33 Best Things to Do in New York



Slide 1 of 34: New York is so big and so diverse a place that you could live here four lifetimes and not experience all the amazing things the city has to offer. Even figuring out where to start your NYC trip is a daunting task. But we want to help you cut down the impossibly long list of ways to spend your day. Whether you're a local realizing you've yet to fully explore the city's parks and history or an out-of-towner who doesn't know the Met from the Met Breuer, these quintessential stops will help you catch a glimpse of the city's beating heart.
Slide 2 of 34: Tell me: What’s this place all about?
When the Brooklyn Bridge was constructed in 1883—extending 1,595 feet across the East River, connecting lower Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights—it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Now, it’s a historic staple of the New York City skyline, transporting commuter car traffic underneath and touristic foot traffic above.
And what’s it like being there?
Spirit-lifting awe.
Is there a guide involved?
There are a number of tour operators offering one- or two-hour guided walks or bike rides across the Brooklyn Bridge, but it’s easy to plan a self-guided tour if you prefer to save money and/or time. The overwhelming city views are what you’ll take away from a visit here, guaranteed.
Who comes here?
The two-lane outdoor path is shared by pedestrians (on the right) and bicyclists (on the left). During warmer months, when the path is crowded with tourists in leisure mode, anyone who walks with a purpose should avoid the Bridge at all costs. And everyone needs to look out for bicyclists, who drive fast and rarely slow down to maneuver around crowds.
Did it meet expectations?
Standing beneath one of the twin granite Manhattan Towers, all arches and rectangles with city skyscrapers rising in the distance, will at once inspire a sense of grandiosity and slightness. You’ll be in awe of how such a feat of architecture could be accomplished more than a century ago and also feel an overwhelming sense of the comparative tininess of man.
Slide 3 of 34: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
At 560,000 square feet, Brooklyn Museum is the third largest museum in New York City, and one of the its great institutions. Housed in a Beaux-Arts building from 1897, it sits on the edge of Prospect Park, perfect for spontaneous walk-ins.
What are we talking about in the permanent collection?
With 1.5 million works as part of the collection, just about every form of art is represented here. Particular standouts include its selection of paintings by Dennis Hopper and Norman Rockwell, and a top-notch Egyptian artifacts gallery.
And what if we're in the mood for a temporary exhibit?
Notable exhibits are usually overshadowed by the Met and MoMA, but Brooklyn has some top-flight shows of its own. Past examples include a look at the life of Georgia O'Keeffe and "One Basquiat," which explores Brooklyn-born artist Jean-Michel Basquiat's relationship with the borough.
What did you make of the crowd?
It's a big mix here, with lots of families, kids, and couples stopping in on weekends, probably after a stroll through Prospect Park. With such a huge collection, there's something for everyone, and visitors here reflect that.
On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
It's an easy museum to navigate, and every part of its grounds is wheelchair accessible (and wheelchairs are available for free at coat check).
Any guided tours worth trying?
There are a series of insightful (and free) guided group tours everyday that change depending on current exhibits. The website has a daily listings section.
Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
Gifts items from around the world (including textiles and pottery) make a stop in the museum's shop a must. But there's also a "Made in Brooklyn" section, featuring t-shirts, lamps, bags, and little decorative items that make for fun keepsakes.
Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
There are two food options at the museum. The Norm reflects the diversity of Brooklyn in its cuisine (with influences from places like India and the Caribbean) and shows off some of the museum's art on its walls. The Café is the more casual option, for salads, wraps, and sandwiches, plus coffee from Brooklyn Roasting Company.
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
It'd probably be impossible to see even a quarter of the museum in an hour, so if that's all you have, focus on a specific exhibition or section. The Egyptian antiquities is always a good place to start.
Slide 4 of 34: Tell me: What’s this place all about?
Coney Island is a residential neighborhood that transforms into an amusement park-like free entertainment hub roughly between Easter and Halloween.
Wow. What’s it like being there?
Child-like excitement.
Who comes here?
Locals and tourists hang out on the beach, eat ice cream cones on the promenade, and stand in line for the famed Cyclone roller coaster.
Did it meet expectations?
Coney Island has a reputation as a circus-worthy tourist trap, which is exactly what it is. But you may be surprised by the old-timey charms of this beachfront American town. You’ll definitely be impressed by the food and drinks—Totonno's Pizza, Gargiulo's and Coney Island Brewery, in particular.
Got it. So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
If you’ve ever wanted to participate in a mermaid parade or a July 4th hot-dog-eating contest, Coney Island is your spot.
Slide 5 of 34: Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
The High Line is a perfect example of what New York City does best: cleverly rehabs old spaces into exactly where you want them to be. When a 1.45-mile-long abandoned freight rail on Manhattan’s West End was transformed into an elevated, mixed-use public park in 2009, New Yorkers came running. Towering 30 feet above buzzing 11th Avenue, the High Line is a masterful feat of landscape architecture that melds walkways, benches, and chaise lounges with grass, perennials, trees, and bushes in perfect unkempt-kempt harmony. In many places, the High Line’s original railroad tracks remain, hidden among planting beds like discreet remnants of Old New York that seem to say, “change all you want, but we’re not going anywhere.”
Any standout features or must-sees?
The beauty of New York City’s urban landscape is on full display at the High Line, as is a wide array of original artwork, curated by Friends of the High Line, the non-profit conservancy that oversees maintenance, operations, and programming (in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation). The High Line’s public arts program showcases emerging talents from across the globe, including Henry Taylor, Sheila Hicks, Larry Bamburg, Guan Xiao, Marguerite Humeau, and Max Hooper Schneider. Some pieces are more prominent than others, so keep your eyes peeled as you amble along, and don’t consider your visit one-and-done, as the exhibitions are on constant rotation.
Was it easy to get around?
You really can’t get lost exploring the High Line (it’s linear; the only directions it runs are north and south). Enter on the street level at 34th street or climb the stairs/take a handicap-accessible elevator at one of the other five entrances (Gansevoort Street, 14th Street, 16th Street, 23rd Street, and 30th Street). Just don’t expect to traverse the High Line at top speed; it’s often crowded with tourists and stroller-toting locals. When you’re ready to descend, head for the nearest entry/exit point and be on your way; it’s often faster than finding your ideal cross street from up above.
All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
Access to the High Line is free, but you’d be a fool not to pad your wallet pre-arrival so you can sample some of its treats, particularly some sweet corn and cotija empanadas at La Sonrisa, some sour cherry gelato from L'Arte Del Gelato or a lime basil paleta from Newyorkina.
Slide 6 of 34: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
Every American should visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at least once. As you enter the museum, you descend from the street to bedrock level—the foundation of the former Twin Towers—and are placed in a meditative mindset, forced to recall where you were on that day. As you move from the historical exhibition to the memorial exhibition—the two core museum spaces—the emotion of the attack and subsequent loss of life is overwhelming. It's wrenching when you ascend to the 9/11 Memorial and see the names of all those who perished etched in bronze around the twin reflecting pools.
What will you find there?
The permanent collection is a multimedia compilation of more than 40,000 still images, 300 moving images, 3,500 oral recordings, and more than 14,000 objects, including ephemera, textiles, artwork, books, and manuscripts. The coverage of 9/11 is far-reaching in its historical breadth and depth, but also incredibly personal in its individual histories of the deceased. The museum itself is a masterful balance: It's grand in scale, contemplative in its construction, and personal in its execution. It pays homage to the enormity of the loss, both physical and spiritual. A number of temporary exhibitions have also been on view in various locations of the museum; check in advance for what's on when you're in town.
What did you make of the crowd?
The museum is filled with both American and foreign tourists, who, though often creating crowds during prime daytime hours, are respectful and contemplative.
On the practical tip, how were facilities?
The museum is large, so expect to spend most of the time standing or walking; there are benches strategically placed throughout and in multimedia rooms, where you really ought to sit and spend time. The museum is accessible to persons of all disabilities.
Any guided tours worth noting?
You could easily opt for a self-guided museum tour, but it is worth the $44 (or $65, if you want early access before the museum opens at 9 a.m.) to have an expert lead you around. Here, guiding isn’t about teaching the nuances of a work of art—the choice of medium, the weight of the brushstrokes—it’s about recounting an oral history of the events of 9/11. The day comes alive as your docent relays chilling stories of the falling Twin Towers, brave sacrifices made by first responders, and personal histories of those who were lost.
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
The entire museum can be done in 60 minutes (the length of a guided tour) if you go quickly through the film feature sections and stick to the historical exhibition, which recounts the events leading up to 9/11, the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Flight 93, and the aftermath of the day. But you could stay a full two hours and not for a second think about leaving early. No visit is complete without a pensive walk around the 9/11 Memorial to read the names of the deceased and be mesmerized by the cascading waters of the reflecting pools, which now proudly stand in the shadows of One World Trade.
Slide 7 of 34: Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
Step off the crowded sidewalks of 59th Street into Central Park and you’ll hardly realize what lies before you: 693 acres of man-made gardens, meadows, forests, and rolling hillsides. If you ambled down every one of Central Park’s pathways, you would walk 58 miles. (That’s not a challenge, please don’t.) Along the way, you pass fountains, monuments, sculptures, bridges, and arches. Plus 21 playgrounds, a winter ice-skating rink, a zoo, and even a castle. But you’d hardly notice the four major crosstown thoroughfares, which cleverly disappear into foliage-covered tunnels. What you will do is break out into a Sound of Music-style sprint upon arriving at Sheep Meadow or the Great Lawn, vast landscapes dotted with New Yorkers looking to escape the urban jungle in which they reside.
Any standout features or must-sees?
Embrace your inner child at Conservatory Water, the seasonal pond on the East Side (from 72nd to 75th Streets) made famous in E.B. White’s iconic children's novel, Stuart Little. Here you’ll find nautical enthusiasts both young and old navigating radio and wind-powered boats across the pond’s shimmering waters.
Was it easy to get around?
Manhattan’s urban grid disappears among the winding paths and dense foliage of Central Park. Even seasoned city dwellers can get turned around. But there’s a trick to reorienting yourself: Check the numbers at the base of any lamp post. Each is inscribed with four numbers—the first two digits indicate the nearest cross-street; the second two signal whether you’re closer to the east or west side of the park (even numbers mean east; odd, west). If you never venture north of Times Square, NYC might seem entirely flat, but Central Park will prove otherwise. So whether you’re jogging or in a wheelchair (most of the park is handicap-accessible), mentally prepare yourself for some winded inclines.
All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
Central Park is the unicorn of New York City: You can pass an entire day here and never spend a dollar.
Slide 8 of 34: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
Wealthy American industrialist Solomon R. Guggenheim was a visionary collector—he started amassing works by the likes of Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Marc Chagall before they were household names. So when it came time to build a permanent home for his modern art collection, Guggenheim called on another visionary: architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The namesake museum that followed was one of Lloyd Wright’s last commissions, completed six months after his death in 1959. It’s a radical departure from the typical museum layout—and from every other building in New York, for that matter. The circular concrete structure stands in stark contrast to the rectangular steel-and-glass buildings that surround it. Inside, a central ramp—which spirals upward and outward from one exhibition floor to the next—creates an open interior space, flooded with daylight that pours in through a glass dome.
What are we going to find in the permanent collection?
The Guggenheim’s permanent collection has more than 7,000 artworks, which include donated collections, acquisitions, and special commissions. The museum has the world’s largest collection of paintings by Kandinsky, plus works by Picasso, Klee, Miró, and more. It also houses a comprehensive collection of modern sculpture, 20th-century European paintings, and works by American artists dating from the 1950s onward.
What should we look for in terms of exhibits?
Exhibition space in the museum is limited. Oftentimes, temporary exhibits—which range in focus from a specific artist to a historical period to a thematic thread—can displace the permanent collection. (Though works from the permanent collection are always on view in the Thannhauser collection.) Even if you’re not a fan of the temporary exhibition, the works are paced out, uncluttered, and well organized, so the experience is pleasant.
What did you make of the crowd?
You don’t have to be a modern art lover to enjoy the museum. In fact, many who come are fans of Frank Lloyd Wright. Regardless, you’ll be posting the obligatory Instagram shot of that mesmerizing interior spiral when you visit.
On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
Purchase your tickets online before arrival so you don’t have to wait in line (it often extends around the block). If you can avoid it, leave your large purse or backpack at home; you won’t be allowed to carry them inside, and though free, bag check can be a hassle when the museum is busy.
Any guided tours worth trying?
Free-with-admission tours are hosted every day at 2 p.m. by gallery educators (no reservation required). If you arrive at another time, get the free audio tour or download the app and be sure to chat up the Gallery Guides, docents posted throughout the museum who are happy to explain what’s on view.
Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
Don’t walk into the ground-floor museum store expecting a deal: prints of works on view could cost $50, hardcover coffee table books as much as $150.
Is the café worth a stop, or should we plan on going elsewhere?
The Guggenheim has two dining outlets: The Wright, a James Beard Award-winning American bistro, and Café 3, an espresso and light-bites bar. If you have time for a full meal, head to The Wright; otherwise, stop in for pastries, chocolates, coffee, or a glass of wine—plus Central Park views—at the café. But no need to sneak snacks in with you.
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
If you’re not a modern art enthusiast, breeze through the temporary exhibits to the permanent collection, which includes crowd-pleasing Impressionist paintings, and walk the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed ramps.
Slide 9 of 34: Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
