|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|Dining in New York|
|Sightseeing in the City|
|Nightlife in Manhattan|
|Activities with Kids|
|Bookstores in NYC|
|Galleys to Grab|
|Children's Galleys to Grab|
Perhaps we're a bit biased, but if we had to pick the perfect city for a convention or expo, we would choose New York. When you're not exchanging ideas and meeting people, you can step outside and right there on your doorstep is a world of possibilities—from rowing a boat in Central Park, to exploring Ellis Island, to contemplating the newest modern art. This article is designed to give you the lowdown on some of New York City's top attractions. (Unless noted, all phone numbers have a 212 area code.)
Here's our first tip: CityPass just may be New York's best sightseeing deal. Pay one price ($38) for admission to seven major attractions—the Whitney Museum, a Circle Line cruise, the American Museum of Natural History, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Empire State Building and the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. You can buy CityPass at any participating attraction or online at www.citypass.com.
The American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at W. 79th St.; 769-5100; www.amnh.org; subway: B/C to 81st St. or 1/2 to 79th St.) is one of the hottest museum tickets in town, thanks to the grand opening of the $210 million Rose Center for Earth and Space, whose four-story-tall planetarium sphere hosts the Tom Hanks—narrated Space Show, the most technologically advanced sky show on the planet. Prepare to be blown away. After the show, follow the wondrous Cosmic Pathway, which chronicles the 15-billion-year evolution of the universe in fascinating interactive fashion. Other must-sees include the Big Bang Theater, which recreates the theoretical birth of the universe; the main Hall of the Universe; and the terrific Hall of Planet Earth, which focuses on the geologic processes of our home planet (great volcano display!). Friday night is a great time to plan your visit, as the center isn't overcrowded, live jazz and food fills the Hall of the Universe, and, bathed in blue light, the planetarium sphere looks magical. You can buy your tickets to the Space Show and any of the special exhibitions in advance at www.amnh.org, or by calling 212-769-5200.
The rest of the four-square-block museum is spectacular as well. The diversity of the holdings is astounding: some 36 million specimens ranging from microscopic organisms to the world's largest cut gem, the Brazilian Princess Topaz (21,005 carats). If you don't have a lot of time, you can see the best of the best on a free Highlights Tour, offered daily, every hour at 15 minutes after the hour from 10:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
If you only see one exhibit, gawk at the dinosaurs, which take up the entire fourth floor. Special exhibitions that will be on when you're in town in May include the magical Butterfly Conservatory, a walk-in enclosure housing nearly 500 free-flying tropical butterflies, and Baseball as America, an exploration of the ways that baseball shapes and reflects American culture, featuring treasures from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Home of blockbuster after blockbuster exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.; 535-7710; www.metmuseum.org; subway: 4/5/ 6 to 86th St.) attracts some five million people a year, more than any other spot in New York City. And it's no wonder—this place is magnificent. Highlights include the American Wing's Garden Court, with its 19th-century sculpture; the terrific ground-level Costume Hall; and the Frank Lloyd Wright room. The beautifully renovated Roman and Greek galleries are also marvelous, as is the collection of later Chinese art. The highlight of the astounding Egyptian collection is the Temple of Dendur, housed in a dramatic, specially built glass-walled gallery with Central Park views. The recent reinstallations in the Greek Galleries and Galleries for Ancient Near Eastern Art are also spectacular. It all depends on what your interests are. Don't forget the marvelous special exhibitions, which include Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi: Father and Daughter Painters in Baroque Italy; Treasures from a Lost Civilization: Ancient Chinese Art from Sichuan; Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence; and Surrealism: Desire Unbound, among others, during the month of May.
One good way to get an overview of the museum is to take advantage of the little-known Museum Highlights Tour, offered every day at various times. The museum's Web site has a schedule of the Highlights Tours and subject-specific walking tours (Old Master Paintings, American Period Rooms, Arts of China, Islamic Art and so on); you can also get a schedule of the day's tours at the Visitor Services desk when you arrive. A daily schedule of Gallery Talks is available as well. On Friday and Saturday evenings, the Met remains open late, not only for art viewing, but also for cocktails in the Great Hall Balcony Bar (5 to 8 p.m.) and classical music from a string quintet, plus special talks.
