Best Things To Do In New York That Only Locals Know About

There many things to see on your trip to New York City. From the Statue of Liberty to Time Square and many amazing museums, there is something for every type of traveler. Part of the New York experience is experiencing the hustle and bustle of the city but the crowded tourist spots can get old fast and, not to mention can be quite overwhelming.

While there are many must-see tourist destinations, did you know there are many hidden treasures across the city too? Not acting like a local is just one of the common mistakes most tourists make in New York City. So be sure to make the best of your trip and explore New York like a local, escape the overwhelming crowds, and discover the hidden gems that only the locals know about!

1. Visit The High Line

The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long linear park located on the west side of Manhattan, NYC. What makes this park unique is that it sits atop a former New York Central Railroad. The railroad was active until 1980, however, this unique park wasn’t created until 2009.

While this may not be one of the most secret destinations, it’s definitely worth checking off your list. In this park, you will see lots of greenery as well as beautiful art installations and not to mention the breathtaking view of the New York skyline.

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2. Take a Break From The City At Rockaway Beach

When a break is needed from the busy city, locals make their way to Rockaway Beach. Here you can unwind, relax, and soak up that much-needed vitamin D. This sandy beach also has a 5.5-mile boardwalk so you can lounge by the water or take a stroll, your choice.

A local secret is to visit during the week as the weekends can become overcrowded. While it is a 24-mile ride to the beach from Time Square, the beach is accessible by subway.

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3. Explore The Museum Of The Moving Image

The Museum of the Moving Image is a media museum located in Queens, New York City. This one of a kind museum is the only museum in the country that is dedicated to the history, art, technique, and technology of filmmaking, television, and all things digital media.

Travelers of all ages will love this destination because there is a lot of history to learn but there is also an interactive portion you’ll enjoy too. Some of these include playing old video games or creating your own stop-motion animation. A secret tip, if you visit between 4 and 8 pm on any Friday (excluding certain holidays), you can gain admission for free!

4. Take A Ferry To Governors Island

Nestled in the New York Harbor is a 172-acre island called Governors Island. You can spend the day here and all it will cost you is a round trip ferry ride for just 3 dollars. Keep in mind the Island is only open from May 1 through October 31.

There are many activities to keep you busy on the Island, between hiking, zip-lining, mini-golf, and more. Additionally, you can sight-see on foot or make it easier by renting a bike. There is also plenty of food stands on the Island too which means you won’t go hungry!

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5. Visit The Waterfall In Greenacre Park

Located on East 51st Street, between second and third Avenue is Greenacre Park. The park is hidden in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, New York, and it features this stunning waterfall. Be sure to head here if you’re seeking relief from the hustle and bustle of the city.

This waterfall is mostly only known by the locals but is certainly worth a visit. Here you can relax and unwind from the busy city and grab a treat from a refreshment stand.

6. Take In The View At The One World Observatory

The One World Observatory is located on floors 100 through 102 of the One World Trade Center. While this seems like a sky-high treck, the observation deck can be reached in just 47 seconds. This is because you’ll take a sky pod elevator. This is another not-so-secret destination but is definitely worth the visit.

On your ride up, you’ll be able to watch the floor-to-ceiling screen that displays a video explaining the history of the city and the building. As you reach the top, the screen will lift and expose a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline. Take in the view, visit the gift shop, step on the 14-foot wide glass floor, and grab a bite at ONE Dine.

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7. Learn The Stories Of The Central Park Benches

Many people plan a trip to Central Park during their stay in New York City, but what most people don’t realize is that there is more to see in that beautiful park. Nestled among the rows of benches are little plaques that display quotes. These are definitely worth a read as each bench has its own story.

The plaques are often in memory of a loved one or tell a love story of sorts. You too can have your own plaque on a Central Park bench if you’re willing to pay about $10, 000! Or you can take a trip to the park and appreciate the ones that are already there.

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8. Catch A Show In The Theater District

Locals and tourists alike head to the theater district to catch live outdoor entertainment as well as a show at one of NYC’s 40 Broadway theaters. The vast theater district spans approximately between 6th Ave to 8th Ave and 41st Street to 52nd Street.

Outside under the bright lights, you’ll often see costumed characters entertaining crowds but you can also line up to buy a ticket to see one of the compelling shows. Each season brings new musicals and there is always something for everyone.

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9. Tour The Rooftop Farm At Brooklyn Grange

When you think about traveling to New York City, farming doesn’t exactly come to mind. However, locals know too well about the working farm located on the roof of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. This rooftop farm is called Brookly Grange.

You can book a tour to see and learn about the farm as well as take in the skyline view. Additionally, the farm offers yoga classes on Monday evenings from June through September but be sure to book your class ahead of time as they fill up quickly!

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10. Relax At Fort Tryon Park

Central Park may be one of the most popular parks in NYC, especially for tourists, however, there are other parks hidden in the city too. If you want to escape the overwhelming groups of tourists as well as take in a greenery landscape then be sure to head to Fort Tryon Park.

Fort Tryon Park is hidden in Manhattan, NYC and boasts a stunning green space that will have you forgetting you’re in NYC in the first place. Some of the best views can be seen on a walk to Linden Terrace which is the highest point in Fort Tryon Park. Finally, finish your tour with a visit to The Cloisters museum which we’ll talk about later.

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11. Check Out The Abandoned Subway Stop

The City Hall Subway station was the original southern terminal station for the New York City Subway which opened in 1904. What made the City Hall station unique from the rest of the subway line was it was built with tall tile arches, chandeliers, skylights, brass fixtures, and many other elegant details.

While the track is technically still active, trains no longer stop at this station making it an abandoned subway stop and a must-see hidden gem. To explore the station you have to take a tour with the New York Transit Museum, however, to gain access you need to be a member of the museum and pass a security clearance. This is part of the reason why this isn’t an overcrowded tourist destination but nonetheless would be an amazing experience if you’re able to gain access to the facility.

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12. Visit The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as the Met, isn’t technically a hidden tourist destination but it is definitely a must-see museum while visiting New York. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by the stunning Neoclassical architecture, but behind the doors lie 5,000 years of art from around the world.

There is something for everyone to enjoy from ancient Egyptian artifacts to modern photography. There is so much to see that you can easily spend an entire day here and still may only see a fraction of what it has to offer. Additionally, if you do plan a full day visit, the museum does have a cafeteria as well as several restaurants so you can refuel throughout the day.

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13. Visit The Cloisters

Alternatively, if you’d like to visit a less touristy place than the Metropolitan Museum of Art, be sure to check out The Cloisters. The museum, located in Fort Tryon Park, is full of medieval Europe architecture, sculpture, and art.

As you tour the museum you’ll be able to see many amazing artifacts from the Romanesque and Gothic periods but the building itself is worth noticing too. Built from European monasteries, the design and brickwork are simply breathtaking. The architecture is unlike the rest of the city that you may even forget that you’re in New York City in the first place.

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14. Ride The Aerial Tram

The locals consider Roosevelt Island as one of the city’s best-hidden gems. Located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens are quaint streets, parks, and gardens and because it’s mainly a residential area, not many tourists visit here. However, A visit to Roosevelt Island is certainly worth it especially to ride the aerial tram.

While the aerial tram transports passengers between Manhattan and the island, it’s a great opportunity to see a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline. Plus its incredibly budget-friendly too as the aerial tram uses the same price as the New York subway or bus fare which is currently about $2.75 per person.

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15. Visit The 9/11 Memorial And Museum

The 9/11 Memorial and museum may not be a hidden destination but it certainly worth the visit. The memorial, a footprint of where the Twin Towers once stood is also North America’s largest man-made waterfall. The architect behind the design, Michael Arad, said the pools represent “absence made visible”. Water flows into the void, but the void can never be filled.

Each pool is one acre in size. The edges are lined with bronze walls that are inscribed with the names of the 2,983 people who perished in the 2001 and 1993 attacks. Additionally, you can visit the museum to pay your respects as well as to learn more about the horrible tragedy.

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16. Grab A Book At The Strand

The Strand isn’t any ordinary book store, it houses over 23 miles of books. It’s located at 828 Broadway, the corner of East 12th Street in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan.

Even if you don’t love reading, The Strand is worth the visit even if it’s just to see the multi-level store of mile-high books. The store’s collection ranges from bestsellers to first editions, and everything in between.

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17. Explore Snug Harbor

If a ferry ride to Staten Island wasn’t already on your agenda, you may want to add it now! On the island sits Snug Harbor, a former home for retired sailors.

This location is a hidden gem as many people don’t know about it but the locals certainly do. What makes this a must-see destination is that the site spreads across 83 acres of land and features a cultural center, a large botanical garden and is surrounded by quaint cobblestone streets as well as Victorian and Tudor homes. During your visit make sure you don’t miss out on a tour of the Chinese Scholar’s Garden.

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18. Catch Local Entertainment In Joe’s Pub At The Public Theater

Head to Joe’s Pub, located at The Public Theater to grab some drinks, dinner, and enjoy a live act. Joe’s pub is an independent, non-profit music venue that is committed to supporting artists of all levels.

Some nights, you can watch a comedy act while other nights feature dancers and musicians. Regardless of what type of show you get to see, it will be a great experience and opportunity to dive into the creative culture of New York as well as a great way to meet the locals.

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19. Take In The Architecture At Grand Central Terminal

The locals may not be the only ones who know about the Grand Central Terminal, but it’s certainly a place worth visiting. After all, many locals use this station as a transportation hub.

Aside from having the opportunity to meet the locals, you’ll also be able to take in the breathtaking architecture. You can even try out the whispering gallery which is located just outside the Oyster Bar.

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20. Indulge In Delicious Food At Smorgasburg

Every fellow foodie needs to take a trip to Smorgasburg, a food cart fair. The fair is located along the East River in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The venders are stretched across a parking lot and park and offer a variety of delicious food from 100 local vendors. You’ll be able to dig into tasty food from a variety of cultures such as Chinese, German, American, Cuban, and many other cultures too. If you love all things food, a trip to Smorgasburg is a definite must-see.

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The Most Underrated American Architectural Gems

The list of America’s Favourite Works of Architecture is dominated by three cities I the northeast and one 9n the Midwest. New York has 32 places on the list (SPOILER ALERT) including #1 the Empire State Building. Chicago has 17 one more than Washington D.C. The list is especially top heavy with NYC and DC with only 5 of the top 23 outside their city limits. But a closer inspection of the rest of the list reveals a number of unjustly relegated gems masterpieces who deserve to be celebrated, along with the men who built them. And yes they are all men but that’s another issue. But get introduced to some of the giants of the 20th center. Eero Saarinen. Richard Meier whose work looks like he graduated from the Starfleet Academy in Star Date 2214.9. Fay Jones who described his work as “Ozark Gothic.” Also, meet three sports venues. One each for hockey, baseball and football. Basketball didn’t make the cut. Many of them reflect the Iron Law of Retail: Three things matter. Location. Location. Location. You might think that if a great building were in Manhattan as opposed to say, Eureka Springs, Arkansas it might have been nearer the top. In any case here are 20 reasons why the non-Northeast hinterland is well stocked with iconic architecture.

