Grand Central Terminal
There is no better place to start than Grand Central Terminal. The 102-year-old station is both functional and majestic, resembling a movie set, which it has been for (to name a few) Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Coppola’s Cotton Club. Commuting from Connecticut or Westchester County can be an unwanted adventure, but the marble staircases, brass fixtures, and long passageways ease it some. The Terminal has plenty of retail including a large-scale Hudson News – one of the few magazine stores left in the city. The second level Dining Court has a wide selection to choose from, most famously The Oyster Bar & Restaurant that opened the same year as Grand Central. Tours are offered or you can grab a map, take a long look from the escalator or stairs and imagine a glamourous cross-country journey with a steam trunk that would never get past the TSA.
The Morgan Library and Museum
Another stately building is approximately ten minutes from Grand Central. The Morgan Library & Museum is where financier J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) amassed a jaw-dropping private library, designed by the famous architectural firm McKim, Mead & White. Visitors can walk through Morgan’s original study and library where Renaissance art and early 20th century pseudo-Renaissance furnishings decorate the red velvet West Room study. Currently in the display cases are one of three Guttenberg Bibles (The Morgan has more copies of it than any other museum or library), a first edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the piano score of Stravinsky’s Firebird. Over the course of his career, the artist Matisse collaborated on over 50 book projects. The books, hand-made mock-ups, sketches, and abandoned ideas provide further appreciation of the Fauvist virtuoso’s technical abilities at the library. A list of public programs for children and adults can be found here. The Morgan Café also has great coffee and a friendly staff.
Accessibility & Audience:Family Friendly
Services & Activities:Gift Shop, Independent
Atmosphere:Indoors, Instagrammable, Historical Landmark
The Tenement Museum
Blocks and worlds away from Mr. Morgan’s library is The Tenement Museum. 97 Orchard Street is a testament to the 7,000 immigrants who lived there from the Civil War through the Great Depression. Considered a risky undertaking when opening in 1988, the museum is a model of presenting and preserving personal histories. There are many types of tours to choose from: child- and adult- oriented, the restored apartments, the street level storefront, living historians depicting residents, neighborhood tours and food samplings. The 90-minute ‘Shop Life’ tour provides a detailed look at the merchants who occupied 97 Orchard Street. The first part of the tour tells the story of saloonkeepers John and Caroline Schneider, who worked there for 20 years (1860s-1880s). For the second part of the tour, visitors choose an object (e.g., apron, paper) from subsequent businesses, a kosher butcher shop, an auctioneer house, and lingerie store. They then place them on a table where a ‘Play Station’ interactive display opens to first-person audio accounts and photographs.
The Tenement Museum, 103 Orchard Street, New York, NY, USA, + 1 (212) 982-8420
Whitney Museum of American Art and the Highline
The physical joining of the Whitney Museum of American Art and The Highline is a perfect fit, and ending, for the day. The 85-year-old Whitney moved from the East Side to the Meatpacking District in May 2015. The Whitney’s new home rises out of the landscape, providing a window for looking at both the Hudson River and the institution. Now the works of art and art lovers have more breathing space, especially the Frank Stella retrospective. The move also allows the Whitney’s permanent collection to be seen. Alexander Calder’s adorable mechanical Circus is set up to be studied from all angles while on the adjacent wall a film of the artist setting it in motion (he brought it to parties) runs on a continuous video loop. Early evening on the Highline is an ideal way to end the day as the landscaping includes plants, artwork, great views of the Hudson and train tracks.
Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort St, New York, NY, USA, + 1 (212) 570-3600
By Patricia Contino
Patricia Contino received her MFA from The New School writing program. She uses vacation time either at performances in other cities, The University of Iowa Writing Festival, or very long nights at the Metropolitan Opera. The lifelong New Jersey resident and fangirl is the administrator for Columbia University’s Masters of Bioethics Program.