scale ceramic male and female figures, to well-established artists and a strong group of young artists embarking on their first solo shows. | 520 W. 27th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/966–6676 | www.nancyhoffmangallery.com | Free | Sept.–July, Tues.–Sat. 10–6; Aug., weekdays 10–5 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Robert Miller Gallery.
Robert Miller was a titan of the New York art world, and he founded this gallery in 1977 (he passed away in 2011). It continues to represent some of the biggest names in modern painting and photography, including Diane Arbus, Patti Smith, and the estates of Lee Krasner and Alice Neel. | 524 W. 26th St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/366–4774 | www.robertmillergallery.com | Free | Sept.–June, Tues.–Sat. 10–6; July, weekdays 10–6; Aug., by appointment only | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
Rubin Museum of Art.
This sleek and serene museum spread over six floors is the largest in the Western Hemisphere dedicated to the art of the Himalayas, India, and neighboring regions.The pieces shown here include paintings on cloth, metal sculptures, and textiles dating from the 2nd century onward. Many of the works from areas such as Tibet, Nepal, southwest China, and India relate to Buddhism, Hinduism, Bon, and other eastern religions. A pleasant café and gift shop is on the ground floor. TIP Admission is free Friday 6–10 pm. | 150 W. 17th St., near 7th Ave., Chelsea | 212/620–5000 | www.rmanyc.org | $15 | Mon. and Thurs. 11–5, Wed. 11–9, Fri. 11–10, weekends 11–6 | Station: 1 to 18th St.
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.
Contemporary artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Uta Barth, Ernesto Neto, and Sarah Sze, who represented the United States at the 55th Venice Biennale, are shown here. | 521 W. 21st St., between 10th and 11th aves., Chelsea | 212/414–4144 | www.tanyabonakdargallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: C, E to 23rd St.
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Union Square | Flatiron District | Gramercy Park
Updated by Jacinta O’Halloran
Union Square is a hub of seemingly neverending activity and people-watching,which anchors the quieter neighborhoods of Gramercy and the Flatiron District. When that certain brand of New Yorker says they don’t like to travel above 14th Street, they’re usually thinking about Union Square as the cut-off.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
Union Square seems like it’s busy at just about every time of day and night, with people hanging out on the steps, eating lunch, or watching street performers, but market days—Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday—are even busier. Early weekday mornings are quietest, before the market is set up, though without all the people, the area loses some of its allure.
This is definitely an area for strolling, shopping, and eating, so plan your visit around a meal—or several.
If you’re planning to eat at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, come before noon to avoid long lines.
COFFEE AND QUICK BITES
71 Irving Place.
Steps from Union Square, this cozy little café roasttheir own beans—always a good sign—and serves good people-watching along with sandwiches, muffins, and snacks. | 71 Irving Pl., Gramercy Park | 212/995–5252 | www.irvingfarm.com/locations/gramercy-cafe | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
There are multiple restaurants, take-out shops, and cafés, as well as a rooftop brewery at Mario Batali’s Italian food emporium. You can also shop for gourmet Italian chocolates, coffees, gelati, and pastries. | 200 5th Ave., at 23rd St., Flatiron District | 212/229–2560 | www.eataly.com | Station: N, R to 23rd St.
Maybe you like a little social and environmental awareness with your caffeine, or maybe it’s just the cold-brewed iced coffees, Spanish Lattes, and cool playlist. | 123 4th Ave., between 12th and 13th sts., Union Square | www.thinkcoffee.com | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
Strolling in Union Square Park and checking out the produce and other goodies at the greenmarket
Browsing the miles of books in the Strand bookstore
Strolling from Irving Place to Gramercy Park, and around the perimeter of this historic, private park
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
Union Squareis a major subway hub, with the 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, and R lines all converging here. For Madison Square Park and the Flatiron District, take the N or R train to 23rd Street (this lets you out on Broadway). The 6 stops at 23rd and 28th streets (on Park Avenue South).
Union Square Holiday Market. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, this outdoor market has more than 150 vendors selling unique, often locallymade products. Nosh on sweet and savory treats and sip hot apple cider as you shop for holiday gifts and cool NYC souvenirs. | www.urbanspacenyc.com
Madison Square Eats. This month-long pop-up food market happens twice a year (spring and fall) across the street from Madison Square Park, and includes popular vendors like the Red Hook Lobster Pound, Soul Lee Korean BBQ, the Hong Kong Street Cart, and Roberta’s Pizza. | www.madisonsquarepark.org/mad-sq-eats
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The energy of Union Square reaches its peak during greenmarket days (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday), when more than 140 regional farmers and food purveyors set up shop on the square’s north and west sides to peddle everything from produce to meat and fresh fish to baked goods. The market is a great place to rub elbows with—and get elbowed by—local shoppers and chefs and a great source for tasty souvenirs (locally produced honeys, jams, pickles, and cheeses) as well as lunch. Find a bench in the park to savor your goodies and take in the scene. Political rallies sometimes happen here, too.
Even on a nonmarket day, Union Square regularly has vendors of all kinds, selling everything from art to jewelry to T-shirts. New York University students, nannies with their charges, visitors, and other localsgather in this open space that can at times feel more like an outdoor version of Grand Central Terminal than a park. Just south of Union Square, on Broadway at 12th Street, is the Strand, a giant bookstore that attracts booklovers like a magnet.
On September 5, 1882, Labor Day was born when more than 10,000 New York City unionized workers took an unpaid day off to march from City Hall to Union Square.
Union Square Park and Greenmarket.
A park, farmers’ market, meeting place, and the site of rallies and demonstrations, this pocket of green space sits in the center of a bustling residential and commercial neighborhood. The name “Union” originally signified that two main roads—Broadway and 4th Avenue—crossed here. It took on a different meaning in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the square became a rallying spot for labor protests; many unions, as well as fringe political parties, moved their headquarters nearby.
Union Square is at its best on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday (8–6), when the largest of the city’s greenmarkets gathers farmers and food purveyors from the tri-state area. Browse the stands of fruit and vegetables, flowers, plants, fresh-baked pies and breads, cheeses, cider, New York State wines, fish, and meat. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there is a popular market where artisans sell gift items and food in candycane–stripe booths toward the square’s southwest end.
New York University dormitories, theaters, and cavernous commercial spaces occupy the handsomely restored 19th-century commercial buildings that surround the park, along with chain coffee shops and restaurants. The run of diverse architectural styles on the Decker Building at 33 Union Square West is as imaginative as its former contents: this was once home to Andy Warhol’s studio. The building at 17th Street and Union Square East, now housing the New York Film Academy and the Union Square Theater, was the final home of Tammany Hall, an organization famous in its day as a corrupt and powerful political machine. Statues in the park include those of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi (often wreathed in flowers), and the Marquis de Lafayette (sculpted by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, designer of the Statue of Liberty). Plaques in the sidewalk on the southeast and southwest sides chronicle the park’s history from the 1600s to 1800s. After years of legal battles, the once-crumbling pavilion in the northern end of the park was reincarnated in summer 2014 as an upscale, seasonal restaurant:The Pavilion. The restaurant provides alfresco dining, pricey brunches, and much-needed tables and seating—open to diners and nondiners alike. | From 14th to 17th St., between Broadway and Park Ave. S, Flatiron District | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.
The Flatiron District—anchored by Madison Square Park on the north and Union Square to the south—is one of the city’s busiest neighborhoods, particularly along 5th Avenue and Park Avenue South. Once known as Ladies’ Mile because of the fashionable row of department stores where women routinely shopped, the area is still a favorite for lady-spotting because of the number of modeling agencies and photography studios here. Lovely Madison Square Park, a pleasant green space hemmed in by the neighborhood’s notable architecture—from the triangular Flatiron to the dazzling, goldpyramid–topped New York Life Building and Metropolitan Life Tower, with its elegant clock face—is the best place to savor the view. Sit and admire the scene with a burger and shake from the park’s always-busy Shake Shack, or takeout from the mother (or “mamma mia”) of all Italian markets, Eataly, across the street from the west side of the park.
When completed in 1902, the Fuller Building, as it was originally known, caused a sensation. Architect Daniel Burnham made ingenious use of the triangular wedge of land at 23rd Street, 5th Avenue, and Broadway, employing a revolutionary steel frame that allowed for the building’s 22-story, 286-foot height. Covered with a limestone and white terra-cotta facade in the Italian Renaissance style, the building’s shape resembled a clothing iron, hence its nickname. When it became apparent that the building generated strong winds, gawkers would loiter at 23rd Street hoping to catch sight of ladies’ billowing skirts. Local traffic cops had to shoo away the male peepers—one purported origin of the phrase “23 skidoo.” There is a small display of historic building and area photos in the lobby, but otherwise you have to settle for appreciating this building from the outside, at least for now; the building may be converted to a luxury hotel when current occupant leases expire in 2018. | 175 5th Ave., bordered by 22nd and 23rd sts., 5th Ave., and Broadway, Flatiron District | Station: N, R to 23rd St.
Madison Square Park.
The benches of this elegant tree-filled park afford great views of some of the city’s oldest and most charming skyscrapers—the Flatiron Building, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower, the gold-crowned New York Life Insurance Building, and the Empire State Building—and serve as a perfect vantage point for people-, pigeon-, and dog-watching. Add free Wi-Fi, the newlyrenovated Shake Shack, temporary art exhibits, and summer and fall concerts, and you realize that a bench here is definitely the place to be. New York City’s first baseball games were played in this 7-acre park in 1845 (though New Jerseyans are quick to point out that the game was actually invented across the river in Hoboken, New Jersey). On the north end of the park, an imposing 1881 statue by Augustus Saint-Gaudens memorializes Civil War naval hero Admiral David Farragut. An 1876 statue of Secretary of State William Henry Seward (the Seward of the term “Seward’s Folly,” coined when the United States purchased Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867) sits in the park’s southwest corner, though it’s rumored that the sculptor placed a reproduction of the statesman’s head on a statue of Abraham Lincoln’s body. | From 23rd to 26th St., between 5th and Madison aves., Flatiron District | 212/538–1884 | www.madisonsquarepark.org | Station: N, R to 23rd St.
Appellate Division Courthouse.
Sculpted by Frederick Ruckstull, figures representing Wisdom and Force flank the main portal of this imposing BeauxArts courthouse, built in 1899. Melding the structure’s purpose with artistic symbolism, statues of great lawmakers line the roof balustrade, including Moses, Justinian, and Confucius. In total, sculptures by 16 artists adorn the ornate building, a showcase of themes relating to the law. This is one of the most important appellate courts in the country: it hears more than 3,000 appeals and 6,000 motions a year, and also admits approximately 3,000 new attorneys to the bar each year. Inside the courtroom is a stunning stained-glass dome set into a gilt ceiling. The main hall and the courtroom are open to visitors weekdays from 9 to 5. All sessions, which are generally held Tuesday to Thursday at 2pm, are open to the public (visitors can call the main number ahead of time to be sure court is in session). | 27 Madison Ave., entrance on 25th St., Flatiron District | 212/340–0400 | www.courts.state.ny.us/courts/ad1 | Weekdays 9–5 | Station: N, R, 6 to 23rd St.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower.
When it was added to the original building on this site in 1909, the 700-foot tower resembling the campanile of St. Mark’s in Venice made this 1893 building the world’s tallest; it was surpassed in height a few years later (by the Woolworth Building). It was stripped of much of its classical detail during renovations in the early 1960s but remains a prominent feature of the Midtown skyline today. The clock’s four faces are each three stories high, and their minute hands weigh half a ton each. If the view from the park doesn’t quite cut it, you can now reserve a room in the skyline itself: in early 2015, Marriott International and Ian Schrager opened a 355 luxury hotel,t he New York Edition Hotel, in the long-vacant clocktower portion of the building. | 1 Madison Ave., between 23rd and 24th sts., Flatiron | Station: N, R, 6 to 23rd St.
Museum of Mathematics (MoMath).
There’s no exact formula to get kids excited about math, but the sleek, two-floor Museum of Mathematics (MoMath)—the only cultural institution devoted to math in all of North America—comes close to finding the perfect fun-to-math ratio. Kids can ride square-wheel trikes, create human fractal trees, build virtual 3-D geometric shapes (which can be printed out on a 3-D printer for a fee), use lasers to explore cross-sections of objects, solve dozens of puzzles, and generally bend their minds while they unknowingly multiply brain cells (sshh!). MoMath’s newest exhibition, Robot Swarm, allows kids to explore swarm robotics and interact with two-dozen small (Roomba-like), glowing robots, using simple math rules. Exhibits are best suited to kids ages six and up but preschoolers can still enjoy many of the interactive exhibits, like the Math Square, a light-up floor programmed with math games, simulations, and patterns. The museum closes at 2:30 pm the first Wednesday of every month. Save $1 by ordering tickets in advance online. | 11 E. 26th St., between 5th and Madison aves., Flatiron District | 212/542–0566 | www.momath.org | $16 | Daily 10–5 | Station: N, R to 28th St.
Museum of Sex.
Ponder the profound history and cultural significance of sex at this 14,000-square-foot museum while staring at vintage pornographic photos, S&M paraphernalia, antimasturbation devices from the 1800s, explicit film clips, vintage condom tins, and a collection of artwork. Recent exhibits have included a puppetshow of shady half-beast, half-human characters from Peruvian artist Ety Fefer, an interactive selection of carnival attractions, and probes of such topics as desire on the Internet and the sexlives of animals. The subject matter is given serious curatorial treatment, though the gift shop is full of fun sexual kitsch. Only patrons over 18 are admitted. After visiting the museum’s exhibitions, sate your appetite with a kinky cocktail or gourmet coffee and pastry in the museum’s Play bar and Nice & Sweet café. | 233 5th Ave.,Flatiron | 212/689–6337 | www.museumofsex.com | $17.50 | Sun.–Thurs. 10–8, Fri. and Sat. 10–9 | Station: N, R to 28th St.
The haste and hullabaloo of the city calms considerably in the residential neighborhood of Gramercy Park. Dignified Gramercy Park, named for its 1831 gated garden ringed by historic buildings and private clubs, is an early example of the city’s best creative urban planning. Just north of the park is Ian Schrager’s reincarnation of the Gramercy Park Hotel on Lexington Avenue. South of the park, running north to south from 14th Street, is Irving Place, a short street honoring Washington Irving, which feels calm, green, exclusive, and has a combination of old and new eateries, stores, and architecture. Pete’s Tavern, on Irving Place since 1864, maintains its claim as the oldest original bar in the city. Two famous writers, O. Henry (Gift of the Magi) and Ludwig Bemelmans (Madeline), were “inspired” here, probably by the amazing eggnog or Pete’s House Ale.
You may not be able to enter this private park (the only truly private park in Manhattan—only those residing around it have keys), but a look through the bars in the wrought-iron fence that encloses it is worth your time, as is a stroll around its perimeter. The beautifully planted 2-acre park, designed by developer Samuel B. Ruggles, dates from 1831, and is flanked by grand examples of early-19th-century architecture and permeated with the character of its many celebrated occupants.
When Ruggles bought the property, it was known as Krom Moerasje (“little crooked swamp”), named by the Dutch settlers. He drained the swamp and set aside 42 lots for a park to be accessible exclusively to those who bought the surrounding lots in his planned London-style residential square. The park is still owned by residents of the buildings surrounding the square, although neighbors from the area can now buy visiting privileges. Guests of the Gramercy Park Hotel also enjoy coveted access to this private park. In 1966 the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Gramercy Park a historic district. Notable buildings include No. 15, a Gothic Revival brownstone with black granite trim designed by Calvert Vaux, was once home to Samuel Tilden, governor of New York. A secret passageway to 19th Street permitted Tilden to evade his political enemies. It is now home to the 100-year-old National Arts Club. Next door at No. 16 Gramercy Park South lived the actor Edwin Booth, perhaps most famous for being the brother of Lincoln’s assassin. In 1888 he turned his Gothic-trim home into the Players Club, a clubhouse for actors and theatrical types who were not welcome in regular society. A bronze statue of Edwin Booth as Hamlet has pride of place inside the park. TIP Alexander Calder’s iconic, monumental outdoor sculpture Janey Waney (1969) is installed inside the park and can be viewed through the railings. | Lexington Ave. and 21st St., Gramercy Park | Station: 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R to 14th St.–Union Sq.; 6 to 23rd St.
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Midtown East | Murray Hill
Updated by Jacinta O’Halloran
Fifth Avenue is Manhattan’s dividing line, marking the division of east and west sides, but the avenue itself seems to connote so much of what the city’s East Side is all about. This is where some of the city’s most iconic buildings are found, including the Empire State Building, in the Murray Hill neighborhood.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
The east side of Midtown is somewhat more laid-back than the west side, but there’s still lots to keep you busy. Wherever you’re headed, try to make sure you at least pass through Grand Central Terminal, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2013—it’s a madhouse on weekday mornings or in the early evening, right after work, but extremely quiet on weekends, an ideal time to visit.
If you’re planning to visit the Empire State Building, try to do so either early or late in the day—morning is the least crowded time, and late at night the city lights are dazzling. Allow at least two hours for a visit to the observation deck.
It’s also worth making time for a quick trip out of the United States to visit the “international zone” of the United Nations; take a tour of the newly renovated buildings and mail a postcard with a unique U.N. stamp.
Standing in the center of Grand Central Terminal’s main concourse and taking in the fiber-optic map of the constellations overhead
Strolling down 5th Avenue, where some of the world’s top luxury brands have flagship stores, especially around the holidays when store windows are dressed to impress
Viewing rare manuscripts at the Morgan Library
Enjoying panoramic views of the cityat duskfrom the top of the Empire State Building
Soaking in peace and serenity while ogling the neo-Gothic architecture, stained glass, and sculptures at iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Dining with locals in Koreatown and Curry Hill
To get to the east side of Midtown, take the 4, 5, 6, or 7 to Grand Central. The S, or Shuttle, travels back and forth between Grand Central and Times Square.
You can reach the Empire State Building via the B, D, F, M, N, Q, and R trains to 34th Street or the 6 to 33rd Street. The 6 also stops at 23rd and 28th streets.
COFFEE AND QUICK BITES
Grand Central Market.
The lower level of Grand Central is a cornucopia of gourmet eating options, including Ciao Bella Gelato, Murray’s Cheese, and Joe the Art of Coffee. | Grand Central Terminal main entrance, 42nd St., at Park Ave., Midtown East | www.grandcentralterminal.com/market | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
This Australian import pays as much attention to what it puts on your plate—try the avocado and feta on toast—as what it pours in your coffee mug. | 667 Lexington Ave., near 56th St., Midtown East | 212/308–1969 | www.littlecollinsnyc.com | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 59th St.; N, Q, R to Lexington Ave./59th St.; E, M to Lexington Ave./53rd St.
