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New York- Week 1

New York- Week 1

By
Trip Plan Tags: 
arts + culture,
city,
shopping
Destinations: 
Brooklyn,
Chinatown,
East Village,
Financial District,
Midtown West,
New York,
New York City,
North America,
Soho,
United States,
Upper East Side

I'm using this trip plan for a novel I'm writing.

ITEMS

Eating

Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, New York

110 Waverly Place
New York City, New York 10011
Tel: 212 777 0303
Website: www.babbonyc.com

Former American presidents seated at table 3? Check. Beef cheek ravioli with crushed squab liver and black truffles served at table 6? Check. Large-and-in-charge man with red hair in a ponytail, shorts, and clogs walking the aisles? Check. Such is a typical night at Babbo, Mario Batali's perennially hot and rollicking restaurant just off Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. Batali launched the place in 1998 with partner Joseph Bastianich, son of Lidia and a renowned vintner-restaurateur in his own right, and it was one of the first restaurants in New York to offer such an inventive and sophisticated take on Italian cuisine—with a voluminous wine list to match. The phones haven't stopped ringing since. Although the team recently opened the garish Del Posto (85 Tenth Ave.; 212-497-8090; www.delposto.com), Babbo (with its must-try pasta tasting menu) is still our favorite.

Shop

Century 21, New York

22 Cortlandt Street
New York City, New York 10007
Tel: 212 227 9092
Website: c21stores.com

This department store, known for selling designer fashions at heavily discounted prices, achieved a second degree of fame when it was seriously damaged in the World Trade Center attacks. Several months and millions of dollars in repairs later, it reopened in its original site, just across from Ground Zero—and as the women of Sex and the City famously put it in one episode, it is everyone's civic duty to go there and spend money. It's also in one's economic best interest. Prices on everything—men's and women's fashions, shoes, housewares, cosmetics—are much lower than they would be anywhere else. You have to have nerves of steel to do hand-to-hand combat for the bargain goods, but the rewards are many.

Open Mondays through Wednesdays 7:45 am to 8 pm, Thursdays and Fridays 7:45 am to 9:30 pm, Saturdays 10 am to 9 pm, and Sundays 11 am to 8 pm.

Shop

Prada, New York

575 Broadway, Soho
New York City, New York 10012
Tel: 212 334 8888
Website: prada.com

Part of Miuccia Prada's undisputed genius is her ability to fuse fashion with art, and that talent is on impressive display at the New York flagship in Soho. Conceived by Dutch starchitect Rem Koolhaas, this former downtown branch of the Guggenheim Museum features a dramatic staircase (populated by headless mannequins) that faces a giant wooden halfpipe, subterranean display rooms that feel like the costume department of a theater, and enormous wall murals running the length of the 23,000-square-foot space. While the main level feels more like a deserted showroom than a retail environment, downstairs houses a warren of small rooms displaying the latest collections, handbags, and shoes. It's all a bit of a trip, and one you'll be talking about long after you get your purchases home.

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

Shop

Marc Jacobs


Website: marcjacobs.com

In spite of calling Paris home these days, Marc Jacobs will always belong to New York, the city where his multifarious design talents reached their nexus. It's possible, given a few hours to spare, to experience the entirety of Jacobs's creative genius, from the refined, avant-garde lines of his ready-to-wear collection on Soho's Mercer Street, to the quirky-cute accessories stores in the West Village. Bleecker Street lays claim to four of the most sought-after shopfronts in the empire, including his diffusion line, Marc by Marc Jacobs, which has a devoted cult following. Window displays change with the seasons (and the whims of the design team). Expect anything from a sexed-up Santa posing with shoppers for Christmas portraits (Polaroids which are then plastered all over the windows) to beds of tulips heralding spring. While young women comprise Marc's most ardent fan base, he doesn't neglect the rest of the family: The West Village empire extends to a children's line, Little Marc, and a men's ready-to-wear store. To get the best perspective on just how beloved Mr. Jacobs's vision is in this town, drop by the accessories store, where his coveted handbags and shoes inspire mob scenes every weekend.