Prospect Park is the Central Park of Brooklyn; in fact, it was designed shortly after by the same team of architects, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, and has many of the same features: sprawling meadows made for picnicking, walking trails that snake through dense forests, and a picturesque lake. There's also a carousel, playgrounds, a zoo, basketball and tennis courts, and a 3.35-mile loop road that's popular with runners and bikers.
Fun! Any standout features or must-sees?
Start at the northern end, at Grand Army Plaza (where there's a bustling farmer's market on Saturdays), cross the main drive, and stick to the walking paths that run along the edges of Long Meadow. Then continue into the ravine before looping around Prospect Park Lake, where you can rent paddle boats or canoes in summer. Toward the southern end of the park, the LeFrak Center offers ice skating in winter and roller skating in summer, and Smorgasburg, a Sunday local food fair, pops up from April to October. Every summer, the Bandshell hosts weekly free concerts (check out the Celebrate Brooklyn website for the latest lineup).
Got it. Was it easy to get around?
Signage is pretty minimal, but navigating with the help of Google Maps or the free Prospect Park App, which includes a map and a directory, is easy. There are restrooms near the bandshell, in the picnic house, at the carousel, and at LeFrak. New York City parks are mostly ADA accessible, but it's important to note that there are some pretty steep hills, especially on the main loop.
That sounds cool. All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
If you want to see as much as possible, rent a bike at the LeFrak center and pedal around the main drive (but know that it's not exactly a flat course). If you're with kids, check out the Harmony and Lincoln Road playgrounds or stop by the carousel. And if the weather's nice, grab picnic supplies at the greenmarket (Saturdays) or Smorgasburg (Sundays) and post up on a blanket in Long Meadow.
Slide 10 of 34: Tell me: What’s this place all about?
From the double-height ceilings to the distinct dining areas (organized by food group—meat, fish, vegetables, pasta and pizza) and the breadth and depth of its specialty curation, you’ll want to move into this gourmet Italian market and food hall within minutes.
Who comes here?
Tourists, New York food snobs, dinner party hosts.
Did it meet expectations?
It’s hard not to be impressed by all that Eataly has to offer. There are hard-to-find Italian specialties—single-estate extra virgin olive oil, white truffle sauce, mushroom risotto, Ligurian pesto. There’s an on-site cooking school, La Scuola, in case you want to master wine-and-cheese pairings or learn to make the perfect pasta dough.
And then there’s the 14th-floor rooftop restaurant, Birreria, which hosts a rotating set of seasonally-themed pop-ups inside.
Got it. So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
While the restaurant prices are reasonable (by New York City standards), Eataly is for people with deep pockets and time on their hands. Don’t expect a five-minute pit stop to pick up an inexpensive pasta sauce—the lines are often serpentine and the price tags hefty. But if you love pristinely sourced ingredients and have a soft spot for the foods of Italy, expect to have your mind—and palate—blown.
Slide 11 of 34: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
Located on four acres in northern Manhattan's Fort Tryon Park, the Met Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the art, architecture, and gardens of medieval Europe. It opened in 1938 with the help of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who purchased the building and land on which the museum resides on behalf of the Met. The building overlooks the Hudson River and actually incorporates five medieval cloisters into a modern museum structure, creating a historic, contextualized backdrop in which to view the art.
The permanent collection: How was it?
The Met Cloisters is America’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages. The collection is both impressive and rarefied—it includes more than 2,000 artworks and artifacts (metalwork, painting, sculpture, textiles) from medieval Europe. The museum is even more awe-inspiring for the fact that you can spend a morning in a virtual Middle Age time capsule, and then be surrounded by modern Manhattan skyscrapers by afternoon.
What did you make of the crowd?
It’s a commitment to get uptown to the Cloisters (at least a 30-minute subway ride from Midtown). The upside, however, is that it’s far less crowded than the Met on Fifth Avenue, which makes it a pleasant and enjoyable place to visit. The surrounding park only adds to the beauty and peacefulness of the place; chances are you’ll forget you’re even in New York.
On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
The building is well laid out and easy to navigate; it’s perfectly designed to highlight the art and artifacts.
Any guided tours worth trying?
The audio guide has roughly two hours of recordings by museum curators, conservators, educators, and horticulturists. You can access general information about some 70 works of art and listen to a history of the Cloisters, its architecture, and its gardens.
Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
The Met Store sells jewelry, home gifts, books, stationery, and other knick-knacks inspired by the art, architecture, and gardens of medieval Europe. (Nothing revolutionary here.)
Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
The on-site café serves the usual light bites (sandwiches, salads, soups).
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
It takes two to three hours to do the Cloisters justice. You’ve come all this way, so you might as well make a day of it. Take your time, don’t cut corners. Walk leisurely through the cloisters, sit on the terrace, and finish with a walk through Tryon Park.
Slide 12 of 34: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
This is no ordinary art museum. Located in a striking Renaissance Revival former public school building in Long Island City, Queens, its setting is just as interesting as its collection, which is dedicated to cutting-edge contemporary works from the likes of James Turrell and Ai Weiwei. The crowd is usually just as cutting-edge. Because of its location in Long Island City, and the nature of its artwork, visitors usually come here knowing what they'll get and are commonly in the art, fashion, and design worlds. There aren't too many random drop-ins.
What are we talking about in the permanent collection?
All manner of contemporary art is shown here, with a collection over 200,000 pieces strong, ranging from Diane Arbus and Cindy Sherman photographs to paintings from Francis Bacon and Sol LeWitt sculptures.
And what if we're in the mood for a temporary exhibit?
Thought provoking, conceptual rotating exhibits are the norm here, and have included shows like a retrospective of German electronic band Kraftwerk (which featured live performances and 3D visualizations of music) and a vast survey of multimedia artist Mike Kelley's work.
What did you make of the crowd?
The people-watching can be just as good as the art, as creative types from around the city come here to find inspiration—especially during the summer months, when the museum throws its popular experimental music parties called Warm Up.
On the practical tip, how were facilities?
The museum is large, but not the scope of MoMA in Manhattan, so accessibility—including for those with mobility issues—isn't a problem, and a large elevator is available to every floor. You'll always find a place to sit and rest if need be, as well.
Any guided tours worth trying?
Although only group tours are available, there's a free audio app, which gives insight into the collection. There's even a separate recording for kids.
Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
Some people visit the gift shop here for its amazing selection of independent magazines and publications alone. It's primarily a book store (hence the name, Artbook @ MoMA PS1) and sells titles related to current exhibitions, photography monographs, books on art theory, and a range of style and design magazines and journals.
Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
After the early 2019 closure of the outstanding M. Wells Dinette, the food and restaurant at PS1 came under the supervision of Mina Stone, best known for her book Cooking for Artists.
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
You could spend an hour just exploring the museum's bookstore, so if that's all you have, pick a few galleries to focus on. But do stop by the ongoing James Turrell exhibit, "Meeting," an installation that encourages viewers to look upwards toward an unobstructed view of the sky.
Slide 13 of 34: So, what’s this place about?
Gagosian is one of a handful of so-called blue-chip galleries, high-end spots that showcase the work of artists whose work is already high (and often increasing) in value. It's art as commodity, sure, but it's also free and open to the public, with exhibitions that are often as exciting and thoughtfully curated as some of the world's best museums.
That sounds cool. How’s the space?
Gagosian has become an art empire; there are three galleries in Manhattan alone (in addition to locations in other cities around the world), but some of the most interesting shows take place at the two Chelsea locations (21st and 24th streets). The 24th street space is cavernous enough for multiple Richard Serra sculptures, with poured concrete floors, white walls, skylights, and glass doors. The 21st Street space, meanwhile, feels a bit more like a bunker. The third location, on Madison Avenue, is a collection of smaller rooms hidden on the upper floors of an office building.
The art’s the main thing, of course. How is it?
The shows tend to toggle between hot young things (Jonas Wood, Sterling Ruby), shiny, expensive stuff (Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons), and meditative museum-quality pieces by Cy Twombly or Picasso. Whatever's on view, it's bound to be impressive, and it's always worth poking your head into both Chelsea locations if you're wandering around the neighborhood.
Did you meet anyone on staff? Did they make an impression?
Aside from security guards posted throughout, the only staff you're likely to interact with are the assistants seated at the front desk. They can be notoriously chilly, but they're really there to let their bosses know when a major collector walks in, not to get chatty with the general public. Don't ask for a price list unless you're willing to spend as much on a work of art as most people do on a house.
At the end of the day, what—or who—is this place best for?
Art aficionados who want to ogle work destined for museums and the living rooms of the rich and famous. Gagosian also makes for excellent people watching.
Slide 14 of 34: Let’s start with scale. Where are we between global flagship and neighborhood boutique?
When London shopping mecca Dover Street Market debuted its New York outpost in December 2013, throngs of accessorized fashionistas camped out for days outside its Lexington Avenue entrance. That’s because Dover Street is more than just an eight-floor luxury department store; it’s a fashion-meets-art exhibition space. Featured designers configure their own display areas, allowing the shopper to interact with the clothes in a holistic manner that takes you inside the designer’s world—as opposed to just picking through dresses hanging on a metal rack.
Excellent! What can we find here, or what should we look for?
Dover Street is known for selling both exclusive collaborations with big-name brands (Prada, Louis Vuitton, Vetements) and ready-to-wear looks from high-end labels (Alaïa, Ann Demeulemeester, Comme des Garçons, Christopher Kane, Erdem, Jil Sander, Nina Ricci, Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Supreme, Thom Browne).
Last year, the store also added 3,000 square feet of basement retail space that permanently houses streetwear, T-shirts, and sneakers (budget-conscious fashionista will appreciate the “entry-level” price points).
If money’s no object, what goes in the cart?
Alaïa knit dresses, Rick Owens leather jackets, wearable art by Comme des Garçons.
And … what if we’re on a strict budget?
A baseball cap or a coffee table book (which probably still costs at least $50).
Who else shops here?
The majority of shoppers are millennial fashion types, who may not be able to afford what’s in-store but who appreciate high-fashion artistry. Don’t bring your dad. Unless your last name is Gabbana.
Any secret tips, or “don’t go home without” purchases?
The store gets an interior-design makeover twice a year, in January and July, so the spaces are ever-changing. If you’re looking for a real fashion discovery, be patient and hunt: Lesser-known international designers are typically tucked into corners. Also don’t miss the ground-floor café.
Slide 15 of 34: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
The Whitney Museum of American Art got a major upgrade when it relocated from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to its new, vastly expanded Meatpacking headquarters in 2015. The Renzo Piano-designed building is a glass-covered futuristic vision for a museum. It houses 50,000 square feet of indoor galleries, four outdoor exhibition spaces and terraces, a theater, a library and reading rooms, a ground-floor restaurant and a top-floor bar, both by Danny Meyer, one of the town’s best-known restaurateurs.
What are we going to find in the permanent collection?
The Whitney's collection houses more than 23,000 works by 20th- and 21st-century American artists. It includes paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat, films by Andy Warhol, photographs by Richard Avedon, sculptures by Alexander Calder, and more than 3,000 other artists.
And what if we're in the mood for one of the temporary exhibits?
The Whitney is more gallery than museum: The walls are whitewashed (you might have to squint on a sunny day), the art covers nearly every square inch of the gallery, and the interior configuration can be altered so no two exhibits are the same. You could argue the curation runs high-brow, so if you're not one for modern art you may feel underwhelmed by the experience.
What did you make of the crowd?
Expect a diverse crowd, from downtown hipsters to fanny-pack-toting tourists. Those who prefer ample space and time should arrive early, otherwise, you run the risk of standing on tip-toe to view something over other museumgoers’ heads.
On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
Unfortunately, the main mode of transport between floors is by elevator; a slow-moving, crowded one. On the flip side, the indoor galleries and outdoor terraces intermingle in an ingenious manner that eliminates dead ends, and allows museumgoers to move between the main display floors via exterior staircases.
Any guided tours worth trying?
Multimedia guides are free with admission (buy your tickets online in advance). They’re especially helpful to modern art novices, and you have the novel opportunity to listen to audio recordings made directly from the artists or curator. There are often more unexplained works than explained ones, so it can feel like a bit of a miss.
Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
Filled with design-centric knick-knacks for your artsy friend.
Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group runs both of the Whitney’s two dining outlets. Downstairs, at Untitled, expect contemporary American with a global influence; at the eighth-floor Studio Cafe, soups, salads, and light bites rival skyline views through floor-to-ceiling windows.
Slide 16 of 34: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is, as the name implies, a historic tenement house (two, if you want to get technical). Walking up to the Orchard Street entrance—as New Yorkers make their way to the office or weekend brunch—would seem as if you’re about to enter any old apartment building fronted by a cast-iron fire escape.
What are we going to find here?
The tenements-turned-museum housed an estimated 15,000 people, who immigrated from more than 20 nations between 1863 and 1935. It wasn’t uncommon for a family of ten to live in a 325-square-foot apartment. On a tour of the tenements, you’ll hear personal histories of these working-class individuals and see how they made do with cramped quarters in order to build new lives in America. On a neighborhood walking tour, the other way to visit the museum, you’ll learn about the evolution of the Lower East Side and how its thriving immigrant population made it the most densely populated area in the country during the 1900s.
What did you make of the crowd?
Visitors are informative tourists looking for a unique museum experience—probably not the same type that shows up at a big-ticket landmark and ignores half of the audio tour. But each tour focuses on a different theme, so pick one that speaks to your personal interests or family history. Those with young children should book the Meet Victoria Confino tour; kids love meeting the (impersonated) 14-year-old 97 Orchard Street resident, touring her apartment, and asking her questions about her life.
