Best Non-Touristy Museum
THE JEWISH MUSEUM
1109 Fifth Ave.
Visitors may follow their guidebooks to the Met and Guggenheim in droves, but The Jewish Museum is a highlight among the Museum Mile offerings. Find first-of-its kind exhibitions honoring Jewish art and culture, including the current spotlight on the career of the influential modern art dealer Edith Halpert. Don’t miss the outpost of Russ & Daughters in the basement. The museum is free on Saturdays, so expect it to be busier then.
NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY
170 Central Park West
New York City’s oldest museum, established in 1804, explores the country’s history, with a special spotlight on the Big Apple. Highlights include the largest holding of John James Audubon-related materials anywhere, an impressive Tiffany lamp collection, a hands-on children’s museum and the nascent Center for Women’s History. A robust events calendar brings in the foremost scholars, authors, historians and more.
RUBIN MUSEUM OF ART
150 West 17th St.
Escape the hustle and bustle at this Chelsea museum, dedicated to Himalayan cultures and art. Zen out on your own in the Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room, an installation inspired by a household shrine, or attend one of the regular mindfulness sessions held in the space. The museum also offers a variety of off-hour ways to connect with fellow New Yorkers, from Wednesday happy hours to music and free tours on Friday evenings.
909 Madison Ave.
This contemporary gallery has offices in London, Hong Kong and Zurich, but it all started on the Upper East Side. The namesakes are Dominique Lévy and Brett Gorvy, who partnered together in 2017. Their list of artists includes such heavyweights as Frank Stella, Joel Shapiro, Alexander Calder and Willem de Kooning. Currently find exhibitions spotlighting the works of German artist Günther Uecker and South Korean painter Chung Sang-Hwa.
BARD GRADUATE CENTER GALLERY
18 West 86th St.
Fans of the Met’s Costume Institute will be right at home here. Material items are the study of the Bard Graduate Center, and its Upper West Side gallery takes deep dives into subjects in design history and the decorative arts. Currently on view, “French Fashion, Women, and the First World War” features pieces by Coco Chanel and Jeanne Lanvin, alongside posters, fashion magazines and more.
DAVID ZWIRNER GALLERY
Every so often, a gallery exhibition becomes an event, drawing thousands of people outside the usual art circles. David Zwirner has a knack for creating the most anticipated shows each season. Two years ago, the gallery drew more than 75,000 people to a multi-venue exhibition featuring the works of Yayoi Kusama. Now, the “Infinity Room” artist is back, with new work currently on view at Zwirner’s West 20th Street gallery that’s expected to draw record-breaking numbers once again.
Best Performance Space
92ND STREET Y
1395 Lexington Ave.
The 92Y is an iconic Upper East Side venue, catering to all categories of cultural relevance. On any given day, you can attend lectures from leading experts in their field, TV screenings with cast Q&As, music and dance performances and author readings. That’s not even mentioning its continuing education, fitness and family programming.
This legendary Upper West Side venue plays host to live music, stand-up comedy, award shows and more. Established acts like to settle in for multiple nights; in late November, Bob Dylan began a 10-night run himself, with upcoming multi-night engagements from Gov’t Mule and Widespread Panic on the calendar. And, of course, it’s where you can find Jerry Seinfeld every month at his long-running residency, extended through March 2020.
THE GREENE SPACE
44 Charlton St.
Experience New York Public Radio IRL at its intimate South Village venue, now in its 10th year. Attend live broadcasts of WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show,” podcast tapings, classical concerts, variety shows, a monthly book club series and other events that will get the topical conversation flowing.
KITCHEN ARTS & LETTERS
1435 Lexington Ave.
Since 1983, this Upper East Side bookstore has been a destination for professional chefs, beginner home cooks and everyone in between for its giant supply. The store stocks the cookbook du jour, along with thousands of other titles, recipe books and otherwise. If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, the staff will try to track down out-of-print books for you. Need an apron for all that cooking and baking? They’ve got those, too.
BANK STREET BOOKSTORE
With Bank Street College of Education behind this Upper West Side bookstore, you can bet the selection is top-notch. The shop has long been a destination for teachers, parents and gift-seekers (free gift wrapping!) alike. Don’t be shy; take advantage of the staff’s knowledge and passion about children’s books and let them point you in the best direction. The free story times are also a hit among the toddler set.
MCNALLY JACKSON BOOKS
52 Prince St.
The independent bookstore added a third NYC location this year, opening in the Seaport District (following an expansion to Williamsburg last year). But the NoLita flagship brings on the charm, from the cafe (where books are whimsically suspended from the ceiling) to the curated book displays to the Instagram-primed pink bathroom with Jorge Luis Borges quotes on the mirrors.
Best Movie Theater
CITY CINEMAS 1, 2 & 3
1001 Third Ave.
Reclining seats and a Coca-Cola Freestyle fountain are among the upgrades at this nearly 60-year-old Upper East Side theater. For those looking to save some money, the theater cuts its $19 general admission to just $9 for showtimes after 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday. Its three theaters lean more toward playing indie fair (think Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite”).
AMC 84th Street 6
Get all the modern movie-going perks at this Upper West Side theater. Reserved seating? Check. Comfy reclining seats? Check. Mobile concessions ordering? Check. The latest blockbusters in high-tech 3D? You bet. If you’re a frequent movie goer (like three-times-a-week frequent), join the chain’s AMC Stubs membership program and enjoy discounts, perks and more.
ANGELIKA NEW YORK
18 West Houston St.
The arthouse destination has been going 30 years strong in NoHo. Foreign and indie films are its bread and butter. Arrive early for a pastry and cappuccino in the cafe before heading downstairs to one of the intimate theaters. The occasional rumble of the subway makes this one of the more unique, quintessential New York movie-going experiences.
Best Subway Art
'SUBWAY PORTRAITS,' CHUCK CLOSE
Second Avenue and East 86th Street
With the debut of the splashy Second Avenue subway, commuters got new art by four high-profile contemporary artists. Among them Chuck Close, who brought his signature large-scale photorealist portraits to the 86th Street Q station. Lou Reed, Philip Glass, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker and the acclaimed artist himself are among the dozen mosaic or ceramic portraits, most of which are nearly nine-feet high. They’ll make even the busiest New Yorker stop in their tracks.
‘SKY,’ YOKO ONO
72nd Street and Central Park West
At the B/C station, the legendary New York artist aims to “bring the sky underground” through six large mosaics. The pieces located throughout the recently renovated station each depict a vivid blue sky with white, puffy clouds. Accompanying the serene works are phrases and words such as “remember love,” “dream” and “imagine peace.” Even on the dreariest commute, the subway has some tranquility.
‘STATIONARY FIGURES,’ WILLIAM WEGMAN
23rd Street and Sixth Avenue
Among the more irreverent subway art offerings can be found at the 23rd Street F/M, part of the station’s recent modernizing renovations. Fans of Wegman will recognize the nearly dozen glass mosaic portraits as his work; Weimaraners are his famed photography subjects. In some of the intricate, vibrant portraits, the expressive dogs could pass as regular commuters, sporting raincoats and flannels.