Good to know - things to do
Time Out: New York Sightseeing
The southern tip of Manhattan has always been the city’s financial, legal and political powerhouse. It’s where New York began, and where the 19th-century influx of immigrants injected the city with new energy. Yet with much of it off the Big Apple’s orderly grid, Downtown doesn’t conform to standard. Here, the landscape shifts from block to block. In the Financial District, gleaming towers rub shoulders with 18th-century landmarks; Tribeca’s haute dining spots are only a short hop from Chinatown’s frenetic food markets; and around the corner from the clubs of the Meatpacking District, affluent West Villagers walk their French bulldogs.
It’s easy to forget Manhattan is an island—what with all those pesky skyscrapers obscuring your view of the water. Until, that is, you reach the southern tip, where salty ocean breezes are reminders of the millions of immigrants who traveled on steamers in search of prosperity, liberty and a new home. This is where they landed, after passing through Ellis Island’s immigration and quarantine centers. On the edge of Battery Park, Castle Clinton was one of several forts built to defend New York Harbor against attacks by the British in the War of 1812 (others included Castle Williams on Governors Island, Fort Gibson on Ellis Island and Fort Wood, now the base of the Statue of Liberty). After serving as an aquarium, immigration center and opera house, the sandstone fort is now a visitors’ center and ticket booth for Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tours. The park is a key venue of the annual River to River Festival—a summertime celebration of downtown culture.
Along the shore, several ferry terminals jut into the harbor; the Whitehall Ferry Terminal is the boarding place for the famous, and free, Staten Island Ferry (718-727-2508, siferry.com). During the commuter barge’s 25-minute crossing, you get superb panoramas of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. In the years before the Brooklyn Bridge was built, the Battery Maritime Building (11 South St between Broad and Whitehall Sts) served as a terminal for the boat services between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Now it’s the launch point for a free ferry to tranquil Governors Island on summer weekends.
Just north of Battery Park is the triangular Bowling Green, the city’s oldest park and a popular lunchtime spot for Financial District workers; it’s also the front lawn of the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, now home to the National Museum of the American Indian.
Dwarfed by the surrounding architecture, the Stone Street Historic District is a small pocket of restored 1830s buildings on the eponymous winding cobblestoned lane, as well as on South William and Pearl Streets and Coenties Alley. Office workers and tourists frequent its restaurants and bars, including the boisterous Ulysses (95 Pearl St at Stone St, 212-482-0400) and Stone Street Tavern (52 Stone St between Coenties Alley and William St, 212-785-5658). Close by is the Fraunces Tavern Museum, the restored alehouse where George Washington toasted victory against the British.
Fraunces Tavern Museum
National Museum of the American Indian
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Immigration Museum
World Trade Center site & Battery Park City
The streets around the former site of the World Trade Center have been drawing the bereaved and the curious since that harrowing day in September 2001. The worst attack on U.S. soil took nearly 3,000 lives and left a gaping hole where one of the most recognizable American icons, the Twin Towers, had once helped to define the New York skyline. Since the site was fenced off, there hasn’t been much to see, but visitors can learn about the tragedy and find an outlet for their emotions at the Tribute WTC Visitor Center, which opened in 2006.
Construction on the new World Trade Center complex—due to include five office buildings, a park, a performing arts center and a transit hub designed by Santiago Calatrava—has been plagued by in-fighting, missed deadlines and budget overruns. Although 1 World Trade Center (formerly known as the Freedom Tower), the development’s 1,776-foot centerpiece, and the National September 11 Museum won’t be completed by the original 2011 target date, the Memorial Plaza is on track to open for the tenth anniversary of the attack. Calatrava’s ambitious designs for the PATH train station have been scaled back due to budget constraints. But visible signs of progress are rising above the hoardings; stop by the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site to get a sense of how it will look.
West of the World Trade Center site, the glass and granite office towers of the World Financial Center (from Liberty to Vesey Sts, between the Hudson River and West St, 212-417-7000, worldfinancialcenter.com) overlook a restaurant-lined marina; the complex’s Winter Garden hosts numerous arts events.
The World Financial Center abuts Battery Park City, a 92-acre planned community devised in the 1950s to replace decaying shipping piers with new apartments, green spaces and schools. It’s a man-made addition to the island, built on soil and rocks excavated from the original World Trade Center construction site and sediment dredged from New York Harbor. Home to roughly 10,000 people, the neighborhood was devastated after the 9/11 attacks, and nearly half of its residents moved away, although the area has been improved with new commercial development drawn by economic incentives. Visitors can enjoy its esplanade and a string of parks that run north along the Hudson River from Battery Park.
Providing expansive views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the entire stretch is dotted with monuments and sculptures. To the north, Nelson A. Rockefeller Park attracts sun worshippers and kite fliers in the warm-weather months. The park also contains an excellent children’s playground. Look out for Tom Otterness’s whimsical brass sculpture installation, The Real World.
Just east is Teardrop Park, a two-acre space designed to evoke the bucolic Hudson River Valley, and to the south are the inventively designed South Cove, with its quays and island, and Robert F. Wagner Jr Park, where an observation deck offers fabulous views of both the harbor and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge; below it, Louise Bourgeois’s Eyes gazes over the Hudson from the lawn. The Museum of Jewish Heritage, Gotham’s memorial to the Holocaust, is on the edge of the green. Across the street at the Skyscraper Museum, you can learn about the buildings that have created the city’s iconic skyline.
Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
Tribute WTC Visitor Center
Since the city’s earliest days as a fur-trading post, wheeling and dealing has been New York’s main activity, and commerce the backbone of its prosperity. The southern point of Manhattan quickly evolved into the Financial District because, in the days before telecommunications, banks established their headquarters near the city’s active port. Although the neighborhood is bisected vertically by the ever-bustling Broadway, it’s the east-west Wall Street (or “the Street,” in trader lingo) that’s synonymous with the world’s greatest den of capitalism. Taking its name from a defensive wooden wall built in 1653 to mark the northern limit of New Amsterdam, it’s big on legend despite being less than a mile long. At its intersection with Broadway you’ll find the Gothic Revival spire of Trinity Church. The original burned down in 1776, and a second was demolished in 1839; the current version became the island’s tallest structure when it was completed in 1846. St Paul’s Chapel, the church’s older satellite, is one of the finest Georgian structures in the country.
The nerve center of the U.S. economy is the New York Stock Exchange (11 Wall St between Broad and New Sts). For security reasons, the Exchange is no longer open to the public, but you can still enter the Federal Reserve Bank and marvel at its huge gold vault. For a lesson on Wall Street’s influence over the years, and the recent credit crisis, visit the Museum of American Finance. A few blocks from the East River end of Wall Street is the New York City Police Museum.
Federal Reserve Bank
Museum of American Finance
New York City Police Museum
Trinity Church & St Paul’s Chapel
South Street Seaport
When New York’s role as a vital shipping hub diminished during the 20th century, the South Street Seaport area fell into disuse. But a massive redevelopment project in the mid 1980s saw old buildings converted into restaurants, bars, national chain stores and the South Street Seaport Museum. The public spaces, including pedestrianized sections of both Fulton and Front Streets, are a favorite of sightseers and street performers, but it’s only recently that New Yorkers have begun to rediscover the area, attracted by the arrival of cool cafés and bars such as Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee and sleek wine bar Bin No. 220.
Pier 17 once supported the famous Fulton Fish Market, dating back to the mid 1800s. However, in 2006 the market relocated to a larger facility in the Hunts Point area of the Bronx. Interest in Pier 17, now occupied by an unremarkable mall, has dwindled since its redevelopment in the 1980s, though the recent arrival of a new Water Taxi Beach on the pier’s north side has boosted its appeal. A proposal to replace the mall with a mixed-use complex, including stores and a hotel, has been stalled by local opposition and the recession, but the city has broken ground on its East River Esplanade and Piers Project, which will landscape this stretch of waterfront and transform Pier 15 into a bi-level lounging space, with a grassy viewing deck atop a maritime education center and café, by 2011.
South Street Seaport Museum
Civic Center & City Hall
The business of running New York takes place in the grand buildings of the Civic Center, an area that formed the budding city’s northern boundary in the 1700s. At the northern end of pretty City Hall Park, City Hall houses the mayor’s office and the chambers of the City Council. Overlooking the park from the west is Cass Gilbert’s famous Woolworth Building (233 Broadway between Barclay St and Park Pl), the tallest building in the world when it opened in 1913. The neo-Gothic skyscraper’s grand spires, gargoyles, vaulted ceilings and church-like interior earned it the moniker “the Cathedral of Commerce.”
Behind City Hall, on Chambers Street, is the 1872 Old New York County Courthouse; it’s popularly known as the Tweed Courthouse, a symbol of the runaway corruption of mid-19th-century municipal government. William “Boss” Tweed, leader of the political machine Tammany Hall, famously pocketed some $10 million of the building’s huge $14 million construction budget. What he didn’t steal bought a beautiful edifice, with exquisite Italianate detailing. It now houses the city’s Department of Education, but it’s open for tours (212-639-9675, nyc.gov/designcommission). Nearby, the African Burial Ground was officially designated a National Monument in 2006.
