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Autumn in New York

Posted on 08/29/2016

25 Best Things to Do in NYC
by CNT Editors September 18, 2015

Unsure about what to do in New York City? The legendary Big Apple has so much to see that it can be overwhelming. So consider this a shortlist: 25 terribly, delightfully, inimitably things to do in NYC that mix the classic with the new, the high with the low, and the simple with the indulgent.

1/25 Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Yes, it’s always packed with tourists. And, yes, you’ll see more selfie sticks than you can count. But walking over the Brooklyn Bridge is a quintessential New York experience. To get good views of the Manhattan skyline, walk from the Brooklyn side over to Manhattan. The best times to go are in the early morning (to avoid the crowds) or in the evening, when you can watch the sun set over the water. Mary Holland
Photo by Chris Sorensen/Gallery Stock

2/25 Stay at the Carlyle Hotel
Located in New York’s posh Upper East Side neighborhood, The Carlyle has hosted everyone from celebrities to politicians and royalty (it’s William and Kate’s hotel of choice when in New York). Even if you aren’t staying there, pay a visit to the hotel’s Bemelmans Bar, which is open to the public. This old-fashioned lounge is famous for its Ludwig Bemelmans murals, 24-karat gold leaf-covered ceiling, classic cocktails, and live piano music. MH
Photo by Mike Tauber/Gallery Stock

3/25 Play in Central Park
Here's one of the true wonders of urban planning, a vast and varied kingdom of playful greenery in the heart of the city machine. You've seen it in the movies, of course; it's every bit as lovely—and grand—in real life. No matter the season, there's always a long list of things to do or see. Try running the loop around the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, renting a boat at the Loeb Boathouse, or checking out a concert at Summerstage during the warmer months. If you've got young ones in tow—or if you just happen to really like penguins—take a pass through the Central Park Zoo. (You just might need to extend your stay by a few days.) MH

4/25 Shop Fifth Avenue
Whether you’re planning to window shop or drop every penny you own, Fifth Avenue is home to some of the finest shopping in the world. Start around the New York Public Library and make your way up the avenue, stopping in at numerous shops from Tommy Hilfiger to Tiffany. End your shopping extravaganza off with a floor-to-floor inspection of Bergdorf Goodman and a glass of champagne with the Park Avenue princesses at the Kelly Wearstler–designed restaurant on the top floor. MH

5/25 Watch a movie in Bryant Park
There are few things more unmistakably New York than catching a Hollywood classic on the giant screen at the foot of Bryant Park. Flanked by the New York Public Library and classic skyscrapers like the American Radiator building, the park is a dapper pastoral interlude, an urbane breath amid the roil. Summer movie nights make this communal. Bring your blanket, a picnic basket, and a (discreet) bottle of wine to join the fun. Brad Rickman
Photo by MC Kennedy/Gallery Stock

6/25 Get smoked fish at Russ & Daughters
As the Lower East Side changes, Russ & Daughters has remained an institution: People of our city have been stocking up on bagels and smoked fish by the dozen and by the pound at this shop for a century. To celebrate their centennial in 2014, R&D opened up a proper restaurant, full of egg creams, blintzes, knishes, and—better yet—chairs. Lilit Marcus
Courtesy Russ & Daughters

7/25 Explore nature at the New York Botanical Garden
Anyone who discounts The Bronx as a New York City borough without charm has clearly never been to the New York Botanical Garden. Lest city dwellers forget what roses and daffodils smell like, they can simply hop the subway and head to this urban oasis. And there's so much more than just beautiful flowers: Recent exhibits have featured medicinal herbs and the nature-inspired artwork of Frida Kahlo, and New York City parents never miss the annual Holiday Train Show. LM
Gallery Stock

8/25 Eat a pizza at Lucali
Carroll Gardens homeboy Mark Iacono never intended to make pizza for a living, let alone run one of the most in-demand restaurants in New York. But since 2006 that's what he does, and that's what Lucali—a 30-seat, cash-only, BYOB joint on quiet, leafy Henry Street in Brooklyn—is. The decor is nostalgic, even romantic, and utterly down-home; the pizzas are rustic, painstakingly handmade, and unfailingly delicious. And in oh-so-New York fashion, you'll wait for far longer than you think you can tolerate; but once you're in, you'll be thrilled you did. BR
Photo by Evan Sung/The New York Times/Redux

