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New York Travel Spots

New York Travel Spots

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Trip Plan Tags: 
city
Destinations: 
Bronx,
Brooklyn,
Chelsea,
East Village,
Financial District,
Gramercy,
Harlem,
Lower East Side,
Midtown East,
Midtown West,
New York

I built this trip to contain all spots in New York that are great for my travel adventures

ITEMS

Waldorf Astoria

Nightlife

Russian Vodka Room, New York

265 W. 52nd Street
New York City, New York 10019
Tel: 212 307 5835
Website: www.russianvodkaroom.com

This dimly lit, windowless hideaway transports you from Midtown to old-world Moscow. A portrait of Lenin hangs on the wall overseeing a lively piano player and Russian businessmen hooting and hollering at the bar over plates of gravlax and smoked fish, and glasses of the lounge's biggest attraction: vodka. With 53 varieties, it's hard to know where to begin, but you can't leave without trying the infused options like garlic, dill, horseradish, apple cinnamon, or ginger. The bar is at its best late in the night, when revelers stumble in from all over town for raucous afterparties.

Open Mondays through Thursdays 4 pm to 12 am, Fridays through Sundays 4 pm to 4 am.

Nightlife

Mercury Lounge, New York

217 E. Houston Street
New York City, New York 10002
Tel: 212 260 4700
Website: www.mercuryloungenyc.com

This tiny Lower East Side spot has been the first New York stop for many a now-famous band. Because music booking titans Bowery Presents are in charge of scheduling, you're likely to see on-the-rise groups that are opening for big-time acts at music clubs like Webster Hall (125 E. 11th St.; 212-353-1600; www.websterhall.com) and the Bowery Ballroom. This also means that they're able to score intimate last-minute and secret shows with bands that normally play much larger venues (Broken Social Scene rocked a secret show to a handful of people before headlining the massive Siren Festival in 2008). Stop by on any given night and you're likely to get a mix of unheard-of-outside-Manhattan and on-the-rise acts like Sunset Rubdown and Oxford Collapse.

Call or visit Web site for showtimes.

Mansion

Nightlife

Bowery Ballroom, New York

6 Delancey Street, Lower East Side
New York City, New York 10002
Tel: 212 533 2111
Website: www.boweryballroom.com

Bowery enthusiasts go on and on about this concert hall's intimate stage, stellar acoustics, and Beaux Arts charm, but what they're really after are the bragging rights that come with catching the most buzzed-about bands of the moment. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wilco, and Interpol all played the Bowery before moving on to mega-venues. Catch current hot young things like Fleet Foxes, Laura Marling, and No Age before they burst into the national spotlight. Tickets are available online at www.boweryballroom.com. Big-buzz acts sell out quickly, but you can often score a ticket on Craigslist or in front of the bar the day of the show for relatively little markup.

Call or visit Web site for showtimes.

Eating

Spotted Pig, New York

314 W. 11th Street
New York City, New York 10014
Tel: 212 620 0393
Website: www.thespottedpig.com

When chef April Bloomfield (an alum of London's River Café) opened this happening West Village boîte in 2004 with Mario Batali as a backer, New Yorkers discovered the great joys of the gastropub, a brilliant British invention that joins convivial neighborhood bar with far-above-average food. A recent expansion has helped ease the legendary waits, but the Pig is still packed with herds of yuppies and hipsters clamoring for Bloomfield's spectacular gnudi (delicate ricotta dumplings splashed with vibrant pesto), and the rest of her inventive menu of upscale pub grub (a burger slapped with Roquefort; the best smoked haddock chowder this side of Scotland). Wash it all down with a pint of one of the hand-drawn house ales.

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Eating

Peter Luger, New York

178 Broadway, Williamsburg
Brooklyn, New York 11211
Tel: 718 387 7400
Website: www.peterluger.com/brooklyn.cfm

The menu is limited; the service can be brusque; and unless you have a house account, you have to bring cash. But none of that stops Manhattanites from cabbing to this old-time, wood-paneled steak house on a dusty Brooklyn block. Everything—from the porterhouse to the sliced-tomato salad to the onion-sweetened hash browns—is, in a word, prime. At lunch only, they serve a 10-ounce burger that's made from the same well-aged meat.