African Burial Ground
Tribeca & Soho
In the 1960s and ’70s, artists colonized the former industrial wasteland that was Tribeca (the Triangle Below Canal Street), squatting in its abandoned warehouses. Following the example of fellow creatives in neighboring Soho, they eventually worked with the city to rezone and restore them. The preponderance of large, hulking former industrial buildings gives Tribeca an imposing profile, but fine small-scale cast-iron architecture still stands along White Street and the parallel thoroughfares.
Seeking luxury and privacy, many celebrities have settled in the area. Robert De Niro is the neighborhood’s best-known resident, and the most active in raising its profile. De Niro’s Tribeca Cinemas (54 Varick St at Laight St, 212-966-8163, tribecacinemas.com) hosts premieres and glitzy parties, when it isn’t serving as a venue for the increasingly large and commercial Tribeca Film Festival. In spring 2008, the actor unveiled the exclusive Greenwich Hotel. Upscale shops and eateries cater to the well-heeled locals. Top dining options include sushi shrine Nobu and superb French restaurant Corton.
Now a retail mecca of the highest order, Soho (the area South of Houston Street) was once a hardscrabble manufacturing zone with the derisive nickname Hell’s Hundred Acres. In the 1960s, it was earmarked for destruction by overzealous urban planner Robert Moses, but its signature cast-iron warehouses were saved by the artists who inhabited them. The King and Queen of Greene Street (respectively, 72–76 Greene St between Broome and Spring Sts, and 28–30 Greene St between Canal & Grand Streets) are fine examples of the area’s beloved architectural landmarks.
After landlords sniffed the potential for profits in converting old loft buildings, Soho morphed into a playground for the young, the beautiful and the rich. It can still be a pleasure to stroll around the cobblestoned side streets on weekday mornings, and there are some fabulous shops, but the large chain stores and sidewalk-encroaching street vendors along Broadway create a shopping-mall-at-Christmas crush on weekends. Although many of the galleries that made Soho an art capital in the 1970s and ’80s decamped to Chelsea and, more recently, the Lower East Side, some excellent art spaces remain. The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art is also in the neighborhood.
Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA)
Little Italy & Nolita
Abandoning the dismal tenements of the Five Points district (in what is now Chinatown), immigrants from Naples and Sicily began moving to Little Italy in the 1880s. The locale once stretched from Canal to Houston Streets, between Lafayette Street and the Bowery, but these days a strong Italian presence can only truly be observed on the blocks immediately surrounding Mulberry Street. The area now seems on the verge of being swallowed by an expanding Chinatown to the south and migrating boutiques from Nolita (North of Little Italy). But ethnic pride remains: Italian-Americans flood in from across the city during the 11-day Feast of San Gennaro.
Longtime residents still buy mouth-wateringly fresh mozzarella from DiPalo’s Fine Foods (200 Grand St at Mott St, 212-226-1033) and sandwiches packed with salami and cheeses at the Italian Food Center (186 Grand St at Mulberry St, 212-925-2954). Legend has it that the first pizzeria in New York was opened by Gennaro Lombardi on Spring Street in 1905. Lombardi’s moved down the block in 1994. Drop in for dessert at Caffè Roma (385 Broome St at Mulberry St, 212-226-8413), which opened in 1891.
Nolita became a magnet for pricey boutiques and trendy eateries in the 1990s, especially on Elizabeth, Mott and Mulberry Streets, between Houston and Spring Streets.
Take a walk in the area south of Broome Street and east of Broadway, and you’ll feel as though you’ve entered a different continent. You won’t hear much English spoken along the crowded streets of Chinatown. Mott and Grand Streets are lined with fish-, fruit- and vegetable-stocked stands selling some of the best and most affordable seafood and fresh produce in the city—you’ll see buckets of live eels and crabs, square watermelons and piles of hairy rambutans. Canal Street glitters with cheap jewelry and gift shops, but beware furtive vendors of (undoubtedly fake) designer goods.
Between Kenmare and Worth Streets, Mott Street is lined with restaurants representing the cuisine of virtually every province of mainland China and Hong Kong; the Bowery, East Broadway and Division Street are just as diverse. Adding to the mix are myriad Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese eateries and stores. Explore the Chinese experience on these shores at the Museum of Chinese in America, in stylish new premises.
Museum of Chinese in America
Lower East Side
The Lower East Side, a roughly defined area south of Houston Street and west of the East River, is the latest Manhattan neighborhood to be radically altered by the forces of gentrification. In the 19th century, tenement buildings were constructed here to house the growing number of German, Irish, Jewish and Italian immigrants—by 1900 it was the most populous neighborhood in the U.S. The once-squalid dwellings have since been converted or demolished, but you can see how people once lived at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.
This was once the focal point of Jewish culture in New York, and vestiges of these roots can be found amid the Chinese businesses spilling over from sprawling Chinatown and ever-multiplying fashionable boutiques, restaurants and bars. The Eldridge Street Synagogue, which recently underwent extensive renovation, still has a small but vital congregation. For a literal taste of the old Jewish neighborhood, grab a table at Katz’s Delicatessen. For less traditional eats, swing by the famously cranky café Shopsin’s General Store in Essex Market (120 Essex St between Delancey and Rivington Sts, essexstreetmarket.com). The market, which opened in 1940 as part of Mayor La Guardia’s plan to get pushcarts off the streets, contains a mix of high-quality vendors selling cheese, coffee, sweets, produce, fish and meat.
By the 1980s, when young artists and musicians began moving into the area, it was a patchwork of Asian, Latino and Jewish enclaves. Hip bars and music venues sprang up on and around Ludlow Street, creating an annex to the East Village. Although that scene still survives at venues such as Bowery Ballroom and Cake Shop, the main cultural draw these days is visual art. In 2007, the New Museum of Contemporary Art decamped here from Chelsea, opening a $50 million building on the Bowery, and dozens of storefront galleries have opened in the vicinity.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Museum at Eldridge Street (Eldridge Street Synagogue)
New Museum of Contemporary Art
Originally part of the Lower East Side, the East Village developed its distinct identity as a countercultural hotbed in the 1960s. Rock clubs thrived on almost every corner, among them the now-demolished Fillmore East, on Second Avenue, between 6th and 7th Streets, and the Dom (23 St Marks Pl between Second and Third Aves), where the Velvet Underground often headlined (the building is now a condo). In the ’70s, the neighborhood took a dive as drugs and crime prevailed, but that didn’t stop the influx of artists and punk rockers. In the early ’80s, East Village galleries were among the first to display the work of groundbreaking artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.
From the 1950s to the ’70s, St Marks Place (8th St between Lafayette St and Ave A) was a hotbed of artists, writers, radicals and musicians, including W.H. Auden, Abbie Hoffman, Lenny Bruce and Joni Mitchell. It’s still fizzing with energy until the wee hours, but these days, the grungy strip is packed with cheap eateries, shops selling T-shirts, tourist junk and pot paraphernalia, and tattoo parlors. Providing a sharp contrast to the radical associations of the neighborhood’s more recent past, the Merchant’s House Museum on East 4th Street is a well-preserved specimen of upper-class domestic life in the 1800s.
Below Astor Place, Third Avenue (one block east of Lafayette Street) becomes the Bowery. For decades, the street languished as a seedy flophouse strip and the home of missionary organizations catering to the down and out. Although the sharp-eyed can find traces of the old flophouses, and the more obvious Gothic Revival headquarters of Bowery Mission at No. 227 (between Rivington and Stanton Sts), the thoroughfare has been cleaned up and repopulated by condos, ritzy restaurants and the posh Bowery Hotel.
Alphabet City (which gets its name from its key avenues, A, B, C and D) stretches toward the East River. Once an edgy Puerto Rican neighborhood with links to the drug trade, its demographic has dramatically shifted over the past 20 years. Tompkins Square Park (from 7th to 10th Sts between Aves A and B) remains a place where bongo beaters, guitarists, multi-pierced teenagers, hipsters, local families and vagrants mingle.
Merchant’s House Museum
Stretching from Houston Street to 14th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, Greenwich Village has inspired bohemians for almost a century. Now that it has become one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city, you need a lot more than a struggling artist’s income to inhabit its leafy streets. However, it’s still a fine place for idle wandering, candlelit dining in out-of-the-way restaurants, and hopping between bars and cabaret venues.
Great for people watching, Washington Square Park attracts a disparate cast of characters, such as hippies, students and hip-hop kids. Skateboarders clatter near the base of the Washington Arch, a modestly sized replica of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe built in 1895 to honor George Washington.
In 2007, when the NYC Parks Department embarked on a $16 million redesign of the park, community activists strongly protested the plan, fearing it would ruin its bohemian flavor. Yet even vehement detractors have been pleasantly surprised with the results of the first phase, which included new lawns and flower beds in the western section of the park and restoration and a minor relocation of the 19th-century fountain to align it with the arch. The second phase, which turns its attention to the east side, should be completed by the end of 2010.