It's been called a bun, a snail, a concrete tornado and even a giant wedding cake. Whatever description you choose to apply, Frank Lloyd Wright's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1071 Fifth Ave. at 89th St.; 423-3500; www.guggenheim.org/new_york_index.html; subway: 4/5/6 to 86th St.) is best summed up as a brilliant work of architecture—so consistently brilliant that it competes with the art for your attention. Located on the winding floors of the main building, special exhibitions are the Guggenheim's strong suit. The popular exhibit Brazil: Body and Soul, juxtaposing baroque masterpieces of the 17th and 18th centuries with works from the Modern Brazilian school, is on view until the end of May. Permanent exhibits of 19th- and 20th-century art, including strong holdings of Kandinsky, Klee, Picasso and French Impressionists, occupy a stark annex called the Tower Galleries. The Guggenheim runs some interesting special programs, including free docent tours daily, a limited schedule of lectures, free family films, avant-garde film screenings, curator-led guided gallery tours on select Friday afternoons, and the World Beat Jazz Series, which resounds through the rotunda on Friday and Saturday from 5 to 8 p.m.
The Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53rd St., between Fifth and Sixth Aves.; 708-9400; www.moma.org; subway: B/V to Fifth Ave. or B/D/F/Q to 47th—50th Sts./ Rockefeller Center) boasts the world's greatest collection of painting and sculpture from the late 19th century to the present, including everything from Van Gogh's Starry Night and Picasso's early Les Demoiselles d'Avignon to Monet's Water Lilies and Klimt's The Kiss to later masterworks by Frida Kahlo, Edward Hopper, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and many others. The MoMA is slated to receive a massive renovation starting this summer (with many of the collections moving temporarily to Queens), so a spring visit will be your last chance to explore the Manhattan MoMA until 2005. In May, special exhibitions will include Olafur Eliasson's glass and mirror installation entitled Seeing Yourself Sensing and a photograph exhibition about present-day New York, including New Yorkers' photos of September 11, called Life of the City.
What is arguably the finest collection of 20th-century American art in the world belongs to the Whitney Museum of American Art (945 Madison Ave. at 75th St.; 877- WHITNEY; www.whitney.org; subway: 6 to 77th St.). The rotating permanent collection consists of an intelligent selection of major works by Edward Hopper, George Bellows, Georgia O'Keeffe, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and other significant artists. A pleasing second-floor exhibit space is devoted exclusively to works from the museum's permanent collection from 1900 to 1950, while the rest of the space is dedicated to rotating exhibits.
Shows are all well curated and more edgy than what you'd see at MoMA or the Guggenheim. Consider yourself lucky: the next Whitney Biennial will be showing from March through May. A major event on the national museum calendar, the Biennials serve as the premier launching pad for new American artists working on the vanguard in every medium. Free gallery tours are offered daily, and music, screenings and lectures fill the calendar. The Whitney is also notable for having the best museum restaurant in town: Sarabeth's at the Whitney, worth a visit in its own right.
It took 60,000 tons of steel, 10 million bricks, 2 1/2 million feet of electrical wire, 120 miles of pipe, and seven million man-hours to build the Empire State Building (350 Fifth Ave.; 736-3100; www.esbnyc.org; subway: A/C/E/1/2/3/B/D/F/Q/N/R to 34th St.), one of the city's favorite landmarks and its signature high-rise. Always a conversation piece, the Empire State Building glows every night, bathed in colored floodlights to commemorate events of significance—red, white and blue for Independence Day; green for St. Patrick's Day; lavender and white for Gay Pride Day. But the views that keep nearly three million visitors coming every year are the ones from the 86th- and 102nd-floor observatories. The lower observatory is best—you can walk out on a windy deck and look through coin-operated viewers (bring quarters!) over what, on a clear day, can be as much as an 80-mile visible radius. The citywide panorama is magnificent. One surprise is the flurry of rooftop activity, an aspect of city life that thrives unnoticed from our everyday sidewalk vantage point. We highly recommend that you order advance tickets via the Web site.