Open daily 11:45 am to 9:45 pm.

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Eating

Gramercy Tavern, New York

42 East 20th Street
New York City, New York 10003
Tel: 212 477 0777
Website: www.gramercytavern.com

Before Tom Colicchio hosted Top Chef, he was cooking bold and creative New American food at Gramercy Tavern, the place that took the starch out of New York fine dining and became one of the city's best-loved restaurants. Colicchio exited in 2006, but executive chef Michael Anthony, previously with Blue Hill at Stone Barns, has taken the helm of this dual-personality establishment (raucous and no-reservations in the front; more sedate, with white tablecloths and prix-fixe menus, in the back) and continues to put out seasonal dishes with an emphasis on fresh, local vegetables and ingredients. Much of the fare is delicate and considered: A "risotto" made with farro grains and carrot juice, sprinkled with pine nuts and edamame; an "open" ravioli of tender crabmeat and herbs, surrounded by exquisite mussels removed from their shells. There are still a few choices that evoke the gusto of the Colicchio days, such as a massive meatball stuffed with fontina and served over a potato puree, its richness cut by a tart onion marmalade. As always, the service is precise and astute, but never stiff or pretentious. New Yorkers and foodies everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief.

Open Mondays through Fridays noon to 2 pm, Sunday through Thursdays 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 5:30 to 11 pm.

Eating

El Quinto Pino, New York

401 W. 24th Street, Chelsea
New York City, New York 10011
Tel: 212 206 6900
Website: www.elquintopinonyc.com

El Quinto Pino may be New York's most authentic tapas bar, as frenetic and cramped as the best spots in Madrid. An offshoot of the larger Tía Pol, this sliver of a restaurant offers few surfaces to dine on (just a bar-top and ledges) and even fewer places to sit. Still, the small plates of fried, grilled, and marinated morsels are hard to resist, particularly after a few glasses of chilled Txakoli (an effervescent Basque vintage from the all-Spanish wine list). You'll come for a snack but end up staying for dinner. Share crisp salt-cod beignets, anchovy fillets, and the irresistible signature sea urchin panino. Though there are no sweets scribbled onto the menu above the bar, insiders know to request the unadvertised casadielles, delicious fried ravioli with walnuts and honey.

Open Sundays through Thursdays 5 pm to midnight, Fridays and Saturdays 5 pm to 1 am.

Allen & Delancey

Shop

Barneys New York, New York

660 Madison Avenue, Midtown East
New York City, New York 10065
Tel: 212 826 8900
Website: barneys.com

What makes Barneys New York a must-stop for the fashion-forward isn't the comprehensive selection of popular designers (Prada, Manolo Blahnik) or the witty window displays (which would stop any New Yorker in her stilettos). Rather, it's the store's unerring eye for emerging talent. The noteworthy selection takes shape on the main level with jewelry from Lanvin and Sevan, plus a well-curated mix of handbags from brands like Miu Miu and Devi Kroell. In the basement, the revamped beauty level offers the entire lineup of L'Artisan Parfumeur, and cult faves Frédéric Malle and Care by Stella McCartney. While high fashion comes with the uptown prices you'd expect, private label Barneys Collection—formerly helmed by New York fashion darling Behnaz Sarafpour—has more affordable separates and tailored outerwear. Barneys got its start in the 1920s as a men's store, so it's no surprise that the gent's department is an incubator of cool, best known for its made-to-measure dress shirts and edgy accessories, including Berluti shoes and buttery-soft men's bags from Leonello Borghi.

The cheeky, youth-oriented spin-off, Barneys Co-Op, offers a more accessible version of the Barneys experience, be it through vibrant print dresses from London designer Duro Olowu or sustainable fashion from Edun. The basement level is devoted to denim of every stripe, from 18th Amendment to Helmut Lang. Bargain hunters, take note: When Barneys cleans out seasonal merchandise, prices are often slashed over 50 percent at the biannual warehouse sale in Chelsea.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 11 am to 7 pm, Sundays noon to 6 pm.