A tiny coffee spot in Murray Hill has excellent coffee, espresso, and Belgian hot chocolate, as well as tasty pastries. | 311 Lexington Ave., at 38th St., Midtown East | 212/867–3490 | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
In terms of architecture, Midtown East has some of the city’s most notable gems, including the stately Chrysler Building, considered an Art Deco triumph, and the bustling Beaux Arts masterpiece, Grand Central Terminal. At night the streets here are relatively quiet, but the restaurants are filled with expense-account diners celebrating successes. Some of the most formal dining rooms and expensive meals in town can be found here. The lower section of 5th Avenue is also a shopper’s paradise, home to megabrand flagships such as Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, and Chanel, and some of the world’s most famous jewelry stores, including Tiffany, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Harry Winston. Upscale department stores like Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue are also around here.
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A monument to modernity and the mighty automotive industry, the former Chrysler headquarters wins many New Yorkers’ vote for the city’s most iconic and beloved skyscraper (and the world’s tallest for 40 days, until the Empire State Building stole the honor). Architect William Van Alen, who designed this 1930 Art Deco masterpiece, incorporated car details into its form: American eagle gargoyles made of chromium nickel sprout from the 61st floor, resembling hood ornaments used on 1920’s Chryslers; winged urns festooning the 31st floor reference the car’s radiator caps. Most breathtaking is the pinnacle, with tiered crescents and spiked windows that radiate out like a magnificent steel sunburst. View it at sunset to catch the light gleaming off the tip. Even better, observe it at night, when its peak illuminates the sky. The inside is sadly off-limits, apart from the amazing time-capsule lobby replete with chrome “grillwork,” intricately patterned wood elevator doors, marble walls and floors, and an enormous ceiling mural saluting transportation and human endeavor. | 405 Lexington Ave., at 42nd St., Midtown East | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to 42nd St./Grand Central.
Fodor’s Choice | Grand Central Terminal.
Grand Central is not only the world’s largest (76 acres) and the nation’s busiest railway station—nearly 700,000 commuters and subway riders use it daily—but also one of the world’s most magnificent, majestic public spaces. Past the glimmering chandeliers of the waiting room is the jaw-dropping main concourse, 200 feet long, 120 feet wide, and 120 feet (roughly 12 stories) high, modeled after an ancient Roman public bath. In spite of it being completely cavernous, Grand Central manages to evoke a certain sense of warmth rarely found in buildings its size. Overhead, a twinkling fiber-optic map of the constellations covers the robin’s egg–blue ceiling. To admire it all with some sense of peace, avoid visiting at rush hour.
To escape the crowds, head up one of the sweeping staircases at either end, where three upscale restaurants occupy the balcony space. Any would make an enjoyable perch from which to survey the concourse, but for a real taste of the station’s early years, head beyond the western staircase to the Campbell Apartment, a clubby cocktail lounge housed in the restored private offices and salon of 1920’s tycoon John W. Campbell. Located around and below the main concourse are fantastic shops and eateries—this is, of course, home to the eponymous Grand Central Oyster Bar—making this one of the best, if somewhat labyrinthine, “malls” in the city.
To best admire Grand Central’s exquisite Beaux-Arts architecture, start with its ornate south face on East 42nd Street, modeled after a Roman triumphal arch. Crowning the facade’s Corinthian columns and 75-foot-high arched windows, a graceful clock keeps time for hurried commuters. In the central window stands an 1869 bronze statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who built the station to house his railroad empire. Also noteworthy is the 1½-ton, cast-iron bald eagle displaying its 13-foot wingspan atop a ball near the corner of 42nd Street and Vanderbilt Avenue.
Grand Central still functions primarily as a railroad station, and might resemble its artless crosstown counterpart, Penn Station, were it not for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s 1975 public information campaign to save it as a landmark. Underground, more than 60 ingeniously integrated railroad tracks carry trains upstate and to Connecticut via Metro-North Commuter Rail. The subway connects here as well. The Municipal Art Society (212/935–3960; www.mas.org/tours) leads an official daily walking tour to explore the 100-year-old terminal’s architecture, history, and hidden secrets. Tours begin in the main concourse at 12:30 and last 75 minutes. Tickets ($20) can be purchased in advance online (www.docentour.com/gct) or from the ticket booth in the main concourse. | Main entrance, 42nd St. and Park Ave.,Midtown East | 212/935–3960 | www.grandcentralterminal.com | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
This Gothic edifice—the largest Catholic cathedral in the United States, seating approximately 2,400 people—is among Manhattan’s most striking churches, with its double spires topping out at 330 feet. “St. Pat’s,” as locals call it, holds a special place in the hearts of many New Yorkers and provides a calm and quiet refuge in the heart of buzzy Midtown. Despite the throngs of tourists (the cathedral receives more than 5½ million visitors annually) and ongoing renovations.
The church dates back to 1858–79 and over has been undergoing an extensive $177 million rehabilitation project that is expected to finally be completed in December of 2015. The cathedral remains open during renovations: the Fifth Avenue facade was finished in December 2014, and the stone faces of the 80-foot spires that tower above 5th Avenue have been cleaned and caulked and the copper crosses that crown them polished. Inside, there might still be some scaffolding but try to get a glimpse of the organ loft and the famous rose window (considered stained-glass artist Charles Connick’s greatest work). Also check out the statues in the alcoves around the nave, including a modern depiction of the first American-born saint, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton. Don’t miss the ornately carved bronze double doors on your way in and out: each weighs 9,200 pounds and features sculptures of saints.
The church’s Pieta sculpture is three times larger than the Pieta in St. Peter’s Rome. Construction does not interfere with daily masses or the free guided tours held at 10 am most days (call ahead to confirm). | 5th Ave., between 50th and 51st sts., Midtown East | 212/753–2261 for rectory | www.saintpatrickscathedral.org | Daily 6:30 am–8:45 pm | Station: E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.
Sony Wonder Technology Lab.
Have kids in tow? The free Sony Wonder Technology Lab in the Sony Building lets them program robots, remix songs, perform virtual heart surgery, learn about new technologies inspired by nature, and see their dance moves performed by favorite Sony-animated characters in real time through motion capture. Afascinating evolutionary timeline explores how technology keeps getting faster, sharper, smaller, and more portable. The lab also shows classic and contemporary films for both young and adult audiences in its HD theater on Thursday and Saturday. Admission is free, but reservations are strongly recommended; they can be made a minimum of seven days and up to three months from the time of visit. A limited number of same-day tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. | 550 Madison Ave., at 56th St.,Midtown East | 212/833–8100 | www.sonywondertechlab.com | Tues.–Sat. 9:30–5:30 | Station: E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.
United Nations Headquarters.
Officially an “international zone” and not part of the United States, the U.N. Headquarters is a working symbol of global cooperation. Built between 1947 and 1961, the headquarters sit on a lushly landscaped, 18-acre tract on the East River, fronted by flags of member nations. The United Nations celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2015 with the completion of a seven-year overhaul that retained the 1950’s look and feel (and in some cases, green carpet) of the complex, while incorporating state-of-the-art technology to upgrade the heat, sound, and security systems and to improve its overall performance. The $2.1 billion renovation returns the historic campus to its original design, in the process addressing contemporary concerns, like accessibility, energy efficiency, and blast-proofing, as well as adding some not exactly new conveniences, like sprinklers. The General Assembly Building reopened in early 2015 after its 16-month renovation, which included replacing the gold-leafed background of the iconic U.N. emblem that had become caked with tar and nicotine—as had the walls and ceiling of the hall—after decades of cigar and cigarette smoke (city law did not apply here, so smoking was not outlawed until 2008). The only way to enter the U.N. Headquarters is the 45-minute guided tour (given in 20 languages; reservations can be made through the website), which includes the General Assembly and major council chambers. While the tour covers a lot of educational ground, it does not cover a lot of phsyical ground; council chambers may be closed on any given day, and you cannot enter the Secretariat building. Also, you can no longer wander the grounds, rose garden, or riverside promenade. Arrive 30 minutes before the start of your tour for security screening. If you ordered tickets online, be sure to bring your print-out. The newly renovated Conference Building, which includes the original chambers of the Security Council, the Trusteeship Council, and the Economic and Social Council, as well as gifts from U.N. Member States, like the mosaic representation of Norman Rockwell’s Golden Rule, are all back on public display. The tour also includes displays on war, peacekeeping, nuclear nonproliferation, human rights, and refugees, and passes corridors overflowing with imaginatively diverse artwork. Free tickets to assemblies are sometimes available on a first-come, first-served basis before sessions begin; pick them up in the General Assembly lobby. The complex’s buildings (the slim, 505-foot-tall green-glass Secretariat Building; the much smaller, domed General Assembly Building; and the Dag Hammarskjöld Library) evoke the influential French modernist Le Corbusier (who was on the team of architects that designed the complex), and the surrounding park and plaza remain visionary. The public concourse has a gift shop, a bookstore, and a post office where you can mail postcards with U.N. stamps; you can also get your passport stamped with the U.N. stamp. | Visitor entrance, 1st Ave. at 47th St., Midtown East | 212/963–8687 | visit.un.org | Tour $18 (plus $2 online surcharge) | Tours weekdays 9:15–4:15 (tours in English leave every 30 mins; for other languages, check schedule online) | Children under 5 not admitted | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
Daily News Building.
The landmark lobby of this Art Deco tower contains an illuminated 12-foot globe that revolves beneath a black glass dome. Around it, spreading across the floor like a giant compass and literally positioning New York at the center of the world, bronze lines indicate mileage to various international destinations. Movie fans may recognize the building as the offices of the fictional newspaper The Daily Planet in the original Superman movie. On the wall behind the globe you can check out a number of meteorological gauges, which read New York City’s weather—especially fun on a windy day when the meters are whipping about.The Daily News hasn’t called this building home since the mid-1990s;only the lobby is open to the public (but that’s enough). TIP The globe was last updated in 1967 so part of the fun here is seeing how our maps have changed; note Manchuria and East and West Germany. | 220 E. 42nd St., between 2nd and 3rd aves., Midtown East | 212/210–2100 | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
Edwynn Houk Gallery.
The impressive stable of 20th-century photographers represented and shown here includes Sally Mann, Robert Polidori, Man Ray, Lalla Essaydi, Annie Leibovitz, Herb Ritts, Mona Kuhn, and Elliott Erwitt. The gallery also has prints by masters Edward Weston and Alfred Stieglitz. | 745 5th Ave., 4th fl., between 57th and 58th sts., Midtown East | 212/750–7070 | www.houkgallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 11–6 | Station: N, R, Q to 5th Ave./59th St.
Ford Foundation Building.
While most Midtown office lobbies remain off limits to visitors, the Ford Foundation Building’s is a welcome respite from high-trafficked Midtown sidewalks and nearby attractions like Grand Central Station and the United Nations Headquarters. Built in 1967 as the Ford Foundation’s New York City headquarters, and designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates (also responsible for several galleries and wings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the renovation of the Central Park Zoo, and many other iconic attractions), this landmark, 12-story transparent glass cube is one of Midtown’s most notable buildings, thanks to its open, C-shape office floors overlooking an incredibly lush, secret—but public—garden. While most office buildings fulfill their green quota with a few potted plants and maybe a fountain in the courtyard, this light-filled atrium is a veritable oasis, complete with soaring trees, cascading plants,walking paths, three tiers of plantings, and a small pool. Whether you’re an urban gardener or just a weary visitor, pause in this rare patch of quiet in the heart of the city—you’ll likely have this tropical scene to yourself. The atrium can be accessed from the 42nd or 43rd Street entrance during office hours (10–4). | 320 E. 43rd St., between 1st and 2nd aves., Midtown East | 212/573–5000 | www.fordfoundation.org | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
This Warren & Wetmore–designed 1929 landmark was intended to match neighboring Grand Central Terminal in bearing, and succeeded, with a gold-and-copper roof topped with an enormous lantern (originally housing a 6,000-watt light) and distinctive dual archways for traffic on Park Avenue. The building’s history gets quirky. When millionaire real estate investor Harry Helmsley purchased the building in 1977, he changed its name from the New York Central Building to the New York General Building in order to save money by replacing only two letters in the facade (only later did he rename it after himself). During a renovation the following year, however, he actually gilded the building, applying gold paint even to limestone and bronze—it was removed by a succeeding owner. In 2010, after a $100 million renovation, the Helmsley Building, no longer under Helmsley ownership (so technically 230 Park, or “the building formerly known as the Helmsley Building and informally still known as the Helmsley Building”), became the first prewar office tower to receive LEED Gold certification for energy efficiency. Despite being blocked from view from the south by the MetLife Building (originally, the Pan Am Building), the Helmsley Building remains a defining—and now “green,” as opposed to gold—feature of one of the world’s most lavish avenues. | 230 Park Ave., between 45th and 46th sts., Midtown East | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to 42nd St./Grand Central.
The stylish, serene lobby of the Japan Society has interior bamboo gardens linked by a second-floor waterfall. Works by well-known Japanese artists are exhibited in the second-floor gallery. Past shows have included the first American retrospective of Sakai Hōitsu, a samurai aristocrat turned Buddhist monk who dedicated his life to art and poetry; a display of artwork created by children from Tōhoku after Japan’s 2011 earthquake; and the dramatic “Garden of Unearthly Delights”—a collection of paintings, digital works, and installations from contemporary Japanese artists that harkens back to the traditions of the master craftsmen. In July, the museum hosts an annual film festival, Japan Cuts, showcasing contemporary Japanese cinema. | 333 E. 47th St., between 1st and 2nd aves., Midtown East | 212/832–1155 | www.japansociety.org | Gallery $12 | Gallery Tues.–Thurs. 11–6, Fri. 11–9, weekends 11–5; building hrs vary | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.; E, M to Lexington Ave./53rd St.; 6 to 51st St.
Pace Gallery (Midtown).
This leading contemporary art gallery—with three outposts in Chelsea, two in London, and one each in Beijing and Hong Kong—focuses on such modern and contemporary artists as Julian Schnabel, Mark Rothko, James Turrell, and New York School painter Ad Reinhardt. | 32 E. 57th St., 2nd fl., between Park and Madison aves., Midtown East | 212/421–3292 | www.thepacegallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: N, Q, R to 5th Ave./59th St.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a pioneer of modern architecture, built this boxlike bronze-and-glass tower in 1958. The austere facade belies its wit: I-beams, used to hold buildings up, here are merely attached to the surface, representing the idea of support. The Seagram Building’s innovative ground-level plaza, extending out to the sidewalk, has since become a common element in urban skyscraper design, but at the time it was built, it was a radical announcement of a new, modern era of American architecture. Most visitors are distracted by more elaborate figures in the city skyline, but the Seagram is a must-visit for architecture buffs. With its two giant fountains and welcoming steps, it’s also a popular lunch spot with Midtown workers. Visit late in the afternoon to avoid crowds. | 375 Park Ave., between 52nd and 53rd sts.,Midtown East | www.375parkavenue.com | Station: 6 to 51st St.; E, M to Lexington Ave./53rd St.
The tallest all-glass building in Manhattan when it was completed in 1983, this skyscraper’s ostentatious atrium flaunts that decade’s unbridled luxury, with three well-trafficked dining options (a café, grill, and bar), expensive boutiques (including Ivanka Trump’s Fine Jewelry store), and gaudy brass everywhere. You half-expect the pleasant-sounding waterfall streaming down to the lower-level food court to flow with champagne. These days, the building is best known for its appearances on TV reality show Celebrity Apprentice, where Donald Trump hires and fires celebrities. | 725 5th Ave., at 56th St., Midtown East | 212/832–2000 | www.trump.com | Station: N, Q, R to 5th Ave./59th St.; E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.
Before Donald Trump, there was Fred F. French. In 1925 the prominent real-estate developer became one of the first to buy up a large number of buildings—more than 100, in fact, most of them tenements—and join their properties into a single new development. He designed a collection of nine apartment buildings and two parks in the “garden city” mode, which placed a building’s green space not in an enclosed courtyard, but in the foreground. French also elevated the entire development 70 feet (40 stone steps) above the river and built a 39-by-50-foot “Tudor City” sign, best viewed from 42nd Street walking east, atop one of the 22-story buildings. The development’s residential towers opened between 1927 and 1930, borrowing a marketable air of sophistication from Tudor-style stonework, stained-glass windows, and lobby design flourishes. An official city landmark, Tudor City has featured in numerous films, and its landmark gardens—sometimes compared to Gramercy Park, but without the key—remain a popular lunch spot among office workers. The neighborhood was designated a historic district in 1988. | From 40th to 43rd St., between 1st and 2nd aves., Midtown East | Station: 4, 5, 6, 7, S to Grand Central–42nd St.
Murray Hill stretches roughly from 30th to 40th Street between 5th and 3rd avenues and is a mix of high-rises, restaurants, and bars filled mostly with a postcollege crowd. The small but solid enclave of Little India (also known as “Curry Hill”), primarily around Lexington and 28th Street, is a good area to sample authentic cuisine and shop for traditional clothing and other goods in a handful of boutiques. Farther north, a few side streets are tree-lined and townhouse-filled with some high-profile haunts, including the Morgan Library and Museum with its vast book stacks and rare manuscripts. Probably the biggest reason to visit this neighborhood is to see New York’s biggest icon, the Empire State Building.
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Fodor’s Choice | Empire State Building.
With a pencil-slim silhouette, recognizable virtually worldwide, the Empire State Building is an Art Deco monument to progress, a symbol for New York City, and a star in some great romantic scenes, on- and off-screen. Its cinematic résumé—the building has appeared in more than 250 movies—means that it remains a fixture of popular imagination, and many visitors come to relive favorite movie scenes. You might just find yourself at the top of the building with Elf lookalikes or even the building’s own King Kong impersonator.
Built in 1931 at the peak of the skyscraper craze, this 103-story limestone giant opened after a mere 13 months of construction. The framework rose at an astonishing rate of 4½ stories per week, making the Empire State Building the fastest-rising skyscraper ever built.
Unfortunately, your rise to the observation deck might not be quite so record-breaking. There are three lines to get to the top of the Empire State Building; a line for tickets, a line for security, and a line for the elevators. Save time by purchasing your tickets in advance online. You can’t skip the security line, but you can skip to the front of both the ticket line and the line for elevators by purchasing an Express ticket ($50). If you don’t want to pony up for express service, do yourself a favor and skip that last elevator line at the 80th floor by taking the stairs.
