|TOUR 1: Museum Mile: The Guggenheim to the Frick
This tour covers many of the famous museums on the citys Upper East Side, near Central Park. Each museum could easily become an all-day outing, so individuals should decide, based on taste and interest, where to focus their time. Additionally, many other museums both on and off Museum Mile are worth a visit.
The Guggenheim is located at Fifth Avenue and 88th Street. Take the Number 4, 5 or 6 Train to 86th Street. Upon exiting the train, walk west on 86th Street to Central Park. Turn right, walking north, parallel to the park. The Museum will be on the right.
Certainly the most recognizable non-skyscraper building in New York, the Guggenheim inspires as much debate as the art it houses. The mammoth spiral structure, designed by genius architect Frank Lloyd Wright, at first jars onlookers as it dominates all other nearby buildings. Gradually, its beauty becomes comprehensible. At least, to most people. Some still decry its ugliness, but those people exist to be taunted for their small mindedness, as Wright would have wanted.
Those who criticize the Guggenheim for its impracticality as an art venue have a stronger case. Built to contain the collection of copper and silver magnate Solomon R. Guggenheim, the museum permanently displays works by Chagall, Picasso, Kandinsky, Klee, Van Gough and many others. The Guggenheim also mounts temporary shows, often displayed in the distinctive spiraling space. Guggenheim visitors begin their journey at the top, taking an elevator to the beginning of the spiral. As visitors progress downwards, they take in the various galleries, each highlighting different aspects of the collection.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Upon leaving the Guggenheim, cross Fifth Avenue and turn left. Walk south, parallel to Central Park for several blocks. As you walk, you will see some of New Yorks poshest apartment buildings, along Fifth Avenue, facing the park.
Built in 1870, the vast Metropolitan Museum of Art houses numerous collections that rank among the finest in the world.
The Met cannot be viewed in one day. Visitors should choose which galleries to visit based on interest and availability. (Often galleries are closed for renovation or as shows are put up and taken down.) Tours and talks are also available. Popular exhibits include the Egyptian Collection and the Temple of Dendur, European Paintings, and the Medieval Art Room among many others. Foreign visitors should consider visiting The American Wing, which contains some of the best examples of this countrys fine and decorative arts.
The Whitney Museum
Exit the Met and cross Fifth Avenue. Turn left on 82nd Street and walk to Madison Avenue. Cross Madison Avenue and turn right. Walk south on Madison until you reach 75th St. The Whitney Museum of American Art is located at 75th and Madison.
Incensed by what she perceived as neglect of emerging artists by more conservative institutions, artist and patron of the arts Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney founded her own museum. For many years, The Whitney displayed no permanent exhibits. Now, there is a small permanent exhibit, but the focus remains on the shows, which often draw from its extensive collection of modern American artists. One should decide to visit the Whitney based on interest in its current show.
The museum presents its most famous show, the biennial, every two years. New Yorkers consider debating, debasing, adoring and despising the always-controversial Biennial a sport.
The Frick Collection
Exit the Whitney and cross Madison Avenue. Turn right on 74th Street and walk west towards Fifth Avenue. Turn left on Fifth Avenue. The Frick Collection is located on Fifth Avenue at 70th Street.
The Frick Collections building impresses as much as its art collection. Once the private mansion of steel and coke magnate Henry Clay Frick, he left the building as a monument to his fortune and spectacular European art collection. While many of the gilded ages mansions have been torn down and replaced with apartment buildings, The Frick reminds New Yorkers of the citys opulent past ' more opulent than anything that exists today.
Affecting the illusion that the mansion remains a private home, the Frick displays its works without accompanying text or rope. Not nearly as overwhelming as the Met, visitors truly appreciate each work of art here?including masterworks by Titian and El Greco.
For those who have completed this tour, the Fricks lovely garden and café should provide a welcome sanctuary.
TOUR 2: The East Village, Venieros Pasticceria to Tompkins Square Park plus Eclectic Shopping and Dining Offerings In Between
This tour weaves itself through the East Village South from Venieros Pasticceria on 11th Street and 1st Avenue to Tompkins Square Park.
On 11th Street and 1st Avenue in Manhattan is Venieros Pasticceria, established in 1894. The menu screams "105th anniversary," very old for New York. This cheerful place is famous and gets an international clientele. An array of sweet treats are offered here from Grand Marnier to Strawberry Millefoglie to Iced Mochaccino and Chocolate Covered Cannoli. Its dining room is never empty, so be prepared to fall in line with a number. This time is well spent, because the selection'll floor ya.
