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Have you guys had enough 'what to do in NYC' questions?
January 25, 2013 9:08 AM   Subscribe

My whole family is (finally) comine to visit me in NYC in late March. Help me think of things that will amuse my parents and my 20-year-old sister. PS: We are all giant nerds.

They will be spending at least 4 days here, maybe longer. My dad lived here briefly in the 80s, but my mom hasn't been here since age 5 and my sister's never been here at all. We'll be staying in Brooklyn.

I know what I like to do for fun, but I'm having a hard time seeing NYC through a fun touristy lens and figuring out what they might like to do. Characteristically, they have not been very much help in that regard ("oh, I'm sure whatever we do will be just fine!").

Sister: Is super into astronomy (as a hobby) and psychology (her major). She also really loves anime and manga and all that kind of thing, so suggestions along those lines are very welcome, because I have absolutely no clue about that stuff. Oh, and she has expressed interest in trying the best lox bagel in the city- any ideas there?

Mom: Is a graphic designer and very interested in art and design. Is there some sort of museum of theater design we could check out? Also interested in engineering and gardening.

Dad: Loves history, especially military history and antique weaponry, and geology (know any cool fossils we could check out?). And I also want to take him to some places that have changed dramatically since the early 80s.

We all love used book stores, trying weird/interesting foods (especially if they're cheap), and roots/folk music. My parents are sometimes low-carb, so any decent restaurants with low-carb options would be great. Also, only two of us drink and my sister's still underage, so bars are only in if they have something else to recommend them.
posted by showbiz_liz to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (17 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Used book stores: You want to go to The Strand.
posted by dfriedman at 9:15 AM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Space shuttle Enterprise at the Intrepid. It's great fun.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:20 AM on January 25, 2013


Also right down the block from The Strand is Forbidden Planet NYC for your sister's anime/manga needs.
posted by fings at 9:22 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just went to the transit museum in Brooklyn, and that was hella fun and at only 7 bucks a head- a really cheap two hours.
posted by Blisterlips at 9:24 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


My standard off-the-beaten-path recommendation in these threads is a tour of the Grand Lodge of Masons in mid-town. It's quite a building (and tours are open to the public.)

Related: You can usually see the St. John's Lodge #1 Bible that was used for Washington's first inauguration at Federal Hall downtown. If you're down in that neck of the woods there's also Fraunce's Tavern, which was a favorite hangout of Washington's - although the structure has been rebuilt a number of times over the years due to fires.
posted by usonian at 9:37 AM on January 25, 2013


Oh, this may be easy!

Sister: Is super into astronomy (as a hobby) and psychology (her major).

The American Museum of Natural History, specifically the Rose Astronomy Center.

She also really loves anime and manga and all that kind of thing, so suggestions along those lines are very welcome, because I have absolutely no clue about that stuff. Oh, and she has expressed interest in trying the best lox bagel in the city- any ideas there?

The stretch of 9th Street between 3rd and 2nd Avenues in the East Village is called "Little Tokyo" sometimes. And nearby there you will find both Katz's Deli and a place called "Russ and Daughters", and between the two you'll find good bagel and lox.

Mom: Is a graphic designer and very interested in art and design. Is there some sort of museum of theater design we could check out?

Not sure whether it has a section on design in particular, but the Museum of the City of New York at 103rd and 5th Avenue has a theater section. Right nearby there you also have the Cooper-Hewitt Design museum, which is part of the Smithsonian System and as such may be free.

Also interested in engineering and gardening.

Cooper-Hewitt may have engineering design. For gardening you have the New York Botanic Garden in the Bronx, or the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Brooklyn.

Dad: Loves history, especially military history and antique weaponry, and geology (know any cool fossils we could check out?).

The museum of Natural History has you set for both geology and fossils (BOY HOWDY will you be set for fossils). As for antique weaponry, check out the Arms and Armor section at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (just a short walk from Cooper-Hewitt, incidentally).

And I also want to take him to some places that have changed dramatically since the early 80s.

The East Village will DEFINITELY work for this, as well as the "DUMBO" and Fort Greene/Clinton Hill sections of Brooklyn. (Ask him to tell you why Myrtle Avenue used to be called "Murder Avenue".)

