I'm going to NYC, so tell me what to NY-See.
March 8, 2018 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Looking for your best recommendations of things to see and do in New York City over a few days in March (Wed. 3/21 - Sat. 3/24). I'll be travelling with family, but because of reasons, I'll have lots of time on my own. Lots of info within about my personal tastes and interests.

Particular areas of interest include:
  • Art (especially weird, conceptual, outsider, etc)
  • Alternative Comedy (I'd really like to see an improv or sketch show)
  • Books (libraries, bookstores, author events?);
  • Oddities (Atlas Obscura type stuff)
  • Mixology (interesting speakeasies and cocktail bars)
  • Architecture
  • People Watching
  • Unique or otherwise fascinating shopping/dining
  • MeFi Meetups Maybe?
Budget is on the cheap side, but I am prepared to splash out a bit for really amazing experiences. I will be located in Midtown, but I don't mind a walk or braving the subway if it's really worth it. A couple of specific questions:
  • What's the ideal way to ride the subway as far as tickets? My days of regularly riding a subway date back to the $0.85 token era, so what's the deal with Metro cards and whatnot?
  • Getting around on the surface world. I assume your Uber/Lyft services are prominent?
  • Is Sleep No More worth it? It sounds fascinating, but it's kind of spendy, so I'd love some personal reviews of the experience. Are there other (better?) experimental theater things to do?
Please feel free to ignore any and all things I have written above if you have absolute must-see advice
posted by Rock Steady to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (46 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
What's the ideal way to ride the subway as far as tickets?

A weekly card is about the same cost as 11 individual rides - it's $2.75 per ride or $32.00 for a weekly. I recommend buying the weekly so that you don't have to think about it.

And yes, we are absolutely lousy with rideshares. Most of the time, you won't need to wait more than five minutes.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:21 AM on March 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


I saw Sleep No More years ago but imagine it's much the same. It's a pretty unique experience and I found it compelling but I'm not absolutely sure whether to recommend it. I guess I know a few people that have gone and nobody was really not into it, but in some sense it is three hours of wandering around in the dark. If you do go, the useful piece of advice for Sleep No More is: if you see people running, follow them.
posted by Smearcase at 9:23 AM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


Books: the night you arrive, there will be a session of a monthly speculative fiction reading series at a weird little bar in the East Village (Fantastic Fiction at KGB). I will probably be there!
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:23 AM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


The New Museum on the Bowery is a great museum for unusual and outsider art. Sorry, I’m on the phone and can’t link, but it’s in the East Village.
posted by holborne at 9:29 AM on March 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


Sam Ross, the bartender who created the Paper Plane and the Penicillin, is now running Attaboy (in the former location of Sasha Petraske's Milk and Honey).
posted by snarkout at 9:31 AM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


Art:
Folk Art Museum
Neue Galerie

Books:
NY Public Library at 5th Ave and E 41st.

People Watching:
High Line
Riverside Park
posted by BeHereNow at 9:34 AM on March 8, 2018


I saw Sleep No More a couple years ago, and loved it so much that I went back again and just sat in the little speakeasy for most of the time, enjoying the atmosphere and the tarot card readings. I really loved the aesthetic. However, I'm told that if you go during the peak times now, it's a meat-market, pack-em-in, with lots of tourists who aren't interested in following the rules, so it disrupts the atmosphere. A lot of the props are also supposed to be frayed around the edges.

On the other hand, unless you live in a major theater city, there's nothing quite like it.

This is even more spendy than Sleep No More, but doesn't have a meat market vibe at all and has 80% of the production with 100000% more direct one-on-one interaction and you're-a-part-of-the-show. It's been two months, and I still think about some of the things I saw/did at the show.
posted by joyceanmachine at 9:35 AM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


....I have lived in NYC for 30-odd years, I'm contemplating becoming a tour guide part-time, and I even wrote for Atlas Obscura for a year.

* pulls up chair and sits down *

Taking this in pieces.

Oddities (Atlas Obscura type stuff)

I suppose this thing I wrote for AO is one place to start, along with any of the suggestions from the FPP that The Whelk turned it into. The only caveat is that several of the ruins mentioned there are in outer boroughs; accessbile via public transit, but it'll just take you a while, and in several cases you'd have to transfer from the subway to the bus. But - fortunately - metrocards now let you make free bus/subway transfers, even if you don't transfer right away; I think that you have a two-hour window to switch free between a bus and a subway, a subway and a bus, or between one bus and another even. On the other hand, since you're more into architecture, the easiest-to-get-to ruin would be more your balliwick anyway (the Smallpox hospital on Roosevelt Island).