9/25 Dig the (jazz) scene at the Village Vanguard
Some of the greatest recordings in the history of jazz have been made here, by Miles Davis, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and other jazz legends. But maybe more impressive is the club's never-ending relevance. To this day it's one of the best places in the world to catch established and rising jazz talents, not to mention one of the most intimate: Tables down front will put you so close to the action you might have to dodge a few drumsticks. BR

10/25 Get a drink at Fraunces Tavern
This tavern, located in Manhattan’s oldest building, rattles with history: General George Washington bid farewell to his officers at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War there, and John Adams once described an evening spent in the tavern as “the most splendid dinner I ever saw, a profusion of rich dishes.” Now it's part museum, part restaurant and bar. Stop by Fraunces Tavern for the history, but stay for their rotating tap beers and delicious pub food. Calder Quinn

11/25 See a concert at Carnegie Hall
Nevermind that this temple of Beaux Arts indulgence somehow, magically, feels intimate; just stand at the back and contemplate the music that's been made here, to say nothing of the names that've made it. World premieres of Dvorak's "New World" symphony, Gershwin's American in Paris,and Copland's Appalachian Spring;performances by Ellington, Bernstein, Charles Ives, and Bartok. And it's still a must-play stop for the greatest orchestras and performers in the world. Arrive early, and take it all in. BR

12/25 Stroll the High Line
On its face, the idea behind the High Line must have sounded dubious: a green space on top of some dirty old train tracks that everybody wanted to tear down? Luckily, dedicated believers like former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and designer Diane Von Furstenberg stuck to their vision, and New York City was the winner. Not only is the 1.5 mile stretch of elevated park one of the best in New York (or in the world, really), but a lively new neighborhood has sprung up around it, including the elegant new Renzo Piano–designed Whitney Museum and the sleek Standard High Line Hotel, where you can stay in a room with floor-to-ceiling windows or have a drink on the rooftop bar while watching the sun set. LM
Photo by Chris Sorensen/Gallery Stock

13/25 Get medieval at the Cloisters
The Cloisters, made of pieces from European abbeys that were sent to the United States and reassembled, is often called an un-New York sort of place. But it's that mix of old and new, colony and independent power, art-world upstart and respected collector, that makes The Cloisters so truly American—and so New York. After walking through the collection of Medieval art (including the famous Flemish "Hunt of the Unicorn" tapestry), take the long way home through Fort Tryon Park, whose leafy growths and stunning views of the Hudson River will almost make you forget you're in a city. LM

14/25 Tour the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory
What do you give the city that has everything? A chocolate factory! Rick and Michael Mast's Williamsburg shop is one of the most influential avatars of neo-Brooklyn cool: mad-scientist creative, rigorously artisanal (the cocoa beans arrive on a 70-foot schooner), and painstakingly produced, their chocolates can now be found in boutique markets and high-end restaurants worldwide. Go behind the scenes in the factory where it all began, and where the smells are divine. (Alas, no reported sightings of oompa-loompas.) BR

15/25 Explore Chinatown and Little Italy
Once exclusively immigrant enclaves, Manhattan’s Chinatown and (especially) Little Italy have seen heavy change in the last few decades with places like Mr. Fong’s, Fat Radish, and Apotheke marking hipification. Yet it’s still possible to get a taste of the old country with strolls down Mulberry or Mott Street: visit Di Palo’s, an Italian cheese and meat counter where some of the best mozzarella in New York gets made by hand every day; or Deluxe Food Market, a one-stop shop for Chinese shopping and a wide array of tasty prepared food. CQ

16/25 Sail New York Harbor
This is a water town, after all; and there’s no better way to confront the improbable scale of New York than from the rivers that surround it. While there are plenty of traditional tourist experiences (like the Circle Line, The Beast Speedboat, or even, in a twist, the Staten Island Ferry), we'd opt for three hours on the water in a "Taste of Sailing" class from the Brooklyn Bridge Sailing Club. Who knows? You might like it so much you want to settle down and join. (Just be sure, as with everything in New York, to reserve your spot well in advance.) CQ
Photo by Jay Blakesberg/Gallery Stock

