Even amid one of the most challenging years in recent history, New York City’s vitality remains palpable—resilient citizens have rallied to do what they can to keep the restaurants and arts scene going. The result: innovative dining structures, outdoor performances, and adapted experiences at the world’s premier cultural institutions. You can still soak in some of that signature New York City energy while staying safe—here’s how.
Wake up at the NoMad Hotel, where jewel-toned accents and plush leather headboards create a soothing cocoon amid the action of the city. Kick off your morning with a hearty bacon scramble or avocado-topped quinoa breakfast bowl nearby at Blank Slate Coffee + Kitchen NoMad, and then hop on the subway to Brooklyn for some art immersion. The Met gets more global attention, but the stately Beaux Arts Brooklyn Museum is no less impressive, with an especially strong Egyptian antiquities collection. Remember to get timed tickets online for this spring’s exhibitions, including a massive Kaws retrospective.
Afterward, stroll through Prospect Park—designed by the Central Park team of Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux—to beloved Prospect Heights restaurant Olmsted, which opens for lunch on weekends. Grab a spot in the lovely backyard garden, where some of the produce and herbs you’ll find on the menu are grown.
In a bid to help its struggling arts industry, the city unveiled a new Open Culture initiative this spring, with pop-up and ticketed dance, theater, comedy, and music performances across all five boroughs. Try to catch whatever’s on this afternoon; if you can’t snag a ticket, opt instead for a private walking tour with the Tenement Museum, during which you’ll see Lower East Side landmarks like Seward Park and the Jarmulowsky Bank building.
One restaurant that has embraced outdoor dining with its signature sophistication is Michelin-starred Korean steakhouse Cote. Settle into a cozy cabana for the Butcher’s Feast or the steak omakase with table-side grilling, and then return to the NoMad for a drink on the beautifully appointed rooftop before you call it a night.
Make your way uptown to Harlem for a lively brunch at Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster, where you can pair crowd-pleasers (think shrimp and grits or cornbread and gravy) with cocktails like the Farmers Bloody Rooster. Afterward, take a pre-booked Harlem Renaissance Multimedia Walking Tour with Harlem Heritage to get a closer look at the haunts of 1920s neighborhood fixtures like Billie Holiday and Marcus Garvey.
For lunch, take a cab 25 minutes to the Bronx’s Arthur Avenue. The borough’s Little Italy is full of delis, butchers, and some of the city’s best pizza and pasta. At Zero Otto Nove, a mini-chain that originated here, the extensive pizza menu includes the La Riccardo, with butternut squash and pancetta, though the classic margherita never disappoints.
From there, it’s a 10-minute cab ride to the New York Botanical Garden, where “Cosmic Nature,” the eagerly awaited Yayoi Kusama show, finally debuts this April. To see the full exhibit, book the Kusama Garden and Gallery Pass, which is sure to be the most coveted ticket in town.
End your day back in Manhattan with a quintessential New York City burger. Don’t come looking for skyscraping tiers of patties and quirky accoutrements at the Upper East Side’s nearly 50-year-old J.G. Melon. Here, the juicy cheeseburger comes with the classics: cheese, pickles, tomato, and a disk of raw onion—and really, what else do you need?
Start your day off with a cappuccino and a cruller from Daily Provisions, the low-key grab-and-go spot from Danny Meyer. (You have a busy day ahead, so stash a black-and-white cookie or two for later.)
Head over to Hudson Yards, the new West Side development with a mall, the Equinox Hotel, and Thomas Heatherwick’s copper-tinted Vessel landmark. Rising 1,131 feet above it all is Edge, which offers a completely fresh vantage point: It’s the highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere, with a glass-floored section that lets you look 100 stories down. Edge is operating at reduced capacity, so you’ll want to reserve a timed-entry ticket.
Next, make your way to Lower Manhattan’s Whitehall Terminal and set out on the Staten Island Ferry, which gives you a front-row view of the Statue of Liberty for free. When you disembark on Staten Island 25 minutes later, you’ll be ready for lunch at one of the city’s top Sri Lankan restaurants, Lakruwana. The patio, with its backdrop of colorful murals, is a great place to enjoy lamprais—rice, vegetables, curry, and meat or fish, bundled in a banana leaf. A block away is the small Sri Lankan Art and Cultural Museum, a passion project founded by the Lakruwana owners’ daughter when she was just 18.
Before getting back on the ferry, stop into the beer garden at Flagship Brewing Co. for quirky offerings including Chocolate Crumb Cake Stout, Pizza Rat Pilsner, and a line of Ralph’s Hard Seltzers, a collaboration with a 93-year-old local Italian ice brand.
Back in Manhattan, pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. You’ll need to book timed tickets in advance for the museum, but the Memorial Plaza outside is a moving tribute to those who lost their lives, with two square pools sitting at the base of where each of the Twin Towers once stood.
End your day in an unexpected setting at Crown Shy, where Eleven Madison Park alum James Kent serves fresh spins on modern American cuisine, like black bass with saffron rice and pull-apart olive loaf with labneh. The dining room occupies the ground floor of an Art Deco tower in the Financial District, but the restaurant added a creative pandemic-era option this winter: a collection of heated yurts called Shy Village. Order a cranberry Negroni to toast the city’s singular energy.
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