Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (70 Lincoln Center Plaza; 212-875-5000; www.lincolncenter.org) is America's first and largest performing arts complex. Located within are a number of acclaimed concert halls where visitors can find several tours and special programs. Take a guided tour or arrange a private meet-the-artist performance and converse with the dancers, singers and musicians.
The Metropolitan Opera House, located at the center of the Lincoln Center Plaza behind the fountain at Columbus Avenue (212-362-6000; www.metopera.org), presents the tradition of grand opera featuring today's foremost singers in magnificent productions with the Met's internationally renowned orchestra and chorus. A Lincoln Center institution since 1883, names such as Toscanini and Mahler in the early 20th century through Bodanzky, Walter and Reiner have all had a hand in the musical legend of the Met. In modern times, the Met stages more than 200 performances of opera each season with more than 800,000 people attending the performances.
Recognized as one of the foremost dance companies in the world, the New York City Ballet (212-870-5570; www.nycballet.com) dates back to the 1930s and is uniquely known for training its own artists and creating its own works. The New York City Ballet is also renowned overseas, having made a number of appearances in the capitals of Europe, Australia, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, and the Soviet Union.
Founded in 1842, the New York Philharmonic (Avery Fisher Hall, 10 Lincoln Center Plaza; 212-875-5900; www.newyorkphilharmonic.org) is recognized among the premier orchestras in America as well as one of New York's finest cultural treasures. The 106 virtuosos of the Philharmonic play close to 170 concerts for audiences totaling almost one million people a year. Renowned for its performance of the classical symphonic repertoire, the orchestra is reputed to present the finest guest conductors and artists in the world. Names like Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Mahler, Toscanini, and Stravinsky are among the roster of composers and conductors who have led the Philharmonic since its inception in 1842.
Back in the late 1920s, this former educational institute received an initial gift of eight prints and one drawing. Since that time the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53 St.; 212-708-9400; www.moma.org) has grown to include 150,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, architectural models, and more. MOMA also owns some 22,000 films, videos and media works as well as film stills, scripts, posters, and historical documents. After undergoing significant restructuring and renovation, the popular museum re-opened in late 2004 emerging nearly double the size.
New York City is a shopper's paradise where visitors will find anything from anywhere in the world. From hip new fashions from world-renowned labels to the charming and obscure, shoppers will find a wide variety from any number of big name global powerhouses to tiny boutique shops.
From 50th through 59th streets, New York's famous Fifth Avenue is a fabulous shopping destination filled with a mix of upscale boutiques and popular chains with spectacular attractions along the way such as Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral. It's an area that's home to stores like Tiffany and Co., the famous FAO Schwarz toy store, Elizabeth Arden, and more.
Madison Avenue's prime shopping area extends from 59th up through 96th streets and is similar in prestige to that offered along Fifth Avenue with its many designer shops, including famous brands like Nicole Miller and Burberry. A rich concentration of decorative objects and jewelry can be found at Madison's Crystal District where big name luxury in the form of Baccarat, Daum and Lalique are located along a five-block stretch of Madison between 58th and 63rd streets.
Having first opened in 1913, the Grand Central Terminal is not only the famous connection point at 42nd Street in midtown, it also centers an array of shops and restaurants. Inside this New York landmark is the popular Grand Central Market, reminiscent of a European food hall, along the main concourse, which sells gourmet foods. Visitors will also find plenty of fine local shops and national retailers located throughout the terminal. Step outside of Grand Central and you'll find more than a few shops to browse through in most any direction.
Further downtown, SOHO, the area south of Houston and north of Canal Street on the west side, is famous for the galleries and shops lining its narrow streets. It has become a popular place to visit, where within a quarter of a square mile exists some 250 art galleries, four museums, nearly 200 restaurants, and 100 stores. For more information about shopping in SOHO visit www.sohonyc.com.
In Lower Manhattan, Century 21 (22 Cortlandt St. between Church St. and Broadway; 212-227-9092; www.century21deptstores.com), not to be confused with the popular realtor, is a department store that features big discounts on top designer clothing and other merchandise. The South Street Seaport (www.southstreetseaport.com) to the east is a thriving waterfront community that offers great views of the East River, a maritime museum, more than 100 shops and restaurants, and plenty of public space.