After more than two years and $175 million, renovations have put the "grand" back into Grand Central Terminal (42nd St. at Park Ave.; 340-2210; www.grandcentralterminal.com; subway: S/4/5/6/7 to Grand Central/42nd St.). The high windows once again allow sunlight to penetrate the space, glinting off the half-acre Tennessee marble floor. The masterful sky ceiling, again a brilliant greenish blue, depicts the constellations of the winter sky above New York. They're lit with 59 stars, surrounded by dazzling 24-carat gold and emitting light fed through fiber-optic cables, their intensities roughly replicating the magnitude of the actual stars as seen from Earth. Look carefully and you'll see an unrestored patch near one corner, left as a reminder of the neglect once visited on this splendid overhead masterpiece.
This dramatic beaux-arts splendor serves as a hub of social activity as well. The lower concourse houses a food court offering everything from deli sandwiches to caviar and the famous Oyster Bar & Restaurant. The Municipal Art Society (935-3960) offers a free walking tour of Grand Central Terminal on Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m.; meet at the information booth on the Grand Concourse. The Grand Central Partnership (697-1245) runs its own free tour every Friday at 12:30 p.m.; meet outside the station in front of the Whitney Museum at Phillip Morris gallery (42nd Street and Park Avenue). Call to confirm before you set out to meet either tour.
A streamline modern masterpiece, Rockefeller Center (between 48th and 50th Sts., Fifth to Sixth Aves.; 332-6868; www.rockefellercenter.com; subway: B/D/F/Q to 47th—50th Sts./Rockefeller Center) is one of New York's central gathering spots for visitors and New Yorkers alike. A Promenade leads to the Lower Plaza, home to the famous ice-skating rink in winter and alfresco dining in summer, in the shadow of the gilded bronze statue Prometheus. NBC television maintains studios throughout the complex, and Saturday Night Live, The Rosie O'Donnell Show and Late Night with Conan O'Brien originate right in the GE Building. NBC's Today show is broadcast live on weekdays from 7 to 10 a.m. from the glass-enclosed studio on the southwest corner of 49th Street and Rockefeller Plaza; come early if you want a visible spot, and bring your "HI MOM!" sign. The 70-minute NBC Studio Tour (664-3700) will take you behind the scenes at the Peacock network. The tour changes daily, but may include the Today show, NBC Nightly News, Dateline NBC and/or Saturday Night Live sets. Tours run throughout the day Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A 75-minute Rockefeller Center Tour is also offered. The newly restored Radio City Music Hall (247-4777) offers its illuminating hour-long Stage Door Tour seven days a week.
The Gothic-inspired stone pylons and intricate steel-cable webs of the Brooklyn Bridge (take the A/C to High St. to walk toward Manhattan; take the 4/5/6 to Brooklyn Bridge to walk toward Brooklyn) have moved poets like Walt Whitman and Hart Crane to sing the praises of this great span. Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is one of my all-time favorite New York activities, although there's no doubt that the Lower Manhattan views from the bridge now have a painful resonance rather than a joyous spirit. A wide wood-plank pedestrian walkway is elevated above the traffic, making it a relatively peaceful, and popular, walk. It's a great vantage point from which to contemplate the New York skyline.
For the millions who first came by ship to America in the last century—either as privileged tourists or as impoverished, hopeful immigrants—the Statue of Liberty (363-3200 or 269-5755 for ferry schedules and tickets; for ferry: subway: 4/5 to Bowling Green or N/R to Whitehall/South Ferry), standing in the Upper Bay, was their first glimpse of America. No monument so embodies the nation's, and much of the world's, notion of political freedom and economic potential. At press time, the interior of the statue was not open to tourists, although the interesting museum and the grounds of the island were both open. You can get an idea of the immensity of the statue by taking a stroll around the base, and the views of Manhattan's skyline from the island are stellar. Call for updated information.