In the 1830s, the wealthy began building handsome town houses around the square. A few of those properties are still privately owned and occupied, but many have become part of the ever-expanding NYU campus. Several famed literary figures, including Henry James, Herman Melville and Mark Twain, lived on or near the square.
Once the dingy but colorful stomping ground of Beat poets and folk and jazz musicians, the well-trafficked strip of Bleecker Street, between La Guardia Place and Sixth Avenue, is now an overcrowded stretch of poster shops, cheap restaurants and music venues. Although 1960s hot spot Café Wha? (115 MacDougal St between Bleecker and W 3rd Sts, 212-254-3706, cafewha.com) is now basically a tourist trap, Brazilian band Brazooka’s regular Monday-night party is a genuine happening. Nearby, the Bitter End (147 Bleecker St between La Guardia Pl and Thompson St, 212-673-7030) has proudly championed singer-songwriters—including a young Bob Dylan—since 1961. Caffe Reggio (119 MacDougal St at W 3rd St, 212-475-9557), which opened in 1927, was patronized by Jack Kerouac and other 1950s poets and nearby, former literati hangout Minetta Tavern has been rehabilitated by golden-touch restaurateur Keith McNally.
West Village & Meatpacking District
In the early 20th century, the West Village was largely a working-class Italian neighborhood. These days, the highly desirable enclave is home to numerous celebrities, but it has held on to much of its picturesque charm.
Locals and visitors crowd bistros along Seventh Avenue and Hudson Street and patronize the high-rent shops on this stretch of Bleecker Street, including no fewer than three Marc Jacobs boutiques. Venture on to the side streets for interesting discoveries such as indie boutique Castor & Pollux and rustic-chic label Rag & Bone.
The area’s bohemian population may have dwindled years ago, but a few old landmarks remain. Solemnly raise a glass at White Horse Tavern (567 Hudson St at 11th St, 212-989-3956), where poet Dylan Thomas went on his last drinking binge before his death in 1953. On and just off Seventh Avenue South are jazz and cabaret clubs, including the Village Vanguard.
The West Village is also a long-standing queer mecca, though the young gay scene has mostly moved north to Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. The Stonewall Inn, on Christopher Street, is next to the original, the site of the 1969 rebellion that marked the birth of the modern gay-liberation movement. Along Christopher Street from Sheridan Square to the Hudson River pier, most of the area’s shops, bars and restaurants are out, loud and proud.
The northwest corner of the West Village has been known as the Meatpacking District since the area was claimed by the wholesale meat industry in the early 20th century. As business waned, gay fetish clubs took root in derelict buildings and, until the 1990s, the area was a haunt for transsexual prostitutes. In recent years, however, following the arrival of pioneering fashion store Jeffrey New York (449 W 14th St between Ninth and Tenth Aves, 212-206-1272, jeffreynewyork.com), designer flagships started to move in, including Diane von Furstenberg and Stella McCartney. Frequent mentions on Sex and the City, along with the arrival of swanky Hotel Gansevoort and trendy eateries like Pastis (9 Ninth Ave at Little W 12th St, 212-929-4844) in the past decade, cemented the area’s reputation as a consumer playground. Nightspots such as Cielo draw a young crowd after dark.
The 2009 opening of the High Line has brought even more people to the area, especially on weekends.
Intro | Downtown | Midtown | Uptown | Brooklyn | Queens | The Bronx
The area from 14th to 59th Streets is iconic New York: jutting skyscrapers, crowded sidewalks and a yellow river of cabs streaming down the congested avenues. It doesn’t hurt that some of the city’s most recognizable landmarks are located here. But there’s a lot more to Midtown than glistening towers and high-octane commerce. It contains the city’s most concentrated contemporary gallery district (Chelsea), its hottest gay enclaves (Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen), some of its swankiest shops (Fifth Avenue) and, of course, the majority of its major theaters (on Broadway, around Times Square). There are even a few serene spots where you can retreat from the jostling crowds and traffic—the city’s newest park, the High Line, has boosted the area’s green quotient.
Formerly a working-class Irish neighborhood, the corridor between 14th and 29th Streets west of Sixth Avenue emerged as the nexus of New York’s queer life in the 1990s. Due to rising housing costs and the protean nature of the city’s cultural landscape, it’s being slowly eclipsed by Hell’s Kitchen to the north (just as Chelsea once overtook the West Village), but it’s undeniably still a homo hot spot, with numerous bars, restaurants and shops catering to the once-ubiquitous “Chelsea boys.”
The formerly desolate western edge of the neighborhood has been the focus of the most eagerly anticipated project in the city’s recent history: the transformation of a disused elevated freight train track into a lush, landscaped public park, the High Line.
In the 1980s, many of New York’s galleries left Soho for this enclave, from West 20th Street to West 29th Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. Today, internationally recognized spaces such as Gagosian Gallery and PaceWildenstein, as well as numerous less famous names, attract swarms of art lovers. The High Line has brought even more gallery-hoppers to the area as it provides a verdant pathway from the boutique- and restaurant-rich Meatpacking District to the art enclave. Traversing the elevated promenade, you’ll pass through the old loading dock of the former Nabisco factory, where the first Oreo cookie was made in 1912. It now houses Chelsea Market (75 Ninth Ave between 15th and 16th Sts, chelseamarket.com), a collection of shops selling artisanal bread, wine, imported Italian foods and freshly made ice cream, among other treats. Many of the Hudson River piers, once terminals for the world’s grand ocean liners, remain in a state of ruin, but the four between 17th and 23rd Streets have been transformed into mega sports center Chelsea Piers.
To get a glimpse of how Chelsea looked back when it was first developed in the 1880s, stroll by Cushman Row (406–418 W 20th St between Ninth and Tenth Aves) in the Chelsea Historic District. Just to the north is the block-long General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church (440 W 21st St between Ninth and Tenth Aves, 212-243-5150, gts.edu), where the verdant garden courtyard (closed after 3pm and Sun) is a hidden sanctuary.
The nearby Chelsea Hotel, on West 23rd Street, has been a magnet for creative types since it first opened in 1884; Mark Twain was an early guest. The list of former residents reads like a Who’s Who of New York’s arts heritage: Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, Quentin Crisp, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Rufus Wainwright, to name a few. The Chelsea gained punk-rock notoriety on October 12, 1978, when Sex Pistol Sid Vicious stabbed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen to death in Room 100. A tour is offered at least monthly, which visits some of the resident artists’ studios ($40, see hotelchelsea.com for details). A dazzling array of Himalayan art and artifacts is on display at the Rubin Museum of Art.
The weekend flea markets tucked between buildings along 25th Street between Seventh Avenue and Broadway, have shrunk in recent years, but you’ll still find a heady assortment of clothes, furnishings, cameras and knick-knacks at the rummage-worthy Antiques Garage and the more upmarket Showplace Antique & Design Center.
Not far from here, the Fashion Institute of Technology, on 27th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, counts Calvin Klein, Nanette Lepore and Michael Kors among its alumni. The school’s Museum at FIT mounts free exhibitions.
Museum at FIT
Rubin Museum of Art
Flatiron District & Union Square
Taking its name from the distinctive, wedge-shaped landmark building, the Flatiron District extends from 14th to 29th Streets between Sixth and Lexington Avenues. The area has two major public spaces. Opened in 1847, Madison Square Park (from 23rd to 26th Sts between Fifth and Madison Aves, madisonsquarepark.org) is the more modest of the two. In the 19th century, the square was a highly desirable address. Leonard Jerome, Winston Churchill’s grandfather, resided in a magnificent but since-demolished mansion at Madison Avenue and 26th Street, and high-society novelist Edith Wharton also lived in the neighborhood. By the 1990s, the park had become a decaying no-go zone given over to drug dealers and the homeless, but got a much-needed makeover in 2001 thanks to the efforts of the Madison Square Park Conservancy, which has created a program of cultural events including Mad Sq Art, a year-round “gallery without walls,” featuring sculptural, video and installation exhibitions from big-name artists. A further lure is celebrity chef Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack.
At the southern end of Madison Square lies the Flatiron Building (175 Fifth Ave between 22nd and 23rd Sts). The world’s first steel-frame skyscraper, the 22-story Beaux Arts edifice is clad conspicuously in white limestone and terracotta, but it’s the unique triangular shape that has drawn sightseers since it opened in 1902. North of the park, the Museum of Sex houses an impressive collection of salacious ephemera.
The Flatiron District’s other major public space, Union Square (from 14th to 17th Sts between Union Square East and Union Square West) is named after neither the Union of the Civil War nor the labor rallies that once took place here, but simply for the union of Broadway and Bowery Lane (now Fourth Avenue). Even so, it does have its radical roots: from the 1920s until the early ’60s, it was a favorite spot for tub-thumping political oratory. Formerly grungy, the park is fresh from a rolling renovation project started in the 1980s, although it can still feel a bit edgy after dark due to a motley congregation of street characters. It’s best known as the home of the Union Square Greenmarket.
Museum of Sex
Gramercy Park & Murray Hill
A key to Gramercy Park, the tranquil, gated square at the bottom of Lexington Avenue (between 20th and 21st Sts), is one of the most sought-after treasures in all the five boroughs. For the most part, only residents of the surrounding town houses and apartment buildings have access to the park, which was developed in the 1830s to resemble a London square. A few blocks away is the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, a national historic site.