20. Ingalls Ice Arena, Yale University – New Haven, CT #149

Barely made the cut but really, how many chances are there to put a hockey rink on a list of memorable works of architecture? Answer: one. At its unveiling in 1958 it was disparagingly nicknamed The Yale Whale for tis double curve and tail. It was designed by the Finnish-American and Yale alumnus Eero Saarinen one of the greatest architects of the 20th century. The structure is unique and for its time innovative. A concrete arch supported by a cable net and later cable ties made for a marvel of engineering. Canadian hockey fans may be reminded of the Calgary Saddledome decades later. Interesting that he Top 150 list contains a number of baseball stadiums and a football stadium but no basketball venues or other historic venues such as Madison Square or Boston Garden.

19. Brown Palace Hotel – Denver 148

When the famously triangle-shaped Brown Palace opened its doors in 1892, the term Wild West was still appropriate. The iconic hotel was the height of sophistication with rare luxuries like a bathroom in every room. One Denver website says the historic and gorgeous lobby ” with its turn-of-the-century luxury finishes and the dazzling stained glass roof” qualifies as a Historic Landmark on its own. The architect F.E. Edbroke used Arizona sandstone and local Colorado red granite crafted in the Italian Renaissance style. Never mind it has hosted royalty, every U.S. President but wo and he Beatles, it was here the God known as legendary Bronco quarterback John Elway had lunch before signing the hometown Broncos. Now THAT is true immortality.

18. Corning Museum of Glass – Corning, NY #136

The Corning company campus in upstate New York is a magical enclave of glass buildings designed and built by notable architects over three generations. What began as a single low building with walls made of (what else?) glass, its fabulous collection grew and necessitated extensions which are works of art on their own in 1980, 2002 and the latest in 2015. It is a stark white box which on closer inspection reveals an intricate layering of glass sheets, with white and grey silicon. The renowned collection of artifacts dating back 3,500 years, the website says the entire history of art through a single material.”

17. Safeco Field – Seattle 135

Though 15 years old “The Safe’ is still a state of the art facility. It presents itself with a curved brick facade retro homage to the great ballparks of old, like Ebbetts Field and Yankee Stadium. Some regard the juxtaposition with the ultra-modern facets of the rest an ungainly hybrid. The unique 22 million pound retractable roof protects field and fans from inclement weather. An underground heating system induces the 7 grass blend of Kentucky blue and perennial rye to turn green by opening day. It affords grand views of the Seattle skyline and Puget Sound. More importantly, the sightlines for fans are among the highest-rated in the league and player testimonials are glowing. Maybe the more the Mariners on field product is a winning one the better everyone feels about the park.

16. Douglas House – Harbor Springs, MI Richard Meier #130

If you haven’t met before, welcome to the wild, white world of Richard Meier one of architecture’s towering geniuses. Architecture aficionados will note the influences of Le Corbusier and Miles van de Rohe in the building and the furniture which Meier also designed. It is an extremely ambitious structure, packing a lot into its small residential size. The material is reinforced concrete. The front faces a the rock wall of the shore while the four-story back faces Lake Michigan and provides floor to ceiling views with stairways tucked away in corners. With a skylight on top and unimpeded views of the lake make it an exercise in sublime space, a futuristic enclosure springing from primordial lakeside bedrock.

15. Union Station Kansas City #127

The beautiful BeauxArts station was the second largest in the U.S when it opened in the fall of 1914. It was huge, 850,000 square feet and 95 feet up to is gloriously ornate ceiling with a trio of chandeliers each weighing 3500 pounds. But it withered as traffic dried up, dropping from almost 700,000 in 1945 to just 33.000 in 1973. By the 90’s, the website says, “was a broken and empty shell begging for attention.” When government decided to save it, the assembled an all- star team for what was more of a resurrection than restoration. Much of the roof had to be replaced with tiles of the exact same shape and color. The grand chandeliers were rewired, the original paint color was reproduced. The tram included experts who had work on restoration projects on Windsor Castle, Grand Central Station, and the Lincoln Memorial. Now the Station is alive and thriving with shops, restaurants and a Science Center, an architectural Lazarus brought back from the dead.

14. The Athenaeum – New Harmony, IN

Another striking exercise in white by Richard Meier New Harmony began life in 1814 as utopian community founded by a group of dissenting Germans who formed the New Harmonie Society before selling to a wealthy industrialist who made it a model community for education and social justice. As it came to be called the Athens of the West, Meier’s gateway porcelain-paneled building was called The Athenaeum… The AIA nomination called it building “one of Meier’s seminal works of architecture … a classic Meier design.” Visitors are taken up through 3 floors of exhibits to a fourth floor panorama of the Indiana flatlands and Wabash River before being led down exterior ramps to town, as if transitioning from our deeply-flawed world mankind has made to the utopian dream ha might have been.

13. Humana Building – Louisville, KY Michael Graves, #98

The 26- story post-modern skyscraper opened in 1985 and has won multiple awards for architect Michael Graves, one of the greatest interpreters of the style. TIME Magazine listed it as one of the 10 best buildings of the 1980’s. Most of the exterior its pink granite and gold leaf. It is a building with many faces and styles, each side being different. Its eight-floor Main Street façade mirrors the low-rise historical buildings alongside.
Above it explodes into energetic collisions of loggia and colonnades. The interior office space with tis modern statues and marble finishes is immaculate and looks more like the residence of a billionaire with impeccable taste than a place where people actually work. Graves did have his playful side. Humana was once dubbed The Milk Carton for its unusual shape(s). He also designed a postmodern teakettle for Target.

12. United States Courthouse, Islip NY #97

Yes another example of the Whiter Shade of Richard Meier. Islip is an historic town on the south coast off Long Island that opened in 2000. For a change, here is the building in his own words. “This federal courthouse takes advantage of panoramic views over both the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The 12-story building is placed on a podium to gain an extra presence on an otherwise flat and undifferentiated suburban site. Visitors ascend two wide tiers of steps and enter the building through a monumental 9-story, top-lit rotunda in the form of an opaque cone clad in white metal panels. The rest of the south elevation consists of a gently inflected curtain wall that allows light into the corridors and permits uninterrupted views of the ocean. The north façade is faced with metal panels and pierced by horizontal windows. This building reinterprets the courthouse as a new type of civic institution, receptive to public events as well as to the formalities of the judicial process. The terraced forecourt, articulated by a modulated surface and rectilinear plantings of trees, provides an appropriate setting for a building of such civic stature.

11. Dolphin and Swan Hotels, Walt Disney World Orlando #70

Before you roll your eyes at the inclusion of Disney hotels as some kind of déclassé architectural comfort food like Kraft dinner, rest assure this is a serious, if whimsical piece of architecture by Michel Graves, the same man who revolutionized the skyscraper with he Urbana building in Louisville. He began by creating a whole new mythical story with no existing Disney characters. Once upon a time, a submerged island was suddenly propelled to the surface with the dolphins on top and two birds who went in for closer inspection were transformed into swans, in this case, 28 ton 47 feet high swans. The dolphins were inspired by the master Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini whose work will be known to anyone who has had the good fortune to stroll the Piazza Navona in Rome. The dolphin subplot is ha Bernini’s frowned and Disney ownership insisted they put on a happy face. And there was no skimping on materials. European-made chandeliers with accents of Asian Golden Onyx and tropical Pao rosewood. As Mickey would say, “Oh boy, that sure is swell.”

10. Salt Lake City Public Library #69

Born in Israel, educated in Canada and based in Boston, architect Moshe Safdie burst onto the international scene before the age of 30 with his stunning design of the model housing complex, Habitat, a centerpiece of the 1967 World Exposition in Montreal. The dazzling library is a good deal more transparent that allows for lovely natural light and views of the Wasatch mountains. A virtuoso performance in glass and geometry has one building a triangle, another wing a rectangle enclosed with a crescent. At the base is a garden in a piazza and on top is a roof garden. Fireplaces swirling four floors up resemble a wall of flame at night from some angles. The windows though extensive have a very high UV rating for energy efficiency and are the sunblock for the library’s book collection.

9. Nebraska State Capital – Lincoln, NE #67

The Nebraska State Capitol building is ground breaking in more than one way. It was the first to be built as a tower. Perhaps more importantly I was far ahead of is time incorporating and paying tribute to the indigenous cultures of the plaints Indians. In parts Gothic and Byzantine Revival in style, the 400t foot tower is crowned by a massive figure The Sower” the people who came to plant and grow the crops and the very state itself. Inscriptions dot the exterior drawing on quotes from Aristotle, Plato and Navajo school wisdom.The doors to the East Chamber are especially striking and memorable together weighing the better part of a ton, eloquently commemorating the culture of the Plains Indians that the Americans and Europeans displaced…

8. Thorncrown Chapel – Eureka Springs 60

If any place can be said to be The Middle of Nowhere, Eureka Springs might be it. Two hundredf miles north of Little Rock, 250 east of Oklahoma City and 300 southeast of St. Louis It is also a renowned as a centre for the Arts with a School of the Arts, Writers’ Colony, dance studio Opera and Shakespeare in the Ozarks. A fitting home to one of the greatest architectural creations of the 20th century, the chapel which award- winning designer and Frank Lloyd Wright disciple Fay Jones jokingly labelled “Ozark Gothic. Its inspiration was the truly fabulous real Gothic 13th century Ste Chappelle in Paris. Thorncrown does not have Ste Chappelle’s incomparable stained glass but instead uses a starkly beautiful design, 425 windows and the light of the Ozark countryside as its ‘organic’ stained glass, changing hue and colour .As its website describes, and “Its appearance changes during each hour of the day and during the different seasons of the year.” A classic example of organic architecture, it appears to be ‘of’ the place not ‘on’ it.

7. Milwaukee Art Museum – Milwaukee # 59

Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava was asked to undertake the daunting task to design and build an addition to the Museum’s striking original bui8lding dopne by the great Eero Saarinen who you’ve already met here. He succeeded in a spectacular post-modern manner. The Quaddraci pavilion (named after its primary donors) is huge. Just the Gothic Cathedral-style entrance hall can hold a two-story house. It is a unique combination of technology and craftsmanship. There are many nautical visual references. A ship’s prow, a remarkable set of steel fins, called the Burke Brise Soleil (literally) “sun break” up to a 105 feet in length and weighing 90 tons which Calatrava called the crowning element. Engineered to close automatically whenever wind speed exceeds 23 mph for more than three seconds, they also deploy and close each morning, noon and evening, thereby achieving his desire to reflect “he culture of the lake: the sailboats, the weather, the sense of motion and change.”