If this is your first visit, keep yourself entertained during your ascent by renting a headset with an audio tour by Tony, a fictional but “authentic” native New Yorker (available in eight languages).
The Lights of the Empire State Building
At night the Empire State Building lights up the Manhattan skyline with a colorful view as awe-inspiring from a distance as the view from the top. The colors at the top of the building are changed regularly to reflect seasons, events, and holidays, so New Yorkers and visitors from around the world always have a reason to look at this icon in a new light.
The building’s first light show was in November 1932, when a simple searchlight was used to spread the news that New York–born Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been elected president of the United States. Douglas Leigh, sign designer and mastermind of Times Square’s kinetic billboard ads, tried to brighten up prospects at the “Empty State Building” after the Depression by negotiating with the Coca-Cola Company to occupy the top floors. He proposed that Coca-Cola could change the lights of the building to serve as a weather forecast and then publish a small guide on its bottles to decipher the colors. Coca-Cola loved this idea, but the deal fell through after the bombing at Pearl Harbor, when the U.S. government needed office space in the building.
In 1956 the revolving “freedom lights” were installed to welcome people to America; then in 1964 the top 30 floors of the building were illuminated to mark the New York World’s Fair. Douglas Leigh revisited the lights in 1976, when he was made chairman of City Decor to welcome the Democratic Convention. He introduced the idea of color lighting, and so the building’s tower was ablaze in red, white, and blue to welcome the convention and mark the celebration of the American Bicentennial. The color lights were a huge success, and they remained red, white, and blue for the rest of the year.
Leigh’s next suggestion of tying the lights to different holidays, a variation on his weather theme for Coca-Cola, is the basic scheme still used today. In 1977 the lighting system was updated to comply with energy conservation programs and allow for a wider range of colors. Leigh further improved this new system in 1984 by designing an automated color-changing system so vertical fluorescents in the mast could be changed.
The Empire State Building’s LED light system can produce intensely saturated full-color light and dimmable cool white light, allowing for an astonishing and flexible range of dramatic or subtle lighting effects.
For a full lighting schedule, visit www.esbnyc.com.
The 86th-floor observatory (1,050 feet high) has both a glass-enclosed area (heated in winter and cooled in summer) and an outdoor deck spanning the building’s circumference. Don’t be shy about going outside into the wind (even in winter), or you’ll miss half the experience. Also, don’t be deterred by crowds; there’s an unspoken etiquette when it comes to sharing the views and backdrop, and there’s plenty of city to go around. Bring quarters for the high-powered binoculars—on clear days you can see up to 80 miles—or bring binoculars of your own so you can get a good look at some of the city’s rooftop gardens. If it rains, the deck will be less crowded and you can view the city between the clouds or watch the rain travel sideways around the building from the shelter of the enclosed walkway.
The views of the city from the 86th-floor deck are spectacular, but the views from 16 stories up on the 102nd-floor observatory are even more so—and yet, fewer visitors make it this far. Instead of rushing back to elevator lines, ask yourself when you’ll be back again and then head up to the enclosed 102nd floor. The ticket for both the 86th-floor and 102nd-floor decks costs $44, but you will be rewarded with peaceful, bird’s-eye views of the entire city. Also, there are fewer visitors angling for photo ops, so you can linger a while and really soak in the city and experience. (Combination tickets are available with the NY Skyride.)
Even if you skip the view from up top, be sure to step into the lobby and take in the ceiling, beautifully restored in 2009. The gilded gears and sweeping Art Deco lines, long hidden under a drop ceiling and decades of paint, are a romantic tribute to the machine age and part of the original vision for the building. | 350 5th Ave., at 34th St., Murray Hill | 212/736–3100, 877/692–8439 | www.esbnyc.com | $27; $44 for 86th–fl. and 102nd–fl. decks | Daily 8 am–2 am; last elevator up leaves at 1:15 am | Station: B, D, F, M, N, Q, R to 34th St.–Herald Sq.; 6 to 33rd St.
Morgan Library and Museum.
The treasures inside this museum, gathered by John Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913), one of New York’s wealthiest financiers, are exceptional: medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts, old master drawings and prints, rare books, and autographed literary and musical manuscripts. Other crowning achievements on paper include letters penned by John Keats and Thomas Jefferson; a summary of the theory of relativity in Einstein’s own elegant handwriting; three Gutenberg Bibles; drawings by Dürer, Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, Blake, and Rembrandt; the only known manuscript fragment of Milton’s Paradise Lost; Thoreau’s journals; and original manuscripts and letters by Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, Thomas Pynchon, and many others.
The library shop is housed within an 1852 Italianate brownstone, once the home of Morgan’s son, J. P. Morgan Jr. Outside on East 36th Street, the sphinx in the right-hand sculptured panel of the original library’s facade is rumored to wear the face of architect Charles McKim. | 225 Madison Ave., at 36th St., Murray Hill | 212/685–0008 | www.themorgan.org | $18 (free Fri. 7–9) | Tues.–Thurs. 10:30–5, Fri. 10:30–9, Sat. 10–6, Sun. 11–6 | Station: B, D, F, M, N, Q, R to 34th St.–Herald Sq.; 6 to 33rd St.
Although some parents blanch when they discover both how much it costs and how it lurches, the second-floor NY SKYRIDE, New York’s only aerial-tour simulator, is a favorite of childrenand muchcheaper than an actual aerial tour of New York. Narrated by actor Kevin Bacon, the ride takes a 30-minute virtual tour of New York, soaring by the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Times Square, Yankee Stadium, and other top attractions along the way. There’s also a brief but poignant trip back in time to visit the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers—a sight sure to drive you straight into the arms of the first “I [Heart] NY” T-shirt vendor you see after leaving the building. It’s a fun way to get a sense of the city’s highlights, though teenagers may find the technology a little dated. When you purchase a SKYRIDE–Empire State Building combo ticket, you visit the SKYRIDE first,then join the line for the observation deck at the elevators, skipping up to half the wait. | Empire State Building, 33rd St. entrance, Murray Hill | 212/279–9777, 888/759–7433 | www.skyride.com | $42; $59 combo Skyride and observatory | Daily 8 am–10 pm | Station: B, D, F, M, N, Q, R to 34th St.–Herald Sq.; 6 to 33rd St.
B. Altman Building/New York Public Library–Science, Industry, and Business Library (SIBL).
In 1906, department-store magnate Benjamin Altman gambled that his fashionable patrons would follow him uptown from his popular store in the area now known as the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. His new store, one of the first of the grand department stores on 5th Avenue, was designed to blend in with the mansions nearby. Note in particular the beautiful entrance on 5th Avenue. In 1996 the New York Public Library (NYPL) set up a high-tech library here. A 33-foot-high atrium unites the building’s two floors: the lending library off the lobby and the research collections below. Downstairs, a wall of electronic ticker tapes and TVs tuned to business-news stations beams information and instructions to patrons. As part of the controversial Central Library Plan, the NYPL had planned to sell this library and its Mid-Manhattan circulating library to fund renovations to the iconic Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street and 5th Avenue, but the sale was delayed and ultimately abandoned due to public outcry. A free hour-long tour is given Thursday at 2; meet at the reception desk. | 188 Madison Ave., between 34th and 35th sts., Murray Hill | 917/275–6975 | www.nypl.org | Mon., Fri., and Sat. 11–6, Tues.–Thurs. 10–8 | Station: B, D, F, M, N, Q, R to 34th St.–Herald Sq.; 6 to 33rd St.
An affectionate play on the name of the neighborhood, Curry Hill is an aromatic three-block cluster of Indian restaurants and one of the city’s most exciting dining destinations. There are nearly 25 Indian restaurants peppered (or is it spiced?) around Lexington Avenue between 26th and 28th streets, and while the neighborhood is popular with in-the-know New Yorkers, it is decidedly off the beaten tourist track. You’ll find culinary offerings from a variety of regional cuisines, be it a filling biryani or a quick chaat (savory snack). Highlights include a saag paneer (spinach dish with cheese) or a bowl of curry at one of the neighborhood’s founding restaurants, Curry in a Hurry (28th and Lex); sweet-and-sour bamia kuhta (lamb stew) or potato-and-beet fritters at Jewish-Indian restaurant Haldi (Lexington between 27th and 28th); and kati rolls (meat or veggie filling wrapped in flatbread) and other urban Indian street snacks at Desi Galli (Lexington between 27th and 28th). Don’t leave the neighborhood without sampling a dosa, a fermented crêpe often filled with spiced potato and served with dipping sauces, and shopping the spice markets. Too full to walk? Curry Hill is a great place to score a ride as Indian cab drivers regularly stop here for food. | Lexington Ave., between 26th and 28th sts., Murray Hill | Station: 6 to 28th St.; N, R to 23rd St.
Despite sitting in the shade of the Empire State Building, and within steps of Herald Square, Koreatown (or “K-Town,” as it’s locally known) is not a tourist destination. In fact, it feels decidedly off-the-beaten-track and insulated, as though locals wryly planted their own place to eat, drink, be merry, and get a massage—right under the noses of millions of tourists. Technically, Koreatown runs from 31st to 36th Streetbetween 5th and 6th avenues, though the main drag is 32nd Street between 5th and Broadway. Labeled Korea Way, this strip is home to 24/7 Korean barbecue joints, karaoke bars, and spas, all piled on top of each other. Fill up on kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage), kimbap (seaweed rice), and red bean doughnuts (delicious), try some authentic Asian karaoke, and then top off your Koreatown experience by stepping into a jade igloo sauna (at Juvenex Spa, 25 West 32nd Street). Expect a big bang for your buck, to rub elbows with locals, and bragging rights over visitors who followed the crowds to Chinatown. | From 31st to 36th St., between 5th and 6th aves., Murray Hill | Station: B, D, F, M, N, Q, R to 34th St.–Herald Sq.; 6 to 33rd St.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated by Jacinta O’Halloran
Big is the buzz in Times Square, where giant TV screens, towering skyscrapers, and Broadway theaters play starring roles alongside megastores like Hershey’s and Toys “R” Us. Love it or hate it, Times Square is the flashy and flashing heart of Midtown. A visit to New York demands a photo op in Times Square. Just don’t forget that there’s also a lot more to see and experience on this side of Midtown.
Luckily, you needn’t go far from Times Square to get away from the crowds. Head over to 9th Avenue—also known as Hell’s Kitchen (where the food is heavenly)—and calmer side streets, home to a mixed bag of locals, many of whom work in the theater industry. There are lots of eclectic restaurants, pretheater dining options, and cute boutiques for shopping. Head over to the Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue), and discover Bryant Park’s zen green space, stretched out like a yoga mat at the backdoor of the New York Public Library (another refuge from Midtown madness).
You can score good seats to some of the hottest Broadway and Off-Broadway shows for half the going rate at the TKTS booth in Duffy Square at 47th Street and Broadway. Although people think of Broadway as the heart of the theater scene, few theaters actually line the thoroughfare. For some of the grandes dames, head west on 45th Street. There are several Broadway beauties here, including the Booth, the Schoenfeld, the Jacobs, the Music Box, and the Imperial. On the southern side of 45th Street there’s the pedestrians-only Shubert Alley, distinguished by colorful posters advertising the latest hit plays and musicals, and the Shubert Theatre, one of Broadway’s most lustrous gems. Head west along 44th Street to see the Helen Hayes, the Broadhurst, the Majestic, and the St. James.
You might be surprised to learn that Chelsea is not the only gallery hub in the city; 57th Street between 5th and 6th avenues is home to some of the city’s most prestigious galleries, including Marian Goodman, the Pace Gallery, and Tibor de Nagy Gallery.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
Most people think of Times Square when they think of Midtown, but there’s a lot more going on here. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is one of the neighborhood’s top attractions and definitely worth a visit, as is Bryant Park, a cool oasis for Midtown’s workers and locals. If you have enough time, hop in a cab and head over to 12th Avenue to visit the space shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
Times Square is almost always a frenetic mass of people, staring up at the lights and the giant televisions. If you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, try to avoid walking—or cabbing—through here. If staying in Midtown, you can take advantage of the prime location and rise early to be first in line at landmarks, museums, or the TKTS booth for discount day-of theater tickets.
Summer film screenings at dusk in Bryant Park
Skating at Rockefeller Center
Checking out the views from the Top of the Rock; opinions vary on whether the better views are from here or from the Empire State Building. Either way, if you go at night, the city spreads out below in a mesmerizing blanket of lights.
Soaking in the art and serenity of MoMA’s sculpture garden
You can get to Midtown via (almost) all the subways; many make numerous stops throughout the area. For Midtown West, the 1, 2, 3, 7, A, C, E, N, Q, and R serve Times Square and West 42nd Street. The S, or Shuttle, travels back and forth between Times Square and Grand Central Station. The B, D, F, and M trains serve Rockefeller Center.
COFFEE AND QUICK BITES
Blue Bottle Coffee.
Known for their meticulous brewing, freshly roasted organic beans (prepared in a Brooklyn roastery), and delicious treats and pastries (also rushed in fresh from Brooklyn), the Rock Center outpost of this cult California coffee favorite is the perfect refueling spot amid the chaos of Midtown. | 1 Rockefeller Plaza, Concourse level, Midtown West | 510/653–3394 | www.bluebottlecoffee.com/cafes/rockefeller-center | Station: B, D, F, M to 47–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center; E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.
Stop by this Garment District outlet of the New York minichain and turn any sign of grumpiness into a smile with coffee roasted at the Greenpoint, Brooklyn, location. All pastries are baked at the Lower East Side branch: the black pepper and cardamom banana bread is a standout. | 200 W. 39th St., Midtown West | 646/499–8749 | www.cafegrumpy.com | No credit cards | Station: 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.–42nd St.
Zibetto Espresso Bar.
You won’t find any seats, but you will find arguably the best espresso in New York. | 1385 6th Ave., at 56th St., Midtown West | www.zibettoespressobar.com | Station: F to 57th St.
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This lovely green space spread out among landmarks and skyscrapers is one of Manhattan’s most popular parks. Tall London plane trees line the perimeter of the sunny central lawn, overlooking stone terraces, formal flower beds, gravel pathways, and a smattering of kiosks selling everything from sandwiches to egg creams (in season). The garden tables scattered about fill with lunching office workers and folks enjoying the park’s free Wi-Fi (signs show you how to log on). In summer you can check out free live jazz and “Broadway in Bryant Park” musical theater performances, as well as author readings. Most popular of all is the Summer Film Festival: locals leave work early to snag a spot on the lawn for the outdoor screenings each Monday at dusk. At the east side of the park, near a squatting bronze cast of Gertrude Stein, is the stylish Bryant Park Grill, which has a rooftop garden, and the adjacent open-air Bryant Park Café, open seasonally. The 5th Avenue terrace is home to a different food truck at lunchtime every day during the week. On the south side of the park is an old-fashioned carousel ($3) where kids can ride fanciful rabbits and frogs instead of horses, and attend storytellings and magic shows. Big kids can play with the park’s selection of lawn and tabletop games, which includes everything from Quoits and Scrabble to Chinese Checkers and Scandinavian Kubb. Come November the park rolls out the artificial frozen “pond” (Nov.–Mar., daily 8 am–10 pm; skate rental $15–$19) for ice skating. Surrounding the ice rink are the Christmas market–like stalls of the Holiday Shops, selling handcrafted goods and local foods. | 6th Ave. between 40th and 42nd sts., Midtown West | 212/768–4242 | www.bryantpark.org | Hrs vary by month; see website for exact times | Station: B, D, F, M to 42nd St.–Bryant Park; 7 to 5th Ave.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
The centerpiece of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum complex is the 900-foot Intrepid aircraft carrier, Manhattan’s only floating museum. The carrier’s most trying moment of service, the day it was attacked in World War II by kamikaze pilots, is recounted in a multimedia presentation. The museum faced its own trying period when forced to close for several months due to extensive flooding after 2012’s Superstorm Sandy. Fortunately, the Intrepid’s unparalleled collection of aircraft was not damaged in the storm. The museum reopened in late December 2012 with a reinforced home for the space shuttle Enterprise, NASA’s first prototype orbiter, which joined the Intrepid in July 2012. Enterprise is temporarily housed in a climate-controlled bubble tent on the flight deck of the Intrepid, but visitors can check out plans for its eventual permanent home, on the interactive wall outside the Space Shuttle Pavilion. While Enterprise never flew in space, it is presented in a dramatic darkened display with blue lighting to evoke the atmosphere of flight. Images and displays share the shuttle’s history and that of NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program.
The interactive Exploreum contains 18 hands-on exhibits. You can experience a flight simulator, transmit messages in Morse code, and see what it was like to live aboard the massive carrier. Docked alongside the Intrepid, and also part of the museum, is the Growler, a strategic-missile submarine. Ticket booths and gift shops have been relocated to the museum’s plaza while the visitor Welcome Center is being rebuilt. TIP Before you[[ visit, download the Intrepid’s new, free Explore Enterprise app to unlock additional trivia, history, and behind-the-scenes video at trigger points in exhibits throughout the museum. There are also frequent ticket discounts if you purchase through the museum website. | Pier 86, 12th Ave. at 46th St., Midtown West | 212/245–0072, 877/957–7447 | www.intrepidmuseum.org | $24; $31 combo ticket with Space Shuttle | Apr.–Oct., weekdays 10–5, weekends 10–6; Nov.–Mar., daily 10–5; last admission 1 hr before closing | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
Art in Rockefeller Center
Art and Office Space
The mosaics, murals, and sculptures that grace Rockefeller Center—many of them Art Deco masterpieces—were part of John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s plans. In 1932, as the steel girders on the first of the buildings soared heavenward, he put together a team of advisers to find artists who could make the project “as beautiful as possible.” Some artists scoffed at the idea of decorating an office building: Picasso declined to meet with Rockefeller, and Matisse replied that busy businessmen wouldn’t be in the “quiet and reflective state of mind” needed to appreciate his art. Those who agreed to contribute, including muralists Diego Rivera and José María Sert, were relatively unknown, though a group of American artists protested Rockefeller’s decision to hire “alien” artists. More than 50 artists were commissioned for 200 works.
Controversy and Highlights
As Rockefeller Center neared completion in 1932, Rockefeller still needed a mural for the lobby of the main buildings and he wanted the subject to be grandiose: “human intelligence in control of the forces of nature.” He hired Rivera. Man at the Crossroads, with its depiction of massive machinery moving mankind forward, seemed exactly what Rockefeller wanted—until it was realized that a portrait of Soviet Premier Vladimir Lenin surrounded by red-kerchiefed workers occupied a space in the center. Rockefeller, who was building what was essentially a monument to capitalism, was less than thrilled. When Rivera was accused of propagandizing, he famously replied, “All art is propaganda.”