We all love used book stores, trying weird/interesting foods (especially if they're cheap), and roots/folk music.

Brooklyn in general, and Williamsburg in particular, are a nexus for foodie/artisinal stuff. (Go check out Mast Brothers Chocolate, especially.) As for roots music - if you're here on a weekend, check whether the bar "Sunny's" in Red Hook is having a bluegrass jam. If they're not, you can still check out the Irish folk brunch at Rocky Sullivan's, also in Red Hook.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


You must visit the Museum of Natural History, both for the Planetarium (for your sister) and the gem room (for your dad). He may also enjoy the soils of North America display (I know, right?).

General nerdiness: the brand new Museum of Math, the aforementionted NYC Transit Museum, and the Panorama of New York City at the Queens Museum of Art.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:40 AM on January 25, 2013


Dad: Loves history, especially military history and antique weaponry, and geology (know any cool fossils we could check out?).

The museum of Natural History has you set for both geology and fossils (BOY HOWDY will you be set for fossils). As for antique weaponry, check out the Arms and Armor section at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (just a short walk from Cooper-Hewitt, incidentally).



Riiiight next door to the NY Historical Society, I think the WW2 show will still be running by then.
posted by The Whelk at 9:43 AM on January 25, 2013


You might enjoy the American Museum of Natural History (especially your sister), as well as the newly opened Museum of Mathematics (near Madison Square Park).

If you're up for an excursion, the World's Fair site and New York Hall of Science. Take the LIRR and the ride will only be 20 minutes, as opposed to the long slog on the 7 train. As long as you are out at the New York Hall of Science, you could try some weird foods in Flushing, Queens (the downtown area is basically a big Chinatown).

Little Pepper Hot Pot has some odd items on the menu (tripe, kidney, intestine, heart, tongue) and is low carb and fairly inexpensive. Or have some sannakji (live octopus) at Sik Gaek in Flushing, a Korean restaurant.

The MoMA usually has a floor devoted to design. The design store across the street is also lots of fun to browse. They underwent extensive renovations in the early 2000s and reopened in 2004 with a gorgeous outdoor sculpture garden. You can have a nice lunch at the gorgeous, sleek Bar Room at the Modern, next door, as well, and you can stay low carb there if you order carefully. It'll probably run about $50pp.

Also the Museum of Arts & Design moved in 2008 to its current location near Columbus Circle, and your mother may be interested in visiting. Then walk a little bit north up to Lincoln Center, to see the renovations they have done there. The elevated, sloping lawn is very pretty.

Unfortunately, the Cooper Hewitt is currently closed for renovation and scheduled for re-opening in 2014.

There are also a few Muji stores in and around Manhattan before -- they probably don't have these at home. And there's a few stores that offer 3D printing now, such as the Makerbot store. If you're at the Soho Muji store, the Makerbot store isn't too far, and neither is the Earth Room, Broken Kilometer, or the Evolution Store. Here's my list of Strange Places in NYC. Also dependent upon what their next exhibit is you might pop by Museum, which is a tiny, tiny museum off a random alleyway downtown.

I love the MTA Transit Museum in Brooklyn, and am an MTA Museum member. However, the museum can be very loud. It's often filled with kids playing, screaming, that sort of thing. It's not exactly calm.

Since your sister is studying psychology and your mother is into theatre design, I'm going to make the obligatory Sleep No More recommendation. It's a promenade style (no seats), immersive, silent theatre piece, loosely based upon Macbeth and with elements of the Paisley Witch trials and Hitchcock films. The audience isn't allow to use cell phones, take photographs, or speak, and must wear a mask the whole time. You are given about 3 hours to explore a giant, detailed set of nearly 100 rooms. Attendees are encouraged to split up and explore alone. Visitors may experience "psychologically intense" situations.

For military history and antique weaponry, I think the best place to go is still the Metropolitan Museum of Art but I'm not sure it's really changed dramatically since the 1980s. I don't think we really have any geology-only museums here in the city, either, just what is already in the American Museum of Natural History. Again, not sure if it's changed much since the 1980s. But he might also appreciate revisiting places he hasn't seen for a long time.

For anime/manga, I would stop into the Forbidden Planet bookstore near Union Square, for your sister. It is quite close to the Strand as well.

