A Weekender’s Guide to Manhattan in the Fall
You need only spend a few moments in the jungle that is Manhattan to see what all the hype is about. Every street, skyscraper, and storefront is pregnant with the potential of adventure and the promise of urban magic. Should you find yourself in town with only a small window of time to explore, consider this “Weekender’s Guide to Manhattan in the Fall” as a roadmap for hitting the must-sees.
First, simplify every journey through the city with HopStop, a free app that calculates distance, time, and cost so you can plan your pedestrian/taxi/subway route down to the minute (and dollar). Then, use HopStop to find the NYC Information Center where you can buy the keys to the city—or at least the tickets. CityPASS, an all-in-one booklet of passes to the city’s best and brightest, lets you pick what you want to see and when. Within a nine-day window, travelers get the VIP treatment (at a tremendously discounted price) to tour some of NYC’s finest attractions.
Once I grabbed mine, I hopped on the C train and hit the American Museum of Natural History. The museum is teeming with lively, beautiful, almost overwhelming displays. I enjoyed it like library or art gallery, wandering aimlessly through every exhibit and only digging into those selections that really piqued my curiosity. That being said, it’s an absolute must, even if your itinerary looks a little heavy on the museum visiting.
I zipped down to the Garment District to visit Cooper’s Tavern for lunch. The restaurant is nestled on the ground floor of The New Yorker Hotel, a gorgeous hotel that’s evidence the gilded era of New York still lingers in Manhattan. Cooper’s Tavern is a warm, welcoming spot to cuddle up on a drizzly day with the Elegant Fish and Chips lunch (the manager’s favorite) and A Big Chocolate Fondue (my new favorite). Holiday travelers will want to visit for a meal or stay for night once the winter season décor goes up!
Only a few blocks from the New Yorker, I used my CityPASS to visit The Empire State Building. The 86th story observatory is worth the labyrinthine trek of elevators, history lessons, gift shops, and photo booths to the top. Make sure to snap a photo from every side, especially the south-facing tip toward Wall Street and the Statue of Liberty.
The Museum of Modern Art is free on Friday nights and though it’s crowded, it’s worth the free ticket (or second visit, since CityPASS gets you in, too). The collection ranges from confounding to surreal to disturbing (perhaps a microcosm for the city itself?). If you’re lucky, the museum will be hosting a world-renown installation such as the Rain Room or The Artist is Present.
No trip to New York would be balanced without a quick stop to little sister neighborhood, Brooklyn. If you only have time for one eatery, make the under-water subway trip for gastropub Allswell. Imagine your Polish grandma refurbished your neighborhood pub so your foodie friends would have a cozy, hip spot to hang out—that’s Allswell. Grab the corner window booth for an intimate night out or reserve the long center table for a larger party. Either way, arrive early because the secret’s out; locals flock there for the Black Orchard cocktail, grilled merguez sausages with spiced lentils, and toasted maple custard with shortbread cookie.
Plan on hitting The Met early because crowds get dense as the day goes on. It’s another CityPASS stop that’s best to wander aimlessly, letting yourself get lost in the plethora of culture and history a la “From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.”
Make sure to stop in The Guggenheim Museum, if only to scale Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous cochlear ramp and watch the layers of tourists busily crossing paths like ants.
On my last day, I set my alarm extra early to spend my final hours in the city wandering Central Park. Enter the park by 6:30 a.m., before the sun but after the joggers, when the light is a milky tangerine color bursting through the East Side. The park is your own, save for the squirrels that are burying their acorn caches and the packs of dogs savoring off-leash hours. The juxtaposition of this sylvan sanctuary to the mechanical city is a fine way to finish a crammed itinerary: a coffee, a knish, and a quiet Eden of flora and fauna while the city outside the park kicks off another day.