Shop

Midtown

It's no coincidence that when people think of shopping in New York, they think of midtown—the buzzy commercial center of Manhattan harbors some of the country's best, and most expensive, retail space. Upper Madison Avenue is a virtual encyclopedia of the world's finest luxury brands, while tony Fifth Avenue has its own share of gilded names (many top brands have outposts on both). New York's great department stores, including Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, and Henri Bendel, can each warrant full-day excursions in themselves.

There's no such thing as downtime at Tiffany & Co.'s Fifth Avenue flagship. From the moment those hallowed doors open until they clang shut at night, the place is crawling with dazzled tourists, Upper East Side dowagers looking to add to their collections, and starry-eyed couples shopping for the big one. There's no surer way to qualify for parent of the year than by taking junior family members to FAO Schwarz. File past the toy soldier doormen into a cavernous space filled with everything from life-size stuffed animals to charmingly old-fashioned wooden toys. Art and design lovers find nirvana at the MoMA store, with for-sale versions of the high-design exhibits, Alvar Aalto glass vases, wacky Lomo cameras, and plenty of oddball items such as oversize novelty phones that really work and a modernist Flexus glass menorah.

Tom Ford's three-story flagship near Barneys is tricked out like a gentlemen's pied à terre with everything the modern dandy needs, from a tailoring service to a fragrance department. A few blocks north is Christian Louboutin, whose iconic red-soled heels are the cornerstone of many a New York woman's shoe collection. You don't have to be a bride-to-be to appreciate the wares at Vera Wang, a study in understated chic, from the vases of dark purple lilies to the racks of beautifully tailored resort and ready-to-wear at the top of the spiral staircase. (Viewing bridal wear is by appointment only.)

It might not be on the gilded retail strip, but Jean's Silversmiths is a gem worth hunting down—an insider source for vintage and estate jewelry as well as over 2,000 flatware patterns and sterling silver sets from American, English, Danish, and European designers.

Shop

Bergdorf Goodman, New York

754 Fifth Avenue, Midtown East
New York City, New York 10019
Tel: 212 753 7300
Website: bergdorfgoodman.com

Most department stores have cloned themselves endlessly, populating malls all over America. But there is only one Bergdorf Goodman. In fact, it has such significance in fashion circles that most designers would choose Bergdorf's if forced to display their wares in only one place. The original store and the Men's Store across Fifth Avenue house every important fashion name, both classic and cutting-edge, along with exquisite accessories, jewelry, and haute items for the home. Check out the fifth-floor womenswear (known as 5F) for a comprehensive range of affordable, buzz-worthy names such as Jason Wu and Alexander Wang, along with labels like Theyskens' Theory by Belgian wunderkind Olivier Theyskens. The young designer formerly helmed Rochas and Nina Ricci, and his streamlined designs for the popular mass brand Theory tend to send fashion devotees into a swoon. Recharge at the salonlike Kelly Wearstler–designed BG restaurant on the 7th floor.

Open Mondays through Fridays 10 am to 8 pm, Saturdays 10 am to 7 pm, and Sundays noon to 6 pm.

See + Do

Statue of Liberty, New York

Liberty Island
New York City, New York
Tel: 212 363 3200
Website: www.nps.gov/stli

It's hard to imagine a more evocative and familiar symbol of the United States than the lady with the torch, who has been welcoming travelers from across the ocean for more than 120 years. Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi's copper statue, which is wrapped around a framework designed by Gustav Eiffel, opened to the public in 1886. The statue's interior was temporarily closed following the September 11 attacks, but it reopened in 2004 with a new addition, a glass ceiling that allows visitors to look into the intricate inner structure of the statue. Visitors can also get a spellbinding view of the city from the observation deck in the crown, now (finally!) also reopened. Time passes are required and can be obtained by calling 866-782-8834 or reserving online at www.statuecruises.com.