Or, anything in Flushing Meadows, if you haven't been out there; that's a fairly direct subway ride (albeit a longish one) on the 7, and there's a lot of stuff out there; not just the Unisphere and the ruins of the World's Fair stuff, but there's also the New York Hall of Science, and the Queens Art Museum. The Queens Art Museum has the "New York Panorama" that was introduced during the 1960's Worlds Fair, and is way cool; it's a scale archetectural model of the whole city, and has been periodically updated since the 60s.

Finally, there is Building 92 in Brooklyn's Navy Yard. This is one of the few buildings accessible to the public inside Brooklyn's Navy Yard, and has a little museum in there devoted to the history of the Navy Yard itself. You'd have to take a subway-to-bus transfer to get there, but it's a fairly smooth transfer (and you could even walk).

Mixology (interesting speakeasies and cocktail bars)

Kings County Distillery is a local bourbon and whiskey distiller based inside another Brooklyn Navy Yard building. They have a pretty decent tour, but it is about $20 a ticket and only at set times; the tasting room has more availability. And, they have a cocktail bar in a separate building. They use the Kings County products in their cocktails, of course.

Is Sleep No More worth it? It sounds fascinating, but it's kind of spendy, so I'd love some personal reviews of the experience. Are there other (better?) experimental theater things to do?

I went (on someone else's dime) and I dug it. But not to the point that I would plunk down that much to do it again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:39 AM on March 8, 2018 [7 favorites]


Touristy stuff, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Tenement Museum and Juliana's Pizza.
posted by cnc at 9:42 AM on March 8, 2018 [4 favorites]


You'd have to take a subway-to-bus transfer to get there, but it's a fairly smooth transfer (and you could even walk).

If you bike, you could also take Citi Bike - the Navy Yard is well within the service area and there are protected lanes for at least part of the route.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:48 AM on March 8, 2018


The newest craziest fanciest cocktail place is probably The Aviary. It is pricey enough that I haven't been, but if I were looking for "ambitious" cocktails, I'd go there. Downtown NYC is otherwise lousy with "speakeasy"-style bars. Attaboy has already been mentioned, also Mother's Ruin and Raines Law Room. This trend is very nearly played out, so, if you like this style, I'd go now.
posted by praemunire at 9:50 AM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


I highly recommend MoMA PS1, the Strand bookstore, and some lox on a bagel from the Russ and Daughters counter.
posted by pinkacademic at 9:53 AM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


Oh, and my personal favorite people-watching spot is Washington Square Park on a weekend afternoon.

The Morgan Library, of all places, is doing an exhibit on Peter Hujar's "photographs of 1970s and ’80s underground life in New York."
posted by praemunire at 9:56 AM on March 8, 2018 [4 favorites]


Your mention of Unique/fascinating shopping and dining immediately made me think of Kalustyan's a true gem of a store. Every conceivable type of spice, herb, grain or pulse is probably available here (though for indian staples many of the adjacent storefronts will probably have better prices and possibly turnover). If you have any interest in cooking or barkeeping (they stock a pretty sizable collection of bitters and things that may not quite count as ingredients like molecular gastronomy materials) or just enjoy very well stocked food and spice stores, I'd say its worth your time.

At a very affordable price id also recommend you check out the Paul's Boutique pizza at Speedy Romeo on the Lower East Side - Katz's pastrami on an everything-seasoned crust. Its really good and if you have room or are sharing I can also highly recommend their "flourless chocolate cake" whch is actually a massive s'more - graham crumble, chocolate fudge, topped with marshmallow cream they blacken with an iron taken from the woodfired grill.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:56 AM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


I really like McNally Jackson for browsing for books. And, there is, of course, The Strand. Helpfully, they're only about a 20 minute, easy walk away from each other, so you can check out both over the course of an hour or two. McNally Jackson is also walking distance from the New Museum, Tenement Museum, and The Aviary. Plus, the International Center of Photography is nearby too.

I also want to strongly second the Queens Museum panorama if you have any interest at all in cities or city planning.
posted by snaw at 9:59 AM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


I really like the Rubin Museum. They have some lovely art and trippy/meditative programming. Also, if you haven't been to the Dream House, or the Earth Room, or other Dia sites in NYC, they are great.
posted by unknowncommand at 10:08 AM on March 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


I've been pretty disappointed by NYC's weird book offerings. Given the city's place in occult history in the 1970s and 1980s, I'd hoped for something close to London-level, but what I've been able to find so far has been less variety than what I can get at home (which is in Salem, MA, so I might have a skewed perspective here). I usually end up just going through every used book store I can find, but at a certain point (especially if the weather is bad) the effort outstrips the possible reward.

