Get yourself a copy of The New Yorker, New York Magazine or TimeOut New York – You can find them at any newstand. These weekly magazines contain up to the minute info on what’s going on around town – descriptions of restaurants, current museum exhibits, readings at book shops, live music at small bars and clubs, theater & indie films (or films still in limited release). A lot of the events are moderately priced or, even better, FREE! Oh, and remember what I said in my last BEA post? Get a subway map. (Ask at the front desk of your hotel or the token booth at the station).
Two of NYC’s best museums have a policy known as Suggested Donation – The Metropolitan Museum of Art & The Museum of Natural History. They suggest that you pay $20.00, but you’ve the option to pay what you can afford (I usually give at least $5.00). Most museums with fixed admission policies have (at the very least) a weekly or monthly night where admission is free. So if there’s a specific museum/collection/exhibit you want to see, it’s worth visiting the museum’s website first.
Best 3 NYC Book Shops – I’ve posted this before, but this is Book Blogger Con and it bears repeating. My top 3 NYC bookshops are all within easy walking distance of each other. Take the B-D-F trains (the ORANGE line) downtown to Broadway -Lafayette St. Station. That will put you almost on the doorstep of The Housing Works Book Shop (126 Crosby Street). Once you spend a few hours there, walk out the front door, turn right and make a left onto Prince Street. Your next stop is McNally Jackson (52 Prince Street) – yes, it’s a less than 5 minute walk… and they’ve got one of those nifty Print-On-Demand machines! When you’re done there, get back on Broadway and start walking uptown to 12th Street. Last, but not least, is the world-famous Strand Book Store (828 Broadway) which boasts 18 miles of new, used & rare books. You’ll be AMAZED by the reasonably priced treasures you’ll find. And make sure you take the elevator upstairs to the Rare Book Room… it’s the place where good books (and lucky readers) go when they die.
Avoid Brooklyn your first time visiting the Big Apple. I know this is a controversial statement. The reality is: if you don’t know where you’re going you’ll spend a lot of time wandering in circles. If you’ve done Manhattan before and want to expand you’re horizons, then Brooklyn has a lot to offer. Park Slope, Williamsburg & Dumbo have a lot of cute shops and restaurants to explore – and I’m dying to visit the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint. Brooklyn also has a thriving Book Shop community. But 1 week isn’t enough time if you’re not already familiar with the city.
Central Park – Just Go! If you can, get a map. Central Park is the heart of NYC – it’s packed full of history, public art and people. The Met and The Museum of Natural History flank it, so if you’re visiting either (and the weather is nice) give yourself a little extra time to walk around outside and enjoy.
If you decide to visit the New York Public Library, take the tour. Seriously – you can’t take out books so you might as well make the trip worth it. They take you downstairs to “the stacks” and to the Map Room (so neat) and to all the areas no one thinks to go to (or that aren’t usually open to the public). Bryant Park directly behind the museum – and is one of my favorite places in the city. Buy a drink from a cart and put your feet up for a bit. Watch the old guys playing bocci. Nearby is the Central Children’s Room (20 W. 53rd St., between 5th & 6th Ave.) where you once could see Christopher Robin’s original Winnie-the-Pooh toys. (They’ve since been moved to the Children’s Center at 42nd St. & 5th Ave. – still only a short walk away).
I always recommend visiting the Pierpont Morgan Library and the Frick Collection. BUT – if you aren’t interested in seeing Vermeers and don’t want to spend the money (no suggested donations policy at the former homes of robber barons) you can always head uptown to the Ralph Lauren Flagship Store (867 Madison Avenue), known as The Mansion. It’s really housed in an old mansion… the entire old mansion, we’re not just talking one floor… built roughly in the same period as Morgan’s & Frick’s homes. The architecture is beautiful – and the visual team for Ralph Lauren is amazing. I can’t remember which floor the Home Collection is on, but if you visit The Mansion be sure to ask someone. It’s worth seeing. Think Disneyland – except instead of being in Mickey & Minnie’s world, you’ve wandered into Ralph & Ricky’s.
The Highline is an old, abandoned elevated subway line that went wild. Weeds and plants took it over, and New Yorkers (being New Yorkers) started wandering around up there. In 2009 it opened to the public as a park, which runs from 20th Street to 34th Street nearby the West Side Highway. On a weekend it’s insanely crowded, but I hear that on weekdays are less so…. at least by NYC standards. They have a calendar of events on their website. (And on Tuesday, May 24th they have stargazing).
When I was in Paris last month I went to dinner with a friend. Afterwards, at 2AM, she decided we were going to grab two bicycle and bike back home (they have racks all over Paris where you can rent a bike at one location using your credit card and leave it at another). She pointed out all the sites as we went, even rode me up to the doors of Notre Dame Cathedral. The point of my little anecdote? Cities at night are magic. So, if you’re not timid, I recommend visiting Times Square after dark. Now – I’m always skeptical when I hear people make warnings about getting robbed/mugged in Manhattan. I lived in the city for years without a problem. Use common sense – like you would in any city – and you’ll be fine. I also recommend taking a friend. You’ll be amazed how many people are out and how bright the lights are! (Oh… and that guy on the box preaching for Nation of Islam has been there for as long as I can remember. He’s practically a tourist attraction, himself).
Start walking. Discover something new. This parts a little tricky… because the area around the Javits Center is a wasteland (no offense!). I recommend heading in a few blocks to Lexington, Park, Broadway or 5th Avenue and start walking downtown. Or head uptown towards Central Park. Take a subway down to the Village or Soho and wander in circles…there’s plenty to see. And don’t worry if you get lost. Stand at the curb and wave down a taxi. They’ll have you back to where you started in no time at all.