A bit west, on the same side of the street, is the one-and-only Cinema Classics. This small complex contains a cool cafe, an underground video store, and a movie theater that screens 16mm prints like Fellinis "La Dolce Vita" and Oshimas "In the Realm of the Senses" for five bucks. You might see John Hughes' "Ferris Beullers Day Off," John Boormans "Deliverance," Warren Beattys "Reds" or "Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii." The grain of 16mm is not for everyone, but if you dig its laid back, old skool vibe, Cinema Classics promises respite. In the cafe, time is European. No rushing, just chillin' here. It fills with readers, writers, sitters, talkers and an occasional game of something. Bring yer pleasure. Smoking is allowed. (Two to seven bucks a head for teas, coffees and cakes).
The video store with a wealth of classic esoteria (around $20 per title) is an eclectic home for specifists. Don't hesitate to ask for assistance, because titles can be categorized on a whole other level.
With the mainstream success of "The Blaire Witch Project," there is something at Cinema Classics for almost everyone.
Further west along 11th street lays Sandobe Sushi, one of the best deals for Japanese Food in New York City (five to 15 bucks a head). Its yellow front room is both personal and bustling with three prime window tables and a cozy sushi. Two spacious dining rooms accommodate a fresh-faced clientele, some of whom speak of this joint like its a treasure.
11th Street Shops
As you move westward, eclectic shops pepper 11th Street. Standouts include the fashionable Min-K, upscale, bargain rich Tokyo Joe and the hip and sophisticated Guava.
Looping left, southward, onto Second Avenue lies trendy Urban Outfitters, supplying contemporary, club-kid flavored clothing, goofy books and shiny new kitsch to da world. The sound system, installed to enthrall, goes "doom-doom-doom, doom doom doom-doom-doom" as you groom-groom-groom in the dressing room. Vastness, shy of Canal Jeans but greater than Gaps, (Don't fall down those metal stairs), and a still, mellow, absorbing vibe lie behind a store window that looks like reassembled break-away glass. If one of the very comfortable chairs calls out to you, sit, but set yer wristwatch alarm in case sleep comes.
The Second Avenue Deli
Before turning left, eastward, onto 10th Street, cross to behold a marvel, Abe Lobewohls 2nd Avenue Deli, a bonanza of Jewish delicacies. Famous like Venieros, you never know who you might see in this cozy, but always festive, sit-down deli.
10th Street Lounge
Along 10th Street, you will find the aptly named 10th Street Lounge. If you walk this walk during the day, take note of it as an evening option. It is a bar of people dressed to look their best, and they do. Drinks are pricey (8 bucks a Martini). This is "Bright Lights, Big City" in the east village. If you're in the mood to splurge, you can do it here because some other nightspots are really expensive. Understated slickness accommodates here in the shape of a sparse, dimly lit space. The assemblage of odds and ends of furniture is comfortable and coveted real estate. If you can snag it, theres a cozy niche in back where a group of friends can chill.
The Theater for a New City Foundation
Founded in 1970, The Theater for a New City Foundation is a sprawling complex that appears perpetually under construction. The theatre presents 30 or 40 plays a year with tickets at a bargain $5-10 - "a price which almost anyone can afford," reads its flyer. As a venue for new artists and playwrights, it only presents premieres that would probably otherwise be homeless.
9th Street Shops and more
Just before 1st Avenue is a mural on the south side of the street containing The Clashs "Londons Calling" cover. This is NW3, a trippy, no nonsense bar offering $2 shots and $3 pints.
Ready to shop? Enter 9th Street westward and see shop after shop, most of which do not open before 2pm. Check out witchcraft, candles, incense, books, music and magic at Enchantments. Mind the black cat. Or, if beautiful handicrafts are more your speed, stop by the terrific Clayworks Pottery or the fabulous Kantinka. These are just a few examples of the many more shops along this street. Take your pick, you could spend all day here.
St. Marks Place
Walk southward two blocks to 7th Street, and turn left (eastward). This street has exploded with mostly clothing shops in the last year or so. Now head northward to the carnivalesqe St. Marks Place and turn eastward. If you are hungry, stop by the always fun Yaffa Café. If you seek mental stimulation, stop by East Village Books.
At the end of this lively street is Tompkins Square Park (Respite).
TOUR 3: The Downtown Park to Park to Park Tour: Tompkins Square to Washington Square
Tompkins Square Park
Accessible by the L Train at 14th Street and 1st Ave, Tompkins Square Park begins where St. Marks Place ends. Here is a vital place bound by 10th St. To the north, 7th St. to the south, Avenue B to the east and Ave. A to the west.
