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See + Do
Brooklyn Bridge, New York
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
Central Park, New York
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 northwestyou'll likely pass the Zoo (sorrythe 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 streamsyou won't even feel like you're in New York. Always, you'll find characters, musicians, and a spot to be left aloneheaven in the city.
Dim Sum Go Go, New York
New York City, New York 10038
Tel: 212 732 0797
Chinatown's most playfully modern dim sum parlor offers the traditional Chinese brunch from morning till night. The red and white facade may scream fast-food joint, but Dim Sum Go Go is a serious restaurant with a serious chef at the helm (Hong Kong trained Guy Lieu). During the busy lunch rush expect long waits for a table in the spare bi-level dining roomfollowed by well-worth-it waits for the food, steamed to order instead of paraded on carts. Among the 45 savory dim sum options you'll find traditional offerings like pork shiu mai and plump shrimp har gow along with some of the city's most unusual, and visually stunning, dumpling creations. Delicate wrappers in hues of pink, yellow, and green encase bamboo heart, shark's fin, and roast shredded duck. Overcome option paralysis with the personal-steamer ten-dumpling sampler.
Open daily 10 am to 10:30 pm.
It's no coincidence that when people think of shopping in New York, they think of midtownthe 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 downan 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.
Katz's Delicatessen, New York
New York City, New York 10002
Tel: 212 254 2246
Sure, it's tacky, noisy, and rushed. Sure, the Formica is worn, the service gruff, and the sandwiches way too big. But New York wouldn't be New York without this classic Lower East Side Jewish deli and its kosher-style corned beef, chopped liver, and pastrami. Remember When Harry Met Sally? This is where the "I'll have what she's having" scene was filmed. P.S. Don't forget to tip your carver.
See + Do
Statue of Liberty, New York
New York City, New York
Tel: 212 363 3200
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
Theater in New York City, New York
For many people, the quintessential New York City experience is going to the theater. Despite (justified) complaints that today's offerings have become too middlebrow and overly focused on Hollywood stars, no city in the world has a scene as accomplished and varied as that of New York. There are stagings all over town, but the Theater District around Times Square is where you can expect to find most of the long-playing musicals. The Broadway Ticket Center is one-stop shopping for all Broadway and several Off-Broadway productions. You can book both that day's performances and future dates for just a few dollars more than the box office price, subject to availability.
The choice is reduced but the prices are lowergenerally half-priceat the TKTS booths. The Times Square booth in a glorious red glass structure on 47th Street and Broadway opens at 3 pm for evening performances, 10 am for matinees on Wednesday and Saturday, and 11 am for Sunday matinees. Tickets are for that day's performance only; available shows are listed on the board. The downtown booth at South Street Seaport is open from 11 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday, 11 am to 7 pm on Saturday, and 11 am to 4 pm on Sunday; matinee tickets are available the day before.
For more consistently highbrow fare (often Shakespeare), aficionados head to the 50-year-old Public Theater in the East Village, where alumni Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline once trod the boards. The same organization puts on the sell-out (and free) Shakespeare in the Park performances during summer months.Note that most Broadway theaters are dark on Mondays; many Tuesday and Sunday evening performances start an hour earlier, at 7 pm.
See + Do
Ellis Island, New York
New York City, New York
Tel: 212 363 3200
Roughly 12 million immigrants passed through this island as they entered America from the late 1800s through the mid-1950s, sometimes at the rate of thousands a day. Their reception was not always welcoming, and their stories of hope and struggle are re-created today in the restored hall and museum. Walking through the Baggage Room and up to the Registry Room, visitors experience the path just as the immigrants did, tracing their fates through photographs, artifacts, and oral histories. Outside, the American Immigrant Wall of Honor is a testament to about 600,000 of those new Americans. Anyone who wants to research his or her ancestors can start a search at the American Family Immigration History Center, or on the island's website. This is history in a very palatable medium—trust us, you'll like it. To get there, board the Circle Line-Statue of Liberty ferry from Battery Park (at the southern tip of Manhattan). Tickets can be purchased at Statue Cruises. It's recommended that you arrive at the ferry two hours before your tour time, as boarding is on a first-come, first-serve basis—there are airport-style security measures—and the lines can get very long, especially during the summer.
