News & Politics

Insider’s New York

26 Really Good Things to See and Do in the Big Apple

Tommy Dorsey sang about New York in the summertime, but New York in the spring–when Central Park begins to flower–is just as delightful.

Here are some ideas that go beyond the usual guidebook suspects–from shopping secrets to tucked-away foodie favorites.

Sweet Dreams and Good Mornings

1.Book a room at the Chambers Hotel (15 W. 56th St., Midtown; 212-974-5656;, which houses Town, one of the city's best–and best-looking–restaurants. Amenities include in-room beauty treatments by Exhale salon, in-room yoga classes, and, if it gets to be too much, an on-call therapist. Rooms from $250.

2. If you're looking for a cheaper sleep spot, the B&B-style Abingdon Guest House (13 Eighth Ave.; 212-243-5384; in the West Village is a good bet. Rates start at $137.

3. Look for hotel specials on the Web. Ian Schrager's hip hotels ( usually offer discounted packages online. For other deals, check Site59 ( and TravelZoo (

4. No matter where you stay, consider getting up early and heading to Doughnut Plant (379 Grand St., Lower East Side; 212-505-3700; for big, fluffy yeast rounds glazed with icings like Valrhona chocolate, malted milk, and rosewater. Enjoy them on the benches inside or on a walk to nearby SoHo. Open from 7 AM until the doughnuts sell out–usually 5 to 7 PM. Closed Mondays.

5. Getting yelled at by a waiter at Barney Greengrass (541 Amsterdam Ave., Upper West Side; 212-724-4707) for being too slow is worth it after you're served the best scrambled eggs with Nova lox ($13) of your life. Open 8 AM to 6 PM. Closed Mondays.

Spending Sprees

6. Over the past few years Elizabeth Street in NoLIta–short for North Little Italy–has become lined with ultra-hip, artsy shops like Mayle women's clothing (242 Elizabeth St.; 212-625-0406), Me & Ro jewelry (241 Elizabeth St.;, and shoe-store-of-the-moment Hollywould (198 Elizabeth St.; 212-343-8344;

7. Kirna Zabête (96 Greene St., SoHo; 212-941-9656; is a colorful one-stop boutique for downtown chic, including women's clothes, jewelry, and accessories by designers like Alice Roi, Paul Smith, and Balenciaga.

8. You can get Kiehl's products in Washington, but the experience of walking through this 153-year-old pharmacy (109 Third Ave., East Village; 212-677-3171; is special. It's very generous with samples.

9. Models and fashion editors drop their little-worn bags, shoes, and clothes by such designers as Prada and Chanel at resale shops including Ina (208 E. 73rd St., Upper East Side, 212-249-0014; and 101 Thompson St., SoHo; 212-941-4757), Ina Men (262 Mott St., NoHo; 212-334-2210), and Tokyo Joe (334 E. 11th St., East Village; 212-473-0724). You'll find the high-style goods for a fraction of their original cost. The stores carry good designer vintage, too. The Ina stores are more upscale–and more expensive.

Afternoon Diversions

10. Visit the penguins at the Central Park Zoo (64th St. and Fifth Ave.; Admission: $6 for adults, $1 ages 3 to 12, under 3 free. Open 10 to 5 weekdays, 10 to 5:30 weekends.

11. Sign up for a Big Onion walking tour (212-439-1090;, led by graduate students at local universities. Walks include "The 'Official' Gangs of New York" and "The Multi-Ethnic Eating Tour: From Naples to Bialystock to Beijing." Price: $12 for adults, $10 seniors and students.

12. and 13. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, all on the Upper East Side, are among the city's best-known museums. But try to stop by two of the area's smaller galleries: the Frick Collection (1 E. 70th St., Upper East Side; 212-288-0700; and the Neue Galerie (1048 Fifth Ave., Upper East Side; 212-628-6200; The Frick houses a gorgeous collection that includes works by Corot and El Greco, amassed by Henry Clay Frick in the mansion he built. The Neue shows edgy works by German and Austrian artists.

