New York Notes
For a long time in my twenties, I would say, “If the Chrysler Building were a man, I would marry it.” Thirty years later, I still love that building but marriage is off the table. First, I prefer the design of my husband, Scott. And second, even if he weren't in the picture, my architectural taste has changed. Time has made me more linear, more practical and less into show. Still, New York is full of buildings, parks, architectural structures and forward-thinking designs worth swooning over. Here, some itineraries based around buildings and parts of town.
Whitney Museum of American Art
The new Whitney Museum of American Art is an ideal place to start. Make it beautiful getting there by walking north to south on NYC’s elevated outdoor park, the High Line. (This was once an elevated rail line that grew to be redundant and two citizens advocated for the preservation and reuse of it as a public open space. It runs from W. 30th Street to Gansevoort Street). The Whitney, designed by architect Renzo Piano, is between the High Line and the Hudson River on Gansevort. (Closed Tuesday). Meander your way from top to bottom and be sure to visit its outdoor spaces and views as you travel from one floor to another.
The entire area has been transformed (from major apartment buildings going up to tons of upscale retail) so after these two must-visits, I recommend a stroll through Chelsea Market for sustenance. Our favorite family lunch spot is Num Pang, a Cambodian sandwich shop that serves the best banh mi sandwiches I have experienced and I highly recommend the ginger brisket. Check your food sensitivities at the door as they don’t make substitutions. Another stellar nosh, Russ & Daughters, is far to the east but worth the walk for its Deli food—knishes, latkes, smoked fish, chopped liver, pastrami, etc.
Two other downtown excursions that I think are amazing:
A Walk Over the Brooklyn Bridge at Twilight. John August Roebling designed this almost 6,000-foot cable and suspension bridge connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn. It was completed in 1883 and remains a stunning, romantic structure.
The World Trade Center Memorials and Transportation hub. The transportation center was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and composed of a train station with a large open mezzanine under the National September 11 Memorial plaza. This mezzanine is connected to an aboveground structure called the Oculus—located between 2 World Trade Center and 3 World Trade Center—as well as to public concourses under the various towers in the World Trade Center complex. There is a fun food court with very good food and views at 1 World Trade, which is a short walk.
Eataly—Mario Batali’s multi-restaurant and store complex is fun to walk through, and Scott and I love to pull up a seat at the restaurant (there are several) that’s all vegetarian and have a wonderful small plate of something or a bruschetta and a glass of prosecco.
Shake Shack—NY Restaurant King Danny Meyer’s idea of fast food. If you want a reasonably priced, delicious cheese burger and an excellent frozen custard for dessert, this is your spot. There are multiple locations. The original is in Union Square Park.
Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station—Another stunning transportation hub. (It covers 48 acres!) Just be sure to go down to the main level where the clock is (a favorite meeting spot for NYers) and look up at the astronomical ceiling! According to Wikipedia, after a 12-year restoration effort was completed in autumn 1996, a single dark patch above the Michael Jordan Steakhouse was left untouched by renovators to remind visitors of the grime that once covered the ceiling.
The Chrysler Building—worth a long stare for many, many reasons. Just a magnificent art deco structure that adds majestic beauty to the Manhattan skyline.
Times Square—If you’ve never been to NYC, then it’s fun to walk through at night when it’s all lit up. There are multiple tourist stores and souvenir stores, but I recommend saving your money for a discounted ticket at the TKTS Discount Booths so you can experience a Broadway show.
Museum of Modern Art—My favorite because it’s not overwhelming. It has a great permanent collection and design collection and currently has a Robert Rauschenberg retrospective.
Viewing Platform at 30 Rockefeller Center—Best view of the city from above (in my humble opinion). Go at dusk!
Metropolitan Museum—The Met is an incredible structure on Fifth Avenue, which borders the east side of Central Park. It’s also the largest art museum in the U.S. Definitely experience its magnificence and pick one or two things to see, otherwise it becomes art-mageddon.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum—Frank Lloyd Wright's design masterpiece is worthy viewing for its iconic shape, its importance in his body of work, and for the way its spirals lead you to experience art. Sixteen years in the making, the building opened in the fall of 1959, six months after Wright's death. There were multiple factors in the delay, including the fact that Wright created six separate sets of plans and 749 drawings for the project.
Central Park—A fabulous place to stroll (especially on the weekend), as it’s prime for people watching and just full of life and natural beauty.
Lincoln Center—If you walk across the park to the west side, it’s worth heading to Lincoln Center just to stroll the grounds and see the buildings. It’s especially beautiful at night when it’s lit up and the fountains are going.The complex houses the NY Philharmonic, The Metropolitan Opera, The New York City Ballet and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Among the famous architects who designed buildings here are Eero Saarinen (The Vivian Beaumont Theatre) and Phillip Johnson (The David H. Koch Theatre).
My suggested uptown visit:
A stroll through the Park. The Met. Then hit my favorite gallery, the Neue, which has some fabulous Klimt paintings. (Also watch Woman in Gold to get a sense of when they were done.) Then head to the Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel. Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the classic Madeleine children’s books, painted the wall murals as well as the lampshades. He exchanged his commission for a year of lodging at the hotel for himself and his family. This is a classic, dark, old NYC bar. Drinks are expensive but worth having one and just experiencing the oeuvre. They make a great Piscou Sour as well as their own potato chips.
I love John Derian’s store in the East Village and ABC Carpet is always fun for browsing as it has multiple stalls with everything from soap to baby gifts and all things house-y and cool. It's heavy on the pocketbook, so I usually just look and then head down Broadway to Fishs Eddy (exponentially more affordable) to stroll through its massive collection of new and vintage plates, platters, dish towels, gifts, etc. (Last time I was there I bought for old hotel platters for $4 each.) I almost never shop for clothes in NYC, but there’s a Uniqlo on Fifth Avenue (kind of like a Japanese version of Old Navy on Miracle Grow). I bought a raincoat there for $25 that is a go-to piece in my wardrobe. I also like the Museum of Modern Art’s gift shop.
I also always stop at Happy Bones—it's my fave NY coffee shop—for a Flat White. The place is run by New Zealanders who know more than a thing or two about coffee. Diagonally across the street is my most recent home store crush: Clic Gallery on Centre Street. I wanted to purchase almost everything in this store!
I would suggest buying a recent NY Magazine for listings of off-Broadway shows and music as there is always something going on.
New York is an excellent walking city. BRING COMFORTABLE SHOES! And many of the things I’ve listed here are grouped by area so once you get there you can just walk everywhere. If you get tired or need to get anywhere fast, the subway is by far the fastest, cheapest and easiest method of travel. Also, it's very safe because everywhere you’ll want to go will have a crowd.