Shop

Jeffrey, New York

449 W. 14th Street
New York City, New York 10014
Tel: 212 206 1272
Website: jeffreynewyork.com

Jeffrey Kalinsky is nothing less than a New York legend: The former Barneys shoe buyer has made thousands of fashion-hungry downtown men and women very happy since opening his eponymous store in the Meatpacking District in 1999 (long before it was de rigueur to open up shop here). His was the first high-end designer department store in the neighborhood, and these days the Chanel-and-diamond-wearing crowd happily makes the pilgrimage downtown to see what's he's got in store. The long narrow space is—fittingly enough—reminiscent of a catwalk, with an elegant fountain breaking up the various sections. Staff are surprisingly free of snootiness (in fact, we'd venture to say it's one of the friendliest upscale retailers around) and it's a sheer delight to browse the racks for red carpet–ready offerings from names like Valentino, Gucci, and Giambattista Valli.

Open Mondays through Wednesdays and Fridays 10 am to 8 pm, Thursdays 10 am to 9 pm, Saturdays 10 am to 7 pm, and Sundays 12.30 to 6 pm.

See + Do

Chinatown, New York

New York City, New York
Website: www.explorechinatown.com

The largest Asian community in North America has expanded its territory over the years, reaching into the Lower East Side and Little Italy; Manhattan's Chinatown now extends from Worth St. to Broome St. between Broadway and Madison St., but the main streets are Canal and Mott. The area is packed with markets overflowing with vegetables and fish, restaurants and noodle shops, stores selling everything from silk robes to discount luggage, and basement massage parlors where you can get a good, cheap shiatsu. If you don't like crowds, though, beware: It's a virtual mosh pit of humanity down here, and challenging to negotiate on foot. But there's also a spiritual side, particularly in the Eastern States Buddhist Temple on Mott St., where golden Buddhas are lit by candlelight.

See + Do

East Village, New York

New York City, New York

From Houston Street up to 14th Street, and east from Broadway to Avenue C, the East Village has been home to 19th-century millionaires, waves of immigrants, and more recently, decades of counterculture. The Beat Generation arrived in the '50s, hippies in the '60s, punks in the '70s, and Madonna in the '80s. Today, gentrification has made it safe for the rest of us. The seedy drug dens of Alphabet City (Avenues A, B, and C) now house upscale restaurants and of-the-moment bars; Tompkins Square Park, where squatters incited by the police rioted in 1998, is now filled with strollers and dog-walkers; and an array of shopping choices means you can procure anything from New Age decoupage to a bustier designed by Chloë Sevigny or a garden gnome from the estate of Squire Van Tuyl, thanks to quirky auction house Everything Must Go (www.139norfolk.com). But don't worry, there are still plenty of places in the neighborhood to get a tattoo—or a haircut that will drive your parents nuts.

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).

See + Do

Empire State Building, New York

350 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street
New York City, New York
Tel: 212 736 3100
Website: www.esbnyc.com

With the tragic demise of the World Trade Center, this symbol of New York is again the city's most recognizable skyscraper and, at 1,050 feet, its tallest. Since the 86th-floor observatory opened in 1931, 110 million visitors—including King Kong, as well as Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle—have taken in the panoramic views. On a clear day, this is one tourist experience that actually lives up to its billing. Waits can exceed three hours in peak season, as masses of would-be gawkers proceed through security, ticket lines, and waits for the elevator. You can skip one of those lines when you buy a ticket online; midweek at 8 a.m. (opening time) and between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. are generally the least crowded times. The speediest option, a $40 express ticket, guarantees that you'll be at the top in 20 minutes once you have a ticket in hand (though you still have to clear security).

See + Do

Carnegie Hall, New York

57th Street and 7th Avenue
New York City, New York 10019
Tel: 212 247 7800
Website: www.carnegiehall.org

Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie was determined to build the grandest concert hall in the country when he endowed this magnificent auditorium in 1889. Two years later the main hall and two other performance spaces opened in an imposing Renaissance-style building, with acoustics deemed to be virtually perfect. In the century since, the name Carnegie Hall has become synonymous with the apex of achievement in the musical field—the reason everyone from Pavarotti to the Beatles has performed here. But even if it's an unknown artist on stage, the whole experience—the red carpets, the curving balconies, the thrum of history—is a performance in itself.

