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New York for Dummies

New York for Dummies

By esmiling
Trip Plan Tags: 
adventure,
educational,
family,
food,
shopping
Destinations: 
Brooklyn,
Financial District,
Midtown West,
New York,
New York City,
North America,
United States,
Upper West Side,
West Village

Don't just go to Times Square and buy some t-shirts! Here's are some ideas about what you should do if you plan to visit New York City from a native New Yorker.

ITEMS

See + Do

Rockefeller Center, New York

W. 47th Street to W. 51st Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue
New York City, New York 10020
Tel: 212 332 6868
Website: www.rockefellercenter.com

John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s Art Deco masterpiece, Radio City Music Hall, was the first component of his eponymous Midtown development. The stage, with its signature 60-foot-tall proscenium arch, is still a venue for major concerts and events, as well as the totally campy Christmas Spectacular, featuring the high-kicking Rockettes. On a backstage tour, you can watch them rehearse, and admire the ornate ceilings, plush red seats, and the hydraulic system that's been in use since the 1930s (1260 Ave. of the Americas; 212-307-7171; www.radiocity.com). Even if you can't do a triple lutz, it's almost obligatory to take a spin around the skating rink, flanked by skyscrapers and open from October through early April (between W. 49th St. and W. 50th St., just off Fifth Ave.; 212-332-7654). The 70th-story Top of the Rock observation deck, originally opened by Rockefeller in 1933, reopened in November 2005. Its panoramic views of the city stretch from Central Park to the Brooklyn Bridge to the Statue of Liberty (30 Rockefeller Center; 212-698-2000; tickets can be purchased at www.topoftherocknyc.com). The view is equally impressive five floors below, in the legendary Rainbow Room, but the glamorous Art Deco restaurant and bar, along with its famous dance floor are closed while the property owners search for a new operator (30 Rockefeller Plaza; 212-632-5100; www.rainbowroom.com).

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See + Do

Central Park, New York

New York City, New York
Website: www.centralparknyc.org

New York City without the park is a dismal thought. Created by visionary landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in the mid-1800s, the 843-acre park stands as the calming yang to the city's fervent go-go yin, with ample nooks and open fields to allow for just about any pursuit. (Did you catch that guy playing violin on a unicycle?) Its boundaries run from 59th St. north to 110th St. and from Fifth Ave. on the east side to Central Park West. There are simply too many attractions to list: First-timers might pick a section and wander-go-lucky, or hunt down specific sights. A good option is to begin from the southeast corner at 59th St. and Fifth Ave., near the iconic, newly revamped Plaza Hotel, and head diagonally northwest—you'll likely pass the Zoo (sorry—the Wildlife Center); the Sheep Meadow, a 15-acre field that serves as a prime summer tanning and pickup spot; the area near the volleyball nets where a faithful set of characters roller-skate to old disco tunes every weekend; and then arrive at the Bethesda Terrace, where two sets of stately stairs lead down to the Angel of the Waters Fountain and its lake. The area is the most picturesque spot in the park. The Loeb Boathouse, on the east side near 72nd St., is where New Yorkers come to have brunch and watch boaters; if they're feeling romantic (and energetic), they might even rent a boat themselves (212-517-2233; www.thecentralparkboathouse.com). If you find yourself in the northern tier, stroll through the Conservatory Gardens on the east side at 105th St.. The cheapest thrill in all of Manhattan is the Carousel at 64th Street—$1.50! The north end of the park, past the Reservoir, feels wilder and more remote, with trails that lead into the woods and past streams—you won't even feel like you're in New York. Always, you'll find characters, musicians, and a spot to be left alone—heaven in the city.

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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.

$300-$399
Editor's Pick
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Hotel

New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, New York

333 Adams Street
Brooklyn, New York 11201
Tel: 718 246 7000, Tel: 888 436 3759, Fax: 718 246 0563
Website: www.brooklynmarriott.com

This single solitary full-service hotel in Brooklyn has some things going for it. It's situated just south of the Brooklyn Bridge, so you can walk the 30 minutes across to Manhattan—or take one of the four subway lines on the doorstep—and if you choose wisely among the 659 rooms and suites, you get that skyline view (insist on one above the sixth floor facing Manhattan when you book). A huge plus is the health club with indoor swimming pool, but for this you have to suffer beyond-corporate decor, hideous printed bedspreads, and all. The location—by Borough Hall, Fulton Mall, and downtown Brooklyn—is terrible, and the million restaurants are at least five minutes' unscenic walk away. The Marriott's own Archives restaurant serves anodyne American cuisine. If you're here to visit Brooklyn family and they lack a guest room, this is definitely worth considering.

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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.

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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.

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.

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See + Do

Dumbo, New York

Brooklyn, New York

Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass was a wasteland not long ago. You could practically see tumbleweed bowling down Front Street. Now it's all lofts and home stores and converted factories, but it has a totally different feel from other gentrified Brooklyn 'hoods, since the real estate here is nearly all warehouses. The first section of Brooklyn Bridge Park opened in spring 2010 as a seven-acre expanse at Pier 1 with grass lawns for picnicking and long rows of benches with views of the lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. The ambitious park will eventually occupy 85 acres along the waterfront. Braving the line at Grimaldi's Pizzeria is something of a Brooklyn tradition, and it's certainly worth a stab to sample one of the coal brick-oven fired pies—try the fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil (19 Old Fulton St.; 718-858-4300). For a pick-me-up afterwards, swing by Jacques Torres on Water Street—its signature hot chocolate, a heady mix of cocoa powder, allspice, cinnamon, and sweet ancho chile peppers, packs a nice punch (66 Water St.; 718-875-9772). Keep walking east on Front and you reach a curious neighborhood called Vinegar Hill, a cluster of small Federal-era brick row houses. If you keep walking east (it gets a bit hard to navigate through the housing projects), you reach the Navy Yard, a massive former U.S. Navy shipyard that now provides work spaces for a burgeoning population of artists and craftspeople and also houses Steiner Studios, a film production complex.

Nightlife

Blue Note, New York

131 W. Third Street
New York City, New York 10012
Tel: 212 475 8592
Website: www.bluenote.net

Don't come here expecting some smoky Village jazz club of romantic legend. This is a far glitzier affair, with offshoots all over the world. You can't argue with the talent, though. The crème de la crème of the jazz world performs here, and on a typical night, you might find Milton Nascimento or the Clark Terry Quintet or David Sanborn or a glittering group of all stars saluting Dizzy Gillespie.

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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.

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