6. Denver International Airport – Denver #57

At first the DIA was infamous for its ambitious computerized baggage system that ate whatever it didn’t lose outright. It took 10 years for airlines to abandon it for good. Now, it’s famous for the peaked roof of the Jeppesen terminal that is reminiscent of the iconic Sydney Opera House, but in fact is a now world-famous rendition of the snow-capped Rockies that also evokes the pioneers’ wagons and Indian tepees. It is white but also green. Its translucence allows for generous amounts of natural light while its coating reflects 90% of the heat. The cable systems draws on that of the Brooklyn Bridge more than a century earlier. Also famous is a pedestrian that offers views of the Rockies above and taxiing planes below. With the addition of a solar energy farm, DIA has become a world leader in airport sustainability management. Architect Curtis Fentress , a disciple of the great Chinese American architect I.M. Pei, has gone on to build award-winning airports around the world.

5. Cincinnati Paul Brown Stadium – Cincinnati #45

The Cincinnati may not deliver a world-class product on the field, but the stadium they play in does. The intensely deconstructed design is a standout on the city skyline, especially at night when the lighting system and canopy of Teflon-coated fibreglass make it glow like an alien ladybug. Aside from excellent sightlines foe game action, fans can take advantage of the totally asymmetrical open-ended structure to gaze at the city skyline and riverfront during lulls in the action. From some side angles, the design can seem to recall Marcel Duchamp’s Modernist 1912 classic Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, though any resemblance may simply be in the eye of some beholders pushing the beer limit. 

4. Old Faithful Inn – Yellowstone National Park #36

Not a post-modern shred to be seen here. The national historic stone and log landmark dates from 1905 and is the most popular in the park. It is also the biggest log structure in the world. But it’s not famous for size or scale but for its rustic sensibilities like the huge stone fireplace in the lobby, (though it is some lobby at 76 feet in height) and of course for its proximity to Old Faithful. The original part of the Inn, referred to as the “Old House,” is a splendid example of well-preserved so called National Park architecture and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

3. Allegheny County Courthouse – Pittsburgh #35

So compelling was Boston architect HH Richardson’s interpretation of the Romanesque Revival style, it was named after him. While the Allegheny County Courthouse may sound prosaic, Richardson considered it his finest work and one that deeply influenced future superstars like Frank Lloyd Wright and his onetime boss Louis Sullivan. The roughened surface of the granite blocks under a weight and bearing that give it an appearance of the immovable object of physics fame. The courthouse is connected in midair to a prison by “The Bridge of Sighs”, the term given by Byron to a similar link in Venice where prisoners would sigh with regret as the last sight the canals of the Great City. Though Grant Street in Pittsburgh is not be confused with the Grand Canal, it’s a lovely classical reference.

2. Wanamaker’s Department Store – Philadelphia #32

Still a Philly landmark, the dedication of the huge department store was delivered by President Taft. John Wanamaker had opened his clothing store 60 years earlier. The structure at 13th and Market streets was one of the first true department store in the country.one of the first in the country.
The exterior has been variously described as Renaissance palace and Florentine is quite plain in limestone and granite. But inside, the space was spectacular, the central court soaring five stories with eccentric features like the giant Wanamaker organ. It is the most impressive interior space in any commercial building in the city and contains the Wanamaker Organ from the St Louis World fair which joined forces with another St Louis souvenir in the beautifully-marbled Grand Court, the large Bronze Eagle. If today Philadelphians might say “Meet me at the Rocky Statue”, back then Wanamaker shoppers (which were just about everyone) would say “Meet me at the Eagle” and the rendezvous was set.

1. Bellagio #22

Anyone who has actually been to the town of Bellagio in Italy’s Lake District, may struggle to see the resemblance. Bellagio is a collection of Renaissance architecture plunked on the shores of a lake whose setting resembles a piece of pristine Pacific Northwest forest, a setting not even Steve Wynn’s considerable wallet can reproduce in Las Vegas. It does have an impressive scale. The original tower is over 500 feet tall with a staggering 3000 rooms. Standing in for Lake Como an eight-acre body of water leading out to The Strip which features the Dancing Water Fountain that rises and falls to music. There is elegance to be had within too, especially the beauty of the blown glass instillation Fiori di Como (Flowers of Como). At #22, Bellagio is sandwiched by some high-powered American icons, the Brooklyn Bridge at #20 and St. John the Divine cathedral at 23.

7 Castles You Don’t Know Are in America

People often think that in order to see castles they have to travel across the pond, but in fact the very opposite is true. In America alone there are hundreds of castles, just waiting to be explored through guided or self-guided tours. From the hilltops of California to a heart-shaped isle to a university campus, these castles are scattered across the United States. Discover these seven castles that you may not have known are literally in your backyard, from ancient to new, these beautiful buildings and grounds will have your jaw dropping in no time.

7. Hearst Castle -San Simeon, California

This castle attracts millions of visitors every year who flock here to discover the numerous styles of architecture, the 61 bathrooms, 127 acres of gardens and pool and world’s largest private zoo. Designed for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, this castle features museum quality artwork and incredible antiques. There are a number of tours that visitors can choose from including the grand room tour, upstairs suite tour, evening tour and cottage and kitchen tour. Each one is designed to show visitors a different part of the castle, and all promising to be incredible. One of the features of this castle is the Neptune Pool, located on the edge of the cliff and offering an incredible view of the mountains. Although the pool is under renovation visitors now have the chance to see the stunning white marble floor of the pool and ancient Roman Temple front.

Hearst Castle -San Simeon, California

6. Hammond Castle -Gloucester, Massachusetts

This castle was constructed between 1926 and 1929 and sits high atop a rocky cliff overlooking Gloucester Harbor. The castle was home to John Hays Hammond Jr, an inventor who was a pioneer in the study of remote control and built the castle as a gift for his wife. Nowadays the castle is a museum that houses his collection of Roman, medieval and Renaissance artifacts. Visitors can take a self-guided tour through the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, two guest bedrooms, the inventions exhibit room, the library, the War room, the kitchens and several passage ways including a secret passageway. Visitors are welcome to explore the gardens, beautiful castle grounds and gaze out at the Atlantic Ocean from one of the benches. If you really want a special experience make sure you visit during October when the castle is turned into a Halloween haunted house.

Hammond Castle -Gloucester, Massachusetts

5. Oheka Castle -Huntington, New York

This gold coast castle is located on the highest point of Long Island and is one of the most prestigious wedding and event venues in America. Currently this castle is a historical hotel with 32 guest rooms and suites on the upper floors. This castle was built from 1914-1919 as a country home for investment financier and philanthropist Otto Hermann Kahn and his family. The castle is set on an impressive 443 acres featuring a sunken French garden including beautiful flowers and water terraces, a golf course and of course the beautiful castle. Daily tours can be booked in advance and feature the interior of the estate and the formal gardens with a guide. Sitting at 115,000 square feet and featuring 117 rooms, this castle is not only a breathtaking place to tour but an unforgettable wedding location.

Oheka Castle

4. Castello di Amorosa -Calistoga, California

In the heart of Napa Valley’s wine country sits this impressive 13th century inspired Tuscan castle that opened in 2007. The castle features 107 rooms both above and below ground and features such things as a moat, torture chamber, drawbridge and great hall with coffered ceilings. The best part about this castle may just be the fact that it is actually a winery as well and touring the castle means having access to some incredible tastings. It would be the perfect place to hold a wedding but alas Napa County has put restrictions on that. For now, visitors can explore multiple levels of the castle, slide up to one of the tasting bars, and visit the Front Ramparts, Chapel, Great Hall, Courtyard, Stables, and Knight’s Hall.

Castello di Amorosa -Calistoga, California

3. Boldt Castle -Alexandria Bay, New York

When industrialist George Boldt came across a heart-shaped isle in the Thousand Islands the only thing he could think of doing was building an epic castle for the love of his live. Boldt hired over 300 stonemasons, artisans and carpenters to build a six story castle complete with 120 rooms. In 1904 when Boldt’s wife tragically paced away, construction was halted on the castle, for a whopping 73 years. Luckily for visitors the castle was restored in 1977 and now guests can enjoy self-guided tours throughout this beautiful masterpiece. Expect to be blown away by the hand carved doors, decorative windows and a first flow that replicates what it may have looked like if Boldt had ever finished it. Many people choose to get hitched in the stone gazebo here and it’s easy to forget you are actually still in America.

Boldt Castle -Alexandria Bay, New York

2. Grey Towers Castle, Philadelphia

This castle is a registered historic national landmark and actually sits on the Arcadia University campus in Glenside, Pennsylvania. This 40-roomed castle was started in 1893 and modeled after the famed Alnwick Castle in England. There is a lot of speculation behind this castle and staff and students of the University love to tell them. According to them in one of the third-floor bedrooms a mirror above the fireplace mantle had to be replaced because of a large crack. Yet, every time it is replaced it cracks soon after. The castle is also rumored to have been built entirely without the use of nails and is home to many secret passages that were used by the first owner of the estate William Welsh Harrison. Visitors will delight in the gilded ceilings, tapestries and hand carved woodwork throughout. Now the castle is used for administration and dorm rooms so visitors will have to take a self-guided tour when classes are in session.

By Shuvaev - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
By ShuvaevOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

1. Château Laroche, Ohio

Also known as Loveland Castle, this incredible palace was built by Sir Harry Andrews brick by brick, and all on his own. It took Andrews over fifty years to build this incredible castle, pulling stones out of the Little Miami River and when that supply was gone, molded bricks with cement and quart milk cartons. Andrews was a Boy Scout troop leader and when he passed away in 1981 left the castle to his Boy Scout troop the Knights of the Golden Trail (KOGT) who have extensively renovated and upgraded the castle. Today is sits as an expression and reminder of the simple strength and rugged grandeur of the men who were part of the Knighthood. Visitors are welcome here throughout the year and can discover the stories of hauntings, four different types of towers and an impressive collection of swords and weapons on display.

Photo by: Chateau Laroche
Photo by: Chateau Laroche

7 Legendary Toy Stores That Even Adults Will Love

It is no secret that kids go crazy for toy stores and planning a vacation with a trip to one always brings smiles. But what about the adults, can they have fun too? There are your run of the mill toy stores and then there are legendary, knock your socks off toy stores that appeal to both kids and adults. Think of towering dinosaurs, interactive play areas; classic toys that take you back to your childhood and more Lego than you have ever imagined. These seven awesome toy stores, located around the world will have both kids and adults leaving with a smile on their face.

7. Hamleys -London, England

Established in 1760, Hamleys is the oldest toy shop in the world and one of the most loved. The flagship store in London is located on Regent Street and features over seven floors that house more than 50,000 toys. It is one of the city’s most visited attractions welcoming more than five million visitors each year. The toy store is divided into separate toy categories; each having their own floor and generally the ground floor is devoted to anything soft from teddy bears to life size giraffes and elephants. It’s not just toys here at this toy store though; throughout the year various events take place including appearances by Father Christmas and his elves and incredible birthday party opportunities. Even Snoopy and Charlie Brown are known to make an appearance every now and then. You will have no trouble finding the perfect toy here, if anything you will come out with much more than you expected!