See + Do

Soho

This area, bounded by Houston Street to the north and Canal Street to the south and stretching from Lafayette Street to Varick Street, has gone from a manufacturing center to an artists' haven to an upscale shopping area. Unfortunately the quirkier designers have been elbowed aside by big-ticket international brands, though sometimes with designer architecture to match—don't miss the undulating magnetic staircase at Longchamp or Rem Koolhaas's over-the-top design for Prada. Despite the crowds of shoppers on weekends, parts of Soho are still very New York: The grande dame of downtown bistros, Raoul's, has been turning out its signature steak au poivre since the '70s—its peppercorn excellence must be tasted to be understood. Not far away is Bar 89, infamous for its single-occupant bathrooms upstairs: The doors are glass, but they frost over as soon as you close them. Stop in for a drink at Soho Grand, get a bowl of exceptional homemade soup from the stand on the corner of Mercer and Spring, and note the historic cast-iron buildings and the feeling of an older New York (except for the apartments that rent for $3,500 a month). On the southern stretches, around Broome, Grand, and Howard streets, you'll still see holdover individual boutiques mixed in with the Vuittons and Chanels; Mercer, Wooster, and Greene streets host a number of high-end furniture shops, and throughout the neighborhood street vendors hawk everything from handmade greeting cards to jewelry to vintage dresses. After hours, hit Blue Ribbon for late-night comfort food or La Esquina for haute-Mexican in a speakeasy setting.

See + Do

Meatpacking District

Not so long ago, this was New York City's version of the Wild West—a warren of cobblestone streets abutting the West Side Highway, home to butchers and alternative-lifestyle night owls. Very little of that world exists now that the beef carcasses have moved out and the megaclubs, boutiques, and restaurants have moved in, with the stiletto-and-Prada crowd tottering swiftly behind. Still-standing stalwarts include Hogs & Heifers, where the shtick of bullhorn-shouting female bartenders who berate patrons and cut off their neckties with scissors was born (859 Washington St.; 212-929-0655; www.hogsandheifers.com), and the first upscale joint to move to the hood, Keith McNally's always good, always packed bistro, Pastis (9 Ninth Ave.; 212-929-4844; www.pastisny.com). Others haven't been so lucky—the classic all-night diner Florent, whose walls could no doubt tell some hair-raising stories, was shuttered as of mid-2008, pushed out by exorbitant rents. Lately places seem to open up more quickly than one can follow—the Hotel Gansevoort and clubs like Aer already seem kind of, well, old. While the neighborhood is fun and the shopping can be stellar (or should that be Stella?), it's also seeing the inevitable backlash—stop by during the week; weekends are elbow-to-elbow with way-too-drunk amateurs. Still, everyone can agree that the High Line elevated park and the hip (and affordable) Standard Hotel have gone a long way towards bringing the best of Meatpacking's past into its hip future.

See + Do

Greenwich Village/West Village, New York

New York City, New York

The West Village extends from Houston to 14th streets and from the Hudson River to Broadway, where the East Village unofficially begins. Farmland in colonial times, it's now home to some of the most beautiful streets in the city: leafy, sometimes cobbled lanes dotted with 18th- and 19th-century brownstones and outdoor cafés. Poets, artists, writers, and anyone with an alternative lifestyle has long been drawn here. The gay community that used to make its headquarters along Christopher Street has mostly moved to Chelsea with the artists, but still takes to the Village streets for Gay Pride Day the last Sunday of June and for the nation's largest Halloween parade. Bleecker Street, which cuts a diagonal swath through the village from Hudson Street to Sixth Avenue, has become the epicenter of interest for visitors, thanks in part to landmarks such as Magnolia Bakery and a micro-neighborhood of swanky boutiques. Escalating real-estate prices mean many of the original pioneers have been replaced by high-income families and NYU college students, and national chains have replaced a number of the small, independently owned shops that used to give the area much of its character. But it's still easily the most charming neighborhood in Manhattan.

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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.

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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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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.

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

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).