Rivera refused to remove the offending portrait and, in early 1934, as Rivera was working, representatives for Rockefeller informed him that his services were no longer required. Within a half hour, tar paper had been hung over the mural. Despite negotiations to move it to the Museum of Modern Art, Rockefeller was determined to get rid of the mural once and for all. Not content to have it painted over, he ordered ax-wielding workers to chip away the entire wall. He commissioned a less offensive one (by Sert) instead.
Rivera had the last word, though: he re-created the mural in the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, adding a portrait of Rockefeller among the Champagne-swilling swells ignoring the plight of the workers.
The largest of the original artworks that remains is Lee Lawrie’s two-ton sculpture, Atlas. Its building also stirred up controversy, as it was said to resemble Italy’s fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. The sculpture, depicting a muscle-bound man holding up the world, drew protests in 1936. Some even derided Paul Manship’s golden Prometheus, which soars over the ice-skating rink, when it was unveiled the same year. Both are now considered to be among the best public artworks of the 20th century.
Lawrie’s sculpture Wisdom, over the main entrance of 20 Rockefeller Plaza, is another gem. Also look for Isamu Noguchi’s stainless-steel plaque News over the entrance of the Bank of America Building at 50 Rockefeller Plaza and Attilio Piccirilli’s 2-ton glass-block panel Youth Leading Industry over the entrance of the International Building.
If Times Square is New York’s crossroads, Rockefeller Center is its communal gathering place, where the entire world converges to snap pictures, skate on the ice rink, peek in on a taping of the Today show, shop, eat, and take in the monumental Art Deco structures and public sculptures from the past century. Totaling more than 100 shops and 50 eateries (including Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery), the complex runs from 47th to 52nd streets between 5th and 7th avenues. Special events and huge pieces of art dominate the central plazas in spring and summer. In December an enormous twinkling tree towers above the ice-skating rink, causing huge crowds of visitors from across the country and the globe to shuffle through with necks craned and cameras flashing. The first official tree-lighting ceremony was held in 1933.
The world’s most famous ice-skating rink occupies Rockefeller Center’s sunken lower plaza October through April and converts to a café in summer. The gold-leaf statue of the fire-stealing Greek hero Prometheus—Rockefeller Center’s most famous sculpture—hovers above, forming the backdrop to zillions of photos. Carved into the wall behind it, a quotation from Aeschylus reads, “Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.” The lower plaza also provides access to the marble-lined corridors underneath Rockefeller Center, which houses restaurants, a post office, and clean public restrooms—a rarity in Midtown.
Rising from the Lower Plaza’s west side is the 70-story (850-foot-tall) Art Deco GE Building, a testament to modern urban development. Here Rockefeller commissioned and then destroyed a mural by Diego Rivera (upon learning that it featured Vladimir Lenin). He replaced it with the monumental American Progress by José María Sert, still on view in the lobby, flanked by additional murals by Sert and English artist Frank Brangwyn. Up on the 65th floor is the landmark Rainbow Room, a glittering big-band ballroom dating to 1934; they serve a showy and very expensive brunch on Sunday, and dinner and entertainment on Monday nights. Higher up, Top of the Rock has what many consider the finest panoramic views of the city. | 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Midtown West | www.rockefellercenter.com | Station: B, D, F, M to 47th–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center; E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.
The Rink at Rockefeller Center.
Set in the shadow of the giant Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, the city’s most iconic ice-skating rink is a quintessential experience for visitors and a longstanding tradition for many locals. Skaters swoop or stumble across the ice while crowds gather at street level to watch the spins and spills. General admission skating is on a first-come, first-served basis, so it is best to come early, and on weekdays, to avoid crowds. First Skate tickets ($45–$55, reserved online) allow 7 am access to the rink, followed by a complimentary hot chocolate/coffee and pastry or breakfast. VIP Skate packages ($60–$120) allow guests to skate past the long lines and include skate rental, 90 minutes of ice time, and hot chocolate and cookies. Other packages include Sky Skate ($48), which includes admission to the rink, skate rental, and admission to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck; and Engagement on Ice packages ($350–$1,000), which provide exclusive ice time, a romantic backdrop, and a variety of romantic add-ons to seal the deal. The rink is a café in summer. | 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Midtown West | www.therinkatrockcenter.com | $27–$30; $12 skate rental | Oct.–Apr., daily 8:30 am–midnight | Station: B, D, F, M to 47th–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center; E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.
Hands down, this is the most frenetic part of New York City, a cacophony of flashing lights and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds that many New Yorkers studiously avoid. Originally named after the New York Times (whose headquarters have since relocated nearby), the area has seen many changes since the first subway line, which included a 42nd Street station, opened in 1904. You won’t find speakeasies and unsavory clubs around here nowadays; it’s a vibrant, family-friendly destination, with a newly resurfaced pedestrianized stretch of Broadway with granite benches, and stadium seating behind discount theater ticket seller TKTS, all under the glare of brand names like MTV and M&Ms. If you like sensory overload, the chaotic mix of huge underwear billboards, flashing digital displays, on-location television broadcasts, naked cowboys, and Elmo clones will give you your fix. The focus of the entertainment may have shifted over the years, but showtime is still the heart of New York’s theater scene, and there are forty Broadway theaters nearby. The Times Square Visitor Center closed its doors in 2014 but you can still learn about Broadway’s history and architecture with a 90-minute walking tour ($30) of the area by Manhattan Walking Tours; the guided Broadway Walking tour (daily at 9:30, 11:30, and 2; www.walkinbroadway.com) includes audio headsets and 30 stops, and leaves from the Actor’s Chapel on West 49th Street, between Broadway and 8th Avenue. | Broadway between 42nd and 44th sts., Midtown West | 212/768–1560 | www.timessquarenyc.org | Station: 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.–42 St.
Fodor’s Choice | Top of the Rock.
Rockefeller Center’s multifloor observation deck, the Top of the Rock, on the 69th and 70th floors of the building, provides views that rival those from the Empire State Building (some would say they’re even better because the views include the Empire State Building). Arriving just before sunset affords a view of the city that morphs before your eyes into a dazzling wash of colors, with a bird’s-eye view of the tops of the Empire State Building, the Citicorp Building, and the Chrysler Building, and sweeping views northward to Central Park and south to the Statue of Liberty. Timed-entry ticketing eliminates long lines. Indoor exhibits include films of Rockefeller Center’s history and a model of the building. Glass elevators lift you to the 67th-floor interior viewing area, and then an escalator leads to the outdoor deck on the 69th floor for sightseeing through nonreflective glass safety panels. Then, take another elevator or stairs to the 70th floor for a 360-degree outdoor panorama of New York City on a deck that is only 20 feet wide and nearly 200 feet long. Especially interesting is a Plexiglas screen on the floor with footage showing Rock Center construction workers dangling on beams high above the streets; the brave can even “walk” across a beam to get a sense of what it might have been like to erect this skyscraper. A Sun & Stars ticket ($42) allows you to visit twice and see the city as it rises and sets in the same day. | 30 Rockefeller Plaza, 50th St. entrance, between 5th and 6th aves., Midtown West | 212/698–2000, 212/698–2000 | www.topoftherocknyc.com | $29 | Daily 8–midnight; last elevator at 11 pm | Station: B, D, F, M to 47th–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center; E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.
One of the first items to be auctioned at the New York outpost of this infamous auction house, when it opened in 2000, was the “Happy Birthday” dress worn by Marilyn Monroe when she sang to President Kennedy (it sold for more than $1.2 million, in case you were wondering). Yes, the auction house has come a long way since James Christie launched his business in England by selling two chamber pots, among other household goods, in 1766. You could easily spend an hour or more wandering the free, museumlike galleries, where on any given day, you find impressive works of art, estate jewelry, furniture, and other rarelydisplayed letters and objects of interest that are usually housed in (and most likely, soon to be returned to) private collections. The lobby’s specially commissioned abstract Sol LeWitt mural alone makes it worth visiting the 310,000-square-foot space. Hours vary by sale, so call ahead to confirm. | 20 Rockefeller Plaza, 49th St. between 5th and 6th aves., Midtown West | 212/636–2000 | www.christies.com | Weekdays 9:30–5, weekend hrs vary; hrs vary for specific exhibits | Station: B, D, F, M to 47th–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center; E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.
David Findlay Jr. Gallery.
This well-established gallery concentrates on contemporary and 20th-century American artists from Whistler to Herman Cherry, Byron Brown, and David Aronson, and specializes in the New York School. | 724 5th Ave., 8th fl., between 56th and 57th sts., Midtown West | 212/486–7660 | www.davidfindlayjr.com | Free | Mon.–Sat. 10–5:30 | Station: N, Q, R to 5th Ave./59th St.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries.
Although this gallery has a selection of European works, it’s best known for American paintings, prints, and decorative arts. The celebrated 19th- and 20th-century artists whose works are featured include Stuart Davis, Childe Hassam, Camille Pissarro, and John Singleton Copley. Each year, the gallery presents up to a dozen special exhibits exploring historical themes of works culled from its collection. | 730 5th Ave., 4th fl., at 57th St., Midtown West | 212/535–8810 | www.hirschlandadler.com | Free | Tues.–Fri. 9:30–5:15, Sat. 9:30–4:45 | Station: N, Q, R to 5th Ave./59th St.
Madame Tussauds New York.
Sit in the Oval Office with President Obama, strike a fierce pose alongside Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen, croon with Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, pucker up to your favorite heartthrob, be it Justin Bieber or Justin Timberlake, or enjoy a royal chat with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate. Much of the fun here comes from photo opportunities—you’re encouraged to pose with and touch the over 200 realistic replicas of the famous, infamous, and downright super. The Marvel 4D Experience includes wax likenesses of heroes like the Hulk, Captain America, Ironman, and Thor, as well as a short animated movie shown on a 360-degree screen that surrounds the viewer. Other interactive options at the museum include a karaoke café, a celebrity walk down the red carpet, and a haunted town populated with both wax figures and real people. Closing hours vary during peak seasons, so call ahead to verify. | 234 W. 42nd St., between 7th and 8th aves., Midtown West | 866/841–3505 | www.madame-tussauds.com | $37 (discounts available online) | Sun.–Thurs. 10–8, Fri. and Sat. 10–10 | Station: 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.–42nd St.; A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority.
Marian Goodman Gallery.
Perhaps the most respected contemporary art dealer in town, the Marian Goodman Gallery has been introducing top European artists to American audiences for over thirty years. The stable of excellent contemporary artists in the Goodman fold includes Gerhard Richter, Jeff Wall, John Baldessari, William Kentridge, Thomas Schutte, and Steve McQueen. | 24 W. 57th St., between 5th and 6th aves., Midtown West | 212/977–7160 | www.mariangoodman.com | Free | Mon.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: F to 57th St.
Marlborough Gallery (Midtown).
The Marlborough Gallery has an international reputation, representing modern artists such as Magdalena Abakanowicz, Zao Wou-Ki, Red Grooms, and photorealist Richard Estes. Look for sculptures by Tom Otterness, whose whimsical bronzes are found in several subway stations. There is also a branch in Chelsea. | 40 W. 57th St., between 5th and 6th aves., Midtown West | 212/541–4900 | www.marlboroughgallery.com | Free | Mon.–Sat. 10–5:30 | Station: F to 57th St.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
Art enthusiasts and novices alike are often awestruck by the masterpieces they find at the MoMA, including Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Plans for an expansion into the space next door (which, controversially, meant tearing down the American Folk Art Museum) include additional gallery space, a retractable glass wall, an expanded lobby, and the opening of its entire first floor, including the sculpture garden, as a free public space. Construction is already underway with an expected completion date in 2019.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Highlights
In addition to the artwork, one of the main draws of MoMA is the building itself. A maze of glass walkways permits art viewing from many angles.
The 110-foot atrium entrance (accessed from the museum’s lobby on either 53rd or 54th Street) leads to movie theaters and the main-floor restaurant, Modern, with Alsatian-inspired cuisine.
A favorite resting spot is the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. Designed by Philip Johnson, it features Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk (1962–69). The glass wall lets visitors look directly into the surrounding galleries from the garden, where there’s also a reflecting pool and trees.
Contemporary art (1970 to the present) from the museum’s seven curatorial departments shares the second floor of the six-story building, and the skylighted top floor showcases an impressive lineup of changing exhibits.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Tips
•MoMA’s Audio+ app allows visitors to listen to audio commentaries and access, share, and save additional content. Audio+ iPods can be rented at the museum, or the app can be downloaded from MoMA’s website.
•Tickets are available online (www.moma.org) at a reduced price. Entrance between 4 and 8 pm on Friday is free, but expect long lines. Free Wi-Fi service within the museum allows you to listen to audio tours (log on to www.moma.org/wifi with your smartphone).
•Film passes to the day’s screenings are included with the price of admission. Tickets to MoMA also include free admission to its affiliate PS1 in Queens; save your ticket and you can go in for free any time within 30 days of your original purchase.
•Grab a quick bite at one of MoMA’s two cafés—Cafe 2 and Terrace 5, or dine leisurely at the upscale Modern. In summer there is gelato in the Sculpture Garden.
11 W. 53rd St., between 5th and 6th aves., Midtown West | 212/708–9400 | www.moma.org | $25 | Sat.–Thurs. 10:30–5:30, Fri. 10:30–8 | Station: E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.; F to 57th St.; B, D, E to 7th Ave.
New York Public Library Main Branch.
In 2011 the “Library with the Lions” celebrated its centennial as a masterpiece of Beaux Arts design and as one of the great research institutions in the world, with more than 6 million books, 12 million manuscripts, and 3 million pictures. Expect changes, if not to the look, then to the feel, of the building as it attempts to become more welcoming and useful without selling its soul. The marble staircase at the library’s grand 5th Avenue entrance is an excellent perch for people-watching, before or after you explore the opulent interior.
The library’s bronze front doors open into Astor Hall, which leads to several special exhibit galleries and, to the left, a stunning periodicals room with wall paintings of New York publishing houses. Ascend the sweeping double staircase to a second-floor balconied corridor overlooking the hall, with panels highlighting the library’s development. Make sure to continue up to the recently restored, magisterial Rose Main Reading Room—297 feet long (almost two full north–south city blocks), 78 feet wide, and just over 51 feet high; walk through to best appreciate the rows of oak tables and the extraordinary ceiling. Several additional third-floor galleries show rotating exhibits on print and photography (past exhibits have included old New York restaurant menus and a 1455 Gutenberg Bible). Free hour-long tours leave Monday–Saturday at 11 and 2, and Sunday at 2 from Astor Hall. Women’s bathrooms are on the ground floor and third floor, and there’s a men’s bathroom on the third floor. | 5th Ave., between 40th and 42nd sts.,Midtown West | 212/930–0800 for exhibit info | www.nypl.org | Mon. and Thurs.–Sat. 10–6, Sun. 1–5, Tues. and Wed. 10–8; exhibitions until 6 | Station: B, D, F, M to 42nd St.–Bryant Park; 7 to 5th Ave.
The New York Times Building.
This 52-story building with its distinctive, ladderlike ceramic rods is a testament to clean-lined modernism. The architect, Renzo Piano, extended the ceramic rods beyond the top of the building so that it would give the impression of dissolving into the sky. One of the skyscraper’s best features—and the one that’s open to the public—is the building’s lobby atrium, which includes an open-air moss garden with 50-foot paper birch trees and a wooden footbridge; a 560-screen media art installation titled Moveable Type, streaming a mix of the newspaper’s near–real time and archival content; and the New York flagship store of minimalist home goods designer MUJI. You never know which famous journalists you’ll spy on the coffee line in Dean & DeLuca. Unfortunately, tours are not offered. | 620 8th Ave., between 40th and 41st sts.,Midtown West | 212/984–8128 | www.newyorktimesbuilding.com | Station: A, C, E to 42nd St.–Port Authority; 1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S to Times Sq.–42nd St.
The Paley Center for Media.
With three galleries of photographs and artifacts that document the history of broadcasting, a computerized catalog of more than 150,000 television and radio programs, and public seminars, lectures, and programs, the Paley Center for Media examines the past and constantlyevolving present state of media. The past is the main draw here. If you want to see a performance of “Turkey Lurkey Time” from the 1969 Tony Awards, for example, type the name of the song, show, or performer into a computer terminal, then proceed to one of the semiprivate screening areas to watch your selection. People nearby might be watching classic comedies from the ‘50s, miniseries from the ‘70s, or news broadcasts from the ‘90s. Possibly the most entertaining part of these TV shows from yesteryear is the fact that the original commercials are still embedded in many of the programs.If ads are your thing, you can also skip the programming altogether and watch compilations of classic commercials. | 25 W. 52nd St., between 5th and 6th aves.,Midtown West | 212/621–6800 | www.paleycenter.org | $10 | Wed., Fri., and weekends noon–6, Thurs. noon–8 | Station: E, M to 5th Ave./53rd St.; B, D, F, M to 47th–50th Sts./Rockefeller Center.
Tibor de Nagy Gallery.
Founded in 1950, this gallery shows works by 20th-century artists such as Biala, Nell Blaine, Jane Freilicher, and Shirley Jaffe. Instrumental in bringing many of America’s finest abstract expressionist artists to public attention in the mid-20th century, the gallery now shows abstract and realistic work. | 724 5th Ave., 12th fl., between 56th and 57th sts., Midtown West | 212/262–5050 | www.tibordenagy.com | Tues.–Sat. 10–5:30 | Station: N, Q, R to 5th Ave./59th St.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated by Jacinta O’Halloran
To many New Yorkers, the Upper East Side connotes old money and high society. Alongside Central Park, between 5th and Lexington avenues, up to East 96th Street, the trappings of wealth are everywhere apparent: posh buildings, Madison Avenue’s flagship boutiques, and doormen in braided livery. It’s also a key destination for visitors, because some of the most fantastic museums in the country are here.
There’s a reason this stretch of Manhattan is called “Museum Mile”: this is where you’ll find the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, as well as a number of art galleries. For a local taste of the luxe life, catwalk down Madison Avenue for its lavish boutiques; strolling the platinum-card corridor between 60th and 82nd street is like stepping into the pages of a glossy magazine. Many fashion houses have their flagships here and showcase their lush threads in exquisite settings.