Murray Hill spans 30th to 40th Streets, between Third and Fifth Avenues. Town houses of the rich and powerful were once clustered around Madison and Park Avenues. It’s now populated mostly by upwardly mobiles fresh out of university, and only a few streets retain their former elegance. The impressive Morgan Library & Museum houses some 350,000 rare books, manuscripts, prints, and objects. If you’re more interested in contemporary European culture, visit the nearby Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America.
Morgan Library & Museum
Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America
Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace
Herald Square & Garment District
Seventh Avenue, a.k.a. Fashion Avenue, is the main drag of the Garment District (roughly from 34th to 40th Sts between Broadway & Eighth Ave), where designers—along with their seamstresses, fitters and assistants—feed America’s multi-billion-dollar clothing industry. Delivery trucks and workers pushing racks of clothes clog streets lined with wholesale trimming, button and fabric shops.
Taking up an entire city block, from 34th Street to 35th Street, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, is the legendary Macy’s. With 1 million square feet of selling space spread across nine floors, it’s the biggest and busiest department store in the world. Facing Macy’s, at the intersection of Broadway, 34th Street and Sixth Avenue, is Herald Square, named after a long-gone newspaper, the New York Herald. The lower section is known as Greeley Square after editor and reformer Horace Greeley, owner of the Herald’s rival, the New York Tribune (the two papers merged in 1924). The square offers bistro chairs and tables that get crowded with shoppers and office lunchers in the warmer months. To the east, the many restaurants, spas and karaoke bars of Koreatown line 32nd Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue.
Located not in Madison Square but on Seventh Avenue, between 31st and 33rd Streets, Madison Square Garden is home to the Knicks, the Liberty and Rangers, and has welcomed rock icons from Elvis to Madonna and other big events. The massive arena is actually the fourth building to bear that name and opened in 1968, replacing the grand old Pennsylvania Station razed four years earlier. This brutal act of architectural vandalism spurred the creation of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Beneath Madison Square Garden stands the current Penn Station, a claustrophobic catacomb of corridors serving 600,000 Amtrak, Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit passengers daily and the busiest train station in America. A proposal to relocate the entrance of the station across the street, to the James A. Farley Post Office building, was championed by the late Senator Patrick Moynihan in the early 1990s. The project, which stalled when Amtrak pulled out, may finally be going ahead following an initial agreement between the railway company and the government in fall 2009.
Theater District & Hell's Kitchen
The evolution of Times Square from a traffic-choked fleshpot to a tourist-friendly theme park has accelerated in the past year. Not only has “the crossroads of the world” gained an elevated viewing platform atop the new TKTS discount booth, from which visitors can admire the surrounding light show, in summer 2009 Mayor Bloomberg designated stretches of Broadway (from 47th to 42nd Sts and from 35th to 33rd Sts) pedestrian zones, complete with seating, in an effort to streamline Midtown traffic and create a more pleasant environment.
Originally called Longacre Square, the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue stretching from 42nd to 47th Streets was renamed after the The New York Times moved here in the early 1900s (it now occupies an $84 million tower on Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets). The first electrified billboard graced the district in 1904, on the side of a bank at 46th and Broadway. The same year, the inaugural New Year’s Eve party in Times Square doubled as the Times’s housewarming party in its new HQ. Today, about a million people gather here to watch a glittery mirrorball descend every December 31.
Of course, Times Square is also the gateway to the Theater District, the zone between 41st Street and 53rd Street, from Sixth Avenue to Ninth Avenue. The Theater District’s transformation from the cradle of New York’s sex industry began in 1984, when the city condemned properties along 42nd Street (“the Deuce”) between Seventh and Eighth Avenues and banned live “dance” shows.
The streets to the west of Eighth Avenue are filled with eateries catering to theatergoers, especially the predominantly pricey places along Restaurant Row (46th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves). Locals tend to walk west to Ninth Avenue—in the 40s and 50s, the Hell’s Kitchen strip is tightly packed with inexpensive restaurants serving a melting pot of ethnic cuisines.
Flashy attractions strive to outdo one another in hopes of snaring the tourist throngs and their wide-eyed progeny. Madame Tussauds New York, Gotham’s outpost of the London-born wax museum chain, sits next to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium. On Broadway, the noisy ESPN Zone (1472 Broadway at 42nd St, 212-921-3776) offers hundreds of video games and enormous TVs showing sporting events; the vast Toys ‘R’ Us (1514 Broadway at 44th St, 800-869-7787, toysrustimessquare.com) boasts a 60-foot indoor Ferris wheel and a two-floor Barbie emporium.
If your taste in entertainment is more refined, head further uptown. Open since 1891, Carnegie Hall has staged legendary shows by the likes of Judy Garland, Miles Davis and Yo-Yo Ma. Nearby is the famous Carnegie Deli.
West of the Theater District is Hell’s Kitchen. The precise origins of the name are unclear, but no doubt arose from its emergence as a rough, Irish-mob-dominated neighborhood in the 19th century. In the 1950s, clashes between Irish and recently arrived Puerto Rican factions were dramatized in the musical West Side Story. Today, the neighborhood is emerging as the city’s new queer mecca, with nightspots such as Therapy and Bartini. As gentrification has taken hold, new apartment blocks are springing up in the far western wasteland. A couple of major tourist draws are also in this area: the Circle Line Cruises, at Pier 83, and the Intrepid, a retired aircraft carrier-cum-naval museum.
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Madame Tussauds New York
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium
Fifth Avenue & environs
The stretch of Fifth Avenue between Rockefeller Center and Central Park South showcases retail palaces bearing names that were famous long before the concept of branding was developed. Bracketed by Saks Fifth Avenue (49th to 50th Sts) and Bergdorf Goodman (at 58th St), designer tenants include Gucci, Prada and Tiffany & Co.
Fifth Avenue is crowned by Grand Army Plaza at 59th Street, presided over by a gilded statue of General William Tecumseh Sherman. To the west stands the Plaza, the famous hotel that was home to fictional moppet Eloise. Just south, above 59th Street (the parkside stretch is called Central Park South), is Central Park. Located between 33rd and 34th Streets is the most famous skyscraper in the world, the Empire State Building, visible from almost anywhere in the city.
A pair of impassive stone lions, dubbed Patience and Fortitude by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia during the Great Depression, guard the steps of the beautiful Beaux Arts humanities and social sciences branch of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street, now officially named the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Just behind the library is Bryant Park, a well-manicured lawn that hosts a popular outdoor film series in summer and an ice-skating rink in winter.
Alexander Woollcott, Dorothy Parker and her “vicious circle” held court and traded barbs at the nearby Algonquin; the lobby is still a great place to meet for a drink. Just north of the park, on Sixth Avenue, is the International Center of Photography.
Step off Fifth Avenue into Rockefeller Center and you’ll find yourself in an interlacing complex of 19 buildings constructed under the aegis of John D. Rockefeller in the 1930s. The Art Deco “city within a city” is inhabited by NBC, Simon & Schuster, McGraw-Hill and other media giants, as well as Radio City Music Hall, Christie’s auction house, and a shopping concourse. Guided tours of the complex are available daily, and there’s a separate NBC Studio tour. The buildings and grounds are embellished with works by several well-known artists; look out for Isamu Noguchi’s stainless-steel relief, News, above the entrance to 50 Rockefeller Plaza, and José Maria Sert’s mural American Progress in the lobby of 30 Rockefeller Plaza (also known as the GE Building). Radio City Music Hall was once the world’s largest movie house; today, the art deco jewel hosts concerts and the Christmas Spectacular, featuring precision dance troupe the Rockettes.
Facing Rockefeller Center is the beautiful St Patrick’s Cathedral. A few blocks north is a clutch of museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, the American Folk Art Museum and the Paley Center for Media.
American Folk Art Museum
Empire State Building
International Center of Photography
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
New York Public Library
Paley Center for Media
St Patrick’s Cathedral
The area east of Fifth Avenue in the 40s and 50s is home to a number of iconic landmarks. The 1913 Grand Central Terminal is the city’s most spectacular point of arrival, although it only welcomes commuter trains from Connecticut and upstate New York. Looming behind the terminal, the MetLife Building (formerly the Pan Am Building) was the world’s largest office tower when it opened in the 1960s. Completed in 1930 by architect William Van Alen, the gleaming Chrysler Building (405 Lexington Ave at 42nd St) is a pinnacle of Art Deco architecture, paying homage to the automobile with vast radiator-cap eagles in lieu of traditional gargoyles and a brickwork relief sculpture of racing cars with chrome hubcaps. The Daily News Building (220 E 42nd St between Second and Third Aves), another Art Deco gem, designed by Raymond Hood, was immortalized in the Superman films. On First Avenue is the United Nations Headquarters, with its sculpture-heavy grounds and famous glass-walled Secretariat building. Not far from here is the Japan Society.