Unfortunately it does not look like my good buddies, The Ghost Doctors, are offering any ghost hunts while you are there. Wandering around the MET with EMF detectors while being led by Gil and George from Oh, Hello! is certainly a memorable event. We've done it twice.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:45 AM on March 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'll give a contrary review of Sleep No More: I went a couple of years ago, and I thought it was a waste of money and a waste of an evening. I just found it dull and annoying at best, and actually dangerous at worst (it's dark and there's some stuff you can trip over). In all fairness, I was there with a guy who turned out to be a miserable prick, but I wouldn't have liked the show anyway.

I'll also nth both Kalustyan's and McNally-Jackson.
posted by holborne at 10:45 AM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


This is all fantastic and exactly the kind of thing I am looking for. showbiz_liz, that reading sounds great, and I've already bought the new book from one of the authors. I do love a good ruin, so I might check out that smallpox hospital, and I'm buying tickets for the Tenement Museum now. More, please!

Juliana's Pizza

Ye Gods, I hadn't even thought about pizza and other New Yorky specialities. Hit me with pizza/bagel/pastrami/egg cream/whatever recommendations, too.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:47 AM on March 8, 2018


Go to Kossar's Deli and get a bialy and then step over to The Pickle Guys for some yummy pickled treats - my favs are the full sours, hot sours, pickled tomatoes, saurkraut... really everything is good.
posted by Julnyes at 10:58 AM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


We like a lot of the same things and I loved Sleep No More when I saw it, but that was maybe five years ago, perhaps the change is big? I think the Hungrr Memorial is wonderful and odd and easily visited en route to places.
posted by Iteki at 11:19 AM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's like the exact opposite of a speakeasy -- though it's literally next door to Death and Co. -- but if you are into mixology I suggest a stop at Amor Y Amargo. Tiny little bar run by a handful of geniuses, including Sother Teague, who does The Speakeasy podcast; if he happens to be tending bar when you go, you'll be in for a treat, he'll give you a whole tasting lesson if you're into it and if he has the time. They specialise in bitters, and use no mixers, and it's unlike any other bar I've visited. The 8 Amaro Sazerac is exactly what it sounds like, and it's wild (and delicious!). Go early if you can, as it fills quickly. There's also Caracas a block or two away, an excellent and affordable and quirky little (very little, it's tiny) spot with dioramas on the walls and really good arepas.
posted by halation at 11:25 AM on March 8, 2018 [5 favorites]


Wandering around the MET with EMF detectors while being led by Gil and George from Oh, Hello! is certainly a memorable event. We've done it twice.

OH MY GOD THIS INFORMATION IS SO RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS
posted by halation at 11:27 AM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


Robertas in Bushwick for pizza, and Black Tail in the lower part of Manhattan (Bowling Green) for excellent cocktails.
posted by something_witty at 11:31 AM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


Batsu! - Improv show that is Japanese gameshow themed. We forked out for the VIP to enjoy the headbands, better seats, and the extra booze, which we enjoyed but certainly isn't necessary.

For bagels, go to Ess-a-Bagel on 3rd between 50th and 51st, but *don't* wait on the stupid long line... instead walk right in past the tourists giving you dirty looks, walk straight to the back, and order half a dozen bagels and a tub of cream cheese to go. The line is for them to make you bagel sandwiches, or if you just want one. But you can order as few as half a dozen in the back with no line! Or if your family enjoys bagels, order a whole dozen and have them two days in a row.
posted by Grither at 11:39 AM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


Take the hop on off bus; best money spent
posted by globalbuddy at 12:01 PM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


If you're up for crossing the river to Brooklyn, you might be interested in:

The Brooklyn Museum, currently featuring an exhibition of David Bowie's personal archives that includes “original costumes, handwritten lyric sheets from famous songs, original album art, photographs, and videos.” Their collections are pretty good, too.

City Reliquary, home to a collection of miscellaneous city artifacts and currently featuring an exhibition about “the stories behind New York City’s solid waste, from ‘one man’s garbage is another man’s gold’ to the inventive ways New Yorkers are reusing and recycling.”

The Brooklyn Art Library, a catalogued & browsable collection of thousands of different artists' sketchbooks.

