“New York City is the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps, Empire City, Fun City, Gotham and the City of Dreams, all rolled into one,” enthuses Evelyn Kanter, veteran journalist and author of 100 Things to Do in New York City Before You Die, 2nd edition (Reedy Press). This native New Yorker, who has traveled to more than 100 countries, loves to share the wonders of her hometown—its “vitality, history and ability to set trends that are copied around the world…and oh so many of the world’s first this and world’s only that,” she says.
The new edition, a handy paperback to tuck into an on-the-go pocket or purse, is chock full of descriptive recommendations for eye-opening, uplifting experiences—classy classics, quirky finds, hidden treasures, memory-making must-dos. Divided into chapters about food and drink, music and entertainment, sports and recreation, culture and history, and shopping and fashion, the guidebook also suggests itineraries per your specific interests, as well as top activities organized by season. Here, five of my favorites.
Kanter Recommends: Listen to the Piano Men at Bemelmans Bar
Why I Adore: In The Carlyle, a Rosewood hotel, on Manhattan’s chic Upper East Side, swoon over the swanky cocktails and super-talented entertainers who sing to a well-played Steinway grand piano. Its lovely wall murals were painted by artist Ludwig Bemelmans (creator of the beloved Madeline children’s books). Megawatt celebrities—such as Paul McCartney, Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Sofia Coppola, Naomi Campbell—slip into this legendary nightspot to enjoy its sophisticated vibe. Cheers!
Kanter Recommends: Eat Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Why I Adore: At the jewelry company’s glamorous flagship store on Fifth Avenue, Audrey Hepburn—in the 1961 romantic-comedy film—sveltely wears a black, Givenchy evening-dress and nibbles a pastry during her early dawn stroll, while stopping to gaze dreamily into Tiffany’s gem-filled windows. Now you can eat inside the store at its pretty robin’s-egg-hued The Blue Box Cafe. Savor a prix-fixe American breakfast and let your movie fantasies unfurl.
Kanter Recommends: Get Lost in the Stacks at Strand Bookstore
Why I Adore: A book-lovers’ mecca tucked in the East Village since 1927, this gargantuan ode to literary allure stimulates minds and hearts, now harboring more than 18 miles of books: new, used, rare, collectibles and out-of-print. Family-owned, The Strand stocks 2.5 million tomes on every subject and in scores of languages. Best zest: Its employees, who are not only book-knowledgeable but also passionate about the written word. Strand, which very much considers itself a community bookstore, does cartwheels for its customers. In-store events showcase fascinating authors and provocative personalities—from James Franco to Patti Smith. Hundreds of gifts and goods—Shakespeare mugs, the parent-pleasing Strand baby onesie, totes with quotes, note-worthy kitchenware, chocolates—round out its varied offerings.
Kanter Recommends: Gird Your Loins at The Cloisters
Why I Adore: In the northernmost neighborhood of Manhattan, Washington Heights’ Fort Tryon Park is the leafy serene scene in which The Cloisters, part of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, unveils its inimitable splendor. In the 1930s, John D. Rockefeller, an American oil industry tycoon, industrialist and philanthropist, built this exquisite structure—an impressive assemblage puzzled together from shipped-across-the-Atlantic parts of medieval French and Spanish monasteries, abbeys and chapels—to house his collection of Roman and medieval art, sculpture and decorative arts. The bounty and beauty of its collections today, such as the seven famous late-medieval-early-Renaissance Unicorn Tapestries, are reason enough to visit. Discover even more tranquility amid its gardens and courtyards abloom with herbs and plants that were popular during the Middle Ages. Concerts add to The Cloisters welcome spell.
Kanter Recommends: Pass the Pickles at Katz’s Delicatessen
Why I Adore: Opened in 1888, this Lower East Side kosher-style eatery at first fed neighborhood Jewish immigrants. During World War II, Katz’s made a name for itself with the slogan: “Send A Salami To Your Boy In The Army.” And, yes, it is here that Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal sat in a booth during the orgasmic and hilarious scene of the 1989 film, When Harry Met Sally. Its corned beef and pastrami—cured up to 30 indulgent days using a method that ideally flavors meat without injecting chemicals, water or other additives to speed the process—has often been called the finest in the world. Now a global delivery business can ship its meats and other prime products to your front door. Stock up on the mustard!