Grand Central Terminal
United Nations Headquarters
In the 19th century, the area above 57th Street was a bucolic getaway for locals living at the southern tip of the island. Today, it still feels serene, thanks largely to Central Park and the presence of a number of New York’s premier cultural institutions. Although many of Manhattan’s super-rich have migrated downtown, there’s still an air of old money on the Upper East Side, where exclusive streets are kept clean by hose-wielding house staff while socialites drift in and out of Madison Avenue’s designer flagships. Across the park, the formerly edgy Upper West Side is now an equally wealthy and far more fashionable address. Further north is Harlem: once a dangerous no-go area for visitors, it’s now increasingly diverse, offering dynamic nightlife options.
In 1857, the newly formed Central Park Commission chose landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Calvert Vaux to turn a vast tract of rocky swampland into a rambling oasis of lush greenery. Inspired by the great parks of London and Paris, the Commission imagined a place that would provide city dwellers with respite from the crowded streets. It was a noble thought, but one that required the eviction of 1,600 mostly poor or immigrant inhabitants, including residents of Seneca Village, the city’s oldest African-American settlement. Still, clear the area they did: when it opened in the mid-1870s, it became the first man-made public park in the U.S.
Although it suffered from neglect at various points in the 20th century (most recently in the 1970s, when it gained a reputation as a dangerous spot after dark), the park has been restored to its green glory thanks to the not-for-profit civic group Central Park Conservancy, which is also instrumental in its upkeep.
The 1872 Gothic Revival Dairy (midpark at 65th St, 212-794-6564, centralparknyc.org), which once served refreshments, now houses the Central Park Conservancy’s information center and gift shop; additional manned information booths are dotted around the park.
The southern section abounds with family-friendly diversions, including the Central Park Zoo, between 63rd and 66th Streets, the Friedsam Memorial Carousel and the Trump Wollman Rink (midpark, at 62nd St), which doubles as a small children’s amusement park in the warmer months.
Come summer, kites, Frisbees and soccer balls seem to fly every which way across Sheep Meadow, the designated quiet zone that begins at 66th Street. Sheep did indeed graze here until 1934, but they’ve since been replaced by sunbathers improving their tans and scoping out the throngs. East of Sheep Meadow, between 66th and 72nd Streets, is the Mall, an elm-lined promenade that attracts a diverse array of street performers and in-line skaters. And just east of the Mall’s Naumburg Bandshell is Rumsey Playfield—site of the annual Central Park SummerStage series, an eclectic roster of free and benefit concerts.
One of the most popular meeting places (and loveliest spots) in the park is north of here, overlooking the lake: the grand Bethesda Fountain & Terrace, near the midpoint of the 72nd Street Transverse Road. Angel of the Waters, the sculpture in the center of the fountain, was created by Emma Stebbins, the first woman to be granted a major public art commission in New York. Be sure to admire the Minton-tiled ceiling of the ornate passageway that connects the plaza around the fountain to the Mall—after years of neglect in storage, the tiles were restored and reinstated in 2007.
To the west of the fountain, near the West 72nd Street entrance, sits Strawberry Fields, a patch of land memorializing John Lennon, who lived in the nearby Dakota Building. Also called the International Garden of Peace, it features a mosaic of the word IMAGINE, donated by the Italian city of Naples. More than 160 species of flowers and plants from all over the world bloom here, strawberries among them. Just north of the fountain, meanwhile, is the Loeb Boathouse (midpark, at 75th St). From here, you can take a rowboat or gondola out on the lake, which is crossed by the elegant Bow Bridge. The Loeb houses the Central Park Boathouse Restaurant (Central Park Lake, park entrance on Fifth Ave at 72nd St, 212-517-2233, thecentralparkboathouse.com, closed dinner Sat and Sun Nov–Mar) and lake views make it a lovely place for brunch or drinks.
Further north is the Belvedere Castle, a restored Victorian folly that sits atop the park’s second-highest peak. Besides offering excellent views, it also houses the Henry Luce Nature Observatory. The nearby Delacorte Theater hosts Shakespeare in the Park, a summer series of free open-air performances of plays by the Bard and others. And further north still sits the Great Lawn (midpark, between 79th and 85th Sts), a sprawling stretch of grass that doubles as a rallying point for political protests and a concert spot. At other times, it’s put to use by seriously competitive soccer, baseball and softball teams. East of the Great Lawn, behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is the Obelisk, a 71-foot granite hieroglyphics-covered monument dating from around 1500 B.C., which was given to the U.S. by the Khedive of Egypt in 1881.
In the mid 1990s, the Reservoir (midpark, between 85th and 96th Sts) was renamed in honor of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who used to stroll and jog around it. Whether you prefer a running or walking pace, the path commands great views of the surrounding skyscrapers.
In the northern section, the exquisite Conservatory Garden (entrance on Fifth Ave at 105th St) comprises formal gardens inspired by English, French and Italian styles. At the top of the park, next to the Harlem Meer, the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (entrance at Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Ave at 110th St, 212-860-1370, centralparknyc.org, closed Mon Apr–Oct, Mon and Tue Nov–Mar) lends out fishing rods and bait (for ”catch and release fishing”) from April to October with photo ID.
Central Park Zoo
Upper East Side
Encouraged by the opening of Central Park in the late 19th century, the city’s more affluent residents began building mansions on Fifth Avenue. By the start of the 20th century, even the superwealthy had warmed to the idea of giving up their large homes for smaller quarters provided they were near the park, which resulted in the construction of many new apartment blocks and hotels. Working-class folks later settled around Second and Third Avenues, following construction of an elevated East Side train line, but affluence remained the neighborhood’s dominant characteristic.
Along the expanse known as the Gold Coast—Fifth, Madison and Park Avenues, from 61st to 81st Streets—you’ll see great old mansions, many of which are now foreign consulates. The 1916 limestone structure at 820 Fifth Avenue (at 63rd St) was one of the earliest luxury apartment buildings on the avenue, and still has just one residence per floor. Wrapping around the corner of Madison Avenue at 45 East 66th Street, another flamboyant survivor (1906–08) features terracotta ornamentation that would befit a Gothic cathedral. (Andy Warhol lived a few doors up at No. 57 from 1974 to 1987.) And further north, Stanford White designed 998 Fifth Avenue (at 81st St) in the image of an Italian Renaissance palazzo.
Philanthropic gestures made by the moneyed classes over the past 130-odd years have helped create an impressive cluster of art collections, museums and cultural institutions. Indeed, Fifth Avenue from 82nd to 104th Streets is known as Museum Mile, and for good reason: it’s lined by the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, housed in Andrew Carnegie’s former mansion; the Jewish Museum; the Museum of the City of New York; and the National Academy Museum (1083 Fifth Ave at 89th St, 212-369-4880, nationalacademy.org, closed Mon, Tue and mornings Wed–Fri), with a collection that includes works by Louise Bourgeois, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Museum Mile is lengthening: although technically in East Harlem, El Museo del Barrio recently had a world-class makeover for its 40th birthday, and further north still, the new Museum for African Art, rising at the corner of 110th Street (1280 Fifth Ave, 718-784-7700, africanart.org), is slated to open in spring 2011.
Additional collections are scattered throughout this culture-soaked neighborhood, including the Asia Society & Museum, the China Institute, the Frick Collection, the Neue Galerie and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Less highbrow, Madison Avenue is New York’s world-class ultra-luxe shopping strip. Between 57th and 86th Streets, it’s packed with top designer names: the usual Euro suspects, such as Gucci, Prada and Chloé, and Americans including Donna Karan, multiple Ralph Lauren outposts and the flagship of Tom Ford’s eponymous menswear line (No. 845, at 70th St, 212-359-0300, tomford.com, closed Sun). Fashionable department store Barneys New York is stocked with unusual designer finds and features witty, sometimes audacious, window displays. If you’re shopping in the 70s, or visiting the museums, it’s worth making the detour to Lexington Avenue for 1925 lunchroom/soda fountain the Lexington Candy Shop.
Also on Lexington, but more than 20 blocks south, near the border with Midtown, is hugely popular department store Bloomingdale’s. If you head east on 59th Street, you’ll eventually reach the Queensboro Bridge, which links Manhattan to Queens. At Second Avenue you can catch the overhead tram to Roosevelt Island. Suspended on a cable, the tram reaches a height of 250 feet above the East River, and the fare is the same as the subway ride, though the two-mile-long isle between Manhattan and Queens is largely residential. From 1686 to 1921, it went by the name of Blackwell’s Island, during which time it was the site of an insane asylum, a smallpox hospital and a prison—notable inmates included Mae West, who served eight days here, on obscenity charges stemming from her Broadway show Sex.
Compared to the avenues near the park, the atmosphere is noticeably less rarefied between Third Avenue and the East River, as grand edifices give way to bland modern apartment blocks and walk-up tenements. One elegant exception is Gracie Mansion, at the eastern end of 88th Street. The only Federal-style mansion in Manhattan, it’s served as New York’s official mayoral residence since 1942—although the current mayor, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, famously eschewed this traditional address in favor of his own Beaux Arts mansion at 17 East 79th Street (between Fifth and Madison Aves).
