written by
Margie Goldsmith



Why are New Yorkers always in such a rush? Because there’s so much to do! We’re trying to fit in as much as possible which is tough with hundreds of museums and over 100 Broadway and Off-Broadway theatres, 24,000-plus restaurants serving everything from Afghan to Vietnamese cuisine and dozens of weekly offerings such as dance recitals, concerts, sporting events, lectures, gallery openings, and festivals. And that’s not counting what goes on when most people in other cities are sleeping.

If I have a craving for Chinese food or want steak and fries to be delivered at 2 a.m., no problem. This is The City That Never Sleeps. If I want to dance to a live Brazilian band or try belly dancing at 3 a.m., simple. The Village Vanguard is open till 2 a.m., the Village Underground till 4 a.m., and there are after-hours clubs that don’t open until the other clubs close.

Getting anywhere is easy. We’ve got taxis and apps such as Uber and Via and buses and subways and Citibike, not to mention horsedrawn carriages and pedicabs. I take a Citibike when the weather is good because even in rush hour traffic, I can get there faster than in a taxi. But the best way to get anywhere in the Big Apple is to walk. Begin in lower Manhattan on the old cobblestone streets and make your way up to the trendy boutiques of Harlem.

I start most days by grabbing a Citibike, docking it at the Plaza Hotel, and entering Central Park at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue for a workout. Going north on the looped road around 76th Street, on top of a rock outcropping is a crouched black panther statue. A little past that is the Obelisk, a gift from Egypt also known as Cleopatra’s Needle with hieroglyphs dating back 3,500 years. I run past the Metropolitan Museum of Art and down the hill towards Harlem Meer where the visitor’s center looks like a child’s fantasy castle. On each run, I find something I’ve never seen before, like the 13 original colonies engraved into the concrete walkway in the Conservatory Garden at 104th Street.

Just above the Shakespeare Garden, I’ve discovered a Whispering Bench, similar to the Whispering Wall in Grand Central Terminal. Crouch down and whisper at one end, have a friend whisper at the other end of the 10-footlong bench, and you’ll think they’re speaking right in your ear. It’s also a perfect place to look at all the gorgeous flowers and plants in the Shakespeare garden.

I love the park in all seasons: after a fresh snowfall when I make footprints on the Great Lawn and in spring when the crocuses and daffodils bloom; in summer, when there’s always a shady tree, and in autumn, when I am mesmerized by the elms and maples cloaked in brilliant hues. If I’m with a visitor I’ll take them on the swings and the carousel. Often, I’ll run through the North Woods with its streams and waterfalls and where you could be in the Adirondacks because you can’t see a single skyscraper.

Walking in the city can be stressful with the constant blaring sirens of ambulances and firetrucks, but there are over 250 pocket parks, little slices of serenity where you can sit and listen to the tree leaves rustling. If I want a sunny place to eat a take-out lunch, I’ll go to my favorite, Greenacre Park in Midtown East. A pounding waterfall drowns out all traffic and I can sit at a chair and table overlooking the ever-changing garden of flowering plants. If I’m downtown, I’ll head to the 1.45-mile long High Line, an urban park on a former freight rail line perched 25 feet in the air with art installations and places to sit and people-watch. And there’s the Hudson River Promenade in lower Manhattan, with perfect private picnic nooks.

Because there are so many choices in New York City, I try and make myself do one thing a week that I’ve never done before. Museums are a no-brainer because the exhibitions constantly change. My all-time favorite is The Morgan Library & Museum which housed John Pierpont Morgan’s library in the early 1900’s, and today has some of the world’s most important book collections, including three Gutenberg Bibles, original letters and manuscripts by famous authors and composers, Pierpont’s study and original Library with all its gold and leather-bound books, and changing exhibitions.

When I’m walking someplace, I love to discover things I haven’t noticed before. Hidden inside Turtle Bay’s Dag Hammarskjold Plaza is a small narrow garden named after the late actress Katharine Hepburn who lived nearby. In the garden is an old Central Park bench that the actress supposedly “expropriated” from Central Park andtransported to her home. After Hepburn died, the estate donated it to the park.

Sometimes, I go to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and sit quietly, and when I leave, I walk from Fifth to Madison Avenue. On the corner, climbing up the masonry of the Lady Chapel at the back end of St. Patrick’s is a demon stone pig. The architect of the Lady Chapel, who lived in France for a few years loved gargoyles, but the trustees of the Cathedral demanding he create something more comical and less terrifying, so it’s not a scary pig.

