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Showing posts from 2015

Scenes from The New York Botanical Garden's Holiday Train Show (Slideshow)

The New York Botanical Garden's annual Holiday Train Show features major landmarks of New York, all made of natural elements such as leaves and twigs. The firm Applied Imagination is their creator. Many of the replicas on display in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, itself a NYC landmark, represent beloved buildings that have dearly departed the city, including the old Penn Station . Two of the finest works in the show are bridges - the George Washington Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge - which, of course, are very much with us. The Hudson River Valley is well-represented, too, including painter Frederic Church's home, Olana . The biggest surprise in the 2015 iteration of the show is an elegant recreation of buildings from the 1964 World's Fair. The old Penn Station and the replica of the modernist fair anchor the story of this train show. 1964 was the year McKim, Mead & White's palace of train transportation was demolished, making way for the current Madison Square

A Visit to Top of the Rock

Crowds are always expected at Rockefeller Center, especially during the holidays, so visitors looking to transcend the madness may want to consider a trip to Top of the Rock . These observation decks high above Rockefeller Plaza offer 360° views of the city and the greater metropolis. While mere mortals snap pictures of friends and family at street level, you could be soaring 70 stories above the plaza for superhero visions of Gotham. The observation decks of the Empire State Building and 1WTC, seen in the background, are additional options for birds-eye views of New York City, but look at this view from the top of Rockefeller Center! St. Patrick's Cathedral looks much smaller from this vantage point. Top of the Rock's lobby provides a serenity not often found at street level. Looking northeast, the 88 floors of luxury residences at 432 Park Avenue are inescapable.   With a little luck and the right timing (weekdays, morning or early afternoon), the crow

Fifth Avenue Holiday Windows, 2015 Edition: Glam and Rock

The weather has been mild in New York this week, even warm at times. With the temperatures this out-of-season, a stroll to look at the 5th Avenue holiday windows feels a little out-of-sync. On Wednesday afternoon, the usual crowds were thin compared to past seasons. Maybe it takes a large dose of frosty air to get people in the mood. A haze pervaded the atmosphere, making window viewing somewhat murky. The clouds lifted late in the afternoon, so evening visitors had a better go at it. Begin the window walk near W. 58th St. and 5th Avenue at the fountain in front of The Plaza Hotel. The window decorators, nevertheless, did their best to cut through the haze. The windows are dazzling affairs this season, with millions of crystals and jewels. They're also a little decadent. With the exception of Bergdorf Goodman, this sense of staying too long at the party could be the fault of the mannequins, who invariably look too thin and too bored. Bergdorf has managed to find some that ac

Herald Square to Fifth Avenue: Holiday Windows and the Pleasures of the Side Street

Macy's at night. Flagship store at Herald Square. W/ PEANUTS. 2015. If planning a excursion to see New York's holiday windows, consider grouping a few together and visiting them at separate times. An example: 1) Bergdorf Goodman (5th Ave & 58th St.) to Saks Fifth Avenue (5th Ave between E. 50th St. and E. 49th St.); 2) Barney's (Madison Ave at 61st St.) to Bloomingdale's (Lexington Ave between E. 59th St. and E. 59th St.; and 3) Macy's (Herald Square) to Lord & Taylor (5th Ave & W. 38th St.). While their relative proximity allows for one big (and really exhausting) holiday window extravaganza, taking time to explore the stores and side streets in leisurely fashion may make for more peace and more joy. Macy's, 7th Avenue side and E. 34th St. showing proximity to the Empire State Building

Luminaries and Illuminations: A Holiday Stroll in Lower Manhattan

The light is always fascinating to watch in Lower Manhattan, whether natural or manmade. In the tapering landmass of the southern part of the island, it's possible to watch the sunset over the Hudson River to the west and then turn around and walk a few blocks to catch the amber light of the setting sun on the cityscape of Brooklyn to the east. This short holiday walk from the World Financial Center to the intersection of Nassau and Fulton Streets is best appreciated in the late afternoon and early evening when New York City transitions into night. Let's start indoors.     Luminaries, a light display and interactive installation, illuminates the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place this holiday season. (above) Traditionally, luminaries are constructed out of humble paper bags, filled with sand, lined up on sidewalks, and lit with simple candles. These rigid lanterns, an invention of the theatrically-minded Rockwell Group, are suspended on high and artificially illumin