See + Do

World Trade Center Site/Ground Zero, New York

Bordered by Church, Barclay, Liberty, and West Streets
New York City, New York 10048
Website: www.tributewtc.org

The devastating events of September 11, 2001, are still painfully fresh memories to all New Yorkers. The 16-acre site that once held the World Trade Center is now a vast construction site, where the new tower complex and memorial is taking shape and projected for completion in 2013. A Tribute Center opened in September 2006 as a gallery and information center. Guides affiliated with the Tribute Center also offer tours of the perimeter of the Trade Center site, interweaving narratives of the events of September 11 with personal accounts of that day (120 Liberty St.; 212-393-9160).

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See + Do

Museum of Modern Art, New York

11 W. 53rd Street
New York City, New York 10019
Tel: 212 708 9400
Website: www.moma.org

The world's preeminent museum for modern art reopened in November 2004 on its original site in a new building designed by architect Yoshio Taniguchi. The new structure extensively expanded gallery space and added a soaring light-filled atrium 110 feet high. The walls themselves were designed to seem as if they float in space, reinforcing the idea that the building itself is an attraction. (Curiously, the new design also seems to bring in a lot more ambient noise than before, so on crowded days the resulting roar can be very distracting.) Then of course there's the art: The masterpieces in the permanent collection are too numerous to mention—among them Van Gogh's The Starry Night, Dalí's The Persistence of Memory, Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon—and the collections of contemporary architecture, design, and photography could fill museums of their own. There's so much, in fact, that visitors are advised to keep their eyes peeled at all times—a very important piece, Matisse's Dance (I), hangs unceremoniously over the back stairwell, for example. If your schedule allows, avoid the steep $20 admission fee by attending "Free Fridays" from 4 pm to 8 pm (although it can get very crowded); the ever-present crowds dwindle a bit on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Inspired to take a piece of art home but don't fancy getting involved in a heist? The MoMa Design Store (there's also a Soho outpost) is a must-see, with everything from Frank Gehry stools to Banksy books to delicate metal light fixtures by Tord Boontje.

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See + Do

Brooklyn Bridge, New York

Pedestrian access at City Hall Park
New York City, New York 10007

When it was completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was a marvel of civil engineering—the longest suspension bridge in the world. Over 150,000 people walked across the bridge opening day. Today, the number of car crossings per day approaches that number, but the best views of the crisscrossing steel cables, neo-Gothic stone archways, and majestic cityscapes are still to be had by the commuters, tourists, and idling New Yorkers who cross the span by foot or bicycle. Stop under the arches to trace the history of the bridge, including the story of famed engineer Washington Roebling, who inherited the construction project after his father's death, and completed it via telescope from his apartment while suffering from the bends. Access the bridge near City Hall on the Manhattan side, or take the A train to High Street in Brooklyn and look for the stairs to the bridge walkway at Cadman Plaza East and Prospect Street, under the bridge's approach. Always be alert on the path; bicyclists gaining momentum on the way down from the center tend to swerve outside the dedicated lane. Once you're across the East River from Manhattan, use our Brooklyn Insider Guide to find places to eat and shop.

See + Do

Bronx Zoo, New York

2300 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, New York 10460
Tel: 718 367 1010
Website: www.bronxzoo.com

The scarcity of kid-friendly spaces in New York can be trying if you've got family in tow, especially since the few that do exist are notoriously crowded. That's why the Bronx Zoo is such a welcome respite. Spread across 265 acres of leafy woodlands, the zoo's primary mission is to provide natural settings for more than 4,000 animals. The "African Plains" exhibit mimics a savanna, with predators and prey roaming in the same environment, separated by moats. (The only problem with this setup is that the animals are often a long way from the paths, and small children might have trouble spotting them.) More exciting for little ones is the children's zoo and the Congo Gorilla Forest, a 6.5-acre habitat in which visitors get up close with the primates while wandering under a thick canopy of mist-shrouded leaves. Other highlights include Tiger Mountain and the "Himalayan Highlands," where the zoo's snow leopards can be seen lounging on steep rocky hills. Afterwards, drop by the New York Botanical Garden (just across the street), a bucolic 250-acre oasis complete with river, waterfall, endless flower species, and a 50-acre swath of native forest similar to what would once have covered the city. The zoo is accessible vis the Metro-North Harlem line from Grand Central, by subway, or by the BxM11 express bus with stops along Madison Avenue north of 26th Street.

