New York City Things to Do Tips by goodfish
New York City Things to Do: 5,341 reviews and 8,600 photos
Reading Room, NY Public Library
This is one gorgeous building. The New York Public Library (Midtown - 5th Avenue) is a Beaux-Arts confection well worth a wander. Designed by architects Carrère & Hastings and built 1902-1911, it was financed through combined endowments from Samuel J. Tilden, John Jacob Astor and James Lenox and was, at that time, the largest marble structure ever constructed in the United States.
• The Deborah, Jonathan F. P., Samuel Priest, and Adam R. Rose Main Reading Room (third floor)
• McGraw rotunda with WPA Project murals and ceiling by Edward Laning (third floor)
• The REAL Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, and Tigger (ground floor, Children's Room)
• A rare Gutenberg Bible (may or may not be on display)
The library offers free tours and a bookshop - see the website for hours, details, floor plan and much more about the history. Click "Humanities and Social Sciences Library" for this particular branch, or just use my link. You'll be expected to pass through a security check to enter the library, exit the Reading Room, and to check large bags, umbrellas, etc.
Address: Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street
Directions: Take 1,2,3,9 to 42nd Street and Broadway. Walk two blocks east to Fifth Avenue.
Other Contact: http://www.nypl.org/
Phone: (212) 930-0830
Central Park, NYC
This has to be top of everyone's must-see list. Central Park was America's very first public park and probably its most famous. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, it's 838 acres of meadows, groves, paths and ponds. There is so much to do here that it really deserves a location page of its own but they have a great website that has done a better job than I ever could at covering all it has to offer.
So what to do? Take the kids to one of the 21 playgrounds or the zoo; hire a pedicab or buggy tour; check out free frisbees, soccer balls, horseshoes or other play equipment at the North Meadow Rec Center; tap your toes to a music ensemble; pay your respects to Strawberry Fields; row a boat or pedal a bike; bring a picnic or have lunch at one of the eateries; lounge on one of 9,000 benches; just walk - there's 58 miles of paths to choose from!
Not everything is free - such as the zoo, winter ice-skating and boat/bike rentals - but you can easily spend an entire day here without spending a dime. It is positively massive so I'd suggest downloading some of the maps from the attached links, referencing the photos and choosing, in advance, the corners of the park you'd most like to visit.
This is, along with walking the Brooklyn Bridge, my favorite memory of NYC.
Address: Fifth Avenue and 59th Street to 110th Street.
Other Contact: www.thecentralparkboathouse.com
Reredos, St. Thomas Church
St. Thomas is a beautiful Episcopal church with impressive exterior ornamentation and one of the largest reredos in the world. Constructed in the French High Gothic style, it was designed by the architects of Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson and completed in 1913. The delicate, soaring reredos, carved of Dunville stone, contains statues of Christ, saints, martyrs, apostles and other figures relevant to the Christian religion and/or important to the church. George Washington is among them too - see if you can find him!
Other items of interest include:
• The Canterbury Stone - a section of wall from England's Canterbury Cathedral that Saint Thomas à Becket fell against after he was martyred by King Henry II's solders in 1170. The stone is in the floor at the top of the chancel steps.
• "The Adoration of the Magi" - thought to be by Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens
• Gorgeous rose window
• Chantry chapel with carved oak, gilt and polychromed triptych
St. Thomas also has a world-famous choir and choir school, and an organ with 9050 pipes so is a good choice for music-lovers. See the church website for more history, information on services, and choir or organ recital schedules. Museum Planet also has a great on-line gallery of images with audio narration: www.museumplanet.com/tour.php/nyc/st/1
Address: One West 53rd Street, NY, NY.
Directions: Right next door to MOMA on 5th Avenue and W.53rd.
Phone: (212) 757-7013
Detail, Grand Central Terminal, NYC
Taking the train to work is a fact of life for many New Yorkers and a half million of them pass through Grand Central Terminal every day. This Beaux-Arts masterpiece took 13 years (1903 - 1913), 80 million dollars and the demolition of 180 nearby buildings to construct. Located on the site of Cornelius Vanderbilt's smaller Grand Central Station, the vision of a new expanded railway hub came about in 1902 when a terrible fire from two colliding steam engines prompted city officials to convert to a safer, less-polluting electric system.
Hard to believe but it almost met a sorry end to the wrecking ball in the 1950s when automobile travel largely replaced long-distance rail but fortunately for us, NYC's Landmarks Preservation Commission designated it a historic landmark - under the protection of law - in 1967. Even so, the structure fell into serious neglect but was rescued through the efforts of some prominent New Yorkers. Restored to its former elegance in the 1990's, this "city within a city" provides 5 restaurants, 20 casual-dining kiosks in the lower-level food court, 50 shops and an excellent market (more on that in a separate tip) for the welcome convenience of daily commuters.