Photo by: Sharonsree
Photo by: Sharonsree

6. Kiddyland -Tokyo, Japan

This toy store appeals to kids and adults that are looking for anything Japanese, as you won’t find many of these toys anywhere else in the world. A constantly changing inventory makes this shopping experience unique every time you visit. Spread over five floors the atmosphere in the store is playful and relaxed, letting shoppers unwind and find their inner-child. Explore the entire Hello Kitty floor, the Snoopy floor and others that include Pokémon, Star Wars and Lego. Kids will love the variety of toys and figurines while adults will appreciate unique souvenirs such as Star Wars chopsticks. To get shoppers even more in the spirit, Kiddyland has decorated their stairs and elevators with characters. Overwhelming at times, this toy store is a must visit.

Photo by: tokyo.parallellt
Photo by: tokyo.parallellt

5. Playthings Etc. -Pennsylvania, USA

It proclaims to be the “world’s coolest toy store” and looking at the outside we may just have to agree, considering the store is actually shaped like a spaceship. Inside shoppers will find toys and hobbies for all ages, over 3,000 toys to discover. What makes this toy store so awesome is the fact the staff let you try out just about anything, inside or out. There are toy stations set up all over the store, where you can try out classic toys and new futuristic ones you have never seen before. Whether you are looking for old classics, futuristic toys or science experiment toys, you will find it all here. The employees who do demonstrations on unicycles, rockets, pogo sticks, magic and more will also entertain visitors to the store.

Photo by: Playthings Etc. The World's Coolest Toy Store!
Photo by: Playthings Etc. The World’s Coolest Toy Store!

4. Nintendo World -New York, USA

Hop into your very own warp pipe into the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond when you visit this incredible store located in Manhattan’s historic Rockefeller Center. There is over 10,000 square feet of gaming goodness here, spread over two floors, awaiting both news fans and old. This store is definitely not “hands off” as there are gaming stations throughout, with both new and old systems to explore. This is also the place you will find more memorabilia and games than anywhere else in the world when it comes to Nintendo. Don’t miss checking out the awesome Nintendo Museum, which is a part of the store and was recently upgraded and renovated. Events are constantly happening here with new releases of games and systems and it doesn’t seem to matter when you visit, we promise you will leave with a new found appreciation for Nintendo.

Photo by: NintendoNYC
Photo by: NintendoNYC

3. The Lego Store -New York City, USA

Lego has been entertaining kids since 1932, when the brand was developed and clicked with children all over the world. Lego has an impressive amount of stores and it can be hard to narrow down which is the best but the award has to go to New York City. Its two-story Rockefeller Center location boasts over 3,000 square feet of iconic plastic bricks, and all the accessories to go with them. The Pick-A-Brick wall is perhaps the most impressive feature of this store. A structure dressed with 116 bubbles filled with individual Lego pieces, ranging from rare colored bricks to flowers to wheels, fences and more. The Master’s Builder Bar is where you can design your own Lego kit and even play Lego inspired video games. If that wasn’t enough to win you over, how about searching the store for the 50 Lego scenes of the Big Apple that are situated throughout. We aren’t sure who will enjoy this store more, the kids or the adults.

Photo by: TimeOut
Photo by: TimeOut

2. Disney Store -London, England

It wouldn’t be a list of epic toy stores if it didn’t have at least one Disney Store on it and the largest one in Europe gets special mention here. From the outside, the store is impressive in itself featuring a 28 foot high Princess Castle with an animated clock. The Princess makes appearances in the windows while Tinkerbell flies across the walls. Guarding the store are Mickey and Donald Sentries. Inside is where the real magic happens though, featuring 8,200 square feet of toys, games and clothes, all featuring Disney’s iconic characters. Free interactive events constantly happen throughout the year including animation classes, storytelling, trivia quizzes and even full fledged parades. Adults will enjoy the interesting map that shows Disney’s connection to London by pinpointing movie locations such as Big Ben and St. Paul’s Cathedral from movies such as Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians and more.

Disney Store london

1. American Girl Place -Chicago, USA

American Girl Place is the ultimate toy store to visit for any doll fan, whether you are an adult or child. Located at Chicago’s Water Tower Place it is the largest American Girl store in the United States. This shop is home to all of the beloved doll characters including the Girl of the Year and more. It is here where shoppers will find an extensive range of doll accessories, clothing, posters and books. Doll lovers will absolutely love designing their own matching doll and girl t-shirts, appearing on the cover of a souvenir issue of American Girl and watching their doll get their hair done in the Doll Hair Salon. There is even an elegant American Girl Café that is open for brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, reservations are highly recommended. Special events happen throughout the year here and include private shopping nights, meet and greet with Santa and holiday parties.

Photo by: Flickr/popaitaly
Photo by: Flickr/popaitaly

The 7 Best Cheap Eats in New York City

The Big Apple can get pricey and with so many gourmet restaurants and notable chefs in the city, food sometimes doesn’t seem to come cheap either. It might seem like the only place to grab something for a reasonable price is at a big-name fast food joint—which is not the case at all. But eating out in the 5 boroughs doesn’t need to break the bank; in fact, there are some places where you can pick up delicious food at a price your pocketbook will love too.

7. Pizza

Okay, it might seem like a bit of a cheat to start off with something so generic—of course pizza can be cheap. Pizza can also be really expensive, especially in NYC. But since the city is one with such a rich Italian heritage, you just know that there have got to be a few great mom-and-pop style pizzerias, places where you can grab a slice (or a whole pie) for what amounts to pocket change. The Big Apple is full of shops like Joe’s Pizza and John’s Pizzeria, both in Greenwich Village and both highly regarded by locals. A classic New York slice will run you $2.75 at Joe’s—very reasonable considering Joe uses nothing but the best, including imported Italian mozzarella and tomatoes to make fresh sauce for the pies.

Photo by: Flickr/Adam Kuban
Photo by: Flickr/Adam Kuban

6. Taqueria Izucar

This place might as well be billed as “all you can eat tacos.” Tacos are just $1.25 a pop, and come stuffed with things like braised veal, pig stomach or stewed potatoes. Although the Taqueria itself is a counter-serve establishment, there is an attached Mexican restaurant where you can pause for a sit-down meal. For those on the go, however, Taqueria Izucar serves up good food at low prices and even has vegetarian options for those who prefer their food sans-carne. Open from 11 in the morning til 10 at night, this Brooklyn eatery is the perfect place to grab lunch during a busy workday, dinner after a long day at the office or even to grab a snack with some friends before heading out to the bar on a Friday night.

Photo by: Eater
Photo by: Eater

5. Northside Bakery

Northside Bakery is a European-style bake shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A division of Old Poland Foods, the bakery has been voted “Best European Bakery in New York” by various outlets. Their baked goods are all handmade, without preservatives, and the company is now looking at introducing a line of organic baked goods. They stock everything from baguettes to bagels to donuts, but you can also drop by for a lunch special. A cabbage roll will cost $2.50 (and be warned, these are decidedly filling). Other Polish specialties and daily soups round out the lunch menu; the buffet will set you back around $4. And after lunch, you can also grab a slice of cake or another treat to take home with you and enjoy later. All in all, Northside Bakery is a pretty sweet deal!

Photo by: Sprung on Food
Photo by: Sprung on Food

4. Lakruwana

You might not think that trekking out to Staten Island would yield much in the way of cheap eats, but you’d be wrong. Don’t believe it? Hop the ferry (which is free) to the island and check out Lakruwana, an artsy Sri Lankan restaurant serving up traditional dishes from the Indian Ocean island. Their weekend lunch buffets are a great deal; priced at $13.95, it might seem a touch dear, especially compared to some of the other entries here, but the value is great given the extensive menu. The restaurant also offers take-out, which is a great option if you happen to be on Staten Island anyway. And although most of the entrees are priced around $14, the portions are generous; if there are two people dining, you can likely pick one dish and split it—although it tastes so good, you may not want to share.

Photo by: New Lakruwana
Photo by: New Lakruwana

3. Yun Nan Flavour Garden

Not only is this Brooklyn restaurant a tasty and cheap option for diners, it’s also one of New York’s only Yuunan restaurants. In a city littered with Chinese eateries, Yun Nan Flavour Garden is a refreshing option, serving up a menu with flavors from China’s southernmost province. The restaurant specializes in noodle dishes, like guoqiao mixian, and the noodles themselves are made fresh in-house. Although the eatery itself is tiny and you’ll likely share a help-yourself bin of utensils with your fellow diners, the food is a great deal: bowls of noodles go for around $5—and are generally large enough to feed 2 or 3 people, or to make another meal out of. Service is usually quick, but remember to bring cash, since the establishment doesn’t accept credit or debit cards.

Photo by: NY Times
Photo by: NY Times

2. Gray’s Papaya

Given the name of this establishment, you might not think of a hot dog stand, but that’s exactly what Gray’s is. The long-time New York eatery specializes in dishing up low-priced dogs to hungry crowds. The Papaya in the name comes from the papaya drink the restaurant sells, although they also sell a variety of other beverages. Gray’s has been featured in films, television shows, literature and music, making it something of a cultural touchstone for New Yorkers. Open since 1979, Gray’s had expanded into additional stores, although only the 2090 Broadway location is open nowadays (however, reports have surfaced that Gray’s will be opening a new Midtown location by end of 2016). The restaurant is open 24 hours a day, year-round, which means you can grab a cheap, delicious, high-quality dog any time you visit the Big Apple. A single dog is just $1.25 and the “Recession Special” will set you back only $3.50.

Photo by: Lauren Klain Carton
Photo by: Lauren Klain Carton

1. Rahman’s Kwik Meals

There are a heck of a lot of food carts in New York City, especially in busy areas like Midtown and the Financial District, where both hungry office workers and tourists will congregate, looking for a quick bite to eat. With so many vendors, it can be a bit overwhelming to pick one. Many sell foods like pretzels and bagels, but the best food carts have full meals, like falafel with grilled chicken, on offer. New York Magazine recently named Rahman’s Kwik Meals one of the best food carts in the whole city. The cart is something of a legend in NYC; after brief stints cooking for other establishments, cart owner Muhammed Rahman is back selling lamb, fish and rice dishes at 45th Street, near Times Square. There are also two additional carts in the Kwik Meals empire, Quick Delight (45th and 3rd) and Kwik Gourmet (47th and Park Avenue).

kwik meal

 

The Top 10 Artsy Towns in America

For those with the slightest creative bent, there is something inherently romantic about ‘artsy’ places, places where great artists congregated, often out of poverty, a sense of adventure, a disdain for convention. Present day fans still make the pilgrimage to commune with the spirits of their artistic heroes. This list is about living and breathing art colonies in the U.S. that no longer occur in urban slums but thrive in small towns, all the more notable for being the raison d’etre of the town’s very existence. All of the below are in beautiful natural settings. A few have artistic tradition a century old. Some have revived places on the verge of ghost town status and what could be more romantic than that? What follows is a list of intriguing places in which art is the core of a modern sustainable economy. Off the beaten track, these places offer tremendous travel value. The list comes from, of all places the World Property Journal, with artistic elaborations only your Escape Here correspondents can share.

10. Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Had they all lived at the same time, four of the greatest American artists of all time would have been neighbors here, just a few miles from each other in the historic Berkshire mountains on the Massachusetts-Upstate New York border whose homes have now become museums. Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, authors Edith Wharton (The Age of innocence) and Herman Melville (Moby Dick) and the picture postcard perfect village of Stockbridge; the home of painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell. Rockwell’s legendary works achieved great fame and following in the Saturday Evening Post. He captured the spirit of small town America before its demise and his illustrations remain much admired for their nostalgic depiction of a world that is largely extinct. Some of his greatest works are on display. The Arts are the soul of Stockbridge with gardens, theater and a short drive away, the fabulous Tanglewood Music Festival.

LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com
LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES / Shutterstock.com

9. Sag Harbor, New York

Yoga studios and spas have crept into the 200-year-old whaling port in the tiny Hamptons on Long Island. Its literary credentials are impeccable and it is mentioned several times in Moby Dick. Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck lived and wrote Travels with Charley here. It remains a writer’s colony though reminders of its whaling past are prominent. Art shows are everywhere and year round. The Sag harbor Fine Arts Center, quite an accomplishment for a village of 2,100, features quality musical performance and dance recitals. The scenery is spectacular in a quiet place that, like Rockwell’s art, is a window on another time.

Sag Harbor, New York

8. Manitou Springs, Colorado

The charming town at the foot of Pike’s Peak (Elevation 14,110) is on the Register of Historic Places. The Ute Indians knew they had a good thing long ago, but the town with its 11 springs was founded only in 1872 as a spa destination and has been a tourist attraction ever since. Still the native presence remains strong with amazing ancient cliff dwellings. The frontier settlement layout and vibe remains but there are some two dozen working art studios and an artists’ co-op now as well as chamber music and frequent art walks. Among the better known local artists is Michael Baum whose Disneyish yet charming southwestern landscapes are done in the unusual medium of oil on linen.

Photo by: Manitou Springs
Photo by: Manitou Springs

7. Madrid, New Mexico

After the gold and coal ran out so did the inhabitants in the 1950’s. The Wall Street Journal carried a for sale ad offering the whole place for $250,000. No one bit so Madrid became a ghost town. Somehow the old buildings survived until artists move in and turned it into a colony of galleries and studios. Folk art and crafts range from handmade cowboy boots to exquisite Cerillos turquoise from the nearby Turquoise Trail to native artifacts. There are spas and restaurants even though the last census records a population of 210, most of whom came from somewhere away and never went back. And it’s MA-drid by the way. Not to be confused with that pretender in Spain.

Madrid, New Mexico

6. Carmel-By-The-Sea, California

Many would say the greatest work of art in the area is the Pebble Beach Golf Course, opened in 1919 and considered the greatest, most beautiful course in the country. A town of 4,000 has four exceptional venues for the performing arts. It is a wealthy enclave now but in the early 20th century it was a sanctuary for impoverished bohemian artists left homeless by the Great San Francisco earthquake. It’s memorably captured by Jack London in Valley of the Moon. Writers, painters, photographers and poets found inspiration in the beautiful stretch of Pacific shore. A Shakespearean tradition dates from 1911 and is still going strong. Far from bohemian now but visual artists still share the same inspiration.

Carmel, California

5. Delray Beach, Florida

As the 20th century wound down, Delray Beach was a dying town with shuttered storefronts and apparently no future. It is now a burgeoning arts center  as The Delray Art League promotes the art scene and has over 200 members. Pineapple grove is a happening art ‘hood’ with galleries, cafes and cool buzz. The Arts Garage is a unique venue serving up all types of experimental musical forms. The old industrial warehouses have been transformed to Artists’ Alley and house dozens of working spaces, and there are more at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts. Performing artists can find venues at Delray Square Arts, plus the average temperature in January is 71. Makes you feel like getting artsy don’t it?

Delray Beach, Florida

4. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg is Cherokee country while European settlement began in 1806. It lays claim to being home to the largest independent arts community on the continent that has its roots in the Great Depression in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains. The Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail features over 100 artisans along an 8-mile loop that produce exquisite Americana artifacts; ceramics, pottery, jewelry and wood carvings.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

3. Cody, Wyoming

The town takes its name from William F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill. It’s known especially for the renowned Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a clutch of five museums celebrating different aspects of Cody’s life and legacy as well as the American Frontier experience, including the Whitney Western Art Museum. The New York Times calls the Smithsonian-related complex “among the nation’s most remarkable museums” A thriving local art scene culminates in the annual Rendezvous Royale community festival topped off by the Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale.

milosk50 / Shutterstock.com
milosk50 / Shutterstock.com

2. Fredericksburg, Texas

A fascinating place settled by German immigrants in the 1850’s, named after a Prussian price with a unique Texas German dialect spoken. The age of political correctness has not precluded the use of the nickname Fritztown. Known as the peach capital of Texas, the town’s artistic bent came with the settlers, among them accomplished artists from Dresden. Galleries abound and local sculptors have national reputations. The town can also claim an Art School and Guild.

Fredericksburg, Texas

1. Taos, New Mexico

As the light of Provence once lured the eye of Vincent van Gogh, the magical light and dramatic landscape of the southwest town of Taos has lured a number of critically acclaimed and commercially successful visual artists over the last century. High end inns and hotels in Santa Fe feature the iconic paintings of Inger Jerby, a Scandinavian native who found her way to Taos and stayed, part of a new interpretation of Old West painting. The art colony, the beautiful setting and the a significant Native presence have drawn artistic legends like Georgia O’Keefe, photographer Ansel Adams and the great British novelist D.H. Lawrence.

Gimas / Shutterstock.com
Gimas / Shutterstock.com

The 7 Best Bakeries in the 5 Boroughs

Cookies and cakes, bread and bagels, oh my! New Yorkers love baked goods—that’s no surprise, especially given that the city’s unofficial pastry patron is the bagel. It’s a fact that goes a long way toward explaining why there are so many bakeries in the Big Apple, scattered throughout the five boroughs. With so many choices, it can be daunting to try and pick just a few favorite establishments; in fact, it’s nearly impossible to crown a single “best” bakery. So here are our top 7 picks for the best bakeries in the whole of NYC.

7. Milk and Cookies

On a tour of Greenwich Village, we passed by this neat little bakery on Commerce Street. A local, who lived in Midtown, pointed the shop out and was delighted to learn we’d already had a chance to sample the wares fresh from the oven. Even David Schwimmer, who played Ross on Friends, is a fan of Milk and Cookies and their focus on American classics, like the classic chocolate chip cookie. The shop was also recently voted best ice cream sandwich in NYC, so you know they have to be doing something right. The bakery has packaged their chocolate chip cookie dough, but nothing beats the real McCoy; Milk and Cookies is open until 10pm every night, so swing by and grab a sweet treat—or get creative and take advantage of the shop’s “design your own dozen” service, which lets you pick and choose flavors.

Photo by: Milk and Cookies
Photo by: Milk and Cookies

6. Almondine

When Hurricane Sandy hit NYC 3 years ago, the storm leveled one of Brooklyn’s best bakeries. Pastry chef Herve Poussat didn’t expect his bakery to flood, but it did and he lost most of his equipment—and the Big Apple almost lost Almondine, one of the most revered French bakeries in Brooklyn and beyond. Luckily, Poussat was able to re-open in April 2013. Since then, Almondine has continued to do what the bakery does best: make delicious French-style breads and pastries, including some of the city’s best baguettes. Almondine consistently places on lists of the best bakeries in the five boroughs, and New Yorkers know that a trip to Almondine is always a good idea. A pilgrimage to 85 Water Street should be on every gourmand’s New York bucket list.

Photo by: Dumbo NYC
Photo by: Dumbo NYC

5. Amy’s Bread

Amy’s Bread has been serving NYC for 23 years now, in three locations around Manhattan: Greenwich Village, Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea. Open early to late every day of the week, Amy’s Breads offers up an assortment of homemade artisanal breads, like basil-infused foccacia, fresh on a daily basis. Oh, and if you’re hankering for something sweet, the bakery dabbles in treats too—like their cupcakes, which garnered a 5-star rating in a recent Zagat survey. The fact that the bakery was voted as the best spot to grab a loaf in all of NYC should tell you a bit about the quality of the goods; others just can’t compare. The bakery also supplies various restaurants in Manhattan through its wholesale channel, but the best place to pick up a treat is still one of the cozy bakery locations.

Photo by: Amy's Bread
Photo by: Amy’s Bread

4. Cannelle Patisserie

Don’t let the fact that this French-style bakery is located in a mall in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens throw you off: it is simply one of the best in all of NYC. New Yorkers and the media alike will tell you that making the trip out to Cannelle Patisserie is well worth it; not only are the pastries cheaper than the puffed-up price points you’ll find in Manhattan bakeries, but the goods are just as delectable (if not more so). They’re open from 8 til late, 7 days a week, so there’s no excuse for not dropping in for breakfast, lunch or dinner or a coffee break somewhere in-between. Sandwiches, quiches and a breakfast selection round out a menu full of exquisite cakes, tarts and cookies. With items starting at just $1, how can you possibly go wrong?

Photo by: Serious Eats
Photo by: Serious Eats

3. Valencia Bakery

Manhattan has more than its fair share of excellent bakeries, but that doesn’t mean that you should count out the other boroughs: all of them are graced with places to pick up some sweet treats. Valencia Bakery, located in the Bronx, is an excellent example. The shop has to come up in conversation about the best bakeries in NYC, and it’s known as the place to get a birthday cake (or a cake for just about any other occasion) in this borough. Valencia has several locations in the Bronx, and 2 additional locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. They also make pastries so even if you’re not celebrating, you can still treat yourself to something sweet from this bakery institution. If you’re in town for a birthday or other occasion, celebrate with a pineapple or guava cake from Valencia—you won’t be disappointed.