On the practical tip, how easy is it to get around?
The tenements are historic buildings that have not been modernized (i.e. no elevator access, narrow halls, tiny rooms), so those with mobility issues should book a neighborhood tour.
Any guided tours worth trying?
The only way to visit the museum is by booking a tour (groups are small; do it well in advance). Tours are either tenement-focused (view the apartments and/or businesses of the former residents), resident-focused (interact with actors portraying members of the families that lived in the tenements), or neighborhood-focused (walking tour of the Lower East Side to learn how immigrants helped shaped the area and its culture).
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
Tours range from one to two hours. Book an hour-long one if you’re limited on time.
Slide 17 of 34: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
For nearly a century and a half, the Met has remained the cultural epicenter of New York City, thanks to forward-thinking exhibits and an extensive permanent collection. With its Gothic-Revival-style building, iconic tiered steps, and Central Park location, the building is a sight to be seen. But step inside its Great Hall—as a ceaseless parade of museumgoers move to-and-fro—and you’ll feel the overwhelming sense of possibility and discovery that lays beyond.
What are we going to find in the permanent collection?
There are 5,000 years of history packed within the Met's walls. The collection includes everything from paintings by European masters to ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, to Asian textiles to clothing by iconic fashion designers. Its breadth and depth are awe-inspiring and overwhelming, in the best way possible.
What about the rotating exhibits?
The Met offers an impressive number of non-permanent exhibits, which focus on a specific artist, theme, or moment in time. Many of them have received critical acclaim for their curation and contextualization. A Rodin exhibition, for example, showcased masterpieces such as The Tempest, which have not been on view in decades, in addition to paintings by the sculptor’s contemporaries (Claude Monet and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes) to establish a dialogue with his works. An adjacent gallery also displayed drawings, prints, letters, illustrated books, and photographs by Rodin to showcase the evolution of his artistic process.
What did you make of the crowd?
The Met has something for everyone, so expect to see a full cast of characters: families, solo art fanatics, school groups (hint: walk the other direction), and tourists. It’s often crowded, especially in the temporary exhibits, so try to arrive first thing in the morning and avoid weekends if possible.
On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when staring at a map of the museum where to even start?), so it pays to do your research online before arrival. Consider the genres of art that appeal to you, home in on those wings or galleries, and keep an open time-slot for a wildcard or two.
Any guided tours worth trying?
The Met audio guide includes more than 3,000 audio and video messages, including kid-specific tours. If you’re planning a self-guided visit, it’s worth the $7 rental, if only because the museum is so vast you’ll need an insight every now and then—that is, unless you already understand the meaning behind that 14th-century Chinese mural? Didn’t think so.
Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
Expect the usual tchotchkes, but also some creative special-issue items. Case in point: a set of four glass coasters showcasing patterns adapted from stained glass objects in the Met collection by American glassmaker Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
The Met café is a glorified cafeteria—and an overpriced one at that. Skip. There are other food stops in the museum as well, but you are practically spitting distance from half a dozen world-class restaurants and bakeries. Try those instead.
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
Realistically, you could spend a week wandering the halls, but if you've got limited time and attention spans, start with the Temple of Dendur, a 2,000-year-old soaring Egyptian temple (the only complete one in the Western Hemisphere). Then, make your way to the second-floor galleries of 19th- and early-20th-century European paintings and sculpture, filled with works by old masters such as van Gogh, Monet, Degas, Cézanne, and Picasso. If you’ve got 20 more minutes, head to the Greek and Roman Sculpture Court, home to hundreds of centuries-old objects, including the famed statue of the three Graces, the embodiments of beauty, mirth, and abundance.
Slide 18 of 34: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
When the Whitney Museum of American Art relocated to its jazzy new downtown headquarters in 2016, it wasn’t long before the Metropolitan Museum of Art swooped in on Marcel Breuer’s Brutalist-style building for its latest extension. The new annex, dubbed the Met Breuer (BROY-er), showcases modern and contemporary works that are as thought-provoking as the landmark space in which they reside.
What are we going to find in the permanent collection?
The Met's newest location showcases works across all media created by 20th- and 21st-century artists in galleries that are spacious but not overwhelming. There’s no permanent Breuer-specific collection, so the emphasis is on the rotating exhibitions.
What if we're in the mood for a rotating exhibit?
It’s a Met museum, so you can expect a number of well-curated, non-permanent exhibitions from household names and lesser-known entities. But the galleries are all-white and Breuer’s building is all hard lines and dark shades, so the art-viewing experience can be a bit forlorn.
What did you make of the crowd?
They are real fans of modern art, and unless you are too, the Met Breuer might be lost on you.
On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
The Met Breuer is the middle ground of the Met family: It’s not so large that you leave feeling exhausted nor so focused that you’re underwhelmed by the range of art on view. You can see everything within a few hours, and the galleries are never so crowded as to make a leisurely viewing impossible.
Bonus: Admission includes access to the Met Cloisters and the Met Fifth Avenue (just five blocks away) within three consecutive days.
Any guided tours worth trying?
Again, it’s a Met, so the tour guides are top-notch; audio guides cost $7.
Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
Museum eats are rarely anything to write home about, but consider the Met Breuer’s two dining outlets an exception to the rule. Flora Bar, the lower-level restaurant and bar, serves a minimalist seafood-centric menu and an equally focused wine and cocktail list (to be safe snag a reservation for the day of your visit). If you don’t have time for a sit-down meal, pop into adjacent Flora Coffee, serving pastries, sandwiches, and other small bites.
Slide 19 of 34: What’s this place all about?
With its towering stacks, filled with more than 2.5 million titles, this 86-year-old bookstore is less neighborhood haunt, more globally recognized institution.
What do you feel when you're there?
Nerdish curiosity.
Was the staff helpful?
You could call the Strand's employees tour guides, considering their deft ability to find the exact title you're looking for and recommend a book you may not have otherwise plucked from the shelves.
Who comes here?
You don’t have to be bookworm to visit the Strand (as it’s referred to by locals). The store has become a destination unto itself, offering visitors a chance to peruse shelves packed with everything from the latest page-turner to first-edition hardbacks.
Did it meet expectations?
The Strand will make you question why you don’t read more; and chances are you won’t leave empty-handed.
So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
There are countless treasures to be found among the dollar carts that sit outside the bookstore.
Slide 20 of 34: Tell me: What’s this place all about?
Smorgasburg is an artisanal food market with some 100 local vendors that attracts tens of thousands of people every weekend. It’s open at its outdoor locations from April through October (Saturdays in Williamsburg, Sundays in Prospect Park). Its indoor location has bounced around a little, most recently it's been at the Atlantic Center. Admission is gratis, but expect to pay up as you make your way from stall to stall.
What do you get from a trip here?
Casual indulgence.
Who comes here?
Hungry New Yorkers and tourists in search of an authentic foodie experience.
Did it meet expectations?
Since opening, Smorgasburg has expanded with a weekly market in Los Angeles and even an annual outpost in Osaka, Japan. Locals love it because it allows you to discover new chefs, restaurants, and producers; tourists appreciate that they can sample everything from the famous Ramen Burger to gai dan jai (an egg waffle from Hong Kong) in one buzzing location.
Got it. So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
Even the pickiest eater will fall in love with something delicious at Smorgasburg (hint: go for the cheese), so there’s no one it won’t please.
Slide 21 of 34: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
If you or anyone you know has ever lived in New York, you’re aware that most of its inhabitants are squeezed into shoebox-sized apartments. So when millionaire industrialist Henry Clay Frick's Upper East Side home was transformed into a museum in 1935, consider it safe to say Mr. Frick wasn't living like your average New Yorker. The Henry Clay Frick House, er, mansion, spans an entire city block along Fifth Avenue—and nearly every inch is filled with the art enthusiast’s collection of old master paintings and fine furniture. As if it wasn’t already impressive enough, the Frick Collection recently announced a forthcoming upgrade, enhancement, and expansion of the institution’s facilities by renowned architect Annabelle Selldorf.
What will we find in the permanent collection?
The Frick contains an impressive collection of paintings by old masters (Bellini, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Goya, Whistler), as well as European sculpture, fine furniture, and decorative arts. All of the art is housed in 15 galleries within Frick’s former residence. Some of the works and items are still arranged as Frick had originally installed them (though almost half of the permanent collection has been acquired since his death in 1919).
What can we expect from the temporary exhibits?
Outside of the permanent collection, the Frick organizes a concert series, lectures, symposia, education programs, and focused temporary exhibitions. When we last visited, there was an exhibit on Spanish Golden Age painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, which displayed the artist’s only two known self-portraits (one belongs to the Frick, the other to the National Gallery in London), along with a handful of his other works. The focus was narrow, but thoughtfully executed; two weeks in, the museum even acquired a work that was long believed a false copy, but which was reattributed to Murillo by an art historian, causing a flurry of international headlines.
What did you make of the crowd?
You could call the Frick high-brow: Children under 10 are not allowed inside the museum.
On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
You’ll be tempted to sit on that upholstered chaise lounge, but please don’t—it’s probably an antique. Best place to rest your feet after walking around the galleries is the Garden Court, a beautiful interior courtyard with a fountain and glass-domed ceiling reminiscent of a mini Grand Palais.
Any guided tours worth trying?
The museum only offers guided tours to school groups and private groups of no more than six people, the price for which is $200 per four adults ($50 for each additional person). Get the audio guide, which is included in the price of admission. If you have a question about a particular work, look for one of the art historians, called education staff, who are often posted throughout the galleries.
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
The Frick is like a New York City museum highlight reel: It’s exactly the right scale, everything in the collection is worth seeing, and can be viewed in an hour or less.
Slide 22 of 34: So, what’s this place about?
Set in a converted 19th-century warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn, this non-profit contemporary arts center, founded by artist Dustin Yellin, is like a mini PS1. The ground-floor gallery seamlessly blends with the outdoor garden, creating one of the largest exhibition spaces in New York City that’s used for public arts programs, artists residencies, live music performances, special chef dinners, and private events.
How’s the space?
The brick-and-timber interior gallery has a hip industrial feeling, as do the higher floors, which are used for performance arts and artist residencies. The exterior garden is filled with plants, greenery, weeping willow trees, and pebble-strewn walkways; it’s a beautiful space to hang out during warmer months.
The art’s the main thing, of course. How is it?
Exhibitions change frequently and are often cleared out for events and live music performances, which are some of the best ways to experience Pioneer Works.
At the end of the day, what—or who—is this place best for?
High-brow arts patrons come for the out-there exhibitions, while regular Joes will be more tempted by performances by top DJs (Questlove) and musicians (Miguel).
Slide 23 of 34: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
The Morgan is like a multi-hyphenate millennial—only instead of actress/model/influencer/whatever leads to early retirement, it’s museum/library/landmark/historic site/music venue. The building was originally the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan. But since its 2006 expansion—led by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano—it’s more like a mini Madison Avenue campus. There are now some 20 different spaces, including galleries, libraries, a performance hall, and more within.
What are we going to find in the permanent collection?
The Morgan houses art in virtually every medium, including drawings, prints, and artifacts dating from 4000 B.C. to the twenty-first century. The library's holdings include a host of rare books and manuscripts: one of 23 copies of the original Declaration of Independence; Mozart's handwritten score of the Haffner Symphony; the collected works of Phillis Wheatley, the first known African-American poet; the only extant manuscript of Milton's Paradise Lost; and Charles Dickens’s manuscript of A Christmas Carol. Swoon.
What if we're in the mood for one of the rotating exhibits?
The museum hosts a few temporary or seasonal exhibitions simultaneously. Topics range from a particular artist or author (Charles Dickens and Emily Dickinson have been covered in the past) to a comprehensive interpretation of a specific practice, like the importance of sketching and drawing for renowned Flemish Baroque painters.
What did you make of the crowd?
The majority of museum-goers are New York City tourists (informed ones, who probably didn’t come directly from Time Square), but locals frequent the Morgan to catch a performance or take in a new exhibition.
Any guided tours worth trying?
The Morgan offers a free hourlong “highlights” tour of the permanent collection Tuesday through Sunday at 12:30 p.m. If a particular exhibition interests you, check the tour schedule to time your visit.
Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
Even if you don’t feel like buying items related to the collections, the Morgan Shop is worth visiting, since it’s located in J.P. Morgan Jr.'s former brownstone.
Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
The Morgan Café, set within the glass-enclosed Gilbert Court, is the perfect spot for a casual light lunch or tea.
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
A comprehensive visit to the museum could take upwards of two hours. If you’re limited on time, do a lap around Morgan’s library (the atmosphere will not disappoint), then focus on the special exhibits.
Slide 24 of 34: Tell me: What’s this place all about?
The United States’ most celebrated monument, the Statue of Liberty was gifted by the French as a sign of goodwill and friendship in honor of the U.S. centennial of independence. The Statue was unveiled on a reportedly wet and foggy day in 1886 in front of one million New Yorkers; last year, a record 4.4 million tourists visited Liberty Island, the 14-acre swath of land one mile south of lower Manhattan upon which the Statue rests. While there is no fee to visit Liberty Island, you do have to pay for a round-trip ferry ride via Statue Cruises. The ferry also stops on Ellis Island, part of the national park, and is famous for processing more than 12 million immigrant steamship passengers through its federal immigration station from 1892 to 1954. The island now houses the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, where visitors can search digital images of ship manifests for the immigration records of their relatives.