17/25 Eat a steak at Peter Luger
This haven of dry-aged beef has been a culinary destination for over 125 years (and has been voted best steakhouse in NYC by Zagat for the last 30 of them). Its popularity has held through the incredible flux that's transformed Williamsburg from an exclusively ethnic neighborhood into the hipster epicenter of the world. Insider tip: go for lunch on a weekday to avoid the crowds, and grab an only-served-in-the-afternoon burger: It's ground from the very same dry-aged beef used for their steaks, served simply with American cheese and white onion. CQ

18/25 Get your chill on at the Ace Hotel
The Ace Hotel is damn near the hippest in the city, and maybe the best example to date of a hotel's ability to become the gravitational center of neighborhood culture. Located in an historic building in Manhattan’s NoMad area, the buzzy lobby is open to the public, and one of the best spots in town for people-watching — you'll find all the cool kids here, working and playing in their natural habitat. On the ground floor, nourish yourself at the Stumptown Coffee shop, the Breslin Bar (famous for its lamb burger), or the John Dory Oyster Bar; and get your shopping on at Opening Ceremony. MH
Courtesy Ace Hotel

19/25 Spend a Saturday night at the Brooklyn Museum
The first Saturday, to be exact. Held the first Saturday of every month (except in September), the Brooklyn Museum’s ongoing program offers free art and entertainment from 5—11 pm. Live music, artists' talks, poetry readings, activities for kids, and food from Michelin-starred restaurant Saul—it’s all the culture you need, in one spot. Jayna Maleri

20/25 Catch a home game at Yankee Stadium
It's a cliche of the best sort: Visiting Yankee Stadium to watch the Bronx Bombers play America’s pastime is a New York City bucket list experience. The stadium's large, beautiful, and stocked to the hilt with fabulous amenities (not a lot sports franchises have enough history to fill up their own museum). The subway's the easiest way to get here, and the most true-to-form: ride the 4 train, and make sure to stand on the left hand side of the car—you'll catch a one of the best available views of the stadium as you emerge from the underground subway tunnel. CQ
Photo by Craig Easton/Gallery Stock

21/25 Grab a cocktail in Grand Central
It's a common mistake for people to call this place Grand Central Station, but it's a Terminal—meaning trains all end their routes here. And where the trains end, the city truly begins: workers loosening their ties during a chic dinner at the Grand Central Oyster Bar, downtown scenesters putting on their Sunday best for a drink at the no-sneakers-allowed Campbell Apartment, and everyone (even the locals) gazing upward in awe at the ceiling and its depictions of the constellations. LM

22/25 Eat a true New York bagel
They won’t toast it, so don’t bother asking. But you also won’t need it: the bagels at the Park Slope spot Bagel Hole are served still warm from the oven, and are everything you’re looking for in a bagel—chewy, slightly dense, great on their own, and even better with a schmear. But that's just one New Yorker's opinion—the best bagel shop in New York City is a subject of heated debate and something no two city dwellers can agree on. JM

23/25 Get a supermodel-worthy manicure at Jin Soon Hand and Foot Spa
The scene backstage during New York Fashion Week is sure to include three things: Champagne, double-sided tape, and Jin Soon Choi. The master manicurist has worked on everyone from Gisele to Gigi, and a visit to one of her three locations ensures you’ll leave with photo-shoot-ready nails. JM

24/25 The Mandarin Oriental Spa
The indulgence begins in the Mandarin's lobby, which floats majestically over Columbus Circle with views across Central Park. In the hushed spa foyer, scented herbal tea begins the soothing process; from there, it'll all be a blur...which is exactly what you're looking for. The therapists are unfailingly responsive, with the perfect balance of strength and subtlety, professional acuity and intuition. Go for the 90-minute session. Don't you deserve it? BR
Courtesy Mandarin Oriental

25/25 Get your food mind blown at Momofuku Ko
This tiny restaurant with extremely limited seating and a mind-bogglingly creative tasting menu is as unique a fine dining experience you'll find, even in New York—and it's merely one outpost of David Chang’s culinary empire. Chang started in 2004 with Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village, and in the years since he's opened Momofuku Ssam Bar, the Milk Bar dessert emporiums, Lucky Peach magazine, and a number of other restaurants. He's a genuine, self-made New York City culinary icon. CQ
Photo by Shaina Sawyer via flickr

Credit for this blog: Conde Nast Traveler ( September 2015

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