When you think of a perfect get-away, the Caribbean or a sunny destination probably comes to mind. But rather than planning a basking-in-the-sun-vacation, consider heading North and East–New York City, to be exact. You may not be able to take long walks on a white sandy beach, but you are guaranteed an exciting time with plenty to do and see. New York is much more than skyscrapers, lavish hotels, flagship department stores and neon lights.
For nine years I have lived in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper West Side. As a writer working from home, I have had the luxury of exploring the diverse neighborhoods of this 23.7 sq. mile island. The brownstone lined streets and quaint cafes of Greenwich Village; the specialty art galleries and chic boutiques of Soho; the hustle and bustle of people filling their bags with organic produce at the Green Market in Union Square; the fresh-baked pastries and fully-stocked cook shops of Little Italy and the lively, hip nightlife of Meatpacking are just some of the countless sights and sounds experienced in New York’s forever blossoming areas. Regardless of the season, wandering around it’s impossible not to stumble across street vendors, unusual sights and hidden treasures. With so much to choose from, here is an an insider’s view of some great indoor sights to see when the temperature rises.
The Upper East Side stretch of Fifth Avenue from 105th Street to 82nd Street houses a bevy of world-class museums. Bundle up and spend the day museum-hopping. Even on the coldest of days darting from one museum to another will make the blustery weather tolerable. Here are some of the museums worth a stop:
Museum of the City of New York
looks at life in New York City dating from the mid-18th century to the present. The museum showcases three floors of ongoing and temporary exhibitions featuring clothing, photographs, paintings and costumes from Broadway musicals. There is also a 25 minute film, presented on three screens, documenting the city’s history. 1220 Fifth Ave and 103rd Street. (212) 534-1672.
Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
is devoted to historic and contemporary design. The mu-seum holds more than 250,000 objects, including drawings, wall coverings, prints, textiles, furniture, metalwork, ceramics, glass and woodwork. 2 E. 91st Street. (212) 849-8400.
focuses on 4,000 years of art and Jewish culture. Their permanent collection includes fine arts, broadcast media materials, textiles, and Judaica. Housed in a mansion, some of the artifacts were gathered from European syna-gogues right before World War II. An exhibit by impressionist artist Pissarro can be seen until February 3rd. 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street. (212) 423-3200.
, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the late 1940’s, is a stunning, spiral-shaped structure featuring works by some of last century’s greatest artists. From Jackson Pollack to Pablo Picasso and Paul Cezanne there is a lot worth seeing. 1071 Fifth Avenue. (212) 423-3500.
is dedicated to German and Austrian Art, including paintings, etchings, photographs and decorative art. Eight paintings and more than 150 drawings by the controversial artist Gustav Klimt are on display. On the first floor Café Sabarsky serves breakfast lunch and dinner and offers Viennese specialties, such as Hungarian beef goulash, sausage, spatzle, apple strudel and Linzertorte. They don’t take reservations, but the charming ambiance, views of Central Park and scrumptious dishes make waiting worthwhile. 1048 Fifth Avenue at 86th Street. (212) 628-6200.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
is the mega museum on the mile, displaying art dating back thousands of years. Choose from mummies, armor, Impressionists and Renaissance paintings, Egyptian tombs, Asian art, tapestries, and much more. Any visitor to New York should have no trouble finding a collection to suit their interests. Stop by the gift shop at the Met&;the selection is vast. 1000 Fifth Avenue between 80th and 84th Street. (212) 535-7710.
Off the Mile
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
offers guided tours of restored apartments once occupied by working class European immigrant families in the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s. The Eastern European Jewish Levine family who ran a garment business in their apartment, and the Italian Catholic Baldizzi family, are two of the residents’ dwellings that can be seen. While in the neighborhood if you are craving authentic Jewish food after learning about the immigrant experience, head to Russ and Daughters, famous for a large selection smoked fish, herring, caviar, and homemade salads. A family run restaurant, they first opened their doors in 1914, after selling their delicious spreads and smoked appetizers from a pushcart. (179 E. Houston Street.) Or, visit Yonah Schimmel’s Knishes, for a Kosher, piping hot, melt in your mouth, potato treat. (137 E. Houston.) Tenement Museum is located at 108 Orchard Street. (212) 431-0233.
is off the beaten path for most tourists, but a favorite among New Yorkers. From bakeries to culinary food shops, this historical indoor concourse occupying one city block is a great place to eat and shop. Hale and Hearty Soups, located in the market, may hit the spot for an inexpensive warm lunch. (It’s take-out but there are tables in the market to sit and eat.) For sweet treats, walk into the Fat Witch Bakery or Sarabeth’sÛyou won’t be disappointed. You even may want to stop at the Chelsea Wine Vault for a tasting or shop at Marrakesh, specializing in Moroccan decorative art and design. 75 Ninth Avenue between 15th and 16th Street. (212) 243-6005.