What’s it like being there?
Historical awe.
Is there a guide involved?
Ranger-guided tours of Liberty Island are available most days (weather and staff-level permitting). Audio tours of the island’s grounds and the Statue of Liberty Museum are available every day. The Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration offers free ranger-guided and audio tours that are laden with historical facts and personal histories. If you plan to visit the Statue’s pedestal or crown, plan ahead: There are a limited number of tickets available each day and they sell out weeks, if not months, in advance. Before you book, know that there’s no elevator access from the top of the pedestal to the crown; you’ll have to climb 162 steps on a confined spiral staircase for those panoramic views of New York City.
Who comes here?
Committed tourists. It takes at least six hours to properly visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, so if that doesn't sound doable to you, don’t go.
Did it meet expectations?
The Statue of Liberty is a bucket-list item; check it off, but chances are you won’t return for round two.
Got it. So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
If you’re tight on time, take the ferry to Liberty Island, walk around, snap a selfie with Lady Lib, and leave feeling plenty satisfied. Those who are crowd-averse should take it all in from a distance at Battery Park or the Brooklyn Promenade, or hop on the free ferry to Staten Island to catch views of the Statue and the New York Harbor.
Slide 25 of 34: Tell me: What’s this place all about?
For almost two centuries, this 172-acre isle in the heart of New York Harbor was closed to the public, operating as a military base. Now, anyone can visit Governors Island’s monuments, parks, and exhibitions during summer (May through October, seven days a week). To get there, all you need is a round-trip ferry ticket, and New York residents just have to show a valid state license to ride free.
(Insider tip for out-of-towners: You’ll score a free ride if you board the ferry before noon on the weekend; otherwise, it costs $3 for adults, $1 for senior citizens, and is always free for children under 13.)
Wow. What’s it like being there?
Entertaining escape from the heat trap that is NYC during summer.
Who comes here?
For most New Yorkers, boarding a ferry is a BFD. It doesn’t have the ease of a cab or the speed of the subway; it’s slow and moves on water, which is to say, you’re forcibly reminded that Manhattan is an island. So a visit to Governors Island is never done on a whim. Most people pack picnics and stay all day: Relax on a hammock, stand on the—gasp—grass at the Hills park, and feel the breeze rarely found during New York City in summer.
Did it meet expectations?
Governors Island has immediate escapist appeal, but most people go for a memorable event: music festivals, pop-up dinners, art exhibits, dance performances—the list goes on.
Got it. So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
New Yorkers in search of activities and fresh air.
Slide 26 of 34: Tell me: What’s this place all about?
Central Park’s small namesake zoo is one of midtown Manhattan’s most popular family attractions. General admission costs $12 for adults and $7 for children.
Wow. What’s it like being there?
Animal-loving wonder.
Who comes here?
School groups and families in search of weekend activities.
Did it meet expectations?
Don’t expect to be overwhelmed by the number of wildlife—the Central Park Zoo is just 6.5 acres (compared to big sister Bronx Zoo’s 265 acres). But intimacy and accessibility are the appeal for Manhattanites, who take their kids here to see a rare snow leopard, ruffled lemurs, grizzly bears, penguins, sea lions, and more.
Got it. So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
Urbanites looking to share the wonders of wildlife with their gridlocked offspring.
Slide 27 of 34: Give us the big picture: What’s the vibe of the place, what’s it like?
This world-class performance hall seems from another era. It's known for its namesake industrialist founder, as well as its Renaissance Revival architecture, outstanding acoustics, and the list of famous musicians who’ve graced its stages.
What kinds of events can we see here?
Musicians of all disciplines have performed at Cargenie Hall, from classical to jazz, folk to popular music.
How are the seats?
Carnegie Hall has 3,671 seats, divided among three auditoriums. The acoustics in the main space, Stern Auditorium, are famously well-designed, so there's no bad seat. But the best ones are within the parquet, first tier, and second tier. If you're trying to limit costs and want to reserve the dress circle or balcony, try to buy seats toward the middle of the auditorium, so you're less likely to end up with an obstructed view.
Good for kids?
Performances are typically for adults, but Carnegie Hall hosts a few "family days" throughout the year, during which kids can listen to live performances, build handmade instruments, and sing and dance with professional musicians.
Anything in particular that makes this place special, from the programming to a unique feature it has?
Since opening in 1891, Carnegie Hall has become synonymous with musical achievement: If you perform on one of its famous stages, you join the ranks of popular artists like the Beatles and Judy Garland and composers like Mahler and Tchaikovsky.
If we’re going to be in town, what—and who—do you think this is best for?
You're likely to leave Carnegie Hall ready to return for another show. Tickets vary on the performance, but can start as low as $30 to $40 for balcony seats in the Stern Auditorium. You can also sign up for a free performance or inquire about same-day $10 rush tickets for select concerts (check out the website for more deals).
Slide 28 of 34: Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
If people-watching is your sport, Washington Square Park is your place. Entertainment is a given in this intimate, not-quite 10-acre space, filled with career chess players, musicians, performers, students, sunbathers, strollers, and general throngs of Greenwich Villagers, desperate for a bit of fresh air. Linger on one of the benches by the main fountain and consider the artistic greats who’ve found inspiration in the very same spot: musicians like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, Beat generation poet Allen Ginsburg, even Henry James, whose novel, Washington Square, was inspired by the Park and surrounding neighborhood.
Any standout features or must-sees?
You could circle the entire park in less than 15 minutes, but take your time: Pause beneath Washington Arch, honoring our country’s first president (for whom the Park is named), and observe the laurel wreaths and intricate motifs that extend from the base to the keystones, atop which twin eagles perch like constant watchmen.
Was it easy to get around?
The park is entirely handicap accessible.
All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
Unless you’ve got time to kill, do a lap, stop for pictures, listen to a quick tune, then head one block north on Fifth Avenue for can’t-miss pies at OTTO Enoteca e Pizzeria.
Slide 29 of 34: Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is really a series of gardens, pavilions, and conservatories connected by a looping path. Greenhouses house bonsais, rare orchids, and desert plants, while outdoor spaces range from a lush Shakespeare garden to a Japanese-style lily pond traversed by a romantic bridge.
Any standout features or must-sees?
Depending on the season, you might spot hot-pink tree peonies, cherry blossoms shedding their confetti-like petals, or stately rose bushes heavy with lush flowers. Check out the Plants in Bloom section of the website to get a sense of what's in bloom.
Was it easy to get around?
Everything is off of one main loop path, so you couldn't get lost if you tried to. Facilities are all located in the main pavilion, near the entrance, so make sure you go before embarking on your stroll. For anyone with mobility issues, everything is on one level and ADA accessible.
That sounds cool. All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
What you'll see depends heavily on the season, but the bonsais and the Japanese garden are beautiful year-round.
Slide 30 of 34: Give us the big picture: What’s the vibe of the place, what’s it like?
New York City’s preeminent symphony orchestra primarily performs at the world-renowned David Geffen Hall, within the Upper West Side Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The Max Abramovitz-designed auditorium seats 2,738 people in a grand, imposing room that adds to the drama of the classical music performances.
What kinds of events can we see here?
David Geffen Hall hosts notable performances by acclaimed orchestras and musicians from around the globe, as well as galas, film premieres, and even the odd graduation or two.
Good for kids?
For older kids maybe. But probably think of this as an adults-only affair, unless your 12-year-old is a classical music enthusiast or patron of the arts.
Anything in particular that makes this place special, from the programming to a unique feature it has?
There are 106 members of the New York Philharmonic, all of whom earn their living as full-time musicians. Hearing them perform will inspire profound respect and awe for their incredible talents, even if you're classical music newbie.
If we’re going to be in town, what—and who—do you think this is best for?
This experience is for everyone: You don’t have to understand the history of the symphony or concerto being played in order to appreciate the profundity of the experience. The price can be high, so check the Philharmonic schedule—patrons can visit during open rehearsals on Thursday mornings; general admission tickets are available for $22. The Philharmonic also gives away free tickets to select Friday performances to people between the ages of 13 and 26, and the orchestra performs free concerts in New York-area public parks during summer. (There’s always one at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on Memorial Day).
Slide 31 of 34: Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
With more than 700 different species spread across 265 acres of parkland thoughtfully designed to mimic natural habitats, the Bronx Zoo is a great place to escape from Manhattan for the day, especially if you're traveling with kids.
Any standout features or must-sees?
Don't miss the giraffe building, the Congo gorilla forest, the house of reptiles, and the flamingos in the sea bird aviary. And the sea lions always make for an exciting show.
Was it easy to get around?
The grounds are enormous, but there's a shuttle that loops between various points of interest. The grounds have plenty of signs, places to sit down and regroup, and bathrooms.
All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
For lack of a better metaphor, this place is a zoo. If you're looking for a quiet and meditative way to spend a few hours, skip it. But if you want to blow the minds of a bunch of kids, you can do no better.
Slide 32 of 34: Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
Although the New Museum was founded in 1977, it gained more attention in 2007 with the opening of its $50 million Bowery location—a 7-story building that looks like stacks of blocks on top of each other, designed by cutting-edge Tokyo-based architecture firm Sejima + Nishizawa/SANAA.
What are we talking about in the permanent collection?
The museum contains all things contemporary and modern, in all mediums, but tends to champion lesser known artists (shows have included Australian painter Helen Johnson, L.A.-based filmmaker Kahlil Joseph and Philadelphia installation artist Alex Da Corte). Exhibits can be hit or miss, and enjoyment of them tends to be wildly subjective.
What if we're in the mood for a temporary exhibit?
The big draws here are always the temporary exhibits, some of which draw a lot of buzz, and others, not so much. Past blockbusters have included "Live Forever," a survey of work from American artist Elizabeth Peyton, and “Carsten Höller: Experience,” which was the most comprehensive U.S. exhibition of the multi-media artist's work.
What did you make of the crowd?
Of all the major museums in New York City, this is one that draws the most locals and art insiders, which falls in line with its relatively niche place in the museum world when compared to the Met and MoMA. Many visitors come here with the intention of seeing a certain exhibit, and families and kids are few and far between.
On the practical tip, how were facilities?
The building's straightforward layout makes it a snap to explore. And all galleries here are wheelchair accessible—there are even two wheelchairs available at the coat check free of charge.
Any guided tours worth trying?
There are daily, free, forty-five minute, docent-led public tours of the museum's current exhibitions. They're worth it if you want some insight into the sometimes avant-garde works you're looking at.
Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
It's mostly full of books; an excellent small shop for hard-to-find 'zines and obscure tomes on art, architecture, and design. There are also art supplies, posters, puzzles, and small, quirky home decor items.
Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
The small café on the first floor of the museum offers Intelligentsia coffee, grilled cheese sandwiches, kale salads, and all sorts of baked goods from local favorite Café Grumpy.
Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
Because its size doesn't compare with a place like MoMA, it's possible to get a good sense of the collection in 90 minutes—but start with the current exhibit you find most intriguing, as you might not see something (especially if it's particularly avant-garde) similar for awhile.
Slide 33 of 34: So, what’s this place about?
David Zwirner is a blue-chip contemporary art gallery with three locations in New York City (where it started) and satellites in London and Hong Kong. In comparison to some of the other ultra-high-end galleries of its ilk, it has a bit more of an academic, family-business feel to it. Shows tend to be a little quieter and more thoughtful; there's an in-house book arm, and the gallery even produces its own podcast.
How’s the space?
Of their two main spaces in Chelsea—the other is in a townhouse on the Upper East Side—the Annabelle Selldorf–designed building on 20th Street is the most distinctive, with a rough concrete facade and wood-framed doors and windows. The exhibition spaces are some of the biggest in the neighborhood, but they can still get pretty packed on weekends.
The art’s the main thing, of course. How is it?
The artist roster is all high-value stuff, but the gallery generally stays away from anything overly slick or corny in favor of a more intellectual approach: muted paintings by Luc Tuymans, Alice Neel, and Giorgio Morandi; Dan Flavin neons; and watercolors by Chris Ofili and Raymond Pettibon. Occasionally an exhibition will turn out to be a blockbuster, like the Yayoi Kusama show a few years back that had people lined up around the block for a chance to see her famous mirrored "Infinity Rooms."
Did you meet anyone on staff? Did they make an impression?
Front desk staff will mostly ignore you unless you're a heavy hitter (or unless you want to buy one of the books on display). Otherwise, there are usually security guards around to make sure you don't bump into anything.
At the end of the day, what—or who—is this place best for?
It's a mix of casual observers and sceney art world people in it for the 'gram. If you're short on time, pick one of the Chelsea locations to hit up on your gallery circuit.
Slide 34 of 34: Let’s start with vibe. What does it feel like in this place?
The Queens Night Market, a chaotic melting pot of a market, is the anti-Smorgasburg (the Brooklyn market known for its artisanal, often Instagram-friendly food). Inspired by the night markets of Southeast Asia, it brings together vendors from as many different cultures as there are in the borough itself—well, almost.
What can we find here, or what should we look for?
Vendors rotate on a yearly basis, but you can expect a veritable United Nations of dishes, from Peruvian Quinoa Chaufa to Taiwanese popcorn chicken to Moldovan waffle rolls.
If money’s no object, what goes in the cart?
Most dishes cost less that $10. But if you want to ball out, pull together a multi-course feast from a few different stalls and eat it at one of the picnic tables by the stage.
And … what if we’re on a strict budget?
The fried-egg-wrapped burger from The Malaysian Project is a pretty serious meal. Wash it down with a  juice made from soursop, pandan, and lime.
Who else is eating here?
A glorious cross-section of Queens: multi-generational immigrant families, young transplants with adventurous palates, and teens on dates.
Any secret tips, or “don’t go home without” purchases?
As long as you come hungry and open-minded, you can't go wrong.