See + Do

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street, Upper East Side
New York City, New York 10028
Tel: 212 535 7710
Website: www.metmuseum.org

Philippe de Montebello, who was the director of this epic museum for 31 years, once said that you can tour its highlights in an hour if you look selectively and walk very fast. Not to argue with the man, but we're not sure we believe it. You could spend weeks here admiring the collections. Among the highlights: a European painting gallery packed with masterpieces (Rembrandt, Giotto, Caravaggio, Raphael, Goya, El Greco, Turner, Vermeer, Degas, Renoir, and Cézanne are all represented); a trove of Egyptian art and artifacts, including the showstopping reconstructed Temple of Dendur; an impressive selection of Greek and Roman statuary; American paintings and sculpture from colonial times through the present day; and prehistoric artifacts from all over the globe. Our suggestion is to pick two or three small sections you'd like to see, and then return another day for a few more. Or browse some of the less-appreciated and less crowded—but no less stunning—collections, such as the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, or the smallish but exquisite galleries of Modern Art. The museum's Costume Institute displays portions of its extensive collection of clothing from around the world in themed exhibits twice a year. Also make time to sit and people-watch in the common areas, such as the space by the American Wing Café, overlooking a fountain—you'll rarely hear as many languages spoken in one place. And if you're looking to actually meet one of those people, let us suggest the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden (closed in winter), accessed by the southwest elevators on the first floor. It has amazing views of Central Park, hosts sculpture exhibits, and serves up simple drinks such as beer and wine. The Met is pretty much always buzzing, but the crowds thin on Friday and Saturday nights, when the museum stays open until 9:00 p.m.; members can get into some exhibits half an hour before they open to the public in the mornings.

Closed most Mondays.

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See + Do

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

1071 Fifth Avenue at E. 89th Street
New York City, New York 10128
Tel: 212 423 3500
Website: www.guggenheim.org

The unique spiral building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright—reluctantly, since he thought New York was too overbuilt—tends to overshadow the collections within. Designed as a reverse version of a Babylonian temple, the Guggenheim completely changed museum-going, sending visitors to the top floor first and then allowing them to wind their way down along a corkscrew ramp. What they see as they go are special exhibitions, like the 2008 installation by Cai Guo-Qiang that saw cars suspended from the central atrium—an exhibition described by Guggenheim director Thomas Krens as one of the "best artistic transformations of the Frank Lloyd Wright space we've ever seen." There are also rooms devoted to selections from the Guggenheim Foundation's eclectic collection, including sculptures by Brancusi and Arp and paintings by Picasso, Pissarro, de Kooning, Klee, and Jeff Koons. There are frequent traveling exhibitions, and since the museum has outposts in other cities such as Bilbao and Venice, pieces may circulate from other locations.

Open Saturdays through Wednesdays 10 am to 5:45 pm, Fridays 10 am to 7:45 pm (admission is by donation after 5:45 pm).

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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.

See + Do

St. John the Divine

1047 Amsterdam Avenue
New York City 10025
Tel: 212 316 7540
Website: www.stjohndivine.org

Affectionately known as "St. John the Unfinished" by inhabitants of its Morningside Heights neighborhood, the world's largest Gothic cathedral has staunchly remained under construction since the laying of its cornerstone in 1892. Construction was already slated to continue for decades when a 2001 fire forced yet another halt. The cathedral's cavernous nave—the length of a football field—will be closed until late June 2008 while cleaners scrub soot off its stones. Later in the summer, visitors will gain access to previously concealed attractions such as the Great Rose Window (a 40-foot stained-glass masterpiece); the Poets' Corner (which honors America's literary elite); and 13 other themed bays saluting pursuits both religious and secular. In turn, the east end choir and chapel will close for the reinstallation of the Great Organ, whose 8,035 smoke-damaged pipes were removed for cleaning: November 30, 2008, will see the grand reopening of the entire interior, when regular concerts will resume there. Outside, on the grounds, you'll find live peacocks and the Peace Fountain, a bizarre sculptural piece depicting an animal version of Armageddon that includes giraffes, a smiling sun and moon, an enormous crab, and a decapitated Satan. On the first Sunday in October, St. John's holds its annual Blessing of the Animals in recognition of St. Francis's feast day. Tours are held Tuesday through Sunday. Call to inquire about the Vertical Tour, to take in heavenly views accessed by a hellish climb up and down an 11-story circular staircase.

Tours Tuesdays through Saturdays at 11 am and 1 pm, Sundays at 2 pm.

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