Shopping, dining, theater-going, people watching are all part of the fun in NYC. Aah, New York, New York. The world’s capital of commerce is a city of nonstop energy, peerless shopping and cosmopolitan culture in every sense of the word. No matter that you’ve visited countless times before. The Big Apple enthralls and seduces you all over again with its infinite variety, from people watching to exotic cuisine and killer shoes. Walk a couple of blocks in any direction and you’re sure to find something worth discovering, from exquisite little restaurants to quirky, wonderful shops. I had come with a girlfriend to take it all in, again. But since this was far from the first trip for either of us, we could follow wherever impulse and serendipity led. We were staying at the Kimberly, a sedately swanky boutique hotel, where most rooms are suites with balcony terraces. Its Midtown location on East 50th Street proved ideal. Tired from traveling, on our first night we ambled over to Second Avenue, a kind of “restaurant row” offering all kinds of cuisine, and settled into Pasta Presto, a cozy Italian place with an $18.95 prix-fixe menu of three courses that were delicious. Later I fell into bed feeling like a croissant, so ensconced was I in a mille-feuille of fine linens, duvets and pillows.
The next day, after making coffee in our well-equipped kitchen, we found we were within walking distance of Rockefeller Center, Fifth Avenue, Anthropologie (the shop), the Tiffany’s celebrated in the movie, F.A.O. Schwarz (the toy emporium), the Theater District and many of our favorite museums, including the recently redone Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Arts & Design and American Folk Art Museum. After exploring these museums and their mesmerizing gift shops (if you like jewelry, prepare to be tempted), we hopped the subway to 81st Street, where intricately tiled mosaics portraying animals and insects greeted us at the stop for the American Museum of Natural History. You could easily spend a day here, alone or with your kids, learning about everything under the sun, from gemstones to South American traditions. We had tickets for the planetarium show “Cosmic Collisions,” so we hurried past the animal dioramas to the Rose Center for Earth and Space within the museum. On first Fridays the Rose Center hosts “Starry Nights” with live jazz, tapas, wine and other beverages.
Durango ColoradoThe natural history museum sits right across the street from Central Park, beautiful for strolling any time, but especially so in fall when its ponds and lakes reflect the trees’ blazing hues. You could stop along the way for a hot dog or hot pretzel or splurge on lunch or dinner at the Central Park Boathouse (reserve a lakeside table in advance) or romantic Tavern on the Green (make reservations for Saturday or Sunday brunch). Fifth Avenue marks the park’s eastern boundary, where the so-called “Miracle Mile” serves up some of the city’s most renowned museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and the Museum of the City of New York. It would be a miracle, indeed, to get through these in a day, when the Metropolitan alone deserves several. Even if you’re not a raving art aficionado, you won’t want to miss the Metropolitan’s opulent Astor Court, modeled on a Ming Dynasty courtyard, and the sculpture displayed in the Roof Garden, which also unfurls sweeping views of the skyline and Central Park. Weather permitting, the Roof Garden Café serves light fare as well as cocktails (open till 8:30 on Friday and Saturday nights).
We set aside the better part of one day to visit The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan devoted to the art of medieval Europe. Near the north end of Manhattan in Fort Tryon Park overlooking the Hudson River, this area is almost as far north as the subway goes (190th Street stop). Walking through the lush, leafy park towards The Cloisters, we stopped for lunch at the New Leaf Café, an upscale chef restaurant in a 1930s stone building renovated by Bette Midler’s nonprofit group, the New York Restoration Project. We had heard about the goat cheese croquettes, and they lived up to their reputation. Created through the philanthropy of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and opened to the public in 1938, this remarkable hilltop gem incorporates carved stone columns, fountains and other architectural elements from 12th-century cloisters (mainly from France) — the perfect backdrop for its stunning collection of medieval sculpture, frescoes, paintings and stained glass. The supreme highlight here is the celebrated Unicorn Tapestries, depicting the hunt and capture of the mythical creature with an extraordinary level of woven artistry.
It may seem ironic that a slim island sold to the Dutch for $24 worth of beads and peppercorns has become the retail capital of the world. New York is a shopper’s dream, whether you’re looking for the latest fashions or knock-offs at bargain prices. Among the must-visit shrines on this pilgrimage are “Bloomie’s” (Bloomingdale’s; check out the young designer favorites on the second floor) and Macy’s Herald Square, the world’s largest department store. Macy’s Cellar is a legendary gourmet hangout famous for its vast array of everything related to cooking as well as its takeout cuisine. Durango ColoradoNew York also has a shopping district for just about everything, including a five-block “Crystal District” on Madison Avenue between 58th and 63rd Streets, where you can stock up on sparkling treasures by Steuben, Baccarat, Lalique, Swarovski and others. For clothing and accessories, consider signing up for one of the “Tightwad Treks” — Dress Like a Diva, Shop Like a Tightwad — with Pamela Parisi, who promises “top designer fashions at wholesale and below prices.” Ms. Parisi takes her clients to private showrooms not open to the public as well as to sample sales (www.theeleganttightwad.com).
New York’s flea markets offer another bonanza of bargains to savvy shoppers. Try the Green Flea Markets at Greenwich Avenue and St. Charles Street on Saturday, or Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market on West 39th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues on Saturday and Sunday. If you’re a foodie, you can sample New York’s vast array of ethnic cuisines on a “Melting Pot Food Tour” with Susan Rosenbaum as your guide to the Lower East Side, including food shops and markets in Chinatown, Little Italy, and Latin communities (www.enthusiasticgourmet.com). On the West side at 80th and Broadway, an absolute must for foodies is Zabar’s, an epicurean emporium with everything from cheese and caviar to coffees and desserts, as well as kitchen equipment and small appliances. Across the street, stock up on the real thing to bring back at H & H Bagels — the best in New York, according to a friend who has lived there for most of her adult life.
If seeing a Broadway production is on your itinerary, be sure to make reservations at a restaurant in the Theater District so you can walk to your show. Here are some recommendations:
* Esca for fish (West 43rd Street).
* Trattoria Dopo Teatro for Italian and a great wine list (West 44th Street).
* Bistro Moderne for a Paris-style chef bistro (West 44th Street).
* Sushi Zen (West 44th Street).
* Trattoria Trecolori for rustic Italian (West 45th Street).
* Thalia for creative American cuisine (Eighth Avenue).
* FireBird for Russian cuisine (West 46th Street).
* Barbetta for classic Italian, including a romantic courtyard (West 46th Street).
After the show, take a taxi to Top of the Tower, a sleek restaurant and cocktail lounge on the 26th floor of the Beekman Tower Hotel (49th Street and First Avenue). Reserve a table on the east side, overlooking the East River and its light-spangled bridges. As you drink in this magical view with a Cosmopolitan, you’ll know why people return to New York again and again. For more information about visiting New York, call NYC & Company at (212) 484-1200 (810 Seventh Ave.) or go to www.nycvisit.com <http://www.nycvisit.com/>. For more information about the Kimberly Hotel (145 E. 50th St.), call (212) 702-1600,or visit www.kimberlyhotel.com.
By MELANIE YOUNG