See + Do
Chinatown, New York
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
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 matchdon'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 '70sits 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
Grand Central Terminal, New York
New York City, New York 10017
Tel: 212 340 2345 (tours)
In the entrance pavilion to this truly grand terminal, there is a small plaque dedicated to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. It doesn't celebrate her status as a former First Lady—it thanks her for almost single-handedly saving this extraordinary Beaux Arts building from destruction when a skyscraper was planned to replace it. In 1976, largely due to her efforts, Grand Central was declared a National Historic Landmark, though only in recent years has it been restored to a state worthy of that title. From its exterior, with imposing statues of Minerva, Hercules, and Mercury flanking a 13-foot clock, to the epic 375-foot-long main concourse with its celestial ceiling, complete with zodiac constellations, this is a building of unquestionable beauty. Now, with the addition of shops and restaurants, it has also become a place for even noncommuters to congregate. Take a seat at one of the restaurants in the mezzanine and watch the throngs zig-zag their way around each other at rush hour. Among the terminal's lesser-known treasures: The Campbell Apartment, a 1920s cocktail bar that was once a private office and salon (212-953-0409; www.hospitalityholdings.com); the basement Oyster Bar, a slice of Old New York and still a great place for a martini (212-490-6650; www.oysterbarny.com; closed Sundays); and the tiny dark patch on the northwest corner of the ceiling's sky mural, a grubby memento of what the station looked like before its recent overhaul.
See + Do
World Trade Center Site/Ground Zero, New York
New York City, New York 10048
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).
Takashi, New York
New York City, New York 10014
Tel: 212 414 2929
A quirky addition to the newly resurgent West Village restaurant scene, Takashi serves a peculiar hybrid: Korean barbecue filtered through a Japanese lens. Young chef Takashi Inoue, a transplant from Osaka with Korean roots, has an obsession for beef, celebrating every part of the beast (and no other meat). His nose-to-tail (or tongue-to-tendon) approach isn't nearly as challenging as you might expect. Even the most unusual and economical bits are handled here like a pricey filet and are sourced from top-shelf purveyors, including an Oregon ranch raising washugyu beef, a cross between Black Angus and Japanese Wagyu cattle. The "first" and "fourth" stomachs, both grilled at the table, are as delicious and tender as the short rib and rib eye. Fans of steak tartare must order the notch chuck flap topped with uni and garlic-dressed liver served uncooked.—Jay CheshesOpen Mondays through Fridays 6 to 10:30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 5:30 to 10:30 pm.
Park Avenue Spring / Summer / Winter / Autumn, New York
New York City, New York 10021
Downtown design firm AvroKO transformed the once stuffy Park Avenue Cafe into one of the city's most dynamic high-concept restaurants. Every three months, the dining room undergoes a head-to-toe seasonal metamorphosis, swapping out everything from the cushions to the wall panels to the hanging decor. During the restaurant's blond-wood beach-shack summer quarter, chef Craig Koketsu's intensely seasonal menu focuses on greenmarket staples like sweet corn and summer peaches (with plump seared scallops). Come copper-toned Autumn, look for wild mushrooms (with an enormous veal chop) and Hudson Valley quail bought directly from the hunter who shot them. Pastry chef Richard Leach, a star in his own right, produces some of the city's most homey high-end desserts, summer's banana parfait with peanuts and mango giving way come fall to a confit'd bartlett pear with brown-butter cake.
Open Mondays through Thursdays 11:30 am to 3 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm, Fridays 11:30 am to 3 pm and 5:30 to 11 pm, Saturdays 11 am to 3 pm and 5:30 to 11 pm, and Sundays 11 am to 3 pm and 5 to 9 pm.
Prune, New York
New York City, New York 10003
Tel: 212 677 6221
Resist the urge to call it adorable. Yes, this East Village place is tiny and homey, and yes, the staff is almost all female, but chef Gabrielle Hamilton turns out big-flavored, decidedly noncutesy dishes such as pastrami duck breast and suckling pig. At brunch, you can choose from nine Bloody Marys and order spaghetti carbonara or grilled merguez with oysters for the ultimate anti-eggs-Benedict experience.
Blue Ribbon, New York
New York City, New York 10012
Tel: 212 274 0404
Blue Ribbon serves its entire enormous menu until 4 in the morning to night owls and chefs coming off of work. The Soho spot is the most popular of the Blue Ribbon empire, a chain of six Manhattan restaurants (plus three in Brooklyn) focusing on everything from sushi to comfort food to pastries. The candlelit brasserie with dark wood booths and a raw bar up front is the perfect place to indulge your nocturnal cravings, whether they be for raw oysters, roasted marrow bones, Southern fried chicken, or paella with chicken, chorizo, and lobster. Though the scene is rambunctious and the menu all over the map, the cooking is of a remarkably high quality, and we're not just talking by middle-of-the-night standards.
Open daily 4 pm to 4 am.