Venture east of Lexington Avenue and encounter a less wealthy—and more diverse—Upper East Side, inhabited by couples seeking some of the last (relatively) affordable places to raise a family south of 100th Street, as well as recent college grads getting a foothold in the city (on weekend nights 2nd Avenue resembles a miles-long fraternity and sorority reunion). One neighborhood particularly worth exploring is northeast-lying Yorkville, especially between 78th and 86th streets east of 2nd Avenue. Once a remote hamlet with a large German population, its several remaining ethnic food shops, 19th-century rowhouses, and—one of the city’s best-kept secrets—Carl Schurz Park, make for a good half-day’s exploration, as does catching a glimpse of the most striking residence there, Gracie Mansion.
If art galleries appeal, there are some elegant ones on the Upper East Side. In keeping with the tony surroundings, the emphasis here is on works by established masters.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
The Upper East Side lends itself to a surprising variety of simple but distinct itineraries: exploring the landmarks on Museum Mile; languorous gallery grazing; window shopping on Madison Avenue; or bar hopping for just-out-of-college kids on 2nd Avenue. If it’s the museums you’re after, make sure to plan at least a few hours per museum—with some snack or coffee breaks. There’s a lot to see, so we advise not more than one museum a day.
The Upper East Side’s townhouses, boutiques, consignment stores, and hidden gardens are easy to miss unless you take some time to wander. If all that walking wears you out, you can always recharge in one of the nail salons and indulge in a neighborhood stereotype of the pampered Upper East Sider. A well-deserved post–Museum Mile foot rub and mani/pedi are surprisingly reasonably priced.
Take the Lexington Avenue 4 or 5 express train to 59th or 86th Street. The 6 local train also stops at 59th, 68th, 77th, 86th, and 96th streets. If coming from Midtown, the F train lets you out at Lexington Avenue at 63rd Street, where you can transfer to the 4, 5, or 6 after a short walk (and free transfer). From the Upper West Side, take one of the crosstown buses, the M66, M72, M79, M86, or M96. You can also take the N or R train to 59th Street and Lexington Avenue.
Exploring any of the world-class museums here, followed by a relaxing, restorative lunch
Gallery-hopping the UES’s so-unhip-it’s-now-hip art scene (plus they’re free)
Window-shopping on Madison Avenue
Appreciating the views from the cable car on the ride to the recently opened Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island
COFFEE AND QUICK BITES
Joe (Upper East Side).
One of the city’s best coffee chains, Joe has the kind of quality caffeine and sweets to fuel you up and down Museum Mile (and maybe even around the park). | 1045 Lexington Ave., between 74th and 75th sts.,Upper East Side | 212/988–2500 | www.joenewyork.com/locations/lexington | Station: 6 to 77th St.
Lady M Cake Boutique.
The signature here is the Mille Crepes cake: twenty crêpes stacked together with a delicious cream filling. Thank us later. | 41 E. 78th St., at Madison Ave., Upper East Side | 212/452–2222 | www.ladym.com | Station: 6 to 77th St.
Two Little Red Hens.
With first-rate coffee and delicious cupcakes, cheesecake, and cookies to match, this little bakery is a legend with locals. | 1652 2nd Ave., at 86th St., Upper East Side | 212/452–0476 | www.twolittleredhens.com | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.
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Asia Society and Museum.
The Asian art collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller III forms the core of this museum’s holdings,which span from Pakistan to Java and date back to the 11th century BC, including Hindu stone sculpture, Tibeten Buddhist paintings, Vietnamese ceramics, Han Dynasty bronzes, and Japanese woodblock prints. Founded in 1956, the society has a regular program of lectures, films, and performances, in addition to changing exhibitions of traditional and contemporary art. Trees grow in the glass-enclosed, skylighted Garden Court Café, which serves an eclectic Asian lunch menu and weekend brunch. Call ahead to reserve afternoon tea service, available 2–5 pm. Admission is free Friday6–9 pm (September to July). A free audio tour is included with admission, or you can take a free guided tour at 2 daily and 6:30 Friday. | 725 Park Ave., at 70th St., Upper East Side | 212/288–6400 | www.asiasociety.org/ny | $12 | Tues.–Sun. 11–6 (Fri. until 9 Sept.–June) | Station: 6 to 68th St.–Hunter College.
Blum & Poe New York.
This contemporary art gallery may be a relative newbie on the Upper East Side art scene (it opened in Spring 2014), but as one of L.A.’s top art galleries, Blum & Poe was very quick to settle into its renovated townhouse on East 66th Street—a cozy space compared to its sprawling, 21,000-square-foot L.A. counterpart—and to establish itself in the New York art world. Recent exhibits have featured artists including Hugh Scott-Douglas, Kishio Suga, Henry Taylor, and Penny Slinger. | 19 E. 66th St., at 5th Ave., Upper East Side | 212/249–2249 | www.blumandpoe.com | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: 6 to 68th St.–Hunter College.
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
Reopened in late 2014, after a three-year, $81 million overhaul, the CooperHewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is a slick, 21st-century museum in a century-old mansion. It marries old and new, digital and physical, and the result is an ornate, historic home (once the residence of industrialist Andrew Carnegie) outfitted with the latest technologies and amenities for a highly interactive experience. You don’t just look at design here; you play with it, engage it, and then take it home. On arrival at the museum, visitors receive a digital pen that acts as a key to the museum’s entire collection of more than 200,000 objects, everything from antique cutlery and Japanese sword fittings to robotics and animation. Museum highlights include a giant touchscreen tables where visitors can summon random-yet-relevant items from the museum’s collection by drawing a squiggle or a shape; the Immersion Room, where visitors can view and save their favorite wallpapers from the museum’s incredible collection or create their own designs (which can be projected onto the gallery walls); and the Process Lab where visitors get hands-on to solve design dilemmas and enhance everyday design objects. The focus on design and discovery extends to “SHOP,” where limited-edition objects created in collaboration with contemporary designers and influenced by exhibitions are for sale. There is a café, too. Guided tours run daily at 11 and 1. Admission is pay-what-you-wish Saturday evening from 6 to 9. | 2 E. 91st St., at 5th Ave., Upper East Side | 212/849–8400 | www.cooperhewitt.org | $18 ($16 online) | Sun.–Fri. 10–6, Sat. 10–9 | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.
El Museo del Barrio.
El barrio is Spanish for “the neighborhood” and the nickname for East Harlem, a largely Spanish-speaking Puerto Rican and Dominican community. El Museo del Barrio, on the edge of this neighborhood, focuses on Latin American and Caribbean art, with some 10 percent of its collection concentrated on works by self-taught artists from New York, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and Latin America. The more than 6,500-object permanent collection includes over 400 pre-Columbian artifacts, sculpture, photography, film and video, and traditional art from all over Latin America. The collection of 360 santos, carved wooden folk-art figures from Puerto Rico, is popular. El Museo hosts performances, lectures, films, and cultural events, including a month-long Día de los Muertos celebration. TIP Admission to El Museo del Barrio gains you free entrance to the neighboring Museum of the City of New York. | 1230 5th Ave., between 104th and 105th sts., Upper East Side | 212/831–7272 | www.elmuseo.org | $9 suggested donation | Tues.–Sat. 11–6 | Station: 6 to 103rd St.
Fodor’s Choice | Frick Collection.
Henry Clay Frick made his fortune amid the soot and smoke of Pittsburgh, where he was a coke (a coal fuel derivative) and steel baron, but this lovely museum, once Frick’s private New York residence, is decidedly removed from soot. With an exceptional collection of works from the Renaissance through the late 19th century that includes Édouard Manet’s The Bullfight (1864), a Chinard portrait bust (1809), three Vermeers, three Rembrandts, works by El Greco, Goya, Van Dyck, Hogarth, Degas, and Turner, as well as sculpture, decorative arts, and 18th-century French furniture, everything here is a highlight. The Portico Gallery, an enclosed portico along the building’s 5th Avenue garden, houses the museum’s growing collection of sculpture. Be sure to take in the Frick’s green spaces while you can; in 2014, the museum announced plans to build a six-story addition to allow for educational programs and conservation facilities, and to accommodate its increased attendance and growing collection. The plan met with immediate outcry, in part because it will carve into the museum’s beautiful viewing garden (a garden that is intended to be appreciated from the street or museum windows—as a work of art in itself), designed by landscape architect Russell Page, but also because it could potentially ruin the intimacy of this house museum. If a proposal is approved, the expansion is expected to begin in 2017(the museum will remain open during renovations). An audio guide, available in several languages, is included with admission, as are the year-round temporary exhibits. The tranquil indoor garden court is a magical spot for a rest. Children under 10 are not admitted, and those ages 10–16 with an adult only. | 1 E. 70th St., at 5th Ave., Upper East Side | 212/288–0700 | www.frick.org | $20 | Tues.–Sat. 10–6, Sun. 11–5 | Station: 6 to 68th St.–Hunter College.
Gagosian Madison Avenue.
If you are looking for ambitious works by the world’s most acclaimed artists in a gallery that easily competes with the city’s top museums, you have to visit Gagosian. Perhaps the most powerful art dealer in the world, Larry Gagosian has galleries in London, Paris, Rome, Athens, and Hong Kong, as well as five galleries in New York (three of which are on the Upper East Side). The Madison Avenue location, the contemporary art empire’s headquarters, is a multifloor gallery that has shown works by big names like Warhol, Pollock, Miró, Calder, Twombly, and Hirst. Because Gagosian likes to dominate the real estate market the way he dominates the art market, he also has spaces at nearby 976 Madison Avenue, as well as it newest uptown outpost (with a decidedly downtown feel)—a storefront space on Park Avenue and 75th Street. | 980 Madison Ave., near 76th St., Upper East Side | 212/744–2313 | www.gagosian.com | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: 6 to 77th St.
The official mayor’s residence, Gracie Mansion was built in 1799 by shipping merchant Archibald Gracie, and enlarged in 1966. Nine mayors have lived here since it became the official residence in 1942, though Michael Bloomberg broke with tradition and chose to stay in his own 79th Street townhouse during his three terms as mayor. He poured millions into renovations at Gracie Mansion without spending a single night there.In January 2014, the newly prepped, polished, and spruced-up mansion became home to newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family. The resident first family of New York City do not appreciate visitors traipsing through their living room so the “People’s House”—with all its history and colorful rooms furnished over centuries and packed with American objets d’art—is not currently open to the people. Privacy and security appear to be a concern; in addition to closing the house to tours, there is a new 10-foot-high fence surrounding the property. TIP The mayor’s office has indicated that tours of the impressive interior could resume mid-2015, so it’s worth calling or emailing before you visit; you might get lucky. | Carl Schurz Park, East End Ave. at 88th St., Upper East Side | 212/570–4778 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s landmark nautilus-like museum building is renowned as much for its famous architecture as for its superlative collection of art and well-curated shows. Opened in 1959, shortly after Wright’s death, the Guggenheim is acclaimed as one of the greatest buildings of the 20th century. Inside, under a 96-foot-high glass dome, a ramp spirals down, past the artworks of the current exhibits (the ramp is just over a quarter mile long, if you’re wondering). The museum has strong holdings of Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, and Robert Mapplethorpe.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Highlights
Wright’s design was criticized by some who believed that the distinctive building detracted from the art within, but the interior nautilus design allows artworks to be viewed from several different angles and distances. Be sure to notice not only what’s in front of you but also what’s across the spiral from you.
Even if you aren’t planning to eat, stop at the museum’s modern American restaurant, the Wright (at 88th Street), for its stunning design by Andre Kikoski. If planning to eat, note that hours are limited and priceshigh.
On permanent display, the museum’s Thannhauser Collection is made up primarily of works by French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cézanne, Renoir, and Manet. Perhaps more than any other 20th-century painter, Wassily Kandinsky, one of the first “pure” abstract artists, has been closely linked to the museum’s history: beginning with the acquisition of his masterpiece Composition 8 (1923) in 1930, the collection has grown to encompass more than 150 works.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Tips
•The museum’s free app enhancesyour visit before, during, and after. Features include detailed floor maps, multimedia guides to exhibits, interviews with artists, and access to the permanent collection.
•The museum often runs special programs—including lectures, conversations, and film screenings—in conjunction with major exhibitions. Check the museum’s website for details of upcoming events.
•Escape the crowded lobby by taking the elevator to the top and working your way down the spiral.
•The museum is pay-what-you-wish on Saturday from 5:45 to 7:45. Lines can be long, so arrive early. The last tickets are handed out at 7:15.
•Eat before you visit; restaurants on Lexington Avenue have more affordable options than the museum’s elegant Wright restaurant, and more varied fare than the small Café 3 espresso and snack bar on the third floor.
1071 5th Ave., between 88th and 89th sts., Upper East Side | 212/423–3840, 212/423–3500 | www.guggenheim.org | $25 | Sun.–Wed. and Fri. 10–5:45, Sat. 10–7:45 | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.
The Jewish Museum.
In a Gothic-style 1908 mansion, the Jewish Museum draws on a large collection of art and ceremonial objects to explore Jewish identity and culture spanning more than 4,000 years. The two-floor permanent exhibition “Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey” displays nearly 800 objects complemented by interactive media. The wide-ranging collection includes a 3rd-century Roman burial plaque, 20th-century sculpture by Elie Nadelman, and contemporary art from artists such as Marc Chagall and Man Ray. Russ & Daughters—an almost century-old Jewish specialty store and an NYC institution downtown—is set to open an outpost in the Jewish Museum in summer 2015. | 1109 5th Ave., at 92nd St., Upper East Side | 212/423–3200 | www.jewishmuseum.org | $15 (free Sat., pay-what-you-wish Thurs. 5–8) | Sat.–Tues. 11–5:45, Thurs. 11–8, Fri. 11–4 (Fri. until 5:45 Mar.–Nov.) | Station: 6 to 96th St.
Fodor’s Choice | The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It would be possible to roam the labyrinthine corridors of the colossal Metropolitan Museum of Artfor days. The Met has more than 2 million works of art representing 5,000 years of history, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead; looking at everything here could take a week. Some of the highlights are listed below.
Check the museum’s floor plan, available at all entrances, for location of the major wings and collections. Pick up the “Today’s Events” flier at the desk where you get your ticket. The museum hosts gallery talks on a range of subjects; taking a tour with a staff curator can reveal some of the collection’s hidden secrets.
A major star of the museum is the Temple of Dendur (circa 15 BC), in a huge atrium to itself and with a moatlike pool of water to represent its original location near the Nile. The temple was commissioned by the Roman emperor Augustus to honor the goddess Isis and the sons of a Nubian chieftain. Egypt gave the temple as a gift to the U.S. in 1965; it would have been submerged after the construction of the Aswan High Dam. The Egyptian collection as a whole covers 4,000 years of history, with papyrus pages from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, stone sarcophagi inscribed with hieroglyphics, and tombs.
The Met’s revitalized American Wing (aka the New American Wing Galleries for Paintings, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts) uses 30,000 square feet of airy, skylit space to showcase—in themed and chronological order—one of the best and most extensive collections of American art in the country.
The visually stunning Islamic galleries, a suite of 15 galleries, houses one of the world’s premier collections of Islamic art. Now known as the “Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia,” the collection comprises more than 12,000 works of art and traces the course of Islamic Civilization over a span of 13 centuries. Highlights include an 11-foot-high 14th-century mihrab, or prayer niche, decorated with glazed ceramic tiles; the recently restored Emperor’s Carpet—a 16th-century Persian carpet that was presented to the Hapsburg Emperor Leopold I by Peter the Great of Russia; the Damascus Room—a Syrian Ottoman reception room decorated with poetic verses; and glass, ceramics, and metalwork from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.
If you’re hungry, there are several options inside the museum for a meal or snack: The Petrie Court Café and Winebar ($$) at the back of the first-floor European Sculpture Court, has waiter service. The Great Hall Balcony Bar ($$) is on the second floor balcony overlooking the Great Hall—on Friday and Saturday, 4pm to 8:30 pm, waiters serve appetizers and cocktails accompanied by live classical music. The Roof Garden ($), open May–October, has fabulous views. There is also a cafeteria ($) on the ground floor.
In May 2014, the Costume Institute’s galleries reopened after a two-year renovation with a newly designed 4,200-square-foot main gallery, an updated costume conservation laboratory, expanded study and storage facilities, and a new name—the Anna Wintour Costume Center. The refurbishment allows the Center to have exhibitions on view 10 months a year.
In late 2014, the Met concluded its two-year, $60 million renovation of the museum’s plaza. The new European-style plaza includes additional public seating, two fountains (with jets that can be programmed for varying displays), new lighting, landscaping, a row of large parasols for shade, and improved museum access. | 1000 5th Ave., at 82nd St., Upper East Side | 212/535–7710 | www.metmuseum.org | $25 suggested donation; $7 for audio guide | Sun.–Thurs. 10–5:30, Fri. and Sat. 10–9 | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.
Museum of the City of New York.
In a Colonial Revival building designed for the museum in the 1930s, the city’s history and many quirks are revealed through engaging exhibits here. The museum stages rotating exhibitions on subjects such as architecture, fashion, history, and politics. “Saving Place: Fifty Years of New York City Landmarks” and “Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival” provided unique perspectives of the everchanging city–exploring the architectural struggles in the periods before and after the Landmarks Law of 1965 as well as the cultural and political changes—playing out against a soundtrack of folk music—in Greenwich Village in the 50s and 60s. Don’t miss Timescapes, a 25-minute media projection that innovatively illustrates New York’s physical expansion and population changes, or “Activist New York,” an ongoing exploration of the city’s history of social activism. You can also find New York–centric lectures, films, and walking tours here. The museum is currently in the last phase of a three-part, $95 million renovation that will upgrade and modernize the entire facility. Improvements to date include a new climate-control system, new flooring, an updated lobby and terrace, a redesigned gift shop, and restored historical elements throughout the building. The third phase of the modernization includes the addition of a state-of-the-art auditorium and a new café. The museum remains open during renovations, which are expected to be completed in early 2016. When finished touring the museum, cross the street and stroll through the Vanderbilt Gates to enter the Conservatory Garden, one of Central Park’s hidden gems. | 1220 5th Ave., at 103rd St., Upper East Side | 212/534–1672 | www.mcny.org | $14 suggested donation | Daily 10–6 | Station: 6 to 103rd St.
Neue Galerie New York.
Early-20th-century German and Austrian art and design are the focus here, with works by Gustav Klimt, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Egon Schiele, Josef Hoffmann, and other designers from the Wiener Werkstätte taking center stage. The Neue Galerie was founded by the late art dealer Serge Sabarsky and cosmetics heir and art collector Ronald S. Lauder. It’s in a 1914 wood- and marble-floored mansion designed by Carrère and Hastings, which was once home to Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt III. An audio guide is included with admission. Children under 12 are not admitted, and teens 12–16 must be accompanied by an adult. Café Sabarsky, in an elegant, high-ceiling space on the first floor, is a destination in its own right for Viennese coffee, cakes, strudels, and Sacher tortes. Admission is free 6–8 pm on the first Friday of the month. | 1048 5th Ave., at 86th St., Upper East Side | 212/628–6200 | www.neuegalerie.org | $20 | Thurs.–Mon. 11–6 | Children under 12 not admitted | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.