New York is so big and so diverse a place that you could live here four lifetimes and not experience all the amazing things the city has to offer. Even figuring out where to start your NYC trip is a daunting task. But we want to help you cut down the impossibly long list of ways to spend your day. Whether you’re a local realizing you’ve yet to fully explore the city’s parks and history or an out-of-towner who doesn’t know the Met from the Met Breuer, these quintessential stops will help you catch a glimpse of the city’s beating heart.

Brooklyn Bridge

Tell me: What’s this place all about?
When the Brooklyn Bridge was constructed in 1883—extending 1,595 feet across the East River, connecting lower Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights—it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Now, it’s a historic staple of the New York City skyline, transporting commuter car traffic underneath and touristic foot traffic above.

And what’s it like being there?
Spirit-lifting awe.

Is there a guide involved?
There are a number of tour operators offering one- or two-hour guided walks or bike rides across the Brooklyn Bridge, but it’s easy to plan a self-guided tour if you prefer to save money and/or time. The overwhelming city views are what you’ll take away from a visit here, guaranteed.

Who comes here?
The two-lane outdoor path is shared by pedestrians (on the right) and bicyclists (on the left). During warmer months, when the path is crowded with tourists in leisure mode, anyone who walks with a purpose should avoid the Bridge at all costs. And everyone needs to look out for bicyclists, who drive fast and rarely slow down to maneuver around crowds.

Did it meet expectations?
Standing beneath one of the twin granite Manhattan Towers, all arches and rectangles with city skyscrapers rising in the distance, will at once inspire a sense of grandiosity and slightness. You’ll be in awe of how such a feat of architecture could be accomplished more than a century ago and also feel an overwhelming sense of the comparative tininess of man.

Brooklyn Museum

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
At 560,000 square feet, Brooklyn Museum is the third largest museum in New York City, and one of the its great institutions. Housed in a Beaux-Arts building from 1897, it sits on the edge of Prospect Park, perfect for spontaneous walk-ins.

What are we talking about in the permanent collection?
With 1.5 million works as part of the collection, just about every form of art is represented here. Particular standouts include its selection of paintings by Dennis Hopper and Norman Rockwell, and a top-notch Egyptian artifacts gallery.

And what if we’re in the mood for a temporary exhibit?
Notable exhibits are usually overshadowed by the Met and MoMA, but Brooklyn has some top-flight shows of its own. Past examples include a look at the life of Georgia O’Keeffe and “One Basquiat,” which explores Brooklyn-born artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s relationship with the borough.

What did you make of the crowd?
It’s a big mix here, with lots of families, kids, and couples stopping in on weekends, probably after a stroll through Prospect Park. With such a huge collection, there’s something for everyone, and visitors here reflect that.

On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
It’s an easy museum to navigate, and every part of its grounds is wheelchair accessible (and wheelchairs are available for free at coat check).

Any guided tours worth trying?
There are a series of insightful (and free) guided group tours everyday that change depending on current exhibits. The website has a daily listings section.

Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
Gifts items from around the world (including textiles and pottery) make a stop in the museum’s shop a must. But there’s also a “Made in Brooklyn” section, featuring t-shirts, lamps, bags, and little decorative items that make for fun keepsakes.

Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
There are two food options at the museum. The Norm reflects the diversity of Brooklyn in its cuisine (with influences from places like India and the Caribbean) and shows off some of the museum’s art on its walls. The Café is the more casual option, for salads, wraps, and sandwiches, plus coffee from Brooklyn Roasting Company.

Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
It’d probably be impossible to see even a quarter of the museum in an hour, so if that’s all you have, focus on a specific exhibition or section. The Egyptian antiquities is always a good place to start.

Coney Island

Tell me: What’s this place all about?
Coney Island is a residential neighborhood that transforms into an amusement park-like free entertainment hub roughly between Easter and Halloween.

Wow. What’s it like being there?
Child-like excitement.

Who comes here?
Locals and tourists hang out on the beach, eat ice cream cones on the promenade, and stand in line for the famed Cyclone roller coaster.

Did it meet expectations?
Coney Island has a reputation as a circus-worthy tourist trap, which is exactly what it is. But you may be surprised by the old-timey charms of this beachfront American town. You’ll definitely be impressed by the food and drinks—Totonno’s Pizza, Gargiulo’s and Coney Island Brewery, in particular.

Got it. So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
If you’ve ever wanted to participate in a mermaid parade or a July 4th hot-dog-eating contest, Coney Island is your spot.

The High Line

Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
The High Line is a perfect example of what New York City does best: cleverly rehabs old spaces into exactly where you want them to be. When a 1.45-mile-long abandoned freight rail on Manhattan’s West End was transformed into an elevated, mixed-use public park in 2009, New Yorkers came running. Towering 30 feet above buzzing 11th Avenue, the High Line is a masterful feat of landscape architecture that melds walkways, benches, and chaise lounges with grass, perennials, trees, and bushes in perfect unkempt-kempt harmony. In many places, the High Line’s original railroad tracks remain, hidden among planting beds like discreet remnants of Old New York that seem to say, “change all you want, but we’re not going anywhere.”

Any standout features or must-sees?
The beauty of New York City’s urban landscape is on full display at the High Line, as is a wide array of original artwork, curated by Friends of the High Line, the non-profit conservancy that oversees maintenance, operations, and programming (in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation). The High Line’s public arts program showcases emerging talents from across the globe, including Henry Taylor, Sheila Hicks, Larry Bamburg, Guan Xiao, Marguerite Humeau, and Max Hooper Schneider. Some pieces are more prominent than others, so keep your eyes peeled as you amble along, and don’t consider your visit one-and-done, as the exhibitions are on constant rotation.

Was it easy to get around?
You really can’t get lost exploring the High Line (it’s linear; the only directions it runs are north and south). Enter on the street level at 34th street or climb the stairs/take a handicap-accessible elevator at one of the other five entrances (Gansevoort Street, 14th Street, 16th Street, 23rd Street, and 30th Street). Just don’t expect to traverse the High Line at top speed; it’s often crowded with tourists and stroller-toting locals. When you’re ready to descend, head for the nearest entry/exit point and be on your way; it’s often faster than finding your ideal cross street from up above.

All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
Access to the High Line is free, but you’d be a fool not to pad your wallet pre-arrival so you can sample some of its treats, particularly some sweet corn and cotija empanadas at La Sonrisa, some sour cherry gelato from L’Arte Del Gelato or a lime basil paleta from Newyorkina.

9/11 Memorial and Museum

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
Every American should visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at least once. As you enter the museum, you descend from the street to bedrock level—the foundation of the former Twin Towers—and are placed in a meditative mindset, forced to recall where you were on that day. As you move from the historical exhibition to the memorial exhibition—the two core museum spaces—the emotion of the attack and subsequent loss of life is overwhelming. It’s wrenching when you ascend to the 9/11 Memorial and see the names of all those who perished etched in bronze around the twin reflecting pools.

What will you find there?
The permanent collection is a multimedia compilation of more than 40,000 still images, 300 moving images, 3,500 oral recordings, and more than 14,000 objects, including ephemera, textiles, artwork, books, and manuscripts. The coverage of 9/11 is far-reaching in its historical breadth and depth, but also incredibly personal in its individual histories of the deceased. The museum itself is a masterful balance: It’s grand in scale, contemplative in its construction, and personal in its execution. It pays homage to the enormity of the loss, both physical and spiritual. A number of temporary exhibitions have also been on view in various locations of the museum; check in advance for what’s on when you’re in town.

What did you make of the crowd?
The museum is filled with both American and foreign tourists, who, though often creating crowds during prime daytime hours, are respectful and contemplative.

On the practical tip, how were facilities?
The museum is large, so expect to spend most of the time standing or walking; there are benches strategically placed throughout and in multimedia rooms, where you really ought to sit and spend time. The museum is accessible to persons of all disabilities.

Any guided tours worth noting?
You could easily opt for a self-guided museum tour, but it is worth the $44 (or $65, if you want early access before the museum opens at 9 a.m.) to have an expert lead you around. Here, guiding isn’t about teaching the nuances of a work of art—the choice of medium, the weight of the brushstrokes—it’s about recounting an oral history of the events of 9/11. The day comes alive as your docent relays chilling stories of the falling Twin Towers, brave sacrifices made by first responders, and personal histories of those who were lost.

Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
The entire museum can be done in 60 minutes (the length of a guided tour) if you go quickly through the film feature sections and stick to the historical exhibition, which recounts the events leading up to 9/11, the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Flight 93, and the aftermath of the day. But you could stay a full two hours and not for a second think about leaving early. No visit is complete without a pensive walk around the 9/11 Memorial to read the names of the deceased and be mesmerized by the cascading waters of the reflecting pools, which now proudly stand in the shadows of One World Trade.

Central Park

Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
Step off the crowded sidewalks of 59th Street into Central Park and you’ll hardly realize what lies before you: 693 acres of man-made gardens, meadows, forests, and rolling hillsides. If you ambled down every one of Central Park’s pathways, you would walk 58 miles. (That’s not a challenge, please don’t.) Along the way, you pass fountains, monuments, sculptures, bridges, and arches. Plus 21 playgrounds, a winter ice-skating rink, a zoo, and even a castle. But you’d hardly notice the four major crosstown thoroughfares, which cleverly disappear into foliage-covered tunnels. What you will do is break out into a Sound of Music-style sprint upon arriving at Sheep Meadow or the Great Lawn, vast landscapes dotted with New Yorkers looking to escape the urban jungle in which they reside.

Any standout features or must-sees?
Embrace your inner child at Conservatory Water, the seasonal pond on the East Side (from 72nd to 75th Streets) made famous in E.B. White’s iconic children’s novel, Stuart Little. Here you’ll find nautical enthusiasts both young and old navigating radio and wind-powered boats across the pond’s shimmering waters.

Was it easy to get around?
Manhattan’s urban grid disappears among the winding paths and dense foliage of Central Park. Even seasoned city dwellers can get turned around. But there’s a trick to reorienting yourself: Check the numbers at the base of any lamp post. Each is inscribed with four numbers—the first two digits indicate the nearest cross-street; the second two signal whether you’re closer to the east or west side of the park (even numbers mean east; odd, west). If you never venture north of Times Square, NYC might seem entirely flat, but Central Park will prove otherwise. So whether you’re jogging or in a wheelchair (most of the park is handicap-accessible), mentally prepare yourself for some winded inclines.

All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
Central Park is the unicorn of New York City: You can pass an entire day here and never spend a dollar.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
Wealthy American industrialist Solomon R. Guggenheim was a visionary collector—he started amassing works by the likes of Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Marc Chagall before they were household names. So when it came time to build a permanent home for his modern art collection, Guggenheim called on another visionary: architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The namesake museum that followed was one of Lloyd Wright’s last commissions, completed six months after his death in 1959. It’s a radical departure from the typical museum layout—and from every other building in New York, for that matter. The circular concrete structure stands in stark contrast to the rectangular steel-and-glass buildings that surround it. Inside, a central ramp—which spirals upward and outward from one exhibition floor to the next—creates an open interior space, flooded with daylight that pours in through a glass dome.

What are we going to find in the permanent collection?
The Guggenheim’s permanent collection has more than 7,000 artworks, which include donated collections, acquisitions, and special commissions. The museum has the world’s largest collection of paintings by Kandinsky, plus works by Picasso, Klee, Miró, and more. It also houses a comprehensive collection of modern sculpture, 20th-century European paintings, and works by American artists dating from the 1950s onward.

What should we look for in terms of exhibits?
Exhibition space in the museum is limited. Oftentimes, temporary exhibits—which range in focus from a specific artist to a historical period to a thematic thread—can displace the permanent collection. (Though works from the permanent collection are always on view in the Thannhauser collection.) Even if you’re not a fan of the temporary exhibition, the works are paced out, uncluttered, and well organized, so the experience is pleasant.

What did you make of the crowd?
You don’t have to be a modern art lover to enjoy the museum. In fact, many who come are fans of Frank Lloyd Wright. Regardless, you’ll be posting the obligatory Instagram shot of that mesmerizing interior spiral when you visit.

On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
Purchase your tickets online before arrival so you don’t have to wait in line (it often extends around the block). If you can avoid it, leave your large purse or backpack at home; you won’t be allowed to carry them inside, and though free, bag check can be a hassle when the museum is busy.

Any guided tours worth trying?
Free-with-admission tours are hosted every day at 2 p.m. by gallery educators (no reservation required). If you arrive at another time, get the free audio tour or download the app and be sure to chat up the Gallery Guides, docents posted throughout the museum who are happy to explain what’s on view.

Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
Don’t walk into the ground-floor museum store expecting a deal: prints of works on view could cost $50, hardcover coffee table books as much as $150.

Is the café worth a stop, or should we plan on going elsewhere?
The Guggenheim has two dining outlets: The Wright, a James Beard Award-winning American bistro, and Café 3, an espresso and light-bites bar. If you have time for a full meal, head to The Wright; otherwise, stop in for pastries, chocolates, coffee, or a glass of wine—plus Central Park views—at the café. But no need to sneak snacks in with you.

Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
If you’re not a modern art enthusiast, breeze through the temporary exhibits to the permanent collection, which includes crowd-pleasing Impressionist paintings, and walk the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed ramps.

Prospect Park

Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
Prospect Park is the Central Park of Brooklyn; in fact, it was designed shortly after by the same team of architects, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, and has many of the same features: sprawling meadows made for picnicking, walking trails that snake through dense forests, and a picturesque lake. There’s also a carousel, playgrounds, a zoo, basketball and tennis courts, and a 3.35-mile loop road that’s popular with runners and bikers.