New York City's Official Visitor Information Centers are the prime sources for information on everything there is to see and do in Manhattan including dining, shopping, sightseeing, events, attractions, tours, accommodations, and transportation. The centers feature free brochures, discount coupons to attractions and theaters, multi-lingual visitor information counselors, and Metro Card vending machines for subway and bus travel. New York City has four Official Visitor Information Centers at the following locations:
Midtown (810 Seventh Ave., between 52nd and 53rd streets; 212-484-1222)
Downtown (City Hall Park Visitor Information Kiosk located on the Broadway sidewalk at Park Row)
Chinatown (Official Visitor Information Kiosk for Chinatown located at the triangle where Canal, Walker and Baxter streets meet)
Harlem (Harlem Visitor Information Kiosk located at the Studio Museum in Harlem, 144 W. 125th St. between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Malcolm X blvds.)
Save money and avoid ticket lines with the New York City Pass. The pass allows for entry to six of New York's most popular attractions, allowing for free admission, bypassing of most ticket lines and providing useful information about transportation, business hours, inside tips, and more. Users have nine days from first use to visit each attraction once. Includes admission to the following: American Museum of Natural History; Museum of Modern Art (MOMA); the Empire State Building; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; either Guggenheim Museum or Top of the Rock; and either Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise or Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. City passes are also available for purchase at any of the attractions or online at http://citypass.com/city/ny.html.
Gray Line New York (777 Eighth Ave., between 47th and 48th streets) offers sightseeing services with double-decker, deluxe motor coach and trolley bus tours. Enjoy the casual hop-on, hop-off tours that include Uptown, Downtown, Brooklyn, and Night tours where you can disembark and stroll around at your own pace and then just board the next scheduled bus. Fully escorted foreign language city tours are also available with multi-lingual tour guides, as well as daylong excursions outside the city. For more information call (800)669-0051 or (212)445-0848, or visit www.newyorksightseeing.com.
Still trendy after all these years, but at least things have slowed enough so that it's possible to get a reservation at Keith McNally's Balthazar less than a month in advance. Modeled after a classic Parisian brasserie, complete with white-aproned waiters, red leather banquettes and tightly spaced tables, entrees like striped bass on toasted country bread in a broth and roast chicken with perfectly crisped pomme frites make the journey to SoHo worth the effort. If you can't go for lunch go after the theater. Balthazar has one of the best late-night menus in town. Or come by the next day for breakfast or brunch for some savory crepes or french toast with homemade brioche before visiting the bakery for authentic French bread and pastries.
80 Spring St.
The menu at Café Boulud is divided into four sections, each representing one of the areas from which Chef Boulud takes inspiration: La Tradition - classic French dishes; La Saison - specials based on seasonality; Le Potager - vegetables cooked like you've never had them before; and Le Voyage - with exotic and ethnic flavors. Go expecting anything from chilled five spring pea soup to deep-fried fritter stuffed with salt cod to ceviche paved with caviar. No wonder this beautiful café in the Surrey Hotel has become the "it" spot for "ladies who lunch." The fourth generation family-owned restaurant with the 100 year history evokes images of 1930's Paris with plush cocoa-colored upholstered banquettes and gentle lighting.
20 East 76th St.
Café Luxembourg, on the Upper West Side, is one of the best brasseries in its neighborhood and that's just one reason it continues to draw huge crowds almost every night. An affordable classic French menu with duck, roasted chicken and cheese omelettes hits the spot after an evening at Lincoln Center. The art deco-decor with wicker chairs combined with caring waiters (who might break into an opera aria at any moment) make it a comfortable place with a group or even by yourself. Try the steak tartare with country salad, roquefort cheese and steak frites, then top it off with the gran monet chocolate tort.
200 West 70th St.
Since 1996, this Brazilian mid-towner in the heart of the theater district is an all-you-can-eat steakhouse even a vegetarian can appreciate. That's because every meal at Churrascaria Plataforma begins with a trip to a salad bar longer than a Mardi Gras parade, and its vege-heavy buffet. After that, carvers circle the room shaving off bits of perfectly grilled pork, sirloin, prime rib, lamb, chicken, salmon, turkey, and ribs onto the plates of diners who signal "more" by flipping a green chit (red signals "enough"). Killer lime drinks are served from a cart wheeled tableside. A live band blasts Samba music throughout the evening. An intimate evening it's not, but the food at Churrascaria is excellent, and with a big group it's also a hoot.
316 West 49th St.
Daniel, located in the Mayfair Hotel, presents a gorgeous Renaissance-style dining room with a cozy bar and lounge, and flower arrangements that can't be called anything but works of art. Chef Daniel Boulud oversees more than 40 chefs who work hard to get his marvelous seasonal cuisine just right. Dishes like Poulet Roti en Croute de Sel may be prepared in classic French style or with an ethnic twist that Boulud may invent on a whim. They also feature an extensive wine list covering 15 countries and 1,500 selections. In any case this is sure to be one of your premiere dining experiences in the city.
