Best Gallery/Gallery Walks
HAUSER & WIRTH NEW YORK
32 East 69th Street
Housed in an early 1900s five-story townhouse in the heart of historic Lenox Hill on the Upper East Side, Hauser & Wirth’s first US gallery offers “museum-caliber exhibitions” to visitors. Founded as a family business in 1992 in Zurich and expanded to more than a dozen locations globally, this New York City world-class contemporary art space opened in 2009, with a Chelsea location following several years later. Current exhibition is “Lucio Fontana Sculpture” on view through February. Exhibitions are free with no advance booking required.
BARD GRADUATE CENTER GALLERY
18 West 86th Street
At the Bard Graduate Center near Central Park on the Upper West Side, they believe in learning from objects – taking a deep dive into the study of decorative arts and design history to better understand humanity. In the gallery’s current exhibition, “Threads of Power: Lace from Textilmuseum St. Gallen” until January 1, the quest to unravel the complex past of lace in fashion and power circles is explored. The gallery is open Wednesday to Sundays and advanced tickets are required.
Art on the Ave NYC (multiple locations)
Born out of the pandemic, Art on the Ave NYC utilizes both empty storefronts and windows of occupied businesses to display art by local artists, creating engaging gallery walks all across the city. Started by Manhattan school teachers who, in the early days of the pandemic, wanted to inspire hope and creative activity in neighborhoods, the organization now includes Creative Spaces such as the studios at the Fulton Center and the Oculus, both downtown Manhattan. Their current gallery walk, Beyond the Bricks, is on display throughout the Upper East Side until mid-January.
Best Performance Space / Live Music Spots
350 East 85th Street
A longtime fixture in Yorkville on the Upper East Side, Ryan’s Daughter is the neighborhood pub where (almost) “everybody knows your name.” Opened in 1979 in a spot that housed a bar since the 1930s, the atmosphere is welcoming, even familiar, on first visit. There’s a fully stocked bar, walls lined with memorabilia of times past, a juke box and big screen televisions. Upstairs is a second bar available for private events, and where jazz nights and play readings happen regularly. Open nightly till 4 a.m., there is sure to be a time for you to drop in for a pint (or two)!
SMOKE JAZZ CLUB
Smoke reopened this past summer after a long hiatus during the pandemic, and its return is more than welcome. The owners have renovated and expanded the club with a new lounge area, and are back to hosting world-renowned jazz musicians on a regular basis. In addition to the bar, Smoke serves food as part of a “jazz supper,” with several vegetarian and vegan options on the menu.
163 WEST 10th St.
This tiny, elegant lounge is one of the best spots for live jazz in Manhattan. In many ways, Mezzrow is the ideal place to hear jazz —an intimate and romantic setting with consistently terrific musicians, ideally with a Manhattan or old-fashioned in your hand. It’s smaller and often less crowded than its sister venue Smalls. There are often regulars in the crowd, but everyone is welcome.
Best Non-Touristy Museum
1048 Fifth Ave
Perhaps best known for its collection of works by the artist Gustav Klimt, the Neue Galerie is home to a stunning collection of German and Austrian art from the early twentieth century. Housed in a Beaux-Arts building on Fifth Avenue and established in 2001, it also contains a bookstore and design shop. A current exhibition, containing 500 pieces of art from the collection of one of the museum’s co-founders and president, is on display until February.
MUSEUM OF ARTS AND DESIGN
2 Columbus Circle
The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) at Columbus Circle is more than a museum to its neighbors on the Upper West Side and Midtown North. It offers dining, sales of distinctive jewelry and other pieces crafted by the best contemporary artists around, along with social events including creative, fun-filled children’s birthday parties, and movie nights, all for a true community feel in the heart of Manhattan. Founded in 1956, MAD promotes highly skilled artists, designers and artisans through their exhibitions and regular workshops. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and advanced tickets are encouraged.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN (SMITHSONIAN)
One Bowling Green
At the southern tip of Manhattan next to Battery Park, the New York branch of the Washington, D.C.-based Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian occupies several floors of the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House building. Opened in 1994, the museum “features the lifeways, history, and art of Indigenous peoples,” with the goal of fostering a richer shared experience and understanding of Native peoples. Current exhibitions, such as “Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field,” features work by contemporary Native artists exploring the complex history and current experiences of Native Americans. Open daily, the museum is free to visit, and tickets are not required.
THE CORNER BOOKSTORE
1313 Madison Ave. at 93rd Street
The aptly named Corner Bookstore at the corner of Madison and 93rd in the Carnegie Hill section of the Upper East Side offers what a lot of big city residents crave: a cozy, small-town-vibe neighborhood space with quality products and friendly, knowledgeable staff. Opened in 1978, the bookstore offers carefully selected current fiction and nonfiction titles, a collection of children’s books, customized book gift baskets, and regular author readings and signings primarily by first-time local writers.
THE STRAND AT COLUMBUS AVENUE
450 Columbus Avenue
Booksellers since 1927, the Strand Bookstore has a vast collection of books – 18 miles of them, they say - numbering over 2.5 million copies of used, new, and rare reads. Nancy Bass Wyden, third generation owner of the famous red-awning location at Broadway and East 12th Street, has extended at least a few miles of that collection to their new outpost on Columbus Avenue and 82nd Street on the Upper West Side. Open since July 2020, this Strand extension also sells a wide array of bookish gifts, with the basement dedicated to selections for children.
MCNALLY JACKSON BOOKS PRINCE STREET
52 Prince Street
The demand for independent neighborhood bookstores keeps growing, and McNally Jackson Books, now with four New York City locations – and a fifth planned for Midtown – is rushing to keep up. Opened in 2004 by Sarah McNally, the first location on Prince Street in Nolita quickly became a popular go-to spot in lower Manhattan for the latest hardcover fiction, author discussions and readings. And for those who want to take a piece of the store home – or give a McNally gift – there is a selection of totes and other merch readily available to choose from.