14. Hang with J. Lo and the Rock at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum (234 W. 42nd St., Midtown; 800-246-8872; in Times Square. Even jaded New Yorkers think Tussaud's is cool. Admission: $25 for adults, $19 ages 4 to 12, under 4 free.

15, 16, and 17. How creative can you get with rice pudding, grilled cheeses, and peanut-butter sandwiches? Very. Try these for an afternoon snack:

Rice to Riches (37 Spring St., SoHo; 212-274-0008;, an all-rice-pudding joint, dishes up 21 flavors, from pumpkin pie to chocolate hazelnut to raspberry ($5).

Try Grilled Cheese NYC (168 Ludlow St., Lower East Side; 212-982-6600; for variations like jack cheese with jalapeño relish ($6), mozzarella with spinach and pesto ($5), and classic cheddar and tomato ($4).

Peanut Butter & Co. (240 Sullivan St., Greenwich Village; 212-677-3995; has peanut-butter sandwiches with adult appeal. Try the Heat is On–spicy peanut butter, chicken, and pineapple jelly ($6.50)–or the white-chocolate peanut-butter sandwich with orange marmalade ($6). Carrot sticks and potato chips come free on the side. And yes, they'll cut the crusts off if you ask.

18. Jump on the D, B, or 4 train–check subway schedules to make sure the train is running–uptown to see Derek Jeter and A-Rod play at Yankee Stadium (161st St. and River Ave., Bronx;, where the hot dogs and beer are plentiful, the fans are loud, and the diamond-sweepers do the YMCA. Check the Yankees Web site for a game schedule and tickets.

Night Moves

19. Around twilight, zip up to the Pen-Top Bar on the roof of the Peninsula Hotel (700 Fifth Ave., Midtown; 212-956-2888; for a glass of Champagne–and panoramic city views.

20. Hermia, is that you?! The long-running Donkey Show (Club El Flamingo, 547 W. 21st St., Chelsea; 212-307-4100; is a disco-fueled, drag performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Tickets are $55 to $95.

21. Catch a flick at either the Paris theater (4 W. 58th St., Midtown; 212-688-3800) or the Ziegfeld (141 W. 54th St., Midtown; 212-765-7600). The Paris is art-deco cool, the Ziegfeld gold-leaf elegant, but both have huge screens and are straight out of another era.

22. You'll find lots of laughs at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre (307 W. 26th St., Chelsea; 212-366-9176; The comedy club's best event may be Asssscat 3000, its Sunday-night improv show, which features the acclaimed UCB founders plus guest stars, many off the Saturday Night Live stage. Shows at 7:30 and 9:30 PM. The 7:30 show is $7 and requires reservations. The 9:30 show is free, but arrive early to get a seat.

23. Sidecars, green-apple martinis, and other haute cocktails rule at the darkly lit Temple Bar (332 Lafayette St., NoHo; 212-925-4242). It's so swank you expect the ghost of Frank Sinatra to float by.

Winding Down

24. Is that a woman kneeling on your back? Yes, if you're at massage parlor Graceful Services (1097 Second Ave., Midtown East; 212-593-9904). Don't be put off by the bare-bones surroundings–the Qi Gong massages are the gold standard. Price: $60 for 60 minutes.

25. The streets of New York–especially the Upper East and West sides–are filled with fast, cheap nail salons where you can get a manicure and pedicure together for less than $40. But if you're willing to spend more time and money, book an appointment at Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot Spa (56 E. Fourth St., East Village, 212-473-2047; and 23 Jones St., West Village, 212-229-1070). Owned by Jin Soon Choi, one of the country's best manicurists, the Zenlike spa offers treatments such as the soothing Breath of Milk and Honey pedicure ($50).

26. Nobody goes to New York to watch TV, but the Museum of Television & Radio (25 W. 52nd St., Midtown; 212-621-6600; is worth a visit. The walls are lined with Al Hirschfeld's drawings of Broadway babes and Hollywood stars. The museum has more than 100,000 TV programs in a searchable database; you can watch any of them in a private booth. Settling in with your favorite episode of Seinfeld might be the perfect way to unwind after a day of walking. Admission: $10 for adults, $8 students and seniors, $5 under age 14.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.