Grand Central has an excellent website with detailed history, fun facts, tour information and anything else you'd want to know about this architectural treasure so give it a look-over before you go. You can easily loiter away several hours here taking pictures of its many fascinating details and browsing the market and shops.
Address: 42nd St & Park Ave.
Good place to browse The Times
Running across this jewel of a park was a happy accident. Bryant Park is right behind the New York Public Library (5th Avenue branch) and has had quite a history. A dedicated public space since 1686, George Washington's army fled from the British across this area during the Battle of Long Island in 1776. From 1823 -184, these lawns were a burial site - a potter's field - for the poor. After the cemetery was relocated, Union armies drilled on this soil during the Civil War. Here, an enormous Crystal Palace was erected for the World's Fair of 1853/54 and burned to ground five years later.
Rescued from a sad state of neglect in the early 1990's, it's now a favorite gathering place for New Yorkers and visitors alike. Thousands come here on summer days to escape the office over the lunch hour, play a little chess, catch a few rays, stroll the promenades or meet friends for coffee. During the winter, there's a rink for free ice skating (skate rentals available) and The Holiday Shops to browse around the Christmas season.
A restaurant, casual cafe, 4 summer-only food kiosks, pretty carousel, free WiFi and year-round events are some of the fun things the park has to offer. It has an excellent website with a full history, schedule of events and information on amenities, services, a self-guided tour of the monuments, hours, etc. We brought our coffee and the New York Times here one morning for about as pleasant an hour as you could ask for. Great place for a picnic.
Address: In midtown Manhattan, between 40th and 42nd Street
Directions: Behind the Library
Tower, Brooklyn Bridge, NYC
This was the #1 thing on my to-do list and the highlight of the week. It was also the most frustrating as my camera battery checked out before I could capture those amazing views of the Manhattan skyline - $#%#*&!
This is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the country and the first to be constructed across the East River. Connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn, this mile-long icon of NYC was engineered by John Roebling and son, Washington - both of whom sustained fatal and near-fatal injuries seeing the dream to reality. The elder Roebling was surveying a location for the Brooklyn tower when his foot was crushed by an incoming ferry; he died of tetanus several weeks later. Washington took the reins as chief engineer only to become almost totally incapacitated from decompression sickness (also known as "the bends") after emerging from one of the deep, dangerous caissons used to build the foundations of the bridge. Unable to oversee the work from the construction site, he carried on, with a telescope, from his bed and his wife, Emily, became the unofficial director of the massive operation. Begun in 1867, it was finally completed in 1883 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964.
Today, the bridge channels many thousands of vehicles, bikers and pedestrians between the two boroughs and, day or night, the magnificent panorama of Lower Manhattan from this nearly 150 year-old engineering marvel is reason enough to lace on your walking shoes. If you become a bit peckish after all that exercise, one of NYC's top pizzarias, Grimaldi's, is located at the foot of the bridge, near the river, on the Brooklyn side. The attached link, "How to Walk the Brooklyn Bridge" (with thanks to Kristin Goode), will tell you how to get there. It's casual, inexpensive and usually very busy.
Address: See web links
Directions: Take the subway A, C High St. - Brooklyn Bridge or 4,5,6 Brooklyn Bridge.
Other Contact: www.nycroads.com/crossings/brook
If these walls could talk...
Hotel Chelsea is worth a stop-by just for its eccentric and sometimes scandalous past. Built in 1883, this rather sinister-looking, 12-story Victorian Gothic building was the tallest in New York until 1899 - but its more recent claim to fame is its long list of famous (and infamous) guests and residents: Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, the Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Stanley Kubrick, Tennessee Williams, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Arthur Miller, Eugene O'Neil, Thomas Wolfe, Willem de Kooning, and Jasper Johns are just a few of the signatures in this hotel's fabled register. Behind its brick facade, Arthur C. Clark wrote "2001, A Space Odyssey", Sex Pistol, Sid Vicious, may have offed unfortunate girlfriend Nancy Spurgen, and Dylan Thomas resided when met with a sorry end from 18 whiskies tossed down at the White Horse Tavern.
But aside from who-was-who at the Chelsea, it's the artwork that makes this such a fascinating ramble. The walls of the lobby and hallways are simply covered in a mind-blowing display of paintings and sculptures created by residents both well-known and not-so. I didn't wander any further than the lobby but I'll bet if you ask politely, you could venture up the stairs to gather the fullest effect: colorful, riotous, whimsical, bewildering, wonderful stuff. It's OK to shoot photos of the art but they kindly ask that you don't point your lens at the residents.
Needless to say, this is still a very popular hotel with writers, artists, actors, musicians and the like. From tiny, shared-bath cubbies to expensive refurbished suites, the decor is as eclectic as the guest list and great fun for creative types!
