News & Politics

What’s New in New York

Five fun places to go in the city, including stylish museums and an event making a big splash.

With still-sunny days and soft breezes—and fewer tourists—fall is the best time to visit the Big Apple. Here are suggestions on what’s new to do in the city.

The Art of Crafts

On September 27, the Museum of Arts & Design opens its spectacular new building on Columbus Circle, more than tripling its original space. Now covering an entire city block, MAD will continue to exhibit artworks created from clay, glass, fiber, metal, and wood, ranging from jewelry to furniture.

An inaugural exhibit, “Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary,” will show works by 46 artists who turn everyday objects into art—stitched-together latex gloves, for example, become an evening gown.

If you’re hungry afterward, walk to the Time Warner Center, where you’ll find everything from high-end dining at Masa and Per Se to baked goods at Bouchon Bakery. At Bouchon, you can buy a sandwich and a tempting cookie or handcrafted chocolate for a picnic in Central Park across the street. Or sit in the cafe, where quiche, croissants, soups, salads, and more are on the menu.

Museum of Arts & Design, 2 Columbus Circle; 212-299-7777; Admission is $15, students and seniors $12.

An Event Wet and Wild

Forget “The Gates” of Central Park—this year’s big art event is the Waterfalls.

The New York City Waterfalls, a $15-million temporary art installation conceived by conceptual artist Olafur Eliasson, opened June 26 and stays on view through October 13. Four monumental fountains in Manhattan’s East River send cascades down from heights up to 120 feet. The locations are under the Brooklyn Bridge, on the north shore of Governors Island, on Pier 35 in Lower Manhattan, and between Brooklyn’s Piers 4 and 5.

To view this watery artscape, you can choose from several vantage points. Free ferries to Staten Island or Governors Island offer up-front views. Circle Line Downtown and New York Water Taxi also provide tours; adult prices range from $5 to $25 depending on the tour’s length.

On land, you can grab a bite at one of the eateries in the South Street Seaport, then stroll along the waterfront to view the falls. Or take a quick hop on the 2, 3, A, or C train to the first subway stop in Brooklyn and walk a few blocks to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, an urban oasis with great views of the Waterfalls and the Manhattan skyline.

New York City Waterfalls,

New and Cutting-Edge

Rising above its Lower East Side surroundings, the New Museum of Contemporary Art—New York’s only museum devoted exclusively to avant-garde, 21st-century art—opened in its first permanent home in December.

Transforming a once-sketchy area between SoHo and the East Village, the building’s seven stories resemble a gigantic, skewed stack of blocks, gleaming with an aluminum-mesh façade.

Three main galleries feature soaring ceilings and stark white walls, dramatically highlighting paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Changing exhibitions include artists from around the world. Through October 12, four winners of the 2008 Altoids Award are featured, their media ranging from performance art to video to drawing. “After Nature,” through September 21, brings together international artists, many seen for the first time in a New York museum.

After touring the galleries, you might visit the museum’s cafe, New Food, for soups, salads, and sandwiches. Or walk one block north to the Whole Foods Market at 95 East Houston Street, where salad bars and cafe seating await.

New Museum of Contemporary Art, 235 Bowery (between Stanton and Rivington sts.); 212- 219-1222; Admission is $12 for adults, free for ages 18 and under.

History of the Horse

Along with its famous dinosaur skeletons and dioramas, the American Museum of Natural History features “The Horse” through January 5. The exhibit examines the enduring bonds between horses and humans through interactive exhibits—such as a wall that enables you to measure your height in “hands”—and cultural artifacts from around the world, including the exquisite armor of a warhorse. Learn how horses evolved millions of years ago and how they influenced trade, transportation, warfare, sports, and more.

Take advantage of the museum’s several options for dining, or walk a block on Columbus Avenue to Blossom (466 Columbus Ave. at W. 82nd St.) for gourmet vegan cuisine including sweet-potato gnocchi and mushroom-pesto pasta. Or sit at the counter and order an organic wine or fruit-filled smoothie.

American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th St.; 212-769-5100; Tickets for “The Horse” are $23 for adults, $13.50 for ages 2 through 12. Prices include general admission to the museum.

Dracula Fans, Take Note

Before Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi performed his iconic role of Count Dracula, he—like millions of other immigrants—passed through Ellis Island into a new life in the United States. Learn about the actor’s immigration experience in a new half-hour, family-friendly play, Taking a Chance on America: Bela Lugosi’s Ellis Island Story, running seven times daily through October 19. The theater has limited seating, so buy tickets ($6) as soon as you get to Ellis Island, then stroll through the exhibits or grab a bite at the Café Food Court until the show starts.

To get to Ellis Island, take Statue Cruises (877-523-9849; at Battery Park in lower Manhattan. Round-trip tickets—12 for adults, $5 for children ages 4 through 12—include admission to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Museum. It’s best to take a ferry at least 90 minutes before the play begins.

Taking a Chance on America: Bela Lugosi’s Ellis Island Story at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, 212-561-4500;; click on “Ellis Living Theater.”

This article first appeared in the September 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles like it, click here.  

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