The 19th- and 20th-century museum-quality art inside this five-story, marble-floored French Neolassical mansion tends to be big-name, from Impressionists through Pop Artists, including Picasso, Lucian Freud, Jean-Michel Basquiat, James Rosenquist, and Wayne Thiebaud. | 18 E. 79th St., between 5th and Madison aves., Upper East Side | 212/734–6300 | www.acquavellagalleries.com | Free | Weekdays 10–5 | Station: 6 to 77th St.
Carl Schurz Park.
Facing the East River, this park, named for a German immigrant who was a prominent newspaper editor in the 19th century, is so tranquil you’d never guess you’re directly above the FDR Drive. Walk along the promenade, where you can take in views of the river and the Roosevelt Island Lighthouse across the way. To the north are Randall’s and Wards Islands and the RFK Bridge (aka the Triborough Bridge)—as well as the more immediate sight of locals pushing strollers, riding bikes, or walking their dogs. If you use the 86th Street entrance, you’ll find yourself near the grounds of a Federal-style wood-frame house that belies the grandeur of its name: Gracie Mansion. | From 84th to 90th St., between East End Ave. and the East River, Upper East Side | 212/459–4455 | www.carlschurzparknyc.org | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 86th St.
One of the most influential dealers of the 20th century, Leo Castelli helped foster the careers of many important artists, including one of his first discoveries, Jasper Johns. Castelli died in 1999, but the gallery continues to show works by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, Jackson Pollock, Robert Morris, and other heavies. | 18 E. 77th St., between 5th and Madison aves., Upper East Side | 212/249–4470 | www.castelligallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: 6 to 77th St.
This welcoming gallery represents some lofty works. In addition to tapestries by modern masters like Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, and Alexander Calder—one of this gallery’s specialties—works by late-19th- and early-20th-century modern artists like Fernand Léger and Marc Chagall are showcased. | 922 Madison Ave., 2nd fl., between 73rd and 74th sts., Upper East Side | 212/744–1490 | www.janekahan.com | Free | Labor Day–Memorial Day, Tues.–Sat. 10–6; Memorial Day–Labor Day, weekdays 11–5 | Station: 6 to 77th St.
Mitchell-Innes & Nash.
This sleek spot represents the estates of Roy Lichtenstein, Alberto Burri, Nancy Graves, and Jack Tworkov as well as other Impressionist, modern, and contemporary masters. | 1018 Madison Ave., between 78th and 79th sts., Upper East Side | 212/744–7400 | www.miandn.com | Free | Weekdays 10–5 | Station: 6 to 77th St.
Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden.
Built in 1799, this former carriage house became a day hotel (a sort of country club) in 1826. Now restored and owned by the Colonial Dames of America, it provides a glimpse of the days when the city ended at 14th Street and this area was a country escape for New Yorkers. A 45-minute tour (the only way to see the museum and garden) passes through the eight rooms that display furniture and artifacts of the Federal and Empire periods. Many rooms have real artifacts such as clothes, hats, and fans that children can handle. There is a lovely adjoining garden, designed in an 18th-century style. Tours are on demand and can be geared to specific interests. Arrive at least a half hour before closing time to allow for tour. | 421 E. 61st St., between York and 1st aves., Upper East Side | 212/838–6878 | www.mvhm.org | $8 | Tues.–Sun. 11–4 | Station: 4, 5, 6 to 59th St.; N, Q, R to Lexington Ave./59th St.
Museum of American Illustration.
Founded in 1901, the museum of the Society of Illustrators presents its annual “Oscars,” a juried international competition, from January to March. The best in children’s book illustration is showcased October through November. In between are eclectic exhibitions on science fiction, fashion, politics, and history illustrations. In 2012, the Society of Illustrators incorporated the holdings of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) into its collections. MoCCA’s collection is housed in its own gallery on the second floor and continues its workshops, programs, and comic festival (MoCCA Fest). TIP Admission is free on Tuesday 5–8. | 128 E. 63rd St., between Lexington and Park aves., Upper East Side | 212/838–2560 | www.societyillustrators.org | $10 | Tues. 10–8, Wed.–Fri. 10–5, Sat. noon–4 | Station: F to Lexington Ave./63rd St.; 4, 5, 6 to 59th St.; N, Q, R to Lexington Ave./59th St.
Peter Findlay Gallery.
Covering 19th- and 20th-century works by European artists, this gallery shows pieces by Mary Cassatt, Paul Klee, and Alberto Giacometti. | 16 E. 79th St., 2nd fl., Upper East Side | 212/644–4433 | www.findlay.com | Weekdays 1:30–5 | Station: 6 to 77th St.
The 2-mile-long East River slice of land that parallels Manhattan from 48th to 85th streets is now a quasi-suburb of more than 12,000 people, and the vestiges of its infamous asylums, hospitals, and prisons make this an offbeat trip for the historically curious. At its southern tip are the eerie ruins of a Smallpox Hospital, built in 1854 in a Gothic Revival style by the prominent architect James Renwick Jr. (Among many other works, Renwick also designed St. Patrick’s Cathedral.) Neighboring the hospital ruins is the recently opened Four Freedoms Park, a memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt designed by famed architect Louis I. Kahn. The monument to President Roosevelt is essentially a large, open granite box with a giant bust of FDR, and a wall inscribed with the words of the wartime Four Freedoms speech. Visitors can stroll the stone walkways and the symmetrical tree-lined pebble paths that run along the manicured lawn and enjoy unique views of the United Nations and East River. Free guided walking tours of FDR Four Freedoms Park are available weekends at 1 pm on a first-come, first-served basis. At the island’s north tip, is a small park with a lighthouse built in 1872 by island convicts. You can get to the island by subway, but why would you when you can take the five-minute ride on the Roosevelt Island Tramway, the only commuter cable car in North America, which lifts you 250 feet in the air for impressive views of Queens and Manhattan. A visitor center (open May to September), made from an old trolley kiosk, stands to your left as you exit the tram. Free red buses service the island. | Tramway entrance, 2nd Ave. between 59th and 60th sts., Upper East Side | 212/688–4836 for visitor center | www.fdrfourfreedomspark.org | $2.75 (one-way subway fare) | Park Wed.–Mon. 9–5. Tram Sun.–Thurs. 6 am–2 am, Fri. and Sat. 6 am–3:30 am; leaves approximately every 15 mins | Station: F to Roosevelt Island.
Occupying its own 10-story building, this branch of the storied UK auction house is the site of more than a hundred high profile auctions a year. You don’t have to bid to view items on auction; most items are displayed for the general public in the days leading up to the event. A sizeable portion of these are extremely high profile: Edvard Munch’s The Scream, Paul Cezanne’s Les Pommes, a copy of the Magna Carta, Fabergé eggs, and rare Tiffany lamps have all been sold through this Sotheby’s. Call ahead for hours and check the website for current exhibitions. There have been rumors swirling around the possible sale of this building—and relocation of Sotheby’s headquarters to the Hudson Yards downtown—for years, check this out while you can.Tip: The top floor cafe has decent coffee, a terrace (weather permitting), and city views. | 1334 York Ave., at E. 72nd St., Upper East Side | 212/606–7000 | www.sothebys.com | Hours vary | Station: 6 to 68th St./Hunter College.
Van Doren Waxter.
The gallery formerly known as the Greenberg Van Doren Gallery changed its name and moved to this historic townhouse on a tree-lined street, just a block from the Met Museum’s new outpost at the former Whitney Museum. Solo and group shows of postwar artists as well as emerging young artists are exhibited here. | 23 E. 73rd St., between Madison and 5th aves., Upper East Side | 212/445–0444 | www.vandorenwaxter.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–6 | Station: 6 to 77th St.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting | Inwood
Updated by Jacinta O’Halloran
The Upper West Side is one of the city’s quieter, more residential neighborhoods, with wide sidewalks and a (relatively) slower pace. The Cloisters, in Inwood, has the Metropolitan Museum’s medieval collection.
The tree-lined side streets of the Upper West Side are lovely, with high stoops leading up to stately brownstones. Central Park, of course, is one of the main attractions here, no matter the season or time of day, though locals know that Riverside Park, along the Hudson River, can be even more appealing, withsmaller crowds.
The Upper West Side also has its share of cultural institutions, from the 16-acre Lincoln Center complex, to the impressive and quirky collection at the New-York Historical Society, to Columbus Circle’s Museum of Arts and Design and the much-loved American Museum of Natural History.
Most people think the area north of 106th Street and south of 125th Street on the West Side is just an extension of the Upper West Side. Technically it’s Morningside Heights, largely dominated by Columbia University along with a cluster of academic, religious, and medical institutions, including Barnard College and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
Broadway is one of the most walkable and interesting thoroughfares on the Upper West Side because of its broad sidewalks and aggressive mix of retail stores, restaurants, and apartment buildings. If you head north from the Lincoln Center area (around 65th Street) to about 81st Street (about 1 mile), you’ll get a feel for the neighborhood’s local color, particularly above 72nd Street. Up here you’ll encounter residents of every conceivable age and ethnicity either shambling or sprinting, street vendors hawking used and newish books, and such beloved landmarks as the 72nd Street subway station, the Beacon Theater, the produce mecca Fairway (the cause of perhaps the most perpetually congested block), and Zabar’s (a food spot that launches a memorable assault on all five of your senses—and your wallet). The Upper West Side’s other two main avenues—Columbus and Amsterdam—are more residential but also have myriad restaurants and shops.
If you’re intrigued by having the city’s only Ivy League school close at hand, hop the 1 train to 116th Street and emerge on the east side of the street, which puts you smack in front of Columbia University and its Graduate School of Journalism. Pass through the gates and up the walk for a look at a cluster of buildings so elegant you’ll understand why it’s an iconic NYC setting.
Strolling through Riverside Park past the boat basin
Exploring Central Park
Standing below the gigantic blue whale at the American Museum of Natural History
Taking in the views, gardens, and medieval masterpieces at the Cloisters Museum and Gardens
COFFEE AND QUICK BITES
In Columbus Circle’s busy Time Warner shopping center, this little bakery serves excellent sandwiches, quiches, pastries, and coffee. | Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, 3rd fl., Upper West Side | 212/823–9366 | www.thomaskeller.com | Station: 1, A, B, C, D to 59th St.–Columbus Circle.
Hungarian Pastry Shop.
Linger over a danish and bottomless cups of coffee with the Columbia kids and professors at this old-world (cash only) café and bakery. | 1030 Amsterdam Ave., at 111th St., Upper West Side | 212/866–4230 | Station: 1 to Cathedral Pkwy.–110th St.
Fast-track the Zabar’s experience with a gourmet coffee and sandwich, pickled lox, or slice of cheesecake. | 2245 Broadway, at 80th St., Upper West Side | 212/787–2000 | www.zabars.com | Station: 1 to 79th St.
The A, B, C, D, and 1 subway lines take you to Columbus Circle. From there, the B and C lines run along Central Park. The 1 train runs up Broadway, making local stops. The 2 and 3 are express trains that also go along Broadway.
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Fodor’s Choice | American Museum of Natural History.
The largest natural history museum in the world is also one of the most impressive sights in New York. Four city blocks make up its 45 exhibition halls, which hold more than 30 million artifacts from the land, sea, and outer space. With so many wonders, you can’t see everything on a single visit, but you can easily hit the highlights in half a day—some of which are described below.
The Rose Center for Earth and Space should not be missed. Dark Universe in the Hayden Planetarium, puts Hollywood effects to shame as it explores the cosmos and just how little we really know about it.
In 2012, after a $40 million renovation, the museum reopened its two-story Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, which includes the restored Central Park West entrance, the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda, and the reenvisioned Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall. The hall now includes a new bronze statue of a seated Roosevelt, a new bronze medallion in the floor, celebratory murals honoring the Conservation President, touchscreen timelines, film footage, and the restoration of the Hall of North American Mammals (the hall originally opened in 1942 and many of its displays feature scenes from National Parks that were signed into being by Roosevelt).
The museum’s Explorer app provides turn-by-turn directions so you can spend more time with the dinosaurs and less time wandering the museum’s four floors looking for a restroom. Other handy features include preloaded or customizable tours, an interactive fossil treasure hunt for kids, and social media integration. The museum also has companion apps to support popular exhibits. Download to your personal device or borrow one from the museum.
An amazing assembly of dinosaur and mammal fossils covers the entire fourth floor. The organization can be hard to grasp at first, so head to the Wallach Orientation Center, where a short film explains how each of the Fossil Halls leads into each other. Highlights include a T. rex, an Apatosaurus (formerly called a Brontosaurus), and the Buettneria, which resembles a modern-day crocodile. The specimens are not in chronological order, but put together based on their shared characteristics.
Head for the Reptiles and Amphibians Hall on the third floor to check out the Komodo dragon lizards and a 23-foot-long python skeleton. The weirdest display is the enlarged model of the Surinam toad Pipa pipa, whose young hatch from the female’s back. The Primates Hall carries brief but interesting comparisons between apes, monkeys, and humans. Also on the third floor is the upper gallery of the famed Akeley Hall of African Mammals.
The small Hall of Biodiversity includes a shady replica of a Central African Republic rain forest. Within a few yards are 160 species of flora and fauna—and also evidence of the forest’s destruction. Nearby, the Spectrum of Life Wall showcases 1,500 specimens and models, helping show just how weird life can get. The wall opens into the gaping Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, designed to give it an underwater glow and to show off the 94-foot model of a blue whale that’s suspended from the ceiling. The hall focuses on the vast array of life in the ocean that covers our planet.
If you’re hungry, there are several options in the museum, including a cafeteria ($) on the ground floor serves sandwiches and burgers. Kids love the animal- and planet-shaped cookies. The Petrie Court Café, at the back of the 1st floor European Sculpture Court, has waiter service. The Roof Garden (open May–Oct.) has contemporary sculpture exhibits but most people take the elevator here to have a drink or snack while checking out the views of Central Park and the skyline. | Central Park W. at W. 79th St., Upper West Side | 212/769–5100 | www.amnh.org | $22 suggested donation, includes admission to Rose Center for Earth and Space; $27 includes an IMAX or space show | Daily 10–5:45 | Station: B, C to 81st St./Museum of Natural History.
Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.
The largest Gothic-style cathedral in the world, even with its towers and transepts still unfinished, this divine behemoth comfortably asserts its bulk in the country’s most vertical city. The seat of the Episcopal diocese in New York, it acts as a sanctuary for all, giving special services that include a celebration of New York’s gay and lesbian community as well as the annual Blessing of the Bikes (mid-April), when cyclists of all faiths bring their wheels for a holy-water benediction. Built in two long spurts starting in 1892, the cathedral remains only two-thirds complete. What began as a RomanesqueByzantine–style structure under the original architects, George Heins and Christopher Grant Lafarge, shifted upon Heins’s death in 1911 to French Gothic under the direction of Gothic Revival purist Ralph Adams Cram. You can spot the juxtaposition of the two medieval styles by comparing the finished Gothic arches, which are pointed, with the still-uncovered arches, which are rounded in the Byzantine style.
To get the full effect of the cathedral’s size, approach it from Broadway along 112th Street. Above the 3-ton central bronze doors is the intricately carved Portal of Paradise, which depicts St. John witnessing the Transfiguration of Jesus, and 32 biblical characters. Step inside to the cavernous nave: more than 600 feet long, it holds some 5,000 worshippers, and the 162-foot-tall dome crossing could comfortably contain the Statue of Liberty (minus its pedestal). The Great Rose Window is the largest stained-glass window in the United States; it’s made from more than 10,000 pieces of colored glass.
At the end of the nave, surrounding the altar, are seven chapels expressing the cathedral’s interfaith tradition and international mission—with menorahs, Shinto vases, and dedications to various ethnic groups. The Saint Saviour Chapel contains a three-panel bronze altar in whitegold leaf with religious scenes by artist Keith Haring (his last work before he died in 1990). Outside in the cathedral’s south grounds is the eye-catching Peace Fountain. It depicts the struggle of good and evil in the form of the archangel Michael decapitating Satan, whose head hangs from one side. Encircling it are whimsical animals cast in bronze from pieces sculpted by children.
On the first Sunday of October, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, the church holds its usual Sunday service with a twist: the service is attended by men, women, children, dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, and the occasional horse, sheep, or ant farm. In past years upward of 3,500 New Yorkers have shown up to have their pets blessed. A procession is led by such guest animals as elephants, camels, llamas, and golden eagles. Sunday services are at 8, 9, 11, and 4. “Highlight Tours” and “Vertical Tours” are offered throughout the week; check the website for details and to reserve. | 1047 Amsterdam Ave., at 112th St., Upper West Side | 212/316–7540, 866/811–4111 for tour reservations | www.stjohndivine.org | $10 suggested donation; tours $8–$17 | Daily 7:30–6; Visitor Center daily 9–5; tours Mon. at 11 and 2, Tues.–Sat. at 11 and 1, Sun. at 1 | Station: 1 to Cathedral Pkwy.–110th St.
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Fodor’s Choice | Central Park.
Central Park’s creators had a simple goal: design a place where city dwellers can go to forget the city. Even though New York eventually grew far taller than the trees planted to hide it, this goal never falters. A combination escape hatch and exercise yard, Central Park is an urbanized Eden that gives residents and visitors alike a bite of the apple. Indeed, without the Central Park’s 843 acres of meandering paths, tranquil lakes, ponds, and open meadows, New Yorkers (especially Manhattanites) might be a lot less sane.
The busy southern section of Central Park, from 59th to 72nd Street, is where most visitors get their first impression. But no matter how many people congregate around here, you can always find a spot to picnic, ponder, or just take in the greenery, especially on a sunny day. Playgrounds, lawns, jogging and biking paths, and striking buildings populate the midsection of the park, from 72nd Street to the Reservoir. You can soak up the sun, have a picnic, have your photo taken at Bethesda Fountain, visit the penguins at the Central Park Zoo, or join the runners huffing counterclockwise on the dirt track that surrounds the reservoir. North of the reservoir and up to 110th Street, Central Park is less crowded and feels more rugged. Not many people know that there’s a swimming pool in the northeast corner of the park, which becomes a skating rink in winter—and it’s much less crowded than Volker Rink in the southern part of the park. To find out about park events and a variety of walking tours, visit the website of the Central Park Conservancy (below).