It’s not just discovering new things on the street that makes me love this city, it’s also the limitless choices of things to do. You can learn to bind your own book at the Center for Book Arts, where experts teach everything from letterpress and woodcut to typesetting and leather techniques. Want an off-the-wall workout? Try Sword Class NYC, the only school in the U.S. offering Eastern and Western historical armed combat sword styles. You can take fencing classes and any kind of mixed martial arts. Want to learn how to use a gun? Try a lesson or practice shooting targets at Westside Rifle and Pistol Range in the Flatiron District. Are you a music lover? The Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on 65th Street at Central Park West presents Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantatas and motets during evening vespers every Sunday evening.

It seems every week another bar or restaurant is opening. If I’m going to theatre on Broadway, I like Bond 45 (on 46th Street opposite the play, Hamilton), for its mouth-watering Italian appetizers, steak, seafood, and cool Prohibition Bar. If I’m near Central Park, I love the Plaza Hotel’s super upscale Food Hall where there are plenty of places to sit, and where fine food purveyors offer everything from lobster, caviar, and sushi to sinful desserts.

I love some of the newer bars such as the renovated Tavern on the Green in Central Park which has a roaring fireplace and a drink menu with an offering from each of the five boroughs, but my favorite two bars are classics. The Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel features a huge wall painted by the author and illustrator of the famous Madeline children’s books. His mural depicts the four seasons of Central Park with animals instead of people. Even the lampshades have been painted with Bemelmans’ designs. Equally classy is the King Cole Bar of the St. Regis Hotel with its stunning Maxfield Parrish mural where all the figures are holding their noses because the King has released gas. In 1934, the Bloody Mary was invented here and they called it the “Red Snapper” so they wouldn’t offend their refined hotel clientele. It’s still the signature cocktail.

At night, I’ll have dinner out and see a play or a concert or a lecture at the 92nd Street YMCA. Every Monday night (a dark night on Broadway), you’ll find me at Big Ed Sullivan’s famous Blues Jam at The Red Lion on Bleeker Street, a well-known hangout for both touring musicians and local favorites.

Wandering around Manhattan last week, I discovered the Society of Illustrators located in a brownstone on the Upper East Side and which features exhibits from world-wide award-winning illustrators. Each Thursday night is a special “sketch night” with models dressed in themed costumes. I don’t draw, but I love finding new places to eat, and the Society has a restaurant surrounded by art plus an outside garden with tables, chairs and market umbrellas. The spot is quiet and shady, ideal for a relaxed lunch.

Next week I’m going to a new exhibit in Times Square. “Gulliver’s Gate,” a 50,000-square-foot interactive miniature world with 1:87 scale models including New York City, the Roosevelt Island Tram (which moves along with a working airport and working model trains), the Great Wall of China, the Panama Canal, Russia, Siberia, the Middle East, and other places around the world. And who knows what I’ll decide to do the week after next?

Yes, we New Yorkers are always in a rush, trying to make the next WALK sign and pacing our steps to changing streetlights because we want to see and do as much as we can before the next 24 hours. Tourists may be in a hurry to check off all the highlights into a few days, but living here, I want to do much more than take a bite out of the Big Apple; I want to experience everything possible, day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute.

 

GREAT PLACES TO EAT, DRINK, AND SLEEP IN NYC...

Iroquois New York
A newly-renovated historic boutique hotel in the heart of midtown Manhattan near the theatre district and Times Square. The hotel’s Triomphe Restaurant, offering French cuisine, and Lantern’s Keep Bar, a prohibition-era inspired speak-easy, has the perfect Pineapple Collins to take the edge off.

The New York EDITION
This 5-star Ian Schrager-designed hotel opposite Madison Square Park has a Michelin-starred restaurant, Clocktower, with all day dining. There are two trendy bars. The Clocktower Bar specializes in Edition Owls, vodka-inspired drinks served in a copper owl cup (owls used to live on top of the Clocktower).

Viceroy Central Park New York
Just footsteps from Central Park, this stunning boutique hotel features the signature restaurant, Kingside, as well as The Roof, a heated rooftop lounge with views of Central Park. Here, they serve up regionally-brewed craft beers and a rotating selection of cocktails with small plates and a signature burger.

 

 

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