This urbane park takes its name from Governor Daniel D. Tompkins and was inspired by Bloomsbury Park in London, which influenced many landscapes in its time. Its 16 acres served as a parade ground at the beginning of the 19th century. Tompkins Square Park would come to embody its East Village neighborhood in all its different cultures. Today, it is a vigorous melting pot within the bigger melting pot of New York City.
In August, 1988 the Tompkins Square Riot happened as a result of the Citys repeated attempts to clear the park of homeless people and empty nearby buildings of squatters. Instead of sweeping the area in unified rows, the police with their riot shields became an unruly mob. Some removed their badges as to not be identified in their brutality. As a result, the city completely boarded up the park for a year.
Shades of its past remain, but it is now predominantly a place where the neighborhoods paying tenants relax. Its north side is a huge playground where roller hockey is popular; the goals are just garbage cans on their sides. Theres basketball and a happy dog run, perhaps the Big Apples best. There are new playgrounds for the young. 'Hangin? out? on the grasses, which now have flowers, is the main activity here. The main space is rarely without a performer of some sort.
St. Marks Place and The Cube
On the northeast corner of Avenue A and St. Marks Place is an east village mainstay at 131 Saint Marks Place. Its Ninos Pizza of New York (open 24 hours), with its decor of segmented mirrors and yummy slices for $1.50.
Walking directly west on St. Marks Place (which becomes 8th Street after 3rd Avenue) brings you to the Cube. This black sculpture is a landmark, second only to the Washington Square Arch as a convenient, visible meeting place, and it rotates. Skater kids usually surround the Cube, but try turning it. Grab hold and push. Don't be discouraged if its not easy, because its ballbearings frequently need to be oiled. Turning the Cube in the middle of the night has always been a favorite pastime of teenagers.
Washington Square Park
Head westward on 8th Street, taking in the numerous shops and tiny restaurants at your leisure. Walk all the way to 5th avenue, turn southward, and theres the Washington Square arch designed by Stanford White. It stands majestic as it brings 5th Avenue to a close. The arch was a gateway with 5th Avenue as its through street until the 1960s. Evidence of this is in Harold Lloyds 1928 movie "Speedy," where a madcap car chase culminates in a dash through the arch.
On the north Washington Square Park is bound by Waverly Place, southward by West 4th Street, eastward by University Place and westward by MacDougal Street. It is accessible by the A, B, C, D, E, F, and Q trains at the West 4th Street and 6th Avenue station; by the N and the R trains at the 8th Street and Broadway station, and by the 4, 5, and 6 trains at the Astor Place station. Surrounded by New York University buildings, it is heavily populated with students.
Initially Washington Square Park was a swamp fed by Minetta Brook. A semblance of the creak supposedly passes under a glass window in the bowels of The Minetta Tavern on Minetta Lane. It then became a popular place to hunt, a paupers field, a military marching ground, and a place to duel. At the beginning of the 19th century, Washington Square Park drew large crowds to "necktie parties" at The Hanging Elm. The land was purchased for a park by New York City in 1827, and the neighborhood rapidly grew. A row of historic houses survives on the parks north side. One of these was Henry James' grandmothers, where he wrote his novel "Washington Square."
In the late 1700s a few hundred yellow fever victims were wrapped in yellow sheets and buried under Washington Square Park in paupers graves. In Augusts mind numbing heat and Februarys opposite, chess players at the southwest tables have claimed occurrences of inexplicable energy in their pieces. A student spoke of a mysterious tugging at her garment.
Every May the park is the scene of thousands of chairs unfolding for neighboring New York Universitys commencement exercises. Medievally dressed players sound breathtaking, brass fanfares from atop the arch over a sea of purple robes. As The Tisch School of the Arts' diplomas are announced, other schools comment on the difficulty of surviving as an actor by screaming, "waiter." Inevitably theres a picture in the next days "New York Times" of graduates "bugging out" in the fountain.
In summer, everybody hangs out on the inner steps of the fountain where they watch the water and feel its spray. When its off the fountain becomes a terrific performance space and has been host to every type of street player. Without mats, The Calypso Tumblers have performed their virtuoso gymnastics act for years. The 60s live on as hippies croak Cat Stevens. Hacky sackers hack. Europeans play Boules. Jamaicans play advanced soccer in an extremely controlled manner. Skater kids exercise feats of daring on the blacktop hills, and the grasses fill with everyone who wants to "chill."