If you’re taking the subway to the park’s southernmost parts, then the stops at either Columbus Circle (at the west side) or 5th Ave./59th St. are handy. If headed for points north, the B, D, A, and C subway lines travel along Central Park West, while the 4,5, and 6 lines travel along Lexington Avenue, three blocks east of 5th Avenue and the park.
There are many paved pedestrian entrances into the park, from 5th Avenue, Central Park North (110th St.), Central Park West, and Central Park South (59th St.) Four roads, or transverses, cut through the park from east to west—66th, 79th, 86th, and 96th streets. The East and West drives are both along the north–south axis; Center Drive enters the south edge of the park at 6th Avenue and connects with East Drive around 66th Street. Along the main loop, lampposts are marked with location codes of a letter-always “E” (for east) or “W” (for west) followed by numbers, the first two of which tell you the nearest cross street. For example, E7803 means you’re near 78th Street; above 99, the initial “1” is omitted, so W0401 is near West 104th Street. Download the park’s free app in advance of your visit for a GPS-enabled map to help you navigate the park. The app—Central Park App—also includes an audio guide, self-guided tours, and current events in the park. If you haven’t packed a picnic, and you’re finding yourself in need of a snack, you can usually find one of those rather tired-looking food carts selling pretzels and ice cream sandwiches, but these days there are often more interesting, specialty food carts around, too—mostly in the southern half of the park—so keep your eyes and tastebuds on the lookout. Other reliable options include the café next to the Boathouse Restaurant (midpark at 74th Street), or the park’s branch of Le Pain Quotidien (mid-park at 69th Street). Both serve sandwiches, soup, pastries, and other satisfying on-the-go grub (and Le Pain also has free Wi-Fi). If you’re looking for something a little more iconic, you can stop for brunch, lunch, or dinner at the Tavern on the Green, which reopened in summer 2014.
As part of a park-wide restoration project, named Central Play, all 21 playgrounds will receive an update over the next few years. A playground at East 110th Street, in the park’s northeast corner, has already undergone renovation and features interconnected, circular spaces that have swings, play structures, and water features. The Wild West playground at West 93rd Street and the East 79th Street playground reopened in spring 2015 after a full renovation, and work continues throughout the park.
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Central Park Visitor Centers. Five Visitor Centers—the Dairy (mid-park at65th Street), Belvedere Castle (mid-park at 79th Street), the Chess & Checkers House (mid-park at64th St.), the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (at the top northeast corner of the park on the shore of Harlem Meer), and the North Meadow Recreation Center (mid-park, near 96th St.)—have directions, park maps, event calendars, and volunteers who can give you guidance. Central Park, 10022. 212/310–6600 Central Park Conservancy; 212/794–6564 Dairy Visitor Center. www.centralparknyc.org.
Strawberry Fields. This memorial to John Lennon, who penned the classic 1967 song “Strawberry Fields Forever,” is sometimes called the “international garden of peace.” The curving paths, shrubs, trees, and flower beds create a deliberately informal landscape reminiscent of English parks. Every year on December 8, Beatles fans mark the anniversary of Lennon’s death by gathering around the star-shape, black-and-white “Imagine” mosaic set into the pavement. Lennon’s 1980 murder took place across the street at the Dakota apartment building, where he lived. just off W. 72nd St., Central Park. Subway: B, C to 72nd St.
Great Lawn. This 14-acre oval has endured millions of footsteps, thousands of ball games, hundreds of downpours, dozens of concerts, and even the crush of one papal Mass. Yet it’s the stuff of a suburbanite’s dream—perfectly tended turf (a mix of rye and Kentucky bluegrass), state-of-the-art drainage systems, automatic sprinklers, and careful horticultural monitoring. The area hums with action on weekends and most summer evenings, when its softball fields and picnicking grounds provide a much-needed outlet for city folk (and city dogs) of all ages. Mid-park between 81st and 85th Sts., Central Park.
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Central Park Zoo. Even a leisurely visit to this small but delightful menagerie of more than 130 species takes only about an hour (unless, of course, you fall under the spell of the zoo’s adorable snow-leopard cub, Malala, born here in mid 2014). There’s no space for animals like zebras and giraffes to roam, and the biggest specimens here are Betty and Veronica—two lovable grizzly bears who joined the zoo in late 2014, but don’t miss the sea lion feedings, possibly the zoo’s most popular attractions, daily at 11:30, 2, and 4. Clustered around the central Sea Lion Pool are separate exhibits for each of the Earth’s major environments: penguins and polar bears live at Polar Circle; the highlights of the open-air Temperate Territory are the chattering monkeys; and the Rain Forest contains the flora and fauna of the tropics. The Tisch Children’s Zoo (no additional ticket required) gives kids the opportunity to feed sheep, goats, cows, and pigs. The 4-D theater ($7) shows15-minute-long family-friendly films like “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, the 4-D Experience” that feature sensory effects like wind, mist, bubbles, and scents. Entrance at 5th Ave. and E. 64th St., Central Park, 10021. 212/439–6500. www.centralparkzoo.org. $12; $18 Total Experience (includes 4-D show). Apr.–early Nov., weekdays 10–5, weekends 10–5:30; early Nov.–Mar., daily 10–4:30. Subway: 6 to 68th St./Hunter College; N, Q, R, to 5th Ave./59th St.; F to Lexington Ave./63rd St. Children under 12 not admitted without adult.
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Bethesda Fountain. Few New York views are more romantic than the one from the top of the magnificent stone staircase that leads down to the ornate, three-tiered Bethesda Fountain. The fountain was built to celebrate the opening of the Croton Aqueduct, which brought clean drinking water to New York City. The name Bethesda was taken from the biblical pool in Jerusalem that was supposedly given healing powers by an angel, which explains the statue The Angel of the Waters rising from the center. (The statue was designed by Emma Stebbins, the first woman to be commissioned for a major work of art in New York City, in 1868.) The four figures around the fountain’s base symbolize Temperance, Purity, Health, and Peace. Beyond the terrace stretches the lake, filled with swans, gondolas, and amateur rowboat captains. At its western end is the Boathouse, home of an outdoor café for on-the-go snacks, and a pricier restaurant for more leisurely meals. Mid-park at 72nd St. transverse, Central Park. Subway: B, C to 72nd St. | Central Park | 212/794–6564 Dairy visitor center, 212/360–2727 for schedule of walking tours, 646/310–6600 Central Park Conservancy | www.centralparknyc.org | Station: A, B, C, D, 1 to Columbus Circle; N, Q, R to 5th Ave.–59th St.
Central Park Visitor Centers. Five Visitor Centers—the Dairy (mid-park at 65th Street), Belvedere Castle (mid-park at 79th Street), the Chess & Checkers House (mid-park at 64th St.), the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (at the top northeast corner of the park, 110th St., on the shore of Harlem Meer), and the North Meadow Recreation Center (mid-park, near 97th St.)—have directions, park maps, event calendars, and volunteers who can give you guidance. | Central Park | 212/310–6600 Central Park Conservancy, 212/794–6564 Dairy Visitor Center | www.centralparknyc.org.
Strawberry Fields. This memorial to John Lennon, who penned the classic 1967 song “Strawberry Fields Forever,” is sometimes called the “international garden of peace.” The curving paths, shrubs, trees, and flower beds create a deliberately informal landscape reminiscent of English parks. Every year on December 8, Beatles fans mark the anniversary of Lennon’s death by gathering around the star-shape, black-and-white “Imagine” mosaic set into the pavement. Lennon’s 1980 murder took place across the street at the Dakota apartment building, where he lived. | just off W. 72nd St., Central Park | www.centralparknyc.org | Station: B, C to 72nd St.
Great Lawn. This 14-acre oval has endured millions of footsteps, thousands of ball games, hundreds of downpours, dozens of concerts, and even the crush attending one papal Mass. Yet it’s the stuff of a suburbanite’s dream—perfectly tended turf (a mix of rye and Kentucky bluegrass), state-of-the-art drainage systems, automatic sprinklers, and careful horticultural monitoring. The area hums with action on weekends and most summer evenings, when its softball fields and picnicking grounds provide a much-needed outlet for city folk (and city dogs) of all ages. | mid-park between 81st and 85th Sts., Central Park | www.centralparknyc.org | Station: B, C to 81st St./Museum of Natural History.
Central Park Zoo. Even a leisurely visit to this small but delightful menagerie of more than 130 species takes only about an hour (unless, of course, you fall under the spell of the zoo’s adorable snow-leopard cub, Malala, born here in mid 2014). There’s no space for animals like zebras and giraffes to roam, and the biggest specimens here are grizzly bears, but don’t miss the sea lion feedings, possibly the zoo’s most popular attraction, daily at 11:30, 2, and 4. Clustered around the central Sea Lion Pool are separate exhibits for each of the Earth’s major environments: penguins, puffins, and sea birdslive at Polar Circle; the highlights of the open-air Temperate Territory are the chattering monkeys; and the Rain Forest contains the flora and fauna of the tropics. The Tisch Children’s Zoo (no additional ticket required) gives kids the opportunity to feed sheep, goats, cows, and pigs. The 4-D theater ($7; for children 6 and up) shows fifteen-minute-long family friendly films like “Rio, The 4-D Experience” that feature sensory effects like wind, mist, bubbles, and scents. | Entrance at 5th Ave. and E. 64th St., Central Park | 212/439–6500 | www.centralparkzoo.org | $12; $18 Total Experience (includes 4-D show) | Apr.–early Nov., Mon.–Fri. 10–5, weekends 10–5:30; early Nov.–Mar., daily 10–4:30 | Children under 12 not admitted without adult | Station: 6 to 68th St./Hunter College; N, Q, R, to 5th Ave./59th St.; F to Lexington Ave./63rd St.
Bethesda Fountain. Few New York views are more romantic than the one from the top of the magnificent stone staircase that leads down to the ornate, three-tiered Bethesda Fountain. The fountain was built to celebrate the opening of the Croton Aqueduct, which brought clean drinking water to New York City. The name Bethesda was taken from the biblical pool in Jerusalem that was supposedly given healing powers by an angel, which explains the statue The Angel of the Waters rising from the center. (The statue was designed by Emma Stebbins, the first woman to be commissioned for a major work of art in New York City, in 1868.) The four figures around the fountain’s base symbolize Temperance, Purity, Health, and Peace. Beyond the terrace stretches the lake, filled with swans, gondolas, and amateur rowboat captains. At its western end is the Boathouse, home of an outdoor café for on-to-go snacks, and a pricier restaurant for more leisurely meals. | mid-park at 72nd St. transverse, Central Park | Station: B, C to 72nd St.
Fodor’s Choice | New-York Historical Society.
Manhattan’s oldest (and perhaps most under-the-radar) museum, founded in 1804, boasts one of the city’s finest research libraries in addition to a contemporary glass facade, sleek interactive technology, a children’s museum, restaurant, and inventive exhibitions that showcase the museum’s eclectic collections and unique voice. While the permanent collection of more than 6 million pieces of art, literature, and memorabilia sheds light on America’s history, art, and architecture, the special exhibitions showcase the museum’s fresh—and often surprising—insight on all things New York. The Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture (due to reopen in late 2016) will include a new Center for the Study of Women’s History, with permanent and rotating exhibits that examine and celebrate New York’s central role in women’s history, especially for New Yorkers like Eleanor Roosevelt, Zora Neale Hurston, and Margaret Sanger. The DiMenna Children’s History Museum on the lower level invites children to become “history detectives” and explore New York’s past through interactive displays, hands-on activities, and the stories of iconic New York children through the centuries. The Historical Viewfinder allows kids to see how certain New York sites have changed over time. Unlike most other childrens’ museums, this museum is geared to mature elementary and middle schoolers, not toddlers. Caffé Storico, the light-filled restaurant on the first floor (with a separate entrance), serves upscale Italian food at lunch and dinner and is open for weekend brunch. | 170 Central Park W, Upper West Side | 212/873–3400 | www.nyhistory.org | $19 (pay-as-you-wish Fri. 6–8 pm) | Tues.–Thurs. and Sat. 10–6, Fri. 10–8, Sun. 11–5 | Station: B, C to 81st St.–Museum of Natural History.
American Folk Art Museum.
After a near–death, or rather, near- debt experience in late 2011, the American Folk Art Museum left its home of 10 years on 53rd Street(since overtaken by MoMA) and returned to its humble rental near Lincoln Center. Here, the focus returns to its incredible collection of contemporary self-taught artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, including the single largest collection of reclusive Chicago artist Henry Darger, known for his painstakingly detailed collage paintings of fantasy worlds. Past exhibitions have included “Folk Couture: Fashion and Folk Art,” which featured the work of 13 established and emerging designers who created an original ensemble comprising paintings, sculptures, photographs, quilts, and furniture from the museum’s collection. The gift shop has an impressive collection of handcrafted items. | 2 Lincoln Sq., Columbus Ave. at 66th St., Upper West Side | 212/595–9533 | www.folkartmuseum.org | Free | Tues.–Thurs. and Sat. 11:30–7, Fri. noon–7, Sun. noon–6 | Station: 1 to 66th St.–Lincoln Center; A, B, C, D to 59th St.–Columbus Circle.
Children’s Museum of Manhattan.
In this five-story exploratorium, children ages 1–7 are invited to paint their own masterpieces, float boats down a “stream” (weather permitting), rescue animals with Dora and Diego (in an exhibition created in collaboration with Nickelodeon), and walk through giant interactive organs to explore the connections between food, sleep, and play. Special exhibits are thoughtfully put together and fun. Seasonal programs include a Grinch Holiday workshop. Art workshops, science programs, and storytelling sessions are held daily. Admission is free 5–8 pm on the first Friday of every month. | 212 W. 83rd St., between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave., Upper West Side | 212/721–1223 | www.cmom.org | $11 | Tues.–Fri. and Sun. 10–5, Sat. 10–7 | Station: 1 to 79th St.
This busy traffic circle at Central Park’s southwest corner anchors the Upper West Side and makes a good starting place for exploring the neighborhood if you’re coming from south of 59th Street. The central 700-ton granite monument (capped by a marble statue of Christopher Columbus) serves as a popular meeting place. To some people, Columbus Circle is synonomous with the Time Warner Center building (212/823–6300; www.theshopsatcolumbuscircle.com) and its several floors of shops and restaurants, including takeout-friendly Bouchon Bakery and Whole Foods—both perfect places to pick up picnic fixings to take to Central Park. It’s also home to the Rose Hall performing arts complex, part of Jazz at Lincoln Center. | Broadway at 58th St. to 60th St., Upper West Side | Station: 1, A, B, C, D to 59 St.–Columbus Circle.
One of the first residences built on the Upper West Side, the château-style Dakota (1884) remains an architectural fixture with its lovely gables, gaslights, copper turrets, and central courtyard. Celebrity residents have included Boris Karloff, Rudolf Nureyev, José Ferrer, Rosemary Clooney, Lauren Bacall, Leonard Bernstein, Gilda Radner, and Connie Chung, but none more famous than John Lennon, who in 1980 was shot and killed at the Dakota’s gate by a deranged fan. | 1 W. 72nd St., at Central Park W, Upper West Side | Station: B, C to 72nd St.
Grant’s Tomb (General Grant National Memorial.)
Walk through upper Riverside Park and you’re sure to notice this towering granite mausoleum (1897), the final resting place of Civil War general and two-term president Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia Dent Grant. As the old joke goes, who’s buried here? Nobody—they’re entombed in a crypt beneath a domed rotunda, surrounded by photographs and Grant memorabilia. Once a more popular sight than the Statue of Liberty, this pillared Classical Revival edifice feels more like a relic of yesteryear, but it remains a moving tribute. The words engraved on the tomb, “Let Us Have Peace,” recall Grant’s speech to the Republican convention upon his presidential nomination. Surrounding the memorial are the so-called “rolling benches,” which are swoopy and covered with colorful mosaic tiles that bring to mind the works of architect Antoni Gaudí’s Park Güell, in Barcelona. Made in the 1970s as a public art project, they are now as beloved as they are incongruous with the grand memorial they surround. Free public talks are available in the visitor center (across the street from the tomb), Thursday through Monday at 11:15, 1:15, and 3:15. | Riverside Dr. at 122nd St., Upper West Side | 212/666–1640 | www.nps.gov/gegr | Free | Wed.–Sun. 9–5 | Station: 1 to 116th St. St.
Museum of Arts and Design (MAD.)
In a funky-looking white building across from the Time Warner Center, the Museum of Arts and Design celebrates joyful quirkiness and personal, sometimes even obsessive, artistic visions. The art is human-scale here, much of it neatly housed in display cases rather than hanging on the walls, with a strong focus on contemporary jewelry, glass, ceramic, fiber, wood, and mixed-media works. Thursday evening is pay-what-you-wish. | 2 Columbus Circle, 59th St. at 8th Ave., Upper West Side | 212/299–7777 | www.madmuseum.org | $16 | Tues., Wed., and weekends 10–6, Thurs. and Fri. 10–9 | Station: 1, A, B, C, D to 59th St.–Columbus Circle.
Nicholas Roerich Museum.
An 1898 Upper West Side town house contains this small, eccentric museum dedicated to the work of Russian artist Nicholas Roerich, who immigrated to New York in the 1920s and quickly developed an ardent following. Some 200 of his paintings hang here—notably some vast canvases of the Himalayas. Free chamber music concerts are held most Sunday afternoons at 5, except in summer. | 319 W. 107th St., between Broadway and Riverside Dr., Upper West Side | 212/864–7752 | www.roerich.org | By donation | Tues.–Fri. noon–5, weekends 2–5 | Station: 1 to 110th St./Cathedral Pkwy.
Surrounded by concrete and skyscrapers in Manhattan, you might not realize that there is an expansive green space running along the water just blocks away. Riverside Park—which, along with the Riverside Park South extension, runs along the Hudson from 58th to 156th streets—dishes out a dose of tranquillity. The original sections of Riverside Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux of Central Park fame and laid out between 1873 and 1888, have a waterfront bike and walking paths. There are several access points to the park, including one at West 72nd Street and Riverside Drive (look for the statue of Eleanor Roosevelt), where you reach the waterfront path by an underpass beneath the West Side Highway. You can then head north along the Hudson River, past the 79th Street Boat Basin, where a flotilla of houseboats bobs in the water. Above it, a ramp leads to the Rotunda, home in summer to the Boat Basin Café, a dog-friendly open-air café that serves lunch and dinner in the warmer months (from March-ish through October). The 91st Street Garden, planted by community gardeners, explodes with flowers in most seasons and is a level up from the water: leave the riverside path near 92nd Street by taking another underpass and then heading up the path on the right. | From 58th to 156th St., between Riverside Dr. and the Hudson River, Upper West Side | www.nycgovparks.org/parks/riversidepark | Station: 1, 2, 3 to 72nd St.