Chelsea Piers & Entertainment Complex
is the place to be if you want to get physical. This 28-acre waterfront sports village has batting cages, indoor rock climbing, ice skating, areas for indoor soccer, basketball, bowling, heated golf driving range, a health club and more. There are four restaurants and it’s also home of the Silver Screen Studios, where Law and Order, Law and Order Criminal Intent and CSTV are taped. Between 17th and 23rd Streets along the Hudson River. (212) 336-6000.
American Museum of Natural History
is one of the most comprehensive and innovative natural history museums in the country, geared for kids and adults, with more than 30 million artifacts on display. Divided into ìHallsî, visitors can see dinosaurs, fossils, African mammals; learn about human biology, evolution, North American forests, Planet Earth, and much more. There is space show at the Hayden Planetarium. The museum has a few cafes and a food court. Central Park West between 77th and 81th Street. (212) 769-5100.
More Must Sees
Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center
is one of the leading opera houses in the world, adorned with a stately staircase, murals by Marc Chagall and crystal chandiellers. Backstage tours are offered to parts of the Met that aren’t seen by the general public. For tour information call (212) 769-7020. This winter season, Macbeth, Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Carmen are some of the great operas being performed. West 64th Street and Columbus Avenue. (212) 362-6000.
A Broadway or Off-Broadway
show should be a must, as no visitor should head back home without seeing a New York theater production. The marquis’ are looking like Hollywood billboards, with big time film stars performing in some of the hottest musicals and plays. To see what’s available, check out The New York Times or New York Magazine, or log on to broadway.com or playbill.com. Oftentimes sold-out shows have last minute availability if you go to the box office. While ticket prices aren’t cheap, musicals averaging $120, there are deals available. TKTS Discount Booths, located in Times Square and the South Street Seaport, offer tickets up to 50% off for dozens of productions everyday. Most shows also offer standing room at the back of the main floor at lower rates.
Time Warner Center
is a cultural center skyscraper building offering fine dining and casual restaurants, upscale shops, Borders Books, Whole Foods Market, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, luxury condominiums, offices and Time Warner World Headquarters. It is also the home of CNN studio in New York, where Anderson Cooper and Lou Dobbs broadcast live. Often there is an art exhibit taking place in the Center. 10 Columbus Circle, at West 60th Street. (212) 823-6000.
Grand Central Terminal
opened in 1913 and is much more than a train station–it’s one of the city’s greatest landmarks. Recently renovated, this station that serves as a hub for commuters, is adorned with elegant melon-shaped chandeliers, marble floors, two grand staircases, monumental windows and a constellation ceiling. The market place, that sells everything from cheeses to seafood to chocolates to breads, is located on the east side of the terminal. There is also a food court, shops, restaurants, beauty supplies and lounges within the complex. The Municipal Art Society offers a free tour every Wednesday at 12:30 pm, meeting at the clock in the center of the main concourse. The Grand Central Partnership gives a free tour on Friday at 12:30, meeting in front of the Altria Building on 42nd St. and Park Avenue. The terminal main entrance is East 42nd Street and Park Avenue.
The Paley Center for Media
(formerly known as the Museum of Television and Radio) houses a collection of over 100,000 TV and radio shows spanning almost 100 year. Available for viewing and listening either individually or with a group, choose from news, documentaries, performing arts programs, reality, animation, children's shows, sports, comedy and variety shows. 25 West 52nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. (212) 621-6800.
New Yorkers’ Favorite Eateries
There are over 18,000 restaurants in New York City, from cheap eats to extravagant dining. Below are five favorites among New Yorkers--where you don’t have to mortgage your home to dine:
It’s a large hopping French bistro in the heart of the cobblestone street Meatpacking District. This high-energy in-spot serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and provides consistently tasty fare, including a steak sandwich with grilled onions and gruyere cheese, grilled chicken and fresh fish. It is great for both eating and people-watching. 9 Ninth Avenue at Little W 12th St. (212) 929-4844
Reservations at a decent dinner hour at Nobu are difficult to get unless you phone one month ahead, but if you are looking for a top-notch Japanese restaurant, it’s worth putting the call on your calendar. With the savory fresh seafood, sashimi and sushi along with a large selection of hot and cold dishes, it’s no wonder it is one of New York’s most desirable places to dine. 105 Hudson Street (212) 219-0500.
This well-priced bare-bones Greenwich Village Italian eatery serves fresh pasta combinations. It can be cramped, and you may have to wait to be seated, but the food never fails. 268 Sixth Avenue. (212) 982-3300.If you are searching for a quintessential only in New York inexpensive but wildly unique, irresistible place to eat, consider:
Peanut Butter & Co
For more comfort food, stop by this small Greenwich Village café offering unusual peanut butter combination sandwiches. A grilled peanut Butter sandwich stuffed with bananas and honey, or ground peanut butter with Marshmallow fluff or peanut butter with chicken and pineapple jam, are a few combos that have visitors coming back for more. 240 Sullivan Street. (212) 677-3995.
Don’t bother counting your calories at this all-American East Village eatery serving a variety of macaroni and cheese combos in sizzling skillets. Muenster and American with a touch of gorgonzola and sharp cheddar, or Gruyere with a slab of bacon, are two favorites. 345 East 12th Street between First and Second Avenue. (212) 358-7912.