Other good low carb options (not cheap):
Steakhouses like Wolfgang's, Keens, Peter Luger
Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya, which has lots of small plates without carbs
Craft, as you can order a la carte
Takashi - organic/sustainable Japanese BBQ, just make sure you get the normal marinade and not the Takashi marinade, they also have different types of offal (first stomach, third stomach, four stomach, beef cheek, beef tongue, etc) you can grill yourself

Cheaper low carb options:
Madangsui and other Korean BBQ joints, as long as are careful about or don't mind possible sugar in the marinade
Hill Country - brisket, ribs, sausages, the rub they use doesn't have sugar, and the items are not pre-sauced
Pearl Oyster Bar - bouillabaisse, grilled fish, raw oysters, steamed clams
DBGB - sausages, burgers, charcuterie
Balthazar - duck confit, beef tartare, oysters, salads
Szechuan Gourmet for hot pot - make a reservation
Shake Shack - burger without the bun

The best bagel and smoked salmon combination in the city can be done at Russ & Daughters. It is takeout only and very busy on the weekends. Also, I find lox to be incredibly salty, and different from smoked salmon (nova, gaspe, etc.) Try a few kinds to figure out what you like. I like mine open faced on a bagel with cream cheese, tomato, red onion, and capers.

You can also easily combine breakfast at Russ & Daughters with a tour of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (buy tickets online in advance) and then lunch at Katz's Deli (as seen in When Harry Met Sally).
posted by kathryn at 9:46 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh - and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is right next to the Brooklyn Museum, which has a funky Egyptian collection and a floor of period rooms. The Lefferts House Museum in Prospect Park may also be fun - it's a restored farmhouse from the 1600's. It's pitched more to kids, but there's enough that your dad could dig a quick trip.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:48 AM on January 25, 2013


Oh and yes Makerbot store, it's like living in the not too distant future.
posted by The Whelk at 9:48 AM on January 25, 2013


Since you are already in Brooklyn, the Green-Wood Cemetery is good for an afternoon. Get a map of notable graves, nor just wander, enjoying the greenery and the views. But every time I visit NYC, this is on the agenda.
posted by Danf at 9:49 AM on January 25, 2013


These are awesome! I'm marking the answers I think apply to my family the most, but this is all great. (The suggestions like "x, y and z are all potentially interesting and right next to each other" are particularly great.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:02 AM on January 25, 2013


Your sister will also enjoy Kinokuniya Bookstore by Bryant Park if she is into anime and manga.
posted by Julnyes at 10:26 AM on January 25, 2013


Seconding Kinokuniya for your anime/manga-loving sister. If you get lucky and the weather's nice, Bryant Park (right across the street from Kinokuniya) can be very charming and super New Yorky in terms of its people-watching opportunities, plus it's on NIKOLA TESLA CORNER which c'mon, that's fun.

Even better than Kinokuniya maybe is Book-Off, right down the street. They've got a serious selection of vintage manga and other Japanese books, for cheap, and are totally worth a visit.

While I'm thinking about Japanese stuff, if you happen to walk by a Uniqlo you should pop in, they've always got a great rotating selection of reasonably hip manga-inspired t-shirts.
posted by Sokka shot first at 11:37 AM on January 25, 2013


In addition to Kinokuniya, your sister would probably enjoy a trip to the NYC branch of Book Off -- they're a huge reseller of used manga in Japan, and have a pretty good selection here. Last time I went, their collection of translated manga was pretty good, too, and much cheaper than buying it new.

If she's interested in Japanese culture and cuisine more generally, as well as the pop culture stuff, then she might be interested in Minamoto Kitchoan, a traditional Japanese confectioner with a branch on 5th ave. It's not cheap, but the quality is very high, and it FEELS very fancy and special. If she's into this sort of thing, your sister should be able to find something interesting and tasty for less than $10.

(And while I'm talking about food, Village Yokocho is a lot of fun.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:42 AM on January 25, 2013


The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens can be great and pretty nerdy, depending on what exhibitions are there at the time. Not too far from the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park, which your mum might like, and lots of interesting/cheap food in the area.
posted by retrograde at 9:22 PM on January 25, 2013


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