The San Remo.
You’re likely to notice its twin towers rising above the trees in Central Park, looking like the fairy-tale spires of some urban palace, which it more or less is. Rita Hayworth, Paul Simon, Demi Moore, Glenn Close, Tiger Woods, Steve Jobs,and Steven Spielberg are among the celebrities who’ve resided in the 1930 building’s giant apartments. At their peaks, the towers recede into circular columned Greek temples (modeled after the cathedral in Seville, Spain). They make a useful “compass” if you get disoriented in Central Park and want to know which way is west. | 145 Central Park W, between W. 74th and W. 75th Sts., Upper West Side | Station: B, C to 72nd St.
Well north of Harlem, at the very northern tip of Manhattan, Inwood is essentially the upper Upper West Side, with Fort Tryon Park lying just to it’s south.
The Cloisters Museum and Gardens.
Perched on a wooded hill in Fort Tryon Park, near Manhattan’s northwestern tip, the Cloisters Museum and Gardens houses the medieval collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is a scenic destination in its own right. Colonnaded walks connect authentic French and Spanish monastic cloisters, a French Romanesque chapel, a 12th-century chapter house, and a Romanesque apse. One room is devoted to the 15th- and 16th-century Unicorn Tapestries, which date to 1500—a must-see masterpiece of medieval mythology. The tomb effigies are another highlight. Two of the three enclosed gardens shelter more than 250 species of plants similar to those grown during the Middle Ages, including flowers, herbs, and medicinals; the third is an ornamental garden planted with both modern and medieval plants, providing color and fragrance from early spring until late fall. Concerts of medieval music are held here regularly (concert tickets include same-day admission to the museum). The outdoor Trie Café is open 10 to 4:15 Tuesday through Sunday, from April to October, and serves sandwiches, coffee, and snacks. Admission includes same-day entry to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s main building on 82nd Street. | 99 Margaret Corbin Dr., Fort Tryon Park, Upper West Side | 212/923–3700 | www.metmuseum.org | $25 suggested donation | Mar.–Oct., daily 10–5:15; Nov.–Feb., daily 10–4:45 | Station: A to 190th St.
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Top Attractions | Worth Noting
Updated by Anuja Madar
Harlem is known throughout the world as a center of AfricanAmerican culture, music, and life. The neighborhood invites visitors to see historic jewels such as the Apollo Theater, architecturally splendid churches, cultural magnets like the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, as well as an ongoing list of new and renovated sites and buildings.
Harlem’s 125th Street is at the heart of the neighborhood. Bill Clinton’s New York office is at 55 West 125th Street, and the legendary Apollo Theater stands at No. 253. A large number of chains (Starbucks, Red Lobster, H&M) makes it hard to distinguish 125th Street from the city’s other heavily commercialized areas, but there are still a few things that set it apart: an energy created by sidewalk vendors hawking bootleg DVDs, incense, and African shea butter; impromptu drum circles; and some of the best people-watching in Manhattan.
To get a feel for Harlem, spend time visiting its past and present. On 116th Street, particularly between St. Nicholas and Lenox avenues (Malcolm X Boulevard), you’ll find some of the area’s most interesting religious buildings, from ornate churches to a green-domed mosque.
Along Lenox Avenue and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, between 110th and 130th streets are restaurants, bars, and a few boutiques offering everything from bespoke cocktails and live music to Harlem-inspired gifts and high-end menswear.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR TIME
Harlem’s simplest pleasures are free. Take time to walk the areas around Strivers’ Row, Hamilton Heights, Sugar Hill, and 116th Street to see some impressive—and often fanciful—architecture. Hear the sweet sounds of a choir practice as you stroll by any of Harlem’s churches (which number in the hundreds). See well-curated exhibits showcasing the work of contemporary artists of African descent at the Studio Museum in Harlem (open Thursday–Sunday), or visit the Morris-Jumel Mansion for a trip back in time to colonial New York.
Shopping at the monthly Sugar Hill Market
Visiting the Studio Museum in Harlem
COFFEE AND QUICK BITES
From coffee and cakes to breads and scones, this bakery has something for every sweet tooth. It’s the cookies, however, that make them famous. Choose from varieties such as chocolate chip walnut and dark-chocolate chocolate chip; they’re big enough to share, but after one bite you may not want to. | 2167 Frederick Douglass Blvd., between 116th and 117th sts., Harlem | 646/455–0952 | www.levainbakery.com | Station: B, C to 116th St.
It may be on a quiet corner, but this coffee shop is always buzzing. The vintage-inspired space appeals to laptop-toting locals with a large communal table, tufted leather couches, and free Wi-Fi. The super-friendly staff, Intelligentsia coffee, and gourmet pastries make this a neighborhood favorite. | 142 Edgecombe Ave., at 142nd St., Harlem | 646/781–9900 | www.manhattanvillecoffee.com | Station: A, B, C, D to 145th St.; B, C to 135th St.
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
The 2 and 3 subway lines stop on Lenox Avenue; the 1 goes along Broadway, to the west; and the A, B, C, and D trains travel along St. Nicholas and 8th avenues. And yes, as the song goes, the A train is still usually “the quickest way to Harlem.”
The city’s north–south avenues take on different names in Harlem: 6th Avenue is called both Malcolm X Boulevard and Lenox Avenue; 7th Avenue is Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (named for the influential minister and congressman); and 8th Avenue is Frederick Douglass Boulevard. West 125th Street, the major east–west street and Harlem’s commercial center, is also known as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
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To taste this neighborhood’s Harlem Renaissance days, walk down tree-lined Convent Avenue and cross over to Hamilton Terrace to see a time capsule of elegant stone rowhouses in mint condition. One of the neighborhood’s most beautiful blocks, it’s popular with film and TV crews. The Hamilton Grange National Memorial, founding father Alexander Hamilton’s Federal-style mansion, resides at the southern end of the block, on 141st Street. Turn west and continue down Convent Avenue to see the looming Gothic spires (1905) of City College. The stately Oxford-inspired buildings here are New York to the core: they are clad with the schist rock unearthed when the city was building the IRT line (1 train). Next, head southwest to visit Strivers’ Row. | Convent Ave., between 138th and 150th sts., Harlem | Station: A, B, C, D to 145th St.
Harlem Gospel Tours
For the past decade, the popularity of Sunday gospel tours has surged. While some in the community see it as an opportunity to broaden horizons and encourage diversity, others find tours disruptive and complain that tourists take seats away from regular parishioners (churches regularly fill to capacity). If you plan on attending a service, here are some tips:
Most churches have Sunday services at 11, but you may need to arrive as much as two hours early (depending on the church) to get in. Dress nicely (no shorts, sneakers, or jeans); be as quiet as possible; do not leave in the middle of the service; and do not take photos or videos or use your cell phone. Most important, remember that parishioners do not consider the service, or themselves, tourist attractions or entertainment.
A bus tour is generally an inauthentic (and more expensive) way to experience Harlem. Explore the neighborhood and churches on your own, or join a small tour like those led by Harlem Heritage Tours (212/280–7888; www.harlemheritage.com). Their tours ($39) get high marks from past clients and are run by guides who were born and raised in Harlem.Groups are no larger than 25 people.
The following are some of the uptown churches with Sunday services:
Abyssinian Baptist Church (132 W. 138th St., between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. and Lenox Ave.; 212/862–7474; www.abyssinian.org) is one of the few churches that does not allow tour groups. Service for visitors is at 11;arrive at least two hours ahead of time. Canaan Baptist Church of Christ (132 W. 116th St., between Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. blvds.; 212/866–0301; www.cbccnyc.org) has service at 10. Convent Avenue Baptist Church (420 W. 145th St., between Convent and St. Nicholas aves.; 212/234–6767; www.conventchurch.org) has services at 8, 11, and 5. First Corinthian Baptist Church (1912 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.,at 7th Ave.; 212/864–5976; www.fcbcnyc.org) has services at 7:30, 9:30, and 11:30.
Greater Refuge Temple (2081 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., at 124th St.; 212/866–1700; www.greaterrefugetemple.org) has services at 11, 4, and 7:30. Memorial Baptist Church (141 W. 115th St., between Malcolm X and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. blvds.; 212/663–8830; www.mbcvisionharlem.org) has service at 11.
During the Revolutionary War, General Washington used this wooden, pillared 8,500-square-foot house (1765) as his headquarters, and when he visited as president in 1790, he brought along John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton. Inside are rooms furnished with period decorations; upstairs, keep an eye out for the hand-painted wallpaper (original to the house) and a “commode chair,” stuck in a corner of the dressing room. Outside, behind the house, is a Colonial-era marker that says it’s 11 miles to New York—a reminder of what a small sliver of Manhattan the city was at that time. East of the house is the block-long Sylvan Terrace, a row of crisp two-story clapboard houses built in 1882. | 65 Jumel Terr., north of 160th St., between St. Nicholas and Edgecome aves., Harlem | 212/923–8008 | www.morrisjumel.org | $5; guided tour $6 | Tues.–Sun. 10–4; guided tours Sat. at noon | Station: C to 163rd St.
This block of gorgeous 1890s Georgian and Italian Renaissance Revival homes earned its nickname in the 1920s from less affluent Harlemites who felt its residents were “striving” to become well-to-do. Some of the few remaining private service alleys, used when deliveries arrived via horse and cart, lie behind these houses and are visible through iron gates. Note the gatepost between nos. 251 and 253 on 138th Street that reads, “Private Road. Walk Your Horses.” These houses were built by the contractor David H. King Jr., whose works also include the base for the Statue of Liberty and the oldest parts of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. When they failed to sell to whites, the properties on these blocks were sold to AfricanAmerican doctors, lawyers, and other professionals; composers and musicians W. C. Handy and Eubie Blake were also among the residents. If you have the time, detour a block north to see the palazzo-style group of houses designed by Stanford White, on the north side of 139th Street. | 138th and 139th sts., between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Frederick Douglass blvds., Harlem | Station: B, C to 135th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Studio Museum in Harlem.
Contemporary art by AfricanAmerican, Caribbean, and African artists is the focus of this small museum with a light-filled sculpture garden. Three artists in residence present their works each year, and summer hosts the lively Uptown Fridays! featuring DJs, cocktails, and a fashionable crowd. The gift shop is small but packs a lot of punch; don’t miss its fantastic collection of coffee table books. | 144 W. 125th St., between Lenox Ave. and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., Harlem | 212/864–4500 | www.studiomuseum.org | $7 suggested donation (free Sun.) | Thurs. and Fri. noon–9, Sat. 10–6, Sun. noon–6 | Station: 2, 3 to 125th St.
Fodor’s Choice | Sugar Hill Market.
This monthly market, held on the ground floor of an art gallery’s brownstone space, features a mostly consistent roster of Harlem-based designers. Expect to find handmade items including vegan soaps, pottery, gourmet jams, and clothing fusing modern silhouettes with Ghanaian fabrics. The market’s founder (who happens to have a fashion background) creates limited-edition Harlem T-shirts that make great souvenirs. | La Maison d’Art, 259 W. 132nd St., between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. blvds. | Located on the ground floor of a brownstone; look for the sandwich board on the sidewalk | sugarhillmarketnyc.blogspot.com | Date and location of market varies, so check the website before visiting | Station: A, B, C, 2, 3 to 135th St.
Harlem’s Jazz Age
It was in Harlem that Billie Holiday got her first singing job, Duke Ellington made his first recording, and Louis Armstrong was propelled to stardom. Jazz was king during the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and ‘30s, and though Chicago and New Orleans may duke it out for the “birthplace of jazz” title, New York was where jazz musicians came to be heard.
In the 1920s, socialites made the trek uptown to Harlem’s Cotton Club and Connie’s Inn (131st Street and 7th Avenue) to hear “black” music. Both clubs were white-owned and barred blacks from entering, except as performers. (The rules changed years later.) Connie’s introduced New Yorkers to Louis Armstrong. The Cotton Club—Harlem’s most popular nightspot by far—booked such big names as Fletcher Henderson, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Ethel Waters. After shows ended at the paying clubs, musicians would head to after-hours establishments with black patrons, such as Small’s Paradise, Minton’s Playhouse (which reopened in 2013), and Basement Brownies, where they’d hammer out new riffs into the wee hours.
The Butcher’s Daughter.
After five years in Detroit, Monica Bowman (yes, she really is a butcher’s daughter) moved her gallery to this quiet block in Harlem. The glass-front space is minimal, allowing the exhibits, which change every six weeks and showcase emerging and established fine artists from across the U.S., to really shine. | 318 W. 142nd St., between Edgecombe Ave. and Frederick Douglass Blvd. | 917/634–1354 | www.thebutchersdaughtergallery.com | Free | Tues.–Sat. 11–6 | Station: A, B, C, D to 145th St.
Gitler & _____.
This sliver of a gallery gets its name from owner and curator Avi Gitler, who uses the tight space to showcase up-and-coming artists from around the world and across genres. | 3629 Broadway, between 149th and 150th sts. | No phone | email@example.com | www.gitlerand.com | Free | Weekends 1–6, Mon. 3–8 | Station: 1 to 145th St.
Hamilton Grange National Memorial.
Founding father Alexander Hamilton and his wife raised eight kids in this Federal-style country home, which he called his “sweet project.” Located on Hamilton’s 32 acres, the Grange, named after his father’s childhood home in Scotland, has moved three times since it was built in 1802. It now stands in St. Nicholas Park and gives a lesson in Hamilton’s life, from his illegitimate birth in the West Indies and his appointment as the nation’s first Secretary of Treasury to his authorshipon The Federalist Papers and his death following a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. The house’s ground floor, formerly servants quarters, hosts an interactive exhibit that includes a short film on Hamilton’s life. Upstairs a parlor, study, dining room, and two guest rooms are open to view; note the beautiful piano, which belonged to his daughter Angelica. | 414 W. 141st St., between St. Nicholas and Convent aves., Harlem | 646/548–2310 | www.nps.gov/hagr/index.htm | Free | Wed.–Sun. 9–5 | Self-guided tours of the furnished rooms 9–10, noon–1, and 3–4 only; 30-min ranger-led tours at 10, 11, 2, and 4 | Station: 1 to 137th St.–City College; A, B, C, D to 145th St.
Fodor’s Choice | The Hispanic Society of America Museum and Library.
This is the best collection of Hispanic and Spanish art outside El Prado in Madrid, with paintings, sculptures, textiles, manuscripts, music, and decorative arts from ancient Iberia through the 20th century. On the first floor, Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida’s Vision of Spain fills the entire Sala Bancaja; stand in the middle and admire the 13 massive, colorful paintings, capturing everything from Holy Week penitents to fishermen in Catalonia. A smaller room houses intricately carved marble pieces from bishops’ tombs. Upstairs, there’s a room filled with antique iron doorknockers, two rooms of earthenware from Spain and Mexico, and notable pieces by Goya, El Greco, Murillo, Velázquez, and Zurbarán. The entrance is on Broadway, between 155th and 156th streets, up the steps to the left. | Audubon Terr., 613 W. 155th St., Harlem | 212/926–2234 | www.hispanicsociety.org | Free | Tues.–Sat. 10–4:30, Sun. 1–4 | Station: 1 to 157th St.
Marcus Garvey Park.
At the center of this historic, tree-filled public square, atop a 70-foot-high outcrop of Manhattan schist (the same bedrock that anchors our skyscrapers) stands a 47-foot cast-iron watchtower (Julius Kroehl, 1865), the last remnant of a citywide network used to spot and report fires in pre-telephone days. Around it, an Acropolis provides great views of Manhattan and the handsome neo-Classical row houses of Mount Morris Park Historic District, which extends west from the park. In summer, check out musical and stage performances at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater and the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival (last weekend of August). | Madison Ave., between W. 120th and W. 124th Sts., Harlem | www.nycgovparks.org/parks/marcus-garvey-park | Station: 2, 3 to 125th St.
Masjid Malcolm Shabazz (Mosque Talk about religious conversions. In the mid-’60s, the Lenox Casino was transformed into this house of worship and cultural center, and given bright yellow arches and a huge, green onion dome that loudly proclaims its presence in a neighborhood of churches. Once functioning as Temple No. 7 under the Nation of Islam with a message of pro-black racism, the mosque was bombed after the assassination of Malcolm X, who had preached here. It was then rebuilt and renamed in honor of the name Malcolm took at the end of his life, El-Hajj Malik Shabazz; its philosophy now is one of inclusion. These days the Sunni congregation has a large proportion of immigrants from Senegal, many of whom live in and around 116th Street. Next door is Graceline Court, a 16-story luxury condominium building that cantilevers somewhat awkwardly over the mosque. Farther east on 116th Street is the outdoor Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market, where you can find African and African-inspired jewelry, art, clothing, and fabrics. On weekends with nice weather more vendors open. | 102 W. 116th St., at Malcolm X Blvd., Harlem | 212/662–2200 | www.masjidmalcolmshabazz.com | Station: 2, 3 to 116th St.
Standing on the bluff of Sugar Hill overlooking Jackie Robinson Park, outside the slightly run-down 409 Edgecombe Ave., you’d never guess that here resided such influential African Americans as NAACP founder W.E.B. DuBois and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, or that farther north at 555 Edgecombe (known as the “Triple Nickel”), writers Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston and jazz musicians Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and others lived and played. It’s also here that for nearly 20 years musician Marjorie Eliot has been hosting jazz concerts in her apartment, 3F, at 3:30 pm every Sunday. Farther down, at No. 345, you can’t miss the Benzinger House with its flared mansard roof. Amid all this history, the modern-looking Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling, at 155th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, is set to open in spring 2015. Its design has earned it the nickname “the Sugar Cube Building.”|From 145th to 155th sts., between Edgecombe and St. Nicholas aves., Harlem | Station: A, B, C, D to 145th St.
Tatiana Pagés Gallery.
This Chilean-born, Dominican Republic–raised designer and collector doesn’t have a long commute to work—she lives next door to her namesake gallery. Set on an unsuspecting corner near Strivers’ Row, the gallery (Pagés’s first) exhibits contemporary art and design, with an emphasis on Caribbean and Latin American art | 2605 Frederick Douglasa Blvd., at 139th St. | 646/415–8093 | www.tatianapagesgallery.com | Free | Tues.–Fri. 11–7, Sat. 12–7 | Station: A, B, C, D to 145th St.; B, C to 135th St.