Even if you don't make it out to Liberty Island, you can get a spine-tingling glimpse from Battery Park, from the New Jersey side of the bay or during a ride on New York's best freebie—the Staten Island Ferry (Whitehall Ferry Terminal; 718-815-BOAT; www.siferry.com; subway: 4/5 to Bowling Green or N/R to Whitehall/South Ferry). The ferry provides you with an enthralling hour-long excursion (round-trip) into the world's biggest harbor. You should go on deck and enjoy the busy harbor traffic. The old orange-and-green boats usually have open decks along the sides or at the bow and stern; try to catch one of these boats if you can, since the newer white boats don't have decks. On the way out of Manhattan, you'll pass the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Governor's Island, and you'll see in the distance the Verrazano Narrows Bridge connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island.
One of New York's most moving sights is the restored Ellis Island (363-3200; www.ellisisland.org; for subway & ferry information see Statue of Liberty listing). Roughly 40% of Americans can trace their heritage back to an ancestor who came through here. For the 62 years when it was America's main entry point for immigrants (from 1892 to 1954), Ellis Island processed some 12 million people. The figure seems mind-numbingly large, but the Immigration Museum skillfully relates the story of Ellis Island and immigration in America by placing the emphasis on personal experience. A step-by-step account of the immigrants' voyage is detailed in the exhibit, with haunting photos, touching oral histories and over 1,000 objects, including family heirlooms donated by descendants of immigrants. You can even research your own family's history at the interactive American Family Immigration History Center. Short live theatrical performances depicting the immigrant experience are often part of the day's events.
If you would like to pay your respects to the victims of September 11 by visiting Ground Zero, a viewing platform has been erected at the site. Free tickets are given out every morning, starting at 9 a.m., at the South Street Seaport's Museum at the corner of Fulton and South Streets.
Without the miracle of civic planning that is Central Park (runs from 59th St. to 110th St. and from Fifth Ave. to Eighth Ave.; 360-3444; www.centralparknyc.org), Manhattan would be an unbroken block of buildings. Instead, smack in the middle of Gotham, an 843-acre natural retreat provides a daily escape valve and tranquilizer for millions of New Yorkers. While you're in the city, be sure to take advantage of the park's many charms. A six-mile rolling road, Central Park Drive, circles the park, and has a lane set aside for bikers, joggers and in-line skaters. A number of subway lines serve the park, and which one you take depends on where you want to go. If your time for exploring is limited, enter the park at 72nd Street or 79th Street for maximum exposure (subway: B/C to 72nd St. or 81st St./Museum of Natural History). From here, you can pick up park information at the visitor center at Belvedere Castle, midpark at 79th Street, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Central Park Conservancy offers a slate of walking tours of the park; call 360-3444 or check the Web for the current schedule.
The best way to see Central Park is to wander along the park's 58 miles of winding pedestrian paths, keeping in mind the following highlights. Before starting your stroll, stop by the Information Center in the Dairy (794-6464), midpark at about 65th Street, to get a good park map and other information on sights and events, and to peruse the exhibit on the park's history and design. Not far from the Dairy are the carousel; the Central Park Zoo (featuring everything from large, colorful birds in the Tropic Zone, to polar bears and penguins in the Polar Circle); and the Wollman Rink for roller- and ice-skating. The long formal walkway known as the Mall leads to the focal point of Central Park, Bethesda Fountain (along the 72nd St. transverse road). The fountain is adjacent to a large lake, where you can rent a rowboat at or take a gondola ride from Loeb Boathouse.
Sheep Meadow, on the southwestern side of the park, is a designated quiet zone, where Frisbee throwing and kite flying are common. Another respite is Strawberry Fields, a memorial garden commemorating John Lennon and his lifelong message: IMAGINE, at 72nd Street on the West Side. Central Park's most bucolic area, the Ramble, is a dense 38-acre woodland with spiraling paths, rocky outcroppings, and a stream. It's the best spot for bird watching. Belvedere Castle is located north of the Ramble, and has gorgeous views of the lush, green Great Lawn and the Delacorte Theater (home to Shakespeare in the Park). At the northeast end of the park is the Conservatory Garden (at 105th St. and Fifth Ave.), Central Park's only formal garden, with a magnificent display of flowers and trees reflected in calm pools of water. Harlem Meer and its boathouse were recently renovated and look beautiful.