In this stretch of the high 70s and 80s, known as Yorkville, not much remains of the old German and Hungarian immigrant communities that filled it with delicatessens, beer halls and restaurants. However, one such flashback is the 74-year-old Heidelberg (1648 Second Ave between 85th and 86th Sts, 212-628-2332, heidelbergrestaurant.com), where dirndl-wearing waitresses serve up steins of Spaten and platters of sausages from the wurst-meisters at butcher shop Schaller & Weber a couple of doors up.
Asia Society & Museum
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
El Museo del Barrio
The Frick Collection
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Museum of the City of New York
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Whitney Museum of American Art
Upper West Side
This four-mile-long stretch west of Central Park is culturally rich and cosmopolitan. As on the Upper East Side, New Yorkers were drawn here during the late 19th century after the completion of Central Park, the opening of local subway lines and Columbia University’s relocation to Morningside Heights. In the 20th century, central Europeans found refuge here, and Puerto Ricans settled along Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues in the 1960s. These days, new real estate is reducing eye-level evidence of old immigrant life, and the neighborhood’s intellectual, politically liberal spirit has waned a little as apartment prices have risen.
The gateway to the Upper West Side is Columbus Circle, where Broadway meets 59th Street, Eighth Avenue, Central Park South and Central Park West—a rare rotary in a city of right angles. The architecture around it could make anyone’s head spin. At the entrance to Central Park, a 700-ton statue of Christopher Columbus goes almost unnoticed under the Time Warner Center across the street, which houses offices, apartments, hotel lodgings and Jazz at Lincoln Center. The first seven levels of the enormous glass complex are filled with high-end retailers and gourmet restaurants. The Museum of Arts & Design recently opened its new digs in a landmark building on the south side of the circle, itself the subject of a controversial redesign.
The Upper West Side’s seat of culture is Lincoln Center, a complex of concert halls and auditoriums built in the early 1960s and home to the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera and a host of other notable arts organizations. The center is nearing the completion of a major overhaul that includes a redesign of public spaces, refurbishment of various halls and a new visitors’ center, the David Rubenstein Atrium. The Atrium is the starting point for guided tours of the campus ($8–$20, tour desk 212-875-5350), which contains notable artworks, including Henry Moore’s Reclining Figure in the plaza near Lincoln Center Theater, and two massive music-themed paintings by Marc Chagall in the lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House.
When Central Park was completed, magnificently tall residential buildings rose up along Central Park West to take advantage of the views. The first of these great apartment blocks was the Dakota (at 72nd St), so named because its location was considered remote when it was built in 1884. The fortress-like building is known as the setting for Rosemary’s Baby and the site of John Lennon’s murder in 1980 (Yoko Ono still lives here); other residents have included Judy Garland, Rudolph Nureyev, Lauren Bacall and Boris Karloff but not Billy Joel, who was turned away by the co-op board when he tried to buy an apartment.
A few blocks north, the New-York Historical Society is the city’s oldest museum, built in 1804. Across the street is the American Museum of Natural History, with its amazing glass-enclosed Rose Center for Earth & Space, which includes the totally retooled Hayden Planetarium.
The sizable cluster of classic food stores and restaurants lining the avenues of the locale’s northern end is where the Upper West Side shops, drinks and eats. To see West Siders in their natural habitat, get in line at the perpetually jammed smoked fish counter at gourmet market Zabar’s. H&H Bagels (2239 Broadway at 80th St, 212-595-8000) is the original location of the city’s largest bagel purveyor, and the legendary (if scruffy) restaurant and deli Barney Greengrass, a.k.a. “the Sturgeon King,” has specialized in smoked fish, knishes and chopped liver since 1908.
Designed by Central Park’s Frederick Law Olmsted, Riverside Park is a sinuous stretch of riverbank that starts at 72nd Street and ends at 158th Street, between Riverside Drive and the Hudson River. You’ll probably see yachts, along with several houseboats, berthed at the 79th Street Boat Basin; the no-reservations Boat Basin Café (boatbasincafe.com) operates from late March through October (weather permitting). The stretch of park below 72nd Street, called Riverside Park South, is a particularly peaceful city retreat with a pier and landscaped patches of grass with park benches.
American Museum of Natural History/Rose Center for Earth & Space
Museum of Arts & Design
New-York Historical Society
Morningside Heights runs from 110th Street (also known as Cathedral Parkway west of Central Park) to 125th Street, between Morningside Park and the Hudson River. The Cathedral Church of St John the Divine and the campus of Columbia University exert considerable influence over the surrounding neighborhood.
One of the oldest universities in the U.S., Columbia was initially chartered in 1754 as King’s College (the name changed after the Revolutionary War). It moved to its present location in 1897.
Thanks to the large student population of Columbia and its sister school, Barnard College, the area has an academic feel, with bookshops, inexpensive restaurants and coffeehouses lining Broadway between 110th and 116th Streets. Tom’s Restaurant (2880 Broadway at 112th St, 212-864-6137) will be familiar to Seinfeld fans. Although the interior doesn’t resemble the show’s diner, the exterior doubled as Monk’s Café in the long-running sitcom.
The Cathedral Church of St John the Divine is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Subject to a series of construction delays and misfortunes, the enormous cathedral (larger than Paris’s Notre Dame) is on a medieval schedule for completion, although it has wrapped up work for the time being. Just behind it is the green expanse of Morningside Park (from 110th to 123rd Sts between Morningside Ave and Morningside Dr) and across the street is the Hungarian Pastry Shop (1030 Amsterdam Ave between 110th and 111th Sts, 212-866-4230), a great place for coffee, dessert and engaging graduate students in esoteric discussions as they procrastinate over their theses.
North of Columbia, General Grant National Memorial (a.k.a. Grant’s Tomb), the mausoleum of former president Ulysses S. Grant, is located in Riverside Park.
Cathedral Church of St John the Divine
General Grant National Memorial
The village of Harlem, named by Dutch colonists after their native Haarlem, was annexed by the City of New York in 1873. The extension of elevated railroads the following decade brought eager developers who overbuilt in the suddenly accessible suburb. The consequent housing glut led to cheap rents, and Jewish, Italian and Irish immigrants escaping the tenements of the Lower East Side grabbed them up.
Around the turn of the 20th century, blacks joined the procession into Harlem, their ranks swelled by the great migration from the Deep South. By the 1920s, Harlem was predominately black and the country’s most populous African-American community. This prominence soon attracted some of black America’s greatest artists—writers such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston and musicians including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway—an unprecedented cultural gathering known as the Harlem Renaissance.
By the 1960s, the community had been ravaged by middle-class flight and municipal neglect. Businesses closed, racial tensions ran high, and the looting during the 1977 blackout was among the worst the city had seen. However, as New York’s economic standing improved in the mid-’90s, investment began slowly spilling into Harlem, spawning new businesses and the rows of renovated brownstones that beckon the middle class.
Harlem begins at the top of Central Park at 110th Street and extends north as far as 155th Street, though the hood’s southern boundary on the West Side is marked by 125th Street. East Harlem begins on 96th Street and ends before reaching 125th Street.
The “one-two-five” is the main artery of West Harlem, home of the celebrated Apollo Theater and the highly regarded Studio Museum in Harlem. No visit to the neighborhood is complete without a visit to one of the nightspots devoted to the jazz that made the neighborhood world renowned. The Lenox Lounge is where Billie Holiday sang, John Coltrane played, the young Malcolm X hustled and James Baldwin held court. Showman’s Bar (375 W 125th St between St Nicholas and Morningside Aves, 212-864-8941, closed Sun), is another mecca for jazz lovers.
Further north is Strivers’ Row, also known as the St Nicholas Historic District. On 138th and 139th Streets, between Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard (Seventh Ave) and Frederick Douglass Boulevard (Eighth Ave), these harmonious blocks of brick townhouses were developed in 1891 and designed by three different architects, including Stanford White. A few blocks south, the Abyssinian Baptist Church (132 Odell Clark Pl between Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Ave and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd/Seventh Ave, 212-862-7474, abyssinian.org) is celebrated for its history, political activism and rousing gospel choir; visitors can attend services on Sundays at 11am and Wednesdays at 7pm.
The area east of Fifth Avenue is known to its primarily Puerto Rican residents as “El Barrio.” Its main east-west cross-street, East 116th Street, shows signs of a recent influx of Mexican immigrants. A little touch of East Village-style bohemia can be detected in such places as Camaradas El Barrio (2241 First Ave at 115th St, 212-348-2703, camaradaselbarrio.com), a Puerto Rican tapas bar that offers regular live salsa, Latin-funk and jazz. Be sure to check out the recently revamped El Museo del Barrio, which has an impressive collection of Latin American art and a lively program of cultural events.
Studio Museum in Harlem
The area from West 155th Street to Dyckman (200th) Street is called Washington Heights; venture north of that and you’re in Inwood, Manhattan’s northernmost neighborhood, where the Harlem and Hudson Rivers converge. An ever-growing number of artists and young families are relocating to these parts, attracted by the spacious Art Deco buildings, big parks, hilly streets and (comparatively) low rents.