Fun! Any standout features or must-sees?
Start at the northern end, at Grand Army Plaza (where there’s a bustling farmer’s market on Saturdays), cross the main drive, and stick to the walking paths that run along the edges of Long Meadow. Then continue into the ravine before looping around Prospect Park Lake, where you can rent paddle boats or canoes in summer. Toward the southern end of the park, the LeFrak Center offers ice skating in winter and roller skating in summer, and Smorgasburg, a Sunday local food fair, pops up from April to October. Every summer, the Bandshell hosts weekly free concerts (check out the Celebrate Brooklyn website for the latest lineup).

Got it. Was it easy to get around?
Signage is pretty minimal, but navigating with the help of Google Maps or the free Prospect Park App, which includes a map and a directory, is easy. There are restrooms near the bandshell, in the picnic house, at the carousel, and at LeFrak. New York City parks are mostly ADA accessible, but it’s important to note that there are some pretty steep hills, especially on the main loop.

That sounds cool. All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
If you want to see as much as possible, rent a bike at the LeFrak center and pedal around the main drive (but know that it’s not exactly a flat course). If you’re with kids, check out the Harmony and Lincoln Road playgrounds or stop by the carousel. And if the weather’s nice, grab picnic supplies at the greenmarket (Saturdays) or Smorgasburg (Sundays) and post up on a blanket in Long Meadow.

Eataly NYC

Tell me: What’s this place all about?
From the double-height ceilings to the distinct dining areas (organized by food group—meat, fish, vegetables, pasta and pizza) and the breadth and depth of its specialty curation, you’ll want to move into this gourmet Italian market and food hall within minutes.

Who comes here?
Tourists, New York food snobs, dinner party hosts.

Did it meet expectations?
It’s hard not to be impressed by all that Eataly has to offer. There are hard-to-find Italian specialties—single-estate extra virgin olive oil, white truffle sauce, mushroom risotto, Ligurian pesto. There’s an on-site cooking school, La Scuola, in case you want to master wine-and-cheese pairings or learn to make the perfect pasta dough.
And then there’s the 14th-floor rooftop restaurant, Birreria, which hosts a rotating set of seasonally-themed pop-ups inside.

Got it. So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
While the restaurant prices are reasonable (by New York City standards), Eataly is for people with deep pockets and time on their hands. Don’t expect a five-minute pit stop to pick up an inexpensive pasta sauce—the lines are often serpentine and the price tags hefty. But if you love pristinely sourced ingredients and have a soft spot for the foods of Italy, expect to have your mind—and palate—blown.

The Cloisters

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
Located on four acres in northern Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park, the Met Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to the art, architecture, and gardens of medieval Europe. It opened in 1938 with the help of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who purchased the building and land on which the museum resides on behalf of the Met. The building overlooks the Hudson River and actually incorporates five medieval cloisters into a modern museum structure, creating a historic, contextualized backdrop in which to view the art.

The permanent collection: How was it?
The Met Cloisters is America’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages. The collection is both impressive and rarefied—it includes more than 2,000 artworks and artifacts (metalwork, painting, sculpture, textiles) from medieval Europe. The museum is even more awe-inspiring for the fact that you can spend a morning in a virtual Middle Age time capsule, and then be surrounded by modern Manhattan skyscrapers by afternoon.

What did you make of the crowd?
It’s a commitment to get uptown to the Cloisters (at least a 30-minute subway ride from Midtown). The upside, however, is that it’s far less crowded than the Met on Fifth Avenue, which makes it a pleasant and enjoyable place to visit. The surrounding park only adds to the beauty and peacefulness of the place; chances are you’ll forget you’re even in New York.

On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
The building is well laid out and easy to navigate; it’s perfectly designed to highlight the art and artifacts.

Any guided tours worth trying?
The audio guide has roughly two hours of recordings by museum curators, conservators, educators, and horticulturists. You can access general information about some 70 works of art and listen to a history of the Cloisters, its architecture, and its gardens.

Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
The Met Store sells jewelry, home gifts, books, stationery, and other knick-knacks inspired by the art, architecture, and gardens of medieval Europe. (Nothing revolutionary here.)

Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
The on-site café serves the usual light bites (sandwiches, salads, soups).

Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
It takes two to three hours to do the Cloisters justice. You’ve come all this way, so you might as well make a day of it. Take your time, don’t cut corners. Walk leisurely through the cloisters, sit on the terrace, and finish with a walk through Tryon Park.

MoMA PS1

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
This is no ordinary art museum. Located in a striking Renaissance Revival former public school building in Long Island City, Queens, its setting is just as interesting as its collection, which is dedicated to cutting-edge contemporary works from the likes of James Turrell and Ai Weiwei. The crowd is usually just as cutting-edge. Because of its location in Long Island City, and the nature of its artwork, visitors usually come here knowing what they’ll get and are commonly in the art, fashion, and design worlds. There aren’t too many random drop-ins.

What are we talking about in the permanent collection?
All manner of contemporary art is shown here, with a collection over 200,000 pieces strong, ranging from Diane Arbus and Cindy Sherman photographs to paintings from Francis Bacon and Sol LeWitt sculptures.

And what if we’re in the mood for a temporary exhibit?
Thought provoking, conceptual rotating exhibits are the norm here, and have included shows like a retrospective of German electronic band Kraftwerk (which featured live performances and 3D visualizations of music) and a vast survey of multimedia artist Mike Kelley’s work.

What did you make of the crowd?
The people-watching can be just as good as the art, as creative types from around the city come here to find inspiration—especially during the summer months, when the museum throws its popular experimental music parties called Warm Up.

On the practical tip, how were facilities?
The museum is large, but not the scope of MoMA in Manhattan, so accessibility—including for those with mobility issues—isn’t a problem, and a large elevator is available to every floor. You’ll always find a place to sit and rest if need be, as well.

Any guided tours worth trying?
Although only group tours are available, there’s a free audio app, which gives insight into the collection. There’s even a separate recording for kids.

Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
Some people visit the gift shop here for its amazing selection of independent magazines and publications alone. It’s primarily a book store (hence the name, Artbook @ MoMA PS1) and sells titles related to current exhibitions, photography monographs, books on art theory, and a range of style and design magazines and journals.

Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
After the early 2019 closure of the outstanding M. Wells Dinette, the food and restaurant at PS1 came under the supervision of Mina Stone, best known for her book Cooking for Artists.

Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
You could spend an hour just exploring the museum’s bookstore, so if that’s all you have, pick a few galleries to focus on. But do stop by the ongoing James Turrell exhibit, “Meeting,” an installation that encourages viewers to look upwards toward an unobstructed view of the sky.

Gagosian Gallery

So, what’s this place about?
Gagosian is one of a handful of so-called blue-chip galleries, high-end spots that showcase the work of artists whose work is already high (and often increasing) in value. It’s art as commodity, sure, but it’s also free and open to the public, with exhibitions that are often as exciting and thoughtfully curated as some of the world’s best museums.

That sounds cool. How’s the space?
Gagosian has become an art empire; there are three galleries in Manhattan alone (in addition to locations in other cities around the world), but some of the most interesting shows take place at the two Chelsea locations (21st and 24th streets). The 24th street space is cavernous enough for multiple Richard Serra sculptures, with poured concrete floors, white walls, skylights, and glass doors. The 21st Street space, meanwhile, feels a bit more like a bunker. The third location, on Madison Avenue, is a collection of smaller rooms hidden on the upper floors of an office building.

The art’s the main thing, of course. How is it?
The shows tend to toggle between hot young things (Jonas Wood, Sterling Ruby), shiny, expensive stuff (Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons), and meditative museum-quality pieces by Cy Twombly or Picasso. Whatever’s on view, it’s bound to be impressive, and it’s always worth poking your head into both Chelsea locations if you’re wandering around the neighborhood.

Did you meet anyone on staff? Did they make an impression?
Aside from security guards posted throughout, the only staff you’re likely to interact with are the assistants seated at the front desk. They can be notoriously chilly, but they’re really there to let their bosses know when a major collector walks in, not to get chatty with the general public. Don’t ask for a price list unless you’re willing to spend as much on a work of art as most people do on a house.

At the end of the day, what—or who—is this place best for?
Art aficionados who want to ogle work destined for museums and the living rooms of the rich and famous. Gagosian also makes for excellent people watching.

Dover Street Market New York

Let’s start with scale. Where are we between global flagship and neighborhood boutique?
When London shopping mecca Dover Street Market debuted its New York outpost in December 2013, throngs of accessorized fashionistas camped out for days outside its Lexington Avenue entrance. That’s because Dover Street is more than just an eight-floor luxury department store; it’s a fashion-meets-art exhibition space. Featured designers configure their own display areas, allowing the shopper to interact with the clothes in a holistic manner that takes you inside the designer’s world—as opposed to just picking through dresses hanging on a metal rack.

Excellent! What can we find here, or what should we look for?
Dover Street is known for selling both exclusive collaborations with big-name brands (Prada, Louis Vuitton, Vetements) and ready-to-wear looks from high-end labels (Alaïa, Ann Demeulemeester, Comme des Garçons, Christopher Kane, Erdem, Jil Sander, Nina Ricci, Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Supreme, Thom Browne).

Last year, the store also added 3,000 square feet of basement retail space that permanently houses streetwear, T-shirts, and sneakers (budget-conscious fashionista will appreciate the “entry-level” price points).

If money’s no object, what goes in the cart?
Alaïa knit dresses, Rick Owens leather jackets, wearable art by Comme des Garçons.

And … what if we’re on a strict budget?
A baseball cap or a coffee table book (which probably still costs at least $50).

Who else shops here?
The majority of shoppers are millennial fashion types, who may not be able to afford what’s in-store but who appreciate high-fashion artistry. Don’t bring your dad. Unless your last name is Gabbana.

Any secret tips, or “don’t go home without” purchases?
The store gets an interior-design makeover twice a year, in January and July, so the spaces are ever-changing. If you’re looking for a real fashion discovery, be patient and hunt: Lesser-known international designers are typically tucked into corners. Also don’t miss the ground-floor café.

Whitney Museum of American Art

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
The Whitney Museum of American Art got a major upgrade when it relocated from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to its new, vastly expanded Meatpacking headquarters in 2015. The Renzo Piano-designed building is a glass-covered futuristic vision for a museum. It houses 50,000 square feet of indoor galleries, four outdoor exhibition spaces and terraces, a theater, a library and reading rooms, a ground-floor restaurant and a top-floor bar, both by Danny Meyer, one of the town’s best-known restaurateurs.

What are we going to find in the permanent collection?
The Whitney’s collection houses more than 23,000 works by 20th- and 21st-century American artists. It includes paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat, films by Andy Warhol, photographs by Richard Avedon, sculptures by Alexander Calder, and more than 3,000 other artists.

And what if we’re in the mood for one of the temporary exhibits?
The Whitney is more gallery than museum: The walls are whitewashed (you might have to squint on a sunny day), the art covers nearly every square inch of the gallery, and the interior configuration can be altered so no two exhibits are the same. You could argue the curation runs high-brow, so if you’re not one for modern art you may feel underwhelmed by the experience.

What did you make of the crowd?
Expect a diverse crowd, from downtown hipsters to fanny-pack-toting tourists. Those who prefer ample space and time should arrive early, otherwise, you run the risk of standing on tip-toe to view something over other museumgoers’ heads.

On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
Unfortunately, the main mode of transport between floors is by elevator; a slow-moving, crowded one. On the flip side, the indoor galleries and outdoor terraces intermingle in an ingenious manner that eliminates dead ends, and allows museumgoers to move between the main display floors via exterior staircases.

Any guided tours worth trying?
Multimedia guides are free with admission (buy your tickets online in advance). They’re especially helpful to modern art novices, and you have the novel opportunity to listen to audio recordings made directly from the artists or curator. There are often more unexplained works than explained ones, so it can feel like a bit of a miss.

Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
Filled with design-centric knick-knacks for your artsy friend.

Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group runs both of the Whitney’s two dining outlets. Downstairs, at Untitled, expect contemporary American with a global influence; at the eighth-floor Studio Cafe, soups, salads, and light bites rival skyline views through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Tenement Museum

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is, as the name implies, a historic tenement house (two, if you want to get technical). Walking up to the Orchard Street entrance—as New Yorkers make their way to the office or weekend brunch—would seem as if you’re about to enter any old apartment building fronted by a cast-iron fire escape.

What are we going to find here?
The tenements-turned-museum housed an estimated 15,000 people, who immigrated from more than 20 nations between 1863 and 1935. It wasn’t uncommon for a family of ten to live in a 325-square-foot apartment. On a tour of the tenements, you’ll hear personal histories of these working-class individuals and see how they made do with cramped quarters in order to build new lives in America. On a neighborhood walking tour, the other way to visit the museum, you’ll learn about the evolution of the Lower East Side and how its thriving immigrant population made it the most densely populated area in the country during the 1900s.

What did you make of the crowd?
Visitors are informative tourists looking for a unique museum experience—probably not the same type that shows up at a big-ticket landmark and ignores half of the audio tour. But each tour focuses on a different theme, so pick one that speaks to your personal interests or family history. Those with young children should book the Meet Victoria Confino tour; kids love meeting the (impersonated) 14-year-old 97 Orchard Street resident, touring her apartment, and asking her questions about her life.

On the practical tip, how easy is it to get around?
The tenements are historic buildings that have not been modernized (i.e. no elevator access, narrow halls, tiny rooms), so those with mobility issues should book a neighborhood tour.