60 East 65th St.
The venerable Il Mulino in New York City's West Village has received multiple accolades as the city's number one Italian restaurant from Zagat Guide and tops almost everyone's list of best Italian restaurants. A gorgeous, plant-filled interior coupled with a tuxedoed staff sets the tone. Go hungry. The moment you sit down plates of Parmesan cheese, sausages, bruschetta, antipasto and garlic bread magically appear before you've had a chance to order anything. Entrees are made up of classic old-school Italian cuisine - try the porcini mushroom ravioli - and portions are enormous. Because the menu is so complex (it has almost every veal dish known to man) and written mainly in Italian it's tempting to let the waiter order for you. Reservations are usually taken a month in advance.
86 West 3rd St.
Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar
Luxury may not be what you first think of as you enter Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar. This small space located on the Lower East Side appears to be a quaint lounge in some old friend's house after peering at the four-seat raw bar and its handful of a la carte dining tables. After a cordial greeting from your host, you're escorted through the kitchen, stopping by to say hello to the chef, and then settled in a small but comfortable dining room. For dinner try the "deconstructed" oysters Rockefeller, New Orleans-style barbecue lobster and blue crab bisque. With a reasonable wine list backed by an astronomically priced reserve list, the term luxury starts to kick in. Shellfish, bivalves and pork are all presented far above the "shuck and suck" level in an average oyster bar.
Jack's Luxury Oyster Bar
101 2nd Ave. (at Sixth Street)
Jeans-Georges Vongerichten, New York City's annointed chef-of-the-millenium, runs what some say is the greatest restaurant in the Trump International Hotel. The Donald himself calls the four-star stamped Jean Georges "his place." One look at the power set crowd and who would argue? Dine in the more casual bar or go upscale in the gorgeous jacket-required dining room with fabulous floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Central Park. Diners can also enjoy seasonal outdoor dining and cocktails at the Mistral Terrace. Either way you'll find a very inventive style of contemporary French cuisine, including dishes like goat-cheese-and-potato terrine in arugula juice and sweetbreads en cocotte with baby carrots.
1 Central Park West
Norma's in the Le Parker Meridien Hotel
For a breakfast that will get you through the day, Norma's in Le Parker Meridien Hotel is surely the answer. Called by many critics "the best in town," breakfast also happens to be the only meal served here. Thick, molten chocolate French toast, cinnamon-pecan brioche and macadamia nut pancakes are sweet day-starters. More serious breakfast-eaters will want to try the duck confit hash and eggs, or an omelet of lobster and artichokes. Weight watchers might prefer the bowl of "no-hassle grapefruit." In any case, the presentation is beautiful and the freshly-pressed coffee is steaming and savory. Reservations are a must for weekend brunch.
Norma's in the Le Parker Meridien Hotel
119 West 56th St.
Osteria del Circo
A circus-themed trattoria run by three Maccioni sons of the renowned Le Cirque family, Osteria del Circo is famous for its Northern Italian fare. Delicious pastas, pizzas, veal dishes and spit-roasted chickens are served with some Northern Italian wines you won't find outside of Tuscany. After a few years of mixed reviews, it seems the place is finally coming into its own. The food rather than the colorful artsy decor is now the main draw. A sleek bar draws a serious late-night crowd. It's also a very popular haunt for apres-theater.
Osteria del Circo
120 West 55th St.
Restauranteur Keith McNally's tiny bistro in the Meatpacking District crackles with both energy and style. Pastis, with a decor straight out of Paris in the 30s, fashions a zinc-topped bar, antique mirrors and mosaic tiled floors. The food? Tres bien, naturallement. Frisee and bacon salads, steak frites, onion soup, fish and chips, and big hamburgers are among the traditional bistro classics and British fare. There's also an outdoor summer cafe available.
9 Ninth Ave.
Shun Lee West
There's no need to travel all the way to Chinatown to sample some of the city's finest Asian cuisine. Shun Lee West exudes all things Chinese with its shiny black lacquer decor and fiery dragon around the length of the dining room. Shanghai steamed dumplings and giant prawns are notable starters while Hunan filet and duck liver sauteed Szechuan-style are regionally-oriented entrees. The more casual adjacent café is less expensive for those who want a simple dim sum. With its Upper West Side location, Shun Lee West is a deliciously spicy, but expensive option before or after a performance at Lincoln Center.
Shun Lee West
43 West 65th St.