For visitors, one attraction is the Morris-Jumel Mansion, a stunning Palladian-style building that served as the swanky headquarters for George Washington during the autumn of 1776, but the Hispanic Society of America is an often overlooked gem.
At the northern edge of the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Fort Tryon Park is the Cloisters, a museum built in 1938 using segments of five medieval cloisters shipped from Europe by the Rockefeller clan. It houses the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s permanent medieval art collection.
Hispanic Society of America
Not long ago, tourists in Brooklyn were likely to be those who’d missed their Manhattan subway stop. However, in recent years, the second borough has become a destination in its own right.
Settled by the Dutch in the early 17th century, Breukelen took its name from the Dutch town. It was America’s third largest municipality until its amalgamation with the four other boroughs to create New York City in 1898.
Brooklyn Heights & Dumbo
Home to well-to-do families, prominent bankers and lawyers lured by its proximity to Wall Street, Brooklyn Heights is where you’ll find the idyllic brownstone-lined blocks of Brooklyn legend. Thanks to the area’s historic district status, it is brimming with well-preserved Greek Revival and Italianate row houses dating from the 1820s. Take a stroll down the gorgeous tree-lined streets—particularly Cranberry, Hicks, Pierrepont and Willow—to see the area at its best.
Henry and Montague Streets are the prime strips for shops, restaurants and bars. At the end of Montague, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade offers spectacular views of Manhattan. Nearby is the Brooklyn Bridge, a marvel of 19th-century engineering. For those interested in history of the underground variety, the New York Transit Museum is a must. There are more remnants of bygone Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Historical Society. The grand 1851 Borough Hall (209 Joralemon St at Court St), seat of local government, is a monument to Brooklyn’s past as an independent municipality.
At the turn of the 19th century, Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) was a thriving industrial district; all kinds of manufacturers, including Brillo and Benjamin Moore, were based here, leaving behind an impressive collection of factory buildings.
In the 1970s and ’80s, these warehouses were colonized by artists seeking cheap live/work spaces, but playing out a familiar New York migration pattern, the area is now bursting with million-dollar apartments and high-end design shops. The spectacular views—taking in the lower Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges—remain the same. A good vantage point is below the Brooklyn Bridge at the Fulton Ferry Landing, which juts out over the East River at Old Fulton and Water Streets and is next to the evolving Brooklyn Bridge Park. While stretches of the park are still in development, you can wander among Pier 1 (2 Old Fulton St at Furman St), Pier 6 (Furman St at Atlantic Ave) and the Main Street Lot (1 Main St at Plymouth St). At 9.5 acres, Pier 1 is BBP’s largest and most happening stretch, with two lawns, tree-lined walkways, freshwater gardens and a wine bar.
The artists who flocked to the area decades ago maintain a presence in the local galleries, most of which support the work of emerging talent. Among them is nonprofit Smack Mellon (92 Plymouth St at Washington St, 718-834-8761, smackmellon.org, closed Mon and Tue).
Dumbo is also becoming a performing arts hot spot. Longtime venue Bargemusic has been joined by St Ann’s Warehouse and Galapagos Art Space.
Eating options are multifarious, including family-friendly Bubby’s at the waterfront (1 Main St at Water St, 718-222-0666, closed Mon–Wed) and trendy bar-restaurant Superfine.
Head east on Water or Front Street to discover one of Brooklyn’s forgotten neighborhoods. Once a rough and bawdy area dotted with bars and brothels frequented by sailors and dockworkers, Vinegar Hill, between Bridge Street and the Navy Yard, earned the moniker “Hell’s Half Acre” in the 19th century. Only isolated strips of early-19th-century row houses and defunct storefronts remain on Bridge, Hudson, Plymouth and Front Streets. The enclave recently gained its first eatery, cozy Vinegar Hill House.
Brooklyn Historical Society
New York Transit Museum
Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens & Cobble Hill
A convenient if annoying real estate agents’ contraction for these blurred-boundaried ’hoods, BoCoCa is a prime example of gentrification at work. Gone are the bodegas and cheap shoe shops along the stretch of Smith Street that runs from Atlantic Avenue to the Carroll Street subway stop; it’s now the area’s Restaurant Row. Among the strip’s hottest spots are the classic bistro Bar Tabac (128 Smith St at Dean St, Boerum Hill, 718-923-0918) and New American the Grocery (288 Smith St between Sackett and Union Sts, Carroll Gardens, 718-596-3335, closed Mon and Sun).
Head east on Boerum Hill’s Atlantic Avenue for a slew of antique and modern furniture stores, including Darr (369 Atlantic Ave between Bond and Hoyt Sts, 718-797-9733), a favorite among stylists and set designers for its taxidermy, industrial cabinets and horn tableware. Its owners, Brian Cousins and Hicham Benmira, also own neo-rustic menswear emporium Hollander & Lexer across the street (358 Atlantic Ave, 718-797-9190). Browse women’s haute designer fashion at the minimalist Eva Gentry (389 Atlantic Ave between Bond & Hoyt Sts, 718-260-9033) and Eva Gentry Consignment (371 Atlantic Ave, between Hoyt and Bond Sts, 718-522-3522), then get a scoop of organic ice cream at Blue Marble Ice Cream (420 Atlantic Ave between Bond and Nevins Sts, 718-858-1100).
West of Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill has a small-town feel. Here, Court Street is dotted with cafés and shops, such as local favorite Book Court (163 Court St between Dean and Pacific Sts, 718-875-3677). Be sure to stop by the charming Sweet Melissa (276 Court St between Butler and Douglass Sts, 718-855-3410) for lunch or afternoon tea in its pretty back garden.
Further south, you’ll cross into the still predominantly Italian-American Carroll Gardens. A cluster of excellent eateries on Court Street includes seasonal American bistro Buttermilk Channel (524 Court St at Huntington St).
To the southwest of Carroll Gardens, the rough-and-tumble industrial locale of Red Hook had long avoided urban renewal. However, in recent years, the arrival of luxury condos, gourmet mega-grocer Fairway (718-694-6868, fairwaymarket.com) and Ikea has given the impression that gentrification is fast arriving.
The lack of public transportation has prevented it from becoming Williamsburg, the sequel. From the Smith–9th Streets subway stop, it’s either a long walk or a transfer to the B77 bus; alternatively, take the New York Water Taxi (212-742-1969, nywatertaxi.com).
The area offers singular views of New York Harbor from Valentino Pier, and has an eclectic selection of artists’ studios and eateries, including retro bar and grill Hope & Anchor (347 Van Brunt St at Wolcott St, 718-237-0276). The neighborhood recently gained its first cocktail bar, Botanica (220 Conover St at Coffey St, 718-797-2297, closed Mon). A scattering of quirky shops includes Metal & Thread (398 Van Brunt St between Coffey and Dikeman Sts, 718-414-9651, closed Mon and Tue), selling a mix of locally made and vintage items, and Russell Whitmore’s fastidiously curated antique jewelry shop, Erie Basin (388 Van Brunt St at Dikeman St, 718-554-6147, eriebasin.com, closed Mon–Wed and Mon–Wed, Sun in July and Aug). The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition (499 Van Brunt St at Beard St Pier, 718-596-2507, eriebasin.com) holds spring and fall group shows.
Park Slope & Prospect Heights
Park Slope’s intellectual progressive-mindedness and lefty political heritage are palpable; residents include well-known authors such as Paul Auster and Jonathan Safran Foer.
Head to Fifth Avenue for shops, bars and restaurants, including always-packed Venetian mainstay al di là. The western edge of Prospect Park is part of the landmarked Park Slope Historic District, where you’ll see fine examples of Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne residences.
Central Park may be bigger, but Prospect Park (main entrance at Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Heights, 718-965-8999, prospectpark.org) has a more rustic quality. It’s a great spot for bird-watching, especially with a little guidance from the Prospect Park Audubon Center at the Boathouse (park entrance on Ocean Ave at Lincoln Rd, Prospect Heights, 718-287-3400, closed Mon–Wed Apr–mid Dec, Mon–Fri mid Jan–Mar). Adjacent to the park, across Flatbush Avenue, is the lovely Brooklyn Botanic Garden and, right next to it, the renowned Brooklyn Museum. The verdant necropolis of Green-Wood Cemetery is about a 15-minute walk away.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden
With a thriving music scene and an abundance of funky bars, galleries and shops, former industrial hub Williamsburg channels the East Village (just one stop away on the L train) in its heyday. Eateries range from laid-back cafés on main drag Bedford Avenue to famed steakhouse Peter Luger. Newcomer Rye has culinary substance as well as style. You’ll find chic shops along North 6th Street, particularly between Wythe and Kent Avenues. There are also more than 30 art galleries in the area (pick up the free gallery guide Wagmag at local shops and cafés or visit wagmag.org for listings). As artist are priced out of the area, however, more experimental spaces have taken root in the warehouses of Bushwick, to the west.
Williamsburg is, famously, band central. Local groups and touring indie darlings play at Music Hall of Williamsburg and Pete’s Candy Store.