Any guided tours worth trying?
The only way to visit the museum is by booking a tour (groups are small; do it well in advance). Tours are either tenement-focused (view the apartments and/or businesses of the former residents), resident-focused (interact with actors portraying members of the families that lived in the tenements), or neighborhood-focused (walking tour of the Lower East Side to learn how immigrants helped shaped the area and its culture).

Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
Tours range from one to two hours. Book an hour-long one if you’re limited on time.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
For nearly a century and a half, the Met has remained the cultural epicenter of New York City, thanks to forward-thinking exhibits and an extensive permanent collection. With its Gothic-Revival-style building, iconic tiered steps, and Central Park location, the building is a sight to be seen. But step inside its Great Hall—as a ceaseless parade of museumgoers move to-and-fro—and you’ll feel the overwhelming sense of possibility and discovery that lays beyond.

What are we going to find in the permanent collection?
There are 5,000 years of history packed within the Met’s walls. The collection includes everything from paintings by European masters to ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, to Asian textiles to clothing by iconic fashion designers. Its breadth and depth are awe-inspiring and overwhelming, in the best way possible.

What about the rotating exhibits?
The Met offers an impressive number of non-permanent exhibits, which focus on a specific artist, theme, or moment in time. Many of them have received critical acclaim for their curation and contextualization. A Rodin exhibition, for example, showcased masterpieces such as The Tempest, which have not been on view in decades, in addition to paintings by the sculptor’s contemporaries (Claude Monet and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes) to establish a dialogue with his works. An adjacent gallery also displayed drawings, prints, letters, illustrated books, and photographs by Rodin to showcase the evolution of his artistic process.

What did you make of the crowd?
The Met has something for everyone, so expect to see a full cast of characters: families, solo art fanatics, school groups (hint: walk the other direction), and tourists. It’s often crowded, especially in the temporary exhibits, so try to arrive first thing in the morning and avoid weekends if possible.

On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when staring at a map of the museum where to even start?), so it pays to do your research online before arrival. Consider the genres of art that appeal to you, home in on those wings or galleries, and keep an open time-slot for a wildcard or two.

Any guided tours worth trying?
The Met audio guide includes more than 3,000 audio and video messages, including kid-specific tours. If you’re planning a self-guided visit, it’s worth the $7 rental, if only because the museum is so vast you’ll need an insight every now and then—that is, unless you already understand the meaning behind that 14th-century Chinese mural? Didn’t think so.

Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
Expect the usual tchotchkes, but also some creative special-issue items. Case in point: a set of four glass coasters showcasing patterns adapted from stained glass objects in the Met collection by American glassmaker Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
The Met café is a glorified cafeteria—and an overpriced one at that. Skip. There are other food stops in the museum as well, but you are practically spitting distance from half a dozen world-class restaurants and bakeries. Try those instead.

Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
Realistically, you could spend a week wandering the halls, but if you’ve got limited time and attention spans, start with the Temple of Dendur, a 2,000-year-old soaring Egyptian temple (the only complete one in the Western Hemisphere). Then, make your way to the second-floor galleries of 19th- and early-20th-century European paintings and sculpture, filled with works by old masters such as van Gogh, Monet, Degas, Cézanne, and Picasso. If you’ve got 20 more minutes, head to the Greek and Roman Sculpture Court, home to hundreds of centuries-old objects, including the famed statue of the three Graces, the embodiments of beauty, mirth, and abundance.

The Met Breuer

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
When the Whitney Museum of American Art relocated to its jazzy new downtown headquarters in 2016, it wasn’t long before the Metropolitan Museum of Art swooped in on Marcel Breuer’s Brutalist-style building for its latest extension. The new annex, dubbed the Met Breuer (BROY-er), showcases modern and contemporary works that are as thought-provoking as the landmark space in which they reside.

What are we going to find in the permanent collection?
The Met’s newest location showcases works across all media created by 20th- and 21st-century artists in galleries that are spacious but not overwhelming. There’s no permanent Breuer-specific collection, so the emphasis is on the rotating exhibitions.

What if we’re in the mood for a rotating exhibit?
It’s a Met museum, so you can expect a number of well-curated, non-permanent exhibitions from household names and lesser-known entities. But the galleries are all-white and Breuer’s building is all hard lines and dark shades, so the art-viewing experience can be a bit forlorn.

What did you make of the crowd?
They are real fans of modern art, and unless you are too, the Met Breuer might be lost on you.

On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
The Met Breuer is the middle ground of the Met family: It’s not so large that you leave feeling exhausted nor so focused that you’re underwhelmed by the range of art on view. You can see everything within a few hours, and the galleries are never so crowded as to make a leisurely viewing impossible.
Bonus: Admission includes access to the Met Cloisters and the Met Fifth Avenue (just five blocks away) within three consecutive days.

Any guided tours worth trying?
Again, it’s a Met, so the tour guides are top-notch; audio guides cost $7.

Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
Museum eats are rarely anything to write home about, but consider the Met Breuer’s two dining outlets an exception to the rule. Flora Bar, the lower-level restaurant and bar, serves a minimalist seafood-centric menu and an equally focused wine and cocktail list (to be safe snag a reservation for the day of your visit). If you don’t have time for a sit-down meal, pop into adjacent Flora Coffee, serving pastries, sandwiches, and other small bites.

The Strand Book Store

What’s this place all about?
With its towering stacks, filled with more than 2.5 million titles, this 86-year-old bookstore is less neighborhood haunt, more globally recognized institution.

What do you feel when you’re there?
Nerdish curiosity.

Was the staff helpful?
You could call the Strand’s employees tour guides, considering their deft ability to find the exact title you’re looking for and recommend a book you may not have otherwise plucked from the shelves.

Who comes here?
You don’t have to be bookworm to visit the Strand (as it’s referred to by locals). The store has become a destination unto itself, offering visitors a chance to peruse shelves packed with everything from the latest page-turner to first-edition hardbacks.

Did it meet expectations?
The Strand will make you question why you don’t read more; and chances are you won’t leave empty-handed.

So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
There are countless treasures to be found among the dollar carts that sit outside the bookstore.

Smorgasburg Williamsburg

Tell me: What’s this place all about?
Smorgasburg is an artisanal food market with some 100 local vendors that attracts tens of thousands of people every weekend. It’s open at its outdoor locations from April through October (Saturdays in Williamsburg, Sundays in Prospect Park). Its indoor location has bounced around a little, most recently it’s been at the Atlantic Center. Admission is gratis, but expect to pay up as you make your way from stall to stall.

What do you get from a trip here?
Casual indulgence.

Who comes here?
Hungry New Yorkers and tourists in search of an authentic foodie experience.

Did it meet expectations?
Since opening, Smorgasburg has expanded with a weekly market in Los Angeles and even an annual outpost in Osaka, Japan. Locals love it because it allows you to discover new chefs, restaurants, and producers; tourists appreciate that they can sample everything from the famous Ramen Burger to gai dan jai (an egg waffle from Hong Kong) in one buzzing location.

Got it. So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
Even the pickiest eater will fall in love with something delicious at Smorgasburg (hint: go for the cheese), so there’s no one it won’t please.

The Frick Collection

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
If you or anyone you know has ever lived in New York, you’re aware that most of its inhabitants are squeezed into shoebox-sized apartments. So when millionaire industrialist Henry Clay Frick’s Upper East Side home was transformed into a museum in 1935, consider it safe to say Mr. Frick wasn’t living like your average New Yorker. The Henry Clay Frick House, er, mansion, spans an entire city block along Fifth Avenue—and nearly every inch is filled with the art enthusiast’s collection of old master paintings and fine furniture. As if it wasn’t already impressive enough, the Frick Collection recently announced a forthcoming upgrade, enhancement, and expansion of the institution’s facilities by renowned architect Annabelle Selldorf.

What will we find in the permanent collection?
The Frick contains an impressive collection of paintings by old masters (Bellini, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Goya, Whistler), as well as European sculpture, fine furniture, and decorative arts. All of the art is housed in 15 galleries within Frick’s former residence. Some of the works and items are still arranged as Frick had originally installed them (though almost half of the permanent collection has been acquired since his death in 1919).

What can we expect from the temporary exhibits?
Outside of the permanent collection, the Frick organizes a concert series, lectures, symposia, education programs, and focused temporary exhibitions. When we last visited, there was an exhibit on Spanish Golden Age painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, which displayed the artist’s only two known self-portraits (one belongs to the Frick, the other to the National Gallery in London), along with a handful of his other works. The focus was narrow, but thoughtfully executed; two weeks in, the museum even acquired a work that was long believed a false copy, but which was reattributed to Murillo by an art historian, causing a flurry of international headlines.

What did you make of the crowd?
You could call the Frick high-brow: Children under 10 are not allowed inside the museum.

On the practical tip, how were the facilities?
You’ll be tempted to sit on that upholstered chaise lounge, but please don’t—it’s probably an antique. Best place to rest your feet after walking around the galleries is the Garden Court, a beautiful interior courtyard with a fountain and glass-domed ceiling reminiscent of a mini Grand Palais.

Any guided tours worth trying?
The museum only offers guided tours to school groups and private groups of no more than six people, the price for which is $200 per four adults ($50 for each additional person). Get the audio guide, which is included in the price of admission. If you have a question about a particular work, look for one of the art historians, called education staff, who are often posted throughout the galleries.

Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
The Frick is like a New York City museum highlight reel: It’s exactly the right scale, everything in the collection is worth seeing, and can be viewed in an hour or less.

Pioneer Works

So, what’s this place about?
Set in a converted 19th-century warehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn, this non-profit contemporary arts center, founded by artist Dustin Yellin, is like a mini PS1. The ground-floor gallery seamlessly blends with the outdoor garden, creating one of the largest exhibition spaces in New York City that’s used for public arts programs, artists residencies, live music performances, special chef dinners, and private events.

How’s the space?
The brick-and-timber interior gallery has a hip industrial feeling, as do the higher floors, which are used for performance arts and artist residencies. The exterior garden is filled with plants, greenery, weeping willow trees, and pebble-strewn walkways; it’s a beautiful space to hang out during warmer months.

The art’s the main thing, of course. How is it?
Exhibitions change frequently and are often cleared out for events and live music performances, which are some of the best ways to experience Pioneer Works.

At the end of the day, what—or who—is this place best for?
High-brow arts patrons come for the out-there exhibitions, while regular Joes will be more tempted by performances by top DJs (Questlove) and musicians (Miguel).

The Morgan Library & Museum

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
The Morgan is like a multi-hyphenate millennial—only instead of actress/model/influencer/whatever leads to early retirement, it’s museum/library/landmark/historic site/music venue. The building was originally the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan. But since its 2006 expansion—led by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano—it’s more like a mini Madison Avenue campus. There are now some 20 different spaces, including galleries, libraries, a performance hall, and more within.

What are we going to find in the permanent collection?
The Morgan houses art in virtually every medium, including drawings, prints, and artifacts dating from 4000 B.C. to the twenty-first century. The library’s holdings include a host of rare books and manuscripts: one of 23 copies of the original Declaration of Independence; Mozart’s handwritten score of the Haffner Symphony; the collected works of Phillis Wheatley, the first known African-American poet; the only extant manuscript of Milton’s Paradise Lost; and Charles Dickens’s manuscript of A Christmas Carol. Swoon.

What if we’re in the mood for one of the rotating exhibits?
The museum hosts a few temporary or seasonal exhibitions simultaneously. Topics range from a particular artist or author (Charles Dickens and Emily Dickinson have been covered in the past) to a comprehensive interpretation of a specific practice, like the importance of sketching and drawing for renowned Flemish Baroque painters.

What did you make of the crowd?
The majority of museum-goers are New York City tourists (informed ones, who probably didn’t come directly from Time Square), but locals frequent the Morgan to catch a performance or take in a new exhibition.

Any guided tours worth trying?
The Morgan offers a free hourlong “highlights” tour of the permanent collection Tuesday through Sunday at 12:30 p.m. If a particular exhibition interests you, check the tour schedule to time your visit.

Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
Even if you don’t feel like buying items related to the collections, the Morgan Shop is worth visiting, since it’s located in J.P. Morgan Jr.’s former brownstone.

Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
The Morgan Café, set within the glass-enclosed Gilbert Court, is the perfect spot for a casual light lunch or tea.

Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
A comprehensive visit to the museum could take upwards of two hours. If you’re limited on time, do a lap around Morgan’s library (the atmosphere will not disappoint), then focus on the special exhibits.

Statue of Liberty

Tell me: What’s this place all about?
The United States’ most celebrated monument, the Statue of Liberty was gifted by the French as a sign of goodwill and friendship in honor of the U.S. centennial of independence. The Statue was unveiled on a reportedly wet and foggy day in 1886 in front of one million New Yorkers; last year, a record 4.4 million tourists visited Liberty Island, the 14-acre swath of land one mile south of lower Manhattan upon which the Statue rests. While there is no fee to visit Liberty Island, you do have to pay for a round-trip ferry ride via Statue Cruises. The ferry also stops on Ellis Island, part of the national park, and is famous for processing more than 12 million immigrant steamship passengers through its federal immigration station from 1892 to 1954. The island now houses the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, where visitors can search digital images of ship manifests for the immigration records of their relatives.

What’s it like being there?
Historical awe.

Is there a guide involved?
Ranger-guided tours of Liberty Island are available most days (weather and staff-level permitting). Audio tours of the island’s grounds and the Statue of Liberty Museum are available every day. The Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration offers free ranger-guided and audio tours that are laden with historical facts and personal histories. If you plan to visit the Statue’s pedestal or crown, plan ahead: There are a limited number of tickets available each day and they sell out weeks, if not months, in advance. Before you book, know that there’s no elevator access from the top of the pedestal to the crown; you’ll have to climb 162 steps on a confined spiral staircase for those panoramic views of New York City.