Address: 222 W 23rd St
Directions: Between 7th and 8th Avenues, Chelsea
Other Contact: www.chelseahotelblog.com
Phone: (212) 243 3700
I wasn't going to do this one as I hate standing in lines and, well, it's one of those really cliche tourist things. Still, as my Other Half pointed out, it IS the ESB and something I'd probably only do once in my life so off we went. About 45 minutes into a long, hot wait I was giving him the evil eye but once we (finally) stepped on onto the observation deck...
... the pictures say it all.
The website has everything you want to know about the history and visiting info of this historic, Art Deco spire so I'll stick to the generals:
Entrance to the building is on 5th Avenue, between 33rd and 34th Streets. There is a separate handicapped entrance (see website).
You will wait through a succession of 3 lines before you reach the 86th floor observatory: security, ticketing and elevators. The longest part of the wait will be inside the building and it was oppressively warm when we were there so you'll probably be shedding your coats (no coat check). Bring something to keep the kids occupied! Cameras and camcorders are, of course, fine but no tripods. Also no suitcases or bottles allowed.
There are several ways to cut the waiting time:
Order tickets in advance from the website - which eliminates the ticket line.
Order Express passes, which eliminates the ticket line and places you at the front of the other two. This comes with a price (around $45) but if you have $$ and don't have time, this is the way to go.
During your wait, they do their level best to sell you add-ons like tickets to a simulated helicopter show (Skyride) or 102nd floor observatory, audio guides and souvenirs.
General admission is, at the time of this writing, about $20 for adults and less for children and seniors (see website). US military, in uniform, and little ones under age 6 are free.
The ESB is open 365 days a year, 8:00AM to 2:00AM. Last elevators go up at 1:15AM.
A note about the illumination: it's normally white but changes per seasonal holidays (like Christmas) and other national/world events. They also occasionally turn it off on foggy/cloudy nights during peak migration season (spring/fall) as the birds are drawn to the lights and can smash into the side of the building.
Address: 350 5th Avenue
Directions: 1, 2, 3 or 9 (Seventh Avenue Lines), A, C or E (Eighth Avenue Subway) to 34th Street/Penn Station.
Phone: (212) 947-1360
Museum of Modern Art, NYC
I came here for one reason: to see Van Gogh's "The Starry Night". The nice lady at the information desk said "Oh yes, that's kind of our Mona Lisa - EVERYBODY wants to see that one!" It was well worth the kleenex (I'm a softy about this piece) and $20 museum ticket; what a moment.
But it was time to move on so, nose blown and camera in hand, I wandered off to see what other wonders the galleries might hold. Modern art isn't usually my favorite but MOMA's collection kept me busy for at least half a day. The museum has 150,000 works that include paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs and film, and date from the late 1800's so there were plenty of the Impressionists that I love so much. Other works were funny, disturbing, angry, confusing, dark, cheerful serene, curious or powerful and the explosion of colors and textures made for few dull moments. This is another great outing for a rainy day.
Many of the same rules apply as at the Met: no videocameras, flash or tripods, sketching only with pencils, etc. See the website for a preview of the collections, hours, ticket fees and other information. Closed Tuesdays.
Address: 33 Street at Queens Blvd. Long Island City, Queens
Directions: 7 Local train to 33 St., Queens.
Phone: (212) 708-9400
Metropolitan Museum of Art
This is what you save your pennies for! The Metropolitan is one of the world's greatest art museums and has 2 million works spanning 5,000 years in its vast collections. Paintings, sculpture, costumes, period rooms, musical instruments and more are displayed throughout its endless halls and corridors; you'd need far more than a day to see it all. Their excellent website is your first resource for information as I can't begin to cover all of the different styles, periods and mediums, but here's a top line of general visiting info:
• Closed Mondays except for Labor and Memorial Day. Open at 9:30 - 5:50 Tuesday - Thursdays and Sundays, and closes at 9:00 PM Fridays and Saturdays.
• Absolutely no backpacks or large bags allowed
• Photography is allowed in most of the galleries but no flash or videocameras. Tripods only allowed Wed - Fri with special permit
• Other than plastic water bottles, no food or drink allowed. There are several nice cafeterias, bars and cafes within the facility.
• Sketching allowed with pencil only - no pens or markers
• Cellphone use only allowed in the main entry hall
• Wheelchairs, strollers and baby carriers are fine - may also be rented at the museum
• Tickets: the $20 fee is listed as "suggested" but they encourage paying the full amount. Senior and student fees are less, and children under 12 are free (a good deal for families!). You can order express tickets online, and entrance fee is also covered under the NYC CityPass. Your ticket covers all of the museum's permanent collections and special exhibits.
As the building is so enormous, I'd recommend reviewing the collections on the Met's website before you go and choosing those you're most interested in. They also offer a wonderful selection of rental audioguides, for different interests and ages, that can make your visit just that much more interesting. This is a terrific activity anytime but especially on that cold or rainy day!
Extra tip: photos of your favorite works create a great screensaver slideshow when you get home.
Address: 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
Directions: Take 4, 5, or 6 train to 86th Street and walk three blocks west to Fifth Avenue
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