Housed in a former ironworks, the Brooklyn Brewery (79 North 11th St between Berry St and Wythe Ave, 718-486-7422, brooklynbrewery.com) offers $3 brews during its happy “hour” (Fridays 6–11pm) and free tours on weekends (see website for details).
With its stately Victorian brownstones and other grand buildings, Fort Greene has undergone a major revival over the past decade. The neighborhood has long been a center of African-American life and business—Spike Lee, Branford Marsalis and Chris Rock have all lived here.
Though originally founded in Brooklyn Heights, America’s oldest operating performing arts center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, moved to Fort Greene’s southern border in 1901. The cheesecake at nearby Junior’s Restaurant (386 Flatbush Ave at DeKalb Ave, 718-852-5257) is famous.
Coney Island, for years a somewhat seedy, gradually decaying amusement district, is on the brink of reinvention. In its heyday, it was made up of several parks—Dreamland, Luna Park, Steeplechase and Astroland. One of the last holdouts, Astroland, closed in 2008.
In 2005 a developer bought about half of the area’s entertainment district with a view to transforming it into a glitzy, Las Vegas-style resort—calling for new hotels and condos as well as restaurants, shops and rides. However, municipal planners have vowed to protect the amusement district as much as possible, and this standoff over the plans, coupled with the recession, has stalled development. In late 2009, the city agreed to buy almost seven acres near the boardwalk, which will form the core of a 27-acre amusement district. Although it will be years before that project is realized, a new incarnation of Luna Park opened in May with 19 rides. Several of Coney Island's original attractions—including whiplash-inducing wooden rollercoaster the Cyclone, built in 1926, and the 1918 Wonder Wheel—are protected landmarks and so have been spared. Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand (1310 Surf Ave at Stillwell Ave, 718-946-2202) is still serving the sizzling, juicy dogs that made its name in 1916. And Coney Island USA (1208 Surf Ave at West 12th St, 718-372-5159, coneyisland.com) keeps the torch burning for 20th-century-style attractions with its Sideshows by the Seashore. If you can, time your visit with quirky annual ritual the Mermaid Parade or Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest. Other Coney attractions include the seaside MCU Park, home to the Brooklyn Cyclones, and the New York Aquarium, the nation’s oldest marine preserve.
If you head left on the boardwalk from Coney Island, a short walk brings you to Brighton Beach, New York’s Little Odessa. Russian expats crowd semi-outdoor eateries such as Tatiana (3152 Brighton 6th St at the Boardwalk, 718-891-5151), where you can dine on borscht, smoked fish and vodka. At night, it morphs into a glitzy club.
New York City’s largest borough, Queens is also the country’s most diverse urban area, with almost half its 2.3 million residents hailing from nearly 150 different nations. Not for nothing is the elevated 7 subway nicknamed the “International Express.” This ethnic diversity is best sampled at its restaurants. Astoria has tavernas and Brazilian churrascaria; Jackson Heights offers Indian, Thai and South American hot spots; and Flushing boasts the city’s second-largest Chinatown.
Long Island City
Just across the East River, Long Island City has recently seen an explosion of new condos, luring young professionals with its easy commute to Midtown. In the warmer months, take in the Midtown Manhattan panorama from Watertaxi Beach (Borden Ave at 2nd St), a man-made sandy patch with a bar and volleyball courts. Dining options in the area include the Waterfront Crabhouse (2-03 Borden Ave at 2nd St, 718-729-4862), an old-time saloon and oyster bar in an 1880s brick building, and Tournesol (50-12 Vernon Blvd at 50th Ave, 718-472-4355), an engaging and affordable bistro. For liquid refreshment, Communitea (47-02 Vernon Blvd at 47th Ave, 718-729-7708) offers more than 40 loose-leaf teas (and locally roasted coffee). For something stronger, head to new cocktail lounge Dutch Kills.
A few blocks east, on Jackson Avenue, is the contemporary art center MoMA P.S.1. With several artists’ studio complexes lodged in Long Island City, a nascent art scene has taken hold (see www.licartists.org). SculptureCenter is a great place to see new work as well.
The N and W trains chug north to Astoria, a lively, traditionally Greek neighborhood that in the last few decades has seen an influx of Brazilians, Bangladeshis, Eastern Europeans, Colombians and Egyptians. A 15-minute downhill hike from the Broadway subway station brings you to the Noguchi Museum, on the border of Long Island City, created by the visionary sculptor. Nearby is the riverfront art space Socrates Sculpture Park (Broadway at Vernon Blvd, socratessculpturepark.org).
Astoria is known for Hellenic eateries specializing in impeccably grilled seafood. Elias Corner serves meze and a catch of the day in a breezy Aegean setting. Afterward, stop for Greek coffee and pastries at Athens Café (32-07 30th Ave between 32nd and 33rd Sts, 718-626-2164). Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden offers Czech-style dining and drinking. Recently, beer-garden upstart Studio Square opened near the Museum of the Moving Image. The museum is due to reopen in early 2011 following a major revamp.
Museum of the Moving Image
Jackson Heights’ multiculturalism is dizzying. Little India greets you at the subway exit with small shops selling everything from Bollywood DVDs to saris, but the main attraction is culinary. The unofficial headquarters of the Indian expat community, Jackson Diner serves up sumptuous curries.
The neighborhood has also welcomed successive waves of Latin American immigrants. Mexicans, Colombians and Argentinians are old-school in these parts: get a taste of Buenos Aires at the exuberant, fútbol-themed Boca Junior Argentinian Steakhouse (81-08 Queens Bvld at 51st Ave, Elmhurst, 718-429-2077), or stop by Taqueria Coatzingo (76-05 Roosevelt Ave between 76th and 77th Sts, 718-424-1977), whose fresh, meaty tacos give it an edge over the other holes-in-the-wall. The Thai contingent is reflected in several fine restaurants including Arunee (37-68 79th St between Roosevelt and 37th Aves, 718-205-5559).
The plain wooden Old Quaker Meeting House (137-16 Northern Blvd between Main and Union Sts, 718-358-9636), built in 1694, creates a startling juxtaposition to the prosperous Chinatown that rings its weathered wooden walls. If you don’t mind tiny dining quarters, head to White Bear (135-02 Roosevelt Ave, entrance on Prince St between Roosevelt Ave and 40th Rd, 718-961-2322) for exceptional dumplings and wontons. Nearby Sentosa (39-07 Prince St between Roosevelt and 39th Aves, 718-886-6331) serves Malaysian delicacies.
The most visited site in Queens is rambling Flushing Meadows-Corona Park—home to the Queens Museum of Art—and the Mets’ Citi Field, among other institutions.
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park
Queens Museum of Art
Intro | Downtown | Midtown | Uptown | Brooklyn | Queens | The Bronx
South Bronx | Belmont & Bronx Park | Riverdale & Van Cortlandt Park
In the 1960s and ’70s, the South Bronx was so ravaged by postwar “white flight” and community displacement from the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway that the neighborhood became virtually synonymous with urban blight. Crime was rife and arson became widespread. These days, the South Bronx is rising from the ashes. In 2006, Mayor Bloomberg announced the South Bronx Initiative, aiming to revitalize the area. Yet despite developers’ hopes for “SoBro,” the area has not quite turned into the Next Big Thing. Yet.
Most visitors are just stopping long enough to take in a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. A few blocks east runs the four-and-a-half-mile Grand Concourse. Once the most prestigious drag in the Bronx, it’s a must for lovers of Art Deco—head north from 161st Street to admire the country’s largest array of housing in that style (though some isn’t well kept). The Edgar Allan Poe Cottage was moved to the Grand Concourse from its original spot on Fordham Road in 1913.
Bronx Museum of the Arts
Edgar Allan Poe Cottage
Belmont & Bronx Park
Originally settled in the late 19th century by Italian immigrants hired to landscape nearby Bronx Zoo, Belmont is centered on Arthur Avenue, lined with delis, bakeries, restaurants and stores selling T-shirts proclaiming the locale to be New York’s “real Little Italy.” Food is the area’s main draw. In the covered 1940s Arthur Avenue Retail Market (2344 Arthur Ave between Crescent Ave and E 186th St, closed Sun), try the trademark Yankee Stadium Big Boy hero, stuffed with Italian cold cuts and cheese, at Mike’s Deli (718-295-5033). For a full meal, head to old-school, red-sauce joint Mario’s (2342 Arthur Ave between Crescent Ave and E 186th St, 718-584-1188, closed Mon), which appeared in several Sopranos episodes. Belmont is in easy walking distance of Bronx Park, home to the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden.
New York Botanical Garden
Riverdale & Van Cortlandt Park
In Riverdale, along the northwest coast of the Bronx, huge homes perch on narrow, winding streets that meander toward the Hudson River. Among them is the 1843 mansion Wave Hill House. In the nearby, 1,146-acre Van Cortlandt Park (entrance on Broadway at 242nd St), you can hike through a 100-year-old forest and visit Van Cortlandt House Museum (Van Cortlandt Park, entrance on Broadway at 246th St, 718-543-3344, vancortlandthouse.org, closed Mon and afternoons), a pre-Revolutionary house built in 1748 and commandeered by both sides during the Revolutionary War.
Wave Hill House
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