...and if you're over here anyway, (and haven't filled up on pizza from the aforementioned Juliana's,) come to the Crown Heights / Bed-Stuy border for the best pastrami and/or brisket sandwich you'll ever have at the improbable David's Brisket House.
posted by D.Billy at 12:46 PM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


Art
- the very small Mmuseumm
- Participant Inc. gallery
- Bitforms gallery

Alternative Comedy
- the Neo-Futurists' weekly Infinite Wrench -- "a [wonderful] barrage of two-minute plays"

Books
- check out Philip Williams Posters

Oddities
- this list of Manual Passenger Elevators
- Skybridges

Mixology
- Goodnight Sonny
- the Metrograph Commissary (upstairs from the wonderful movie theater)

Unique or otherwise fascinating shopping/dining
- Raku
- Yopparai
- Vanessa's Dumpling House
- Minca

Coffee
- Stumptown
- Grumpy
- Birch

Pizza
- Two Boots
- Rosario's Pizza

Ice cream
- Van Leeuwen Ice Cream
- il laboratorio del gelato
- Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

---

Lists of NYC events / newsletters
- Brokelyn
- Nonsense NYC -- latest events -- subscribe here (get ideas, then unsubscribe (or don't) after your trip)
- the skint
posted by vert canard at 12:47 PM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


That's actually a good question - HAVE you been to Brooklyn before, or have you just been in Manhattan?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:06 PM on March 8, 2018


On the other hand, since you're more into architecture, the easiest-to-get-to ruin would be more your balliwick anyway (the Smallpox hospital on Roosevelt Island).

And take the aerial Roosevelt Island Tram to get there. It's a wondrous we're-in-the-future now feeling floating over the East River in a sleek red and silver capsule while looking down at the steampunk Queensboro Bridge.

If you make it to Queens the Noguchi Museum is a compact treasure.
posted by jointhedance at 1:12 PM on March 8, 2018 [4 favorites]


Bringing up pizza with New Yorkers is sort of a disaster. If you want something not hard to get to without a huge line, just go to John's. It's really good.
posted by Smearcase at 1:26 PM on March 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


I really, really love Sleep No More, although it is for sure not cheap. Then She Fell is probably more of a sure thing in terms of having a pretty guaranteed magical experience.

In terms of comedy, for the nights you're going to be in town, I recommend either Sisters Three at the Magnet Theatre or Studio System and Sick Passenger at the PIT.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:43 PM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


That's actually a good question - HAVE you been to Brooklyn before, or have you just been in Manhattan?

I've been to Manhattan before, but very briefly and in the late 90s. Never been to any of the other boroughs.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:05 PM on March 8, 2018


For improv, you could do a lot worse then the UCB. There are two locations and tickets range from free to cheap. There is such a wide range of types of show so it would be hard to give specific recommendations so just look when you have free time and due to the cost it isn't much of a gamble.
posted by mmascolino at 2:07 PM on March 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


I still get the nonsense and Gemini and Scorpio lists, mefi Mail me and I can send them to you when they drop for that weekend. They list art, music, party, events and more that might appeal to you
posted by vrakatar at 2:45 PM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


If you want something not hard to get to without a huge line, just go to John's. It's really good.

Seconded!
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:50 PM on March 8, 2018


On the topic of Sleep No More, since you're explicitly seeking varied takes, I will share this: I went very early in the original run because a friend of a friend was in the cast, and I was super excited. Ostensibly I'm into weird/dark/artsy/experimental theatre. In practice, I was near completely paralyzed with anxiety the entire time. There is actually a lot of security in the place and I have never heard of anything untoward happening there, but all I could think the whole time was that if something happened or someone attacked me I could scream and people would ignore me and think it was part of the show, or pay attention and still think it was part of the show. For me it was extremely unnerving.

I went a second time (for a work outing, I would never have paid to go again) later in the run when it was starting to be more overrun with tourists and more of the props were nailed down/locked/stolen, and I was able to get over my anxiety enough to explore, but I still got bored after less than hour and just left.
posted by telegraph at 3:07 PM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


If we're talking about whole pies, Neapolitan is the way to go--Motorino or Keste, both mini-but-local chains. (Sadly, Co. just closed.) Unless you really fancy a thicker crust, in which case Emmy Squared is an excellent Detroit-style pizza in the West Village. Whether the cheap slice place on your block happens to be good or not is really in the hands of the gods. But if you go to such a place, and they offer a gramma slice, try that. It's not an incredibly common style outside NYC (thicker crust, splotches of cheese rather than a cheese covering, thicker tomato coverage) and I think they're pretty good. Ask for a corner slice if you can get one.