Photo by: Valencia Bakery
Photo by: Valencia Bakery

2. Bien Cuit

This little shop in Brooklyn has made quite the splash since it landed on the NYC bakery scene in 2011. Chef Zachary Golper and his bakery have been nominated for awards consistently since then; in 2015, Golper was nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Baker. The Bien Cuit philosophy is to offer up breads and pastries that are both unique and varied, utilizing ancient techniques and modern-day sensibilities. The shop has become a favorite among locals and a must-visit for travelers passing through. Open 7 days a week, from 7 in the morning til 8 at night, Bien Cuit offers customers more than pastries and breads; their menu includes quiches, sandwiches, tartines and cookies, as well as drinks to wash it all down. Bien Cuit also offers a wholesale service, which means you can find Bien Cuit breads in restaurants around Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Photo by: Bien Cuit
Photo by: Bien Cuit

1. Dominique Ansel Bakery

You may have heard of the Dominique Ansel Bakery before. Even if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard of Chef Ansel’s most famous creation: the cronut. Half-croissant, half-donut, this pastry caused quite the uproar in 2013, even spawning a black market and knock-offs due to limited production. Cronuts aren’t the only thing you can sample at this Soho bakery, however: Chef Ansel has a wide variety of delicious goodies up for grabs, including mini-meringues, large cakes, macarons and other gifts. The chef creates a signature item every year; past inventions have included the Frozen S’more and the Cookie Shot. His imagination has earned him the title “Willy Wonka of NYC” and his bakery, opened in 2011, has been named the best bakery in the city by various magazines and newspapers. Located at 189 Spring Street, the bakery is open every day of the week, inviting you to pop in.

Photo by: Dominique Ansel Bakery
Photo by: Dominique Ansel Bakery

America’s 20 Favorite Buildings

Consider it The People’s Choice awards for architecture. The American Institute of Architects commissioned a public poll on the most popular architectural works in the country. There are a number of well-known superstars including The Empire State Building and Faneuil Hall in Boston, but there are also the obscure and surprising; Seattle’s Safeco Field at #135, Denver International Airport at #57. The top of the list is decidedly skewed towards the northeast, especially New York and Washington D.C. who claim between them 16 of the top 20. Overall New York has 32 entries, while D.C. claims 17 and Chicago a respectable 16. Three of the favorites no longer exist: #143 Pennsylvania Station, the original Yankee Stadium of 1923 at #84 and the World Trade Center at #19. Among the architects making more than one appearance are Frank Lloyd Wright with 7 works; Eero Saarinen with 3 and one Thomas Jefferson with 2. Here are the Top 20 American structures that still stand and attract millions of sightseers and pilgrims from around the world:

20. Philadelphia City Hall – Philadelphia, PA

A truly magnificent building, it’s widely considered to be the best piece of French Second Empire architecture in the country. It is massive exercise in granite, sandstone and marble with muscular columns, some 250 pieces of sculpture including a massive 27 ton bronze of William Penn (as in Pennsylvania) on the clock tower. The 24 foot thick walls hold 4 acres of space with 700 rooms. It took 30 years to build, as only a government building can. Money was no object in a futile attempt to regain the city’s pre-eminence over the upstarts in New York and Washington, it was for a brief time, the tallest building in the world. Demolition was considered in the 1950’s and thank goodness rescinded.

Philadelphia City Hall

19. Brooklyn Bridge – New York City, NY

It was a huge deal when it opened in 1883. A sitting President, Charles Arthur, and a future one; New York Governor Grover Cleveland attended. The towers are built of limestone, cement and Maine granite delivered by schooner. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world for 20 years and like other New York landmarks it captured the artistic and popular culture’s imagination from Georgia O’Keefe through Jack Kerouac to Wycliffe Jean. Poet Marianne Moore wrote, “way out; way in; romantic passageway first seen by the eye of the mind, then by the eye. O steel! O stone! Climactic ornament, a double rainbow.” Beginning life on the 100th anniversary of the end of the Revolutionary War, the Bridge captures the enormous optimism of the economic boom of the Second Industrial Revolution. On ArchDaily, Cristopher Henry says the Bridge transformed not only bridge building but the city of New York itself. The Gothic Revival style span lit up at night framed by the Manhattan skyline, does seem like a road to a promised land.

Brooklyn Bridge

18. Hotel Del Coronado – San Diego, CA

What could be more striking, or make less sense, than a perfect example of 19th century British architecture on the California Pacific coast? A California beach house in downtown London perhaps? Though it may seem to an architectural fish out of water, it has been a magnet for celebrities, royalty and U.S. Presidents since it opened in 1888 at the peak influence of the Queen Anne building style. But such was its renown that its guest list includes from the Prince of Wales to Charlie Chaplin to Barack Obama. Queen Anne design is ornate and precious and violates every law of the American School which holds that buildings should be organic as if art of the site on which it’s built. But then architect James Reid apparently never studied law. The jumble of turrets and excess celebrates the Golden Age of decadence. Jay Gatsby would have been a frequent visitor had he actually existed. Gilded Age exuberance.

Vacclav / Shutterstock.com
Vacclav / Shutterstock.com

17. Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York City, NY

The Met, as it’s affectionately known, has been evolving as an idea and entity since 1866. It has added and subtracted whole sections over the decades and has become an imposing if not terribly harmonious mix of International, Modern and Contemporary architecture, yet it somehow fits in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Its vast interior holds collections among the best in the world, with a net worth of approximately the Gross National Product of Iceland. Of course everyone would think of fit fondly. It’s a list of the Faves not the Bests.

Nick Starichenko / Shutterstock.com
Nick Starichenko / Shutterstock.com

16. St. Regis Hotel – New York City, NY

It was meant to be the lap of luxury, by and for New York’s insanely wealthy aristocracy. A monument to conspicuous consumption built by the Astor family. In his book ‘Built to Last’ the renowned hotel historian Stanley Turkel described the interior like this: “marble floors and hallways from the quarries of Caen, Louis XV furniture from France, Waterford crystal chandeliers, antique tapestries and oriental rugs, a library full of 3,000 leather-bound, gold-tooled books… beautiful burnished bronze entrance doors, rare wood paneling, great marble fireplaces, ornamental ceilings and a telephone in every room”, a rare luxury at the time. In fact the New York Times reported that the St. Regis offered luxury “on a scale of sumptuosity quite without precedent.” The great Russian writer Maxim Gorky visited and remarked, “Neither the Grand Dukes, nor even the Czar, have anything like this.” It remains a Beaux-Arts gem in limestone.

DW labs Incorporated / Shutterstock.com
DW labs Incorporated / Shutterstock.com

15. Supreme Court of the United States – Washington, DC

The Supreme Court was 146 years old before it got its own building that opened in 1935. Its austere steel-framed marble faced exterior on classic Roma temple lines with its thick Corinthian columns gives way to a more ornate interior with brass friezes, extensive statuary of mythical figures and oak carvings that suggest a place of worship rather than one of sober deliberation. Its surprise that makes it is perhaps the last D.C. project to come in UNDER budget. The website says it combines classical grandeur and quiet dignity. The courtroom alone contains 24 columns of Italian marble from the same area Michelangelo sourced his; the walls and friezes of Spanish Ivory Vein marble floor borders incorporates African marble.

Supreme Court of the United States

14. The Gateway Arch – St. Louis, MO

2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the date the final piece was put into place completing the majestic span across the Mississippi and putting the iconic Arch up there with other quintessential American sites like Mount Rushmore and the Statue of Liberty. It is a memorial to the settlers who passed through the Gateway City of St. Louis. It also is a tribute of Thomas Jefferson who as President “championed the Louisiana Purchase and sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition westward. Technically it is a weighted catenary curve of over 17,000 tons of perfectly symmetrical concrete and steel. It is 630 feet high and 630 wide. The Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen is now considered one of the masters of American 20th-century architecture and furniture design. He won the design competition for the Arch in 1948 but sadly didn’t live to see construction begin in 1963 let alone to see it finished.

gateway arch

13. Grand Central Station – New York City, NY

A grand European palace masquerading as a New York train station. It looks like a transit point exclusively for the well-to-do, but in fact shepherds 750,000 people on their way, merrier for having passed through a great work of art on their way to work and home. On the outside are 50 foot high statues of Roman gods; Minerva Goddess of Wisdom, Mercury; God of financial gain, travelers, luck, trickery and thieves, eminently qualified to be the patron site of Manhattan not to mention Hercules. Within the classic Beaux Arts exterior lies a vast interior, larger than Notre Dame in Paris featuring too many masterpieces to list, bronze and stone carvings, Tennessee marble floors, frescoes of zodiac constellations. All illuminated by ten lavish chandeliers of nickel and gold, now containing energy efficient bulbs. The New York Tribune wrote, “Here is a space like the nave of an Old World cathedral. It compels to silence.”

pisaphotography / Shutterstock.com
pisaphotography / Shutterstock.com

12. Washington Monument – Washington, DC

It’s interesting that plans for a monument to George Washington were first discussed in 1783, construction began in 1848, and completion came in 1884 and the public got in in 1888. His followers wanted to build one as huge as their respect and devotion and many were rejected for being too grandiose for the new Republic. The elevator that was added in 1889 is still what visitors ride to the observation decks and their tremendous views of the capital. Technically, it is a classic Greek- inspired obelisk of 555 ft. in marble, granite and bluestone gneiss. It also contains some 193 memorial stones donated for inclusion. The donors ranged from the Sae of Utah, the Welsh people of New York to the Ottoman Empire.

National Mall and Washington Monument

11. St. Patrick’s Cathedral – New York City, NY

The neo-Gothic Cathedral of St. Patrick is the largest Catholic Church in the United States and certainly among the most beautiful. Its marble-clad brick facade must been a powerful, imposing site when it opened in 1879. Its 330ft twin neo Gothic towers soared above the neighborhood and were said to be visible for twenty miles, since dwarfed by sprouting skyscrapers.
Inside it has the traditional shape of the Latin cross. Its altars were designed by a Borgia, a Medici and Tiffany &co. Its renowned stained glass was crafted in England but the rose window, in the Gothic tradition was crafted by Charles Connick, a master of stained glass who the New York Times described as “the world’s greatest contemporary craftsman in stained glass.” A Pieta, three times larger than Michelangelo’s in the Vatican was added in 1906. Five million people go every year to worship and just experience this architectural wonder.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

10. Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial – Washington, DC

No doubt full of intangible meaning for Americans, the memorial is a profoundly moving experience wherever you’re from. Simplicity can engender an eloquence the grandest design may not. The façade of the 600 foot straight black wall of Indian granite lists the names of the 58,175 names Americans who died in the war. Its effect is intensified by the decision to build down rather than up, as if to mirror the descent into the depths of the carnage on the descent into the and eventually, after the last name to emerge a touched and changed person, back into the land of the living. Maya Lin, a Chinese American from Ohio was just 21 years old when she won the commission. There are 57,939 names on the original. At last count, that has grown to 58,286. In a
1983 interview published in the AIA Journal, Lin explained her inspiration, “I thought about what death is, what a loss is. A sharp pain that lessens with time, but can never quite heal over. A scar. The idea occurred to me there on the site. Take a knife and cut open the earth, and with time the grass would heal it.”

Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial

9. Chrysler Building – New York City, NY

Like many masterpieces the Chrysler Building opened to bad reviews. It was dismissed as a publicity stunt by Chrysler to beat the Manhattan Bank to completion and dethrone the Eiffel Tower as the world’s tallest building at the time. Its architect William van Alen was also dismissed as a “Dr. of Altitude.” But its Art Deco style has grown in stature since its heyday in the 1920’s and 30’s. It came to be regarded as over the top kitsch but went to become its own school of furniture, poster art and telephones. The Chrysler is one of the last of its kind, the Art Deco skyscraper. A counterpoint to the sombre Vietnam memorial the Chrysler emits the brash, confident futuristic exuberance of Art Deco at its best. If it had an observation deck, it may well have eclipsed the Empire State building in popularity. Its interior is yet more stunning. Lonely Planet guides suggest the best views are from the corner of 3rd and 44th. Or ironically from the observation deck of the Empire State. Where else could you see gargoyles in the image of Chrysler car parts?

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

8. Biltmore Estate – Asheville, NC

The British writer and with Oscar Wilde once said that “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” He might have had George W. Vanderbilt, one member of the wealthiest and influential American families in history, who contemporary descendants include CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. George W. fell in love with the Blue Ridge Mountains and bought 125,000 acres of it to build his summer estate. Only the best for a Vanderbilt, he hired Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer and architect-in-chief of Central Park. The French Renaissance ‘summer home’ has a copper roof monogrammed with the owner’s initials. Just the interior floor covers 4 acres. There are 34 bedrooms, 65 fireplace and at a time when indoor plumbing was rare, 43 bathrooms. Despite its excess it is a beautiful piece of work, intended to rival the old estate manors of Europe. The largest private home in America is a Historic Site and open to the public for tours.

Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com
Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com

7. Lincoln Memorial – Washington, DC

It is by no means a late Italian Renaissance piece or the ages but the Lincoln Memorial is a fascinating and compelling structure. Its grand exterior is a stunning Greek temple with 36 sturdy Doric columns, one for each state in the Union in 1865. The expectation that something of this classic magnitude would be a memorial or tomb of a great champion or god even. And there is inside a sculpture of the Great Emancipator himself but if you didn’t know his history you’d wonder if he won or lost the battle. The great American sculptor Daniel Chester French presents not a triumphant demi-God but a man, seated rumpled and not just tired but so weary from having seen too much grief. This was partly aesthetic genius partly astute politics. Construction of the Monument began in 1914, less than 50 years after the Civil War ended and any celebratory construct would have been deeply offensive to the South. The Southern Wall contains an elegant rendition of the Gettysburg Address while the north wall holds his second Inaugural Address which ends with the famous words…”With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds… to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Lincoln Memorial

6. U.S. Capitol – Washington, DC

The U.S. Capitol’s design was selected President Washington in 1793. Construction quickly began but they had to start over after the British burned it in the War of 1812. Like so many buildings in DC, it is classic Greek and Roman, the neoclassical style favored by Thomas Jefferson as befitting a modern empire. In fact he wanted the Capitol to be patterned after the Roman Pantheon. It has what might be called an intimidating charm of imposing size, symbolism and history. Expanded many times to its present 4 acres and 600 rooms, its most famous addition was the cast iron dome in 1858 weighing almost 9,000,000 pounds. Inside are of course the chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the home of the Legislative Branch of the U.S. Government. Lesser known is the impressive collection of art accumulated and donated over the years. The Hall of Statuary is breathtaking as is the fresco in the Rotunda painted by Italian Constatino Brumidi in the Di sotto in sù (seen from below) style depicting the Apotheosis of Washington entering heaven with an escort of Roman gods representing among others War, Science and Agriculture.

US Capitol building

5. Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, CA

One of the greatest engineering and design accomplishments of the 20th century, a rarely surpassed combination of strength and beauty. They said it would be impossible to build a bridge across the Golden Gate Strait. It took four years and the equivalent of $600 million but at is completion in 1937 it was the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world at almost 2 miles long. The two famous towers are 820 feet tall. The distinctive red Art Deco profile framed by the Pacific Ocean has made it known around the world a masterpiece in steel and concrete.

Golden Gate Bridge

4. Thomas Jefferson Memorial – Washington, DC

Jefferson didn’t get his wish for The Capitol to be built after the Pantheon in Rome but his memorial in Washington D.C. certainly is. It was inaugurated by President Franklin Roosevelt on the bicentenary of Jefferson’s birth in 1743. FDR proclaimed ““Today in the midst of a great war for freedom, we dedicate a shrine to freedom.” Jefferson’s intellect and influence towered above any of the founders, save for Washington himself. So it is more than fitting that the grand bronze statue of him inside the classic Roman architecture that he loved should tower over the interior showing him at the peak of his powers, with what is believed to be the Declaration of Independence in his hand.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

3. Washington National Cathedral – Washington, DC

A majestic Gothic Revival work in Indiana limestone, its construction was launched with a speech from President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 and was completed only in 1990. A hallowed place of ecumenical worship the church is also deeply reflective of American history. It was the las pulpit from which the Reverend Martin Luther King preached before his assassination in 1968. The funerals of Presidents Reagan and Eisenhower were held there. Woodrow Wilson is buried there. There is stained glass devoted to the Apollo moon landing with a piece of moon rock. Recently, the church stewards decided to remove two stained glass panels honoring Confederate Generals Robert TE Lee and Stonewall Jackson containing the Confederate flag. The top of the lofty Gloria in Excelsis vault is the highest point in the capital. It tries be user friendly, incorporating a young person’s design of Darth Vader gargoyle on the roof. Still, really more popular than the Golden Gate?

Washington National Cathedral

2. The White House – Washington, DC

Construction of the original Presidential residence began in 1702. It was nothing like the current version, especially being not white but a grayish Georgia mansion. Its first tenants were the second President, John Adams and wife Abigail. The British torched it in 1812 and Hoban rebuilt it but I wasn’t til a major renovation in 1824 that the portico and pillars turned the modest Georgian home into a neoclassical white building. The West Wing burned in 1929 and with is rebuilding it became what we know today. The whitewashed sandstone walls are the originals. Inside it contains 132 rooms, 28 fireplaces and 32 bathrooms, Interesting trivia: running water was not installed until 1835.

The White House

 

1. Empire State Building – New York City, NY

Honestly, if you were making King Kong in 1933 and deciding on which building in the entire world on which the huge protagonist to meet his dramatic demise, what other choice could you make but the Empire State, the tallest most glamorous building in the world? It has appeared in 250 movies from the sublime (An Affair to Remember) to the ridiculous (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas). The 86th floor observation deck has had over a 100 million visitors, among the most popular in the world. While there are superstar architects with multiple entries in the list (Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen), the New York firm that built the Empire State has just he one. At the very top. It’s not just the view or the gorgeous Art Deco façade. It is the architectural version of swagger, the iconic image that says you are in the home of the Leader of the Free World. When Canadian Far Wray, the actress who played King Kong’s love interest, died in 2004, the Empire State went dark for 15 minutes in silent, eloquent tribute.

Empire State Building

Brooklyn’s 9 Best Hidden Gems

It’s safe to say that anyone who knows anything about New York City knows that Brooklyn has a lot to offer. From its unique culture to the food and arts scene in Williamsburg to its museums and institutions, Brooklyn has just as many must-see stops as Manhattan and, much like the more-visited borough, Brooklyn has a check-list of “things to do.” While museums and art galleries are fine, Brooklyn has lots of quirky and off-the-beaten path assets to recommend it. Here are 9 attractions that are less likely to appear in your guidebook or even to be marked.

9. Beaches

Given Brooklyn’s reputation as an urban jungle in the metropolis of New York City (and its most populous borough), we tend not to think about natural spaces. Sure, Brooklyn has parks and greenspaces, but we often forget that, since it’s on the coast, Brooklyn is also home to some pretty nice beaches. Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park and Plumb Beach are a few of the lesser-known; Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach, near Coney Island, are both more popular and better known, thanks to their proximity to the amusements of Coney Island. All of these beaches are on the Atlantic Ocean, along inlets like Sheepshead Bay, Jamaica Bay and Gravesend Bay. Several other beaches also exist in Brooklyn. If you visit the Big Apple in the summertime, plan time to escape from the heat of the city and get to the beach, like a true New Yorker!

Brighton Beach Brooklyn

8. Discount Broadway Tickets

Going to a Broadway show is sort of a staple of visiting New York City. But tickets to a show can cost a lot, especially if the tickets are limited availability or the show is really popular (the Lion King is notorious for this). So savvy New Yorkers know to get their tickets discounted. While most tourists will likely be familiar with the TKTS Discount kiosk in Times Square, which offers tickets up to 50% off for same-day performances, locals know that you can beat the crowds by heading out of Midtown. The TKTS Discount kiosk in Brooklyn has much shorter lines—sometimes, lines are even non-existent. Best of all, you’ll get to save time and money, since the discounts they offer are exactly the same. Actually, the Brooklyn kiosk is even better, because you can get next-day tickets to matinee performances at a discounted price.

ValeStock / Shutterstock.com
ValeStock / Shutterstock.com

7. Atlantic Avenue Subway Tunnel

Built beneath the streets of Brooklyn all the way back in 1844, when Brooklyn was still a city of its own, the Atlantic Avenue subway tunnel is officially the world’s oldest. It’s half-a-mile long and could accommodate 2 standard-gauge tracks. It was built in 7 months to provide separation for early trains that lacked decent brakes, which were causing accidents on roadways. The abandoned tunnel was rediscovered in 1980 and is now a Historic Landmark, both in New York state and at the federal level. The Brooklyn Historic Railway Association, formed in 1982 to publicize the historic site, continues to maintain the tunnel. Until 2010, they offered public tours of the tunnel; the New York Department of Transit has since canceled tours through 2018. The tunnel is technically closed to the public, although there has been an ongoing struggle to have the tunnel re-opened.

Atlantic Avenue Subway Tunnel

6. Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower

Lots of Manhattan’s famous landmarks are skyscrapers: the Freedom Tower of the World Trade Center, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center all readily spring to mind. Brooklyn’s skyscrapers aren’t nearly as iconic, but that doesn’t mean the views they provide are any less breathtaking. The Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower was once Brooklyn’s only skyscraper. These days, it’s the third-tallest building in Brooklyn (and probably the nicest to look at, although somewhat phallic in nature). The former bank is situated at the convergence of Brooklyn’s most important thoroughfares. Although the building is mixed residential and private offices these days and the public observation decks are abandoned, you can still see the building from miles around. It ranks among the tallest clock towers in the world and is an iconic part of the Brooklyn skyline.

Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com
Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

5. Zenkichi

Brooklyn’s got a reputation for quirky eateries serving up great food; Williamsburg is especially known for its hipster vibe on the food scene. Zenkichi isn’t a hipster establishment by any stretch of the imagination; this unmarked Japanese restaurant indulges diners in a VIP experience. You’ll be greeted by a hostess and encouraged to follow single-file through maze-like walkways to a private dining booth. A service button at the end of the table alerts the wait staff. Reservations are recommended, as is the food—don’t expect any sushi though. Zenkichi specializes in small-plate, Tokyo-style cuisine. The Omakase Flight (chef’s tasting) changes seasonally. Don’t have time for a full dinner? The restaurant’s next-door sister site, the Bar Akariba, offers a partial Zenkichi menu on Fridays and Saturdays. They don’t offer pick-up or delivery, but this restaurant is a good reason to take a jaunt over to Brooklyn anyway.

Photo by: Zenkichi Modern Japanese Brasserie
Photo by: Zenkichi Modern Japanese Brasserie

4. The Red Hook Piers

Once the site of a Dutch shipping center and, in the 1920s, the world’s busiest freight port, the piers in Red Hook are now somewhat difficult to get to. The area has been undergoing revitalization in recent years, turning the industrial wasteland of disused docks into a vibrant art community. There’s good reason for that: the area offers a stunning vantage point of the East River, along with views of the Statue of Liberty, downtown Manhattan and New York Harbor. Visit at sunset for the most stunning views. The streets here are still cobblestone, and many of the dry docks are still in use. IKEA is located nearby and a water-taxi serving shoppers now connects the piers with Manhattan. The area is also historically significant; it was the site of Fort Defiance during the Battle of Brooklyn, and the New York Naval Shipyard.

Red Hook Piers

3. Green-wood Cemetery

Okay, visiting a cemetery is not high on everyone’s priority list. But, much like cemeteries such as Arlington National or the Pere Lachaise in Paris, the immaculate Green-wood Cemetery is culturally significant. The cemetery is a National Historic Landmark and includes the burials of people like Boss Tweed and Winston Churchill’s grandmother, to name but a couple. The cemetery is a veritable who’s-who of 19th-century New York, and also includes the graves of Civil War soldiers. Simply put, Green-wood Cemetery is full of history. It also hosts outdoor events, like readings, shows and concerts year-round. Visiting is free and, if you can get past the idea of strolling amongst a bunch of stiffs, the cemetery provides a calming greenspace escape in a busy concrete jungle. Grab a map and take a turn through the 478 acres of Green-wood.

Green-wood Cemetery Brooklyn

2. City Reliquary

Located at 370 Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg, the City Reliquary doesn’t look like much from the outside. In fact, if it looks like anything, it looks more like a hipster art project than a museum that celebrates the minutiae of the largest city in the U.S. Originally a window display in someone’s apartment, the museum is now housed in a 3-room storefront and exhibits items such as old subway tokens, old-timey seltzer bottles, fragments of old buildings and dirt samples from all 5 boroughs. The museum’s exhibitions focus on local history and neighborhoods, and it now hosts events like block parties and backyard concerts as well. In contrast to the institutions of Manhattan’s “Museum Mile,” the City Reliquary brings something quirky, local and refreshing to the Big Apple’s museum scene.

Photo by: Brooklyn Spaces
Photo by: Brooklyn Spaces

1. Brooklyn Flea Market

The Brooklyn Flea Market is something of an institution. Every Saturday and Sunday from April until the end of November, you can find vendors hawking a variety of art, clothing and food outdoors at either Fort Greene or Williamsburg. The market is year-round though; it moves indoors to Industry City through the end of March. The flea market consistently rates as one of the best in the U.S.; some even think it’s one of the best in the entire world. The New York Times has called it one of New York’s greatest urban experiences. The market has spawned additional Brooklyn-area markets and events, including the Smorgasburg, which is dedicated to food vendors and operates in several locations, and a Record Fair. Even if you don’t find anything to take home, the Flea is a quintessential Brooklyn experience.

littleny / Shutterstock.com
littleny / Shutterstock.com

The Greenwich Village Literary Pubcrawl

Greenwich Village is one of the most unique communities in New York City. Located in Manhattan, it has served as a center for artists, writers, musicians and actors for well over a century. That means Greenwich has been a cornerstone of NYC’s cultural scene for a long time—and that means there are some great stories to be told about some of the greatest storytellers to live there. The established watering holes of the Village have layers upon layers of lore about just about everyone. The Greenwich Village Literary Pubcrawl, the Village’s oldest walking tour, helps unearth those tales.

9. The Tour

The Greenwich Village Literary Pubcrawl was founded in 1998, making it the oldest walking tour in the neighborhood. Originally founded by a small theater company as a way to help finance their productions, the tour today is primarily about illuminating the history of Greenwich Village and the artistic greats that have lived—and drank—in the bounds of the Village. The tour attracts a small number of people, usually literary aficionados like myself. Our group was about five people and our knowledgeable guides led us through three of the taverns, several landmarks, numerous stories and many of the winding Village streets on a sunny Saturday afternoon in September. We met on the corner of Hudson Street and 11th Street, just outside the White Horse Tavern, our first stop.

stockelements / Shutterstock.com
stockelements / Shutterstock.com

8. The White Horse Tavern

Our first stop on the tour was the White Horse Tavern, which is quite possibly the oldest pub still in operation in Greenwich Village. In fact, only one bar in the whole of NYC is older than this establishment. The White Horse has long been a favorite haunt for writerly types, including famed 20th-century poet Dylan Thomas, a Welshman who made many tours of the U.S. The business is still cash-only and the building belies its age, with its tiny bathrooms clearly speaking to a bygone era. We met up at this cozy location, where the servers know the Pubcrawl staff by name and also enjoy listening to them recount the lore surrounding the pub—and even do a couple of dramatic poetry readings.

Photo by: White Horse Tavern via Facebook
Photo by: White Horse Tavern via Facebook

7. The White Horse and Dylan Thomas

Although the White Horse has been around for a long time and has had a reputation for many writers, the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas is perhaps the man most associated with the tavern. That’s because Thomas reportedly drank himself “to death” in the bar. Rumor has it that after 18 whiskeys, Thomas stumbled back to his hotel room and passed out. Accounts vary on whether or not Thomas simply never woke up again or went back to the bar upon rising, but the fact of the matter is that he died soon after his bender, in the nearby St. Vincent’s hospital, allegedly of an “insult to the brain.” The White Horse still pays tribute to Thomas, whose most famous poem is “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Some say Thomas’ ghost still inhabits the tavern.

Photo by: White Horse Tavern via Facebook
Photo by: White Horse Tavern via Facebook

6. Kettle of Fish

We took a bit of a winding path to arrive at our next pub. That was fine, since the path was sprinkled with literary landmarks and tales of the kind of Bohemian debauchery that can only happen in a place like the Village. Arriving at Kettle of Fish, we knew there were some more stories to be told. This bar has its own winding history—one that starts on McDougall Street and hops around to two or three other locations, before finally landing in the former home of another bar, the Lion’s Head. Lion’s Head, owned by a former NYPD officer, became a literary hangout in its own right, even though Kettle of Fish had been doing the same thing years before. When Lion’s Head closed down in the late 1990s, it was only right that another hub for writers took its place on the Greenwich bar scene.

Photo by: The Odyssey Online
Photo by: The Odyssey Online

5. Kettle of Fish and Jack Kerouac

Before moving to its current home, Kettle of Fish was a hangout for literary types; in the 1950s, it was a hub for the Beatniks, including the likes of Allen Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as Kettle of Fish was located in a sort of rough place, one of the tales involves the On the Road author getting himself into a bar fight. Kerouac had played football during his academic career, so he was a fairly imposing fellow, but he picked a fight with two guys who happened to be piano movers. Kerouac was smart enough to bring back up—but unfortunately, he brought a poet as his wing man. Allegedly, the fight ended with the poet, Gregory Corso, yelling, “Oh my God, stop, you’re going to kill him!

Photo by: Pop Spots NYC
Photo by: Pop Spots NYC

4. Chimney’s

The Greenwich Village Literary Pub Crawl originally had more stops, but since the tour was founded in 1998, many establishments have folded. One of the bars that hasn’t gone under is Chumley’s, although the bar has been closed for renovation since a 2007 restoration accident caused the chimney to fall in. We spent a good while standing outside of Chumley’s nonetheless—and for good reason. The bar has a storied history: it opened in 1922, during the Prohibition era, and quickly became a gathering place. The bar was a hub for both the political and artistic communities; lawyers and authors would rub elbows here, and, as the bar was operated by a socialist activist, the politically minded were also welcome. Chumley’s remained relevant to the literary scene in Greenwich Village into the mid-20th century and beyond.

Photo by: Matthew McDermott via New York Post
Photo by: Matthew McDermott via New York Post

3. Chumley’s and NYC Slang

Given that Chumley’s has such a long history, you can bet that there are some great stories associated with this place. Although it remains to be seen what the bar looks like when it re-opens after renovation, one of the defining features before closure was that the jackets of books were pinned to the walls—books that local authors had allegedly worked on at the bar. Writers who are known to have frequented Chumley’s include William Faulkner, Edna St. Vincent Millay, e.e. Cummings, Eugene O’Neill and John Steinbeck. Chumley’s is mentioned in an episode of Mad Men and an episode of Sherlock. Not only that, but Chumley’s added to NYC slang: during Prohibition, the cops would give advance notice about raids and have patrons “86 it”—use the front door, rather than the building’s underground tunnels.

Photo by: Thomas Hinton via New York Post
Photo by: Thomas Hinton via New York Post

2. Marie’s Crisis

Marie’s Crisis isn’t much to look at, but as the locals know, this is one of the best places to be. A bar has stood in this same spot for a long time; the first one was opened by a woman named Marie Dumont, shortly after the Revolution. Later on, the property and the watering hole changed hands, eventually becoming Marie’s Crisis today. The bar is well-known today for its pianist, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the American Songbook. This makes it a popular hangout for members of Broadway choruses, who often head down to the bar to partake of a drink and practice the solos they dream of someday singing on the Broadway stage. Marie’s Crisis also has a long literary history. One writer in particular, however, is known to have both drank and done some very important writing in the very place the bar stands.

Photo by: Glenn Wood via Time Out
Photo by: Glenn Wood via Time Out

1.  Marie’s Crisis and Thomas Paine

Marie’s Crisis is named for Marie Dumont, who opened the first bar on the property, and for the first pamphlet that Thomas Paine wrote in the series known as the “Crisis Papers.” Paine’s Common Sense had been very popular in colonial America. But now, in the midst of the revolutionary war, the troops were demoralized by cold winter weather, inadequate clothing and a lack of food and supplies. George Washington knew he needed to inspire them—so he asked Paine to pen a little something. Paine began working on a series of 16 pamphlets, titled The American Crisis, which were published between 1777 and 1783. The first volume, penned in what is now Marie’s Crisis, begins with the famous words “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

Photo by: William C Lopez via New York Post
Photo by: William C Lopez via New York Post