Who comes here?
Committed tourists. It takes at least six hours to properly visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, so if that doesn’t sound doable to you, don’t go.

Did it meet expectations?
The Statue of Liberty is a bucket-list item; check it off, but chances are you won’t return for round two.

Got it. So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
If you’re tight on time, take the ferry to Liberty Island, walk around, snap a selfie with Lady Lib, and leave feeling plenty satisfied. Those who are crowd-averse should take it all in from a distance at Battery Park or the Brooklyn Promenade, or hop on the free ferry to Staten Island to catch views of the Statue and the New York Harbor.

Governors Island

Tell me: What’s this place all about?
For almost two centuries, this 172-acre isle in the heart of New York Harbor was closed to the public, operating as a military base. Now, anyone can visit Governors Island’s monuments, parks, and exhibitions during summer (May through October, seven days a week). To get there, all you need is a round-trip ferry ticket, and New York residents just have to show a valid state license to ride free.
(Insider tip for out-of-towners: You’ll score a free ride if you board the ferry before noon on the weekend; otherwise, it costs $3 for adults, $1 for senior citizens, and is always free for children under 13.)

Wow. What’s it like being there?
Entertaining escape from the heat trap that is NYC during summer.

Who comes here?
For most New Yorkers, boarding a ferry is a BFD. It doesn’t have the ease of a cab or the speed of the subway; it’s slow and moves on water, which is to say, you’re forcibly reminded that Manhattan is an island. So a visit to Governors Island is never done on a whim. Most people pack picnics and stay all day: Relax on a hammock, stand on the—gasp—grass at the Hills park, and feel the breeze rarely found during New York City in summer.

Did it meet expectations?
Governors Island has immediate escapist appeal, but most people go for a memorable event: music festivals, pop-up dinners, art exhibits, dance performances—the list goes on.

Got it. So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
New Yorkers in search of activities and fresh air.

Central Park Zoo

Tell me: What’s this place all about?
Central Park’s small namesake zoo is one of midtown Manhattan’s most popular family attractions. General admission costs $12 for adults and $7 for children.

Wow. What’s it like being there?
Animal-loving wonder.

Who comes here?
School groups and families in search of weekend activities.

Did it meet expectations?
Don’t expect to be overwhelmed by the number of wildlife—the Central Park Zoo is just 6.5 acres (compared to big sister Bronx Zoo’s 265 acres). But intimacy and accessibility are the appeal for Manhattanites, who take their kids here to see a rare snow leopard, ruffled lemurs, grizzly bears, penguins, sea lions, and more.

Got it. So, then, what, or who, do you think it’s best for?
Urbanites looking to share the wonders of wildlife with their gridlocked offspring.

Carnegie Hall

Give us the big picture: What’s the vibe of the place, what’s it like?
This world-class performance hall seems from another era. It’s known for its namesake industrialist founder, as well as its Renaissance Revival architecture, outstanding acoustics, and the list of famous musicians who’ve graced its stages.

What kinds of events can we see here?
Musicians of all disciplines have performed at Cargenie Hall, from classical to jazz, folk to popular music.

How are the seats?
Carnegie Hall has 3,671 seats, divided among three auditoriums. The acoustics in the main space, Stern Auditorium, are famously well-designed, so there’s no bad seat. But the best ones are within the parquet, first tier, and second tier. If you’re trying to limit costs and want to reserve the dress circle or balcony, try to buy seats toward the middle of the auditorium, so you’re less likely to end up with an obstructed view.

Good for kids?
Performances are typically for adults, but Carnegie Hall hosts a few “family days” throughout the year, during which kids can listen to live performances, build handmade instruments, and sing and dance with professional musicians.

Anything in particular that makes this place special, from the programming to a unique feature it has?
Since opening in 1891, Carnegie Hall has become synonymous with musical achievement: If you perform on one of its famous stages, you join the ranks of popular artists like the Beatles and Judy Garland and composers like Mahler and Tchaikovsky.

If we’re going to be in town, what—and who—do you think this is best for?
You’re likely to leave Carnegie Hall ready to return for another show. Tickets vary on the performance, but can start as low as $30 to $40 for balcony seats in the Stern Auditorium. You can also sign up for a free performance or inquire about same-day $10 rush tickets for select concerts (check out the website for more deals).

Washington Square Park

Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
If people-watching is your sport, Washington Square Park is your place. Entertainment is a given in this intimate, not-quite 10-acre space, filled with career chess players, musicians, performers, students, sunbathers, strollers, and general throngs of Greenwich Villagers, desperate for a bit of fresh air. Linger on one of the benches by the main fountain and consider the artistic greats who’ve found inspiration in the very same spot: musicians like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, Beat generation poet Allen Ginsburg, even Henry James, whose novel, Washington Square, was inspired by the Park and surrounding neighborhood.

Any standout features or must-sees?
You could circle the entire park in less than 15 minutes, but take your time: Pause beneath Washington Arch, honoring our country’s first president (for whom the Park is named), and observe the laurel wreaths and intricate motifs that extend from the base to the keystones, atop which twin eagles perch like constant watchmen.

Was it easy to get around?
The park is entirely handicap accessible.

All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
Unless you’ve got time to kill, do a lap, stop for pictures, listen to a quick tune, then head one block north on Fifth Avenue for can’t-miss pies at OTTO Enoteca e Pizzeria.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is really a series of gardens, pavilions, and conservatories connected by a looping path. Greenhouses house bonsais, rare orchids, and desert plants, while outdoor spaces range from a lush Shakespeare garden to a Japanese-style lily pond traversed by a romantic bridge.

Any standout features or must-sees?
Depending on the season, you might spot hot-pink tree peonies, cherry blossoms shedding their confetti-like petals, or stately rose bushes heavy with lush flowers. Check out the Plants in Bloom section of the website to get a sense of what’s in bloom.

Was it easy to get around?
Everything is off of one main loop path, so you couldn’t get lost if you tried to. Facilities are all located in the main pavilion, near the entrance, so make sure you go before embarking on your stroll. For anyone with mobility issues, everything is on one level and ADA accessible.

That sounds cool. All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
What you’ll see depends heavily on the season, but the bonsais and the Japanese garden are beautiful year-round.

New York Philharmonic

Give us the big picture: What’s the vibe of the place, what’s it like?
New York City’s preeminent symphony orchestra primarily performs at the world-renowned David Geffen Hall, within the Upper West Side Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The Max Abramovitz-designed auditorium seats 2,738 people in a grand, imposing room that adds to the drama of the classical music performances.

What kinds of events can we see here?
David Geffen Hall hosts notable performances by acclaimed orchestras and musicians from around the globe, as well as galas, film premieres, and even the odd graduation or two.

Good for kids?
For older kids maybe. But probably think of this as an adults-only affair, unless your 12-year-old is a classical music enthusiast or patron of the arts.

Anything in particular that makes this place special, from the programming to a unique feature it has?
There are 106 members of the New York Philharmonic, all of whom earn their living as full-time musicians. Hearing them perform will inspire profound respect and awe for their incredible talents, even if you’re classical music newbie.

If we’re going to be in town, what—and who—do you think this is best for?
This experience is for everyone: You don’t have to understand the history of the symphony or concerto being played in order to appreciate the profundity of the experience. The price can be high, so check the Philharmonic schedule—patrons can visit during open rehearsals on Thursday mornings; general admission tickets are available for $22. The Philharmonic also gives away free tickets to select Friday performances to people between the ages of 13 and 26, and the orchestra performs free concerts in New York-area public parks during summer. (There’s always one at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on Memorial Day).

Bronx Zoo

Let’s start big picture. What’s the vibe here?
With more than 700 different species spread across 265 acres of parkland thoughtfully designed to mimic natural habitats, the Bronx Zoo is a great place to escape from Manhattan for the day, especially if you’re traveling with kids.

Any standout features or must-sees?
Don’t miss the giraffe building, the Congo gorilla forest, the house of reptiles, and the flamingos in the sea bird aviary. And the sea lions always make for an exciting show.

Was it easy to get around?
The grounds are enormous, but there’s a shuttle that loops between various points of interest. The grounds have plenty of signs, places to sit down and regroup, and bathrooms.

All said and done, what—and who—is this best for?
For lack of a better metaphor, this place is a zoo. If you’re looking for a quiet and meditative way to spend a few hours, skip it. But if you want to blow the minds of a bunch of kids, you can do no better.

New Museum

Zoom out. What’s this place all about?
Although the New Museum was founded in 1977, it gained more attention in 2007 with the opening of its $50 million Bowery location—a 7-story building that looks like stacks of blocks on top of each other, designed by cutting-edge Tokyo-based architecture firm Sejima + Nishizawa/SANAA.

What are we talking about in the permanent collection?
The museum contains all things contemporary and modern, in all mediums, but tends to champion lesser known artists (shows have included Australian painter Helen Johnson, L.A.-based filmmaker Kahlil Joseph and Philadelphia installation artist Alex Da Corte). Exhibits can be hit or miss, and enjoyment of them tends to be wildly subjective.

What if we’re in the mood for a temporary exhibit?
The big draws here are always the temporary exhibits, some of which draw a lot of buzz, and others, not so much. Past blockbusters have included “Live Forever,” a survey of work from American artist Elizabeth Peyton, and “Carsten Höller: Experience,” which was the most comprehensive U.S. exhibition of the multi-media artist’s work.

What did you make of the crowd?
Of all the major museums in New York City, this is one that draws the most locals and art insiders, which falls in line with its relatively niche place in the museum world when compared to the Met and MoMA. Many visitors come here with the intention of seeing a certain exhibit, and families and kids are few and far between.

On the practical tip, how were facilities?
The building’s straightforward layout makes it a snap to explore. And all galleries here are wheelchair accessible—there are even two wheelchairs available at the coat check free of charge.

Any guided tours worth trying?
There are daily, free, forty-five minute, docent-led public tours of the museum’s current exhibitions. They’re worth it if you want some insight into the sometimes avant-garde works you’re looking at.

Gift shop: obligatory, inspiring—or skip it?
It’s mostly full of books; an excellent small shop for hard-to-find ‘zines and obscure tomes on art, architecture, and design. There are also art supplies, posters, puzzles, and small, quirky home decor items.

Is the café worth a stop, or should we just plan on going elsewhere?
The small café on the first floor of the museum offers Intelligentsia coffee, grilled cheese sandwiches, kale salads, and all sorts of baked goods from local favorite Café Grumpy.

Any advice for the time- or attention-challenged?
Because its size doesn’t compare with a place like MoMA, it’s possible to get a good sense of the collection in 90 minutes—but start with the current exhibit you find most intriguing, as you might not see something (especially if it’s particularly avant-garde) similar for awhile.

David Zwirner

So, what’s this place about?
David Zwirner is a blue-chip contemporary art gallery with three locations in New York City (where it started) and satellites in London and Hong Kong. In comparison to some of the other ultra-high-end galleries of its ilk, it has a bit more of an academic, family-business feel to it. Shows tend to be a little quieter and more thoughtful; there’s an in-house book arm, and the gallery even produces its own podcast.

How’s the space?
Of their two main spaces in Chelsea—the other is in a townhouse on the Upper East Side—the Annabelle Selldorf–designed building on 20th Street is the most distinctive, with a rough concrete facade and wood-framed doors and windows. The exhibition spaces are some of the biggest in the neighborhood, but they can still get pretty packed on weekends.

The art’s the main thing, of course. How is it?
The artist roster is all high-value stuff, but the gallery generally stays away from anything overly slick or corny in favor of a more intellectual approach: muted paintings by Luc Tuymans, Alice Neel, and Giorgio Morandi; Dan Flavin neons; and watercolors by Chris Ofili and Raymond Pettibon. Occasionally an exhibition will turn out to be a blockbuster, like the Yayoi Kusama show a few years back that had people lined up around the block for a chance to see her famous mirrored “Infinity Rooms.”

Did you meet anyone on staff? Did they make an impression?
Front desk staff will mostly ignore you unless you’re a heavy hitter (or unless you want to buy one of the books on display). Otherwise, there are usually security guards around to make sure you don’t bump into anything.

At the end of the day, what—or who—is this place best for?
It’s a mix of casual observers and sceney art world people in it for the ‘gram. If you’re short on time, pick one of the Chelsea locations to hit up on your gallery circuit.

Queens Night Market

Let’s start with vibe. What does it feel like in this place?
The Queens Night Market, a chaotic melting pot of a market, is the anti-Smorgasburg (the Brooklyn market known for its artisanal, often Instagram-friendly food). Inspired by the night markets of Southeast Asia, it brings together vendors from as many different cultures as there are in the borough itself—well, almost.

What can we find here, or what should we look for?
Vendors rotate on a yearly basis, but you can expect a veritable United Nations of dishes, from Peruvian Quinoa Chaufa to Taiwanese popcorn chicken to Moldovan waffle rolls.

If money’s no object, what goes in the cart?
Most dishes cost less that $10. But if you want to ball out, pull together a multi-course feast from a few different stalls and eat it at one of the picnic tables by the stage.

And … what if we’re on a strict budget?
The fried-egg-wrapped burger from The Malaysian Project is a pretty serious meal. Wash it down with a juice made from soursop, pandan, and lime.

Who else is eating here?
A glorious cross-section of Queens: multi-generational immigrant families, young transplants with adventurous palates, and teens on dates.

Any secret tips, or “don’t go home without” purchases?
As long as you come hungry and open-minded, you can’t go wrong.

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