On Sixth Avenue and W. 53rd St, the Corner of Venus de Milo and the Halal Guys

At the corner of Sixth Avenue and W. 53rd St in Midtown Manhattan, the Halal Guys dish out gyros, sandwiches, and platters to a steady line of patrons. They have two carts set up on either side of the street. Their chicken sandwich, a pita brimming with shredded chicken, lettuce, and signature white sauce, is completely delicious at $5. Many pricier lunches can be found in the neighborhood but few are as satisfying on a bright chilly afternoon. But where to sit down and eat? A plastic fork is provided. Many choose to perch on the rim of the small fountains in front of the Crédit Agricole building on the west side of Sixth Avenue. These fountains are graced with artist Jim Dine's 1989 set of female torsos, variations on the Venus de Milo. Titled "Looking Toward the Avenue," the headless figures bring an elegant bit of color and curved lines to an otherwise monotonous steely grey canyon. Several attractions are near the intersection, including The Museum of Mode

Turn Around: A Walk to Fort Washington Park and the Little Red Lighthouse

On the New York side of the mighty Hudson River, directly underneath the George Washington Bridge, sits a little red lighthouse. You may know the story - The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge by Hildegarde H. Swift, illustrated by Lynd Ward, first published in 1942. And like a story, every good walk has a beginning, middle, and end. This post illustrates a walk from the intersection of W. 181st St. and Broadway to Fort Washington Park and the George Washington Bridge and then back again. The time of year is the weekend after Thanksgiving. The time of day is near sunset.   Many years ago, I housesat an apartment for friends who were in graduate school at Columbia University. They lived in a one-bedroom near the corner of Cabrini and W. 181st St., and I enjoyed walking around their neighborhood. I loved trudging up the steep steps on Pinehurst Avenue and checking out a little Cuban Chinese cafe down on W. 181st. Being from Texas, I didn't know that combin

10 Short Walks from Columbus Circle

For uptown residents, especially on the West Side, Columbus Circle serves as an entry point into "the city." A trip on the A train from uptown at 207th Street to W. 59th Street, from bucolic "Upstate Manhattan" to the busy metropolis, takes about 30 minutes, a fairly convenient commute even by New York standards. The area near W. 59th St. and Central Park West features some of New York's most posh stops and restaurants (Per Se and Jean-Georges are here, for example), but beyond the glitter, everyday shopping happens here, too.  The best parts about living in New York, such as proximity to great centers of arts and music, are within easy walking distance of Columbus Circle. In addition, the southwest corner of Central Park is an excellent starting point for a walk in any season, convenient to the Heckscher Playground to the north and the Sheep Meadow beyond, and to the Hallett Nature Sanctuary and the Pond to the east.  For a quick roundup of many NYC a

A Walk on Central Park West: Making Peace with the Early Dark

One of the disorienting aspects of daylight saving time is that it gets dark so early this time of year, usually before many people get off work. The effect can be disquieting, making long days at the office feel even longer. On the other hand, New York can look glamorous at night. And, if walking helps with stress, then a nighttime walk may help bring a little glam back to an otherwise tedious day. May I recommend Central Park West? This thoroughfare bordering Central Park is rightly famous for grand apartment buildings dating from the late 19th century through the 1930s. Central Park West is also home to churches, synagogues, museums (the American Museum of Natural History and New-York Historical Society serve as starting points for this walk), clubs, and philanthropic societies. There's little retail except on the north and south ends, and when Central Park spills out into the roundabout of Columbus Circle, the effect of the lights and commercial businesses is part