Open Mondays through Fridays 10 am to 5 pm, weekends and holidays 10 am to 5.30 pm. Wednesday admissions are on a donation basis.

See + Do

Apollo Theater, New York

253 W. 125th Street, Harlem
New York City, New York 10027
Tel: 212 531 5300
Website: www.apollotheater.com

Built in 1914 as a burlesque theater, this Harlem landmark changed to its current status as a showcase for African-American talent in 1934, opening the stage on Amateur Night to anyone with the courage to face the notoriously tough audience. One of the first non-professionals to try her luck was a young singer named Ella Fitzgerald; others who have emerged via the same route over the years include James Brown and Lauryn Hill. Today, after a restoration that revitalized the theater's interior and facilities, established stars ranging from Prince to Tony Bennett regularly come to the theater for a performance. Amateur Night is still every Wednesday, and still a hoot.

ALT HERE

See + Do

American Museum of Natural History, New York

Central Park West at W. 79th Street, Upper West Side
New York City, New York 10024
Tel: 212 769 5100
Website: www.amnh.org

No child—or adult for that matter—who has strolled under the enormous blue whale has ever forgotten this cavernous museum on the Upper West Side. It's still best known for its dinosaur skeletons, but other perennial favorites include the stuffed animals, so carefully preserved that they appear ready to walk out of the dioramas and prowl down the corridors. Don't miss the hall of African mammals with its centerpiece herd of elephants. Temporary exhibits sometimes include live creatures, like the annual butterfly exhibit (October through May). The Rose Center for Earth and Space provides its own set of thrills: The space show, Journey to the Stars, narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, can sell out so it's advisable to get tickets online in advance. Other highlights include a 15-ton meteor displayed in the Hall of the Universe.

Hilton New York

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

Bryant Park Hotel, New York

40 West 40th Street
New York City, New York
Tel: 877 640 9300 (toll-free), Tel: 212 869 0100
Website: www.bryantparkhotel.com

Close to the Seventh Avenue showrooms and just across the street from Bryant Park, the former location of New York's fashion shows, this modern hotel remains popular with the style crowd. Designed by British architect David Chipperfield, the rooms are lean and sharp with blond wood furniture and Tibetan rugs. Thankfully, a bedside sound machine helps block the rumble of midtown's streets. Expect to spot models and model wannabes everywhere, from the hip L.A. restaurant transplant Koi, located in the lobby, to the basement Cellar Bar.

$400 or more
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

The Bowery Hotel, New York

335 Bowery, East Village
New York City, New York 10003
Tel: 212 505 9100
Email: info@bohonyc.com
Website: www.theboweryhotel.com

The flophouses and drug dens of Bowery past have long been supplanted by boutiques and bars, but the new occupants still pay homage to the neighborhood's rakish past. Take the Bowery Hotel, which opened in 2007. Bathrooms with marble slabs and brass fixtures feel old-money New York, but in some, tubs-for-two sit next to exhibitionist floor-to-ceiling windows. The lobby bar's worn leather club chairs and salvaged church pews hold a rotating cast of models and media types under the influence of two-too-many vodka gimlets. But if the Bowery Hotel is a scene, it's a relatively unassuming one. Italian restaurant Gemma has all of the culinary chops of its downtown peers with none of the pretension (prices are reasonable and reservations a breeze for hotel guests). The decadent neo-boudoir style of the common spaces carved sandstone fireplaces, velvet-covered stools, fringed lampshades is offset by the more modern edge of the 135 rooms, with floor-to-ceiling factory windows and pillowy white-on-white beds. You won't get coddled at the Bowery eye-candy doormen are often too busy flirting to actually open the doors, and there is nary a spa, gym, or pool to be found but you will find a good-looking crowd and a comfortably lush place to lay your head when you're ready to escape it.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.