I partake of Absolute Bagels because it is relatively close to me, but this is a pretty good list of options.
posted by praemunire at 3:45 PM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


You can stay on the 6 train to see the closed City Hall Station.
posted by toastedcheese at 4:27 PM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


Forcella: delectable fried pizza, like eating pizza on funnel cake dough
Joe's Pizza: perfect New York slice
Lombardi's: classic margherita pizza

A maybe for an "old and weird" category: Luna Park NYC opens for the season on March 24. Home of the Coney Island Cyclone and the B&B Carousell.

I have heard positive things about bus tours.
posted by Carouselle at 6:11 PM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


There’s a fairly good little book crawl in my neighborhood in a three block radius if you get out to Williamsburg. There’s a Quimby’s, next to Desert Island comics, and around the corner on Ainslie is Ben’s Books which has a lot of great vintage occulty type things. Fantastic little store where you’re bound to find something unexpected. You can get a rainbow latte at The End if you want to be all social media. And I’ll throw Best Pizza into the ring on the slice front. It’s a decent little neighborhood tour if you want to do unique Indy bookstores. Also in the vicinity of City Reliquary which someone else mentioned. Have fun!
posted by rdnnyc at 7:48 PM on March 8, 2018 [2 favorites]


If you like water ice/Italian ices/Rita's ices, you'll love both the Lemon Ice King of Corona which happens to be right by Taqueria Nixtamal, which is amazingly delicious and not expensive, albeit deep in Queens (it's not far if you're already near the Queens Museum. Same train.) You might also love Pesso's Ices and Ice Creams in Bayside, which is even more of a hassle to get to, but arguably has a better selection.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:35 PM on March 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


ooh ooh if you head out to coney island you HAVE TO check out the Spook-A-Rama, it is dank and janky and weird 1970s perfection. There's also Williams Candy Shop, and the opportunity to determine for yourself which is the best Coney Island hot dog. It may still be pretty cold in April, but it's definitely it's own kind of weird, out there, and in my opinion it is easier to appreciate that in the off-season (just bring a jacket or a hoodie).
posted by halation at 6:20 AM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


Take the 7 train from Manhattan to the 74th st-Roosevelt avenue stop and walk down Roosevelt Ave through Jackson Heights and Corona to the Lemon Ice King. The train ride and the walk are the main attraction imo, The Lemon Ice King is just a nice bonus ending.
posted by laptolain at 1:00 PM on March 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


This is even more spendy than Sleep No More, but doesn't have a meat market vibe at all and has 80% of the production with 100000% more direct one-on-one interaction and you're-a-part-of-the-show. It's been two months, and I still think about some of the things I saw/did at the show.

I just got a ticket for Wednesday night. I tried last week, and there was nothing available, but the website mentioned to check back on the Monday before the show, and even though I was at a conference yesterday and couldn't check, there were still plenty of spots for this week. It's only a few bucks more than Sleep No More, and it sounds way more up my alley. Thanks for the recommendation!
posted by Rock Steady at 12:05 PM on March 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Just got back and thought a little follow-up might be in order:

- I didn't get to do nearly as much as I was hoping to do, as I ended up being coopted into becoming an unofficial chaperone for parts of the trip, but hanging out with the kids was a lot of fun too.

- Food-wise, Joe's Pizza was exactly what I was looking for, Grumpy's coffee was delicious and hip, Russ & Daughters was fantastic (and the site of my classic NYC brush-with-fame moment - I got to eavesdrop slightly on Dianna Agron complaining about her mother). It wasn't recommended here, I don't think, but I really wanted to check out The Burger Joint "hidden" in Le Parker Meridien hotel. The atmosphere was quirky and fun, but the burger wasn't any better than Five Guys or what-have-you and you can give the fries a pass.

- Roosevelt Island was great, and taking the tram was delightful.

- I took the architectural history focused tour at the Tenement Museum, and it was great. Really appreciated the insight into how their interpretation of the spaces was forced to change as their research improved.

- Then She Fell. It was without a doubt one of the most amazing and magical experiences of my life. I've always had a fondness for Alice in Wonderland, and a fascination for the story of Charles Dodgson and Alice Liddell, so I was already primed to be entertained, but what I didn't expect was for the way some of the themes and messages of the show affect me so personally. It was truly eerie the way it seemed tailor-made for me. It was so special, I considered getting tickets to see it again while I was there, but instead, my wife and I are already planning to take another trip to the city in the spring, and we will definitely see Then She Fell when we do.

- Also, I highly recommend the guy I saw in Union Square "walking" his dog. The dog was wearing a hat, jacket and sneakers (Jordans, I think) and standing on a skateboard while his human pulled him along.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:33 AM on March 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


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